The social Matrix

The social Matrix

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Incarceration of Black America in the era of Obama

   February is black history month—it is a time to reflect on the many contributions African-Americans have made to this country. It is also a time to reflect on the current economic, social and political issues facing the black community. Arguably, one of the most salient issues that confront the African-American community is the mass incarceration of its male population.   
  Last year marked the fortieth anniversary of the Attica prison riots in which 39 people died and 90 wounded and denied medical coverage. Recently, tapes surfaced of Richard Nixon approving of New York Governor Rockefeller's management of the riots. 

    Since that event, the prison population has exploded. From 1980 -1994 the prison population increased by 195.6 percent compared to the rest of the population that increased by less than 10 percent. The U.S. federal prison system has increased by 790 percent from 1980-2011. However, the Federal prison system only accounts for ten percent of the total incarcerated population. Moreover, that specific correctional institution is almost 40 percent overcrowded. However, statistics also show that the prison population is beginning to level out in the last two years.

  Interestingly, although the United States consists of five percent of the world population, it contains 25 percent of the total incarcerated population.  According to the World Justice Project rule of Law index, the United States fails to provide adequate legal resources to minorities in civil and criminal cases.  Specifically, the index shows that the criminal justice system is ineffective and it is not free of discrimination. Compared to its peers, Canada and Western Europe, The United States ranks 14 out of 16 in the category of Criminal Justice.

Word Rule of Law Index 

Rule of Law Index 


   Louisiana alone has a higher incarceration rate than Iran and China.

   The prison population exploded in the last few decades under the pretense that incarceration is the best way to deter crime in the future. In the early 90’s, Senior editor Euguene H Methvin of Reader's Digest advocated for the construction of more prisons to end crime.  

   However, many sociologists have concluded that once the number of incarcerated prisoners reaches past critical mass then crime will increase. Sociologists have also concluded that there is a strong correlation between poverty and mass incarceration. 

   It is no secret that African-Americans are disproportionately more affected by the criminal justice system than whites. According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics  40 percent of the incarcerated population is black yet African-Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population.    According to the New York Times 25 percent of African-Americans had one parent incarcerated in the last thirty years. In addition, according to the Department of Justice, 33 percent of African American men will spend time in prison.

   One explanation for the increase in black incarceration is the war on drugs. 

Bureau of Justice Statics 

   In 1992, The United States Public Health Service estimated that 14 percent of illicit drug users are black, and 76 percent are white, yet African Americans consist of 35 percent of all drug arrests, and 55 percent of all drug convictions. For example, although only 10 percent of Columbus is African American, yet they were arrested 18 times more for drug offenses than their white counterparts.

   The disparity in justice between blacks and white is most visibly illustrated in the prosecution of cocaine and crack.  However, in 2010 Congress enacted legislation to reduce this racial disparity. 

   Still, the war on drugs is only part of the problem.  The legalization of drugs is not the only reason for black incarceration. For example, in 1998 53 percent of those arrested for murder, 37 percent of those arrested for rape and 55 percent of those arrested for robbery were African Americans.  One plausible explanation for the increase incarceration of African-Americans could be that blacks commit more crimes per capita than other races. 

   According to a report (2008) by Bureau of Justice Statistics although, blacks account for 13 percent of the population in 2005 they are nearly 50 percent of homicide victims, (8,000.) 

   However, other studies suggest that blacks are targeted more than whites.  One study concluded that in Florida Blacks who kill white are five times more likely than whites to be sentenced to death for the same crime. There are numerous studies that show African-Americans are more likely to be arrested, convicted and committed to a correctional facility than whites for similar offense.  In 2005 another study concluded that  African American  youth are seven times more likely to do jail time for the same offense as a white adolescent, who will receive probation. 

  On a side note  the glorification and personification of the black  male stereotype as gun-wielding, misogynistic, drug-dealing, criminals by the mainstream hip hop media  needs to end. The hip hop media should stop marginalizing indie hip hop artists who don't incorporate racial stereotypes into their lyrics.  

  Another reason why the prison population has risen significantly over the years is because of longer sentences. A recent article in Wall Street Journal referenced a study by the Sentencing Commission which found that black men served a 20 percent longer sentences than whites for similar crime however when probation sentences were included the disparity shrunk to 14 percent.  The study attributed this disparity to the judicial latitude in sentencing granted judges and suggested that judges base their decision on set guidelines established by the Sentencing Commission. However, the problem becomes more complex because in 2004 the Sentencing Commission arrived at the opposite conclusion after a 15 year study. 
   However, the debate between set guidelines and exercising judicial discretion has been contentious within the legal community.  There are many noteworthy examples of how mandatory sentencing has lead to ethical ambiguity. In 1993 Judge Richard A. Gadbois, Jr. was furious when he was forced to issue a ten year sentence to a woman who was paid $50 to deliver a package containing crack cocaine.      

   The third strike policy in California exemplifies this legal model. Robert Wayne Washington received a 25 year sentence for possessing a small amount of cocaine because of two burglaries 8 years ago. One of the most interesting cases was Jerry Dewayne Williams who received a 25-year sentence for stealing a slice of pizza. Lastly, The California Department of Corrections estimated that by 2024 approximately half of the prison population will be third strike offenders.    


 Another reason for the burgeoning prison population can be linked to the expansion in prosecutorial leverage in criminal trials. Impervious defendants who think that they can win in the courtroom, may lose their case instead and face minimum mandatory sentences that can lengthen their incarceration by decades. It is especially difficult to win when many politicians have expanded felony qualifications. This has led to an increase in plea bargains, however attempts to assuage the severity of punishment, causes defendants to accept culpability even if they are innocent. This can also contribute to a rise in incarceration.
  One of the reactions to the growth in the prison population has been the privatization of correctional facilities. This is known as the prison-industrial complex.  

   The vocational use of prisons would be beneficial if the prisoners where able to transition their skills into the real world or get a job from the company they were working for during their incarceration. Even after the inmates return to society they have a difficult time finding employment because of their criminal background. 
    Prominent civil rights activists Angela Davis wrote about this issue in the 90s.  

“In California….the passage of an inmate initiative in 1990 has presented businesses seeking cheap labor with opportunities uncannily similar to those in Third World Country.”

   Bob Sloan has chronicled the rise of privatized prisons for the last decade. According to Sloan there are numerous states that have expanded the use of prison labor including Wisconsin, Arizona, Maine, Georgia and Florida. There are 1,022 factories taken advantage of the large labor pool that is provided through the U.S. prison system. 

   In addition this has also hurt small businesses who are not able to compete because of the higher labor costs. More than 2/3rd of the country has created programs that cement this partnership between the prisons and corporations. Moreover, many of these private prisons are contractually obligated to maintain 90 percent capacity. In other words, there is a financial incentive to ensure these prisons remain crowded. 

  The exploitation of prisoners for profit is nothing new.  W.E.B Du Bois, the first black American to earn a PH.D, wrote in his Magnum Opus The Soul of Black Folks, a century ago: 

The country prison...the white folks say it is ever filled with black criminals  the black folks say that only colored boys are sent to jail, and not because they are guilty but because the state needs criminals to eke out its income by their force labor.



   Again, the social and economic problems that affect the black community cannot be divorced from the reality of mass incarceration. Many sociologists believe that the exodus of black men from the community due to the criminal justice system has led to the increase in poverty and unemployment. Two sociologists have estimated that mass incarceration in the last decades has increased the poverty rate by 20 percent. 
  Moreover, it is difficult for convicts to economically assimilate back into their communities because employers are reluctant to higher ex-felons and because there may be a technical skills gap. 
   In addition, other Sociologists have argued that the high rate of STDS in the black community is directly linked to the high incarceration rate of black men, because the gender ratio facilitates multiple sexual relations. 

In The Soul of Black Folk, Du Bois wrote: 

The chief problem in any community cursed with crime is not cursed with crime but the preventing of young from being trained to crime" 

Furthermore Psychologist Karl Menniger wrote in 1968 that society needs to relinquish its  putative thirst for vengeance and instead focus on rehabilitating criminals. 

"We must renounce the philosophy of punishment the obsolete, the vengeful penal preserve are peace and our public safety. "    

   In 1997, Then Chicago Barack Obama worked with Democrats and Republicans to reform the criminal justice system. In 2007, then-Chicago politician Barack Obama, realized the need for reforming the criminal justice system by passing the Recidivism and Second Chance Act of 2007 which included economic re-integration into society.

  Du Bouis understood a century ago, that the advancement of black America is intimately linked to the criminal justice system.  Until, serious reforms occur on all levels addressing these racial disparities than the accomplishments by blacks outlined in Black History Month will be nothing more than a footnote in the history textbooks rather than an accurate reflection of the black experience today.  


Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Marxist President strikes again with his Socialist Agenda

You don't have to be an economic fortuneteller to know that President Obama was going to address economic inequality in his state of the union address last week. The wealth- distributor-in-chief, made it clear that the economy was skewed in favor of the rich and that he was going to change that by using his political capital to raise minimum wage.

    Recent statistics on inequalityfrom economist Emmanuel Saez show that from 2009-2011 the bottom 99 percent of income earners share of income contracted by .4 percent while the top one percent of income earners grew by 11.2 percent.  The statistics also show that in 2010 the top one percent ( households making $358,000) absorbed 93 percent of income gains while house holds earning $367,000 got 121 percent of the total income from 2010 and 2011.    
    Upon closer inspection, the statistics reveal that the .01 percent of the top income earners lost 8 million dollars in 2011, while the lowest percentile of the top one percent ($358,000-$545,000) increased by a modest 1.7 percent. 
   There are a variety of factors that contribute to the widening income gap such as competition with foreign labor, the evolution of technology, and the expansion of the service sector. One factor that is more prevalent today than in the last decade, is the rise in single parent households. 
 It is impossible to discuss income inequality without including wages into the economic calculus. Since the 70's there has been a plethora of low-waging jobs. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 50 percent of all jobs pay less than $34,000 per year.
Since 1973, wages increased by seven percent for the bottom half of income earners.                
In 2006, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Economic Policy Institute conducted a study focusing on Ohio and raising the minimum wages from $4.25 to 6.85 as a means of closing the income gap. The study also suggested other variables can be used to shrink the gap such as expanding the earned income tax credits and loosening unemployment compensation eligibility requirements.
      Still, others think raising the minimum wage is  not a good ideaMany proponents for less economic regulation, believe that the minimum-wage should not change because it will increase the cost of labor and thus raise the rate of unemployment.  Moreover, experts at the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation state that raising minimum wages will do little to alleviate poverty because only ten percent of minimum wage workers live in poor households.

In fact, the study shows that more than two-thirds live in a household where the income is double the poverty line.

The statistics show that there is no correlation between the rise in minimum wage and the poverty rate.

  Many conservatives believe that the minimum wage should be determined by the free market,
unfortunately, Nielson’s analysis failed to explain why wages, both minimum and standard, have remained stagnant while corporate profits, CEO compensation and the stock market grew exponentially.
   During the Clinton administration, CEO pay has escalated by 400 percent at the turn of the century. Likewise, while corporate profits began to rebound sharply in 01, wages still remained stagnant.  

One of the main reasons why minimum wage workers live in households with multiple incomes is because a minimum wage is not a sufficient income to live independently. 

    Furthermore, there are many companies that pay less in federal taxes than they pay their CEOs.  For example, Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric, earned $15. 2 million in 2010, after spending $41.8 Million in lobbying politicians, the company received a $3.3 billion Federal refund. 

   Perhaps the most extreme example is the social networking giant Facebook, which earned a billion dollars last year and did not pay any taxes. The popular website even got a refund for $429 million in the form of executive stock options. 
   It's important to note that many minimum wage employees are not teenagers as commonly believed. According to an article from the Economic Policy Institute, 84.1 percent are 20 years or older. In addition, close to half (47 percent) average 35 hours of work or more per week. The report also concluded that the increase in minimum wage will increase consumption and grow thus grow the economy.          
   Not only are the poor and lower-middle class spending more but some economists believe that the consumption inequality, between different socio-economic groups has shrunk. These economists argue that basic necessities are not as inexpensive thus the poor and middle class are able to allocate more of their income toward discretionary spending. 
    There is some hard evidence to support this claim. According to the Bureau  of Economic Analysis, spending on basic necessities including groceries, clothing, utilities and housing, decreased by 20 percent from 1950-2012.  Furthermore, According to the Labor Bureau  the Expenditure Consumption Survey shows that percentage of  consumption has remained the same for the last ten years irregardless of class.   

New York Times 

However, there are other studies, that draw different conclusions.
   Overall, although the living conditions for the working and the lower middle class have improved compared to their parent’s generation, the access to certain resources that expand educational and career opportunities is still largely dictated by social and economic circumstances.
    If  minimum wage legislation is passed and is raised to $9 it will symbolize President Obama's campaign goal of narrowing the income gap. While conservatives and liberals will not agree on how to end poverty and improve the economy, they should at least agree that economic mobility is beneficial for everyone. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Let me see that Drone. Drone.Drone.DDrr.DDrr.Drone

  Last week, The Justice Department released memos regarding the legality of the U.S. drone program operating abroad, namely in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. The release of the memos surfaced at the same time John Brennan is being confirmed in front of the Senate for the new head of the Central Intelligence Agency. The news of the memos and the confirmation hearing ushers in new media scrutiny over the drone programs.

  Drones, or UAV, Unmanned Aircrafts, are pilot less aircrafts that  operate far away from the war. Drones serve two purposes: surveillance and missile strikes. Since Obama took office, the President decided to shift away from using large number of troops to fight the war on terror as his predecessor, to relying more on drones. The reason for this tactical change is to minimize America’s footprint in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

  Historically drones have mainly been used for surveillance purposes such as during the Gulf War, and the conflicts in the Balkans. Armed drones, such as the Reaper and Predator, were deployed to Afghanistan a month after September 11th.

  One of the problems using drones in modern warfare can be traced back to faulty intelligence. For example, The Associated Press found that on March 17, 2011 a drone strike hit Shiga village. The strike occurred because the intelligence suggested militant activity because the “group was heavily armed” it was later revealed that the drone attack killed 38 civilians and four Pakistani Taliban fighters during a mining dispute.

  Still, the ratio of civilians to combatants killed is highly contested. According to a fact-finding mission conducted by the Associated Press in North Wazirstan, out of the 10 deadliest drone attacks in the past 18, there were  194 were killed. From the 194 killed, 70 percent were militants compared to 56 who were civilians or tribal police. In addition, more than half of those killed (38) were killed in one strike on March 17, 2011.   Moreover, 80 villagers at the sites of the 10 drone attacks told an AP reporter that most of the victims of the drone strikes were combatants.

  Also, in the same study, the AP found another site hit by a drone missile that killed five civilians and 20 militants. The children and two women, who were killed in the blast, were occupying the same house as the militants. Divorcing civilian causalities from militant targets becomes difficulty because many combatants embed themselves with other citizens.   This problem demonstrates the complexity of fighting an asymmetrical war. 

  One way to determine the number of civilians causalities compared to militant deaths is to look at funeral attendance. Funerals for enemy combatants are usually discrete and regulated to a few people, whereas civilian’s funerals are usually brings larger crowds and is out in the open.  
Still, collateral damage is a major issue. According to a study by the Bureau of Investigative Journalists since 2009, 282-535 civilians were killed in Pakistan by drone strikes, the report also concluded that more than twenty civilians were killed attended funerals, and more than fifty civilians were killed who were helping victims of the attack.

One of the reasons why civilian causalities occur is because of signature strikes.  In general, there are two types of strikes, personality and signature. Personality strikes indicate that the target has been identified such as a high ranking AL Qaeda official. In contrast, a signature strike is more ambiguous. The Daily Beast defines signature strikes as the “targeting of groups of men who bear characteristics associated with terrorism, but whose identities aren't known.” Many progressives have criticized this policy because any young male in a village that is an al-Qaeda or militant stronghold might be perceived as a threat. It is worth noting that while personality strikes were used more frequently under the Bush administration, signature strikes have increased noticeably under the Obama administration.  
Perhaps the most prolific example of a drone strike gone wrong is the high profile case of Abdulrahman Al-Alwaki, the 16-year-old son of Anwar Al-Alwaki, who was the inspiration behind the Nigerian underwear bomber and Nidal Hussain in Forthood. Although his son, had no record of a connection with terrorism, he was killed by drone simply for having the wrong father. When pressed on the issue, former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that Abdulrahman Al-Alwaki should have had a  "more responsible father." 

 Furthermore the number of top ranking Al-Qaeda leaders killed by drones is low. According to a collaborative study "Living under Drones" conducted by researchers from New York University and Stanford University, the number of "high-level" enemy combatants killed by drone strikes is two percent. Consequently, the study concluded that the number of civilian deaths caused by drone strikes is higher than the government and media reported. Notwithstanding, the report's findings on the effects of drones in Pakistan, some have criticized the study for methodological reasons. 

  Another, contentious issue related to the execution of drone strikes is double tapping. A double tap is a second strike on a target after “Militants” return to the scene of the drone hit. The idea originated from terrorists such as Hamas and Eric Rudolph, known for bombing gay nightclubs and abortion clinics. As a result of this policy, rescue workers and medical personal have been the victims of drone attacks simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  Drone strikes are also creating problems in other countries as well such as Yemen. At the end of Obama’s first year in office, a U.S. missile was responsible for the death of forty Bedouins including women and children in an isolated Yemeni village. According to journalist Jeremy Scahill these attacks have provided fertile recruiting ground for Al-Qaeda. In his article for the nation “Washington’s War inYemen Backfires,” Scahill documents how drone strikes in conjunction with an unresponsive government, has become the main impetus for Al-Qaeda’s growing network.

  Again, the calculus of asymmetrical warfare is largely determined by critical and trustworthy intelligence. In a theoretically perfect war-zone, the number of civilian causalities would be decrease dramatically because the intelligence would be credible. However, this is not the case.
 According to a  New York Times article, family members and friends of victims of drone strikes are using judicial channels to prosecute intelligence agencies for their participation in the drone strikes that killed innocent civilians. 

  The article examined the death of Malik Daud Khan, who died at a tribal council meeting in North Wazirstan along with other. The targeted site was falsely identified as a gathering of militants, rather than a tribal council meeting that resulted in the death of 40 civilians.

 While history has already defined the Bush Doctrine, Obama's foreign policy is quickly being shaped by his use of drones. Since the first armed drone was sent to Afghanistan, the number of Predator drones has increased from 167 to more than 7,000 today. It was assumed that once Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize following his speech to the Muslim world in Cairo, that he would be more diplomatically engaged with the Muslim public rather than antagonize it further with drones. If Obama wants to be remembered for his soft power rather than being portrayed as another Neo-conservative, than he needs to work with his new appointees John Kerry, John Brennan, and Chuck Hagel, to re-evaluate the efficacy and morality of drones in the Muslim world.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Don’t love Israel enough Hegel must hate America?

The Hawks were out on the hunt last week during the Senate Committee for Armed Services hearing over the confirmation of Nebraska Republican Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense.   Republicans like Lindsey Graham, James Inhofe and newcomer Ted Cruz from Texas were clearly in a feeding frenzy.  While Dems mainly stuck to safer and mundane topics, like the managing the bureaucracy of the Department of Defense and supporting the troop’s reentry into society, the republicans were vivaciously circling the proverbial sky eager to attack the senator’s record on Israel and Iran.

  Here are some of the more colorful statements and questions, the mostly republican senators made, and how my rebuttals:

James Inhofa

“His (Senator Hagel’s) record demonstrates what I view as a lack of steadfast opposition to policies that diminish U.S. power and influence throughout the world as well as a recent trend of policy reversals that….. Too often it seems he is willing to subscribe to a
worldwide view that is predicated on appeasing our adversaries
while shunning our friends.”

   I wonder if Inhofa felt the same way when Richard Nixon went to Communist China to begin direct talk--in this time period Mao Zedong, the face of Chinese communism, had ascended to power. Initiating communication with adversarial nation-states is the point of diplomacy.

  Regarding Hegel's sneaky attempts to diminish the U.S.'s global influence let's look at his  record:

  • Voted YES on enlarging NATO to include Eastern Europe. (May 2002)
  • voted NO on limiting NATO expansion to only Poland, Hungary & Czech. (Apr 1998)
  • Implement Darfur Peace Agreement with UN peacekeeping force. (Feb 2008)
  • Urge Venezuela to re-open dissident radio & TV stations. (May 2007)
  • Develop a strategy to protect civilians in Darfur. (Feb 2007)

   Clearly Hegel subscribes to the misguided mythology that working with international organizations and institutions is the best way to solve global problems. This obviously demonstrates Hegel’s incapacity to lead as Secretary of Defense.
  As intense as Inhofe was while questioning Hegel’s commitment to  U.S.’s global hegemony, this was only the opening scene which made the confirmation process look more like the House Un-American Activities Committee rather than a confirmation hearing for the next Secretary of Defense.

Inhofa continued in his inquisition;

He (Hegel) has advocated for direct negotiations with Iran, a regime that continues to repress its people, doggedly pursue a nuclear weapon capability, and employ terrorist proxies, including Hamas, Hezbollah, who threaten the security of Israel and the region.

I find it a little ironic that the same guy who wants to criticize Iran’s human rights record. Inhofe is one of a few, senators who have voted against the Detainment Treatment Act of 2005, which prohibits torture and cruel treatment of detainees. Why is Inhofe only focused on Iran’s human rights record while ignoring countries like China, and Saudi Arabia. Iran is a repressive regime that rightfully deserves criticism but lets be honest, if Iran was Israel’s top ally in the region, Inhofe would be mute.  

Many of the other senators seam to echo the same irrational fears of Iran:

 Senator Gillibrand from New York also had some choice words:

The Iranian government has been responsible for the deaths of U.S.
Service members, an attempted attack on U.S. soil, the funding,
training of terrorist groups.

Many of Hagel’s harsh critics linked Iran with terrorist proxies i.e. Hezbollah and Hamas.

Hegel has been criticized   by his republican brethrens for voting against identifying the Revolutionary Guards of Iran as a terrorist organization.

There are many points to be made about this issue. First, Hezbollah and Hamas would still be at war with Israel regardless if Iran exists. Removing Iran from the equation isn’t going to eliminate Hezbollah or Hamas from fighting Israel. The animosity that exists between these groups is not dependent on Iran. The senators, create this false narrative that Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist organizations created by Iran.

Second, I’m glad that Senators such as James Inhofe and Lindsey Graham stand up against terrorism. We need Senators who are strong and resolute. There is no excuse for terrorism, so I suppose that the senators stayed consistent and voted to recognize the militant Iranian organization, MEK, Mojahedin e Khalq organization, as a terrorist along with Bill Clinton in 1997. The MEK is also responsible for assassination attempts on Americans as well as attacks on Iran

Many Iranians believe that the MEK was also actively involved in launching attacks against Iran during the Iran Iraq war. Last year, the removal of the  MEK from the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations was highlighted in the alternative press. Furthermore, it was later discovered that the same politicians who advocated for the removal of the MEK from being listed as a terrorist organization, received donations from the same organization.

Its gets better. Award-winning Journalist Seymour Hersh, known for exposed the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam, discovered training camps for MEK militants in Nevada. Some sources have even speculated that the MEK might have been involved with the assassination of several Iranian nuclear scientists and physics.

So Graham and Inhofe want to bring up terrorism by using Hamas, Hezbollah, and Revolutionary Guards as example but are conveniently silent about the MEK?

The second issue brought up regarding Iran was nuclear weapons. This issue was brought to the attention of Hegel on several occasions.

The cloud of fear-mongering over Iran’s nukes was exemplified by Virginia Senator Tim Kaine:

The Iranian nuclear threat is a much bigger one. It is very clear
that if Iran gets nuclear weapons that other nations will start to
do the same thing, and that would cut completely counter to I
know principles that you hold, principles the President holds. It’s
not just on Israel’s shoulders to be worried about a nuclear Iran.

I could be wrong but I have a HUNCH these fears aremisplaced? Its hard to take the senators concern over a nuclear Iran seriously, when many of the senators on the panel criticized Hegel because he believes the military should revisit its nuclear policy.


Also I’m not surprise that these senators are reluctant to criticize Israel’s nuclear stockpile. Moreover, the senators shouldn't be too concern over Iran’s nuclear ambition, given the attacks on a nuclear facility in Iran last week by Israel. I wonder why these senators didn't bring it up?

What is perhaps more troubling is the failure of any senators to place the hostility between the United States and Iran in context. The animosity that Iran has toward the United States was not created in a vacuum, there is a litany of Iranian grievances that have contributed to the current diplomatic gridlock between both countries. These grievances include the coup in 1953, the installation of the shah and his brutal regime,  the support of Iraq during the Iran Iraq war,  Operation Praying Mantis, and the aforementioned support of the MEK.

The revolutionaries, Ayotollahs, Mullahs, and secularists didn’t wake up one morning and  Iranians did not wake up one morning and say to themselves “Maybe we should pick a fight with the most powerful nation in the world as well as with a tiny country who posses the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the region.

To disregard these factors makes the senators look foolish and slaves to their own hawkish ideology.

What is also surprising is that Iran and Israel used to have one of the strongest relationships in the Middle East. According to Bruce Riedel, senior fellow in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, during the Reagan administration, Many Israelis officials wanted to return to the relationship they had with Iran in the 60s and 70s. Members of the Israeli cabinet even went as far as to take trips to Iran to solidify what many Israelis thought to be its second most important relationship in the world. One concrete example of Israelis attempts to make steps at improving Iranian relationships was when Israel willingly supplied Iran with spare parts for their F-4 Phantom aircraft during the Iran-Iraq war.

Is it more than a coincidence that Israel decided to attack Iraq’s nuclear facility, Osriaq, while it was at war with Iran?

Of course no discussion of the Middle East would be complete without mentioning those menacing, and vicious Palestinians:

Senator Cruz statements:

On April 12, 2002, there was a Palestinian terrorist who detonated a bomb in downtown Jerusalem, killing 6 Israelis and wounding I believe about 100 others. On that day, while you were still serving in the U.S. Senate, you gave a speech on the Senate floor. You made a couple of comments that I’d like to discuss with you and ask you a little bit about.

Cruz went on to Quote Hegel

We will continue to do so. But it should not be at the expense of the Palestinian people, innocent Palestinian people, and innocent Israelis who are paying a high price.”

I wonder if Cruz is at all concerned that in the last decade 129 Israeli children were killed compared to 1,516 Palestinian children. That’s a 12:1 ratio Palestinians to Israelis.

Cruz went on to wax philosophically about the moral superiority of Israel over the Palestinians.

may be indicative of a feeling on your part that there might be some moral equivalence between on the one hand Israel’s exercise of its right to defend itself and on the other hand Palestinian terrorism. Do you believe that there is a moral equivalency between these two things?

Cruz wasn’t the only senator, who mentioned Palestinians,

 Senator Lee: is their Grievance legitimate?
 Senator Hagel: The Palestinians?
  Senator Lee: Yes, the Palestinians who decide to strap a bomb onto themselves and detonate it or otherwise engage in acts of terror: do they have a legitimate grievance that they’re expressing?

    By framing the issue in this context, Senator LEE, conveniently omits any culpability Israel may have in this perpetual conflict. Everyone should condemn, unequivocally, the string of suicide attacks that killed innocent Israelis during the second intifada. The killing of innocent civilians does nothing to further the peace process; it alienates Palestinians from the world community. This is also true of the rocket attacks launched from Sinai and Gaza, into southern Israel, which have no strategic targets and are only used to harass and harm Israeli citizens.

However what Senator Lee and his cohorts seam to forget is that there are usually two sides to every conflict. They are not interest in dealing with the root causes of the Palestinian Israel conflict. Instead they are placating their right wing constituency. There are plenty of reasons why Palestinians are hesitant to accept Israel as a partner for peace; Many of these motivations are completely ignored by these Senators. Especially Inhofe, who received a -2 by the Arab American Institute, an organization that focuses on Arab Americans domestically and abroad, for his record on Palestine and Arabs in general.
wouldn't worry if I was Inhofe, I’m sure the AAI is some how connected with terrorists who hate America.

The senate confirmation hearings on Hegel prove, that neo-conservatives see the world through a myopic lens, a lens that sees Israel as a custodian of righteousness and justice, on the one hand, and Iran, and Palestine terrorist entities. The failure, of these politicians to vicariously put themselves in the shoes, of a Palestinian whose family has been killed by an airstrike, or whose house has been bulldozed, by Israel: Or an Iranian veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, or a family member of one of the scientist who was assassinated because of their career choice, demonstrates the empathy deficiency that is so prevalent on capitol hill.  Until, Inhofe, Graham, Cruz and others realize that engaging with the Iranians and Palestinians diplomatically is instrumental for world peace and global stability, Israel's existence will continue to be threaten, as will United States foreign policy interest.