Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Who Commits Terrorism?

April 19, 2012

Self-confessed mass murderer and right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik places a clenched fist on his heart in a salute on day three at the central court in Oslo, 04/18/12. (photo: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)
Self-confessed mass murderer and right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik places a clenched fist on his heart in a salute on day three at the central court in Oslo, 04/18/12. (photo: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)

go to original article

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

18 April 12

 

f the Fox News promoters of racial profiling had been in charge of investigating the terror attacks in Norway on July 22, 2011, they might well have encountered blond, blue-eyed Anders Behring Breivik and his two smoking-hot guns only long enough to ask if he’d seen any suspicious-looking Muslims around.

After all, it has been a touchstone of the American Right, as well as right-wing Israelis, that Muslims are the source of virtually all terrorism and thus it makes little sense to focus attention on non-Muslims. A clean-cut Nordic sort like Breivik, who fancies himself part of a modern-day Knights Templar, is someone who would get a pass.

Or, as Israel’s UN Ambassador Dan Gillerman told a conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in 2006, “While it may be true – and probably is – that not all Muslims are terrorists, it also happens to be true that nearly all terrorists are Muslim.” [Washington Post, March 7, 2006]

So, if you were tuned in to Fox News after the Norway attack, you would have seen smug-looking Fox talking heads recounting how this attack was surely an act of Islamic terrorism and even one exchange about the value of racial profiling to avoid wasting time on non-Muslims.

Yet, while the biases of Gillerman and Fox News represent a large chunk of the conventional wisdom, the reality is that terrorism is far from some special plague associated with Muslims. In fact, terrorism, including state terrorism, has been practiced far more extensively by non-Muslims and especially by Christian-dominated nations, both historically and in more modern times.

Terror tactics have long been in the tool kit of predominantly Christian armies and paramilitaries, including Breivik’s beloved Crusaders who slaughtered Muslims and Jews alike when Jerusalem was conquered in 1099.

Terror, such as torture and burning “heretics” alive, was a big part of the Roman Catholic Inquisition and the intra-Christian bloodletting in Europe in the middle of the last millennium. Terror played a big role, too, in genocides committed by Christian explorers against the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere and other unfortunate targets of colonialism.

More Crusading ‘Knights’

During the Jim Crow era in the American South, white Christians organized Ku Klux Klan chapters, which, like Breivik’s Templars, considered themselves Christian “knights” harkening back to the Crusades. The KKK inflicted terror on blacks, including lynching and bombings, to defend white supremacy.

In the 20th Century, there were countless examples of “red” and “white” terror, as Communists challenged the Capitalist power structure in Russia and other countries. Those violent clashes led to the rise of German Nazism which empowered “Aryans” to inflict terrifying slaughters to “defend” their racial purity from Jews, Gypsies, Slavs and other “inferior” races.

To prevail in World War II, the Allies resorted to their own terror tactics, destroying entire cities from the air, such as Dresden in Germany and Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.

After World War II, the United States created the CIA to conduct what amounted to a war of terror and counter-terror against revolutionary movements around the world. This “low-intensity conflict” sometimes spilled into massive slaughters, such as U.S. terror bombings that killed estimated millions across Vietnam and Southeast Asia.

The CIA also recruited, deployed and supported proxy terrorists throughout Latin America. A generation of South and Central American military officers was schooled in how to intimidate and repress political movements seeking social change.

A fierce slaughter occurred in Guatemala after the CIA ousted an elected government in 1954 through the use of violent propaganda that terrified the nation. The CIA’s coup was followed by military dictatorships that used state terror as a routine means of controlling the impoverished population.

The consequences of the U.S. strategy were described in a March 29, 1968, report written by the U.S. embassy’s deputy chief of mission, Viron Vaky.

“The official squads are guilty of atrocities. Interrogations are brutal, torture is used and bodies are mutilated,” Vaky wrote. “In the minds of many in Latin America, and, tragically, especially in the sensitive, articulate youth, we are believed to have condoned these tactics, if not actually encouraged them. Therefore our image is being tarnished and the credibility of our claims to want a better and more just world are increasingly placed in doubt.”

Vaky also noted the self-deceptions within the U.S. government that resulted from its complicity in state-sponsored terror.

“This leads to an aspect I personally find the most disturbing of all – that we have not been honest with ourselves,” Vaky said. “We have condoned counter-terror; we may even in effect have encouraged or blessed it. We have been so obsessed with the fear of insurgency that we have rationalized away our qualms and uneasiness.

“This is not only because we have concluded we cannot do anything about it, for we never really tried. Rather we suspected that maybe it is a good tactic, and that as long as Communists are being killed it is alright. Murder, torture and mutilation are alright if our side is doing it and the victims are Communists. After all hasn’t man been a savage from the beginning of time so let us not be too queasy about terror. I have literally heard these arguments from our people.”

Vaky’s lament, however, mostly fell on deaf ears. Before long, much of Latin America was governed by murderous regimes, including the Southern Cone dictatorships which went so far as to create an international assassination combine called Operation Condor to spread terror among political dissidents by killing critics as far away as Washington and European capitals.

The Bush Role

These terror operations reached a peak when George H.W. Bush was CIA director in 1976. In that year, U.S.-backed Cuban terrorists blew up a Cubana Airline plane killing 73 people, with the evidence pointing at Cuban anti-communists Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles.

But those two right-wing Cubans continued to receive help and protection from the United States, including from the next generation of Bushes, Jeb and George W. (Thanks to the Bushes and their readiness to harbor these terrorists, Bosch lived out his golden years in Miami and Posada was spared extradition to Venezuela.)

Some of the worst examples of state terrorism occurred in Central America during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Reagan threw the support of the U.S. government behind the blood-soaked militaries of Guatemala and El Salvador (ironically, in the name of fighting terrorism). He also unleashed a terrorist organization, known as the Contras, against the leftist government in Nicaragua.

The butchery was shocking. Tens of thousands were slaughtered across Central America with the U.S.-backed Guatemalan army engaging in genocide against Indian populations of the highlands.

Though Reagan was the leading proponent in this application of terror in the 1980s, he is today one of the most honored U.S. presidents with scores of government facilities, including National Airport in Washington, named after him. (He is routinely cited by all sides in policy debates, including by President Barack Obama.)

Though Israel has been the victim of many horrible acts of Islamic terrorism, it also is not without guilt in the dark arts of terrorism. Militant Zionists employed terrorism as part of their campaign to establish Israel as a Jewish state in the 1940s. The terrorism included killings of British officials who were administering Palestine under an international mandate as well as Palestinians who were driven violently from their land so it could be claimed by Jewish settlers.

One of the most famous of those terrorist attacks was the 1946 bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem where British officials were staying. The attack, which killed 91 people including local residents, was carried out by the Irgun, a terrorist group run by Menachem Begin. Another veteran of this campaign of Zionist terrorism was Yitzhak Shamir.

And, these Jewish terrorists were not simply obscure figures in Israeli history. Begin later founded the Likud Party and rose to be Israel’s prime minister. Shamir was another Likud leader who was later elected prime minister. (Today, Likud remains Israel’s ruling party.)

In the early 1990s, as I was waiting to interview Shamir at his Tel Aviv office, I was approached by one of his young female assistants who was dressed in a gray and blue smock with a head covering in the traditional Hebrew style. As we were chatting, she smiled and said in a lilting voice, “Prime Minister Shamir, he was a terrorist, you know.” I responded with a chuckle, “yes, I’m aware of the prime minister’s biography.”

Defining Terrorism

The classic definition of “terrorism” is the use of violence against civilians to achieve a political goal. But the word ultimately has been transformed into a geopolitical insult. If “our” side is the target, it’s “terrorism,” even if it’s a case of local militants attacking an occupying military force. Yet, when “our” side is doing the killing, it is anything but “terrorism.”

So, for instance, when Palestinians trapped in the open-air prison called Gaza fire small missiles at nearby Israeli settlements, that is decried as “terrorism” because the missiles are indiscriminant. But in 1983, when the Reagan administration lobbed artillery shells from the USS New Jersey into Lebanese villages (in support of the Israeli military occupation of Lebanon), that was not “terrorism.”

Yet, when Lebanese militants responded to the U.S. shelling by driving a truck bomb into the U.S. Marine base at the Beirut airport, killing 241 American troops, that was widely deemed “terrorism” in the American news media, even though the victims weren’t civilians. They were military troops belonging to a country that had become a participant in a civil war.

As a Washington-based reporter for the Associated Press then, I questioned the seeming bias that the wire service was showing in its selective use of the word “terrorist” as applied to the bombing. Responding to my concerns, a senior AP executive quipped, “Terrorist is the word that follows Arab.”

Working journalists understood that it was an unwritten rule to apply the word “terrorism” liberally when the perpetrators were Muslims but avoid the term when describing actions by the United States or its allies. At such moments, the principle of objectivity went out the window.

Eventually, the American press corps developed such an engrained sense of this double standard that unrestrained moral outrage would pour forth when acts of “terrorism” were committed by U.S. enemies, but a studied silence – or a nuanced concern – would follow similar crimes by the United States or its allies.

So, when President George W. Bush carried out his “shock and awe” assault on Iraq, there was no suggestion that the destruction might be an act of terror – despite the fact that it was specifically designed to intimidate the Iraqis through acts of violence. Bush then followed up with a brutal invasion that has since resulted in hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths.

Many Muslims and others around the world denounced Bush’s Iraq invasion as “state terrorism,” but such a charge was considered far outside the mainstream debate in the United States. Instead, Iraqi insurgents were labeled “terrorists” when they attacked U.S. troops inside Iraq.

[This pattern continues to this day. On Monday, after Taliban fighters attacked Afghan government targets and offices related to NATO's occupation of the country, the New York Times' lead story characterized the offensive as "the most audacious coordinated terrorist attacks here in recent years." However, the Times never describes raids by U.S. military forces, which have claimed large numbers of civilian lives, as "terrorism."]

This double standard reinforces the notion that “only Muslims” commit acts of “terrorism,” because the Western news media, by practice, rarely applies the t-word to non-Muslims (and then only to groups opposed to the United States). By contrast, it is both easy and expected to attach the word to Muslim groups held in disfavor by the U.S. and Israeli governments, i.e. Hamas and Hezbollah.

Islamophobe Hearings

This double standard was on display in 2011 at Rep. Peter King’s Homeland Security Committee hearings on the “radicalization” of American Muslims. King refused to expand his investigation to include what some see as a rising threat from Christian Right “radicalization.”

Much like the Norway slaughter, a number of examples of domestic terrorism in the United States have emanated from the Right’s hostility toward multiculturalism and other policies of the modern American state.

Such cases of domestic terrorism have included the gunning down of presumed liberals at a Unitarian Church in Kentucky; violent attacks on gynecologists who perform abortions; the killing of a guard at Washington’s Holocaust Museum; and the shooting of a Democratic congresswoman and her constituents in Arizona.

From Breivik’s manifesto urging European Christians to rise up against Muslim immigrants and liberal politicians who tolerate multiculturalism, it is also clear that the Nordic/Christian mass murderer was inspired by anti-Muslim rhetoric that pervades the American Right. That bigotry has surfaced in ugly campaigns to prevent mosques from being built across the country or even an Islamic community center that was deemed to be too close to 9/11′s Ground Zero.

Rep. King’s hearings were inspired by the work of noted Islam-basher Steven Emerson, whose Investigative Project on Terrorism has sought to link the locations of mosques to the incidence of terrorism cases. Emerson, who has close ties to Israel’s Likud and American neocons, also was a key figure in the campaign to block the Islamic community center near Ground Zero.

In 2010, Emerson went on right-wing activist Bill Bennett’s national radio show and insisted that Islamic cleric Feisal Abdul Rauf, the leading force behind the community center, would likely not “survive” Emerson’s disclosure of supposedly radical comments that Rauf made a half decade earlier.

Emerson said, “We have found audiotapes of Imam Rauf defending Wahhabism, the puritanical version of Islam that governs Saudi Arabia; we have found him calling for the elimination of the state of Israel by claiming he wants a one-nation state meaning no more Jewish state; we found him defending bin Laden violence.”

However, when Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism released its evidenceseveral days later, it fell far short of Emerson’s lurid descriptions. Rauf actually made points that are shared by many mainstream analysts – and none of the excerpted comments involved “defending Wahhabism.”

Imbalanced Propaganda

As for Rauf “defending bin Laden violence,” Emerson apparently was referring to remarks that Rauf made to an audience in Australia in 2005 about the history of U.S. and Western mistreatment of people in the Middle East.

“We tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al-Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims,” Rauf said. “You may remember that the U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq led to the death of over half a million Iraqi children. This has been documented by the United Nations. And when Madeleine Albright, who has become a friend of mine over the last couple of years, when she was Secretary of State and was asked whether this was worth it, [she] said it was worth it.”

Emerson purported to “fact check” Rauf’s statement on the death toll from the Iraq sanctions by claiming “a report by the British government said at most only 50,000 deaths could be attributed to the sanctions, which were brought on by the actions by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.”

What Emerson’s “fact check” ignored, however, was that Rauf was accurately recounting Leslie Stahl’s questioning of Secretary of State Albright on CBS “60 Minutes” in 1996. Emerson also left out the fact that United Nations studies did conclude that those U.S.-led sanctions caused the deaths of more than 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five.

In the 1996 interview, Stahl told Albright regarding the sanctions, “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?” Albright responded, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.”

Later, an academic study by Columbia University’s Richard Garfield put the sanctions-related death toll of Iraqi children, under five, at 106,000 to 227,000.

Emerson didn’t identify the specific British report that contained his lower figure, although even that number – 50,000 – represents a stunning death toll and doesn’t contradict Rauf’s chief point, that U.S.-British actions have killed many innocent Muslims over the years.

Also, by 2005, when Rauf made his remarks in Australia, the United States and Great Britain had invaded and occupied Iraq, with a death toll spiraling from tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands with some estimates of war-related deaths in Iraq now exceeding one million.

Far from “defending bin Laden violence,” Rauf’s comments simply reflected the truth about the indiscriminate killing inflicted on the Muslim world by U.S.-British interventions over the decades. British imperialism in the region dates back several centuries, a point that Emerson also ignored. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Islam Basher Claims to Unmask Cleric."]

It is Emerson’s kind of anti-Muslim propaganda that has infected the ability of the U.S. political system to deal fairly with Middle Eastern issues. Rep. King’s one-sided hearings became another opportunity to exacerbate American hostility toward Muslims.

Emerson has boasted about his role in helping to structure King’s hearings, but lashed out at King when the congressman refused to include Emerson on the witness list. “I was even going to bring in a special guest today and a VERY informed and connected source, who could have been very useful, possibly even critical to your hearing, but he too will not attend unless I do,” Emerson wrote to King. “You have caved in to the demands of radical Islamists in removing me as a witness.”

In a particularly weird twist, Emerson somehow envisioned himself as the victim of McCarthyism because he wasn’t being allowed to go before the House Homeland Security Committee and accuse large segments of the American-Muslim community of being un-American. [Politico, Jan. 19, 2011]

But such is the strange world of the propagandists who have managed to associate the crime of “terrorism” almost exclusively with Muslims, when the ugly reality is that the blood of innocents covers the hands of adherents to many other faiths (and political movements) as well.

It is that sort of anti-Muslim bigotry which feeds the Christian Right terrorism of an Anders Behring Breivik.

[In the wake of Breivik's killing spree, the Center for American Progress produced a report on the well-funded bigotry of Emerson and other Muslim-bashers. Entitled "Fear, Inc.,"the 129-page report listed Emerson as one of five "scholars" who act as "misinformation experts" to "generate the false facts and materials" that are then exploited by politicians and pundits to frighten Americans about the supposed threat posed by Muslims. To read more on Emerson's "misinformation" role, see Consortiumnews.com's "Unmasking October Surprise 'Debunker.'"]


Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, “Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush,” was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered atneckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, “Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq” and “Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’” are also available there.

 

What Are Iran’s Intentions?

March 3, 2012
What Are Iran’s Intentions?
Noam Chomsky,
NationofChange/Op-ed
Article image
Published: Saturday 3 March 2012
“Iran has very limited capacity to deploy force, and its strategic doctrine is defensive, designed to deter invasion long enough for diplomacy to take effect.”

The Jan­u­ary/Feb­ru­ary issue of For­eign Af­fairs fea­tured the ar­ti­cle “Time to At­tack Iran: Why a Strike Is the Least Bad Op­tion,” by Matthew Kroenig, along with com­men­tary about other ways to con­tain the Iran­ian threat.

The media re­sound with warn­ings about a likely Is­raeli at­tack on Iran while the U.S. hes­i­tates, keep­ing open the op­tion of ag­gres­sion – thus again rou­tinely vi­o­lat­ing the U.N. Char­ter, the foun­da­tion of in­ter­na­tional law.

As ten­sions es­ca­late, eerie echoes of the run-up to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are in the air. Fever­ish U.S. pri­mary cam­paign rhetoric adds to the drum­beat.

Con­cerns about “the im­mi­nent threat” of Iran are often at­trib­uted to the “in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity” – code lan­guage for U.S. al­lies. The peo­ple of the world, how­ever, tend to see mat­ters rather dif­fer­ently.

The non­aligned coun­tries, a move­ment with 120 mem­ber na­tions, has vig­or­ously sup­ported Iran’s right to en­rich ura­nium – an opin­ion shared by the ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans (as sur­veyed by WorldPublicOpinion.org) be­fore the mas­sive pro­pa­ganda on­slaught of the past two years.

China and Rus­sia op­pose U.S. pol­icy on Iran, as does India, which an­nounced that it would dis­re­gard U.S. sanc­tions and in­crease trade with Iran. Turkey has fol­lowed a sim­i­lar course.

Eu­ro­peans re­gard Is­rael as the great­est threat to world peace. In the Arab world, Iran is dis­liked but seen as a threat only by a very small mi­nor­ity. Rather, Is­rael and the U.S. are re­garded as the pre-em­i­nent threat. A ma­jor­ity think that the re­gion would be more se­cure if Iran had nu­clear weapons: In Egypt on the eve of the Arab Spring, 90 per­cent held this opin­ion, ac­cord­ing to Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion/Zogby In­ter­na­tional polls.

West­ern com­men­tary has made much of how the Arab dic­ta­tors al­legedly sup­port the U.S. po­si­tion on Iran, while ig­nor­ing the fact that the vast ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion op­poses it – a stance too re­veal­ing to re­quire com­ment.

 

Con­cerns about Is­rael’s nu­clear ar­se­nal have long been ex­pressed by some ob­servers in the United States as well. Gen. Lee But­ler, for­mer head of the U.S. Strate­gic Com­mand, de­scribed Is­rael’s nu­clear weapons as “dan­ger­ous in the ex­treme.” In a U.S. Army jour­nal, Lt. Col. Warner Farr wrote that one “pur­pose of Is­raeli nu­clear weapons, not often stated, but ob­vi­ous, is their ‘use’ on the United States” – pre­sum­ably to en­sure con­sis­tent U.S. sup­port for Is­raeli poli­cies. 

A prime con­cern right now is that Is­rael will seek to pro­voke some Iran­ian ac­tion that will in­cite a U.S. at­tack.

One of Is­rael’s lead­ing strate­gic an­a­lysts, Zeev Maoz, in “De­fend­ing the Holy Land,” his com­pre­hen­sive analy­sis of Is­raeli se­cu­rity and for­eign pol­icy, con­cludes that “the bal­ance sheet of Is­rael’s nu­clear pol­icy is de­cid­edly neg­a­tive” – harm­ful to the state’s se­cu­rity. He urges in­stead that Is­rael should seek a re­gional agree­ment to ban weapons of mass de­struc­tion: a WMD-free zone, called for by a 1974 U.N. Gen­eral As­sem­bly res­o­lu­tion.

 

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Mean­while, the West’s sanc­tions on Iran are hav­ing their usual ef­fect, caus­ing short­ages of basic food sup­plies – not for the rul­ing cler­ics but for the pop­u­la­tion. Small won­der that the sanc­tions are con­demned by Iran’s coura­geous op­po­si­tion. 

The sanc­tions against Iran may have the same ef­fect as their pre­de­ces­sors against Iraq, which were con­demned as “geno­ci­dal” by the re­spected U.N. diplo­mats who ad­min­is­tered them be­fore fi­nally re­sign­ing in protest.

The Iraq sanc­tions dev­as­tated the pop­u­la­tion and strength­ened Sad­dam Hus­sein, prob­a­bly sav­ing him from the fate of a rogues’ gallery of other tyrants sup­ported by the U.S.-U.K. – tyrants who pros­pered vir­tu­ally to the day when var­i­ous in­ter­nal re­volts over­threw them.

There is lit­tle cred­i­ble dis­cus­sion of just what con­sti­tutes the Iran­ian threat, though we do have an au­thor­i­ta­tive an­swer, pro­vided by U.S. mil­i­tary and in­tel­li­gence. Their pre­sen­ta­tions to Con­gress make it clear that Iran doesn’t pose a mil­i­tary threat.

Iran has very lim­ited ca­pac­ity to de­ploy force, and its strate­gic doc­trine is de­fen­sive, de­signed to deter in­va­sion long enough for diplo­macy to take ef­fect. If Iran is de­vel­op­ing nu­clear weapons (which is still un­de­ter­mined), that would be part of its de­ter­rent strat­egy.

The un­der­stand­ing of se­ri­ous Is­raeli and U.S. an­a­lysts is ex­pressed clearly by 30-year CIA vet­eran Bruce Riedel, who said in Jan­u­ary, “If I was an Iran­ian na­tional se­cu­rity plan­ner, I would want nu­clear weapons” as a de­ter­rent.

An ad­di­tional charge the West lev­els against Iran is that it is seek­ing to ex­pand its in­flu­ence in neigh­bor­ing coun­tries at­tacked and oc­cu­pied by the U.S. and Britain, and is sup­port­ing re­sis­tance to the U.S.-backed Is­raeli ag­gres­sion in Lebanon and il­le­gal Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion of Pales­tin­ian lands. Like its de­ter­rence of pos­si­ble vi­o­lence by West­ern coun­tries, Iran’s ac­tions are said to be in­tol­er­a­ble threats to “global order.”

Global opin­ion agrees with Maoz. Sup­port is over­whelm­ing for a WMDFZ in the Mid­dle East; this zone would in­clude Iran, Is­rael and prefer­ably the other two nu­clear pow­ers that have re­fused to join the Nu­clear Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty: India and Pak­istan, who, along with Is­rael, de­vel­oped their pro­grams with U.S. aid.

Sup­port for this pol­icy at the NPT Re­view Con­fer­ence in May 2010 was so strong that Wash­ing­ton was forced to agree for­mally, but with con­di­tions: The zone could not take ef­fect until a com­pre­hen­sive peace set­tle­ment be­tween Is­rael and its Arab neigh­bors was in place; Is­rael’s nu­clear weapons pro­grams must be ex­empted from in­ter­na­tional in­spec­tion; and no coun­try (mean­ing the U.S.) must be obliged to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about “Is­raeli nu­clear fa­cil­i­ties and ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing in­for­ma­tion per­tain­ing to pre­vi­ous nu­clear trans­fers to Is­rael.”

The 2010 con­fer­ence called for a ses­sion in May 2012 to move to­ward es­tab­lish­ing a WMDFZ in the Mid­dle East.

With all the furor about Iran, how­ever, there is scant at­ten­tion to that op­tion, which would be the most con­struc­tive way of deal­ing with the nu­clear threats in the re­gion: for the “in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity,” the threat that Iran might gain nu­clear ca­pa­bil­ity; for most of the world, the threat posed by the only state in the re­gion with nu­clear weapons and a long record of ag­gres­sion, and its su­per­power pa­tron.

One can find no men­tion at all of the fact that the U.S. and Britain have a unique re­spon­si­bil­ity to ded­i­cate their ef­forts to this goal. In seek­ing to pro­vide a thin legal cover for their in­va­sion of Iraq, they in­voked U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 687 (1991), which they claimed Iraq was vi­o­lat­ing by de­vel­op­ing WMD.

We may ig­nore the claim, but not the fact that the res­o­lu­tion ex­plic­itly com­mits sign­ers to es­tab­lish­ing a WMDFZ in the Mid­dle East.

© The New York Times Com­pany
Na­tionofChange has li­censed this con­tent. It may not be re­pro­duced by any other source and is not cov­ered by our Cre­ative Com­mons li­cense.

Noam Chomsky, “Losing” the World American Decline in Perspective, Part 1

February 15, 2012

Tomgram: Noam Chomsky, Hegemony and Its Dilemmas
Posted by Noam Chomsky at 9:41am, February 14, 2012.

Back in May 2007, I stumbled across online sketches at the website of a Kansas architectural firm hired to build a monster U.S. embassy-cum-citadel-cum-Greater-Middle-Eastern command center on 104 acres in the middle of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.  They offered an artist’s impressions of what the place would look like — a giant self-sufficient compound both prosaic (think malls or housing projects) and opulent (a giant pool, tennis courts, a recreation center).

Struck by the fact that the U.S. government was intent on building the largest embassy ever in the planet’s oil heartlands, I wrote a piece, “The Mother Ship Lands in Iraq” about those plans and offered a little tour of the project via those crude drawings.  From TomDispatch, they then began to run around the Internet and soon a panicky State Department had declared a “security breach” and forced the firm to pull the sketches off its website.

Now, more than five years later, we have the first public photos of the embassy — a pool,basketball courttennis courts, and food court to die for — just as the news has arrived that the vast boondoggle of a place, built for three-quarters of a billion of your tax dollars, with a $6 billion State Department budget this year and its own mercenary air force, is about to get its staff of 16,000slashed.  In a Washington Post piece on the subject, Senator Patrick Leahy is quoted as saying: “I’ve been in embassies all over the world, and you come to this place and you’re like: ‘Whoa. Wow.’ All of a sudden you’ve got something so completely out of scale to anything, you have to wonder, what were they thinking when they first built it?”

The answer is: in 2004, when planning for this white elephant of embassies first began, the Bush administration was still dreaming of a Washington-enforced Pax Americana in the Greater Middle East and saw it as its western command post.  Now, of course, the vast American mega-bases in Iraq with their multiple bus routes, giant PXes, Pizza Huts, Cinnabons, and Burger Kings, where American troops were to be garrisoned on the “Korean model” for decades to come, are so manyghost towns, fading American ziggurats in Mesopotamia.  Similarly, those embassy photos seem like snapshots from Pompeii just as the ash was beginning to fall.  Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the news is similarly dismal with drawdowns and withdrawals suddenly the order of the day.  Something’s changing.  It feels tectonic.  Certainly, we’re receiving another set of signs that American imperial plans on the Eurasian mainland have crashed and burned and that the U.S. is now regrouping and heading “offshore.”

What a moment then for Noam Chomsky to weigh in on the subject of American decline.  (His earlier TomDispatch post “Who Owns the World?” might be considered a companion piece to this one.)  For him, a TomDispatch first: a two-day, back-to-back two-parter on imperial hegemony and its discontents. (To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Chomsky offers an anatomy of American defeats in the Greater Middle East, click here, or download it to your iPod here.) Tom

“Losing” the World
American Decline in Perspective, Part 1 

By Noam Chomsky

Significant anniversaries are solemnly commemorated — Japan’s attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, for example.  Others are ignored, and we can often learn valuable lessons from them about what is likely to lie ahead.  Right now, in fact.

At the moment, we are failing to commemorate the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s decision to launch the most destructive and murderous act of aggression of the post-World War II period: the invasion of South Vietnam, later all of Indochina, leaving millions dead and four countries devastated, with casualties still mounting from the long-term effects of drenching South Vietnam with some of the most lethal carcinogens known, undertaken to destroy ground cover and food crops.

The prime target was South Vietnam.  The aggression later spread to the North, then to the remote peasant society of northern Laos, and finally to rural Cambodia, which was bombed at the stunning level of all allied air operations in the Pacific region during World War II, including the two atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  In this, Henry Kissinger’s orders were being carried out — “anything that flies on anything that moves” — a call for genocide that is rare in the historical record.  Little of this is remembered.  Most was scarcely known beyond narrow circles of activists.

When the invasion was launched 50 years ago, concern was so slight that there were few efforts at justification, hardly more than the president’s impassioned plea that “we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence” and if the conspiracy achieves its ends in Laos and Vietnam, “the gates will be opened wide.”

Elsewhere, he warned further that “the complacent, the self-indulgent, the soft societies are about to be swept away with the debris of history [and] only the strong… can possibly survive,” in this case reflecting on the failure of U.S. aggression and terror to crush Cuban independence.

By the time protest began to mount half a dozen years later, the respected Vietnam specialist and military historian Bernard Fall, no dove, forecast that “Vietnam as a cultural and historic entity… is threatened with extinction…[as]…the countryside literally dies under the blows of the largest military machine ever unleashed on an area of this size.” He was again referring to South Vietnam.

When the war ended eight horrendous years later, mainstream opinion was divided between those who described the war as a “noble cause” that could have been won with more dedication, and at the opposite extreme, the critics, to whom it was “a mistake” that proved too costly.  By 1977, President Carter aroused little notice when he explained that we owe Vietnam “no debt” because “the destruction was mutual.”

There are important lessons in all this for today, even apart from another reminder that only the weak and defeated are called to account for their crimes.  One lesson is that to understand what is happening we should attend not only to critical events of the real world, often dismissed from history, but also to what leaders and elite opinion believe, however tinged with fantasy.  Another lesson is that alongside the flights of fancy concocted to terrify and mobilize the public (and perhaps believed by some who are trapped in their own rhetoric), there is also geostrategic planning based on principles that are rational and stable over long periods because they are rooted in stable institutions and their concerns.  That is true in the case of Vietnam as well.  I will return to that, only stressing here that the persistent factors in state action are generally well concealed.

The Iraq war is an instructive case.  It was marketed to a terrified public on the usual grounds of self-defense against an awesome threat to survival: the “single question,” George W. Bush and Tony Blair declared, was whether Saddam Hussein would end his programs of developing weapons of mass destruction.   When the single question received the wrong answer, government rhetoric shifted effortlessly to our “yearning for democracy,” and educated opinion duly followed course; all routine.

Later, as the scale of the U.S. defeat in Iraq was becoming difficult to suppress, the government quietly conceded what had been clear all along.  In 2007-2008, the administration officially announced that a final settlement must grant the U.S. military bases and the right of combat operations, and must privilege U.S. investors in the rich energy system — demands later reluctantly abandoned in the face of Iraqi resistance.  And all well kept from the general population.

Gauging American Decline

With such lessons in mind, it is useful to look at what is highlighted in the major journals of policy and opinion today.  Let us keep to the most prestigious of the establishment journals, Foreign Affairs.  The headline blaring on the cover of the December 2011 issue reads in bold face: “Is America Over?”

The title article calls for “retrenchment” in the “humanitarian missions” abroad that are consuming the country’s wealth, so as to arrest the American decline that is a major theme of international affairs discourse, usually accompanied by the corollary that power is shifting to the East, to China and (maybe) India.

The lead articles are on Israel-Palestine.  The first, by two high Israeli officials, is entitled “The Problem is Palestinian Rejection”: the conflict cannot be resolved because Palestinians refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state — thereby conforming to standard diplomatic practice: states are recognized, but not privileged sectors within them.  The demand is hardly more than a new device to deter the threat of political settlement that would undermine Israel’s expansionist goals.

The opposing position, defended by an American professoris entitled “The Problem Is the Occupation.” The subtitle reads “How the Occupation is Destroying the Nation.” Which nation?  Israel, of course.  The paired articles appear under the heading “Israel under Siege.”

The January 2012 issue features yet another call to bomb Iran now, before it is too late.  Warning of “the dangers of deterrence,” the author suggests that “skeptics of military action fail to appreciate the true danger that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose to U.S. interests in the Middle East and beyond. And their grim forecasts assume that the cure would be worse than the disease — that is, that the consequences of a U.S. assault on Iran would be as bad as or worse than those of Iran achieving its nuclear ambitions. But that is a faulty assumption. The truth is that a military strike intended to destroy Iran’s nuclear program, if managed carefully, could spare the region and the world a very real threat and dramatically improve the long-term national security of the United States.”

Others argue that the costs would be too high, and at the extremes some even point out that an attack would violate international law — as does the stand of the moderates, who regularly deliver threats of violence, in violation of the U.N. Charter.

Let us review these dominant concerns in turn.

American decline is real, though the apocalyptic vision reflects the familiar ruling class perception that anything short of total control amounts to total disaster.  Despite the piteous laments, the U.S. remains the world dominant power by a large margin, and no competitor is in sight, not only in the military dimension, in which of course the U.S. reigns supreme.

China and India have recorded rapid (though highly inegalitarian) growth, but remain very poor countries, with enormous internal problems not faced by the West.  China is the world’s major manufacturing center, but largely as an assembly plant for the advanced industrial powers on its periphery and for western multinationals.  That is likely to change over time.  Manufacturing regularly provides the basis for innovation, often breakthroughs, as is now sometimes happening in China.  One example that has impressed western specialists is China’s takeover of the growing global solar panel market, not on the basis of cheap labor but by coordinated planning and, increasingly, innovation.

But the problems China faces are serious. Some are demographic, reviewed inScience, the leading U.S. science weekly. The study shows that mortality sharply decreased in China during the Maoist years, “mainly a result of economic development and improvements in education and health services, especially the public hygiene movement that resulted in a sharp drop in mortality from infectious diseases.” This progress ended with the initiation of the capitalist reforms 30 years ago, and the death rate has since increased.

Furthermore, China’s recent economic growth has relied substantially on a “demographic bonus,” a very large working-age population. “But the window for harvesting this bonus may close soon,” with a “profound impact on development”:  “Excess cheap labor supply, which is one of the major factors driving China’s economic miracle, will no longer be available.”

Demography is only one of many serious problems ahead.  For India, the problems are far more severe.

Not all prominent voices foresee American decline.  Among international media, there is none more serious and responsible than the London Financial Times.  It recently devoted a full page to the optimistic expectation that new technology for extracting North American fossil fuels might allow the U.S. to become energy independent, hence to retain its global hegemony for a century.  There is no mention of the kind of world the U.S. would rule in this happy event, but not for lack of evidence.

At about the same time, the International Energy Agency reported that, with rapidly increasing carbon emissions from fossil fuel use, the limit of safety will be reached by 2017 if the world continues on its present course. “The door is closing,” the IEA chief economist said, and very soon it “will be closed forever.”

Shortly before the U.S. Department of Energy reported the most recent carbon dioxide emissions figures, which “jumped by the biggest amount on record” to a level higher than the worst-case scenario anticipated by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  That came as no surprise to many scientists, including the MIT program on climate change, which for years has warned that the IPCC predictions are too conservative.

Such critics of the IPCC predictions receive virtually no public attention, unlike the fringe of denialists who are supported by the corporate sector, along with huge propaganda campaigns that have driven Americans off the international spectrum in dismissal of the threats.  Business support also translates directly to political power.  Denialism is part of the catechism that must be intoned by Republican candidates in the farcical election campaign now in progress, and in Congress they are powerful enough to abort even efforts to inquire into the effects of global warming, let alone do anything serious about it.

In brief, American decline can perhaps be stemmed if we abandon hope for decent survival, prospects that are all too real given the balance of forces in the world.

“Losing” China and Vietnam

Putting such unpleasant thoughts aside, a close look at American decline shows that China indeed plays a large role, as it has for 60 years.  The decline that now elicits such concern is not a recent phenomenon.  It traces back to the end of World War II, when the U.S. had half the world’s wealth and incomparable security and global reach.  Planners were naturally well aware of the enormous disparity of power, and intended to keep it that way.

The basic viewpoint was outlined with admirable frankness in a major state paper of 1948 (PPS 23).  The author was one of the architects of the New World Order of the day, the chair of the State Department Policy Planning Staff, the respected statesman and scholar George Kennan, a moderate dove within the planning spectrum.  He observed that the central policy goal was to maintain the “position of disparity” that separated our enormous wealth from the poverty of others.  To achieve that goal, he advised, “We should cease to talk about vague and… unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization,” and must “deal in straight power concepts,” not “hampered by idealistic slogans” about “altruism and world-benefaction.”

Kennan was referring specifically to Asia, but the observations generalize, with exceptions, for participants in the U.S.-run global system.  It was well understood that the “idealistic slogans” were to be displayed prominently when addressing others, including the intellectual classes, who were expected to promulgate them.

The plans that Kennan helped formulate and implement took for granted that the U.S. would control the Western Hemisphere, the Far East, the former British empire (including the incomparable energy resources of the Middle East), and as much of Eurasia as possible, crucially its commercial and industrial centers.  These were not unrealistic objectives, given the distribution of power.  But decline set in at once.

In 1949, China declared independence, an event known in Western discourse as “the loss of China” — in the U.S., with bitter recriminations and conflict over who was responsible for that loss.  The terminology is revealing.  It is only possible to lose something that one owns.  The tacit assumption was that the U.S. owned China, by right, along with most of the rest of the world, much as postwar planners assumed.

The “loss of China” was the first major step in “America’s decline.” It had major policy consequences.  One was the immediate decision to support France’s effort to reconquer its former colony of Indochina, so that it, too, would not be “lost.”

Indochina itself was not a major concern, despite claims about its rich resources by President Eisenhower and others.  Rather, the concern was the “domino theory,” which is often ridiculed when dominoes don’t fall, but remains a leading principle of policy because it is quite rational.  To adopt Henry Kissinger’s version, a region that falls out of control can become a “virus” that will “spread contagion,” inducing others to follow the same path.

In the case of Vietnam, the concern was that the virus of independent development might infect Indonesia, which really does have rich resources.  And that might lead Japan — the “superdomino” as it was called by the prominent Asia historian John Dower — to “accommodate” to an independent Asia as its technological and industrial center in a system that would escape the reach of U.S. power.  That would mean, in effect, that the U.S. had lost the Pacific phase of World War II, fought to prevent Japan’s attempt to establish such a New Order in Asia.

The way to deal with such a problem is clear: destroy the virus and “inoculate” those who might be infected.  In the Vietnam case, the rational choice was to destroy any hope of successful independent development and to impose brutal dictatorships in the surrounding regions.  Those tasks were successfully carried out — though history has its own cunning, and something similar to what was feared has since been developing in East Asia, much to Washington’s dismay.

The most important victory of the Indochina wars was in 1965, when a U.S.-backed military coup in Indonesia led by General Suharto carried out massive crimes that were compared by the CIA to those of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.  The “staggering mass slaughter,” as the New York Times described it, was reported accurately across the mainstream, and with unrestrained euphoria.

It was “a gleam of light in Asia,” as the noted liberal commentator James Reston wrote in the Times.  The coup ended the threat of democracy by demolishing the mass-based political party of the poor, established a dictatorship that went on to compile one of the worst human rights records in the world, and threw the riches of the country open to western investors.  Small wonder that, after many other horrors, including the near-genocidal invasion of East Timor, Suharto waswelcomed by the Clinton administration in 1995 as “our kind of guy.”

Years after the great events of 1965, Kennedy-Johnson National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy reflected that it would have been wise to end the Vietnam war at that time, with the “virus” virtually destroyed and the primary domino solidly in place, buttressed by other U.S.-backed dictatorships throughout the region.

Similar procedures have been routinely followed elsewhere.  Kissinger was referring specifically to the threat of socialist democracy in Chile.  That threat was ended on another forgotten date, what Latin Americans call “the first 9/11,” which in violence and bitter effects far exceeded the 9/11 commemorated in the West.  A vicious dictatorship was imposed in Chile, one part of a plague of brutal repression that spread through Latin America, reaching Central America under Reagan.  Viruses have aroused deep concern elsewhere as well, including the Middle East, where the threat of secular nationalism has often concerned British and U.S. planners, inducing them to support radical Islamic fundamentalism to counter it.

The Concentration of Wealth and American Decline

Despite such victories, American decline continued.  By 1970, U.S. share of world wealth had dropped to about 25%, roughly where it remains, still colossal but far below the end of World War II.  By then, the industrial world was “tripolar”: US-based North America, German-based Europe, and East Asia, already the most dynamic industrial region, at the time Japan-based, but by now including the former Japanese colonies Taiwan and South Korea, and more recently China.

At about that time, American decline entered a new phase: conscious self-inflicted decline.  From the 1970s, there has been a significant change in the U.S. economy, as planners, private and state, shifted it toward financialization and the offshoring of production, driven in part by the declining rate of profit in domestic manufacturing.  These decisions initiated a vicious cycle in which wealth became highly concentrated (dramatically so in the top 0.1% of the population), yielding concentration of political power, hence legislation to carry the cycle further: taxation and other fiscal policies, deregulation, changes in the rules of corporate governance allowing huge gains for executives, and so on.

Meanwhile, for the majority, real wages largely stagnated, and people were able to get by only by sharply increased workloads (far beyond Europe), unsustainable debt, and repeated bubbles since the Reagan years, creating paper wealth that inevitably disappeared when they burst (and the perpetrators were bailed out by the taxpayer).  In parallel, the political system has been increasingly shredded as both parties are driven deeper into corporate pockets with the escalating cost of elections, the Republicans to the level of farce, the Democrats (now largely the former “moderate Republicans”) not far behind.

A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute, which has been the major source of reputable data on these developments for years, is entitled Failure by Design.  The phrase “by design” is accurate.  Other choices were certainly possible.  And as the study points out, the “failure” is class-based.  There is no failure for the designers.  Far from it.  Rather, the policies are a failure for the large majority, the 99% in the imagery of the Occupy movements — and for the country, which has declined and will continue to do so under these policies.

One factor is the offshoring of manufacturing.  As the solar panel example mentioned earlier illustrates, manufacturing capacity provides the basis and stimulus for innovation leading to higher stages of sophistication in production, design, and invention.  That, too, is being outsourced, not a problem for the “money mandarins” who increasingly design policy, but a serious problem for working people and the middle classes, and a real disaster for the most oppressed, African Americans, who have never escaped the legacy of slavery and its ugly aftermath, and whose meager wealth virtually disappeared after the collapse of the housing bubble in 2008, setting off the most recent financial crisis, the worst so far.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor emeritus in the MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy. He is the author of numerous best-selling political works. His latest books are Making the Future: Occupations, Intervention, Empire, and Resistance, The Essential Chomsky (edited by Anthony Arnove), a collection of his writings on politics and on language from the 1950s to the present, Gaza in Crisis, with Ilan Pappé, and Hopes and Prospects, also available as an audiobook. To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Chomsky offers an anatomy of American defeats in the Greater Middle East, click here, or download it to your iPod here.

[Note: Part 2 of Noam Chomsky’s discussion of American decline, “The Imperial Way,” will be posted at TomDispatch tomorrow.]

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook.

Copyright 2012 Noam Chomsky

NO MILITARY ACTION WILL PREVENT NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION

February 9, 2012

NO MILITARY ACTION WILL PREVENT NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) opposes all military action
against Iran’s nuclear program. Attacking Iranian facilities will cause widespread devastation,
increase the risk of nuclear proliferation, and halt the chances for peace in the region.
IPPNW urges all nations, and Israel and the United States in particular, to refrain from launching
military strikes against Iran, and to work with the international community to resolve, through the
many diplomatic and non-violent pathways that remain open, the legitimate concerns that Iran
may be developing a nuclear weapons capability.
IPPNW also calls upon Iran to reestablish full and transparent relations with the IAEA, and to provide IAEA inspectors with the comprehensive access and information they need to assure the
international community that Iran is in compliance with its obligations under the Non-Proliferation
Treaty and is not engaged in weapons development activities.
An Israeli military strike against Iranian facilities, with or without the support of the US and its
other allies, would almost certainly provoke violent retaliation and cause potentially significant
releases of radioactivity. The human cost would be enormous and would threaten regional and
international peace and security. Such a conflict could escalate into a regional war, and could
ultimately lead to the use of nuclear weapons — the very thing the entire world most needs to
prevent.
There is no military solution to the problem of nuclear weapons proliferation anywhere in the
world, particularly in the Middle East.
IPPNW supports regional and international efforts to negotiate a nuclear-weapons-free Middle
East, and urges all States in the region, including Israel and Iran, to participate in good faith in
the United Nations-sponsored conference that will be hosted by Finland to prepare the foundations for such an agreement.
The only way to ensure that nuclear weapons will never be used again, however, is to negotiate
and complete a Nuclear Weapons Convention that will eliminate all existing nuclear weapons
and prevent all states from acquiring or reacquiring them in the future

Return of Cheney’s One Percent Doctrine

February 6, 2012

Former Vice President Dick Cheney in a cowboy hat, 06/15/09. (photo: Public Domain)
Former Vice President Dick Cheney in a cowboy hat, 06/15/09. (photo: Public Domain)

 

Return of Cheney’s One Percent Doctrine

By Robert Parry, Consortium News

05 February 12

 

 weak point in the psyches of many Americans is that they allow their imaginations to run wild about potential threats to their personal safety, no matter how implausible the dangers may be. Perhaps, this is a side effect from watching too many scary movies and violent TV shows.

But this vulnerability also may explain why the current war hysteria against Iran is reviving the sorts of fanciful threats to the United States last seen before the Iraq War. Since right-wing Israelis and their neocon allies are having trouble selling the U.S. public on a new preemptive war in the Middle East, they have again resorted to dreaming up hypothetical scenarios to scare easily frightened Americans.

For instance, in a New York Times Magazine article on Jan. 29 by Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman – which essentially laid out Israel’s case for attacking Iran – Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s vice prime minister and minister of strategic affairs, is quoted as explaining the need to make Americans very afraid of Iran. Bergman wrote:

“It is, of course, important for Ya’alon to argue that this is not just an Israeli-Iranian dispute, but a threat to America’s well-being. ‘The Iranian regime will be several times more dangerous if it has a nuclear device in its hands,’ he went on. ‘One that it could bring into the United States. It is not for nothing that it is establishing bases for itself in Latin America and creating links with drug dealers on the U.S.-Mexican border.

“‘This is happening in order to smuggle ordnance into the United States for the carrying out of terror attacks. Imagine this regime getting nuclear weapons to the U.S.-Mexico border and managing to smuggle it into Texas, for example. This is not a far-fetched scenario.’”

But it is a far-fetched scenario. Indeed, there is zero intelligence to support this fear-mongering about such an Iranian plan. That the New York Times would publish such a provocative assertion without a countervailing pushback from serious U.S. intelligence analysts represents the kind of irresponsible journalism that the Times, the Washington Post and much of the mainstream U.S. news media displayed during the run-up to war with Iraq.

The fact is that U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded – and the Israeli Mossad apparently agrees – that Iran has NOT even decided to build a nuclear bomb, let alone that it would do something as nutty as give one to people outside its direct control to attack the United States, thus guaranteeing Iran’s own annihilation. [For more on the intelligence, see Consortiumnews.com's "US/Israel: Iran NOT Building Nukes."]

Bergman’s article, which covers nine pages, also manages to avoid any mention of the fact that Israel has a real – and undeclared – nuclear arsenal. The Times might have regarded this as a relevant point to include both to explain why Iran might feel it needs a nuclear deterrent and to put into context the actual strategic balance in the Middle East. Instead, the Times article poses the nuclear threat to the region as emanating entirely from Iran.

In a New York Times report on Friday, Ya’alon was back again, pushing the claim that Iran had been developing an intercontinental missile that could travel 6,000 miles and strike the United States. “That’s the Great Satan,” he said, using Iran’s epithet for the United States. “It was aimed at America, not at us.”

In response to that claim, even the Times felt obliged to add some factual counterweight, noting that “the assertions went far beyond what rocket experts have established about Iran’s missile capabilities, and American officials questioned its accuracy.” There is also the point that such a hypothetical missile attack on the United States would be detected immediately and ensure a devastating counterattack on Iran.

‘One Percent Doctrine’

But it should be clear what the game is. Israeli hardliners and American neocons want a return to former Vice President Dick Cheney’s “one percent doctrine,” as described by author Ron Suskind. That is, if there is even a one percent chance that a terrorist attack might be launched against the United States, it must be treated as a certainty, thus justifying any preemptive military action that U.S. officials deem warranted.

That was the mad-hatter policy that governed the U.S. run-up to the Iraq War, when even the most dubious – and dishonest – claims by self-interested Iraqi exiles and their neocon friends were treated as requiring a bloody invasion of a country then at peace.

In those days, not only was there a flood of disinformation from outside the U.S. government, there also was a readiness inside George W. Bush’s administration to channel those exaggerations and lies into a powerful torrent of propaganda aimed at the American people, still shaken from the barbarity of the 9/11 attacks.

So, the American people heard how Iraq might dispatch small remote-controlled planes to spray the United States with chemical or biological weapons, although Iraq was on the other side of the globe. The New York Times hyped bogus claims about aluminum tubes for nuclear centrifuges. Other news outlets spread false stories about Iraq seeking uranium from Niger and about supposed Iraqi links to al-Qaeda terrorists.

There was a stampede of one-upsmanship in the U.S. news media as everyone competed to land the latest big scoop about Iraq’s nefarious intentions and capabilities. Even experienced journalists were sucked in . In explaining one of these misguided articles, New York Times correspondent Chris Hedges told the Columbia Journalism Review that “We tried to vet the defectors and we didn’t get anything out of Washington that said, ‘these guys are full of shit.’”

Based in Paris, Hedges said he would get periodic calls from his editors asking that he check out defector stories originating from Ahmed Chalabi’s pro-invasion Iraqi National Congress. “I thought he was unreliable and corrupt, but just because someone is a sleazebag doesn’t mean he might not know something or that everything he says is wrong,” Hedges said. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's "Iran/Iraq ‘Defectors' and Disinformation."]

More Scary Talk

Even after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the eventual realization that the fear-mongering was based on falsehoods, President Bush kept up the scary talk with claims about Iraq as the “central front” in the “war on terror” and al-Qaeda building a “caliphate” stretching from Indonesia to Spain and thus threatening the United States.

Fear seemed to be the great motivator for getting the American people to line up behind actions that, on balance, often created greater dangers for the United States. Beyond the illegality and immorality of attacking other countries based on such fabrications, there was the practical issue of unintended consequences.

Which is the core logical fallacy of Cheney’s “one percent doctrine.” Overreacting to an extremely unlikely threat can create additional risks that also exceed the one percent threshold, which, in turn, require more violent responses, thus cascading outward until the country essentially destroys itself in pursuit of the illusion of perfect security.

The “one percent doctrine” is like the scene in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” as the lazy helper enchants a splintering broom to carry water for him but then cannot control the ensuing chaos of a disastrous flood.

The rational approach to national security is not running around screaming about imaginary dangers but evaluating the facts carefully and making judgments as to how the threats can be managed without making matters worse.

But Israel’s right-wing leadership and the American neocons apparently believe that the U.S. public is not inclined to rush off into another costly war if a realistic assessment prevails. Americans might be even less supportive if they understood that what Israel is actually after is a continued free hand to launch military campaigns against Palestinians in Gaza or Hezbollah in Lebanon.

At more candid moments, that is what Israeli leaders actually indicate. For instance, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Bergman that the real worry was not that Iran would hurl a nuclear bomb at Israel but that a nuclear-armed Iran could offer some protection to the Palestinians and the Lebanese when Israel next decides it must inflict military punishment on them, as occurred in 2006 and 2008-2009.

“From our point of view,” Barak said, “a nuclear state offers an entirely different kind of protection to its proxies. Imagine if we enter another military confrontation with Hezbollah, which has over 50,000 rockets that threaten the whole area of Israel, including several thousand that can reach Tel Aviv. A nuclear Iran announces that an attack on Hezbollah is tantamount to an attack on Iran. We would not necessarily give up on it, but it would definitely restrict our range of operations.”

But Americans are not likely to favor getting dragged into another war so Israel can freely use its extraordinary military might to pummel lightly armed Arab militants and the surrounding civilian populations. For such a cause, would Americans be happy to see gas prices spike, the fragile economic recovery falter, the federal budget deficit swell, and more American soldiers be put in harm’s way?

Almost certainly not. So, the propaganda target again must be that weak point in the American psyche, that tendency to let the imagination run wild with movie-like scenarios of danger and violence.


For more on related topics, see Robert Parry’s “Lost History,” “Secrecy & Privilege” and “Neck Deep,” now available in a three-book set for the discount price of only $29. For details, click here.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, “Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush,” was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered atneckdeepbook.com. His two previous books, “Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq” and “Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’” are also available there.

Trading Threats With Iran

February 6, 2012

Trading Threats With Iran

NYT, EDITORIAL
Published: February 3, 2012

Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz after the European Unionand the United States tightened sanctions. On Friday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameneisaid his country will assist any nation or group that “confronts” Israel, describing it as a “cancer.” He vowed to retaliate — especially against the United States — for tough new oil sanctions and Western military threats.

On Thursday, Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, told a security forum that time is running out for halting Iran’s nuclear advance. “Whoever says ‘later’ may find that later is too late,” he said. Moshe Yaalon, a deputy prime minister, warned that Iran was developing a missile with a range of about 6,000 miles that could hit the United States.

There should be no illusions. Iran’s nuclear ambitions are real and dangerous. But there is no proof that it has made the decision to move from producing fuel to building a bomb. American officials say that reports of a missile with a 6,000-mile range are premature and wildly exaggerated.

The costs of an Israeli military strike — with or without American support — would be huge. It would likely only set Iran’s nuclear program back for a few years. It would unite Iranians around their government at a time when it is fast losing popular support. It would also shatter the international coalition for sanctions and direct more anger against Israel and the United States.

President Obama has spent three years rallying the toughest sanctions ever on Iran — including a European Union oil embargo. Tehran is increasingly isolated; its economy is reeling. The administration was right to warn Iran against any attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz. We hope it is also looking to privately persuade Iran of the need for a negotiated solution.

American officials say they have counseled Israel on the need for patience and warned that a military attack could backfire. They need to keep pressing on both fronts.

Washington still believes there is “time and space” for sanctions to work. But there is a frightening scenario going around Washington and several European capitals that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel may attack Iran before the summer — believing that President Obama will not try to stop him in the middle of a re-election campaign.

Israel must defend itself. This country’s alliance with Israel is crucial. We hope for everyone’s sake that Israel’s leaders weigh all of the consequences before they act. A military attack would almost certainly make things worse. Tough sanctions and a united diplomatic front are the best chance for crippling Iran’s nuclear program.

……………..

NUKEs are crimes against humanity, living beings, life system, to be abolished before they abolish us all!

Oil, Dollar Hegemony and Islam by Prof. Francis A. Boyle

January 16, 2012

Oil, Dollar Hegemony and Islam by Prof. Francis A. Boyle

Global Research, January 15, 2012
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=28661

Little has changed in the imperialist tendencies of American foreign policy since the founding of the United States of America in seventeen eighty-nine. The fledgling United States opened the nineteenth century by stealing the continent of North America from the Indians, while in the process ethnically cleansing them and then finally deporting the pitiful few survivors by means of death marches (a la Bataan) to Bantustans, which in America we call reservations, as in instance of America’s manifest destiny to rule the world.

Then, the imperial government of the United States opened the twentieth century by stealing a colonial empire from Spain – in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines, then inflicting a near-genocidal war against the Filipino people. While at the same time, purporting to annex, the kingdom of Hawaii and subjecting the native Hawaiian people to near-genocidal conditions from which they still suffer today- all in the name of securing America’s so-called place in the sun.

And today at the dawn of the twenty first century, the world witnesses the effort by the imperial government of the United States of America to steal a hydrocarbon empire from the Moslem states and peoples, surrounding central Asia and the Persian Gulf under the pretext of fighting a war against international terrorism or eliminating weapons of mass destruction or promoting democracy which is total nonsense.

For the past two hundred and sixteen years, the imperialist foreign policy of the United States of America since its foundation, has been predicated upon racism, aggression, genocide, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, war crimes and outright genocide. At the dawn of the third millennium of humankind’s parlous existence, nothing has changed about the operational dynamics of American imperial policy. And we see this today in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and what appears to be an illegal attack upon Iran.

Now the topic today is the Middle East Agenda : Oil, Dollar Hegemony and Islam. So, I’m only going to limit my comments to that subject. We have to begin the story with the Arab oil embargo in nineteen seventy-three. As you know in nineteen sixty-seven, Israel launched an illegal and preventive war against the surrounding Arab states, stole the land and ethnically cleansed the people. But eventually Egypt offered a Peace Treaty to Israel which Israel rejected and the Egyptians and the Arab states decided then to use force to recover their lands.

Israel almost collapsed, the United States and Europe came to their support by providing weapons and in reaction the Arab states imposed an oil embargo on the United States and Europe, and brought their economies to their knees. Whereupon, the then U.S Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger threatened them and said, this will never happen again, and if you do, we will prevent it. And it was not just a threat. The United States government then at that time, planned, prepared and conspired, to steal the oil of the Persian Gulf. They did not have the military capability to do this at that time, to carry out the Kissinger threat, which was also then repeated by the Ford administration, and the Carter administration under Harold Brown and Brzezinski.

So they put into planning an interventionist force, designed expressly for the purpose of stealing Arab oil fields, and that was called the rapid deployment force. And it took ten years of training, planning, positioning, and supply to build that interventionist force of that capability and eventually it was called the U.S. Central Command. The purpose of the U.S. Central Command is to steal and control and dominate the oil and gas resources of the Persian Gulf and Central Asia. And that’s exactly what the U.S. Central Command proceeded to do in the Bush Sr. war against Iraq, their first military expedition.

And as we know, that war exterminated probably two hundred thousand Iraqis. Half of them innocent civilians. Simply wiped out in a bombing campaign and a military expedition of unprecedented dimensions. But remember, it took fifteen years for the Pentagon and three different administrations both Republicans and Democrats to get the capability to do this. And then, when that genocide or conflict was over, what happened? The United States carved Iraq up into three pieces with their air force, the so-called no-fly zones, a zone for the Kurds in the North, a zone for the Shi’ah in the South, and the Sunni in the middle. Why? To destroy Iraq as an effectively viable state.

In his book, Clash of Civilizations, Huntington from Harvard who advised the Pentagon and advised the state department pointed out that the only Arab state with the capability to lead the Arab world and challenge the United States and Israel was Iraq. And so Iraq had to be destroyed, to maintain the domination of the United States and its proxy, Israel. And remember after nineteen seventy-three, whatever it was before then, Israel is nothing more than a catspaw of the United States. They do what America tells them to do. Otherwise Israel is nothing more than a failed state.

In addition then, to destroying Iraq as a state, carving it up into three pieces, was the decision to debilitate and destroy the Iraqi people. And so they continued the genocidal economic sanctions on the people of Iraq, that my colleagues, Denis Halliday, Hans Von Sponeck, so courageously resisted and finally resigned as a matter of principle, calling them by what they really were, genocide. The United States and Britain maliciously and criminally imposed genocidal sanctions on the people of Iraq, that killed approximately 1.5 million Iraqis, all of whom were innocent civilians.

And when U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was asked about the five hundred thousand dead children, she said that she thought the price was worth it. Now, I could have taken that statement to the International Court of Justice, and filed it against the United States as evidence of genocidal intent against the people of Iraq in violation of the 1948 Genocide Convention. And indeed I offered to do so to the then President of Iraq, but for whatever reasons he decided not to take these claims to the International Court of Justice.

And now, as you see, he is on trial in a total kangaroo court proceeding in Baghdad that is completely controlled and dominated by the United States government. So, 1.5 million Iraqis died as the result of these genocidal sanctions. And then came September 11. And we know for a fact that the Bush Jr. administration knew that a major terrorist attack was going to be launched on the United States. And they let it happen anyway deliberately and on purpose. Why? They wanted a pretext for war. And not just one war but for a long war which they are talking about today.

Indeed, from my research the war plans drawn up by the Pentagon for the war against Afghanistan were formulated as early as 1997. Enormous military forces fielded by that same U.S. Central Command, were already in and around and surrounding the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean before September 11. This war had been planned against Afghanistan. And armed, equipped, supplied, trained and war-gamed and ready to go. They just needed the pretext and that was September 11. Why? The United States wanted access to the oil and natural gas of Central Asia.

That had been a Pentagon objective since at least before the collapse of the Soviet Union in nineteen ninety-one. And the Nine Eleven attack gave them the pretext to make this major grab for the oil and gas of Central Asia. And they are there today with their bases, with their troops, in the surrounding countries in Central Asia. And of course in the process, obliterated, we don ‘t even have an estimate of the Muslims in Afghanistan who were killed in the air bombardment, twenty, twenty five thousand, maybe more, and tens of thousands of others starved to death and still suffering today.

But that, as we know from all the records was only the first step in the process. They wanted to finish the job in Iraq. And so immediately after September 11, Bush ordered Rumsfeld to update and operationalize the plans for attacking and invading Iraq. It had nothing at all to do with weapons of mass destruction. We in the peace movement in America had been saying that all along. The United Nations had determined there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. These were lies designed to scaremonger the American people and Congress into supporting an illegal war of aggression, a Nuremberg crime against peace, against Iraq. And they told whatever lies and broke what international laws they had to break in order to attack Iraq.

And today the estimate, again we don’t know. Perhaps two hundred thousand people in Iraq had been killed outright by the United States, Britain, its allies, Australia in Iraq. And again, most of them civilians. Clearly if you add up what United States government has done to Iraq from August of 1990, when it imposed the genocidal economic embargo until today. The United States and Britain have inflicted outright genocide on the Muslim and Christian people of Iraq and they are predominately Muslim as we know.

Now comes the third step in the Pentagon’s pre-existing plan, to control and dominate the oil and gas resources of the Persian Gulf and Central Asia. It’ s sounds a bit like the plan that Hitler and the Nazis had in the 1930″s. Does it not? First go into Austria, then go into Czechoslovakia, then go into Poland. So first Afghanistan, then Iraq, and now Iran. And so now Iran is going to be the next victim of these outright criminals unless you and I can stop them.

Right now there are three aircraft carrier task forces in the Persian Gulf. And whenever they had put three aircraft carrier task forces over there, it’ s always to prepare for an attack. And according to Seymour Hersch, the award winning journalist, it will probably be an aerial bombardment, along the lines of what they did to Yugoslavia in 1999. As you remember there, seventy eight days of aerial bombardment by the United States and NATO with no authorization from the Security Council. Clearly illegal. Killing again, we don’t know the exact number outright, four to five thousand innocent civilians. And targeting civilian infrastructure, all up and down, from which the people still suffer today. The use of depleted uranium ammunitions, outbreaks of cancer are documented today.

So this is what, is being planned right now as we speak; an attack upon Iran. Using jet fighter aircraft, fighter bombers, on these three aircraft carrier task forces, using cruise missiles on submarines and of course Israel will be involved and have a role to play, doing exactly what the Americans tell them to do. In addition, it appears that if they attack Iran, they will also attack Syria. Yesterday, if you heard President Bush’s press conference in Vienna, he threatened Syria, right? There’s no other word for it. He threatened Syria.

These Neo-Conservatives want to take out Syria as a favour to Israel. Remember, many of these Neo-Conservatives are affiliated personally and professionally with the Likhud Party in Israel and Ariel Sharon, the butcher of Beirut, the man who exterminated twenty thousand Arabs in Lebanon, most of them, not all of them were Muslims. And in addition, slaughtered two thousand completely innocent Palestinian women, children and old men at Sabra and Shatila. Ariel Sharon, the man who went to Haram Al-Sharif, the third holiest site in Islam, where Muhammad, (Peace Be Upon Him) ascended into heaven, and desecrated the Haram on September

28th, 2000, and deliberately provoked the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada and has inflicted death and destruction on the Palestinian people since then. Close to thirty seven hundred Palestinians since then alone have been killed..most of them shot down like dogs in the street, and what has the Muslim world done about this?

My Palestinian friends tell me that they are worried that the government of Malaysia might recognize Israel and establish diplomatic relations with Israel. I certainly hope this is not true. We must treat the criminal apartheid regime in Israel, the same way the world treated the criminal apartheid regime in South Africa. If the United States attacks Iran, they will probably attack Syria with the Israeli air force and they will attack Lebanon to take out the Islamic resistance movement in southern Lebanon – Hezbollah that defended the legitimate rights of Lebanon and the Lebanese people and expelled the invading longstanding occupying Israeli army that had the full support of the United States government for over twenty years.

So they could attack Iran, Syria, Southern Lebanon and inflict yet another round of ethnic cleansing on the suffering Palestinian people. Remember Sharon and Likhud believe that Jordan is Palestine. And they want to drive as many Palestinians as possible out of their homes and into Jordan.

So if the United States as reported by Hersh and other reliable sources, goes ahead and attacks Iran, we could see warfare erupt all the way from Egypt to the border with India. This whole area convulsed in warfare. And who will be the primary victims of this war? Muslims. The United States could not care less about Muslim life. Look at the demonization and victimization of Muslims that we have seen inflicted by the United States and its surrogate, Israel. Look at Guantanamo, where six hundred Muslim men have been treated like dogs in a kennel. Pretty much the way the Nazis treated the Jews. Look at Abu Ghraib and the sadism and sexual exploitation and perversion of Muslims by their American captors. And the same thing has been done in Baghram in Afghanistan. And when Professor Sharif Bassiouni, the UN special rapporteur filed the report with the Security Council against US practices in Afghanistan, the Americans had Kofi Annan fire him. Just as they had Kofi Annan fire Mary Robinson, the UN high commissioner for human rights, when she protested what was going on down in Guantanamo.

The United States could not care less about Muslim life. And the same is true for the genocidal apartheid regime in Israel. They would be happy to use nuclear weapons against Iran. They would be happy to break the taboo of Hiroshima and Nagasaki against Muslims in Iran. It would create no problem at all for them. Indeed, I went to school with these Neo-Conservatives at the University of Chicago. Wolfowitz was there, Chalabi, Khalilzad, Shulsky, all the rest of them. I went through the exact same program. Their mentor, Professor Leo Strauss. And who was his teacher in Germany and his sponsor? Professor Carl Schmitt who went on to become the most notorious Nazi law Professor of his day, justifying every atrocity that the Nazis inflicted on everyone.

We must understand that these Neo-Conservatives are in fact Neo-Nazis. They have espoused the Nazi doctrine of Schmitt and Strauss and Machiavelli and Nietzsche, the ‘superman’. They are the supermen, and the Muslims are the scum of the earth.

Now, I do not believe the United States will initially start bombing Iran with nuclear weapons. But if things get out of control they are fully prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons. And here in our materials, you have the Pentagon’s Joint Publication 3-12, which you can get on the internet.. just do a Google search and read it. And you will see there dated fifteenth March 2005; nuclear, tactical nuclear weapons have been fully integrated into United States conventional forces.

So if Iran were to defend itself, human wave attacks, whatever, they will be happy to use nuclear weapons, tactical nuclear weapons against Iran. Remember, these Neo-Nazis, Neo-Cons want to break the taboo of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They want to use tactical nuclear weapons, to be able to say to the rest of the world, you do what we tell you to do or else look what we did to the Iranians.

It’s a very serious situation. And this could even get further out of control. Remember that before Bush invaded Iraq, President Putin of Russia said that if he invades Iraq he could set off World War Three. Well, I interpreted that as an implicit threat. Even the famous American news broadcaster Walter Cronkite said that if Bush invaded Iraq he could set off World War Three. Two weeks ago we had the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization; China, Russia and Iran. So again, if Bush were to attack Iran, he very well could set off a Third World War, a nuclear war. And that is where you come in.

Francis A. Boyle is a leading American expert in international law. Professor Boyle teaches international law at the University of Illinois, Champaign and is author of, inter alia, The Future of International Law and American Foreign Policy, Foundations of World Order, The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence, Palestine, Palestinians and International Law, Destroying World Order, Biowarfare & Terrorism. And Tackling America’s Toughest Questions. He holds a Doctor of Law Magna Cum Laude as well as a Ph.D. in Political Science, both from Harvard University.

Iran: The Neocons Are At It Again

January 16, 2012
Iran: The Neocons Are At It Again
by Ralph Nader
Global Research, January 12, 2012

The same neocons who persuaded George W. Bush and crew to, in Ron Paul’s inimitable words, “lie their way into invading Iraq” in 2003, are beating the drums of war more loudly these days to attack Iran. It is remarkable how many of these war-mongers are former draft dodgers who wanted other Americans to fight the war in Vietnam.

With the exception of Ron Paul, who actually knows the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, the Republican presidential contenders have declared their belligerency toward Iranian officials who they accuse of moving toward nuclear weapons.

The Iranian regime disputes that charge, claiming they are developing the technology for nuclear power and nuclear medicine.

The inspection teams of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) that monitor compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran belongs, have entered Iran numerous times and, while remaining suspicious, have not been able to find that country on the direct road to the Bomb.

While many western and some Arab countries in the Gulf region have condemned Iran’s alleged nuclear arms quest, Israel maintains some 200 ready nuclear weapons and has refused to sign the non-proliferation treaty, thereby avoiding the IAEA inspectors.

Israelis in the know have much to say. Defense minister, Ehud Barak, responded to PBS’s Charlie Rose’s question “If you were Iran wouldn’t you want a nuclear weapon?” with these words:

“Probably, probably. I don’t delude myself that they are doing it just because of Israel. They have their history of 4,000 years. They look around and they see the Indians are nuclear. The Chinese are nuclear, Pakistan is nuclear as well as North Korea, not to mention the Russians.”

The Iranian regime, with a national GDP smaller than Massachusetts, is terrified. It is surrounded by powerful adversaries, including the U.S. military on three of its borders. President George W. Bush labeled Iran, along with Iraq and North Korea, one of the three “axis of evil,” and Teheran knows what happened to Iraq after that White House assertion. They also know that North Korea inoculated itself from invasion by testing nuclear bombs. And all Iranians remember that the U.S. overthrew their popular elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953 and installed the dictatorial Shah who ruled tyrannically for the next 27 years.

Recently, Iran has experienced mysterious cyber sabotage, drone violations of its air space, the slaying of its nuclear scientists and the blowing up of its military sites, including a major missile installation. Israeli and American officials are not trying too hard to conceal this low level warfare.

Israel military historian–strategist Martin van Creveld said in 2004, that Iranians “would be crazy not to build nuclear weapons considering the security threats they face.” Three years later he stated that “the world must now learn to live with a nuclear Iran the way we learned to live with a nuclear Soviet Union and a nuclear China….We Israelis have what it takes to deter an Iranian attack. We are in no danger at all of having an Iranian nuclear weapon dropped on us…thanks to the Iranian threat, we are getting weapons from the U.S. and Germany.”

U.S. General John Abizaid is one of numerous military people who say that the world can tolerate a nuclear Iran–which, like other countries, does not wish to commit suicide.

Using the “Iranian threat,” served Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who on his first tour of duty back in 1996, speaking to a joint session of Congress, made a big point of the forthcoming Iranian bomb.

Somehow the Iranians, who were invaded in 1980 by a U.S.-backed Saddam Hussein, resulting in a million casualties, and who have not invaded anybody for 250 years, are taking a very long time to build a capability for atomic bomb production, much less the actual weapons.

In mid-2011, Meir Dagan, recently retired head of Israel’s “CIA,” repeated his opposition to a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, adding it would engulf the region in a conventional war.

He further took the Israeli government to task for failing “to put forth a vision,” noting that “Israel must present an initiative to the Palestinians and adopt the 2002 Saudi Arabia peace proposal, reiterated since, that would open full diplomatic relations with some two dozen Arab and Islamic countries in return for an Israeli pullback to the 1967 borders and recognition of a Palestinian state.”

The war-mongers against Iran have often distorted Iranian statements to suit their purpose and kept in the shadows several friendly Iranian initiatives offered to the George W. Bush Administration.

Flynt L. Leverett, now with Brookings and before a State Department and CIA official, listed three initiatives that were rejected. Right after the Sept. 11 attacks, Iran offered to help Washington overthrow the Taliban. The U.S. declined the offer. Second, in the spring of 2003, top Iranian officials sent the White House a detailed proposal for comprehensive negotiations to resolve questions regarding its weapons programs, relations with Hezbollah and Hamas and a Palestinian peace agreement with Israel. This proposal was rebuffed and ignored.

Third, in October 2003, European officials secured an agreement from Iran to suspend Iranian uranium enrichment and to pursue talks that Mr. Leverett said “might lead to an economic, nuclear and strategic deal.” The Bush administration “refused to join the European initiative, ensuring that the talks failed,” he added.

A few days ago, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Iran was developing a capability for making nuclear weapons someday but was not yet building a bomb. So why is the Obama Administration talking about a western boycott of Iran’s oil exports, so crucial to its faltering, sanctions-ridden economy? Is this latest sanction designed to squeeze Iranian civilians and lead to the overthrow of the regime? Arguably it may backfire and produce more support for the government.

Backing the Iranian regime into such a fateful corner risks counter-measures that may disrupt the gigantic flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz. Should that occur, watch the prices of your gasoline, heating bill and other related products go through the roof–among other consequences.

Isn’t it about time for the abdicatory Congress to reassert its constitutional responsibilities? It owes the American people comprehensive, public House and Senate hearings that produce knowledgeable testimony about these issues and all relevant history for wide media coverage.

The drums of war should not move our country into a propagandized media frenzy that preceded and helped cause the Iraq invasion with all the socio-cide in that country and all the costly blowbacks against U.S. national interests?

It is past time for the American citizenry to wake up and declare: Iran will not be an Iraq Redux!

Obama Raises the Military Stakes: Confrontation on the Borders with China and Russia

December 22, 2011


by Prof. James Petras
Global Research, December 10, 2011

Introduction

After suffering major military and political defeats in bloody ground wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, failing to buttress long-standing clients in Yemen, Egypt and Tunisia and witnessing the disintegration of puppet regimes in Somalia and South Sudan, the Obama regime has learned nothing: Instead he has turned toward greater military confrontation with global powers, namely Russia and China. Obama has adopted a provocative offensive military strategy right on the frontiers of both China and Russia .

After going from defeat to defeat on the periphery of world power and not satisfied with running treasury-busting deficits in pursuit of empire building against economically weak countries, Obama has embraced a policy of encirclement and provocations against China, the world’s second largest economy and the US’s most important creditor, and Russia, the European Union’s principle oil and gas provider and the world’s second most powerful nuclear weapons power.

This paper addresses the Obama regime’s highly irrational and world-threatening escalation of imperial militarism. We examine the global military, economic and domestic political context that gives rise to these policies. We then examine the multiple points of conflict and intervention in which Washington is engaged, from Pakistan , Iran , Libya , Venezuela , Cuba and beyond. We will then analyze the rationale for military escalation against Russia and China as part of a new offensive moving beyond the Arab world ( Syria , Libya ) and in the face of the declining economic position of the EU and the US in the global economy. We will then outline the strategies of a declining empire, nurtured on perpetual wars, facing global economic decline, domestic discredit and a working population reeling from the long-term, large-scale dismantling of its basic social programs.

The Turn from Militarism in the Periphery to Global Military Confrontation

November 2011 is a moment of great historical import: Obama declared two major policy positions, both having tremendous strategic consequences affecting competing world powers.

Obama pronounced a policy of military encirclement of China based on stationing a maritime and aerial armada facing the Chinese coast – an overt policy designed to weaken and disrupt China ’s access to raw materials and commercial and financial ties in Asia . Obama’s declaration that Asia is the priority region for US military expansion, base-building and economic alliances was directed against China , challenging Beijing in its own backyard. Obama’s iron fist policy statement, addressed to the Australian Parliament, was crystal clear in defining US imperial goals.

“Our enduring interests in the region [Asia Pacific] demands our enduring presence in this region … The United States is a Pacific power and we are here to stay … As we end today’s wars [i.e. the defeats and retreats from Iraq and Afghanistan]… I have directed my national security team to make our presence and missions in the Asia Pacific a top priority … As a result, reduction in US defense spending will not … come at the expense of the Asia Pacific” (CNN.com, Nov. 16, 2011).

The precise nature of what Obama called our “presence and mission” was underlined by the new military agreement with Australia to dispatch warships, warplanes and 2500 marines to the northern most city of Australia ( Darwin ) directed at China . Secretary of State Clinton has spent the better part of 2011 making highly provocative overtures to Asian countries that have maritime border conflicts with China . Clinton has forcibly injected the US into these disputes, encouraging and exacerbating the demands of Vietnam , Philippines , and Brunei in the South China Sea . Even more seriously, Washington is bolstering its military ties and sales with Japan , Taiwan , Singapore and South Korea , as well as increasing the presence of battleships, nuclear submarines and over flights of war planes along China ’s coastal waters. In line with the policy of military encirclement and provocation, the Obama-Clinton regime is promoting Asian multi-lateral trade agreements that exclude China and privilege US multi-national corporations, bankers and exporters, dubbed the “Trans-Pacific Partnership”. It currently includes mostly smaller countries, but Obama has hopes of enticing Japan and Canada to join …

Obama’s presence at the APEC meeting of East Asian leader and his visit to Indonesia in November 2011 all revolve around efforts to secure US hegemony. Obama-Clinton hope to counter the relative decline of US economic links in the face of the geometrical growth of trade and investment ties between East Asia and China .

A most recent example of Obama-Clinton’s delusional, but destructive, efforts to deliberately disrupt China ’s economic ties in Asia, is taking place in Myanmar ( Burma ). Clinton ’s December 2011 visit to Myanmar was preceded by a decision by the Thein Sein regime to suspend a China Power Investment-funded dam project in the north of the country. According to official confidential documents released by WilkiLeaks the “Burmese NGO’s, which organized and led the campaign against the dam, were heavily funded by the US government”(Financial Times, Dec. 2, 2011, p. 2). This and other provocative activity and Clinton ’s speeches condemning Chinese “tied aid” pale in comparison with the long-term, large-scale interests which link Myanmar with China . China is Myanmar ’s biggest trading partner and investor, including six other dam projects. Chinese companies are building new highways and rail lines across the country, opening southwestern China up for Burmese products and China is constructing oil pipelines and ports. There is a powerful dynamic of mutual economic interests that will not be disturbed by one dispute (FT, December 2, 2011, p.2). Clinton’s critique of China’s billion-dollar investments in Myanmar’s infrastructure is one of the most bizarre in world history, coming in the aftermath of Washington’s brutal eight-year military presence in Iraq which destroyed $500 billion dollars of Iraqi infrastructure, according to Baghdad official estimates. Only a delusional administration could imagine that rhetorical flourishes, a three day visit and the bankrolling of an NGO is an adequate counter-weight to deep economic ties linking Myanmar to China . The same delusional posture underlies the entire repertoire of policies informing the Obama regime’s efforts to displace China ’s predominant role in Asia .

While any one policy adopted by the Obama regime does not, in itself, present an immediate threat to peace, the cumulative impact of all these policy pronouncements and the projections of military power add up to an all out comprehensive effort to isolate, intimidate and degrade China’s rise as a regional and global power. Military encirclement and alliances, exclusion of China in proposed regional economic associations, partisan intervention in regional maritime disputes and positioning technologically advanced warplanes, are all aimed to undermine China ’s competitiveness and to compensate for US economic inferiority via closed political and economic networks.

Clearly White House military and economic moves and US Congressional anti-China demagogy are aimed at weakening China ’s trading position and forcing its business-minded leaders into privileging US banking and business interests over and above their own enterprises. Pushed to its limits, Obama’s prioritizing a big military push could lead to a catastrophic rupture in US-Chinese economic relations. This would result in dire consequences, especially but not exclusively, on the US economy and particularly its financial system. China holds over $1.5 trillion dollars in US debt, mainly Treasury Notes, and each year purchases from $200 to $300 billion in new issues, a vital source in financing the US deficit. If Obama provokes a serious threat to China ’s security interests and Beijing is forced to respond, it will not be military but economic retaliation: the sell-off of a few hundred billion dollars in T-notes and the curtailment of new purchases of US debt. The US deficit will skyrocket, its credit ratings will descend to ‘junk’, and the financial system will ‘tremble onto collapse’. Interest rates to attract new buyers of US debt will approach double digits. Chinese exports to the US will suffer and losses will incur due to the devaluation of the T-notes in Chinese hands. China has been diversifying its markets around the world and its huge domestic market could probably absorb most of what China loses abroad in the course of a pull-back from the US market.

While Obama strays across the Pacific to announce his military threats to China and strives to economically isolate China from the rest of Asia, the US economic presence is fast fading in what used to be its “backyard”: Quoting one Financial Times journalist, “China is the only show [in town] for Latin America” (Financial Times, Nov. 23, 2011, p.6). China has displaced the US and the EU as Latin America’s principle trading partner; Beijing has poured billions in new investments and provides low interest loans.

China’s trade with India , Indonesia , Japan , Pakistan and Vietnam is increasing at a far faster rate than that of the US . The US effort to build an imperial-centered security alliance in Asia is based on fragile economic foundations. Even Australia , the anchor and linchpin of the US military thrust in Asia, is heavily dependent on mineral exports to China . Any military interruption would send the Australian economy into a tailspin.

The US economy is in no condition to replace China as a market for Asian or Australian commodity and manufacturing exports. The Asian countries must be acutely aware that there is no future advantage in tying themselves to a declining, highly militarized, empire. Obama and Clinton deceive themselves if they think they can entice Asia into a long-term alliance. The Asian’s are simply using the Obama regime’s friendly overtures as a ‘tactical device’, a negotiating ploy, to leverage better terms in securing maritime and territorial boundaries with China .

Washington is delusional if it believes that it can convince Asia to break long-term large-scale lucrative economic ties to China in order to join an exclusive economic association with such dubious prospects. Any ‘reorientation’ of Asia, from China to the US , would require more than the presence of an American naval and airborne armada pointed at China . It would require the total restructuring of the Asian countries’ economies, class structure and political and military elite. The most powerful economic entrepreneurial groups in Asia have deep and growing ties with China/Hong Kong, especially among the dynamic transnational Chinese business elites in the region. A turn toward Washington entails a massive counter-revolution, which substitutes colonial ‘traders’ (compradors) for established entrepreneurs. A turn to the US would require a dictatorial elite willing to cut strategic trading and investment linkages, displacing millions of workers and professionals. As much as some US-trained Asian military officers , economists and former Wall Street financiers and billionaires might seek to ‘balance’ a US military presence with Chinese economic power, they must realize that ultimately advantage resides in working out an Asian solution.

The age of Asian “comprador capitalists”, willing to sell out national industry and sovereignty in exchange for privileged access to US markets, is ancient history. Whatever the boundless enthusiasm for conspicuous consumerism and Western lifestyles, which Asia and China’s new rich mindlessly celebrate, whatever the embrace of inequalities and savage capitalist exploitation of labor, there is recognition that the past history of US and European dominance precluded the growth and enrichment of an indigenous bourgeoisie and middle class. The speeches and pronouncements of Obama and Clinton reek of nostalgia for a past of neo-colonial overseers and comprador collaborators – a mindless delusion. Their attempts at political realism, in finally recognizing Asia as the economic pivot of the present world order, takes a bizarre turn in imagining that military posturing and projections of armed force will reduce China to a marginal player in the region.

Obama’s Escalation of Confrontation with Russia

The Obama regime has launched a major frontal military thrust on Russia ’s borders. The US has moved forward missile sites and Air Force bases in Poland, Rumania, Turkey, Spain, Czech Republic and Bulgaria: Patriot PAC-3 anti-aircraft missile complexes in Poland; advanced radar AN/TPY-2 in Turkey; and several missile (SM-3 IA) loaded warships in Spain are among the prominent weapons encircling Russia, most only minutes away from it strategic heartland. Secondly, the Obama regime has mounted an all-out effort to secure and expand US military bases in Central Asia among former Soviet republics. Thirdly, Washington , via NATO, has launched major economic and military operations against Russia ’s major trading partners in North Africa and the Middle East . The NATO war against Libya , which ousted the Gadhafi regime, has paralyzed or nullified multi-billion dollar Russian oil and gas investments, arms sales and substituted a NATO puppet for the former Russia-friendly regime.

The UN-NATO economic sanctions and US-Israeli clandestine terrorist activity aimed at Iran has undermined Russia ’s lucrative billion-dollar nuclear trade and joint oil ventures. NATO, including Turkey , backed by the Gulf monarchical dictatorships, has implemented harsh sanctions and funded terrorist assaults on Syria , Russia ’s last remaining ally in the region and where it has a sole naval facility (Tartus) on the Mediterranean Sea . Russia ’s previous collaboration with NATO in weakening its own economic and security position is a product of the monumental misreading of NATO and especially Obama’s imperial policies. Russian President Medvedev and his Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov mistakenly assumed (like Gorbachev and Yeltsin before them) that backing US-NATO policies against Russia ’s trading partners would result in some sort of “reciprocity”: US dismantling its offensive “missile shield” on its frontiers and support for Russia ’s admission into the World Trade Organization. Medvedev, following his liberal pro-western illusions, fell into line and backed US-Israeli sanctions against Iran , believing the tales of a “nuclear weapons programs”. Then Lavrov fell for the NATO line of “no fly zones to protect Libyan civilian lives” and voted in favor, only to feebly “protest”, much too late, that NATO was “exceeding its mandate” by bombing Libya into the Middle Ages and installing a pro-NATO puppet regime of rogues and fundamentalists. Finally when the US aimed a cleaver at Russia’s heartland by pushing ahead with an all-out effort to install missile launch sites 5 minutes by air from Moscow while organizing mass and armed assaults on Syria, did the Medvedev-Lavrov duet awake from its stupor and oppose UN sanctions. Medvedev threatened to abandon the nuclear missile reduction treaty (START) and to place medium-range missiles with 5 minute launch-time from Berlin , Paris and London .

Medvedev-Lavrov’s policy of consolidation and co-operation based on Obama’s rhetoric of “resetting relations” invited aggressive empire building: Each capitulation led to a further aggression. As a result, Russia is surrounded by missiles on its western frontier; it has suffered losses among its major trading partners in the Middle East and faces US bases in southwest and Central Asia .

Belatedly Russian officials have moved to replace the delusional Medvedev for the realist Putin, as next President. This shift to a political realist has predictably evoked a wave of hostility toward Putin in all the Western media. Obama’s aggressive policy to isolate Russia by undermining independent regimes has, however, not affected Russia ’s status as a nuclear weapons power. It has only heightened tensions in Europe and perhaps ended any future chance of peaceful nuclear weapons reduction or efforts to secure a UN Security Council consensus on issues of peaceful conflict resolution. Washington , under Obama-Clinton, has turned Russia from a pliant client to a major adversary.

Putin looks to deepening and expanding ties with the East, namely China , in the face of threats from the West. The combination of Russian advanced weapons technology and energy resources and Chinese dynamic manufacturing and industrial growth are more than a match for crisis-ridden EU-USA economies wallowing in stagnation.

Obama’s military confrontation toward Russia will greatly prejudice access to Russian raw materials and definitively foreclose any long-term strategic security agreement, which would be useful in lowering the deficit and reviving the US economy.

Between Realism and Delusion: Obama’s Strategic Realignment

Obama’s recognition that the present and future center of political and economic power is moving inexorably to Asia , was a flash of political realism. After a lost decade of pouring hundreds of billions of dollars in military adventures on the margins and periphery of world politics, Washington has finally discovered that is not where the fate of nations, especially Great Powers, will be decided, except in a negative sense – of bleeding resources over lost causes. Obama’s new realism and priorities apparently are now focused on Southeast and Northeast Asia, where dynamic economies flourish, markets are growing at a double digit rate, investors are ploughing tens of billions in productive activity and trade is expanding at three times the rate of the US and the EU.

But Obama’s ‘New Realism’ is blighted by entirely delusional assumptions, which undermine any serious effort to realign US policy.

In the first place Obama’s effort to ‘enter’ into Asia is via a military build-up and not through a sharpening and upgrading of US economic competitiveness. What does the US produce for the Asian countries that will enhance its market share? Apart from arms, airplanes and agriculture, the US has few competitive industries. The US would have to comprehensively re-orient its economy, upgrade skilled labor, and transfer billions from “security” and militarism to applied innovations. But Obama works within the current military-Zionist-financial complex: He knows no other and is incapable of breaking with it.

Secondly, Obama-Clinton operate under the delusion that the US can exclude China or minimize its role in Asia, a policy that is undercut by the huge and growing investment and presence of all the major US multi-national corporations in China , who use it as an export platform to Asia and the rest of the world.

The US military build-up and policy of intimidation will only force China to downgrade its role as creditor financing the US debt, a policy China can pursue because the US market, while still important, is declining, as China expands its presence in its domestic, Asian, Latin American and European markets.

What once appeared to be New Realism is now revealed to be the recycling of Old Delusions: The notion that the US can return to being the supreme Pacific Power it was after World War Two. The US attempts to return to Pacific dominance under Obama-Clinton with a crippled economy, with the overhang of an over-militarized economy, and with major strategic handicaps: Over the past decade the United States foreign policy has been at the beck and call of Israel ’s fifth column (the Israel “lobby”). The entire US political class is devoid of common, practical sense and national purpose. They are immersed in troglodyte debates over “indefinite detentions” and “mass immigrant expulsions”. Worse, all are on the payrolls of private corporations who sell in the US and invest in China .

Why would Obama abjure costly wars in the unprofitable periphery and then promote the same military metaphysics at the dynamic center of the world economic universe? Does Barack Obama and his advisers believe he is the Second Coming of Admiral Commodore Perry, whose 19th century warships and blockades forced Asia open to Western trade? Does he believe that military alliances will be the first stage to a subsequent period of privileged economic entry?

Does Obama believe that his regime can blockade China , as Washington did to Japan in the lead up to World War Two? It’s too late. China is much more central to the world economy, too vital even to the financing of the US debt, too bonded up with the Forbes Five Hundred multi-national corporations. To provoke China , to even fantasize about economic “exclusion” to bring down China , is to pursue policies that will totally disrupt the world economy, first and foremost the US economy!

Conclusion

Obama’s ‘crackpot realism’, his shift from wars in the Muslim world to military confrontation in Asia , has no intrinsic worth and poses extraordinary extrinsic costs. The military methods and economic goals are totally incompatible and beyond the capacity of the US , as it is currently constituted. Washington ’s policies will not ‘weaken’ Russia or China , even less intimidate them. Instead it will encourage both to adopt more adversarial positions, making it less likely that they lend a hand to Obama’s sequential wars on behalf of Israel . Already Russia has sent warships to its Syrian port, refused to support an arms embargo against Syria and Iran and (in retrospect) criticized the NATO war against Libya . China and Russia have far too many strategic ties with the world economy to suffer any great losses from a series of US military outposts and “exclusive” alliances. Russia can aim just as many deadly nuclear missiles at the West as the US can mount from its bases in Eastern Europe .

In other words, Obama’s military escalation will not change the nuclear balance of power, but will bring Russia and China into a closer and deeper alliance. Gone are the days of Kissinger-Nixon’s “divide and conquer” strategy pitting US-Chinese trade agreements against Russian arms. Washington has a totally exaggerated significance of the current maritime spats between China and its neighbors. What unites them in economic terms is far more important in the medium and long-run. China ’s Asian economic ties will erode any tenuous military links to the US .

Obama’s “crackpot realism”, views the world market through military lenses. Military arrogance toward Asia has led to a rupture with Pakistan , its most compliant client regime in South Asia . NATO deliberately slaughtered 24 Pakistani soldiers and thumbed their nose at the Pakistani generals, while China and Russia condemned the attack and gained influence.

In the end, the military and exclusionary posture to China will fail. Washington will overplay its hand and frighten its business-oriented erstwhile Asian partners, who only want to play-off a US military presence to gain tactical economic advantage. They certainly do not want a new US instigated ‘Cold War’ dividing and weakening the dynamic intra-Asian trade and investment. Obama and his minions will quickly learn that Asia ’s current leaders do not have permanent allies – only permanent interests. In the final analysis, China figures prominently in configuring a new Asia-centric world economy. Washington may claim to have a ‘permanent Pacific presence’ but until it demonstrates it can take care of its “basic business at home”, like arranging its own finances and balancing its current account deficits, the US Naval command may end up renting its naval facilities to Asian exporters and shippers, transporting goods for them, and protecting them by pursuing pirates, contrabandists and narco-traffickers.

Come to think about it, Obama might reduce the US trade deficit with Asia by renting out the Seventh Fleet to patrol the Straits, instead of wasting US taxpayer money bullying successful Asian economic powers.

James Petras is a frequent contributor to Global Research.  Global Research Articles by James Petras

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