11.18.2012 _____________________

“They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed.” — Isaiah 44:9.

Sen. John McCain, with Fox, NeoCons and assorted chickenhawks, has rarely met a war he didn’t like.

For me, while his war-hero status is unquestioned, that he graduated second from the bottom of his class suggests that academic rigor was not his primary concern at the Naval Academy and I believe that his charges about what happened on Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, his eliding of facts with an intent to deceive others, perhaps because of his own intellectual weaknesses will, in the end, deceive no one but himself.

McCain’s behavior, attempting to hold President Obama responsible for the attack on our Libyan consulate, is unbecoming a war hero. His mendacious manipulation of the truth and his phony, trumped-up charges suggest, sadly, hypocrisy without limit.

After the attack, Ambassador Susan Rice went on TV and carefully spoke about Benghazi based on CIA briefings and talking points she had been given. Although we later learned that there hadn’t been protests outside the consulate, what Rice said represented the CIA’s understanding of what had happened.

Who knew what, when and how is subject to examination and re-interpretation. Get real. One of the challenges of living in an open society that demands immediate access and wants certainty about every detail is getting everything right — right from the beginning — and that is not possible.

Sadly, too, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa released documents that put American Libyan assets in jeopardy and carelessly revealed the existence of a covert CIA operational site.

We don’t always know what we don’t know — or don’t need to know.

Go see “Argo,” a fictionalized account about the clandestine extraction of six American hostages from Tehran, who were not in the embassy at the time of its takeover, at the time of the Iran hostage crisis. That crisis ended Jan. 20, 1981 but the details about the extraction were not revealed until 1997.

And, to his credit, although his presidential campaign was in serious trouble, Jimmy Carter made no allusion to that action that might have enhanced his status but put American allies at risk.

Recently, in an unflattering assertion of overweening arrogance, McCain held a press conference to complain about what he thought was a lack of information on the Benghazi attack, while simultaneously skipping a classified closed-door briefing with government officials about the investigation. When asked why he wouldn’t comment on why he missed the briefing, McCain said, “Because I have the right as a senator to have no comment and who the hell are you to tell me I can or not?”

In the end, he and his supporters, those who continue to try and disenfranchise our president, will hopefully be called to account — by friends, viewers or voters — for their false assertions.

Deja vu all over again

“Immediately after the identity of the dead man became known, about half an hour after the Israeli aircraft hit Ahmed Jabari, panic-stricken residents of the Gaza Strip starting preparing for the worst. They gathered at gas stations to get gasoline and cooking gas, and at bakeries to make sure they had enough bread for the days to come. Some of them said over the phone that everyone was hurrying home while the Israel Defense Forces was bombing different sites in the Strip …” — Amira Hass, in Ha’aretz

A new war in Gaza is in early days now. Certainly, Israel’s attacks on Gaza, utilizing its overwhelming arsenal, will kill some militants, and certainly kill dozens and perhaps hundreds of civilians; and no less certainly Hamas will fire hundreds of rockets, probably killing Israeli civilians and terrorizing tens of thousands of Israelis.

When it’s over neither will have won: Little will have been achieved, but those in power on both sides will be further entrenched, lionized for their defense of the homeland.

“They are their own witnesses.” When it’s over let them be ashamed.

Be careful: It’s early days. Americans, who’ve forever embraced the fawning hagiographies about Israel and its relationship with America, narratives so reverential that they smack of idolatry, are again being presented with an unbalanced perspective of what is happening Gaza.

There are two sides.

Be careful. It’s a dangerous time, not just for Israelis and Palestinians but for the region and for Americans.

Be informed. Check out www.aljazeera.com/ for alternate narratives and check out the timeline presented on http://imeu.net/ for an alternate understanding of how this conflict is escalating.

Deja vu all over again.

The election over, President Barack Obama can now look beyond domestic politics and focus on a global landscape simmering with conflicts and resentments. No one, especially Obama, wants a repeat of spring 2011, when presidents, politicians and pundits were surprised by the Arab uprisings.

Carnage in Syria continues. Salafist and jihadist forces try to usurp democratically elected governments. Ethnic groups, religions and tribes are being politically exploited, and newly formed governments, with limited resources, struggle to balance their people’s expectations for hope and freedom with the need for security and stability.

Idolizers of war, who fear peace, diminish expectations. Peace is distant.

Ominously, Israel, with elections coming up in 2013, raises anew the specter of a preemptive war with Iran, despite the fact that no evidence exists that Iran is pursuing a weapons program, and in spite of the tangible, albeit agonizingly slow progress being made, combining sanctions and negotiations, by the international community.

What’s happening is not about America, Palestine and Israel, Salafists and secularists, Sunni and Shia. It’s the Great Game revisited: much more global, much ore dangerous. It’s about America being able to project its interests into Southeast Asia while protecting its Mid-Eastern strategic interests.

This global game has four players, idolaters of power, not peace:

China, Russia, the EU and America, playing with chips representing Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Turkey, Israel, Libya, Israel, etc., all of whom are at risk of being manipulated, seduced and perhaps sacrificed across the playing field.

Be mindful, then: Become a player. Find space for the peace givers.

It’s hard to trust peace. Deception. Pain. When we feel we have been deceived we shut down, fearful. Scar tissue forms, hardening our hearts.

Two paths then remain:

First, hope the scar tissue hardens and falls off by itself, then negotiate. Or second, the straight path: Trust in the love that once united you on the path of peace. Ignore the scar tissue — find another point of entry. It’s a much riskier path but there, beyond the temporal, one unites, in peace, with the Beloved.

This column appeared originally in the Portsmouth Herald.