Chaos, collusion, and catastrophe: Biden and the genocide in Gaza

Pres. Biden’s disastrous performance in the June 27 debate sent waves of horror through all supporters of the U.S. Democratic Party and spurred a gathering wave of Democratic activists at all levels desperate to find a way to replace him at the head of the party ticket in the upcoming election. After the debate, numerous groups of other influential Biden supporters including big political donors and several of the “Western” allies who interacted with him at last month’s G-7 summit in Italy came forward to say that recently many of them had also seen signs of a marked decline in his cognitive functioning.

It is now increasingly clear that, as he has been (allegedly?) working to end the intense, genocidal crisis in Gaza, Biden has been operating in a mental cloud cuckoo-land of his own creation, untethered from any ability to comprehend either what the Israelis have been doing to the Palestinians in Gaza or– more crucially– the fairly simple steps that he could take to end the crisis by insisting on Israeli compliance with the terms of the 3-phase ceasefire+hostage deal that has clearly been attainable since March or April.

The most charitable thing one can say about Biden’s performance regarding the genocide in Gaza is that he has been operationally AWOL from being able to run U.S. policy in response to the crisis, and that Washington’s very muddled actions and inactions regarding the crisis have instead been the result of ad-hoc decisions taken by his– extremely unqualified– staffers. Those would be primarily his Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, and his National security Advisor, Jake Sullivan. Neither of those men has any longstanding basis of expertise, wisdom, or judgment that is independent of the role they have both played for the overwhelming bulk of their careers, as staff members for a Joe Biden chronically seeking re-election, whether in the Senate, in the Vice President’s office– or now in the White House: yes, the very White House that is now in such deep chaos.

Indeed, how can we explain the muddle, misrepresentation, and misinformation that have marked all the Biden administration’s efforts to deal with the Gaza crisis over the past nine months except by concluding that control over these efforts has been exercised either by a chief executive in the throes of a marked cognitive decline or by very unqualified staffers who have not had a clue what they were doing?

Also key to note: staffers who have long worked for a pol who was chronically seeking re-election are always viscerally aware of the huge importance of donors, and especially big donors, in the United States’ chronically cash-driven electoral system. That awareness helps explain, for example, the huge support the White House gave to the recent effort by (wealthy, strongly pro-Israeli) former Meta exec Sheryl Sandberg to propagate the allegations that “Hamas militants engaged in a planned campaign of mass rape” against Israeli women on October 7…

Over the past few days, there have been signs that the (U.S.-supported) ceasefire+hostage negotiations being mediated by Qatar have shown some new signs of life. Israel’s Mossad chief, David Barnea, flew to Doha a couple of days ago to renew contacts with the Qatari negotiators that had been dormant for several weeks. But with little immediate result. Indeed, with Israel’s own political system also currently in deep chaos, there is very little chance that PM Netanyahu will, of his own accord, move to nail down the proposed ceasefire plan, the basic outlines and timeline of which have been clear for several months now.

The only force on earth currently able to “persuade” Netanyahu to sign onto the proposed ceasefire deal would be the U.S. government, on whose support at every level from provision of munitions, weapons, targeting intel, air-defense systems, and political shielding in the Security Council and all other international fora Israel is 100% reliant.

But with the White House now in its current degree of chaos, I have literally zero hope or expectation that its occupant (or his staff minions) will do the arm-twisting that is necessary.

It’s true that there are now some encouraging (to me) signs that significant groups of power brokers within the Democratic Party are starting to prepare for what might be a fairly speedy showdown with the president, aimed at getting him to withdraw from the race and make space for a replacement candidate who might have a better chance than Joe Biden of beating presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in November. Among these groups: some Democratic senators (led by Virginia Sen. Mark Warner); some Democratic members of the House; some Democratic governors at the state level; and some big-money Democratic donors.

Also of some relevance, even though they don’t get a vote anywhere in the U.S. political system, are the leaders of the NATO allies who by chance will be convening in Washington, starting this Tuesday. Of course those foreign leaders would all swear up and down on a stack of Bibles that they do not seek to intervene in America’s domestic politics. But they will all be watching Pres. Biden’s performance in their meetings very closely indeed. The leaders among them all have broad networks of contacts and colleagues throughout the whole of the U.S. political system. They nearly all have a strong preference that Trump not return to the presidency next January. And they all recognize at some level that the health of the U.S. political system is a key factor in the survival of the general situation of “White privilege” at the global level from which their countries have benefited for, actually, several centuries now and counting…

But as I said, those foreign leaders don’t have a vote within the U.S. political system. The other Democratic Party power centers that I mentioned above certainly do. And in a situation where they are all conferring on how to deal with the Biden crisis, including on who the main contender or contenders might be to replace him, and how best to bring that about… In that situation, it seems clear that pro-Israel big money and the Democratic networks in which that money has been embedded for many decades now will be playing an outsize role. So it seems unlikely to me that any other Democratic presidential candidate who might emerge from what will almost certainly be a very chaotic process will be someone willing to stand up any time soon and tell Netanyahu and the Israeli government that they need to sign the ceasefire/hostage deal with Hamas right now– or else.

The best we might hope for in such a scenario is that after Joe Biden has been persuaded to retract his candidacy for re-election and thereby becomes a “lame duck” president for the remaining six months of his term, he might– once freed from the fundraising demands of an election campaign– suddenly “see the light” and decide to crack down hard on Netanyahu ‘s warmongering and insist on speedy conclusion of the ceasefire deal.

Given the deeply pro-Israel proclivities that he has revealed so widely throughout his life and especially in the past nine months, I don’t think this is particularly likely. It would be more likely if whichever Democratic Party networks emerge victorious from the Biden-removal chaos signal to him that– especially given the need to energize young and non-White voters to turn out for the new candidate– it would super-helpful to the new candidate to get the Gaza crisis off the front pages well before November.

But I am not holding my breath. In the one-on-one Biden held yesterday with long-time Dem insider George Stephanopoulos, Stephanopoulos explicitly asked Biden if perhaps he could be accused of acting selfishly by refusing to cede place to another candidate; and Biden angrily rebuffed that suggestion. He certainly was not presenting himself there as someone ready to put the interests of the party above his own.

I just want to quickly mention three other aspects of the current situation, and I’ll hope to expand on them more later:

First: The events of the past few days have revealed the degree to which, for some months prior to the June 25 debate, many Democratic insiders had already started to worry about the notable decline they’d been seeing in Biden’s cognitive functioning. But until the disaster of June 25, they had all kept to a (presumably unspoken) vow of omertà about what they’d been seeing. After June 25, that was no longer so easy to do.

The widespread, pre-June 25 compliance with that vow of omertà brings to mind the numerous, still-intact vows of omertà that exist within the “mainstream” U.S. discourse regarding many aspects of Israel’s political system, and prime among them the still nearly absolute refusal here to discuss the facts about Israel’s very capable arsenal of nuclear weapons, along with several alternative means of delivering the same. (Did you see Benny Morris’s recent, totally unhinged call for Israel to use its nukes against Iran?)

But within the mainstream U.S. discourse it is still absolutely the norm for pundits and pols to sound off at length about the supposed “dangers” of a future Iranian nuclear-weapons capability (whose timeline forever disappears further and further into the future) while remaining quite silent about the other power in West Asia that has long had an actually existing and potentially cataclysmic collection of nuclear weapons…

Second: The chaos in the U.S. political system exists not just in the domain of electoral politics but also, certainly, in the judiciary (especially at the level of the Supreme Court) and also in its over-reliance on the use of force in international relations, and several other domains of public life. This far-reaching set of upheavals mirrors in many ways the ongoing collapse that key pillars of the colonial state system in Israel is now experiencing, as I wrote about here recently.

Actually, these two state systems have many close ties to, and some degree of co-dependency on, each other. The violence that the Israeli state has exercised at every level– most especially over the past nine months– has certainly helped to drag down the soft power/”standing” of the United States in world affairs. More on this, later.

Third: I wrote above that “The only force on earth currently able to ‘persuade Netanyahu to sign onto the proposed ceasefire deal would be the U.S. government.” The key word there was “currently.”

Throughout the nine agonizing months of this crisis that Gaza’s people have been living through, I have argued (e.g. here, or here) that, with Washington functionally incapable– for all the reasons mentioned above– of intervening to end the genocide, the onus therefore falls on the other powers in the international community to do so instead. And to do so even if this involves openly confronting/curtailing Washington’s power within the international system, as has long seemed necessary.

My request that the powers of the Global Majority step forward and do this still stands.

But meantime, let’s wait and see what happens in democratic Party politics over the next few days…

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2 thoughts on “Chaos, collusion, and catastrophe: Biden and the genocide in Gaza”

  1. Dear Helena, I’m a fervent follower of your doings, the series on Hamas was tops. Regarding the latest/have you read Ilan Pappe’s article in New Left <Review. It extents your thoughts in many ways, and is from the inside. The other article in the Review frçm 1971 by3 Israeli lefties is fundamental to many aspects of the society today. I don't think you have a great grasp of that. It might be useful to do something comparable to your Hamas series on Isreali society nowadays. Its brutality/fear/hatred which I knew already durng the Suez war when I was there flourishes in new ways, to be analysed.
    Another aspect missing in your account is the impact of today's students in the U.S. on the Biden fiasco and the weght of all that.
    Excuse the rapidity and wishing you te very best,

  2. outstanding, all. Glad you’re keeping at this Helena, even as other friends curiously are taking “sabbaticals.”

    Keen esp. to read your thoughts emerging re. the collapsing “soft power” standing of the US (and israel) in the world….. (Reminds me Bid’n’s debate catastrophe, the spot where he insisted America’s standing in the world has never been higher. (among the pathetic untruths he hasn’t been much called on)

    “A decent respect to the opinions of (hu)mankind” — it made possible America’s early survival. Its flagrant disregard today threatends its (and even more so israel’s) standing in the world.

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