Archive for the ‘Afghanistan’ Category

There Is No “War on Terror”

February 8, 2008

There Is No “War on Terror”

By Edward S. Herman
and David Peterson

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 One of the most telling signs of the political naiveté of liberals and the Left in the United States has been their steadfast faith in much of the worldview that blankets the imperial state they call home.  Nowhere has this critical failure been more evident than in their acceptance of the premise that there really is something called a “war on terror” or “terrorism”[1]—however poorly managed its critics make it out to be—and that righting the course of this war ought to be this country’s (and the world’s) top foreign policy priority.   In this perspective, Afghanistan and Pakistan rather than Iraq ought to have been the war on terror’s proper foci; most accept that the U.S. attack on Afghanistan from October 2001 on was a legitimate and necessary stage in the war.  The tragic error of the Bush Administration, in this view, was that it lost sight of this priority, and diverted U.S. military action to Iraq and other theaters, reducing the commitment where it was needed.

Of course we expect to find this line of criticism expressed by the many former supporters who have fled from the sinking regime in Washington.[2]  But it is striking that commentators as durably hostile to Bush policies as the New York Times‘s Frank Rich should accept so many of the fundamentals of this worldview, and repeat them without embarrassment.  Rich asserts that the question “
Who lost Iraq? is but a distraction from the more damning question, Who is losing the war on terrorism?”  A repeated theme of Rich’s work has been that the Cheney – Bush presidency is causing “as much damage to fighting the war on terrorism as it does to civil liberties.”  Even in late 2007, Rich still lamented the “really bad news” that, “Much as Iraq distracted America from the war against Al Qaeda, so a strike on Iran could ignite Pakistan, Al Qaeda’s thriving base and the actual central front of the war on terror.”[3]

 

Other expressions of faith in something called the “war on terror” abound. Thus in a long review of several books in which she urged “[r]evamping our approach to terrorism” and “recapturing hearts and minds” around the world, Harvard’s Samantha Power, a top lieutenant in the humanitarian brigade, wrote that “most Americans still rightly believe that the United States must confront Islamic terrorism—and must be relentless in preventing terrorist networks from getting weapons of mass destruction.  But Bush’s premises have proved flawed….”[4]   Most striking was Power’s expression of disappointment that “millions—if not billions—of people around the world do not see the difference between a suicide bomber’s attack on a pizzeria and an American attack on what turns out to be a wedding party”—the broken moral compass residing within these masses, of course, who fail to understand that only the American attacks are legitimate and that the numerous resultant casualties are but “tragic errors” and  “collateral damage.”[5]  

 

Like Samantha Power, the What We’re Fighting For statement issued in February 2002 by the Institute for American Values and signed by 60 U.S. intellectuals, including Jean Bethke Elshtain, Francis Fukuyama, Mary Ann Glendon, Samuel Huntington, Harvey C. Mansfield, Will Marshall, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Michael Novak, Michael Walzer, George Weigel, and James Q. Wilson, declared the war on terror a “just war.”   “Organized killers with global reach now threaten all of us,” it  is asserted in one revealing passage. “In the name of universal human morality, and fully conscious of the restrictions and requirements of a just war, we support our government’s, and our society’s, decision to use force of arms against them.”[6]  The idea that “killers with global reach” who are far more deadly and effective than Al Qaeda could be found at home doesn’t seem to occur to these intellectuals.  And like Power, they also make what they believe a telling distinction between the deliberate killing of civilians, as in a suicide bombing, and “collateral damage”-type casualties even in cases where civilian casualties are vastly larger and entirely predictable, though not specifically intended.[7]  Throughout these reflections, the purpose is to distinguish our murderous acts from theirs.  It is the latter that constitute a “world-threatening evil…that clearly requires the use of force to remove it.”[8]  

 

In the same mode, Princeton University international law professor Richard Falk’s early contributions to The Nation after 9/11 found a “visionary program of international, apocalyptic terrorism” behind the events.  “It is truly a declaration of war from the lower depths,” Falk wrote, a “transformative shift in the nature of the terrorist challenge both conceptually and tactically….There is no indication that the forces behind the attack were acting on any basis beyond their extraordinary destructive intent….We are poised on the brink of a global, intercivilizational war without battlefields and borders….”  Some weeks later, in a nod to “just war” doctrine, Falk argued that the “destruction of both the Taliban regime and the Al Qaeda network…are appropriate goals….[T]he case [against the Taliban] is strengthened,” he added, “to the degree that its governing policies are so oppressive as to give the international community the strongest possible grounds for humanitarian intervention.”[9]  

 

Peter Beinart, a liberal-leaning former editor of the New Republic and the author of the 2006 book The Good Fight: Why Liberals-and Only LiberalsCan Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again, wrote in the aftermath of Cheney – Bush’s 2004 re-election: “Today, the war on terrorism is partially obscured by the war in Iraq, which has made liberals cynical about the purposes of U.S. power.  But, even if Iraq is Vietnam, it no more obviates the war on terrorism than Vietnam obviated the battle against communism.  Global jihad will be with us long after American troops stop dying in Falluja and Mosul.  And thus, liberalism will rise or fall on whether it can become, again, what [Arthur] Schlesinger called ‘a fighting faith’.”[10]

 

Even David Cole and Jules Lobel, authors of a highly-regarded critique of Cheney – Bush policies on “Why America Is Losing the War on Terror,” take the existence of its “counterterrorism strategy” at face value; this strategy has been a “colossal failure,” they argue, because it has “compromised our spirit, strengthened our enemies and left us less free and less safe.”  The U.S. war in Iraq “permitted the Administration to turn its focus from Al Qaeda, the organization that attacked us on 9/11, to Iraq, a nation that did not.  The Iraq war has by virtually all accounts made the United States, the Iraqi people, many of our allies and for that matter much of the world more vulnerable to terrorists.  By targeting Iraq, the Bush Administration not only siphoned off much-needed resources from the struggle against Al Qaeda but also created a golden opportunity for Al Qaeda to inspire and recruit others to attack US and allied targets.  And our invasion of Iraq has turned it into the world’s premier terrorist training ground.”[11]  

 

Elsewhere, appearing at a forum in New York City sponsored by the Open Society Institute to discuss his work, David Cole made the remarkable assertion that “no one argued” the post-9/11 U.S. attack on Afghanistan was “not a legitimate act of self-defense.”  No less remarkable was Cole’s statement shortly thereafter that the United States’ “holding [of prisoners] at Guantanamo would not have been controversial practice had we given them hearings at the outset,” because, as Cole explained it, such hearings “would have identified those people as to whom we had no evidence that they were involved with Al Qaeda and then they would be released.”[12] 

 

Cole’s first remark ignores the UN Charter, which allows an attack on another state in self-defense only when an imminent attack is threatened, and then only until such time as the Security Council acts on behalf of the threatened state.  But given the absence of such urgency and the absence of  a UN authorization,  and given that the hijacker bombers of 9/11 were independent terrorists and not agents of  a state, the October 2001 U.S. war on Afghanistan was a violation of the UN Charter and a “supreme international crime,” in the language of the Judgment at Nuremberg.[13]  Would Cole have defended Cuban or Nicaraguan or Iraqi bombing attacks on Washington D.C. as legitimate acts of self-defense at any juncture in the past when the United States was attacking or sponsoring an attack on these countries?  We doubt it.  Cole also seems unaware that the United States attacked after refusing the Afghan government’s offer to give up bin Laden upon the presentation of evidence of his involvement in the crime.[14] Furthermore, the war began long after bin Laden and his forces had been given time to exit, and was fought mainly against the Taliban government and Afghan people, thousands of whom were killed under targeting rules that assured and resulted in numerous “tragic errors” and can reasonably be called war crimes.

 

Given the illegality and immorality of this war—now already well into its seventh year—the killing of people in Afghanistan cannot be regarded as “legitimate”—and neither can the taking of prisoners there under any conditions.  Cole’s second remark also ignores the modes of seizure of prisoners, some turned over in exchange for cash bounties; or their treatment in Afghanistan, en route to Guantanamo, and in rendition facilities, apart from delays in or absence of  “hearings at the outset.”  Last, Cole is wrong even on the alleged general agreement on the legitimacy of this act of  “self-defense” in Afghanistan.  Despite the domestic hysteria in the United States at the time, a number of  lawyers here contested its legitimacy .[15]  Furthermore, a series of opinion polls in 37 different countries by Gallup International in late September 2001 found that in no less than 34 of these countries, majorities opposed a U.S. military attack on Afghanistan, preferring instead to see the events of September 11 treated as crimes (i.e., non-militarily), with extradition and trial for the alleged culprits.  The three countries where opinion ran against the majority in the other 34 were the United States (54%), India (72%), and Israel (77%).  Otherwise, it appears that significant and sometimes overwhelming majorities of the world’s population were opposed to the U.S. resort to war.[16]

 


What War on Terror?

 

But talk of the “failure” of the war on terror rests on the false premise that there really is such a war.   This we reject on a number of grounds.  First, in all serious definitions of the term,[17] terror is a means of pursuing political ends, an instrument of struggle, and it makes little sense to talk about war against a means and instrument. Furthermore, if the means consists of  modes of political intimidation and publicity-seeking that use or threaten force against civilians, a major problem with the alleged “war” is that the United States and Israel also clearly use terror and support allies and agents who do the same. The “shock and awe” strategy that opened the 2002 invasion-occupation of Iraq was openly and explicitly designed to terrorize the Iraq population and armed forces. Much of the bombing and torture, and the attack that destroyed Falluja, have been designed to instill fear and intimidate the general population and resistance.  Israel’s repeated bombing attacks, ground assaults, and targeted assassinations of Palestinians are also designed to create fear and apathy, that is, terrorize.  As longtime Labour Party official Abba Eban admitted years ago, Israel’s bombing of  Lebanon civilians was based on “the rational prospect, ultimately fulfilled, that afflicted populations [i.e., civilians deliberately targeted] would exert pressure for the cessation of hostilities.”[18]  This was a precise admission of the use of  terrorism, and surely fits Israeli policy in the years of the alleged “war on terror.”  Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has also acknowledged an intent to attack civilians, declaring in March 2002 that “The Palestinians must be hit and it must be very painful: we must cause them losses, victims, so that they feel the heavy price.”[19]

 

The United States and Israel actually engage in big-time terror, like strategic bombing, helicopter attacks, torture on a continuing basis, and large-scale invasions and invasion threats, not lower-casualty-inflicting actions like occasional plane hijackings and suicide bombings.   This has long been characterized as  the difference between wholesale and retail terror, the former carried out by states and on a large scale, the latter  implemented by individuals and small groups, much smaller in scale, and causing fewer civilian victims than its wholesale counterpart.[20]  Retail terrorists don’t maintain multiple detention centers in which they employ torture (at the height of its state terror activities in the 1970s the Argentinian military maintained an estimated 60 such centers, according to Amnesty International;[21] the United States today, on land bases and naval vessels and in client state operated facilities, uses dozens of such centers).

 

Furthermore, retail terror is often sponsored by the wholesale terrorists—notoriously, the Cuban refugee network operating out of the United States for decades, the U.S.-supported Nicaraguan contras, Savimbi’s UNITA in Angola in the 1980s, backed by both South Africa and the United States, the South Lebanon Army supported by Israel for years, and the Colombian rightwing death squads still in operation, with U.S. support.  Thus, a meaningful war on terror would surely involve attacks on the United States and Israel as premier wholesale terrorists and sponsors, a notion we have yet to find expounded by a single one of the current war-on-terror proponents.

 

In short, one secret of  the widespread belief that the United States and Israel are fighting—not carrying out—terror is the remarkable capacity of the Western media and intellectual class to ignore the standard definitions of terror and the reality of who does the most terrorizing, and thus to allow the Western political establishments to use the invidious word to apply to their targets. We only retaliate and engage in “counter-terror”—our targets started it and their lesser violence is terrorism.

 

A second and closely related secret of the swallowing of war-on-terror propaganda is the ability of the swallowers to ignore the U.S. purposes and program. They never ask: Is the United States simply responding to the 9/11 attack or do its leaders have a larger agenda for which they can use 9/11 terrorism as a cover?  But this obvious question almost answers itself: Documents of the prior decade show clearly that the Bush team was openly hoping for another “Pearl Harbor” that would allow them to go on the offensive and project power in the Middle East and across the globe.  In the rightfully infamous words of the Project for the New American Century (2000), “the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor.”[22]  The huge military forces that have been built up in this country conveniently permit this power-projection by threat and use of force, and their buildup and use has had bipartisan support, reflecting in large measure the power and objectives of the military establishment, military contractors, and transnational corporations. The military buildup was not for defensive purposes in any meaningful sense; it was for power-projection, which is to say, for offense.

 

In this connection we should point out that at the time of 9/11 in the year 2001, Al Qaeda was considered by most experts to be a small non-state operation, possibly centered in Afghanistan and/or Pakistan, but loosely sprawled across the globe, and with at most only a few thousand operatives.[23]  It is clear that such a small and diffuse operation called for an anti-crime and intelligence response, not a war.  Of course a war could be carried out against the country which was their principal home, but given the lags involved and the threat that a war, with its civilian casualties and imperialist overtones, would possibly strengthen Al Qaeda, the quick resort to war in the post-9/11 period suggests covert motives, including vengeance and taking advantage of  9/11 for power-projection.  And while a war could be launched against Afghanistan and an attack made on Al Qaeda headquarters, this was hardly a war on terror.  Nor could the huge military buildup that ensued  have been based on a fight in Afghanistan or against tiny Al Qaeda.[24]

 

It is also notable that there has been no attempt by the organizers of the war on terror  to try to stop terrorism at its source by addressing the problems that have produced the terrorists and provided their recruiting base. In fact, for the organizers and their supporters in the “war on terror,” raising the question of “why” is regarded as a form of apologetics for terror, and they are uninterested in the question, satisfied with clichés about the terrorists envy, hatred of freedom, and genetic or religious proclivities. This is consistent with the view that getting rid of terror is not their aim, and that in fact they need the steady flow of  resisters-terrorists which their actions produce to justify their real purpose of  power projection virtually without limit.  Failure to end terrorism is not a failure of the “war on terror,” it is a necessary part of its machinery of operation.   

 

In short, the war on terror is an intellectual and propaganda cover, analogous—and in many ways a successor—to the departed “Cold War,” which in its time also served as a cover for imperial expansion. Guatemala, Vietnam, Chile, Indonesia, Zaire (and many others) were regularly subverted or attacked on the ground of an alleged Soviet menace that had to be combated. That menace was rarely applicable to the actual cases, and the strained connection was often laughable. With that cover gone, pursuing terrorists is proving to be an admirable substitute, as once again a gullible media will accept that any targeted rebels are actual or potential terrorists and may even have links to Al Qaeda. The FARC rebels in Colombia are terrorists, but the government-supported rightwing paramilitaries who kill many more civilians than FARC are not and are the beneficiaries of U.S. “counter-terrorism” aid.  Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, on the other hand, which does not kill civilians, is accused of  lack of cooperation in the U.S. “counter-terrorism” program, and is alleged to have “links” to U.S. targets such as Iran and Cuba, which allegedly support terrorists.[25] Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, and other torture-prone states are “with us” in the war on terror; states like Venezuela, Iran and Cuba are not with us and are easily situated as terrorist or “linked” to terrorist states.

 

If Al Qaeda didn’t exist the United States would have had to create it, and of course it did create it back in the 1980s, as a means of  destabilizing the Soviet Union. Al Qaeda’s more recent role  is a classic case of “blowback.”  It is also a case of resistance to power-projection, as Al Qaeda’s terrorist activities switched from combating a Soviet occupation, to combating U.S. intervention in Saudi Arabia, Palestine and elsewhere.  It was also spurred by lagged resentment at being used by the United States for its Soviet destabilization purposes and then abandoned.[26]

 

While U.S. interventionism gave Al Qaeda a strong start, and while it continues today to facilitate Al Qaeda recruitment, it has also provoked resistance far beyond Al Qaeda, as in Iraq, where most of the resistance has nothing to do with Al Qaeda and in fact has widely turned against it. If as the United States projects power across the globe this produces resistance, and if this resistance can be labeled “terrorists,” then U.S. aggression and wholesale terror are home-free!  Any country that is willing to align with the United States can get its dissidents and resistance condemned as “terrorists,” with or without links to Al Qaeda, and get U.S. military aid. The war on terror is a war of superpower power-projection, which is to say, an imperialist war on a global scale.

 

The issue of who terrorizes whom is hardly new. Back in 1979, Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman’s The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism featured the U.S. terror gulag in great detail, and even had a frontispiece showing the flow of economic and military aid from the United States to 26 of the 35 countries using torture on an administrative basis in that era. Herman’s The Real Terror Network of 1982 also traced out a U.S.-sponsored terror gulag and showed its logical connection to the growth of the transnational corporation and desire for friendly state-terrorists who would produce favorable climates of investment (recall Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos’s statement to U.S. oil companies back at the time of his 1972 accession to power: “We’ll pass laws you need—just tell us what you want.”[27]). But these works were ignored in the mainstream and could hardly compete with Claire Sterling’s The Terror Network, which traced selected retail terrorisms—falsely—to the Soviet Union.  This fit the Reagan-era “war on terror” claims, which coincided with the Reagan era support of Israel’s attack on Lebanon and subsequent  “iron fist” terrorism there, Reagan’s support of the Argentine military regime, Suharto, Marcos, South Africa, the Guatemalan and Salvadoran terror regimes, Savimbi, the Cuban terror network, and the Nicaraguan contras.

 

This historical record of  U.S. terrorism and support of terrorism occasionally surfaces in the mainstream, but is brushed aside on the ground that the United States has taken a new course, so that long record can be ignored.  In a classic of this genre, Michael Ignatieff, writing in the New York Times Magazine, claimed that this was so because President George Bush said so!  “The democratic turn in American foreign policy has been recent,” he wrote, adding that at long last, the current George Bush has “actually risked his presidency on the premise that Jefferson might be right.”[28] This capacity to ignore history, and the institutional underpinning of that history, complements the mainstream media and intellectuals’ ability to take as a premise that the United States is virtuous and in its foreign dealings is trying to do good or is just defending itself against bad people and movements who for no good reason hate us. As noted, the amazing definitional systems in use are de facto Alice-in-Wonderland: Terrorism is anything I choose to target and so designate.

 

Two novelties of the Bush era projection of power and wholesale terrorism are their brazenness and scope.  Past U.S. employment of torture, and of gulags in which to hold and work-over alleged or possible terrorists or resisters, were more or less sub rosa, the cruelties and violations of  international law and U.S. involvement kept more or less plausibly deniable. The Bush team is open about them, calling for legalization of torture and their other violations of  international law, which they rationalize by heavy-handed redefinitions of  “torture” and claims of the inapplicability of international law to their new category of “enemy combatants.”[29] Bush also brags in public about the extension of the U.S. killing machine to distant places and the extent to which declared enemies have been removed, implicitly by killing, obviously without hearing or trial.  On September 17, 2001, Bush signed a “classified Presidential Finding that authorized an unprecedented range of covert operations,” the Washington Post later reported, including “lethal measures against terrorists and the expenditure of vast funds to coax foreign intelligence services into a new era of cooperation with the CIA.”[30] And in his State of the Union speech of 2003, Bush asserted that “more than 3,000 suspected terrorists” had been arrested across the globe “and many others have met a different fate—Let’s put it this way: They are no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies.[31] As Chris Floyd has pointed out, this represents the work of  a “universal death squad,”[32] the authorization and accomplishments of which were barely acknowledged in the mainstream media.

 

U.S. state-terrorism has also been broadened in scope and is a facet of globalization.  In accord with the principles of globalization, there has been a major increase in the privatization of  terrorism.  Blackwater Worldwide is only the best known of mercenary armies in Iraq that now outnumber regular armed force members, and who are free from some of the legal constraints of the armed forces in how they treat the local population. The global American gulag of secret prisons and torture centers to which an unknown number of people have been sent, held without trial, worked over and sometimes killed as well as tortured, is located in many countries: The “spider’s web” first described by a Council of Europe investigation identified landings and takeoffs at no fewer than 30 airports on four different continents;[33] and earlier research by Human Rights First estimated that the United States was operating dozens of major and lesser known detention centers as part of its “war on terror”: These included the obvious cases of Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and other prisons in Iraq, the U.S. Air Force base at Bagram in Afghanistan, Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, and other suspected centers in Pakistan, Jordan, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean,  and on U.S. Navy ships at sea.[34]  Still others are operated by client and other states at the torture-producing end of the “extraordinary rendition” chain (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Morocco).  Given the vastness of this U.S. enterprise, surely we are talking about tens-of-thousands of prisoners, a great many picked-up and tortured based on rumor, the inducement of bonus payments, denunciations in vendettas, and accidents of name or location.[35] We know that a great majority of those imprisoned in sweeps in Iraq were taken without the slightest information on wrong-doing even on aggressor-occupier terms.[36] There is strong anecdotal evidence that suggests that the same is true in Afghanistan.

 

Another notable feature of  the “war on terror” is the extent to which this mythical war has been advanced via the UN and the “international community,” the UN’s work in particular serving as an extension of U.S. policy.  This has been in marked contrast to their treatment of open aggression and violations of the UN Charter’s prohibition of aggressive war.  Time and again the United States and Israel have violated this fundamental international law during the past decade, and they are clearly the global leaders in state-terrorism that many observers believe to be the main force inspiring a global resistance and spurring on various forms of Islamic terrorism, including Al Qaeda.  But instead of focusing on the causal wars and state-terrorism, following the U.S. lead the UN and international community have focused on the lesser and derivative terrorism, and taken the “war on terror” at face value.  In other words, they have once again assumed the role of servants of U.S. policy, in this instance helping the aggressor states and wholesale terrorists struggle against the retail terror they inspire.

 

We can trace this pattern at least as far back as October 1999 (almost two years before 9/11), when the Security Council adopted Resolution 1267 “on the situation in Afghanistan.”  This Resolution deplored that the “Taliban continues to provide safe haven to Usama bin Laden,” and it demanded that the “Taliban turn over Usama bin Laden without further delay to appropriate authorities in a country where he has been indicted.”  1267 also created the Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee to manage this effort to squeeze the Taliban and anyone linkable to either of them.[37]  At the time, bin Laden had been indicted by a U.S. Federal Court for his alleged involvement in the August 1998 suicide bombings at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing some 250 people; Al Qaeda had also been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. Department of State.  “The international community has sent a clear message,” President Bill Clinton announced.  “The choice between co-operation and isolation lies with the Taliban.”  But the Taliban complained that “This unfair action was taken under the pressure of the United States….So far, there has not been any evidence of Osama’s involvement in terrorism by any one”—essentially the same retort that the Taliban made to Bush White House demands after 9/11 that the Taliban surrender bin Laden.[38]  1267 thus extended key components of the 1996 U.S. Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act’s category of states designated “not cooperating with U.S. anti-terrorism efforts” beyond U.S. borders to the level of internationally-enforceable law.

 

Only four days after 1267, the Council adopted companion Resolution 1269 “on the responsibility of the Security Council in the maintenance of international peace and security.”  1269 condemned the “practices of terrorism as criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation,” and stressed the “vital role” of the UN “in combating terrorism.”[39]  Similarly, Resolution 1373, adopted shortly after the 9/11 attacks and just days before the United States launched its war to remove the Taliban, greatly expanded the UN’s involvement in the U.S. “war on terror,” creating the Counter-Terrorism Committee to manage the fight against terrorism and criminalizing all forms of support for individuals and groups engaged in terrorism.  Like 1267 and, later, 1540 (April 24, 2004), which created a committee to prevent “non-State actors” from acquiring “weapons of mass destruction,”[40] the Security Council adopted each of these resolutions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, on the basis of which the Council is to supposed to respond to “threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, and acts of aggression.”

 

All of this vigilance with respect to “terrorism,” and the notion that “non-State actors” and “terrorists” of the Al Qaeda variety deserve this intense UN concern, stands in dramatic contrast with the treatment of literal aggression, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, and genocidal actions such as the U.S.-U.K.-UN “sanctions of mass destruction” that killed possibly a million Iraqi civilians during the years between the first and second wars against Iraq, ca. 1991-2003.[41]  Yet, in his report In larger freedom (March, 2005), Kofi Annan argued that “It is time to set aside debates on so-called ‘State terrorism’.  The use of force by States is already thoroughly regulated under international law.  And the right to resist occupation must be understood in its true meaning.  It cannot include the right to deliberately kill or maim civilians.”[42] 

 

 But these comments contain a major falsehood and reflect serious pro-state-terrorism and anti-resistance bias—there is no “thorough” regulation of state-terrorism, and in fact there is none at all, as evidenced by the fact that the United States and its allies have been able to attack  three countries in a single decade (the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq) without the slightest impediment from Kofi Annan’s United Nations,[43] but also in each case with the UN’s ex post facto assent.  Note also Annan’s failure to suggest that states should not have the “right to deliberately kill or maim civilians,” a concern that he exhibits only as regards resisters to state violence and occupation.  This despite the fact that in their recent and ongoing wars the United States and its allies have killed, maimed, starved, and driven from their homes vastly more civilians than has Al Qaeda or all of the world’s retail terrorists combined.  Note also that within the targeted countries, political leaders have been captured by these aggressors, and subjected to trial by tribunals—but never the leadership of the great powers.  In pursuing their enemies to the farthest reaches of the earth, they continue to enjoyed complete impunity.[44]  

 

 

Concluding Note

 

In sum, the war on terror is a political gambit and myth used to cover over a U.S. projection of power that needed rhetorical help with the disappearance of the Soviet Union and Cold War. It has been successful because U.S. leaders could hide behind the very real 9/11 terrorist attack and pretend that their own wars, wholesale terrorist actions, and  enlarged support of  a string of countries—many authoritarian and engaged in state terrorism—were somehow linked to that attack and its Al Qaeda authors. But most U.S. military actions abroad since 9/11 have had little or  no connection with Al Qaeda; and you cannot war on a method of  struggle, especially when you, your allies and clients use those methods as well.

 

It is widely argued now that the war on terror has been a failure. This also is a fallacy, resting on the imputation of  purpose to the war’s organizers contrary to their actual aims—they were looking for and found the new “Pearl Harbor” needed to justify a surge of  U.S. force projection across the globe. It appears that Al Qaeda is stronger now than it was on September 11, 2001; but Al Qaeda was never the main target of the Bush administration.  If Al Qaeda had been, the Bush administration would have tried much more seriously to apprehend bin Laden, by military or political action, and it would not have carried out policies in Iraq, Palestine, Pakistan, Iran and elsewhere that have played so well into bin Laden’s hand—arguably, policy responses that bin Laden hoped to provoke. If Washington really had been worried at the post-9/11 terrorist threat it would have followed through on the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations for guarding U.S. territory (ports, chemical plants, nuclear facilities, airports and other transportation hubs, and the like).[45] The fact that it hasn’t done this, but instead has adopted a cynical and politicized system of terrorism alerts, is testimony to the administration’s own private understanding of the contrived character of the war on terror and the alleged threats that we face.

 

Admittedly, the surge in power projection that 9/11 and the war on terror facilitated has not been a complete and unadulterated success.  But the “war on terror” gambit did enable this surge to come about, and it should be recognized that  the invasion-occupation of Iraq was not a diversion, its conquest was one of the intended objectives of this war. That conquest may be in jeopardy, but looked at from the standpoint of  its organizers, the war has achieved some of the real goals for which it was designed; and in this critical but seldom appreciated sense it has been a  success. It has facilitated two U.S. military invasions of foreign countries, served to line-up many other states behind the leader of the war, helped once again to push NATO into new, out-of-area operations,  permitted a further advance in the U.S. disregard of international law, helped bring about quasi-regime changes in some major European capitals, and was the basis for the huge growth in U.S. and foreign military budgets. While its destabilization of the Middle East has possibly benefited Iran, it has given Israel a free hand in accelerated ethnic cleansing, settlements, and more ruthless treatment of  the Palestinians, and the United States and Israel still continue to threaten and isolate Iran.

 

Furthermore, with the cooperation of the Democrats and mass media, the “war on terror” gave the “decider” and his clique the political ability to impose an unconstitutional, rightwing agenda at home, at the expense of  the rule of law, economic equality, environmental and other regulation, and social solidarity.  The increased military budget and militarization of U.S. society, the explosive growth in corporate “counter-terrorism” and “homeland security” enterprises, the greater centralization of power in the executive branch, the enhanced inequality, the unimpeded growth of the prison-industrial complex, the more rightwing judiciary, and the failure of  the Democrats to do anything to counter these trends since the 2006 election, suggests that the shift to the right and to a more militarized society and expansionist foreign policy may have become permanent features of life in the United States.  Is that not a war on terror success story, given the aims of  its creators?

 

 

 

  —- Endnotes —-

 

 



[1] We will use the phrases ‘war on terror’ and ‘war on terrorism’ interchangeably.  Nor are we aware of any nuance in meaning to be gained by distinguishing one phrase from the other.  This caveat also holds for the similar phrase ‘global war on terror’.  (Etc.) 

[2] See, e.g., Francis Fukuyama, America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power and the Neoconservative Legacy (Yale University Press, 2006).  Along with 24 others that included Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Zalmay Khalilzad, Lewis Libby, Paula Dobriansky, and Norman Podhoretz, Fukuyama was a founding member of the Project for the New American Century, whose efforts to “rally support for the cause of American global leadership” and a “Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity” the world continues to suffer beneath.—See the Project’s “Statement of Principles,” June 3, 1997.

[3] Frank Rich, Where Were You That Summer of 2001?” New York Times, February 25, 2007; The Wiretappers That Couldn’t Shoot Straight,” January 8, 2006; and Noun + Verb + 9/11 + Iran = Democrats’ Defeat?” New York Times, November 4, 2007.

[4] Samantha Power, “Our War on Terror,” New York Times Book Review, July 29, 2007.—Power also used this review to lavish praise on the recently updated The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual (University of Chicago Press, 2007), assembled by U.S. Army General David Petraeus et al., the current commander of the U.S.-led Multinational Force in occupied Iraq, along with critical input from members of the humanitarian brigades, including Sarah Sewall, a colleague of Power’s at Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.

[5] Note that Samantha Power implies that an “American [bombing] attack on what turns out to be a wedding party” is a unique and excusable “error.”  This is false.  It was not even the only wedding party bombed in Iraq and Afghanistan by U.S. forces, and the notable feature of both U.S. wars in these countries is the lavish use of devastatingly powerful explosives in places where civilian casualties are certain.  In Afghanistan, the United States has bombed every kind of civilian infrastructure—dams, telephone exchanges, schools, power stations, bridges, trucks on roads, mosques, Al Jazeera radio, and even the well-marked Red Cross facilities in Kabul. It has also used cluster bombs on a massive scale. In his exhaustive analysis of civilian casualties, Marc W. Herold states that the 3,000-3,400 civilian deaths resulting from U.S. bombing in the period October 7, 2001 – March 2002 can be explained best by “the low value put upon Afghan civilian lives by U.S. military planners and the political elite, as clearly revealed by their willingness to bomb heavily populated areas.”  He concludes that “the U.S. bombing campaign which began on the evening of October 7th, has been a war upon the people, the homes, the farms and the villages of Afghanistan, as well as upon the Taliban and Al Qaeda.”  (Marc W. Herold, “A Dossier on Civilian Victims of United States’ Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan,” Revised Edition, March 2002.)  This bombing war relied heavily on people like Samantha Power and the media to keep the ruthlessly anti-civilian character of this war out of public sight.  (Also see Tom Engelhardt, ‘Accidents’ of War: The Time Has Come for an Honest Discussion of Air Power,” TomDispatch, July 9, 2007.)

[6] What We’re Fighting For: A Letter from America, Institute for American Values, February, 2002. This document is also reproduced in David Blankenhorn et al., The Islam/West Debate: Documents from a Global Debate on Terrorism, U.S. Policy, and the Middle East (Rowman & Littlefield, 2005), pp. 21-40.

[7] For a critique of this notion of civilian deaths as “collateral damage,” a legal ploy by which Americans distinguish the “unintended” deaths caused by their “far more terrifying violence” from the “premeditated” deaths caused by enemies, see Michael Mandel, How America Gets Away With Murder: Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage and Crimes Against Humanity (Pluto Press, 2004), pp. 46-56.

[8] In their discussion “A Just War?” the Institute for American Values asserted: “Although in some circumstances, and within strict limits, it can be morally justifiable to undertake military actions that may result in the unintended but foreseeable death or injury of some noncombatants, it is not morally acceptable to make the killing of noncombatants the operational objective of a military action.” They continued: “On September 11, 2001, a group of individuals deliberately attacked the United States….Those who died on the morning of September 11 were killed unlawfully, wantonly, and with premeditated malice – a kind of killing that, in the name of precision, can only be described as murder….Those who slaughtered more than 3,000 persons on September 11 and who, by their own admission, want nothing more than to do it again, constitute a clear and present danger to all people of good will everywhere in the world, not just the United States.  Such acts are a pure example of naked aggression against innocent human life, a world-threatening evil that clearly requires the use of force to remove it.”  (What We’re Fighting For: A Letter from America, Institute for American Values, February, 2002.)    

[9] Richard Falk, “A Just Response,” The Nation, October 8, 2001; and “Defining a Just War,” The Nation, October 29, 2001.—To his credit, Falk was under no illusions that the Cheney – Bush regime would heed any limits on the use of force.

[10] Peter Beinart, “A Fighting Faith,” New Republic, December 13, 2004 (as posted to the Free Republic website).  Also see his The Good Fight: Why Liberals-and Only LiberalsCan Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again (HarperCollins, 2006).

[11] David Cole and Jules Lobel, “Why We’re Losing the War on Terror,” The Nation, September 24, 2007.  Also see their Less Safe, Less Free: Why America Is Losing the War on Terror (The New Press, 2007), esp. Ch. 5, “The Costs of Overreaching,” pp. 129-146. 

[12]OSI Forum—Less Safe, Less Free,” Open Society Institute, November 14, 2007. —David Cole’s own words were: “I just don’t see anybody around the world who has questioned the notion that the United States has the right to respond to the attacks that we suffered [on September 11, 2001] by going to Afghanistan.  There are people who say it wasn’t the best policy.  But no one argued it was not a legitimate act of self-defense.”  And: “If you have the right to go to waryou have the right to kill the people you’re fighting againstsurely you have the right to hold them for the duration of that conflict.  So that’s not a controversial issue.  And holding them at Guantanamo would not have been controversial practice had we given them hearings at the outset.  Which, for one, would have identified those people as to whom we had no evidence that they were involved with Al Qaeda  and then they would be releasedand then we wouldn’t have the problem of innocent people being held at Guantanamo.”  (Our transcription picks-up Cole’s remarks beginning at approximately the 49:35 minute mark of the full-length audio clip.) 

[13] “The charges in the Indictment that the defendants planned and waged aggressive wars are charges of the utmost gravity. War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”  See Final Judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Trial of German Major War Criminals (September 30, 1946), specifically “The Common Plan or Conspiracy and Aggressive War,” from which this passage derives.

[14] According to Radio Voice of Shari’ah in Mazar-e Sharif, the capital of Balkh province in northern Afghanistan, “senior officials” of the Taliban released a statement as early as September 13, 2001 in which they “honestly asked America to give clear and substantial evidence for what it considers Usamah to be responsible for, and the [Taliban] will hand him over to one of the Islamic courts of the world in order to be tried. The stance of the [Taliban] is clear in this regard. Otherwise, nobody can accuse others by bringing false and groundless allegations.” In the same statement, the Taliban “condemn” the events of 9/11, calling them “against the welfare and interests of the world.”  The Taliban also “expresses its sympathy for the American people,” adding that it “expects the USA not to resort to irreparable measures before discovering the facts.”  (“Afghan Taleban ready to hand Bin-Ladin to Islamic court if USA provides evidence – radio,” BBC Monitoring Central Asia, September 13, 2001.)  News of this and subsequent offers communicated by Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, the Taliban’s foreign minister, and by Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban’s ambassador to Pakistan, were reported by Reuters, The Herald (Glasgow), the New York Times, the Washington Post, the International Herald Tribune, the Boston Globe, and The Independent (London).  But as the record makes clear, no one will ever know how genuine these offers really werethe Bush White House categorically rejected them, and the offers died there.

[15] Among the professors of law at U.S. universities who contested the legality of the U.S. war on Afghanistan are Marjorie Cohn, currently president of the National Lawyers Guild, Michael Ratner, now president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Francis Boyle, Brian Foley, Jordan Paust, and John Quigley.

[16] See “Gallup International poll on terrorism in the U.S. (figures),” Gallup International, late September, 2001.  Also see Abid Aslam, “Polls Question Global Support for Military Campaign,” Inter-Press Service, October 8, 2001; and David Miller, “World Opinion Opposed the Attack on Afghanistan,” Sterling Media Research Center, Scotland, November 21, 2001 (as posted to the Religion-online website).  Miller noted that “When polling companies do ask about alternatives [to the war-option], support for war falls away.”  Hence, he added, this was the reason why so much news media coverage systematically distorts the facts away from informing people about real alternatives and the real impact of the war on Afghanistan.  In Pakistan, a case with great resonance today, a Gallup International poll sponsored by Newsweek in the early days after the start of the U.S. war found that “Eighty-three percent of Pakistanis surveyed say they side with the Taliban, with a mere 3 percent expressing support for the United States.”  (“Shifting Sympathies,” Newsweek Web Exclusive, October 18, 2001.) 

[17] Here we are content to cite two definitions of terrorism.  (1) “[V]violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State;” and that “appear to be intended – (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping….”  (United States Code, Title 18, Part I, Ch. 113B, Section 2331, 1984.)  And (2) “Any action…that is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants, when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a Government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act.”  (A more secure world: Our shared responsibility. Report of the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Threats (New York: United Nations, 2004), par. 164(d).)

[18] Abba Eban, “Morality and Warfare,” Jerusalem Post, August 16, 1981.

[19] In Matt Rees, “Streets Red With Blood,” Time Magazine, March 10, 2002. 

[20] See, e.g., Edward S. Herman, The Real Terror Network: Terrorism in Fact and Propaganda (South End Press, 1982), esp. Ch. 2, “The Semantics and Role of Terrorism,” pp. 21-45; and with Gerry O’Sullivan, The “Terrorism” Industry: The Experts and Institutions That Shape Our View of Terror (Pantheon Books, 1989), esp. Ch. 3, “The Western Model and Semantics of Terrorism,” pp. 37-51.

[21] Oscar Alfredo González and Horacio Cid de la Paz, Testimony on Secret Detention Camps in Argentina (Amnesty International, 1980).

[22] Thomas Donnelly et al., Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces, and Resources for a New Century, Project for the New American Century, September, 2000, p. 51, col. 1.—Also see n. 2, above.

[23] The last major “terrorism” report by the U.S. Department of State prior to 9/11 was Patterns of Global Terrorism 2000 (April 30, 2001).  Within its Appendix B, “Background Information on Terrorist Groups,” the entry for “al-Qaida” stated that the group “May have several hundred to several thousand members,” adding that “Bin Ladin…is said to have inherited approximately $300 million that he uses to finance the group.”  In the Congressional Research Services’ last major assessment of “Near Eastern Terrorism” published the day before 9/11, the CRS reported that “Bin Ladin is estimated to have about $300 million in personal financial assets with which he funds his network of as many as 3,000 Islamic militants.”  (Kenneth Katzman, Terrorism: Near Eastern Groups and State Sponsors, 2001, Congressional Research Service, September 10, 2001, p. 13.) 

[24] According to conservative estimates on global military trends in the annual Yearbook published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, whereas the last Clinton budget for fiscal year 2001 devoted $345 billion to military account, by fiscal year 2006, Bush’s fifth, this had increased to at least $529 billion (i.e., both in constant 1985 dollars).  The SIPRI Yearbook 2007 reports that “U.S. outlays…increased by 53 percent…between 2001 and 2006, primarily as a result of allocations of $381 billion for military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.”  World military expenditure in 2001 was $839 billion, but by 2006 was “estimated to have reached $1204 billion in current U.S. dollars,” an increase of “37 percent between 1997 and 2006.”  The primary driver of these huge increases: The mythical Global War on Terror which, in reality, has witnessed the most aggressive U.S. and allied military expansion in history.  (See SIPRI Yearbook 2002 Summary, pp. 12-13; and SIPRI Yearbook 2007 Summary, pp. 12-13.)

[25] See, e.g., Larry Birns and Michael Lettieri,  “Washington May Soon Try to Pin the Venezuelan Uranium Tail on the Iranian Nuclear Donkey,” Council on Hemispheric Affairs, May 9, 2006; and Larry Birns and Tiffany Isaacs, “Chávez Could Fuel U.S. Propaganda Campaign with Upcoming Bilateral talks with Kim Jong Il, If Misguided Strategy Is Adopted,” Council on Hemispheric Affairs, July 16, 2006.

[26] See Chalmers Johnson, Abolish the CIA!,” TomDispatch, November 5, 2004.  Also see Johnson’s Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, 2nd. Ed. (Metropolitan Books, 2004). 

[27] “Philippines: A government that needs U.S. business,” Business Week, November 4, 1972.

[28]  Michael Ignatieff, Who Are Americans to Think That Freedom Is Theirs to Spread?”  New York Times Magazine, June 26, 2005 (as posted to the Harvard University website).

[29] See, e.g., Marjorie Cohn, Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law (PoliPoint Press, 2007).

[30] Dana Priest, “Foreign Network at Front of CIA’s Terror Fight,” Washington Post, November 18, 2005.

[31] George W. Bush, “President Delivers ‘State of the Union’,” White House Office of the Press Secretary, January 28, 2003.

[32] Chris Floyd, “Sacred Terror,” Moscow Times, December 8, 2005 (as posted by the Information Clearing House).

[33] Dick Marty et al., Alleged secret detentions and unlawful inter-state transfers of detainees involving Council of Europe member states (Doc. 10957), Council of Europe, June 12, 2006,.  Annex, “The global ‘spider’s web’.”  Also see Christos Pourgourides et al., Enforced Disappearances (Doc. 10679), Council of Europe, September 19, 2005; and Dick Marty et al., Secret detentions and illegal transfers of detainees involving Council of Europe member states: Second report (AS/Jur/2007/36), Council of Europe, June 7, 2007.

[34] Deborah Pearlstein et al., Ending Secret Detentions, Human Right First, June, 2004.

[35] Also see Deborah Pearlstein and Priti Patel, Behind the Wire: An Update to Ending Secret Detentions, Human Rights First, March, 2005; and Guantanamo and beyond: The continuing pursuit of unchecked executive power, Amnesty International, May 13, 2005. 

[36] Based on interviews that it conducted in late 2003 and early 2004 with U.S. military personnel serving in Iraq, a confidential report that the International Committee of the Red Cross used to highlight prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib and other prisons run by the occupying forces is reputed to have estimated that “70 percent to 90 percent of prisoners had been wrongly arrested”—and, we might add, this is assuming that the occupying forces had any right to arrest anybody.  See Peter Slevin, “System Failures Cited for Delayed Action on Abuses,” Washington Post, May 20, 2004; and R. Jeffrey Smith, “Army Report Warned in November About Prison Problems,” Washington Post, May 30, 2004.

[37] Resolution 1267 (S/RES/1267), October 15, 1999. 

[38] Anthony Goodman, “UN sanctions on Taliban to surrender Bin Laden force,” The Independent, October 16, 1999; “Taleban slams U.N. sanctions over Osama bin Laden,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur, October 16, 1999.—Among the body of statements attributed to bin Laden over many years are several that identify the United Nations with the United States precisely because, in his view, various agencies of the UN have aligned themselves with the U.S. “war on terror.”

[39] Resolution 1269 (S/RES/1269), October 19, 1999.  Barbara Crossette, “U.N. Council in Rare Accord: Fight Terrorism,” New York Times, October 20, 1999.

[40] Resolution 1373 (S/RES/1373), September 28, 2001; Resolution 1540 (S/RES/1540), April 28, 2004.

[41] John Mueller and Karl Mueller, “Sanctions of Mass Destruction,” Foreign Affairs, May/June, 1999.—These authors noted that economic sanctions (i.e., warfare) have been “deployed frequently, by large states rather than small ones, and may have contributed to more deaths during the post-Cold War era than all weapons of mass destruction throughout history….The destructive potential of economic sanctions can be seen most clearly, albeit in an extreme form, in Iraq….No one knows with any precision how many Iraqi civilians have died as a result, but various agencies of the United Nations, which oversees the sanctions, have estimated that they have contributed to hundreds of thousands of deaths….If the U.N. estimates of the human damage in Iraq are even roughly correct,…it would appear that…economic sanctions may well have been a necessary cause of the deaths of more people in Iraq than have been slain by all so-called weapons of mass destruction throughout history.”

[42] Kofi Annan, In larger freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all (A/59/2005), United Nations, March 21, 2005, par. 91.

[43] In the case of Operation Allied Force, the U.S.-led NATO bloc’s 1999 aggression against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Kofi Annan had quietly advocated on behalf of war for as many as nine months in advance of it.—See, e.g., Kofi Annan, “Secretary-General Reflects on Intervention” (SG/SM/6613), Ditchley Foundation Lecture, United Kingdom, June 26, 1998; and Kofi Annan, “Secretary-General Calls for Unconditional Respect for Human Rights of Kosovo Citizens” (SG/SM/6878), NATO Headquarters, Belgium, January 28, 1999.  As Annan delivered these lectures in the context of NATO’s threats of war, we hardly believe that they can be taken as calls for NATO to stand down. 

[44] In the Legality of Use of Force cases (1999 – 2004), brought by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia against ten of the members of NATO that attacked it in 1999, the International Court of Justice ruled that as the defendant-powers refused to recognize the ICJ’s jurisdiction in the cases brought before it by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the ICJ “manifestly lacks jurisdiction to entertain Yugoslavia’s Application” and “cannot therefore indicate any provisional measure whatsoever”—that is, lacking jurisdiction, it cannot issue an injunction or rule on the legality of NATO’s use of force.  (See, e.g., Yugoslavia v. United States of America, June 2, 1999.  Each of the other nine cases wound up the same.)

[45] The 9/11 Commission Report, National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, July 22, 2004, esp. Ch. 12, “What To Do? A Global Strategy,” and Ch. 13, “ How To Do It? A Different Way of Organizing the Government.”  As recently as the first week of January 2008, former Commission co-chairs Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton complained about the CIA’s withholding of evidence and obstruction of the Commission’s inquiry.  See “Stonewalled by the C.I.A.,” New York Times, January 2, 2008.

The Pakistan Conundrum

January 17, 2008

The Pakistan Conundrum

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/20080116_the_pakistan_conundrum/

Posted on Jan 16, 2008

By Scott Ritter

The assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhuto has prompted much instant analysis and ‘Monday morning quarterbacking’ by observers of that volatile region. Early assessment’s agree that public sentiment in Pakistan has turned decisively against both President Pervez Musharraf and the Islamic Parties who oppose him (and from the ranks of which the alleged assassins were recruited).  President Musharraf himself has given weight to such assessments by reaffirming Pakistani sovereignty (he would treat any unilateral American military incursion into the Northwest Frontier as an invasion which he would oppose by force) and by projecting his own personal political vulnerability (he expects opposition parties to make gains in the coming elections, and if the newly empowered majority seeks to impeach him, he will resign).

President Musharraf’s pro-American posturing and the material support Pakistan has provided in the so-called ‘Global War on Terror’ have been decidedly unpopular among the majority of the Pakistani population. Islamabad has always tried to tread lightly when it came to an American military presence on Pakistani soil.  The quick ‘victory’ of the U.S.-led Northern Alliance over the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan allowed inconvenient American military bases in Pakistan to be transferred to the newly conquered territory inside Afghanistan.  However, continued resistance in Afghanistan from the Taliban and al-Qaida, who depend on support networks throughout the Northwest Frontier of Pakistan, have prompted the United States to pressure Pakistan’s government to crack down, and even in some cases to allow direct action on Pakistani soil, either in the form of the CIA or a military intervention.

President Musharraf has acted against pro-Taliban militants in the Northwest Frontier, but with negligible results.  Indeed, much of the Islamic militancy in Pakistan today has been stirred up by the regime’s continued support of American-inspired operations in Pakistan.  Pervez Musharraf’s recent statement opposing unilateral American military intervention in Pakistan sends a clear signal that the ongoing opposition in Pakistan to continued support of U.S. military activity targeting Pakistanis has resonated politically.

The political unrest created by Musharraf’s ongoing support of the U.S. ‘Global War on Terror’ prompted the Pakistani Dictator to seek stability by firing Pakistani Supreme Court Justices he disagreed with, and to suspend the Constitution.  Both actions have left him vulnerable to impeachment if political opposition parties are able to assemble a viable majority in the Parliament in upcoming elections expected in February.  Musharraf has indicated he will not be a political pawn in any resultant call for accountability.  The question remains whether or not Musharraf will resign and depart Pakistan as a political exile, or resign and reassert himself as Dictator, or resign and throw his support behind a new military dictatorship which will enable him to remain in Pakistan as a behind-the-scenes power broker.

Some would scoff at the notion that Musharraf would seek to re-impose military dictatorship in the face of a growing demand for democracy and the rule of law.  While Pakistan plays lip service to the notion of Parliamentary democracy, the reality is that it is first and foremost a Muslim nation born more from a call for Islamic identity than a desire to embrace the Magna Carta-driven democracy of its colonial masters, the British.

The secular nature of Pervez Musharraf’s dictatorship disguises the fact that Pakistan as a nation was birthed in an environment of Islamic national identity.  Pakistan from its inception was supposed to bring together the Muslim populations of the former British Indian colony into a viable nation state.  While many of those who oversaw the formation of the new governmental structure were moderate, even secular lawyers trained in the British tradition, the overwhelming population of what was to become Pakistan traced their loyalty to a system of local elders and religious figures who more often than not referred to Shar’ia, or Islamic law, when pronouncing decisions of government.  This duality is reflected in the resolution passed by Pakistan’s early leaders on the eve of what was to become the country’s constitutional convention. It proclaimed: “Sovereignty under the entire universe belongs to Allah Almighty alone,” and characterized Islamic values as essential in any new government.

But Pakistan is no homogeneous Islamic state.  Its roots are deeply seated in tribal, familial and ethnic realities that most non-Pakistani observers are ill-equipped to comprehend.  An illustration of this can be found simply by noting that Benazir Bhutto, the martyred symbol of democratic reform, in reality sat at the head of a political party, the PPP, which was born not from Pakistani society in general, but rather from the ranks of the 700,000-strong Bhutto tribe.  The Bhuttos, an ethnic Sindhi group, possess an insularity that belies the image of democratic reform embraced by Benazir Bhutto herself.  An ongoing rift within the PPP over Bhutto’s successor illustrates this:  Benazir’s husband, Zardari, together with her son, Bilawal, have claimed the leadership of the party, citing a controversial and challenged ‘will’ which emerged following Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.  Neither Zardari nor Bilawal are considered to be part of the Bhutto tribe, because Zardari is of Baluchi heritage and the son is traditionally linked to the family tree of the father.  It is not the history of corruption that surrounds Zardari, or the inexperience of Bilawal (a student in the UK), which the Bhutto tribe finds objectionable, but simply the fact that a political party founded by, and for, the Bhuttos is now in the hands of someone outside the tribe.

Pakistan’s population of 170 million people is comprised of three major ethnic groups, the Punjabi, Pashtun and Sindhi, who account for some 44%, 16% and 14% of the population respectively.  Indian Muslin immigrants, or Mujahirs, make up about 8% of the population, while the Baluchi make up another 4%.  The remaining population is divided among other minorities, including the Kasmiri and the various tribes which make up Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier.  There are also some 3 million Afghan refugees still residing in Pakistan today, a tragic remnant from the time of the Soviet invasion and occupation of that land.  Pakistan’s historical roots, when it was divided into an eastern and western state, led in part to three major wars (in 1948, 1965 and 1971) and several minor skirmishes between Pakistan and India.  The historical turmoil surrounding the creation of Pakistan, as well as the inconsistent ability of its federal system to hold together the wide variety of ethnic and religious groups brought together to form the country, combined to create a system imbued with a spirit of distrust between the various ethnicities.  The animosities created by this distrust are manifest in Pakistan’s special intelligence service, which was formed to better deal with not only threats from abroad, but also threats from within.  The highly politicized nature of this intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency, or ISI, has only caused further intrigue and uncertainty for the nation.

The Pakistani ISI played an instrumental role in using Islam as a tool during its struggle against India, as well as its opposition to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.  The Makhtab al-Khidamat, or MAK, was one of many Islamic organizations which were funded and supported by the ISI.  Operating out of bases inside Pakistan, the MAK was founded in 1984 by Abdullah Yussuf Azzam, a Palestinian Islamic scholar and theologian, and a Saudi follower, Osama Bin Laden.  using money provided by Bin Laden, and working closely with the Pakistani ISI, Azzam and the MAK established a base of operations in the Northwest Frontier city of Peshawar, a scant 15 miles from the historic Khyber Pass into Afghanistan.  Azzam and the MAK put into operation a system of logistics and communication between the Northwest Frontier and Afghanistan which provided material and financial support to the Afghan Mujahadeen fighting the Soviet Army.  The MAK was also able to funnel a few Arab Mujahadeen into Afghanistan, although this number never rose above a few hundred.  With the assassination of Azzam in 1989, the leadership of the MAK was transferred to Osama Bin Laden, who in 1988 formed an alliance with the head of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Ayman al-Zawahiri which today is known as al-Qaida.

The links between Osama Bin Laden and the Pakistani ISI were deep.  The MAK lines of communication between Peshawar and Afghanistan, established during the struggle against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, were continued and strengthened during the 1990’s, this time as part of the al-Qaida organization, with the full knowledge and support of the ISI.  Pakistan had been taken aback by the violent infighting between the various Afghan Mujahadeen forces in the aftermath of the Soviet defeat and withdrawal in 1989.  In an effort achieve stability in Afghanistan, the ISI supported the rise of the Taliban, and with it the support to the Taliban by the Arab Mujahadeen of Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaida.  Pakistan was one of only three nations to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

The al-Qaida-Taliban connection was also seen by the ISI as a means of maintaining contacts with Saudi and other Gulf Arab sources of funds needed to sustain not only stability inside Afghanistan, but also to promote instability inside Indian-occupied Kashmir.  Training camps set up by al-Qaida in Afghanistan to recruit and prepare foreign Mujahadeen for operations worldwide were supported by the ISI as a means of training covert operatives for activity in Kashmir.  al-Qaida and its Arab funders returned the favor by assisting the ISI in establishing mirror-image facilities inside Pakistan which were used to train paramilitary forces for operations in Kashmir.  In 1999 Pakistan sent a large force of paramilitary operatives across the border into Kashmir disguised as Kashmiri rebels.  This gambit failed, and in doing so exposed the reality that the ISI was heavily involved in training Islamist extremists to do their bidding, both in Kashmir as well as Afghanistan.

The support provided by the ISI to Osama Bin Laden was extensive.  When American cruise missiles struck al-Qaida training camps in Afghanistan in 1998, in retaliation for the terror bombings carried out against the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, among the casualties were Pakistani ISI agents working with al-Qaida.  After the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, Pakistan was forced to reconsider its public support of the Taliban.  The ISI made an effort to convince the Taliban to turn Osama Bin Laden over to a neutral third party so he could be tried for the 9/11 attacks, but this offer was rebuked by the Taliban leadership.  The collapse of the Taliban as a military force was so rapid in the fall/winter of 2001 that when a large number of al-Qaida forces were surrounded in the northern Afghan city of Konduz, a large number of ISI agents and operatives were trapped with them.  One of the secret annals of the Afghan War is the story of how the Pakistani Government negotiated with the United States to permit the evacuation by air of several hundred Pakistani ISI personnel who had been working with al-Qaida in Afghanistan.  It is alleged that in addition to the Pakistani evacuees, numerous high-level al-Qaida fighters were likewise withdrawn, in particular those with intimate knowledge of the ISI activities involving Kashmir and the Central Asian republics.

The ISI also plays an important role in the internal politics of Pakistan, monitoring various ethnic and tribal groups who are deemed to be questionable in terms of their absolute loyalty to Pakistan, or at least the Pakistan supported by the ISI.  In doing so, the ISI has established relationships with all the major tribal and ethnic groups, and is thus able to play one off against the other in a giant game of divide and conquer.  One of the targets of the ISI was, and is, the PPP Party of Benazir Bhutto.  The intelligence agency had made use of its considerable links with the Islamist elements of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier to generate an Islamic opposition to the return to power of Benazir Bhutto, and there is good reason to believe that the ISI was involved, either directly or indirectly, in her assassination.

The unfortunate reality of Pakistan today is that it is a barely functioning nation state.  Federalism, designed to bring together a disparate band of ethnic groups and religious movements, is failing.  Democracy, the dream of western-trained lawyers, is foreign to the majority of the population, which largely continues to defer to tribal elders and religious leaders.  The nefarious activities of the Pakistani ISI only highlight the reality that Pakistan, today, is not only an untrustworthy member of the erstwhile ‘global coalition against terrorism,’ but actually a deep-rooted supporter and instigator of the very violence the United States has sworn to oppose since 9/11.  Far from being a close ally, the truth is that, if anything, Pakistan is the personification of the enemy we have supposedly pledged to defeat.

Does this mean that the appropriate policy direction of the United States should be to wage war against Pakistan, as we have against the Taliban in Afghanistan?  Absolutely not.  If anything, the experience of Afghanistan shows that without a doubt the policies embraced by the Bush administration in pursuing its ‘Global War on Terror’ were fundamentally flawed.  In the cause and effect world of reality, as opposed to the ‘never-never’ land of neoconservative fantasy, any continued push against Pakistan in the name of the ‘Global War on Terror’ would be extremely counterproductive.  Let’s not forget that they have the bomb.

The fact of the matter is that the chief enemy in America’s fight against terrorism, Osama Bin Laden, is a mere propaganda source who is given more legitimacy the more we pursue him.  The continued instability in Afghanistan caused by the ongoing American and NATO occupation is the source of much of Pakistan’s current problems.  If we truly want to eliminate Osama Bin Laden, we would do well to withdraw from Afghanistan, and work with Iran, Pakistan and the former Soviet Central Asian republics, as well as the Taliban, to bring a sense of normalcy back to this tortured country.  In doing so, it would become self-evident to all parties that any continued role on the part of Osama Bin Laden would be self-defeating, and he would be dealt with appropriately by those best equipped to do so.

This, of course, is the last policy direction being pursued by any of the candidates seeking election to the office of President of the United States.  The bravado of the respective candidate’s ‘hunt Osama down until he is brought to justice’ rhetoric is as empty as their promises to seek stability inside Pakistan, for the two are inherently contradictory policy directions.  To pursue one is to fail on the other.  But, as has been the case with Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran beforehand, one would be foolish to believe that the people of the United States, let alone those they seek to elect to higher office, would deign to formulate policy with the reality of the region in question, and not the American domestic political dynamic, in mind.  Today, in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, America flounders in a sea of uncertainty and sorrow.  Sadly, there is no good reason to believe that any future Captain of our Ship of State will be any more successful in navigating the challenges of the Pakistan Conundrum.

INVASION – A COMPARISON OF SOVIET AND WESTERN MEDIA PERFORMANCE

November 26, 2007
november 20, 2007

INVASION – A COMPARISON OF SOVIET AND WESTERN MEDIA PERFORMANCE

By: Nikolai Lanine and Media Lens

Introduction

The writer Simon Louvish once told the story of a group of Soviets touring the United States before the age of glasnost. After reading the newspapers and watching TV, they were amazed to find that, on the big issues, all the opinions were the same. “In our country,” they said, “to get that result we have a dictatorship, we imprison people, we tear out their fingernails. Here you have none of that. So what’s your secret? How do you do it?” (Quoted, John Pilger, Tell Me No Lies, Random House, 2004, p.9)

It’s a good question, one being asked by Nikolai Lanine who served with the Soviet Army during its 1979-1989 occupation of Afghanistan, but who now lives and works as a peace activist in Canada. Lanine has spent several years trawling through Soviet-era newspaper archives comparing the propaganda of that time with modern Western media performance.

If the claims of modern professional journalism are to be believed, the similarities should be few and far between. Soviet-era media such as Pravda (meaning, ironically, “The Truth”) are a byword for state-controlled mendacity in the West. Thus Simon Jenkins commented in the Times in the 1980s: “There is a smack of Pravda about this pious self-censorship.” (Jenkins, ‘A new name on the tin mug of scandal,’ The Times, March 19, 1989)

Doris Lessing, recent winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, wrote in 1992:

“Even five, six years ago, Izvestia, Pravda and a thousand other Communist papers were written in a language that seemed designed to fill up as much space as possible without actually saying anything. Because, of course, it was dangerous to take up positions that might have to be defended. Now all these newspapers have rediscovered the use of language. But the heritage of dead and empty language these days is to be found in academia, and particularly in some areas of sociology and psychology.” (Lessing, ‘Questions you should never ask a writer,’ New York Times, October 13, 2007. Originally published June 26, 1992)

This standard Western association of thought control with totalitarian societies is a red herring. In fact, thought control is far more characteristic of ‘democratic’ societies – where state violence is no longer an option, propaganda comes into its own.

After all, it is a remarkable fact that our society never discusses the possibility that a corporate media system monitoring a society dominated by large corporations might be something other than free, open and honest. Consider Lessing’s analysis in the light of these comments from media analyst Danny Schechter:

“We are bombarded with information, although if you look closely, most of it has a similar grammar, a similar focus and similar sources, all revolving around institutions and topics that most viewers admit in survey after survey they don’t really understand.” (Schechter, The More You Watch The Less You Know, Seven Stories Press, 1997, p.43)

Verbiage “designed to fill up as much space as possible without actually saying anything”, in other words, because it is “dangerous to take up positions that might have to be defended”.

How “dangerous”? David Barsamian recently asked Noam Chomsky why one regular New York Times commentator refused to recognise blindingly obvious truths embarrassing to US power. Chomsky responded:

“If he wrote that, then he wouldn‘t be writing for the New York Times. There is a certain discipline that you have to meet. In a well-run society, you don’t say things you know. You say things that are required for service to power.” (Chomsky, What We Say Goes, Penguin, 2007, p.2)

We are very grateful to Nikolai Lanine for agreeing to co-author this piece and for his hard work over several months in making it possible. All quotations from the Soviet press archives were translated from the original by him. We are also grateful to Noam Chomsky who originally put us in touch with Nikolai.

A Humanitarian War of Self-Defence

Inspired by the success of the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, US-backed Afghan militants – including future founders of the Taliban movement – stepped up their attacks on Afghan government forces in the late 1970s.

Fearful of the “threat to the security of [the Soviet] southern boarders”(Lyahovsky & Zabrodin, Secrets of the Afghan War, 1991, p.48) and concerned that the conflict might spread to neighbouring Soviet republics – and so risk radicalising their dominantly Muslim populations (accounting for more than 20% of the Soviet population) – the Soviet government invaded. The invasion was a straightforward act of aggression, an attempt to crush a perceived threat to Soviet security and power.

Inevitably, the Soviet government portrayed its invasion as an act of humanitarian intervention initiated at the “request of the [Afghan] government”. (Pravda, April 27, 1980) The aim was “to prevent the establishment of… a terrorist regime and to protect the Afghan people from genocide”, and also to provide “aid in stabilising the situation and the repulsion of possible external aggression”. (Lyahovsky & Zabrodin, p.48)

Once the “terrorists” had been defeated, Afghanistan would be left to become “a stable, friendly country”. The invasion, then, was in the best interests of the Afghan people – the focus of the Soviet government’s benevolent concern.

The Soviet media presented the invasion essentially as a peacekeeping operation intended to prevent enemy atrocities. Krasnaya Zvezda [Red Star], a major Soviet military newspaper, reported in May 1985:

“Since the establishment of this [Soviet] base, [the Mujahadeen]’s predatory extortions, violence, [and] reprisals have stopped; and poor peasants are [now] working the land peacefully.” (Krasnaya Zvezda, May 1, 1985)

The same paper noted:

“Before the arrival of the Soviet soldiers here, [the area] was literally swarming with [insurgents]… [who] were ruthlessly killing… everyone, who was desperately longing for a new life… However, Soviet soldiers arrived, and life in the district has started normalising.” (Krasnaya Zvezda, October 27, 1985)

Voenni Vestnik [Military Bulletin] took it for granted that “…[Soviet] paratroopers are protecting peaceful [Afghan] citizens”. (Voenni Vestnik #4, 1983)

This, of course, was a reversal of the truth that the Soviet superpower was killing large numbers of civilians and causing great suffering to the population.

Pravda insisted that the Afghan army had conducted military operations “at the demand of the local population” and because of “the danger to lives and property of citizens” posed by the resistance. (Pravda, February 7, 1988)

Military personnel constantly echoed government claims that intervention was required “to help the hapless Afghan people to defend their freedom, their future”. (Krasnaya Zvezda, January 5, 1988)

The invasion was also portrayed as an act of self-defence to prevent a “neighboring country with a shared Soviet-Afghan border… [from turning] into a bridgehead for… [Western] aggression against the Soviet state”. (Izvestiya, January 1, 1980) Soviet intervention was also a response to unprovoked violence by Islamic fundamentalists (described as “freedom fighters“ in the West), who, it was claimed, planned to export their fundamentalist struggle across the region “’under the green banner of Jihad’, to the territory of the Soviet Central-Asian republics”. (Lyahovsky & Zabrodin, p.45) The Soviet public were told they faced a stark choice: either fight the menace abroad, or do nothing and later face a much greater threat on home soil that would, geopolitically, “put the USSR in a very difficult situation”. (Sovetskaya Rossia [Soviet Russia], February 11, 1993)

This theme was endlessly stressed by the Soviet media system – Soviet forces were “not only defending Afghan villages. They keep the peace on the borders of [our] homeland”. (Pravda, April 2, 1987) The goal was “peace and security in the region, and also the security of the southern border of the USSR”. (Mezhdunarodnyi Ezhegodnik, 1981, p.224) The unquestioned assumption was that Soviet forces had no option but to act “pre-emptively” in “self-defence”.

Reading Soviet propaganda on these themes inevitably recalls Tony Blair’s famous assertion:

“What does the whole of our history teach us, I mean British history in particular? That if when you’re faced with a threat you decide to avoid confronting it short term, then all that happens is that in the longer term you have to confront it and confront it an even more deadly form.” (ITN News at 6:30, January 31, 2003)

To this day, many former Soviet military and media commentators continue to reinforce similar claims. Former top Soviet military adviser in Afghanistan, General Mahmut Gareev, writes in his book “My Last War” (1996) that the “situation in Afghanistan was of great importance” for the security of the Soviet state (p.363). The “high political, military and strategic interests of the USSR demanded certain actions and decisions”. (p.36) The Soviet leadership was “aware that events in the south of the country were exceptionally important and had great significance for the security of the Soviet state. It was impossible not to react”. (p.35-36)

After the 1979 invasion, the Afghan insurgency repeatedly launched attacks on border areas, including rocket strikes on Soviet towns. Ignoring the fact that these attacks were a +response+ to Soviet aggression, the Soviet media described them as “provocative criminal acts against the Soviet territory”. (Izvestiya, April 20, 1987)

For Democracy And Human Rights – America And Britain Attack

In near-identical fashion, the British and American governments have presented their invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as acts of self-defence which also happen to be in the best interests of the Afghan and Iraqi populations.

In 2001, the then UK defence secretary Geoff Hoon insisted that, in Afghanistan, Britain “was acting in self-defence against Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qa’ida network”. (Ben Russell, ‘Parliament – terrorism debate,’ The Independent, November 2, 2001)

As with the Soviet media, the self-defensive, humanitarian intent behind both invasions are staples of much US-UK media reporting. On the April 12, 2005 edition of the BBC’s Newsnight programme, diplomatic editor Mark Urban discussed the significance of a lessening of Iraqi attacks on US forces since January:

“It is indeed the first real evidence that President Bush’s grand design of toppling a dictator and forcing a democracy into the heart of the Middle East could work.” (Urban, Newsnight, BBC2, April 12, 2005)

When George Bush declared: “we are not conquerors; we’re liberators”, he could have been quoting one of the top Soviet generals in Afghanistan, who said:

“We didn’t set ourselves the task of conquering anyone: we wanted to stabilise the situation.” (Varennikov, CNN Interview, 1998)

In April 2002, Rory Carroll wrote in the Guardian:

“Whoever is trying to destabilise Afghanistan is doing a good job. The broken cities and scorched hills so recently liberated are rediscovering fear and uncertainty.” (Carroll, ‘Blood-drenched warlord’s return,’ The Observer, April 14, 2002)

The point being that, for Carroll, as for George Bush, Afghanistan really had been “liberated” by the world’s superpower.

The New York Times wrote in September 2007:

”Military statistics show that U.S. forces have made some headway at protecting the Iraqi population, but there are questions over whether the gains can be sustained.” (Michael R. Gordon, ‘Assessing the “surge”,’ New York Times, September 8, 2007)

Even in reporting that a large proportion of world opinion wants to see the US leave Iraq, the BBC managed to boost the claimed humanitarian intent:

“Some 39% of people in 22 countries said troops should leave now, and 28% backed a gradual pull-out. Just 23% wanted them to stay until Iraq was safe.” (Most people ‘want Iraq pull-out,’ http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/ hi/middle_east/6981553.stm, September 7, 2007)

The idea that Iraq might not be safe until US-UK troops leave, is unthinkable to many Western journalists, as it was to Soviet journalists.

In some cases, Western reporting perhaps even surpassed Soviet propaganda. As US tanks entered Baghdad on April 9, 2003, ITN’s John Irvine declared:

“A war of three weeks has brought an end to decades of Iraqi misery.” (ITN Evening News, April 9, 2003)

The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States were in response to decades of US-UK violence, and support for violence, in the Middle East. For what it’s worth, Osama bin Laden specifically cited Western oppression in Palestine, Western sanctions against Iraq, and US bases in Saudi Arabia, as reasons for the attacks. And yet, as in the Soviet case, US-UK aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq was justified as a response to attacks that were “unprovoked”. Blair even cited the 9/11 attacks as evidence to this effect on the grounds that the attacks had taken place long before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

In both the West and the USSR, the occupations were, and are, presented as fundamentally well-intentioned acts motivated by rational fears and humanitarian aspirations.

In Accordance With International Law

According to the Soviet government, the 1979 invasion was justified by international law (Pravda, December 31, 1979; Gareev, 1996, p.40) and was “in complete accordance with… the 1978 Soviet-Afghan Treaty”. (Izvestiya, January 1, 1980) The Soviet state had to honour its obligations “to provide armed support to the Afghan national army”. (Lyahovsky & Zabrodin, p.47)

In 1988, Izvestiya quoted general Boris Gromov, the commander of Soviet troops in Afghanistan:

“We came to Afghanistan at the end of 1979 at the request of the lawful government [of Afghanistan] and in accordance with the agreement between our countries based on the… Charter of the United Nations.” (Izvestiya, July 2, 1988)

Soviet journalists consistently supported these claims. Pravda and Izvestiya wrote in 1980 that Soviet forces were in Afghanistan “at the request of the [Afghan] government with the only goal to protect the friendly Afghan people” (Pravda, March 16, 1980) and “to help [this] neighbouring country… to repel external aggression”. (Izvestiya, January 3, 1980)

Such views were frequently expressed by Soviet elites and mainstream journalists. The 1980 issue of International Annual: Politics and Economics, published by the Soviet Academy of Science, observed that the Afghan government “repeatedly asked the USSR” to provide “military aid”. The “Soviet government granted the [Afghan] request, and the limited contingent of Soviet troops was sent into the country,” Mezhdunarodnyi Ezhegodnik noted (1980, p.208). Such actions were entirely in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter and Article 4 of the [Soviet-Afghan] Treaty of December 5, 1978, Ezhegodnik added. (1981, p.224)

Soviet leaders and commentators criticised and debated, not the fundamental +illegality+ of the invasion, but the merit of the +strategies+ for achieving its goals.

Soviet Chief of General Staff Ogarkov argued in 1979 (before the invasion), that the decision to send troops to Afghanistan was “inexpedient” because the initial invasion force of 75,000 was insufficient to the task, which was to “stabilise the situation in Afghanistan.” It was “impossible to achieve this goal with such a [small] force”, he claimed. (Quoted, Lyahovsky & Zabrodin, 1991, p.59). General Gareev, a top Soviet advisor to the Afghan armed forces, argued in his memoirs that “from the military point of view, it was perhaps more advisable to conduct a more massive and powerful invasion of Afghanistan”. (Gareev, 1996, pp.45-46)

In the 1980s, the invasion was seen by many Russians as a “mistake” rather than a crime. The attack was deemed legal and well-intentioned, but poorly executed and at excessive cost to the +Soviets+ – a view that is commonly held to this day. Apart from extremely rare exceptions describing Soviet “participation in the Afghan war” as “criminal” (Trud [Labour] newspaper, January 22, 1992), the invasion has almost never been described as an act of Soviet aggression.

When the US and UK governments talk of their “just cause” in Afghanistan they are essentially repeating the Soviet newspaper Izvestiya which quoted an Afghan official declaring that the Soviet and Afghan soldiers were fighting “for a just cause and happy new life for all Afghan people”. (Izvestiya, January 14, 1986)

Similarly, and almost exactly echoing Izvestiya, an Observer editorial commented in October 2006:

“The UK has responsibilities to the elected democratic government of Iraq, under a UN mandate. Britain must honour its commitments to its partners in Baghdad and in Washington.” (Leader, ‘Blair should heed the general’s reality check,’ The Observer, October 15, 2006)

While the manifest illegality of the 2003 Iraq invasion is presented by newspapers like the Observer as a kind of initial teething problem rendered irrelevant by a subsequent “UN mandate“, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan takes a different view:

“The Security Council’s mandate was for us to help the Iraqi people. I don’t think one can say that the Security Council sanctioned the occupation of Iraq, it merely noted the occupation of Iraq and asked the UN to help the Iraqi people…“ (Mark Disney, On The Edge, August 2007)

The only US/UK responsibility under international law is to leave.

Closely echoing Soviet performance, the US-UK media essentially never challenge the fundamental and obvious illegality of both invasions, focusing also on “mistakes”. Reviewing the situation in Iraq, Timothy Garton Ash wrote in the Guardian:

“… the question being asked here [Washington], even by staunch Republicans who share the president’s goals, is: why has the Bush administration been so incompetent?” (Garton Ash, ‘Iraq’s government has failed, but America’s isn’t doing so well either,’ The Guardian, September 6, 2007)

For Garton Ash, as for most Guardian commentators, the key issue is “incompetence”, not the supreme criminality that is the waging of a war of aggression.

On August 20, 2007, the New York Times website linked to an article titled, ‘The Good War, Still to Be Won,’ with the synopsis: “We will never know just how much better the fight in Afghanistan might be going if it had been managed more competently over the past six years.” (New York Times, August 20, 2007)

This closely echoes Soviet media performance on the 1979 invasion, where there was also close to zero recognition of the illegality of the invasion, as described reflexively in the Western media at the time. Ironically, contemporary US-UK media are closely matching the Soviet propaganda they ridiculed in the 1970s and 1980s.

To their credit, the Soviet media did at least, on occasion, +mention+ the issue of international law. In their book, The Record Of The Paper, Howard Friel and Richard Falk note that in the seventy editorials on Iraq that appeared in the New York Times from September 11, 2001, to March 21, 2003, the words ‘UN Charter’ and ‘international law’ never appeared. (Friel and Falk, The Record Of The Paper: How The New York Times Misreports US Foreign Policy, Verso, 2004, p.15)

We asked Hugh Sykes, a BBC journalist reporting from Baghdad, for his opinion on the issue of legality in relation to the invasion of Iraq. Sykes replied:

“The Americans et al always say they are here ‘at the invitation of the democratically elected Iraqi government’.

“It certainly WAS an illegal occupation before the elections in 2005, but is it still illegal?

“I tend not to put phrases like that into reports because I think I should stick to reporting events and providing analysis when asked.” (Email to Media Lens, September 9, 2007)

Imagine a comparable comment from a BBC journalist in the 1980s:

‘The Soviets et al always say they are here ‘at the invitation of the democratically elected Afghan government’. It certainly WAS an illegal occupation before… but is it still illegal?’

In fact, of course, Western reporters were never in doubt about the truth of the Soviet invasion. When we conducted a search of newspaper archives, we found, for example, dozens of media references in the 1980s to the Soviet “puppet government” in Kabul. The New York Times commented in 1988:

“Soviet troop withdrawal will leave behind a puppet Government whose ministries are laced with Soviet ‘’advisers.’” (A.M. Rosenthal, ‘The great game goes on,’ New York Times, February 12, 1988)

In February 1990, Tony Allen-Mills reported for the Independent:

“Many former freedom fighters have made their peace with the puppet government left behind by the departing Soviet army.” (Allen-Mills, Out of Kabul: ‘Why pride must not come before a Najibullah fall,’ The Independent, February 19, 1990)

By contrast, the same newspaper reported of the Taliban in June 2006:

“Their focus is the ‘puppet’ government of Mr Karzai and its complicity in what is portrayed as the Western military persecution of ordinary Afghans.” (Tom Coghlan, ‘Karzai questions Nato campaign as Taliban takes to hi-tech propaganda,’ The Independent, June 23, 2006)

Readers will search long and hard before they find an example of a news reporter describing the current Afghan government as a “puppet government” without the use of inverted commas.

As for the idea that BBC journalists avoid controversial “phrases” and merely “stick to reporting events“, the day after Sykes’ reply the BBC website observed:

“The surge was designed to allow space for political reconciliation…” (‘US surge “failure” says Iraq poll, BBC online, September 10, 2007; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6983841.stm)

It is not, in fact, less controversial to suggest that the massive increase in US violence “was designed to allow space for political reconciliation”, than it is to argue that the invasion was illegal.

Blaming ‘External Interference’

A striking feature of Soviet media performance on Afghanistan was its focus on “external interference” – primarily US in origin – and the role of this interference in fuelling the war.

In 1988, Pravda reported that Afghan president Najibula had criticised this ”interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan”. (Pravda, February 9, 1988) The newspaper failed to mention that the Soviet Union was itself guilty of illegal external “interference“. Instead, journalists blamed the West for ”pouring oil onto the fire of the Afghan conflict”. (Pravda, February 22, 1987) Ignoring the fact that much of the fighting in Afghanistan was in +response+ to the Soviet occupation, the media were also heavily critical of Iran and Pakistan.

Iran was criticised for “supporting the armed Islamic opposition” and for “sending its political emissaries and agents into the territory of Afghanistan”. (Spolnikov, 1990, pp.104-105) Russian journalist Andrei Greshnov, who worked as a TASS correspondent in Afghanistan for eight years in the 1980s, describes in his book “Afghanistan: Hostages of Time” (2006) how for several years, starting in the early 1980s, he was tasked with collecting information on Iranian Shia infiltration across the Afghan border near Herat. Iranian influence was very tangible in Western Afghanistan and widely confirmed by the testimony of Soviet soldiers interviewed (by Lanine) over the last 20 years.

We wonder how the Western media would have reacted if, in response to claims that Tehran had supported the Afghan insurgency and resisted their illegal invasion, Soviet officials had proposed bombing Iran. One can only guess at the level of Western outrage and horror at such a clear example of Soviet aggression, if an attack +had+ taken place. Presumably the press would never have tired of reminding us that the Soviets’ real goal in the region was control of oil.

The Soviet press also directed fierce criticism at Pakistan for training and aiding Afghan jihadis, and for providing “the bridgehead for an undeclared war against [Afghanistan]”. (Izvestiya, February 19, 1986) Readers were left with the impression that “external interference” and “terrorism” were the +only+ reasons for the continuing bloodshed, with Soviet troops acting in self-defence to bring “stability” to Afghanistan. In most reporting, the Soviet role in sustaining the conflict was not even a consideration.

The Soviet media heavily emphasised that weapons captured by Soviet and Afghan troops “were manufactured in the USA, UK, Italy, Iran, Pakistan”. (Izvestiya, July 7, 1987) These arms were “arriving from Iran [and] Pakistan” (Komsomolskaya Pravda, March 4, 1987), and “exploding and shooting in Afghanistan, killing children, women, soldiers…”. (Komsomolskaya Pravda, January 14, 1986)

Closely echoing Soviet government propaganda, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on October 25, 2007:

“Unfortunately the Iranian government continues to spurn our offer of open negotiations, instead threatening peace and security by… supporting Shia militants in Iraq and terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.” (‘US imposes new sanctions on Iran,’ BBC website, October 25, 2007)

As in the Soviet case, the US-UK media have heavily boosted the US-UK governments’ emphasis on “external interference“. A June 17, 2007, New York Times report observed:

“American forces have begun a wide offensive against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia on the outskirts of Baghdad.” (Thom Shanker and Michael Gordon, ‘GIs in Iraq open major offensive against al Qaeda,’ New York Times, June 17, 2007)

The BBC’s Andrew North emphasised the same alleged enemy:

“10,000 US and Iraqi troops are taking part in an operation against al-Qaeda.” (North, ‘US launches major Iraq offensive,’ BBC Online, June 19, 2007; http://news.bbc.co.uk/ go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/middle_east/6766217.stm)

Occasional glimpses of truth defy the rhetoric. The Iraq Study Group Report, published in December 2006, concluded:

“Most attacks on Americans still come from the Sunni Arab insurgency… Al Qaeda is responsible for a small portion of the violence in Iraq, but that includes some of the more spectacular acts.” (The Iraq Study Group Report, December 6, 2006; www.usip.org/isg/iraq_study_group_report/ report/1206/iraq_study_group_report.pdf)

General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the British army, said of Iraq in September, 2007:

“By motivation… our opponents are Iraqi nationalists, and are most concerned with their own needs – the majority are not bad people.” (Richard Norton-Taylor, ‘Embrace returning troops, pleads army chief,’ The Guardian, September 22, 2007)

This was a remarkable comment – it is hard to recall any journalist ever contradicting government demonisation of the Iraqi resistance so completely. A more typical description was provided by senior ITN correspondent James Mates in June 2004, when he reviled the “determined and brutal terrorists” threatening Iraq, which was “now sovereign”. (ITN, 18:30 News, June 28, 2004) There is indeed hideous terrorism in Iraq, but British journalists generally find it simpler, more convenient, to include all insurgents in this category.

Reflexive demonisation of Iran is also, of course, a constant focus of media reporting. A New York Times article observed:

“U.S. Says Iranian Arms Seized in Afghanistan” (New York Times, April 18, 2007). These “new signs of interference by Iran have raised concerns about the obstacles to a stable and democratic postwar Iraq”. (‘U.S. warns Iran against interference,” The Sun, Baltimore, April 24, 2003)

In similar vein, the Observer reported in August:

“The conflict in Helmand has morphed way beyond that of crushing the Taliban. The nightmare scenario has unfolded: the Helmand valley has mutated into a geopolitical battleground for jihadists, a blooding ground for budding martyrs from across the globe.

“Convoys of Toyota Land Cruisers carrying holy warriors stream daily from Pakistan’s porous border to target British teenagers.” (Mark Townsend, ‘Afghan Conflict: ‘It’s bleak and ferocious, but is it still winnable?’, The Observer, August 19, 2007)

An Independent leader commented:

“There must be an acceptance also that the Taliban will never be utterly defeated until they are denied a safe haven in the western provinces of Pakistan.” (Leader, ‘Politicians must accept the reality on the ground,’ The Independent, August 14, 2007)

The point is not that external support for the resistance in Afghanistan and Iraq exists, as it certainly existed for insurgents fighting the Soviets in the 1980s. The point is that, in contemporary Western media, as in the Soviet case, the non-Western source of “external interference” is reflexively condemned as illegitimate, while the legitimacy of US-UK “external interference” is simply assumed.

Patriotism And ‘Backing Our Troops’

In their speeches, Soviet officials regularly affirmed the military’s “deep belief in the noble cause of helping the friendly nation” of Afghanistan (Pravda, 15 May 1988), stressing that Soviet advisors were working “shoulder to shoulder with… Afghans”. (Zhitnuhin, & Likoshin, 1990, p.169)

One Soviet journalist claimed of Soviet political advisors:

“They went to Afghanistan with a sincere belief in the high purpose of their mission. For most of them this belief grew into a conviction.” (Zhitnuhin, & Likoshin, p.171)

The steady supply of media stories lauding the motivation and heroism of the troops on the ground reflected the high status of the military in Soviet society. The writings of most “embedded” journalists who spent time with troops were full of admiration and respect for all ranks from privates to generals. Even Gennady Bocharov, whose book on Afghanistan is full of harsh criticism of the Soviet system, presents a sympathetic account of Soviet soldiers, and also of Gromov, the commander of the Soviet occupation. Bocharov describes Gromov as a “charming general” with “more compassion than any priest” who, nonetheless, “as a regular army man… carried out his inhuman mission in Afghanistan with precision and efficiency”. (Bocharov, 1990, p.142)

Similar sentiments expressed towards front-line troops are found throughout Greshnov’s book and provide a striking contrast to his harsh critique of the Soviet military leadership. He describes how, on one occasion, his bonding with Soviet troops left him speechless with emotion.

These ties were naturally reflected in reporting by most journalists that depicted fighting men as brave and selfless, in many cases justifiably. But, more generally, the media’s emphasis on the heroism of individual soldiers helped bury the hidden, deeper truths, namely: the illegality and appalling destructiveness of the invasion.

Western journalism is of course similarly full of patriotic praise for troops under fire. As US tanks arrived in Baghdad and US troops prepared to topple a statue of Saddam Hussein, ITN’s veteran correspondent, Mike Nicholson, was positively gleeful:

“They’ve covered his face in the Stars and Stripes! This gets better by the minute… Ha ha, better by the minute.” (Tonight with Trevor McDonald, ITV, April 11, 2003)

Nicholson was describing the completion of an appalling act of aggression, a war that had been launched illegally. And as we commented at the time, even the troops draping the US flag over the face of Saddam Hussein’s statue quickly understood that this was a deeply offensive and foolish act.

Thus, also, the BBC’s version of events in Iraq:

“You can marvel at the Americans’ can-do spirit… in the [US] sergeant’s case the will to carry on comes from a sense of responsibility towards the people of Iraq.” (Mark Urban, ‘”Can-do” spirit of US troops in Baghdad,’ Newsnight, May 17, 2007)

Another BBC journalist, Paul Wood, recently described his “journey through Iraq’s Sunni heartland with the soldiers of the 101st Airborne”. Wood concluded his article with these comments on the US forces:

“They must win here if they are to leave Iraq.

“Even if things are turning around, their local allies remain uncertain, the population divided, the casualties, although reduced, keep coming.

“There is much still to do.” (Wood, ‘Voyage into Iraq’s Sunni centre,’ BBC website, October 26, 2007; http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7063603.stm)

Despite all the deceptions, false pretexts, evident illegality, and evident motive of control of oil, Wood presented the occupation as a peacekeeping operation. This is indistinguishable from the performance of the totalitarian Soviet press in the 1980s.

Timothy Richard, a former soldier with Iowa Army National Guard, who refused to deploy to Iraq and became a war resister, writes:

“The problem with the media’s perception in the US, is what I’ve come to call the ‘cult of the soldier’.” (Email to Lanine, August 10, 2007)

Richard says that the media followed the government’s lead in creating the slogan “Support our Troops”, so that even opponents of the war felt obliged to conform.

Soviet critics of the Afghan war were also accused of a shameful lack of patriotism and a failure to support the troops. Thus, in 1988, Izvestiya quoted general Gromov’s reference to “irresponsible” comments by people who “doubt the heroic deeds” of Soviet soldiers: “Nobody, not a single person in our country, has the right to ruin the faith of young people in the sanctity of the military biography that wasn’t lived in vain.” (Izvestiya, July 2, 1988)

Invisible Civilian Casualties

The Soviet media completely suppressed the devastating consequences of the occupation for the civilian population of Afghanistan. On occasions when the cost of the war was discussed, it focused on the cost to the Soviet Union. It is estimated that 1.5 million Afghans (Bradsher, 1999) and 15,000 Soviets (The New York Times, February 16, 1989) died during the nine years of fighting. But the Soviet media had little interest in Afghan casualties. Aside from a tiny number of dissidents, few voiced concern for a civilian population that bore the brunt of the suffering.

Even during Gorbachev’s semi-liberal reforms of the late 1980s, discussion of Afghan suffering was strictly prohibited. Andrei Greshnov describes how he repeatedly wrote about Afghan civilian casualties in the monthly classified reports submitted by all TASS journalists to the Soviet leadership in Moscow (it was of course important for decision makers to know the truth of the situation on the ground). Greshnov recalls:

“The government +knew+ the truth about the situation in Afghanistan, including about civilian casualties – I personally wrote about it. But such information was never allowed to reach the general public through the mainstream Soviet press.” (Phone interview with Lanine, August 8, 2007)

By contrast, Western journalists are largely unconstrained by state controls. And yet, in early January 2002, American writer Edward Herman estimated that media coverage afforded to the death of Nathan Chapman – the first and, at that point, sole US combat casualty of the invasion of Afghanistan – had exceeded coverage afforded to +all+ Afghan victims of bombing and starvation. CNN Chair Walter Isaacson is reported to have declared that it “seems perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in Afghanistan“. (Howard Kurtz, ‘CNN chief orders “balance” in war news,’ Washington Post, October 31, 2001)

The US-UK bombing of Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001. On September 19, 2001, the Guardian had reported forty deaths per day in Maslakh refugee camp to the west of Herat in Afghanistan, “many because they arrive too weak to survive after trying to hold out in their villages“ as the threat of bombing shut down all aid convoys. By January 2002, Maslakh contained 350,000 people, making it the largest refugee camp in the world at that time. Aid agencies reported that 100 people were dying every day in the camp.

Occasional references to this disaster did appear. Between September 2001 and January 2002, the Guardian and Observer mentioned Maslakh a total of five times – an average of once per month. A Lexis-Nexis database search in May 2005 showed that Maslakh had been mentioned 21 times over the previous four years in all UK national newspapers.

On October 29, 2004, the prestigious scientific journal, The Lancet, published a report by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, and Columbia University, New York: ‘Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey.’ (http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/ article/PIIS0140673604174412/fulltext)

The authors estimated that almost 100,000 more Iraqi civilians had died than would have been expected had the invasion not occurred. The report was met with instant (and as it turns out, fraudulent) government dismissals, and a low-key, sceptical response, or outright silence, in the media. There was no horror, no outrage.

Our media search in November 2004, showed that the Lancet report had at that time not been mentioned at all by the Observer, the Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph, the Financial Times, the Star, the Sun and many others. The Express devoted 71 words to the report. A similar reception awaited the October 2006 Lancet study, which reported 655,000 excess deaths since the 2003 invasion.

This, however, does represent a difference from, and improvement over, Soviet media performance, which suppressed almost all discussion of civilian casualties. The Western media +does+ discuss casualties, but it consistently and heavily downplays the true cost of US-UK violence. As with the Soviet media, the concern is invariably for the cost to ‘us’. Also, the suffering is inevitably portrayed as unavoidable – alternative action would have resulted in far worse suffering, we are told – or the result of ‘mistakes’ rooted in benevolent intentions.

A further difference is that the Western media system is to an important extent responsive to media activism – rational criticism +does+ have an impact. However limited, this represents a valuable avenue for improving media performance.

The Cost of Leaving

In the 1980s, the continued presence of Soviet occupation forces in Afghanistan was justified on the grounds that leaving would result in an even bloodier civil war. In his speech, published in Izvestiya on February 10, 1988, Gorbachev asked:

“Are military clashes going to intensify after the withdrawal of Soviet troops? It is hardly necessary to prophesy, but… such a development can be prevented if those who are now fighting against their brothers will take a responsible position and try, in practice, to join peaceful reconstruction.”

The Soviet leadership claimed that they would leave Afghanistan only on the condition that “external interference stops”(Pravda, January 7,1988) and that “the faster the pace of establishing peace on Afghan soil, the easier it will be for Soviet troops to leave”. (Izvestiya, February 10, 1988)

Again, the official position was echoed uncritically by the Soviet media. Writing of planned negotiations in Geneva on the future of Afghanistan, Pravda’s commentator Ovchinnikov stressed that “the cessation of external interference” in Afghanistan was a precondition that would “allow Soviet troops to withdraw”. He accused the US administration of avoiding positive solutions and stressed that the problem was “not the date of the beginning of the Soviet troops’ withdrawal but the date of the stopping of American aid to [the mujahideen]”. Ovchinnikov literally repeated the official line that Soviet soldiers “will leave Afghanistan with a sense of duty accomplished when external interference stops”. (Pravda, January 11, 1988)

The journal Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn commented:

“It is professed that as soon as we leave [Afghanistan], there will be a slaughter, slaughter, slaughter. My experience in Afghanistan indicates that, probably, there will be a civil war, [and] there will be fighting. This is an internecine war. When I was flying out of Afghanistan last year, I thought that after our withdrawal some part of NDPA would be wiped out by the vengeful Islamic movement.” (Prohanov, Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn [International Affairs] #7, 1988)

In similar vein, the Financial Times wrote in April: “this grim situation could easily get worse – if the Americans pulled out too quickly, or set a deadline for withdrawal that simply encouraged their foes to wait them out Iraq could tip into a full-scale civil war”. (Leader, ‘No easy way out of Iraq Congress should not set an arbitrary deadline for withdrawal,’ Financial Times, April 11, 2007)

By contrast, Moskovskie Novosti argued that the rationale for staying had not been the whole story:

“The withdrawal of the Soviet troops raised a lot of defence problems for Afghanistan, but also opened the road for the solution of political problems.” (Moskovskie Novosti, May 21, 1989)

The 2004 BBC documentary, The Power of Nightmares, featured a 1987 debate between a Soviet journalist and commentator Vladimir Pozner (mistakenly identified in the documentary as a “Soviet spokesman in the US”), and American intellectuals, including Richard Perle, then Assistant Secretary of Defense. Pozner commented:

“I believe that we can get out [of Afghanistan], provided that no more aid is given to what people here call ‘freedom fighters‘, and we call ‘counter-revolutionaries‘. I believe that’s possible, provided that the United States is also interested in the same.”

Perle responded:

“Well, it’s not very complicated. They arrived in a matter of days, on Christmas Eve in 1979; they could be home by Christmas Eve, if they decided to leave Afghanistan and let the Afghans decide their own future. If you leave, the problem of support to the mujaheddin solves itself.” (http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/video1038.htm)

Not quite the American position with regards to its own occupations today.

Soviet And Western Media – Similarities And Differences

Western reviews of Soviet media performance generally patronise Soviet journalists as submissive, eager functionaries of a state propaganda machine. These analyses fail to take into account the extreme difficulty of reporting honestly from within a totalitarian system. Unlike Western journalists, Soviet reporters were extremely vulnerable and essentially powerless. In a society where everyone was “merely a cog in a gigantic state-party machine,” Bocharov writes, “journalists played the part of rivets. If the body of the machine vibrated, then every rivet had to vibrate with it. And not individually, but together”. (Bocharov, p.56)

Why did Russian journalists who had extensively covered the victims of US aggression in Vietnam just a few years earlier not try to expose the truth of Afghan suffering?

The fact is that some +did+ try. This is made clear in the writings of Soviet journalists, two of whom (Andrei Greshnov and Sergei Bukovsky) Lanine recently interviewed by phone and email. For these journalists to even ask awkward questions was to place their careers in jeopardy. Those who were openly critical faced far more serious consequences.

Radio Moscow news announcer Vladimir Danchev famously called Soviet troops in Afghanistan “invaders” and “occupiers”, and even called on Afghans to continue their resistance. Danchev was quickly taken off air, investigated by the KGB, and forced to undergo psychiatric treatment (relatively mild punishment that reflected international awareness of Danchev‘s plight. See: New York Times, May 27 and December 15, 1983).

Other Soviet journalists had little choice but to stick to the official line. In the 1980s, multiple layers of censorship strictly blocked all attempts to discuss Afghan civilian casualties. Bocharov describes (1990) how we was forbidden even from mentioning +Soviet+ casualties (p.53) – to refer to the deaths of Afghan civilians was unthinkable. Articles by Soviet journalists from Afghanistan “were edited mercilessly”, Bocharov writes:

“The final touches would be applied in Moscow” by the civilian and military censorship. (pp.51-52)

In an email to Lanine (July 22, 2007), Bukovsky recalled how, in 1988, he published an article exposing the role of senior military incompetence in the deaths of Special Forces soldiers. Such courageous expressions of defiance were so unusual that Bukovsky was convinced he would be arrested along with the senior military censor, who Bukovsky describes as a “decent officer” who “fought hard with” him “for every word” in the published article. After the piece was published on July 14, 1988, Bukovsky and his censor expected officials to arrive and arrest them.

The arrest never happened, but the military censor was officially reprimanded and fell out of favour with his superiors. Bukovsky was interrogated by military counter-intelligence and his loyalty challenged. He was also strongly criticised for quoting a Soviet officer to the effect that Afghan insurgents “never leave their dead and wounded behind” – a comment that contradicted the official depiction of the Mujahadeen as “foul, blood-thirsty rogues”. “I was [literally] spat at” for writing that, Bukovsky recalls.

The relationship of the Western media to centres of power is very different. By comparison with Soviet media workers who, Bocharov emphasises, “wrote what they were +ordered+ to [italics added]”, Western journalists have much greater freedom. And yet, crucially, the outcomes of media coverage on major themes – the illegality of launching wars of aggression, the fraudulence of alleged humanitarian motives, and the costs to civilian populations – are much the same. In both cases, a misinformed population was, and is, bombarded with “necessary illusions.”

Western media have presented the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan from within strikingly similar frameworks to those provided by the Soviet government and media:

‘We’ (US-UK and the USSR) are acting in self-defence, out of good intentions, at the request of foreign governments and/or to spread democracy, while our enemies commit acts of aggression against us and the people we are trying to help.

‘Our’ goal is stability and peace – our enemies strive to intimidate through terror.

‘We’ act according to international law – our enemies are criminal, murderous, morally indefensible and guilty of “external interference“.

‘Our’ attempts to promote ‘values’ abroad are noble because inherently superior – our enemies’ values are medieval, irrational or non-existent.

The most revealing similarity is that the Western media fail, just as the Soviet media failed, to ask the most crucial questions:

By what legal and moral +right+ did we invade in the first place?

Without exploring these fundamental issues, and without incorporating honest answers in frameworks of reporting, the media neglect their most important task – the task described by the courageous Israeli journalist Amira Hass: “to monitor power”.

Like the Soviet media, Western professional journalists adopt and echo government statements as their own, as self-evidently true, without subjecting them to rational analysis and challenge. As a result, they allow themselves to become the mouthpieces of state power. It is fundamentally the same role performed by the media under Soviet totalitarianism.

The consequences for the victims of Soviet and US-UK state power are also fundamentally the same.

Selected Bibliography

In Russian

Gareev, M.A. (1996). Moya Poslednyaya Voina (Afganistan bez Sovetskih Voisk). [My Last War (Afghanistan Without Soviet Troops)]. Moscow: Insan.

Greshnov, A. (2006). Afganistan: Zalozhniki Vremeni [Afghanistan: Hostages of Time], Moskva: Tovarishestvo Nauchnih Izdanii KMK.

Gromov, B.V. (1994). Ogranichenny Kontingent [The Limited Contingent]. Moscow: “Progress” Publishing Group.

Lyahovsky, A.A., & Zabrodin, V.M. (1991). Taini Afganskoi Voini [Secrets of the Afghan War]. Moscow: Planeta.

Spolnikov, V.N. (1990, c1989). Afganistan. Islamskaya Opozitsiya: Istoki i Tsel. [Afghanistan: Islamic Opposition [and its] Origins and Goals], Moscow: Nauka.

Zhitnuhin, A.P. & Likoshin, S.A. (ed.) (1990). Zvezda nad Gorodom Kabulom. [The Star over Kabul-city], Moscow: Molodaya Gvardiya [Young Guards]. (Chapter “The light on the summit” about Soviet advisers who worked in Afghanistan with Democratic Organization of Afghan Youth, p.169-)
In English
BBC Broadcast (2004). The Power of Nightmares. Part II: The Phantom Victory. Retrieved from www.informationclearinghouse.info/video1038.htm

Bocharov, G. (1990). Russian Roulette: Afghanistan Through Russian Eyes. NY: A Cornelia & Michel Bessie Book.

Bradsher, H.S. (1999). Afghan Communism and Soviet Intervention. Oxford [Oxfordshire]; New York: Oxford University Press.

Varennikov, V. (1998). CNN Interview for 1998 CNN’s “Cold War” series, Episode 20: Soldiers of God. www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cold.war/episodes/20/interviews/varennikov/

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New Cold War: Great Game for Supremacy in the New World Order? by Andrew G. Marshall

October 31, 2007

New Cold War: Great Game for Supremacy in the New World Order? by Andrew G. Marshall

Dandelion Salad

by Andrew G. Marshall
Global Research, October 31, 2007

Imperial Playground:

The Story of Iran in Recent History

PART 4:

There has been much talk in recent months of a return to the Cold War, as increasingly there is growing disparities and tensing relations between the West, namely the Anglo-Americans, and the Russian Federation, the former Soviet Union, as well as China. ‘Is the Cold War Back?’ as the headline of a Reuters article asked, stating, “Russia has revived its Soviet-era practice of continuous long-range bomber patrols, sending 14 aircraft on such missions in the latest in a series of moves apparently designed to show off Russia’s new-found assertiveness,” and that “Russia’s military is now receiving a major injection of cash to modernise ageing equipment — including new planes — after years of under-funding and neglect since the Soviet Union ceased to exist.”1 Recent plans made public that the United States is building missile shields in Eastern European countries has sparked equal controversy over a revival of a Cold War. As the Austrian Defense Minister Norbert Darabos stated in late August of 2007, “That the United States are installing a defense shield in eastern Europe is a provocation in my view,” and that, “The U.S. has chosen the wrong path in my opinion. There is no point in building up a missile defense shield in Europe. That only unnecessarily rekindles old Cold War debates.”2 The article continued in saying, “The United States plans to deploy elements of its shield — designed to intercept and destroy missiles from ‘rogue states’ like Iran and North Korea — in Poland and the Czech Republic. Russia sees the initiative near its borders as a threat to its own security. On Tuesday Russia’s military chief told the Czech Republic that hosting the shield would be a ‘big mistake’. Darabos said he saw no danger from Iranian long range missiles and the United States should try for a different solution.”

NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which is largely controlled by the Anglo-American establishment, has also been stepping up Cold War actions. NATO was created as a treaty during the early years of the Cold War as a method of forming an alliance against the Communist powers of the world, which had a parallel treaty organization, known as the Warsaw Pact. So if the near entire life span of this organization was in containing communist countries, namely the Soviet Union, it does not seem unlikely that it would return to what it does best. As the Sunday Telegraph reported in late August of 2007, “NATO vessels are closely monitoring the sea trials of Russia’s latest submarine, following Moscow’s increasingly provocative tests of Western airspace. In the latest twist to worsening East-West relations, Nato submarines and surface ships, which may include Royal Navy vessels, are trying to gather information on the new Amur class boat being tested in the Baltic,” and that, “The greater-than-normal scrutiny is, in part, a response to Russia’s decision to resume long-range bomber flights close to Nato airspace which has revived memories of Cold War confrontation between the two blocs,” and it further mentioned that, “Twice this summer, Russian Tu-95 nuclear bombers have been spotted heading towards British airspace off Scotland, prompting the RAF [Royal Air Force] to send intercepting aircraft to warn them off. On another occasion, Russian planes came within striking distance of the US Pacific airbase of Guam.”3

The article continues in explaining, “Apart from the threat it [the Russian submarine] poses as part of the Russian navy, Moscow is believed to have won contracts to export it to other states such as Venezuela, which is challenging the United States’ influence in Latin America. Russia also exports weapons to Iran and Sudan, although there is no sign yet that either country plans to buy an Amur class submarine. The fact that President Vladimir Putin’s regime is testing a powerful new addition to the Russian navy – after its fleet went through years of decline – shows a new military build-up is underway.” The article further stated, “Russia’s neighbour Georgia claimed yesterday that it, too, was being intimidated by Moscow. Russian jets, the government said, had twice entered its airspace this week. Earlier this month, a Russian warplane had fired a missile at a village on its territory. But Russia protested its innocence yesterday, accusing Georgia of inventing the charge to stir up tensions. Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations said that the bomb fragments produced as evidence were of foreign origin.”

On this growing issue between Russia and Georgia, Press TV reported that, “Georgia’s aim to accelerate its joining the NATO by playing risky power games with Russia can stretch Moscow’s patience too far, observers say. ‘There is a threat’ that rising tensions between the two former Soviet republics could provoke a confrontation, said Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent Russian defense analyst,” and that, “During the 2006 winter, Russian gas supplies to Georgia were cut off for prolonged repairs on a pipeline. A few months later, Russia banned the import of wine and mineral water from Georgia. Then, in September 2006, Georgia arrested four Russian officers charged for spying. This prompted Russia to suspend all direct transport and postal links, as well as to deport hundreds of Georgian immigrants from Russia. Russia has also given political and economic backing to two Georgian separatist regions.”4

It was also reported that, “The Russian ambassador to the Court of St James’s rejects US statements over the controversial Missile Defense project to be exclusively against Iran. ‘There is no convincing explanation for the installation of the US Missile Defense in eastern Asia,’ said Yuri Viktorovich Fedotov in an interview with BBC Radio. ‘Despite what US calls a missile defense shield against Iran, the project is a threat for Russia and other countries,’ Fedotov added,” and that “The statements are made as recent diplomatic conflict between Britain and Russia over the missile defense project and the verbal war for the extradition of a Russian agent accused of being involved in the murder of Alexander [Litvinenko] in London has escalated.”5

In early September of 2007, it was reported by the BBC that, “The UK’s Royal Air Force has launched fighter jets to intercept eight Russian military planes flying in airspace patrolled by Nato, UK officials say. Four RAF F3 Tornado aircraft were scrambled in response to the Russian action, the UK’s defence ministry said. The Russian planes – long-range bombers – had earlier been followed by Norwegian F16 jets.”6 Also in early September it was reported by the Financial Times that, “The Chinese military hacked into a Pentagon computer network in June in the most successful cyber attack on the US defence department, say American –officials. The Pentagon acknowledged shutting down part of a computer system serving the office of Robert Gates, defence secretary, but declined to say who it believed was behind the attack. Current and former officials have told the Financial Times an internal investigation has revealed that the incursion came from the People’s Liberation Army [of China].”7

As well as this, it was reported that, “Taiwan’s cabinet agreed Wednesday to hike military spending by nearly 15 percent in next year’s budget in an apparent signal of its resolve against rival China. Under a draft budget, which has to be confirmed by parliament, the defence ministry is setting aside 345.9 billion Taiwan dollars (10.5 billion US), up 44.6 billion Taiwan dollars, the cabinet said in a statement,” and that, “The rise in spending is mainly aimed at financing procurement of military equipment, including US-made P-3C submarine-hunting aircraft. Washington, the island’s leading arms supplier despite not having formal diplomatic ties, has repeatedly asked Taipei to display its determination to defend itself by boosting military spending. The Chinese government had in May announced the biggest increase in its military budget in recent years, saying its spending in 2007 would rise 17.8 percent from last year to 350.9 billion yuan (about 45 billion dollars),” and the article continued in stating, “Reunification with Taiwan is one of China’s long-term strategic objectives, and analysts have said Beijing is beefing up its military partly to enable it to take the island back by force if necessary. China and Taiwan have been separated since the end of a civil war in 1949, but Beijing still considers the island part of its territory. Taiwan has been led since the turn of the century by independence-leaning President Chen Shui-bian, exacerbating fears in Beijing that the island could break away for good.”8

The above mentioned issue is extremely important, as it was reported back in 2005 by the Financial Times that, “China is prepared to use nuclear weapons against the US if it is attacked by Washington during a confrontation over Taiwan, a Chinese general said on Thursday. ‘If the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition on to the target zone on China’s territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons,’ said General Zhu Chenghu. Gen Zhu was speaking at a function for foreign journalists organised, in part, by the Chinese government. He added that China’s definition of its territory included warships and aircraft,” and the General continued in saying, “If the Americans are determined to interfere [then] we will be determined to respond,” as well as stating, “We . . . will prepare ourselves for the destrucion of all of the cities east of Xian. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds . . . of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese.”9 The article further mentioned, “Gen Zhu is a self-acknowledged ‘hawk’ who has warned that China could strike the US with long-range missiles. But his threat to use nuclear weapons in a conflict over Taiwan is the most specific by a senior Chinese official in nearly a decade.” So, essentially what this is suggesting is that in the case that China attempts to take back Taiwan, which it consistently threatens to do, even if it requires military force, and the US responds militarily in any way, which they have said they would in such an event, even if the act is firing on a Chinese ship, then the response of China would be to engage in nuclear war with the United States.

In early September of 2007, it was reported by the BBC that, “Britain has privately complained to Beijing that Chinese-made weapons are being used by the Taleban to attack British troops in Afghanistan. The BBC has been told that on several occasions Chinese arms have been recovered after attacks on British and American troops by Afghan insurgents.”10

Russia has extremely close ties with Iran, as it was reported back in 2005 that, “Russia has agreed to sell more than $1 billion worth of missiles and other defense systems to Iran,” and that, “The Interfax and ITAR-Tass news agencies cited unidentified sources in the Russian military-industrial complex as saying that Russian and Iranian officials had signed contracts in November that would send up to 30 Tor-M1 missile systems to Iran over the next two years.”11 In January of 2007, the Jerusalem Post reported that, “Voicing extreme concern over Russia’s recent sale of advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, senior diplomatic and defense officials warned Moscow Tuesday that the deal could have serious security implications that would even ‘get back to Russia.’ Senior officials in Jerusalem said they ‘were not pleased’ with the sale of the anti-aircraft missiles, but that Russia was a sovereign country and they could not intervene. They did, however, issue a warning: ‘We hope they understand that this is a threat that could come back to them as well.’ Earlier Tuesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Moscow had sent air defense missiles to Teheran, the first high-level confirmation that their delivery took place despite US complaints. Ivanov did not specify how many missile systems had been delivered.”12

On top of military agreements, Russia and Iran also have close ties economically and politically, and Russia is even helping Iran build a nuclear power plant. It was reported in September of 2007 that, “The Bushehr nuclear power plant that Russia is building in Iran will be commissioned no earlier than the fall of 2008, a source in the Russian nuclear sector said. The date for commissioning the $1 billion project in the south of the country, the Islamic Republic’s first NPP built by Russia, was postponed due to delays in Iranian payments to the contractor.”13 So, clearly, Russia has vested interests inside Iran, and has even gone so far as to help in building a nuclear power plant inside Iran, in a sign of a growing relationship between the two countries, and a very apparent signal that Russia is supporting Iran’s efforts to nuclear power, thusly, taking a position in opposition to the Anglo-American Alliance, and even the Franco-German Entente.

This is evident in as much as Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, back in 2006 had advised “to act without delay to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, saying that Iran had ‘blatantly crossed the line’,” and that “The chancellor compared Iran’s nuclear policy to the Nazi party’s rise to power in Germany, warning that in the past the nations of the world refused to take a stance against concrete threats, enabling some of history’s greatest catastrophes.”14 The newly elected French President Nicolas Sarkozy stated in August of 2007, that, “a diplomatic push by the world’s powers to rein in Tehran’s nuclear program was the only alternative to ‘an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran’,” and that, “In his first major foreign policy speech, Sarkozy emphasized his existing foreign policy priorities, such as opposing Turkish membership of the European Union and pushing for a new Mediterranean Union that he hopes will include Ankara,” and the article went on to report that, “Sarkozy said a nuclear-armed Iran would be unacceptable and that major powers should continue their policy of incrementally increasing sanctions against Tehran while being open to talks if Iran suspended nuclear activities.” The article then quoted Sarkozy as saying, “This initiative is the only one that can enable us to escape an alternative that I say is catastrophic: the Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran,” and he continued, “Russia is imposing its return on the world scene by using its assets, notably oil and gas, with a certain brutality,” of which the article continued, “Energy disputes between Russia and neighbors such as Belarus and Ukraine have raised doubts in Europe about Moscow’s reliability as a gas exporter. It supplies Europe, via its neighbors, with around a quarter of its gas demands. Sarkozy had warm words for the United States, saying friendship between the two countries was important. But he said he felt free to disagree with American policies, highlighting what he called a lack of leadership on the environment.”15 I find it comical that Sarkozy talks of Russia saying that, “When one is a great power, one should not be brutal,” yet he had ‘warm words’ for the US, of which I know no other country that is so brutal as a great power.

The Washington Post reported in early September of 2007, that, “U.S. plans to site parts of a missile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic are ‘politically dangerous,’ former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said on Saturday. ‘From my point of view the missile defense system is politically dangerous. It is perceived as an attempt to isolate Russia, which is not in Europe’s political interests,’ said Schroeder, who is a personal friend of President Vladimir Putin,” and that, “The United States wants to base interceptor missiles and a radar system in Poland and the Czech Republic, saying it needs protection against missile attacks from what it terms ‘rogue states’ like Iran and North Korea. Russia has reacted furiously, saying the plan will upset a delicate strategic balance between major powers and poses a threat to its own security. Schroeder said the plan was not in the European Union’s interests either.” The article continued, “Although trade and investment are booming, diplomatic relations between Russia and the European Union have deteriorated sharply over the past year. This is partly because of Russia’s squabbles with the Union’s new members such as Poland, which were once part of the Soviet bloc and are now wary of Moscow’s rising influence.”16

Remember Zbigniew Brzezinski? The Trilateral Commission founder, architect of the Afghan-Soviet War and ‘Arc of Crisis’ Strategy, who wrote the geo-strategic blueprint for American global hegemony, The Grand Chessboard, in which he stated, “Potentially, the most dangerous scenario would be a grand coalition of China, Russia, and perhaps Iran, an ‘antihegemonic’ coalition united not by ideology but by complementary grievances. It would be reminiscent in scale and scope of the challenge once posed by the Sino-Soviet bloc.”17 Well, within ten years of writing his book, Brzezinski’s predictions became quite true, as an alternative strategic bloc to the NATO countries has been set up, called the Shanghai Cooperation Organization [SCO]. It was officially founded in 2001 [after initial agreements in 1996] by Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. In 2006, it was reported that, “Six member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Wednesday agreed to stage a joint anti-terror military exercise in 2007 in Russia, according to a joint communiqué,” and that, “Except Uzbekistan, other five countries of the SCO held their first-ever joint anti-terror exercise within the framework of the SCO in August 2003, with the first phase in Kazakhstan and the second in China. As new threats and challenges, such as terrorism, separatism, extremism and cross-border crimes, are becoming increasingly prominent, the regional and international cooperation are required.”18

In 2003, it was reported that the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), “signed a multilateral economic cooperation Framework Agreement in Beijing on 23 September to ‘deepen’ their mutual economic connections and ‘improve the investment environment’. At the meeting, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao made three proposals. He wanted members to set as a long-term objective the establishment of a free trade area within the SCO; elaborate a series of more immediate measures such as improving the flow of goods across the member-states and reducing non-tariff barriers such as customs, quarantine, standards and transport services; and create large projects on economic and technological cooperation, giving priority to those in transportation, energy, telecommunication, agriculture, home appliances, light industry and textiles.”19

Apart from the main members of the SCO, there are also countries which are permitted Observer Status, meaning they won’t take part in the war games, but will be official observers of them and still develop closer ties with the SCO. As the Guardian reported in 2006, “At the one day annual summit of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on June 15, more limelight fell on the leader of an observer country than on any of the main participants. That figure happened to be the controversial president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Despite the lowly observer status accorded to his country, Ahmadinejad went on to publicly invite the SCO members to a meeting in Tehran to discuss energy exploration and development in the region. And the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, proposed that the SCO should form an ‘energy club’. While making a plea that his country should be accorded full membership of the SCO, the Pakistani president, Parvez Musharraf, highlighted the geo-strategic position of his country as an energy and trade corridor for SCO members. ‘Pakistan provides a natural link between the SCO states to connect the Eurasian heartland with the Arabian Sea and South Asia,’ he said,” and the article continued, “Founded in 1996 primarily to settle frontier problems between China and its post-Soviet neighbors – Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan – the SCO expanded three years later to include Uzbekistan, which does not share common borders with China or Russia, the two countries at the core of the SCO. Since then SCO has developed as an organization concerned with regional security, thus focusing on counter-terrorism, defense, and energy cooperation. Energy-hungry China has its eyes fixed on the large oil and gas reserves that Russia and Kazakhstan possess, and even the modest gas reserves of Uzbekistan.” The article further mentioned that, “Iran applied for full membership; as did India,” as well as the fact that, “Last year [2005] when the SCO accorded observer status to four countries, it rejected a similar request from the United States,” and it continued, “The rising importance and coherence of the SCO worries Washington – as well as its closest Asian ally, Japan. ‘The SCO is becoming a rival block to the US alliance,’ said a senior Japanese official recently. ‘It does not share our values. We are watching it very closely’.”20

Further, it was reported in April of 2006 by the Asia Times that, “The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which maintained it had no plans for expansion, is now changing course. Mongolia, Iran, India and Pakistan, which previously had observer status, will become full members. SCO’s decision to welcome Iran into its fold constitutes a political statement. Conceivably, SCO would now proceed to adopt a common position on the Iran nuclear issue at its summit meeting June 15,” and that, “Visiting Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mohammadi told Itar-TASS in Moscow that the membership expansion ‘could make the world more fair’. And he spoke of building an Iran-Russia ‘gas-and-oil arc’ by coordinating their activities as energy producing countries. Mohammadi also touched on Iran’s intention to raise the issue of his country’s nuclear program and its expectations of securing SCO support.”21 Although, to this day, Iran’s membership has not been made official, making it a de-facto member of the SCO, much in the same sense that Israel is a de-facto member of NATO.22

In August of 2007, it was reported that, “Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said the proposed US missile defense shield in central Europe would pose a threat to Asia. At a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Ahmadinejad said such a plan goes beyond threatening one country and it is a source of concern for most of the continent. Washington is planning to station a radar station in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland. Ahmadinejad added the six SCO member states, including China, are among those countries who are threatened by the US plan. He also criticized the US military attack on Iraq, which has destabilized the entire region. Iran has observer status in the SCO, which groups China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.”23

As for the relationship between China and Iran, it was reported in 2006 that, “Chinese President Hu Jintao called Friday for closer ties with Iran as he met his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the first time, while the United States followed events in Shanghai warily,” and that, “China and Iran have long had close economic ties, especially in the oil and gas fields, and are in negotiations over an energy deal that was tentatively inked in 2004 and could be worth more than 100 billion dollars. As part of the initial memorandum of understanding, Sinopec, China’s largest refiner, would buy 250 million tons of liquefied natural gas over 25 years, which alone could be worth more than 100 billion dollars. However, despite a series of Chinese delegations going to Tehran, the deal has yet to be finalized. Ahmadinejad arrived in China on Wednesday to participate in the leaders’ summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a regional forum that is increasingly being seen as a counterweight to US influence in Central Asia.”24

As we can see, this is not simply a strategy of Anglo-American interests at play in the region, as it is always necessary to take a look at the broader geopolitical implications of this region, especially in relation to the European Union, dominated by the Franco-German Entente, and most notably Russia and China. A competition for control of the region is very much underway, as whomever, or whichever powers control Central Eurasia (the Middle East and Central Asia); those same powers will then have control over the world’s primary oil and gas reserves and transportation, and thusly, will exert hegemonic influence over the entire world. With Russia, increasingly gaining strength and influence like never before since the fall of the Soviet Union, China, a rising world power whose thirst and demand for oil is the fastest growing in the world and whose future as a great power depends upon getting its hands on such resources, and with the European Union, a close ally of the Anglo-American Alliance, yet still has its own interests at heart so it, too, is increasingly attempting a relationship with Russia, which has massive natural gas reserves itself. The EU hopes to balance its relationships, so as to always remain on the winning end, however, as time goes forward, it may have to choose sides. Relations between the West, especially the Anglo-Americans, and the former Soviet Union grow tense, the EU may be caught in the middle and China forced to make strategic alliances.

It is clear that future military operations in Central Asia and the Middle East will not be like the previous occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, whereas Afghanistan remains under NATO control (the Anglo-American Alliance in collaboration with the Franco-German entente), and Iraq under Anglo-American occupation, but with little more than rhetorical opposition from observing countries around the world. The world accepted the occupation of Afghanistan under the guise of retribution for the 9/11 attacks, and the world stood by as Iraq was put under imperial control. But now the pieces have been set, the world sees the strategy, even though the general public may not, and other great powers have their fates vested in the region, such as Russia, China, the EU and most of the world at large, so to stand idly by now and do nothing as Anglo-American imperial expansion envelopes the entire region would be suicidal. It is in the interest of survival for Russia, China and the EU to maintain influence and control in the region. To do this, each will have to make strategic alliances, as is currently being done.

These activities have caused recent exclamations of a return to the Cold War era, however, I see it as something much more sinister and dangerous. Remember, the Cold War was referred to as “Cold” because it involved no actual fighting between the two main enemies, the United States and the USSR, or the NATO countries against the Warsaw Pact countries. In actuality, I would argue that what we are seeing take place is in fact a return not to the Cold War, but to the Great Game, which was the competition between the British Empire and the Russian Empire for supremacy in Central Asia from the early 1800s arguably up until the end of World War 2, when the Cold War began. One of the major theaters of war between Britain and Russia during the Great Game was Afghanistan, where the first Anglo-Afghan War began in 1838, the Second Anglo-Afghan War in 1878, a brief alliance occurred between Russia and Britain in the early 20th Century, then the Third Anglo-Afghan War occurred in 1919, otherwise known as the second phase of the Great Game. During the Cold War, or the third phase of the Great Game, Afghanistan was the major theater of operations between the United States (Anglo-Americans) and Russia (Soviet Union) from the late 1970s to the late 1980s, ultimately leading to a collapse of the Soviet Union and an end to the ‘Cold War’. Now, after another brief alliance between the Anglo-American Alliance and Russia, just as occurred in the early years of the previous century starting in 1907, leading up to World War 1, it seems that now, in 2007, the fourth phase of this 200-year long Great Game for dominance over Central Asia has begun. Now made all the more dangerous with other great power interests such as the European Union and rising China, not to mention the existence and discussion of the use of nuclear weapons.

Rising Tensions and Quiet Mentions of War

Lately, there has been a significant increase in tensions between the West, predominantly the Anglo-Americans and Iran, and its respective allies, namely, Syria. These escalations in tension and conflict suggest a rapid strategy of progression to an all out war on the Islamic Republic of Iran, and possibly a wider array of countries in the region, leading to a full region-wide war.

In late August of 2007, the Sunday Telegraph reported that, “The White House’s plans to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organisation are intended to give the Bush administration cover if it launches military strikes on the Islamic republic, according to a prominent former CIA officer. Robert Baer, who was a high-ranking operative in the Middle East, said last week that senior government officials had told him the administration was preparing for air strikes on the guards’ bases and probably also on Iran’s nuclear facilities within the next six months,” and the article continues, “But among President George W Bush’s closest advisers, there is a fierce debate about whether to take unilateral military action independently of any UN security council moves. While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is set on diplomacy, Vice-President Dick Cheney is understood to favour air strikes. The justification for any attack, according to Mr Baer, would be claims – denied by Iran – that the guards are responsible for the sophisticated armour-penetrating improvised explosive devices that are exacting a heavy toll on US forces in Iraq.”25

On September 2, 2007, the Sunday Times reported that, “The Pentagon has drawn up plans for massive airstrikes against 1,200 targets in Iran, designed to annihilate the Iranians’ military capability in three days, according to a national security expert. Alexis Debat, director of terrorism and national security at the Nixon Center, said last week that US military planners were not preparing for ‘pinprick strikes’ against Iran’s nuclear facilities. ‘They’re about taking out the entire Iranian military’,” and it continued, “President George Bush intensified the rhetoric against Iran last week, accusing Tehran of putting the Middle East ‘under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust’. He warned that the US and its allies would confront Iran ‘before it is too late’.”26

A September 3 article in the Sunday Telegraph stated, “In a nondescript room, two blocks from the American Capitol building, a group of Bush administration staffers is gathered to consider the gravest threat their government has faced this century: the testing of a nuclear weapon by Iran. The United States, no longer prepared to tolerate the risk that Iranian nuclear weapons will be used against Israel, or passed to terrorists, has already launched a bombing campaign to destroy known Iranian nuclear sites, air bases and air defence sites. Iran has retaliated by cutting off oil to America and its allies, blockading the Straits of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf bottleneck, and sanctioned an uprising by Shia militias in southern Iraq that has shut down 60 per cent of Iraq’s oil exports. The job of the officials from the Pentagon, the State Department, and the Departments of Homeland Security and Energy, who have gathered in an office just off Massachusetts Avenue, behind the rail terminus, Union Station, is to prevent a spike in oil prices that will pitch the world’s economy into a catastrophic spin.” The article then said, “The good news is that this was a war game; for those who fear war with Iran, the less happy news is that the officials were real. The simulation, which took four months, was run by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank with close links to the White House. Its conclusions, drawn up last month and seen by The Sunday Telegraph, have been passed on to military and civilian planners charged with drawing up plans for confronting Iran. News that elements of the American government are working in earnest on how to deal with the fallout of an attack on Iran come at a tense moment.”27

A report in the Sunday Telegraph stated that, “Senior American intelligence and defence officials believe that President George W Bush and his inner circle are taking steps to place America on the path to war with Iran, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt. Pentagon planners have developed a list of up to 2,000 bombing targets in Iran, amid growing fears among serving officers that diplomatic efforts to slow Iran’s nuclear weapons programme are doomed to fail. Pentagon and CIA officers say they believe that the White House has begun a carefully calibrated programme of escalation that could lead to a military showdown with Iran,” and that, “Now it has emerged that Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, who has been pushing for a diplomatic solution, is prepared to settle her differences with Vice-President Dick Cheney and sanction military action. In a chilling scenario of how war might come, a senior intelligence officer warned that public denunciation of Iranian meddling in Iraq – arming and training militants – would lead to cross border raids on Iranian training camps and bomb factories. A prime target would be the Fajr base run by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force in southern Iran, where Western intelligence agencies say armour-piercing projectiles used against British and US troops are manufactured.” The article continued, “US action would provoke a major Iranian response, perhaps in the form of moves to cut off Gulf oil supplies, providing a trigger for air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities and even its armed forces. Senior officials believe Mr Bush’s inner circle has decided he does not want to leave office without first ensuring that Iran is not capable of developing a nuclear weapon.”28

The New Yorker Magazine reported in late August of 2007 that, “If there were a threat level on the possibility of war with Iran, it might have just gone up to orange. Barnett Rubin, the highly respected Afghanistan expert at New York University, has written an account of a conversation with a friend who has connections to someone at a neoconservative institution in Washington,” which revealed that, “They [the source’s institution] have ‘instructions’ (yes, that was the word used) from the Office of the Vice-President [Dick Cheney] to roll out a campaign for war with Iran in the week after Labor Day; it will be coordinated with the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, Commentary, Fox, and the usual suspects. It will be heavy sustained assault on the airwaves, designed to knock public sentiment into a position from which a war can be maintained. Evidently they don’t think they’ll ever get majority support for this—they want something like 35-40 percent support, which in their book is ‘plenty’,” and it continued stating, “It follows the pattern of the P.R. campaign that started around this time in 2002 and led to the Iraq war. The President’s rhetoric on Iran has been nothing short of bellicose lately, warning of ‘the shadow of a nuclear holocaust’.”29

On September 10, Reuters reported that, “The Pentagon is preparing to build a military base near the Iraq-Iran border to try to curtail the flow of advanced Iranian weaponry to Shiite militants across Iraq, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday in its online edition. Quoting Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, the Journal said the Pentagon also plans to build fortified checkpoints on major highways leading from the Iranian border to Baghdad, and install X-ray machines and explosives-detecting sensors at the only formal border crossing between the two countries.”30 On the same day, the Sunday Telegraph reported that, “Iran has established a sophisticated spying operation at the head of the Arabian Gulf in a move which has significantly heightened tensions in its standoff with the United States. The operation, masterminded by the country’s elite Revolutionary Guard, includes the construction of a high-tech spying post close to the point where Iranian forces kidnapped 15 British naval personnel in March. The move has forced British and American commanders to divert resources away from protecting oil platforms in the Gulf from terrorist attack and into countering the new Iranian threat,” and it continued, “The US military says that the spying post, built on the foundations of a crane platform sunk during the Iran-Iraq war, is equipped with radar, cameras and forward facing infra-red devices to track the movement of coalition naval forces and commercial shipping in the northern Arabian Gulf. Commanders fear that one of the main purposes of the Iranian operation is to enable the Revolutionary Guard to intercept more coalition vessels moving through the disputed waters near the mouth of the Shatt al Arab waterway south of the Iraqi city of Basra.”31

Incidentally, two days later, Raw Story ran an article stating, “As tensions between the United States and Iran increases, military action along the Iran-Iraq border intensifies. The latest moves come from America’s primary ally in its invasion of Iraq: Britain. Ostensibly to guard against importation of Iranian weapons and fighters targeting Western troops in Iraq, the UK is sending up to 350 troops to the Iranian border instead of bringing them home, The Independent of London reports Wednesday.” This follows much discussion recently that the UK, under the new unelected Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was preparing to withdraw from Iraq, leaving the US alone. In fact, the announcement had been made that British troops were to be returning home from Basra, the British-controlled Iraqi city, and as Raw Story pointed out, “The troop move was requested by US commanders, the paper says, and it will delay — perhaps indefinitely — the homecoming of 250 British troops who were told just days ago that they would be returning to the UK as part of a drawdown of forces in Iraq,” and that “Prime Minister Gordon Brown initiated the drawdown, and about 500 British troops completed their withdrawal from Basra Palace, their last remaining base in the city, to an airport on the city’s outskirts. The move was expected to be the final stage in Britain’s complete extraction from Iraq. Wednesday’s report follows on the heels of news that US troops would be establishing a base on the border to guard against Iranian-imported weapons.

Tensions between the US and Iran have gone from bad to dismal in recent years, with some fearing all-out war will erupt between the two countries, and the top US commander in Iraq has refused to rule out that possibility. US Army Gen. David Petraeus demurred Tuesday when he was asked by Sen. Joseph Lieberman whether the war should be expanded ‘in Iranian territory.’ And Petraeus ‘strongly implied’ that action against Iran would be necessary soon, The Independent reported.” On top of this, it was further pointed out that, “Along with British and US troops, Georgia recently sent about 1,200 extra troops to Iraq to patrol the border with Iran.”32

Further, Press TV reported that, “Britain is planning to increase its naval presence in the Persian Gulf by next year, a top British naval commander in the area has revealed. Deputy Combined Force Commander Royal Navy Commodore Keith Winstanley said Monday that Britain has a range of capabilities deployed at various times in the region ranging between submarines, frigates, and destroyers, and that it plans to increase its naval presence by 2008,” and that, “Winstanley, speaking onboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, added that strategic and economic interests had brought about a policy of engagement by Britain in the region,” and the article said at the end, “The last time there were active mine counter-measures in the region was in March of 2003,”33 which, coincidentally, was the same month that the war in Iraq began.

Not only are the Anglo-Americans fully on board and preparing for a possible attack on Iran, but even the Franco-German Entente seems to be steadily leaning that direction. French President Nicholas Sarkozy made headlines recently when he “called Iran’s nuclear ambition the world’s most dangerous problem,” and further, “raised the possibility that the country could be bombed if it persisted in building an atomic weapon,” as reported by the Sunday Times. The article continued, “The biggest challenge to the world was the avoidance of conflict between Islam and the West, President Sarkozy told the annual gathering of French ambassadors. Iran was the crossroads of the Middle East’s troubles and its nuclear aims ‘are without doubt the most serious crisis that weighs today on the international scene,” and that, “A nuclear-armed Iran would be unacceptable and the world must continue to tighten sanctions while offering incentives to Tehran to halt weapons development, he said. ‘This initiative is the only one that can enable us to escape an alternative that I say is catastrophic: the Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran,’ he said. He did not say who would carry out such an attack, which has been suggested by policy experts in Israel and the US.”34 Further, it was reported that, “French Defence Minister Herve Morin warned on Sunday that Iran’s nuclear programme posed a ‘major risk’ to the stability of the Gulf region. ‘It is necessary to make Iran understand that the nuclear risk creates a major risk of destabilising the region,’ Morin told journalists as he wrapped up a visit to the Gulf state of Qatar.”35

On September 14, it was reported that, “Germany denied on Friday that it wanted to hold off on sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme. The government dismissed a report on the US TV channel Fox that it had broken ranks with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and wanted to delay any sanctions to allow a deal struck between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency on August 21 to take effect,” and it continued, quoting the German foreign ministry spokesman, “Germany is prepared to take the necessary steps against Iran, if necessary,” and that, “The five permanent Security Council members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany are due to meet to discuss a new draft UN resolution on sanctions against Iran on September 21 in Washington. Iran maintains that its nuclear programme is aimed at generating electricity but the United States accuses Tehran of covertly developing atomic weapons.”36

Another conflict, which is directly related to the growing Iranian conflict, has been accumulating significance in the region, as it was reported that, “Syria accused Israel of bombing its territory on Thursday [September 6] and said it could respond to the Jewish state’s ‘aggression and treachery’,” and further, “Israel declined to comment on the charge by Syria, which said no casualties or damage were caused. The Syrian accusation was partly responsible for triggering a rise in world oil prices of more than $1.40 a barrel.”37 Another report stated that, “Syria is mulling a ‘series of responses’ after Israeli warplanes violated its airspace this week, Vice President Faruq al-Shara said in an interview with an Italian newspaper published Saturday. ‘I can say now that in Damascus a series of responses is being examined at the highest political and military levels. The results will not take long in coming’.”38

Press TV reported that, “Syria says Israel is planning to wage another war in the region after the Israeli army staged military exercises on the Golan Heights. The state-run Syrian daily al-Thawra said on Sunday that a recent war game by the Israeli military on the occupied Golan Heights has sent a clear message reflecting Israel’s intention for waging a new war in the region.”39 Another report states that, “Tehran has announced its readiness to assist Damascus by all means to counter the violation of Syrian airspace by Israeli warplanes. Iran’s ambassador to Syria, Mohammad-Hassan Akhtari said the Zionist Regime’s provocative moves had prompted Tehran to offer help to the Syrian government. Earlier Thursday, Syria’s official News Agency reported that several Israeli fighter jets had bombed Syrian territories. However, the Syrian army successfully forced the Israeli warplanes out of the Syrian airspace.”40

A September 12 report stated that, “Israel recently carried out reconnaissance flights over Syria, taking pictures of possible nuclear installations that Israeli officials believed might have been supplied with material from North Korea, The New York Times reported Thursday. A US administration official said Israeli officials believed that North Korea might be unloading some of its nuclear material on Syria, the Times reported,” and it quoted an unnamed official, stating, “The Israelis think North Korea is selling to Iran and Syria what little they have left,” and the article further said, “A US defense official confirmed Tuesday that Israel carried out an air strike well inside Syria last week, apparently to send Damascus a message not to rearm Hezbollah in Lebanon. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not know the target of the strike, which was conducted Thursday, but said the US military believed it was to send a message to the Syrians.”41

The Sunday Times later reported that, “It was just after midnight when the 69th Squadron of Israeli F15Is crossed the Syrian coast-line. On the ground, Syria’s formidable air defences went dead. An audacious raid on a Syrian target 50 miles from the Iraqi border was under way,” and that, “Ten days after the jets reached home, their mission was the focus of intense speculation this weekend amid claims that Israel believed it had destroyed a cache of nuclear materials from North Korea,” and it continued, “The Syrians were also keeping mum. ‘I cannot reveal the details,’ said Farouk al-Sharaa, the vice-president. ‘All I can say is the military and political echelon is looking into a series of responses as we speak. Results are forthcoming.’ The official story that the target comprised weapons destined for Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’ite group, appeared to be crumbling in the face of widespread scepticism.

Andrew Semmel, a senior US State Department official, said Syria might have obtained nuclear equipment from ‘secret suppliers’, and added that there were a ‘number of foreign technicians’ in the country. Asked if they could be North Korean, he replied: ‘There are North Korean people there. There’s no question about that’,” and further, “According to Israeli sources, preparations for the attack had been going on since late spring, when Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad, presented Olmert with evidence that Syria was seeking to buy a nuclear device from North Korea.”42
It was then reported that, “An official Syrian daily warned on Sunday that US ‘lies’ over nuclear cooperation with North Korea could serve as a pretext for an attack on Syria following an Israeli violation of its airspace,” and that, “Syria has said its air defences fired on Israeli warplanes which dropped munitions deep inside its territory in the early hours of September 6, triggering intense media speculation about the action. Israel has not confirmed the incident and kept up a policy of official silence, with the only details on the mysterious attack coming from foreign media reports citing anonymous officials.”43

Call It What You Want, It’s All Just a Game

As the prospect of a US-led war on Iran increases by the day, it is vital to understand the history of such actions. This was my intent in writing this essay, as to understand current crises and conflicts evolving in the region, it is important to examine the historical context of such crises over the past 200 years. Dating from the Great Game between the British and Russian empires for control of Central Eurasia, namely fighting for control in Afghanistan and Iran, the reasons behind the Great Game were simply stated as for maintaining hegemonic control. With brief alliances generating between Britain and Russia, formed for strategic conveniences, namely to counter rising German influence in the region in the lead up to World War 1 and during World War 2, the Great Game continued after the Second World War under a different name, the Cold War. For a new century, it was necessary to give a hundred year old strategy a new name, as especially after World War 2, the concepts of hegemony and expansion of control, imperialism in general, were not well received, considering the world just came out of Hitler’s attempt at such a strategy. In 1947, India gained independence from the British Empire, instigating the collapse of its imperial hegemony across the globe.

It was at this time, however, that the United States was now in the most pivotal position to exert its hegemony across the globe. With its extensive ties to Great Britain, the British latched onto the Americans in the Anglo-American Alliance, allowing not only for the US to protect US hegemony and interests abroad, but also British. To do this, however, there needed to be an excuse, as the world would not accept another global hegemon for the sake of hegemony. Thus, the Cold War came into being. Under the guise of deterring the spread of Communism under the auspices of the ‘Domino Theory’, the US managed to expand and protect Anglo-American hegemony around the globe. The Cold War was simply the third phase of the Great Game, as it applied the same strategies used for the previous hundred years, just under a new name and justified under a new threat.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, bringing an end to the Cold War, a New World Order began to form, the birth pangs of which were felt in the Middle East. This New World Order of creating a new global structure, of a more integrated global society, still has many conflicts arising out of it. After World War 1, the League of Nations was created in the hopes of securing a more integrated global community, which ultimately failed with the start of World War 2, after which the United Nations was created to serve the same purpose. Out of each world war, we see the move to create a more global society. Now, after the Cold War ended, we have a new conflict arising between the West and the East. This new conflict is about gaining supremacy in the New World Order, as many great powers seek to sway the balance away from a US-dominated New World Order, and towards a Russian or Chinese New World Order.

In the year 2000, then Chinese President, “Jiang Zemin called for joint efforts of the people of all countries to establish a fair and equitable new international political and economic order,” and he further stated, “With the collapse of the centuries-long colonialist system and the end of half-a-century Cold War, it has become increasingly difficult for hegemonism and power politics to go on and for the very few big powers or blocs of big powers to monopolize international affairs and control the fate of other countries.”44 In 2005, both China and Russia “issued a joint statement on a new world order in the 21st century, setting forth their common stand on major international issues, such as UN reforms, globalization, North-South cooperation, and world economy and trade. The statement was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao after their talks. During their talks, the two leaders discussed ways to further enhance the strategic and cooperative partnership between China and Russia, and exchanged views on major regional and international issues,” and that “The joint statement said the two countries are determined to strengthen their strategic coordination in international affairs.”45 More recently, in 2007, Russian President Vladimir Putin called “for a radical overhaul of the world’s financial and trade institutions to reflect the growing economic power of emerging market countries – including Russia. Mr Putin said the world needed to create a new international financial architecture to replace an existing model,” and as the Financial Times further reported, Putin’s “apparent challenge to western dominance of the world economic order came at a forum in St Petersburg designed to showcase the country’s economic recovery. Among 6,000 delegates at the biggest business forum ever held in post-Soviet Russia were scores of international chief executives including heads of Deutsche Bank, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Nestlé, Chevron, Siemens and Coca-Cola. Business deals worth more than $4bn were signed at the conference – including an order by Aeroflot for Boeing jets – as executives said they were continuing to invest in Russia despite deteriorating relations with the west. Mr Putin’s hosting of the forum capped a week in which he dominated the international stage. He warned last Monday that Russia might target nuclear missiles at Europe if the US built a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic,” and Putin’s “speech on financial institutions suggested that, along with an aggressive recent campaign against US ‘unilateralism’ in foreign policy, he was also seeking to challenge western dominance of the world economic order.”46

So clearly, from this last statement especially, we can see that both China and Russia are not opposed to forming a New World Order, which would be largely based on international institutions and integration, both economically and politically, but they are opposed to the West’s dominance of such a world order, and instead, seek to challenge that dominance with their own. Ultimately, the goals are similar, but the methods of getting there is where the West and the East differ. As the above Financial Times article mentioned, large global corporations are still investing in Russia, despite recent setbacks in certain areas, which shows the support for the process of globalization, which has thusly shaped the current world order. International corporations have no allegiance to people or national identities, but rather seek to exert their control across the entire globe, and will support any nations with great influence, so that with the battle for control in shaping the New World Order, the corporations will always be on the winning side. As the multinational corporations seek a more integrated global society, they must first gain control of the world markets, integrating the economies first. With economic integration, political and cultural will follow. The challenge for the great powers of the world is which ones will be dominant in this process, and thusly, which ones will have dominant control over the New World Order.

Out of conflict, comes societal reorganization. We seem to rapidly be heading toward another World War, which would have its starting point with an attack on Iran. Talk of a ‘new Cold War’ is misleading, as if any conflict occurs with Iran, if the US attacks the Islamic Republic, there will be nothing Cold about it. This new conflict, the fourth phase of the Great Game, will give rise to competition between the great powers for control over the Middle East and Central Eurasia in order to achieve hegemony in the New World Order. It is likely that a New Great Game will lead to a New World War, out of which will rise the New World Order. Whichever great powers come out of the next war as the victors, if indeed there are any, it is likely that it will be that power which will lead the New World Order.

As I have mentioned Zbigniew Brzezinski much in this essay, as his relevance to American hegemonic strategy is almost unparalleled, apart from other figures like Henry Kissinger, I feel it is relevant to end with a discussion on testimony that Brzezinski recently gave to the US Senate. In February of 2007, Brzezinski, “the national security adviser in the Carter administration, delivered a scathing critique of the war in Iraq and warned that the Bush administration’s policy was leading inevitably to a war with Iran, with incalculable consequences for US imperialism in the Middle East and internationally,” and Brzezinski was quoted as saying about the Iraq war, “Undertaken under false assumptions, it is undermining America’s global legitimacy. Its collateral civilian casualties as well as some abuses are tarnishing America’s moral credentials. Driven by Manichean principles and imperial hubris, it is intensifying regional instability,” and he continued, describing what he termed a “plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran”, of which he said would involve, “Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks, followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure, then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the US blamed on Iran, culminating in a ‘defensive’ US military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.” [Emphasis added].47

Brzezinski’s startling warning should not be taken for granted. Even though many factions of the ruling class are divided, for example someone like Brzezinski, who is very much opposed to the neo-conservatives, they are all still playing the same game. The game is hegemony and empire, the only difference is that some people and some countries have different methods of playing. In previous centuries, the battle for control of Central Eurasia was called what it was, the Great Game, a game for control, a game for power. The difference between two hundred years ago and today, is that we are in a much more globalized, integrated society, which has turned this Great game into, as Brzezinski aptly named his blueprint for American hegemony, the Grand Chessboard. It’s no longer simply just a great game, but is now simply a board game for the global ruling class. Sacrificing pawns, a simple act for them, can be seen in the eyes of the moral society as the destruction of entire nations and peoples.

There’s only so many players in this game, and they all have the same aim, just different methods of getting there. The unfortunate aspect of this, is that the people of the world are being tossed around like pawns in a chess game. The world is meant for all people, not just a select few, to inhabit and have a say in. So, if these people want to play games, let’s put them back in the playground, because their mentality has yet to surpass that of children during recess.

Mahatma Gandhi, the man who led India to independence from the British Empire, once said, “Remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall — think of it, ALWAYS.”

Notes

Andrew G. Marshall is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Andrew G. Marshall

see
Imperial Playground: Marching East of Iraq by Andrew G. Marshall

Imperial Playground: The Story of Iran in Recent History by Andrew G. Marshall

The New World Order, Forged in the Gulf by Andrew G. Marshall

Attacking Iran for Israel? By Ray McGovern

The CRG grants permission to cross-post original Global Research articles on community internet sites as long as the text & title are not modified. The source and the author’s copyright must be displayed. For publication of Global Research articles in print or other forms including commercial internet sites, contact: crgeditor@yahoo.com

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Imperial Playground: The Story of Iran in Recent History

October 5, 2007

Imperial Playground: The Story of Iran in Recent History

Global Research, October 4, 2007

 

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PART 1

      In recent months and even years, the United States and it’s close allies have been stepping up efforts to display Iran in a very negative light, labeling it as a terrorist nation bent on developing nuclear weapons to use against Israel and other allies of the United States in the Middle East, and possibly further outside of the region, or to deliver those nuclear weapons to the hands of terrorists hoping to use them against the United States and its allies.

      If a war takes place with Iran, orchestrated by Israel, the United States and other allies, then there will be a massive transformation of not only the Middle East as a whole, but the entire geo-political structure of the world. Simply stated, if a war on Iran occurs, everything changes. So, it is extremely important and necessary to analyze the process of building the case for a war with Iran, as well as the current stance of the Iranian government, the historical relationship between Iran and the West, namely the United States and Britain and how far along these war preparations have already come to the point where there is currently a “secret war” taking place within Iran’s borders being directed by the West, namely, the United States.

      As the United States is the sole superpower and empire in the world today, most commentators focus primarily just on relations between America and Iran to explain the current situation developing between the two countries, usually not going further back than just a few years, and as far back as the mainstream media will tell the story is to 1979, when Iran had a revolution, in which they threw out the Shah of Iran, who was backed by the Americans and British, and replaced that form of secular government with a religious one. However, as important as this event was between Iranian and American relations, it is important to go further back to truly understand the dynamic relations that the United Kingdom, and later, the United States (the Anglo-American alliance) have had with Iran. It is important to understand history so that we don’t repeat it. So, it is important to note that the United States only became a global superpower after World War 2, which left it the only major country in the world not devastated by the war. As the European and Asian countries lay in ruins, America built up its power and saw fit to expand its influence across the globe, for the first many decades in the guise of deterring the spread of Communism by the Soviet Union, the other great power in the world. However, in decades to come, the United States asserted itself an imperial status, and in 1989, at the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States was left as the sole superpower in the world, and saw fit to maintain that status. But before the Second World War, it was the United Kingdom, or Great Britain that was the predominant world power, having exerted its influence throughout the entire globe.

      It is during this period to which I will return to help identify the origins and causes of the current conflict between the Anglo-Americans (Britain and the United States), and Iran, as well as other great powers. Iran has often played the part of an imperial and hegemonic battleground between great nations and empires, and clearly, not much has changed.

Imperial Rumblings and the Road to World War

      As the old British colonial system began to collapse in the late 18th Century, notably with the American Revolutionary War against the British colonialists from 1775-1783, the necessity for a new system of empire was drastically needed. This opportunity arose in the early 19th Century, as William Engdahl put it in his book, A Century of War, in the year 1820, “Acting on the urgings of a powerful group of London shipping and banking interests centered around the Bank of England, and Alexander Baring of Baring Brothers merchant bankers, parliament passes a statement of principle in support of the concept advocated several decades earlier by Scottish economist Adam Smith: so-called ‘absolute free trade’.”1 He continued by explaining this concept; “If they [the British] dominated world trade, ‘free trade’ could only ensure that their dominance would grow at the expense of other less-developed trading nations.” Citing the commentary of American economist Henry C. Carey, considered to be very influential in shaping President Lincoln’s domestic economic policies Engdahl further noted that, “The class separations of British society were aggravated by a growing separation of a tiny number of very wealthy from the growing masses of very poor, as a lawful consequence of ‘free trade’.”2 Engdahl further commented, “Britain’s genius has been a chameleon-like ability to adapt that policy to a shifting international economic reality. But the core policy has remained – Adam Smith’s ‘absolute free trade,’ as a weapon against sovereign national economic policy of rival powers”, and that “at the end of the 19th Century, another debate arose regarding how exactly to maintain Britain’s empire which led to the formation of what was termed ‘Informal Empire’, allowing the dispersal of British funds around the world in an aim of creating financial dependence, on which Engdahl mused, “The notion of special economic relationships with ‘client states,’ the concept of ‘spheres of influence’ as well as that of ‘balance-of-power diplomacy,’ all came out of this complex weave of British ‘informal empire’ towards the end of the last century.”3

      However, in world politics at the time, the British Empire was not the sole imperial force in the world, as there were several other Empires across Europe and Asia, notably, the Russian and Ottoman Empires. Iran, in this era, was referred to as Persia, and in fact, there had been a few wars between Russia and Persia in the early part of the 19th Century. However, in the later half of the Century, the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire was in its decline. In 1875, an anti-Ottoman revolt began in its controlled territories of Bosnia and Herzegovina, of which has been said, “Indeed, the immediate cause for the 1875 revolt was the crop failure of the previous year and the unrelenting pressure of the tax farmers.”4 This area of Eurasia has been especially pertinent throughout the history of empires, as Zbigniew Brzezinski, the National Security Advisor in the Jimmy Carter administration has noted, as he was the man behind the US strategy of supporting the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in 1979, which drew in the Soviet Union, delivering to them “their Vietnam”, and ultimately leading to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and thusly, the multi-polar world.5 Brzezinski, in his 1997 book, The Grand Chessboard, which outlines a blueprint for the global strategy that should be taken by the United States as the world’s sole superpower, in which he states, “Ever since the continents started interacting politically, some five hundred years ago, Eurasia has been the center of world power.”6  So, “[t]he spreading of the war in the Balkans increased the complexity of the problem facing the great powers. No longer was it merely a question of arranging a satisfactory settlement in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Now Serbia and Montenegro were belligerents, while in Bulgaria the large-scale atrocities had so aroused European public opinion that the restoration of Turkish rule no longer was feasible. The English were particularly sensitive to the “Bulgarian Horrors” because they had fought the Crimean War to preserve the Ottoman Empire.”7 Further, “The remainder of the year 1876 was characterized by intense diplomatic activity. The most important consequences were the Reichstadt Agreement reached by Russia and Austria on July 8, the Russian ultimatum to Turkey which resulted in an armistice on October 31, and the international conference held in Constantinople in December, 1876, and January, 1877,” and then “Finally, on April 24, 1877, after nearly two years of futile negotiations, Russia declared war upon Turkey.” One year later, in 1878, the Ottoman Empire lost the war against Russia.

      It was at this time, as Engdahl points out, “British banking and political elites had begun to express first signs of alarm over two specific aspects of the impressive industrial development in Germany”, and that, “The first was the emergence of an independent, modern German merchant and military naval fleet,” and “The second strategic alarm was sounded over an ambitious German project to construct a railway linking Berlin with, ultimately, Baghdad, then part of the Ottoman Empire.”8 Engdahl further pointed out that, “In both areas, the naval challenge and the construction of a rail infrastructure linking Berlin to the Persian Gulf, oil figured as a decisive, if still hidden, motive for both the British and German sides.” On top of this, “Russia’s oil fields, including those in Baku, were challenging Standard Oil’s supremacy in Europe. Russia’s ascendancy in natural resources disrupted the strategic balance of power in Europe and troubled Britain.”9 Standard Oil was of course the American oil monopoly controlled by the Rockefeller family, which was later broken up into successive companies which have changed names over the years and merged with other large multinational oil companies, so that today the spawn of Standard Oil’s empire now is with ExxonMobil, the largest oil corporation in the world, Esso, which merged with Exxon, Chevron, Amoco, which merged with British Petroleum, Marathon Oil and ConocoPhillips.

      So, there were significant Anglo-American and European interests in Persian and Middle Eastern oil, which were being threatened by Russia, not to mention each other, and further, “The first to try to establish a Middle East oil industry was Baron Julius de Reuter, founder of Reuters News Service. He approached the shah of Iran in 1872. Reuter secured a notorious ‘exclusive concession’ to develop a railroad, plus all riparian mining and mineral rights in the country, including oil, for the next 70 years.” However, this deal broke down due to frustrations with the shah, “and the London investment market quickly dismissed Persia as a completely unreliable kingdom for investment.” But with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, “Some capitals wanted to dominate the soon-to-be dismantled territories as their own spheres of interest. Some merely wanted to prevent others from doing so. A few wanted to see new, friendly nations emerge in the aftermath of Turkey’s disintegration.” As it was further pointed out in Edwin Black’s book, Banking on Baghdad, “as the nineteenth century drew to a close, Turkish Mesopotamia and indeed the entire extended Middle East suddenly catapulted in importance – especially to England,” and he further explained, “as the twentieth century opened for business, the world needed much more oil. Petroleum was no longer just to illuminate lanterns, boil stew, and lubricate moving parts. Modern armies and navies demanded vast new supplies of fuel and petroleum by-producers.”10

      Edwin Black noted in his book that, “As England’s fleet needed oil, the prospects for finding it were troubling. Baku’s [Russia’s] petroleum industry was certainly expanding and by century’s end represented more than half the world’s supply. It had already surpassed even Standard Oil, which was suffering under legal restraints and now controlled only 43 percent of the world market. Russian oil was dominant in Europe. Royal Dutch Shell – still majority Dutch-owned- was also emerging. Germany had secured control over the vast fields of Romania. But Britain’s new source of supply could not be controlled by any potential adversaries, such as Russia, expanding into eastern Europe, Germany, threatening to sever the British Empire, or Holland, which even then was fighting the bloody Boer War with England in South Africa,” and Black continues, “The most logical candidate for new supply was, of course, the Persian Gulf. Britain could have chosen the United States or Mexico or Poland as a trusted new supplier. But Persia had been within the sphere of British influence since the days of the East India Company. Persia was halfway to India. Persia it was.”11 So, the British had their eyes set on Persia, and “In 1900, Australian mining entrepreneur William D’Arcy heard of the opportunity and stepped forward to take the risk. D’Arcy’s own representative had suggested to the Persians that ‘an industry may be developed that will compete with that of Baku.’ After paying several thousand pounds to all the right go-betweens, D’Arcy secured a powerful and seemingly safe concession.” In 1908, at the discovery of vast oil reserves in Persia, “a new corporation named the Anglo-Persian Oil Company was created. Excitement on London’s financial markets could barely be contained. All available shares were purchased within 30 minutes. Britain was now assured of an abundant supply of Mideast Petroleum.”12

      Shortly before this took place, “In 1889, a group of German industrialists and bankers, led by Deutsche Bank, secured a concession from the Ottoman government to build a railway through Anatolia from the capitol, Constantinople. This accord was expanded ten years later, in 1899, when the Ottoman government gave the German group approval for the next stage of what became known as the Berlin-Baghdad railway project,”13 and this was not taken lightly by other powers as, “This railroad line was not seen by the European powers as a mere industrial improvement battering transportation in the region, but also as a profound German military threat and oil asset – a land check to England’s naval supremacy.”14 At this time, a senior British military adviser to the Serbian army, R.G.D. Laffan, stated, “A glance at the map of the world will show how the chain of States stretched from Berlin to Baghdad. The German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Bulgaria, Turkey. One little strip of territory alone blocked the way and prevented the two ends of the chain from being linked together. That little strip was Serbia [. . . ] Serbia was really the first line of defense of our eastern possessions. If she were crushed or enticed into the ‘Berlin-Baghdad’ system, then our vast but slightly defended empire would soon have felt the shock of Germany’s eastward thrust.”15 Of this, Engdahl commented, “Thus it is not surprising to find enormous unrest and wars throughout the Balkans in the decade before 1914,” and that “Conveniently enough, the conflict and wars helped weaken the Berlin-Constantinople alliance, and especially the completion of the Berlin-Baghdad rail link.”16

      During this time, especially in the beginning of the 20th Century, Britain saw Germany as its greatest imperial threat. “By 1914, Germany’s fleet had risen to second place, just behind Britain’s and gaining rapidly.”17 Further, “Britain sought with every device known, to delay and obstruct progress of the railway, while always holding out the hope of ultimate agreement to keep the German side off balance. This game lasted until the outbreak of war in August 1914.”18 With this rising German threat to British hegemony in the Gulf region, “Many in the British establishment had determined well before 1914 that war was the only course suitable to bring the European situation under control. British interests dictated, according to her balance-of-power logic, a shift from the traditional ‘pro-Ottoman and anti-Russian’ alliance strategy of the nineteenth century, to a ‘pro-Russian and anti-German’ alliance strategy.”19 Following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, in Bosnia, Austria declared war on Serbia, with the backing of Germany, and Russia mobilized to support Serbia. A few days later, Britain declared war on Germany, and the First World War broke out.

      In the lead up to this period, much more developments were taking place with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (APOC). Anglo-Persian, still a new company in the petroleum business, was not as well organized and did not yet have the global reach that its main competitors, Standard Oil and Royal Dutch Shell, had. As the British were eyeing far-off foreign oil fields, they began to lean towards favoring the Shell Company, as it was already by this time far-reaching. So a project was undertaken with the aim of remaking Shell in a British fashion, which at that time, was still under the control of the Dutch. As Anglo-Persian noticed the British governments move towards Shell, they saw their presence in Persia soon being phased out, so they attempted to reform themselves, “So Anglo-Persian purchased an existing network. The Europaische Petroleum Union (EPU) was an amalgam of continental oil distribution arms, mainly controlled by German concerns. EPU owned an operating subsidiary in Britain. The subsidiary controlled both an international oil shipping division, the Petroleum Steamship Company, and a domestic consumer sales agency, the Homelight Oil Company. [ . . . ] The EPU subsidiary’s name was British Petroleum Company, with its first name descriptive only of its operating territory, not its true ownership, which was mainly German.”20 After World War 1 began, British Petroleum was seized by the British government for being ‘enemy property,’ and in 1917 Anglo-Persian bought the seized property from the British government, thus making British Petroleum distinctly British.

      An agreement was signed in 1916, named the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which was “a secret tripartite collection of letters, complete with colored maps, agreeing to carve up the Mideast after the war. Baghdad and Basra [Middle and Lower Iraq] were decreed British spheres of influence, while oil-rich Mosul and Syria would be French, with Russia exercising a privilege over its frontiers with Persia.”21 As Black noted in his book, “The India Office in London expressed the thinking succinctly in a telegram to Charles Hardinge, the British viceroy of India: ‘What we want is not a United Arabia: but a weak and disunited Arabia, split up into little principalities so far as possible under our suzerainty [authority] – but incapable of coordinated action against us, forming a buffer against the Powers in the West’.”22 The British were the most adamant about maintaining control in the region, as “After 1918, Britain continued to maintain almost a million soldiers stationed throughout the Middle East. The Persian Gulf had become a ‘British Lake’ by 1919.”23

A British Vision for World Order and the Road to Another World War

      After World War 1, and with the signing of the Versailles Treaty in 1919, Britain saw to maintain its grasp of the vast oil reserves of the Middle East, “The ink on the Versailles treaty had barely dried when the powerful American oil interests of the Rockefeller Standard Oil companies realized they had been skillfully cut out of the spoils of war by their British alliance partners. The newly carved Middle East boundaries, as well as the markets of postwar Europe, were dominated by British government interests through Britain’s covert ownership of Royal Dutch Shell and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company [British Petroleum].”24 In fact, the make-up of Royal Dutch Shell was comprised between two parent companies, “Royal Dutch in the Netherlands, controlling 60 percent, and Shell Transport in the United Kingdom, controlling 40 percent.”25

      å In 1920, the San Remo agreement was signed in which “the French and British had divided up the Middle East for its oil.”26 In March of 1921, a large meeting took place with many top British experts in Near East affairs, which convened in Cairo, Egypt. The meeting’s purpose was to outline the political divisions in Britain’s newly obtained territories, and it was headed by Britain’s secretary of state for colonial affairs, Winston Churchill, and included the participation of T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia). It was at this meeting that it was decided that “Mesopotamia was renamed Iraq and given to the son of Hashemite Hussain ibn Ali of Mecca [Saudi Arabia], Feisal bin Hussain. British Royal Air Force aircraft were permanently based in Iraq and its administration was placed under the effective control of Anglo-Persian Oil Company officials,” and by this time, the British citizen in control of Royal Dutch Shell, Henry Deterding, through the company, “had an iron grip on the vast oil concessions of the Dutch East Indies, on Persia, Mesopotamia (Iraq) and most of the postwar Middle East.”27

      Spending the next years under the auspices of British control, the rest of the world, namely Europe, went through drastic changes. As the Soviet Union grew in power, so too did another European country, Germany. In 1933, Hitler and the Nazi party came to power and in 1939, invaded Poland, igniting World War 2. In 1940, Hitler had to make a choice about strategy against the British, and as William Shirer stated in book The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, “There was of course another alternative open to the Germans. They might bring Britain down by striking across the Mediterranean with their Italian ally, taking Gibraltar at its western opening and in the east driving on from Italy’s bases in North Africa through Egypt and over the canal to Iran, severing one of the Empire’s main life lines.”28 This strategy was corroborated by Black, who stated, “All attention now focused on where Hitler could find the extra fuel he needed: on the gargantuan oil fields of Iraq and Iran. A 1941 War Cabinet strategy report concluded, ‘Oil is, of course, Germany’s main economic objective both in Iraq and Iran (Persia).”29

      Hitler pursued a strategy of supporting the self-determination and nationalism of the Arab and Middle Eastern countries in order to gain their favour, and he did so by supporting the Palestinians, which set the pace for all other conflicts in the region. (What else is new?) Members of the Reich began holding meetings with senior Iraqi leaders. The Nazi strategy in the region reflected the strategy by the British years earlier, with Lawrence of Arabia, who led Arab nations in fighting against the Ottomans in the name of their autonomy. Now, Hitler was supporting this same idea, to gain access to Mideast oil for its war effort, “Nonetheless, der Fuhrer still viewed Arab nationalism as a mere means to an end, that is, as a stepping-stone to the Nazi conquest and domination of the entire Middle East.”30 On April 3, 1941, a coup d’état occurred in Iraq, in which pro-Hitler forces took power, and “almost simultaneously, neighboring Syria, the anticipated gateway for the Nazi invasion, exploded with Reich propaganda, supported by Gestapo agents and specially trained Arab Nazis.”31 It was further pointed out that, “The coup in Baghdad threatened British interests for at least three reasons: it severed the vital air link, and a supplemental land route, between India and Egypt. It endangered the vital oil supply from the northern Iraq oilfields upon which British defense of the Mediterranean depended. Finally, an Arab nationalist success in Iraq could prove contagious and subvert Britain’s tenuous political position in Egypt and Palestine.”32 The new Iraqi government attempted to attack British forces at an airfield in Habbaniya, but engaged in a battle they were unable to win, “By mid-May 1941, the British had occupied Basra [Southern Iraq] thereby asserting their rights under the 1930 treaty, lifted the siege of Habbaniya and at least temporarily forestalled Axis intervention.” As the British neared Iraq, the leader of the Iraqi pro-Arab nationalist government fled to Persia, and Britain retook Iraq.

      T.E. Lawrence in 1941, wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, which stated, “The people of England have been led in Iraq into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiqués are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows. It is a disgrace to our record, and may soon be too inflamed for any ordinary cure. We are today not far from disaster.” The response from Prime Minister Winston Churchill was, “You do not need to bother too much about the long term future in Iraq. Your immediate task is to get a friendly Government set up in Baghdad.”33

      In August of 1941, Germany invaded Russia, and the pre-World War 1 British strategy of being ‘pro-Russia’ and ‘anti-German’ again ensued. Through the Lend-Lease program, America was sending in supplies through Persia (Iran), into Russia to help with the war effort against Nazi Germany. However, “While officially neutral, Persia had friendly ties with Germany and was home to many German nationals. [The Iranian King] Reza Shah Pahlavi’s refusal to expel the German nationals, coupled with their more strategic concerns, prompted an Anglo-Soviet invasion in August 1941.”34 The British invaded Persia from their bases in Iraq, invading the South of Iran, and the Russians invaded from the North. The Shah who was in power at the time was, after a speedy overthrow of Iran by British and Russian tanks and infantry, exiled to South Africa, and “The British and Soviet troops met in Tehran [the Iranian capital] on 17 September and effectively divided the country between them for the rest of the war. A Tri-Partite Treaty of Alliance between Britain, Russia and Persia, signed in January 1942, committed the Allies to leaving Persia at the end of the war.”

      The British and Russians made the former Shah’s son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the new Shah of Iran, with a pro-Western view. After the end of World War 2, the West’s (namely the Anglo-American) enemy was now the Soviet Union, their former Ally against Hitler. At the end of World War 2, the United States had the upper-hand of all the great powers of the world, as it suffered little damage compared to the European and Asian countries, so it was necessary for Britain to maintain a strong alliance with America if it wanted to maintain its global reach. It was no longer the era after WW1, where Britain was able to push aside US interest in the Middle East and elsewhere, now, they had to be allied interests, in an Anglo-American alliance. Iran had never decreased in strategic importance, both for its oil, and for its position in relation to the Soviet Union, being directly below it. According to the agreement signed between Britain, the Soviet Union and Iran during the war, the Anglo-Russian forces were to leave in a period of 6 months after the end of the war. America was closely watching the relations between the Soviet Union and Iran post-war, “Another indication of Soviet intentions was Moscow’s support of independence and autonomy movements in northern Iran.”35 Soviet leader Josef Stalin began grandstanding, speaking for autonomy for certain nations, which was taken by the West as an inclination toward Soviet expansion. Clearly, the USSR and Stalin were pursuing similar strategies in Persia that England was pursuing at the end of the First World War in the area east of Persia, of creating a ‘weak and disunited’ region, making it easier to be dominated by great powers. Further, “Moscow radio broadcasts criticized Anglo-Iranian Oil Company concessions in Khuzestan [Western Iranian province] and accused British authorities of obstructing the Tudeh-dominated trade union.” Soviet supported autonomy in Azerbaijan [North of Persia] was backfiring, and eventually Iranians moved toward a more pro-American stance.

The Anglo-American Alliance vs. Democracy

      In the early 1950s, Mohammed Mossadeq was elected to the Iranian Parliament, and as leader of the Nationalists, and was subsequently appointed by the Shah as Prime Minister of Iran in 1951. In 1953, “the CIA and the British SIS orchestrated a coup d’etat that toppled the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh. The prime minister and his nationalist supporters in parliament roused Britain’s ire when they nationalised the oil industry in 1951, which had previously been exclusively controlled by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company [British Petroleum]. Mossadegh argued that Iran should begin profiting from its vast oil reserves.”36 The Anglo-Persian Oil Company had changed its name to Anglo-Iranian Oil in 1935, but was still an arm of British imperialism, so when Mossadeq made the suggestion of nationalizing Iranian oil for the Iranians, he committed the ultimate sin in the eyes of the international imperialist powers, and threatened their control over the supplies of Iranian oil, so in their eyes, he had to go. Thus, “Britain accused him [Mossadeq] of violating the company’s legal rights and orchestrated a worldwide boycott of Iran’s oil that plunged the country into financial crisis. The British government tried to enlist the Americans in planning a coup, an idea originally rebuffed by President Truman. But when Dwight Eisenhower took over the White House, cold war ideologues – determined to prevent the possibility of a Soviet takeover – ordered the CIA to embark on its first covert operation against a foreign government.” The Guardian newspaper went on to report that, “A new book about the coup, All the Shah’s Men, which is based on recently released CIA documents, describes how the CIA – with British assistance – undermined Mossadegh’s government by bribing influential figures, planting false reports in newspapers and provoking street violence. Led by an agent named Kermit Roosevelt, the grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, the CIA leaned on a young, insecure Shah to issue a decree dismissing Mossadegh as prime minister. By the end of Operation Ajax, some 300 people had died in firefights in the streets of Tehran.” After the violent overthrow of a democratic government, who did the Brits and Americans rely on to take back the government for their strategic interests? Well, the answer is simple, the same person they relied upon to hold it for them when they invaded in 1941, the Shah of Iran, whose father was deposed and exiled in the 1941 invasion, and as the Guardian noted, “The crushing of Iran’s first democratic government ushered in more than two decades of dictatorship under the Shah, who relied heavily on US aid and arms.”

      As the National Security Archives note, “On the morning of August 19, 1953, a crowd of demonstrators operating at the direction of pro-Shah organizers with ties to the CIA made its way from the bazaars of southern Tehran to the center of the city. Joined by military and police forces equipped with tanks, they sacked offices and newspapers aligned with Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq and his advisers, as well as the communist Tudeh Party and others opposed to the monarch. By early afternoon, clashes with Mosaddeq supporters were taking place, the fiercest occurring in front of the prime minister’s home. Reportedly 200 people were killed in that battle before Mosaddeq escaped over his own roof, only to surrender the following day.”37 Further, it was reported that, “The CIA, with help from British intelligence, planned, funded and implemented the operation. When the plot threatened to fall apart entirely at an early point, U.S. agents on the ground took the initiative to jump-start the operation, adapted the plans to fit the new circumstances, and pressed their Iranian collaborators to keep going. Moreover, a British-led oil boycott, supported by the United States, plus a wide range of ongoing political pressures by both governments against Mosaddeq, culminating in a massive covert propaganda campaign in the months leading up to the coup helped create the environment necessary for success.” This is very reminiscent of what was done during the 1941 coup in Iraq, where a pro-German group came to power, simultaneously with a massive Nazi propaganda campaign being unleashed in neighboring Syria. It continued, “However, Iranians also contributed in many ways. Among the Iranians involved were the Shah, Zahedi and several non-official figures who worked closely with the American and British intelligence services. Their roles in the coup were clearly vital, but so also were the activities of various political groups – in particular members of the National Front who split with Mosaddeq by early 1953, and the Tudeh party – in critically undermining Mosaddeq’s base of support.”

      The New York Times ran a special story examining the recently released documents pertaining to the CIA/MI6 (SIS) coup in 1953, in which they state, “Britain, fearful of Iran’s plans to nationalize its oil industry, came up with the idea for the coup in 1952 and pressed the United States to mount a joint operation to remove the prime minister,” and that, “The C.I.A. and S.I.S., the British intelligence service, handpicked Gen. Fazlollah Zahedi to succeed Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and covertly funneled $5 million to General Zahedi’s regime two days after the coup prevailed.”38 It further revealed that, “Iranians working for the C.I.A. and posing as Communists harassed religious leaders and staged the bombing of one cleric’s home in a campaign to turn the country’s Islamic religious community against Mossadegh’s government.” Here, we see a clear example of the Anglo-Americans using covert intelligence agents to incite violence and even commit acts of terrorism.

      In an interview with Amy Goodman, of the Democracy Now! radio program, Stephen Kinzer, author of the book, All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup And The Roots of Middle East Terror, was discussing the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, of which he said, “So the Iranian oil is actually what maintained Britain at its level of prosperity and its level of military preparedness all throughout the ’30s, the ’40s, and the ’50s. Meanwhile, Iranians were getting a pittance, they were getting almost nothing from the oil that came out of their own soil. Naturally, as nationalist ideas began to spread through the world in the post-World War II era, this injustice came to grate more and more intensely on the Iranian people. So they carried Mossadegh to power very enthusiastically. On the day he was elected prime minister, Parliament also agreed unanimously to proceed with the nationalization of the oil company. And the British responded as you would imagine. Their first response was disbelief. They just couldn’t believe that someone in some weird faraway country–which was the way they perceived Iran–would stand up and challenge such an important monopoly. This was actually the largest company in the entire British Empire.”39 And as it was pointed out, Anglo-Iranian Oil later changed its name to the corporation we know today as British Petroleum, or BP, one of the three largest oil corporations in the world, after ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell. Further, “The crushing of Iran’s first democratic government ushered in more than two decades of dictatorship under the Shah, who relied heavily on US aid and arms.”

      Clearly, Royal Dutch Shell also had interests related to Iran, as William Engdahl explained in his book, in the lead up to the conflict between the Anglo-Americans and Iran, in which Mossadegh began the process of nationalization of oil, “Mossadegh went to Washington in a vain effort to enlist American help for his country’s position. The major political blunder made by Mossadegh was his lack of appreciation of the iron-clad cartel relationship of Anglo-American interests around the vital issue of strategic petroleum control. U.S. ‘mediator’ W. Averill Harriman had gone to Iran, accompanied by a delegation packed with people tied to Big Oil interests, including State Department economist Walter Levy. Harriman recommended that Iran accept the British ‘offer.’ When Mossadegh went to Washington, the only suggestion he heard from the State Department was to appoint Royal Dutch Shell as Iran’s management company.”40 Engdahl continues, “Britain’s Secret Intelligence Services [MI6] had convinced the CIA’s Allen Dulles and his brother, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, who then convinced Eisenhower, that the overthrow of Mossadegh was indispensable.”41

      Under the imposed dictatorship of the Shah, a new agency named the SAVAK was created, “Formed under the guidance of United States and Israeli intelligence officers in 1957, SAVAK developed into an effective secret agency,”42 which was responsible for torturing political dissidents, assassinations and jailing thousands of political prisoners. The SAVAK’s brutality and actions became synonymous with the Shah’s reign, itself, as they were his secret police.

Bilderberg and the OPEC War

      On October 6, 1973, the Yom Kippur War broke out in the Middle East, in which Egypt and Syria invaded Israel. However, there is much about this war that is not commonly known. The supposed “hero” that came out of this war was Henry Kissinger, but in reality, he was anything but. William Engdahl’s account of the Yom Kippur War and the subsequent ‘oil shock’, was described by the former Oil Minister of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Zaki Yamani, as being “the only accurate account I have seen of what really happened with the price of oil in 1973,” as written on the back of his book, A Century of War. As Engdahl states, “The entire constellation of events surrounding the outbreak of the October War was secretly orchestrated by Washington and London, using the powerful secret diplomatic channels developed by Nixon’s national security adviser, Henry Kissinger.”43 It continues, “Kissinger effectively controlled the Israeli policy response through his intimate relation with Israel’s Washington ambassador, Simcha Dinitz. In addition, Kissinger cultivated channels to the Egyptian and Syrian side. His method was simply to misrepresent to each party the critical elements of the other, ensuring the war and its subsequent Arab oil embargo.”

      As John Loftus, former prosecutor with the U.S Justice Department’s Nazi-hunting unit, who had received unprecedented access to top-secret CIA and NATO archives, pointed out in his book, The Secret War Against the Jews: How Western Espionage Betrayed the Jewish People, that, “As one source admitted, Nixon’s staff had at least two days’ advance warning that an attack was coming on October 6,” and that no one warned Israel until the morning of the attack.44 It continued, “Whatever the motive, during September and October 1973 the Nixon White House turned a blind eye toward [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat’s plans for a consolidated sneak attack against the Jews. Not one word of the NSA’s [National Security Agency’s] information leaked out until the morning of the attack.” Further, it was revealed that, “A few hours before the invasion, the White House belatedly alterted Tel Aviv [Israel] that the nation was in deep trouble. An attack was coming on both fronts, but the White House insisted that the Israelis do nothing: no preemptive strikes, no firing the first shot. If Israel wanted American support, Kissinger warned, it could not even begin to mobilize until the Arabs invaded.”45 Engdahl further pointed out, “The war and its aftermath, Kissinger’s infamous ‘shuttle diplomacy,’ were scripted in Washington along the precise lines of the Bilderberg [secretive international economic think tank] deliberations in Saltsjobaden the previous May, some six months before the outbreak of the war. Arab oil-producing nations were to be the scapegoats for the coming rage of the world, while the Anglo-American interests responsible stood quietly in the background.”46 John Loftus further explained, “A number of intelligence sources we interviewed about the Yom Kippur War, including several Israelis, insist that Kissinger had set up the Jews. He sat on the NSA’s information, disappeared on the day of the invasion, and waited three days before convening the Security Council at the UN.”47 Recent revelations have revealed that “Newly released documents show that former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger delayed telling President Richard Nixon about the start of the Yom Kippur War in 1973 to keep him from interfering,” and that “after Egypt and Syria attacked Israel on October 6, 1973, the Israelis informed Kissinger at 6 a.m., about 3 and a half hours passed before he spoke to Nixon.”48

      As Engdahl pointed out, Germany attempted to maintain neutrality in the conflict, and refused the United States to ship weapons to Israel through Germany, so that Germany itself, could avoid the repercussions of the oil embargo placed by the Arab oil-producing countries on those who supported Israel in the war, in which the OPEC countries [Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries] raised the price of oil by 400%. However, the US refused to allow Germany to be neutral in the Middle East conflict, “But significantly, Britain was allowed to clearly state its neutrality, thus avoiding the impact of the Arab oil embargo. Once again, London had skillfully maneuvered itself around an international crisis that it had been instrumental in precipitating.” Then, Engdahl mentions how, “One enormous consequence of the ensuing 400 percent rise in OPEC oil prices was that investments of hundreds of millions of dollars by British Petroleum [formerly Anglo-Iranian Oil], Royal Dutch Shell and other Anglo-American petroleum concerns in the risky North Sea could produce oil at a profit. It is a curious fact that the profitability of these new North Sea oilfields was not at all secure until after the OPEC price rises. Of course, this might have only been a fortuitous coincidence.”49

      It is also highly ‘coincidental’ to notice that at the 1973 Bilderberg meeting, at which Engdahl describes this plan as being formulated, American participants included, other than Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the author of The Grand Chessboard, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser and architect of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan through funding the Afghan Mujahideen (later to be known as Al-Qaeda), E.G. Collado, the Vice President of Exxon Corp. at the time, as well as Walter Levy, an oil consultant who was also among the American delegation that visited Iran in the lead-up to the 1953 coup, George Ball, ex-deputy secretary of state, from the Netherlands there was Gerrit A. Wagner, the President of Royal Dutch Shell, the Chairman of the Bilderberg meeting was Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, who was married to Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, the principal shareholder of Royal Dutch Shell (isn’t called ‘Royal Dutch’ for nothin’), and from Great Britain, Sir Eric Drake, the Chairman of British Petroleum and Sir Denis Greenhill, a director of British Petroleum.50 Although, again, I’m sure it was all just a coincidence, because these particular oil companies and the vast and powerful interests behind them would never be involved in any nefarious activities, unless of course you include coups, imperialism and war.

      As Engdahl further elaborates, the White House attempted to send an official to the U.S Treasury with the aim of getting OPEC to lower the price of oil, however, “he was bluntly turned away. In a memo, the official stated, ‘It was the banking leaders who swept aside this advice and pressed for a “recycling” program to accommodate higher oil prices,” and so the Treasury established a secret deal with the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), which was put in place and finalized by Henry Kissinger, and “Under the terms of agreement, a sizeable part of the huge new Saudi oil revenue windfall was to be invested in financing the U.S government deficits. A young Wall Street investment banker with the leading London-based Eurobond firm of White Weld & Co., David Mulford, was sent to Saudi Arabia to become the principal ‘investment adviser’ to SAMA; he was to guide the Saudi petrodollar investments to the correct banks, naturally in London and New York. The Bilderberg scheme was operating just as planned.”51

      Engdahl further points out that, “Following a meeting in Teheran [Iran] on January 1, 1974, a second price increase of more than 100 percent brought OPEC benchmark oil prices to $11.65. This was done on the surprising demand of the Shah of Iran, who had been secretly put up to it by Henry Kissinger. Only months earlier, the Shah had opposed the OPEC increase to $3.01 for fear that this would force Western exporters to charge more for the industrial equipment the Shah sought to import for Iran’s ambitious industrialization.”52

Enter The Peanut Farmer, the Trilateralists and Brzezinski’s Arc of Crisis

      After the Nixon and Ford administrations, both in which Henry Kissinger played a part of great influence, came the Jimmy Carter administration. However, what most people do not know is that this administration was largely dominated by a group of people who were all members of the Trilateral Commission, another secretive international think tank institution, often considered to be the sister group of Bilderberg. In fact, it was founded in 1973 by Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was present at the 1973 Bilderberg meeting, and influential banker David Rockefeller, who was also a founding member of the Bilderberg Group, and “The Commission’s purpose is to engineer an enduring partnership among the ruling classes of North America, Western Europe and Japan.”53 It was also said that, “Trilateralists cautioned that ‘in many cases, the support for human rights will have to be balanced against other important goals of world order’.”54 Much of the membership of the Trilateral Commission overlaps with that of Bilderberg, besides individuals such as Zbigniew Brzezinski and David Rockefeller, were George Ball and Henry Kissinger, and other Trilateral Commission members included George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.55 As the Trilateral Commission was being formed in 1973, Brzezinski and a few others chose to invite a man by the name of Jimmy Carter to join, who accepted and became an active member of the Commission, attending all their meetings,56 and when Jimmy Carter became President in 1977, he appointed 25 other members of the Trilateral Commission into his administration, including his National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.57

      In the 70s, the Shah of Iran, which was at the time a secular [non-religious] nation, was stepping up the process of industrializing the country of Iran. At this time, Europe, especially at the behest of Germany and France, was pursuing greater cooperation and integration, and in doing so, created the European Monetary System (EMS), under which the nine European Community member states made the decision to have their central banks work together to align their currencies to one another. This would allow for greater competition between the Anglo-American dominated ‘petrodollar monetary system’ and the rising European Community, which was still feeling the effects of the OPEC oil shock. Part of the agreement between Germany and France was to develop an agreement with OPEC countries in the Middle East to exchange high-technology and equipment for a stable-priced oil supply. The Anglo-Americans saw this as a threat to their hegemony over the oil market, and so, “Carter had unsuccessfully sought to persuade the Schmidt [German] government, under the Carter administration’s new Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act, to abandon export of virtually all nuclear technology to the developing sector, [underdeveloped countries, i.e. Iran] on the false argument that peaceful nuclear plant technology threatened to proliferate nuclear weapons, an argument which uniquely stood to enhance the strategic position of the Anglo-American petroleum-based financial establishment.”58 This effort to persuade Germany was to no avail, so the Anglo-Americans had to pursue a more drastic policy change.

      This policy formed when, “In November 1978, President Carter named the Bilderberg group’s George Ball, another member of the Trilateral Commission, to head a special White House Iran task force under the National Security Council’s Brzezinski. Ball recommended that Washington drop support for the Shah of Iran and support the fundamentalist Islamic opposition of Ayatollah Khomeni. Robert Bowie from the CIA was one of the lead ‘case officers’ in the new CIA-led coup against the man their covert actions had placed into power 25 years earlier.”59 This is further corroborated by author and journalist, Webster Tarpley in his book, George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography, in which he stated, “Carter and Brzezinski had deliberately toppled the Shah of Iran, and deliberately installed [Ayatollah] Khomeni in power. This was an integral part of Brzezinski’s ‘arc of crisis’ geopolitical lunacy, another made-in-London artifact which called for the US to support the rise of Khomeni, and his personal brand of fanaticism, a militant heresy within Islam. U.S. arms deliveries were made to Iran during the time of the Shah; during the short-lived Shahpour Bakhtiar government at the end of the Shah’s reign; and continuously after the advent of Khomeni.”60 The Defense and Foreign Affairs Daily reported in their March 2004 edition that, “In 1978 while the West was deciding to remove His Majesty Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi from the throne, [Ayatollah] Shariatmadari was telling anyone who would listen not to allow ‘Ayatollah’ Ruhollah Khomeini and his velayat faghih (Islamic jurist) version of Islam to be allowed to govern Iran. Ayatollah Shariatmadari noted: ‘We mullahs will behave like bickering whores in a brothel if we come to power … and we have no experience on how to run a modern nation so we will destroy Iran and lose all that has been achieved at such great cost and effort’.”61 This was exactly the point of putting them in power, as it would destabilize an industrializing country, and as William Engdahl further pointed out, “Their scheme was based on a detailed study of the phenomenon of Islamic fundamentalism, as presented by British Islamic expert, Dr. Bernard Lewis, then on assignment at Princeton University in the United States. Lewis’ scheme, which was unveiled at the May 1979 Bilderberg meeting in Austria, endorsed the radical Muslim Brotherhood movement behind Khomeni, in order to promote balkanization of the entire Muslim Near East along tribal and religious lines. Lewis argued that the West should encourage autonomous groups such as the Kurds, Armenians, Lebanese Maronites, Ethiopian Copts, Azerbaijani Turks, and so forth. The chaos would spread in what he termed an ‘Arc of Crisis,’ which would spill over into the Muslim regions of the Soviet Union.”62

      Bernard Lewis’ concept was also discussed in a 1979 article in Foreign Affairs, the highly influential seasonal journal of international relations put forward by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the pre-eminent policy think tank in the United States, whose leadership and many members also share membership with the Trilateral Commission and Bilderberg Group. The article stated, “The ‘arc of crisis’ has been defined as an area stretching from the Indian subcontinent in the east to the Horn of Africa in the west. The Middle East constitutes its central core. Its strategic position is unequalled: it is the last major region of the Free World directly adjacent to the Soviet Union, it holds in its subsoil about three-fourths of the proven and estimated world oil reserves, and it is the locus [central point] of one of the most intractable conflicts of the twentieth century: that of Zionism versus Arab nationalism. Moreover, national, economic and territorial conflicts are aggravated by the intrusion of religious passions in an area which was the birthplace of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and by the exposure, in the twentieth century, to two competing appeals of secular modernization: Western and communist,” and further stated, “Against the background of these basic facts, postwar American policy in the Middle East has focused on three major challenges: security of the area as against Soviet threats to its integrity and independence, fair and peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and safe access to its oil.”63

      In May of 2006, US Vice President Dick Cheney was making some remarks at the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia Luncheon in honor of Bernard Lewis, the conceptualist behind the ‘arc of crisis’ strategy, at which he stated, “I’m delighted, as always, to see Henry [Kissinger]. He’s a frequent visitor to the White House. He was among those who joined us a couple of weeks ago in hosting a lunch for President Hu Jintao of China. And as Henry mentioned, he and I go back a long ways to the Ford Administration, when he was Secretary of State and I was White House Chief of Staff — the old days, when I had real power. (Laughter.) But Henry and I remain close friends,” and he continued, “Henry and I share an appreciation for history, and I know he would agree, as I do, with a very astute observer who once said that history ‘is the collective memory, the guiding experience of human society, and we still badly need that guidance.’ Those are the words of Dr. Bernard Lewis, a man who first studied the Middle East some 70 years ago.” Then, Cheney went on to say, “I had the pleasure of first meeting Bernard more than 15 years ago, during my time as [George HW Bush’s] Secretary of Defense […] Since then we have met often, particularly during the last four-and-a-half years, and Bernard has always had some very good meetings with President Bush.”64

      William Engdahl continued in his examination of the 1979 revolution/coup in Iran, of which he said, “The coup against the Shah, like that against Mossadeq in 1953, was run by British and American intelligence, with the bombastic American, Brzezinski, taking public ‘credit’ for getting rid of the ‘corrupt’ Shah, while the British characteristically remained in the background. During 1978, negotiations were under way between the Shah’s government and British Petroleum for renewal of the 25-year oil extraction agreement. By October 1978, the talks had collapsed over a British ‘offer’ which demanded exclusive rights to Iran’s future oil output, while refusing to guarantee purchase of the oil. With their dependence on British-controlled export apparently at an end, Iran appeared on the verge of independence in its oil sales policy for the first time since 1953, with eager prospective buyers in Germany, France, Japan and elsewhere.”65 The strategy was to have “religious discontent against the Shah [which] could be fanned by trained agitators deployed by British and US intelligence,” and so “As Iran’s domestic economic troubles grew [as a result of the British refusing to buy Iranian oil in a strategy of economic pressure], American ‘security’ advisers to the Shah’s Savak secret police implemented a policy of ever more brutal repression, in a manner calculated to maximize popular antipathy to the Shah. At the same time, the Carter administration cynically began protesting abuses of ‘human rights’ under the Shah,” and the strategy even entailed using the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), which “gave the Ayatollah Khomeni a full propaganda platform inside Iran during this time. The British government-owned broadcasting organization refused to give the Shah’s government an equal chance to reply.”66 Further, “during the Christmas season of 1979, one Captain Sivash Setoudeh, an Iranian naval officer and the former Iranian military attaché before the breaking of diplomatic relations between the United States and Iran [in 1979], was arranging arms deliveries to [Ayatollah] Khomeni out of a premises of the US Office of Naval Research in Arlington, Virginia.”67

      With the successful revolution/coup in Iran in 1979, the Shah was exiled to Egypt, and back in the United States, Bilderberg and Trilateral Commission co-founder and international banker David Rockefeller was approached by Princess Ashraf, the sister of the deposed Shah, who was suffering from cancer, and “she was turning for help to the man who ran one of the leading U.S. banks [Chase Manhattan – now, JP Morgan Chase], one which had made a fortune serving as the Shah’s banker for a quarter century and handling billions of dollars in Iran’s assets. Ashraf’s message was straightforward. She wanted Rockefeller to intercede with Jimmy Carter and ask the President to relent on his decision against granting the Shah refuge in the United States,” and further, “The new Iranian government also wanted Chase Manhattan to return Iranian assets, which Rockefeller put at more than $1 billion in 1978, although some estimates ran much higher.”68 And so, “a public campaign by Rockefeller – along with [Henry] Kissinger and former Chase Manhattan Bank Chairman John McCloy – to find a suitable home in exile for the Shah” was undertaken, and “Rockefeller also pressed the Shah’s case personally with Carter when the opportunity presented itself. On April 9, 1979, at the end of an Oval Office meeting on another topic, Rockefeller handed Carter a one-page memo describing the views of many foreign leaders disturbed by recent U.S. foreign policy actions, including Carter’s treatment of the Shah.” According to a Time Magazine article in 1979, “Kissinger concedes that he then made telephone calls to ‘three senior officials’ and paid two personal visits to [Secretary of State] Vance to argue that a U.S. visa should be granted the Shah. He expressed that view volubly in private conversations with many people, including journalists. He said that the last of his direct pleas was made in July. He and Rockefeller then sought to find asylum elsewhere for the Shah. Rockefeller found a temporary residence in the Bahamas, and Kissinger persuaded the government of Mexico to admit the Shah on a tourist visa.”69 Eventually their efforts were successful, as it was further revealed, “The late Shah had friends at Chase Manhattan Bank and in the highest echelons of trilateral power. David Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger played instrumental roles in arranging the Shah’s exile and shaping US policy toward Iran.”70

      The Shah later recounted his experience of the 1979 Revolution, saying “I did not know it then – perhaps I did not want to know – but it is clear to me now that the Americans wanted me out. Clearly this is what the human rights advocates in the State Department wanted … What was I to make of the Administration’s sudden decision to call former Under Secretary of State [and Bilderberg member] George Ball to the White House as an adviser on Iran? … Ball was among those Americans who wanted to abandon me and ultimately my country,” and as Engdahl notes, “the new Khomeni regime had singled out the country’s nuclear power development plans and announced cancellation of the entire program for French and German nuclear reactor construction.”71 Following this, Iran cut off its oil exports to the world, coinciding with Saudi Arabia cutting its oil production drastically and British Petroleum cancelled major oil contracts, which resulted in soaring oil prices.

      For those who find this strategy of the British and Americans engineering the Iranian Revolution in 1979 far-fetched and implausible, in as much as on the face of it, it seemed to work against the interests of the United States and Britain, all that is needed is a quick glance at another precedent of this activity, and you need not look further than east of Iran’s border, to Afghanistan, in the very same year, 1979. Under Brzezinski’s “Arc of Crisis” strategy, developed by Bernard Lewis and presented at the 1979 Bilderberg meeting, Afghanistan was a key target in the crosshairs of the Trilateral Administration of Jimmy Carter. In an interview with Le Nouvel Observateur in 1998, Zbigniew Brzezinski was asked a poignant question, “The former director of the CIA [and current Secretary of Defense], Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs [“From the Shadows”], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan 6 months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?” to which Brzezinski replied, “Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise. Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.” The interviewer then posed the question, “Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?” to which Brzezinski very diplomatically responded, “It isn’t quite that. We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.”72

      The interviewer, on a continual role of asking very pertinent and important questions, stated, “When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against a secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn’t believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don’t regret anything today?” which provoked Brzezinski’s response, saying, “Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.” When asked whether or not he regretted supporting Islamic fundamentalism, which fostered the rise of terrorism (including the creation of Al-Qaeda), Brzezinski revealingly responded, “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?” Clearly, this was a veiled description of the strategy of “Arc of Crisis” that was imposed during that time, in fact, that very year; where Anglo-American interests (strategic or economic) were threatened, the “Arc of Crisis” was to be introduced, in an organized effort to destabilize the region. In the case of Afghanistan, it was imposed under strategic interests, being Afghanistan’s relevance to and relationship with the Soviet Union; in the case of Iran, it was largely economic interests, such as the end of the British Petroleum contract, and move towards using Iranian oil for the benefit of the Iranians in industrializing the country, that motivated the implementation of the “Arc of Crisis” in that country.

Saddam and Iraq’s New Role in the Anglo-American Alliance

      In 1980, a war broke out between Iraq and Iran, which lasted until 1988. However, there is a lot more to this war, as there is to most conflicts, than is widely understood. Saddam Hussein was in power in Iraq when this war broke out, however, it is first necessary to go back several years, when Saddam Hussein came to power in Iraq in order to better understand the story of the Iran-Iraq War. In 2003, Reuters News Agency reported that, “If the United States succeeds in shepherding the creation of a post-war Iraqi government, a former National Security Council official says, it won’t be the first time that Washington has played a primary role in changing that country’s rulers,” as “Roger Morris, a former State Department foreign service officer who was on the NSC [National Security Council] staff during the Johnson and Nixon administrations, says the CIA had a hand in two coups in Iraq during the darkest days of the Cold War, including a 1968 putsch that set Saddam Hussein firmly on the path to power,” and that, “in 1963, two years after the ill-fated U.S. attempt at overthrow in Cuba known as the Bay of Pigs, the CIA helped organize a bloody coup in Iraq that deposed the Soviet-leaning government of Gen. Abdel-Karim Kassem.”73 Further, “Kassem, who had allowed communists to hold positions of responsibility in his government, was machine-gunned to death. And the country wound up in the hands of the Baath party. At the time, Morris continues, Saddam was a Baath operative studying law in Cairo, one of the venues the CIA chose to plan the coup,” and “In fact, he claims the former Iraqi president castigated by President George W. Bush as one of history’s most ‘brutal dictators’ was actually on the CIA payroll in those days.”

      The article continued, “In 1968, Morris says, the CIA encouraged a palace revolt among Baath party elements led by long-time Saddam mentor Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, who would turn over the reins of power to his ambitious protégé in 1979,” and that, “Morris, who resigned from the NSC staff over the 1970 U.S. invasion of Cambodia, says he learned the details of American covert involvement in Iraq from ranking CIA officials of the day, including Teddy Roosevelt’s grandson, Archibald Roosevelt.” It’s also interesting to note that it was Teddy Roosevelt’s other grandson, Kermit Roosevelt, who was pivotal in organizing and orchestrating the 1953 coup in Iran, so it is likely that Morris’ assertions are correct, as Archibald Roosevelt would have a very keen understanding of the highly covert elements of CIA operations.

      However, this is not the only source on this important story, as the Indo-Asian News Service reported in 2003, that “American intelligence operatives used him [Saddam] as their instrument for more than 40 years, according to former US intelligence officials and diplomats,” and that, “While many have thought that Saddam Hussein became involved with US intelligence agencies from the 1980 Iran-Iraq war, his first contacts date back to 1959 when he was part of a CIA-authorized six-man squad tasked with assassinating then Iraqi prime minister General Abd al-Karim Qasim.”74 The article continued, “In July 1958, Qasim had overthrown the Iraqi monarchy [which was put into power by the British]. According to US officials, Iraq was then regarded as a key buffer and strategic asset in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. For example, in the mid-1950s, Iraq was quick to join the anti-Soviet Baghdad Pact which was to defend the region and whose members included Turkey, Britain, Iran and Pakistan. Little attention was paid to Qasim’s bloody and conspiratorial regime until his sudden decision to withdraw from the pact in 1959,” and so, “The assassination was set for October 7, 1959, but it was completely botched. One former CIA official said the 22-year-old Saddam lost his nerve and fired too soon, killing Qasim’s driver and only wounding Qasim in the shoulder and arm. Qasim, hiding on the floor of his car, escaped death, and Saddam Hussein, whose calf had been grazed by a fellow would-be assassin, escaped to Tikrit, thanks to CIA and Egyptian intelligence agents. He then crossed into Syria and was transferred by Egyptian intelligence agents to Beirut.” From there, “the CIA paid for Saddam Hussein’s apartment and put him through a brief training course. The agency then helped him get to Cairo. During this time Saddam made frequent visits to the American Embassy where CIA specialists such as Miles Copeland and CIA station chief Jim Eichelberger were in residence and knew him. In February 1963, Qasim was killed in a Baath Party coup. Morris claimed that the CIA was behind the coup.”

      Newsmax also reported this story, stating that directly after the coup, “the agency quickly moved into action. Noting that the Baath Party was hunting down Iraq’s communists, the CIA provided the submachine gun-toting Iraqi National Guardsmen with lists of suspected communists who were then jailed, interrogated, and summarily gunned down, according to former U.S. intelligence officials with intimate knowledge of the executions,” and that, “A former senior CIA official said: ‘It was a bit like the mysterious killings of Iran’s communists just after Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979. All 4,000 of his communists suddenly got killed’.”75 Another report of this came out through Consortium News, which wrote a story about the confessions of a retired CIA official, James Critchfield, who explained that, “In 1959, a young Saddam Hussein, allegedly in cahoots with the CIA, botched an assassination attempt on Iraq’s leader, Gen. Abdel Karim Qassim. Hussein fled Iraq and reportedly hid out under the CIA’s protection and sponsorship,” and “By early 1963, Qassim’s policies were raising new alarms in Washington. He had withdrawn Iraq from the pro-Western Baghdad Pact, made friendly overtures to Moscow, and revoked oil exploration rights granted by a predecessor to a consortium of companies that included American oil interests.”76 It further reported that, “It fell to Critchfield, who was then in an extended tenure in charge of the CIA’s Near East and South Asia division, to remove Qassim. Critchfield supported a coup d’etat in February 1963 that was spearheaded by Iraq’s Baathist party. The troublesome Qassim was killed, as were scores of suspected communists who had been identified by the CIA,” and that “The 1963 coup also paved the way for another momentous political development. Five years later, Saddam Hussein emerged as a leader in another Baathist coup. Over the next decade, he bullied his way to power, eventually consolidating a ruthless dictatorship that would lead to three wars in less than a quarter century.”

      So, jump ahead to 1980, when Saddam Hussein was still a US puppet, and when the Iran-Iraq War began. The Iran-Iraq War “followed months of rising tension between the Iranian Islamic republic and secular nationalist Iraq. In mid-September 1980 Iraq attacked, in the mistaken belief that Iranian political disarray would guarantee a quick victory.”77 However, Dr. Francis Boyle, an international law professor who also has a PhD in political science from Harvard, and former board member of Amnesty International, wrote an article for Counterpunch in which he stated that, “There were several indications from the public record that the Carter Administration tacitly condoned, if not actively encouraged, the Iraqi invasion of Iran in September of l980,” and that, “Presumably the Iraqi army could render Iranian oil fields inoperable and, unlike American marines, do so without provoking the Soviet Union to exercise its alleged right of counter-intervention.”78 Boyle continued, “The report by columnist Jack Anderson that the Carter Administration was seriously considering an invasion of Iran to seize its oil fields in the Fall of l980 as a last minute fillip to bolster his prospects for reelection was credible.” In 1981, Carter lost his re-election to Ronald Reagan, and “At the outset of the Reagan Administration, Secretary of State Alexander Haig and his mentor, Henry Kissinger, devoted a good deal of time to publicly lamenting the dire need for a ‘geopolitical’ approach to American foreign policy decision-making, one premised on a ‘grand theory’ or ‘strategic design’ of international relations,” and Boyle continued, “Consequently, Haig quite myopically viewed the myriad of problems in the Persian Gulf, Middle East, and Southwest Asia primarily within the context of a supposed struggle for control over the entire world between the United States and the Soviet Union. Haig erroneously concluded that this global confrontation required the United States to forge a ‘strategic consensus’ with Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Sheikhdoms and Pakistan in order to resist anticipated Soviet aggression in the region.”

      As the National Security Archive reported, “Initially, Iraq advanced far into Iranian territory, but was driven back within months. By mid-1982, Iraq was on the defensive against Iranian human-wave attacks. The U.S., having decided that an Iranian victory would not serve its interests, began supporting Iraq: measures already underway to upgrade U.S.-Iraq relations were accelerated, high-level officials exchanged visits, and in February 1982 the State Department removed Iraq from its list of states supporting international terrorism,” and that “Prolonging the war was phenomenally expensive. Iraq received massive external financial support from the Gulf states, and assistance through loan programs from the U.S. The White House and State Department pressured the Export-Import Bank to provide Iraq with financing, to enhance its credit standing and enable it to obtain loans from other international financial institutions. The U.S. Agriculture Department provided taxpayer-guaranteed loans for purchases of American commodities, to the satisfaction of U.S. grain exporters.”79 The Archive, which draws all their information from declassified government documents which they have available for all to see on their site, further stated, “The U.S. restored formal relations with Iraq in November 1984, but the U.S. had begun, several years earlier, to provide it with intelligence and military support (in secret and contrary to this country’s [America’s] official neutrality) in accordance with policy directives from President Ronald Reagan,” and it continued, “By the summer of 1983 Iran had been reporting Iraqi use of using chemical weapons for some time. The Geneva protocol requires that the international community respond to chemical warfare, but a diplomatically isolated Iran received only a muted response to its complaints.”

      The Archive further explained that, “The U.S., which followed developments in the Iran-Iraq war with extraordinary intensity, had intelligence confirming Iran’s accusations, and describing Iraq’s “almost daily” use of chemical weapons, concurrent with its policy review and decision to support Iraq in the war,” and that “The intelligence indicated that Iraq used chemical weapons against Iranian forces, and, according to a November 1983 memo, against ‘Kurdish insurgents’ as well”. The Archives further reveal that, “Donald Rumsfeld (who had served in various positions in the Nixon and Ford administrations, including as President Ford’s defense secretary, and at this time headed the multinational pharmaceutical company G.D. Searle & Co.) was dispatched to the Middle East as a presidential envoy. His December 1983 tour of regional capitals included Baghdad, where he was to establish ‘direct contact between an envoy of President Reagan and President Saddam Hussein,’ while emphasizing ‘his close relationship’ with the president. Rumsfeld met with Saddam, and the two discussed regional issues of mutual interest, shared enmity toward Iran and Syria, and the U.S.’s efforts to find alternative routes to transport Iraq’s oil; its facilities in the Persian Gulf had been shut down by Iran, and Iran’s ally, Syria, had cut off a pipeline that transported Iraqi oil through its territory. Rumsfeld made no reference to chemical weapons, according to detailed notes on the meeting.” This was the incident in which the now-infamous photo of Donald Rumsfeld (who was George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense until 2007) shaking hands with Saddam Hussein was taken.

      It was further reported that, “The CIA/Defense Intelligence Agency [DIA] relation with Saddam intensified after the start of the Iran-Iraq war in September of 1980. During the war, the CIA regularly sent a team to Saddam to deliver battlefield intelligence obtained from Saudi AWACS surveillance aircraft to aid the effectiveness of Iraq’s armed forces, according to a former DIA official, part of a U.S. interagency intelligence group,” and that “This former official said that he personally had signed off on a document that shared U.S. satellite intelligence with both Iraq and Iran in an attempt to produce a military stalemate. ‘When I signed it, I thought I was losing my mind,’ the former official told UPI.”80 The article continued, “A former CIA official said that Saddam had assigned a top team of three senior officers from the Estikhbarat, Iraq’s military intelligence, to meet with the Americans,” and that “the CIA and DIA provided military assistance to Saddam’s ferocious February 1988 assault on Iranian positions in the al-Fao peninsula by blinding Iranian radars for three days.”

      On top of all this, the London Independent reported in 2002 that, “Iraq’s 11,000-page report to the UN Security Council lists 150 foreign companies, including some from America, Britain, Germany and France, that supported Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction program,” and it continued, “British officials said the list of companies appeared to be accurate. Eighty German firms and 24 US companies are reported to have supplied Iraq with equipment and know-how for its weapons programs from 1975 onwards.”81 The article further stated that, “From about 1975 onwards, these companies are shown to have supplied entire complexes, building elements, basic materials and technical know-how for Saddam Hussein’s program to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction,” which would have included the weapons used against the Iranians and Kurds in the north of Iraq, which constituted war crimes.

Iran Contra: The Double Standard Status Quo

      Also during the Iran-Iraq War, “On November 25, 1986, the biggest political and constitutional scandal since Watergate exploded in Washington when President Ronald Reagan told a packed White House news conference that funds derived from covert arms deals with the Islamic Republic of Iran had been diverted to buy weapons for the U.S.-backed Contra rebels in Nicaragua,” and that “In the weeks leading up to this shocking admission, news reports had exposed the U.S. role in both the Iran deals and the secret support for the Contras, but Reagan’s announcement, in which he named two subordinates — National Security Advisor John M. Poindexter and NSC [National Security Council] staffer Oliver L. North — as the responsible parties, was the first to link the two operations.”82 As the National Security Archive reported, “Of all the revelations that emerged, the most galling for the American public was the president’s abandonment of the long-standing policy against dealing with terrorists, which Reagan repeatedly denied doing in spite of overwhelming evidence that made it appear he was simply lying to cover up the story,” and further, “Iran-Contra was a battle over presidential power dating back directly to the Richard Nixon era of Watergate, Vietnam and CIA dirty tricks. That clash continues under the presidency of George W. Bush, which has come under frequent fire for the controversial efforts of the president, as well as Vice President Richard Cheney, to expand Executive Branch authority over numerous areas of public life.”

      As Webster Tarpley wrote in his book, George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography, of which the chapter covering the Iran-Contra Affair relies primarily upon exposing George Bush’s intimate relationship with and involvement in the Affair, that Iran-Contra involved, “the secret arming of the Khomeni regime in Iran by the U.S. government, during an official U.S.-decreed arms embargo against Iran, while the U.S. publicly denounced the recipients of its secret deliveries as terrorists and kidnappers – a policy initiated under the Jimmy Carter presidency and accelerated by the Reagan-Bush administration,” in which George H.W. Bush was Vice President.83 As Tarpley put it, “many once-classified documents have come to light, which suggest that Bush organized and supervised many, or most, of the criminal aspects of the Iran-Contra adventures,”84 and that, “With the encouragement of Bush, and the absence of opponents to the scheme, President Reagan signed the authorization to arm the Khomeni regime with missiles, and keep the facts of this scheme from congressional oversight committees,” and further, an official report on the situation stated, “The proposal to shift to direct U.S. arms sales to Iran . . . was considered by the president at a meeting on January 17 which only the Vice President [Bush], Mr. Regan, Mr. Fortier, and VADM Poindexter attend. Thereafter, the only senior-level review the Iran initiative received was during one or another of the President’s daily national security briefings. These were routinely attended only by the President, the Vice President, Mr. Regan, and VADM Poindexter.”85

      Now, I will again briefly recount the information I provided regarding the Carter administration having a hand in the coup / Revolution in Iran in 1979, which installed the Islamic government of Ayatollah Khomeni, as I feel it is a very important point to address, largely because it is a very uncommon understanding of that event in history, as it is predominantly seen in historical context as being against the interests of the United States, and as being a disastrous situation for the US; seen as a radical Islamic revolt against America and all it ‘stands’ for. However, taking into consideration of all the other information provided thus far, it does not appear to be a very ‘radical’ or implausible understanding of that event, as similar support for and creation of radical Islamist movements is well documented, such as that which took place the same year as the revolution/coup in Afghanistan, under the same strategy of “Arc of Crisis”, and now, also taking into consideration the facts of the Iran-Contra Affair, which was one of the largest constitutional scandals in United States history and received great public attention.

      This scandal, however, was largely covered up in the official investigation done by Congress, and the facts of George Bush’s involvement, was not widely known by any means, which is no surprise considering the fact that one prominent Congressman who was investigating the Iran-Contra Affair was a man by the name of Dick Cheney, the current Vice President, who, while sitting on the investigative committee, did not apply blame to the Executive branch [President’s administration] of government for its violation of the Constitution, but instead saw fit to blame Congress for “unjustly” investigating and questioning Presidential authority.86 Most of the evidence of this important event was revealed over the years since it occurred, however, the blame was all placed on two individuals, the “fall guys”, John Poindexter and Oliver North.

      Oliver North now has his own show on Fox News,87 and Poindexter briefly worked in the George W. Bush administration, as Director of the Information Awareness Office, a large surveillance and tracking and “Big Brother” program, of which the New Yorker described as, “weird”, saying, “The Information Awareness Office’s official seal features an occult pyramid topped with mystic all-seeing eye, like the one on the dollar bill. Its official motto is ‘Scientia Est Potentia,’ which doesn’t mean ‘science has a lot of potential.’ It means ‘knowledge is power.’ And its official mission is to ‘imagine, develop, apply, integrate, demonstrate and transition information technologies, components and prototype, closed-loop, information systems that will counter asymmetric threats by achieving total information awareness’,” and further, “the Office’s main assignment is, basically, to turn everything in cyberspace about everybody—tax records, driver’s-license applications, travel records, bank records, raw F.B.I. files, telephone records, credit-card records, shopping-mall security-camera videotapes, medical records, every e-mail anybody ever sent—into a single, humongous, multi-googolplexibyte database that electronic robots will mine for patterns of information suggestive of terrorist activity”88… my God.

      The Iran-Contra Affair entailed illegally sending arms to the Khomeni government in Iran, America’s “supposed” enemy, and using that money to fund Contras, also known as terrorist organizations, in Nicaragua, which were responsible for killing many innocent civilians and orchestrating terror attacks. Incidentally, the arms were being sold to Iran at the same time that the same organization, the CIA, was providing intelligence and directions (not to mention weapons) to Iraq in its war against Iran. So, in effect, the United States, through its covert military/intelligence operations, was arming both sides of the Iran-Iraq War. Again, sounds a lot like the “Arc of Crisis” strategy. And just the very fact that they were arming the Khomeni regime warrants a closer look at the events surrounding Khomeni’s rise to power.

      As an aside, it is also very interesting to note some other individuals who were implicated in Iran-Contra (although not publicly), but since the event documentation has come about which suggests larger roles for a variety of people, including Robert Gates, who is currently the new Secretary of Defense (after Rumsfeld left), a former director of the CIA in the George H.W. Bush administration and the person who, in his memoirs, discussed the fact that the CIA helped instigate the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Other prominent names to note are Elliott Abrams, who was President Reagan’s senior State Department official for Latin America in the mid-1980s, at the height of Iran-Contra, and was later indicted for providing false testimony, and accepted his guilt, however, when Bush Sr. was President, Abrams was pardoned, and today, serves as Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy in the Bush Jr. administration. David Addington worked close with Cheney on the Congressional investigation as a staffer, and currently is Chief of Staff to Dick Cheney. Others, with some affiliation to Iran-Contra were Michael Ledeen, who is currently a prominent neoconservative with close ties to the Bush administration and a strong advocate of regime change in Iran, John Bolton, who was more recently George W. Bush’s Ambassador to the United Nations,also a strong advocate of war with Iran, Manuchehr Ghorbanifar, who more recently was used as an important source for the Pentagon on Iranian affairs, John Negroponte, who was in past years Bush’s Ambassador to Iraq, and was Director of National Intelligence, the head intelligence position in the United States, and is currently Deputy Secretary of State under Condoleezza Rice, and Otto Reich, who briefly served as Bush Jr’s assistant secretary of state for Latin America.89

Notes

1 Engdahl, William. “A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New  World Order”.

Pluto Press: 2004, Pages 2-3.
2 Ibid. Page 4.
3 Ibid. Pages 5-6.
4 Stavrianos, L.S. “The Balkans Since 1453”.

Rinehart and Winston: 1963, “Revolt in Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

http://www.serbianunity.net/culture/history/berlin78/index.html#Revolt%20in%20Bosnia
5 Blum, Bill. “The CIA’s Intervention in Afghanistan: Interview with Zbigniew  Brzezinski”.

Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, 15-21 January 1998.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/BRZ110A.html
6 Brzezinski, Zbigniew. “The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic  Imperatives”.

Basic Books: 1997, Page xiii.
7 Stavrianos, L.S. “The Balkans Since 1453”.

Rinehart and Winston: 1963, “Constantinople Conference”.

http://www.serbianunity.net/culture/history/berlin78/index.html#Constantinople%20Conference
8 Engdahl, William, op cit., Page 11.
9 Black, Edwin. “Banking on Baghdad: Inside Iraq’s 7,000-Year History of War, Profit,  and Conflict”.

John Wiley & Sons, Inc.: 2004, Page 107.
10 Ibid. Page 114.
11 Ibid. Pages 115-116.
12 Ibid. Page 126
13 Engdahl, William, op cit., Page 22.
14 Black, Edwin, op cit., Page 118.
15 Laffan, R.D.G. “The Serbs: The Guardians of the Gate”.

Dorset Press: 1989, Pages 163-64
16 Engdahl, William, op cit., Page 24.
17 Ibid. Page 16
18 Ibid. Page 24
19 Ibid. Pages 29-30
20 Black, Edwin, op cit., Page 204-205.
21 Ibid. Page 196
22 Ibid. Pages 196-197.
23 Engdahl, William, op cit., Pages 40-41.
24 Ibid. Page 58.
25 Black, Edwin, op cit., Page 223.
26 Ibid. Page 245
27 Engdahl, William, op cit., Pages 59-60.
28 Shirer, William L. “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany”

Fawcett Crest: 1992, Page 994.
29 Black, Edwin, op cit., Pages 307-308.
30 Ibid. Page 314
31 Ibid. Page 319
32 Porch, Douglas. “The Other ‘Gulf War’ – The British Invasion of Iraq in 1941”.

Center for Contemporary Conflict: December 2, 2002.

http://www.ccc.nps.navy.mil/rsepResources/si/dec02/middleEast.asp
33 Palast, Greg. “Armed Madhouse”.

Penguin Group: 2006, Page 79.
34 BBC. “Fact File: Persia Invaded”.

WW2 People’s War: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/timeline/factfiles/nonflash/a1130121.shtml?sectionId=3&articleId=1130121
35 Samii, Bill. “World War II — 60 Years After: The Anglo-Soviet Invasion Of Iran And  Washington-Tehran Relations”.

Payvand’s Iran News: May 7, 2005.

http://www.payvand.com/news/05/may/1047.html
36 Luce, Dan De. “The spectre of Operation Ajax”.

The Guardian: August 20, 2003.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,12858,1022065,00.html
37 Gasiorowski, Mark J., and Malcolm Byrne. “Mohammad Mosaddeq and  the 1953 Coup in Iran”.

The National Security Archive: June 22, 2004.

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB126/index.htm
38 Risen, James. “Secrets of History: The C.I.A in Iran.”

The New York Times: 2000.

http://www.nytimes.com/library/world/mideast/041600iran-cia-index.html
39 Goodman, Amy. “50 Years After the CIA’s First Overthrow of a Democratically  Elected Foreign Government We Take a Look at the 1953 US Backed Coup in  Iran”.

Democracy Now!: August 25th, 2003

http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=03/08/25/1534210
40 Engdahl, William, op cit., Page 96.
41 Ibid. Page 97
42 Library of Congress Country Studies: “Iran: SAVAK”. December, 1987:
http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy:@field(DOCID+ir0187
43 Engdahl, William, op cit., Pages 135-136.
44 Loftus, John and Mark Aarons. “The Secret War Against the Jews: How Western  Espionage Betrayed the Jewish People”.

St. Martin’s Griffin: 1994, Page 309.
45 Ibid. Page 310.
46 Engdahl, William, op cit., Page 136.
47 Loftus, John and Mark Aarons, op cit., Pages 310-311.
48 Reuters. “Book says Kissinger delayed telling Nixon about Yom Kippur War”

Haaretz: April 5, 2007.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/845041.html
49 Ibid. Pages 136-137
50 Ibid. Pages 286-287
51 Ibid. Page 137
52 Ibid. Page 138
53 Sklar, Holly. “Trilateralism: The Trilateral Commission and Elite Planning for World  Management.”

South End Press: 1980, Pages 1-2.
54 Ibid. Page 30.
55 Ibid. Pages 99-109.
56 Ibid. Page 202
57 Ibid. Pages 91-92
58 Engdahl, William, op cit., Pages 169-170.
59 Ibid. Page 171
60 Tarpley, Webster G. “George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography”.

Executive Intelligence Review: 1992, Page 353.
61 Peters, Alan. “Role of US Former Pres. Carter Emerging in Illegal Financial Demands  on Shah of Iran”.

Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily: Volume XXII, No. 46 Monday, March 15, 2004

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1516436/posts
62 Engdahl, William, op cit., Page 171.
63 Lenczowski, George. “The Arc of Crisis: Its Central Sector”.

Foreign Affairs: Spring, 1979

http://www.foreignaffairs.org/19790301faessay9917/george-lenczowski/the-arc-of-crisis-its-central-sector.html
64 Cheney, Dick. “Vice President’s Remarks at the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia  Luncheon Honoring Professor Bernard Lewis”.

White House: May 1, 2006.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/05/20060501-3.html
65 Engdahl, William, op cit., Page 171.
66 Ibid. Page 172
67 Tarpley, Webster G, op cit., Page 354.
68 Parry, Robert. “David Rockefeller & October Surprise Case”.

Consortium News: April 15, 2005

http://www.consortiumnews.com/2005/041505.html
69 Time. “Who Helped the Shah How Much?”

Time Magazine: December 10, 1979

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,912546-2,00.html
70 Sklar, Holly, op cit., Page 569.
71 Engdahl, William, op cit., Pages 172-173.
72 Blum, Bill. “The CIA’s Intervention in Afghanistan: Interview with Zbigniew  Brzezinski”.

Le Nouvel Observateur, Paris, 15-21 January 1998.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/BRZ110A.html
73 Morgan, David. “Ex-U.S. official says CIA aided Baathists”.

Reuters News Agency: April 20, 2003.

http://www.prisonplanet.com/ex_us_officials_says_cia_aided_baathists.html
74 IANS. “Flash Back: How the CIA found and groomed Saddam”.

Indo-Asian news Service: April 16, 2003.

http://www.prisonplanet.com/how_the_cia_found_and_groomed_saddam.html
75 Newsmax Wires. “Saddam Key in Early CIA Plot”.

United Press International: April 11, 2003.

http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2003/4/10/205859.shtml
76 Meldon, Jerry. “A CIA Officer’s Calamitous Choices.”

Consortium News: May 15, 2003

http://www.consortiumnews.com/Print/051503a.html
77 Battle, Joyce. “Shaking Hands with Saddam Hussein: The U.S. Tilts toward Iraq, 1980- 1984”.

National Security Archive: February 25, 2003.

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB82/
78 Boyle, Francis A. “US Policy Toward the Iran/Iraq War”.

Counter Punch: December 14, 2002.

http://www.counterpunch.org/boyle1214.html
79 Battle, Joyce. “Shaking Hands with Saddam Hussein: The U.S. Tilts toward Iraq, 1980- 1984”.

National Security Archive: February 25, 2003.

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB82/
80 Newsmax Wires. “Saddam Key in Early CIA Plot”.

United Press International: April 11, 2003.

http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2003/4/10/205859.shtml
81 Paterson, Tony. “Leaked Report Says German and US Firms Supplied Arms to  Saddam”.

The Independent: December 18, 2002.

http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/1218-06.htm
82 Byrne, Malcolm, et al. “The Iran-Contra Affair 20 Years On.”

The National Security Archive: November 24, 2006

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB210/index.htm
83 Tarpley, Webster G., op cit., Page 385.
84 Ibid. Page 386
85 Ibid. Pages 408-409
86 Byrne, Malcolm, et al. “The Iran-Contra Affair 20 Years On.”

The National Security Archive: November 24, 2006

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB210/index.htm
87 FoxNews. “War Stories With Oliver North”.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,50566,00.html
88 Hertzberg, Hendrik. “Too Much Information.”

The New Yorker: December 9, 2002.

http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2002/12/09/021209ta_talk_hertzberg
89 Byrne, Malcolm, et al. “The Iran-Contra Affair 20 Years On.”

The National Security Archive: November 24, 2006

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB210/index.htm

Global Research Articles by Andrew G. Marshall

Bush’s Global ‘Dirty War’ by Robert Parry

October 4, 2007

Bush’s Global ‘Dirty War’ by Robert Parry

Dandelion Salad

by Robert Parry
Global Research, October 3, 2007
consortiumnews.com – 2007-10-01

Though this reality has been the subject of whispers within the U.S. intelligence community for several years, it has now emerged into public view with two attempted prosecutions of American soldiers whose defense attorneys cited “rules of engagement” that permit the killing of suspected insurgents.

One case involved Army sniper Jorge G. Sandoval Jr. who was acquitted by a U.S. military court in Baghdad on Sept. 28 in the murders of two unarmed Iraqi men – one on April 27 and the other on May 11 – because the jury accepted defense arguments that the killings were within the approved rules.

The Sandoval case also revealed a classified program in which the Pentagon’s Asymmetric Warfare Group encouraged U.S. military snipers in Iraq to drop “bait” – such as electrical cords and ammunition – and then shoot Iraqis who pick up the items, according to evidence in the Sandoval case. [Washington Post, Sept. 24, 2007]

(Sandoval was convicted of a lesser charge of planting a coil of copper wire on one of the slain Iraqis. He was sentenced to five months in prison and a reduction in rank but will be eligible to rejoin his unit in as few as 44 days.)

The other recent case of authorized murder of an insurgent suspect surfaced at a military court hearing at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in mid-September. Two U.S. Special Forces soldiers took part in the execution of an Afghani who was suspected of leading an insurgent group.

Though the Afghani, identified as Nawab Buntangyar, responded to questions and offered no resistance when encountered on Oct. 13, 2006, he was shot dead by Master Sgt. Troy Anderson on orders from his superior officer, Capt. Dave Staffel.

According to evidence at the Fort Bragg proceedings, an earlier Army investigation had cleared the two soldiers because they had been operating under “rules of engagement” that empowered them to kill individuals who have been designated “enemy combatants,” even if the targets were unarmed and presented no visible threat.

Yet, whatever the higher-ups approve as “rules of engagement,” the practice of murdering unarmed suspects remains a violation of the laws of war and – theoretically at least – would open up the offending country’s chain of command to war-crimes charges.

Troubling Picture

The troubling picture is that the U.S. chain of command, presumably up to President Bush, has authorized loose “rules of engagement” that allow targeted killings – as well as other objectionable tactics including arbitrary arrests, “enhanced interrogations,” kidnappings in third countries with “extraordinary renditions” to countries that torture, secret CIA prisons, detentions without trial, and “reeducation camps” for younger detainees.

The U.S. counterinsurgency and security operations in Iraq and Afghanistan also have been augmented by heavily armed mercenaries, such as the Blackwater “security contractors” who operate outside the law and were accused by Iraqi authorities of killing at least 11 Iraqi civilians in a shooting incident on Sept. 16.

The use of lethal force against unarmed suspects and civilians has a notorious history in irregular warfare especially when an occupying army finds itself confronting an indigenous resistance in which guerrillas and their political supporters blend in with the local population.

In effect, Bush’s “global war on terror” appears to have reestablished what was known during the Vietnam War as Operation Phoenix, a program that assassinated Vietcong cadre, including suspected communist political allies.

Through a classified Pentagon training program known as “Project X,” the lessons of Operation Phoenix from the 1960s were passed on to Third World armies, especially in Latin America allegedly giving a green light to some of the “dirty wars” that swept the region in the following decades. [For details, see Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush.]

Bush’s global strategy also has similarities to “Operation Condor” in which South American right-wing military regimes in the 1970s sent assassins on cross-border operations to eliminate “subversives.”

Despite behind-the-scenes support for some of these Latin American “death squads,” the U.S. government presented itself as the great defender of human rights and criticized repressive countries that engaged in extrajudicial killings and arbitrary detentions.

That gap between American rhetoric and reality widened after 9/11 as Bush waged his “war on terror,” while continuing to impress the American news media with pretty words about his commitment to human rights – as occurred in his address to the United Nations on Sept. 25.

Under Bush’s remarkable double standards, he has taken the position that he can override both international law and the U.S. Constitution in deciding who gets basic human rights and who doesn’t. He sees himself as the final judge of whether people he deems “bad guys” should live or die, or face indefinite imprisonment and even torture.

Effective Immunity

While such actions by other leaders might provoke demands for an international war-crimes tribunal, there would appear to be no likelihood of that in this case since the offending nation is the United States. Given its “superpower” status, the United States and its senior leadership are effectively beyond the reach of international law.

However, even if the Bush administration can expect a real-politik immunity from a war-crimes trial, the brutal tactics of the “global war on terror” – as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan – continue to alienate the Muslim world and undermine much of Bush’s geopolitical strategy.

The ugly image of Americans killing unarmed Iraqis also helps explain the growing hostility of Iraqis toward the presence of U.S. troops.

While the Bush administration has touted the supposed improved security created by the “surge” of additional U.S. troops into Iraq, a major poll found Iraqis increasingly object to the American occupation.

A survey of more than 2,000 Iraqis by the BBC, ABC News and the Japanese news agency, NHK, discovered mounting opposition to the U.S. occupation and increasing blame put on American forces for Iraq’s security problems.

Eighty-five percent of those polled said they had little or no confidence in American and British occupation forces, up from 82 percent in February, when the “surge” began. Only 18 percent said they thought the coalition forces had done a good job, down from 24 percent in February. Forty-seven percent said occupying forces should leave now, up from 35 percent.

The number of Iraqis who feel the U.S. invasion was wrong also jumped 10 percentage points to 63 percent in August compared to 53 percent in February. The new survey found 57 percent of Iraqis supporting attacks on U.S. troops, up from 51 percent in February and 17 percent in 2004.

As for the surge itself, 70 percent said it had made the security situation worse with only 18 percent citing any improvement.

Regarding social and economic conditions, the poll also revealed a dismal outlook:

Only 8 percent of Iraqis now rate their supply of electricity as good, down from 46 percent in 2005. Only 25 percent were satisfied with the availability of clean water compared to 58 percent two years ago, helping to explain the outbreak of cholera from northern Iraq to Baghdad.

Only 32 percent of Iraqis called medical care adequate compared to 62 percent in 2005. Satisfaction with schools fell to 51 percent from 74 percent in 2005. Satisfaction with family economic situations also was down to 37 percent from 70 percent two years ago.

Blackwater Mercenaries

Little wonder that the unpopular Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has sought to make an issue over the trigger-happy tendencies of Blackwater mercenaries who provide security for U.S. embassy personnel and other American VIPs.

On Sept. 16, Blackwater gunmen accompanying a U.S. diplomatic convoy apparently sensed an ambush and opened fire, spraying a Baghdad square with bullets. Eyewitness accounts indicated that the Blackwater team apparently overreacted to a car, containing a son and his mother, moving into the square and killed about 17 people, including those in the car.

(Earlier accounts erroneously reported that a child also died in the car and put the total death toll lower, at between 8 and 11. Though at least one child did die in the incident, there was no child in the car, according to a detailed investigation by the New York Times published on Oct. 3.)

“Blackwater has no respect for the Iraqi people,” an Iraqi Interior Ministry official told the Washington Post. “They consider Iraqis like animals, although actually I think they may have more respect for animals.” [Washington Post, Sept. 20, 2007]

Iraqis have objected to other disregard of innocent life by American troops, such as the killing of two dozen Iraqis in Haditha on Nov. 19, 2005, after one Marine died from an improvised explosive device.

According to published accounts of U.S. military investigations, the dead Marine’s comrades retaliated by pulling five men from a cab and shooting them, and entering two homes where civilians, including women and children, were slaughtered.

The Marines then tried to cover up the killings by claiming that the civilian deaths were caused by the original explosion or a subsequent firefight, according to investigations by the U.S. military and human rights groups.

One of the accused Marines, Sgt. Frank Wuterich, gave his account of the Haditha killings in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” including an admission that his squad tossed a grenade into one of the residences without knowing who was inside.

“Frank, help me understand,” asked interviewer Scott Pelley. “You’re in a residence, how do you crack a door open and roll a grenade into a room?”

“At that point, you can’t hesitate to make a decision,” Wuterich answered. “Hesitation equals being killed, either yourself or your men.”

“But when you roll a grenade in a room through the crack in the door, that’s not positive identification, that’s taking a chance on anything that could be behind that door,” Pelley said.

“Well, that’s what we do. That’s how our training goes,” Wuterich said.

Who’s at Fault?

Four Marines were singled out for courts martial over the Haditha killings though some legal analysts believe the case could be jeopardized by the loose “rules of engagement” that let U.S. troops kill Iraqis when a threat is detected.

Nevertheless, as in earlier killings of Iraqi civilians – or the sexual and other abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison – punishments are likely to stop at the level of rank-and-file soldiers with higher-ups avoiding accountability.

In large part, the lack of high-level accountability stems from the fact that the key instigator of both the illegal invasion of Iraq and the harsh tactics employed in the “war on terror” is President Bush.

Not only did he order an aggressive war – a concept condemned by World War II’s Nuremberg Tribunal as “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” – but Bush pumped U.S. troops full of false propaganda by linking Iraq with the 9/11 attacks.

Bush’s subliminal connections between the Iraq War and 9/11 continued years after U.S. intelligence dismissed any linkage. For instance, on June 18, 2005, more than two years into the Iraq War, Bush told the American people that “we went to war because we were attacked” on 9/11.

Bush’s rhetorical excesses, though primarily designed to build and maintain a political consensus behind the war at home, had the predictable effect of turning loose a revenge-seeking and heavily armed U.S. military force on the Iraqi population.

Little wonder that a poll of 944 U.S. military personnel in Iraq – taken in January and February 2006 – found that 85 percent believed the U.S. mission in Iraq was mainly “to retaliate for Saddam’s role in the 9/11 attacks.” Seventy-seven percent said a chief war goal was “to stop Saddam from protecting al-Qaeda in Iraq.”

In that context, many Americans sympathize with the individual U.S. soldiers who have to make split-second life-or-death decisions while thinking they are operating under legitimate rules of engagement that allow killing perceived enemies even if they are unarmed and showing no aggressive intent.

Salvador Option’

By early 2005, as the Iraqi insurgency grew, an increasingly frustrated Bush administration reportedly debated a “Salvador option” for Iraq, an apparent reference to the “death squad” operations that decimated the ranks of perceived leftists who were opposed to El Salvador’s right-wing military junta in the early 1980s.

According to Newsweek magazine, President Bush was contemplating the adoption of that brutal “still-secret strategy” of the Reagan administration as a way to get a handle on the spiraling violence in Iraq.

“Many U.S. conservatives consider the policy [in El Salvador] to have been a success – despite the deaths of innocent civilians,” Newsweek wrote.

The magazine also noted that many of Bush’s advisers were leading figures in the Central American operations of the 1980s, including Elliott Abrams, who is now an architect of Middle East policy on the National Security Council.

In Guatemala, about 200,000 people perished, including what a truth commission later termed a genocide against Mayan Indians in the Guatemalan highlands. In El Salvador, about 70,000 died including massacres of whole villages, such as the slaughter committed by a U.S.-trained battalion against hundreds of men, women and children near the town of El Mozote in 1981.

The Reagan administration’s “Salvador option” also had a domestic component, the so-called “perception management” operation that employed sophisticated propaganda to manipulate the fears of the American people while hiding the ugly reality of the wars.

[For details about how these strategies worked and the role of George H.W. Bush, see Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege. For more on the Salvador option, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Bush’s Death Squads,” Jan. 11, 2005.]

In the Iraqi-sniper case, Army sniper Sandoval admitted killing an Iraqi man near the town of Iskandariya on April 27 after a skirmish with insurgents. Sandoval testified that his team leader, Staff Sgt. Michael A. Hensley, ordered him to kill a man cutting grass with a rusty scythe because he was suspected of being an insurgent posing as a farmer.

The second killing occurred on May 11 when a man walked into a concealed location where Sandoval, Hensley and other snipers were hiding. After the Iraqi was detained, another sniper, Sgt. Evan Vela, was ordered to shoot the man in the head by Hensley and did so, according to Vela’s testimony at Sandoval’s court martial.

Sandoval was acquitted of murder charges because a military jury concluded that his actions were within the rules of engagement. Hensley is to go on trial in a few weeks.

Regarding the Afghanistan case, Special Forces Capt. Staffel and Sgt. Anderson were leading a team of Afghan soldiers when an informant told them where a suspected insurgent leader was hiding. The U.S.-led contingent found a man believed to be Nawab Buntangyar walking outside his compound near the village of Hasan Kheyl.

While the Americans kept their distance out of fear the suspect might be wearing a suicide vest, the man was questioned about his name and the Americans checked his description against a list from the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Afghanistan, known as “the kill-or-capture list.”

Concluding that the man was insurgent leader Nawab Buntangyar, Staffel gave the order to shoot, and Anderson – from a distance of about 100 yards away – fired a bullet through the man’s head, killing him instantly.

‘Classified Mission

The soldiers viewed the killing as “a textbook example of a classified mission completed in accordance with the American rules of engagement,” the International Herald Tribune reported. “The men said such rules allowed them to kill Buntangyar, whom the American military had designated a terrorist cell leader, once they positively identified him.”

Staffel’s civilian lawyer Mark Waple said the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command concluded in April that the shooting was “justifiable homicide,” but a two-star general in Afghanistan instigated a murder charge against the two men. That case, however, has floundered over accusations that the charge was improperly filed. [IHT, Sept. 17, 2007]

The U.S. news media has given the Fort Bragg case only minor coverage concentrating mostly on legal sparring. The New York Times’ inside-the-paper, below-the-fold headline on Sept. 19 was “Green Beret Hearing Focuses on How Charges Came About.”

The Washington Post did publish a front-page story on the “bait” aspect of the Sandoval case – when family members of U.S. soldiers implicated in the killings came forward with evidence of high-level encouragement of the snipers – but the U.S. news media has treated the story mostly as a minor event and has drawn no larger implications.

The greater significance of the cases is that they confirm the long-whispered allegations that the U.S. chain of command has approved standing orders that give the U.S. military broad discretion to kill suspected militants on sight.

The “global war on terror” appears to have morphed into a global “dirty war” with George W. Bush in ultimate command.

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 at neckdeepbook.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. Or go to Amazon.com.

Robert Parry is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Robert Parry

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War Is Peace

September 25, 2007

This article is old.  But very good.

*****

War Is Peace
The world doesn’t have to choose between the Taliban and the US government. All the beauty of the world — literature, music, art — lies between these two fundamentalist poles.

by Arundhati Roy
OutlookIndia.com, October 29, 2001 edition

As darkness deepened over Afghanistan on Sunday, October 7, 2001, the US government, backed by the International Coalition Against Terror (the new, amenable surrogate for the United Nations), launched air strikes against Afghanistan. TV channels lingered on computer-animated images of Cruise missiles, stealth bombers, Tomahawks, ‘bunker-busting’ missiles and Mark 82 high-drag bombs. All over the world, little boys watched goggle-eyed and stopped clamouring for new video games.

The UN, reduced now to an ineffective abbreviation, wasn’t even asked to mandate the air strikes. (As Madeleine Albright once said, “The US acts multilaterally when it can, and unilaterally when it must.”) The ‘evidence’ against the terrorists was shared amongst friends in the ‘Coalition’. After conferring, they announced that it didn’t matter whether or not the ‘evidence’ would stand up in a court of law. Thus, in an instant, were centuries of jurisprudence carelessly trashed.

Nothing can excuse or justify an act of terrorism, whether it is committed by religious fundamentalists, private militia, people’s resistance movements — or whether it’s dressed up as a war of retribution by a recognised government. The bombing of Afghanistan is not revenge for New York and Washington. It is yet another act of terror against the people of the world. Each innocent person that is killed must be added to, not set off against, the grisly toll of civilians who died in New York and Washington.

People rarely win wars, governments rarely lose them. People get killed. Governments moult and regroup, hydra-headed. They first use flags to shrink-wrap peoples’ minds and suffocate real thought, and then as ceremonial shrouds to cloak the mangled corpses of the willing dead. On both sides, in Afghanistan as well as America, civilians are now hostage to the actions of their own governments. Unknowingly, ordinary people in both countries share a common bond — they have to live with the phenomenon of blind, unpredictable terror. Each batch of bombs that is dropped on Afghanistan is matched by a corresponding escalation of mass hysteria in America about anthrax, more hijackings and other terrorist acts.

There is no easy way out of the spiraling morass of terror and brutality that confronts the world today. It is time now for the human race to hold still, to delve into its wells of collective wisdom, both ancient and modern. What happened on September 11 changed the world forever. Freedom, progress, wealth, technology, war — these words have taken on new meaning. Governments have to acknowledge this transformation, and approach their new tasks with a modicum of honesty and humility. Unfortunately, up to now, there has been no sign of any introspection from the leaders of the International Coalition. Or the Taliban.

When he announced the air strikes, President George Bush said, “We’re a peaceful nation.” America’s favourite ambassador, Tony Blair, (who also holds the portfolio of Prime Minister of the UK), echoed him: “We’re a peaceful people.”

So now we know. Pigs are horses. Girls are boys. War is Peace.

Speaking at the FBI headquarters a few days later, President Bush said: “This is our calling. This is the calling of the United States of America. The most free nation in the world. A nation built on fundamental values that reject hate, reject violence, rejects murderers and rejects evil. We will not tire.”

Here is a list of the countries that America has been at war with — and bombed — since World War II: China (1945-46, 1950-53); Korea (1950-53); Guatemala (1954, 1967-69); Indonesia (1958); Cuba (1959-60); the Belgian Congo (1964); Peru (1965); Laos (1964-73); Vietnam (1961-73); Cambodia (1969-70); Grenada (1983); Libya (1986); El Salvador (1980s); Nicaragua (1980s); Panama (1989), Iraq (1991-99), Bosnia (1995), Sudan (1998); Yugoslavia (1999). And now Afghanistan.

Certainly it does not tire — this, the Most Free nation in the world. What freedoms does it uphold? Within its borders, the freedoms of speech, religion, thought; of artistic expression, food habits, sexual preferences (well, to some extent) and many other exemplary, wonderful things. Outside its borders, the freedom to dominate, humiliate and subjugate — usually in the service of America’s real religion, the ‘free market’. So when the US government christens a war ‘Operation Infinite Justice’, or ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’, we in the Third World feel more than a tremor of fear. Because we know that Infinite Justice for some means Infinite Injustice for others. And Enduring Freedom for some means Enduring Subjugation for others.

The International Coalition Against Terror is largely a cabal of the richest countries in the world. Between them, they manufacture and sell almost all of the world’s weapons, they possess the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction — chemical, biological and nuclear. They have fought the most wars, account for most of the genocide, subjection, ethnic cleansing and human rights violations in modern history, and have sponsored, armed, and financed untold numbers of dictators and despots. Between them, they have worshipped, almost deified, the cult of violence and war. For all its appalling sins, the Taliban just isn’t in the same league.

The Taliban was compounded in the crumbling crucible of rubble, heroin, and landmines in the backwash of the Cold War. Its oldest leaders are in their early 40s. Many of them are disfigured and handicapped, missing an eye, an arm or a leg. They grew up in a society scarred and devastated by war. Between the Soviet Union and America, over 20 years, about $45 billion worth of arms and ammunition was poured into Afghanistan. The latest weaponry was the only shard of modernity to intrude upon a thoroughly medieval society. Young boys — many of them orphans — who grew up in those times, had guns for toys, never knew the security and comfort of family life, never experienced the company of women. Now, as adults and rulers, the Taliban beat, stone, rape, and brutalise women; they don’t seem to know what else to do with them. Years of war have stripped them of gentleness, inured them to kindness and human compassion. They dance to the percussive rhythms of bombs raining down around them. Now they’ve turned their monstrosity on their own people.

With all due respect to President Bush, the people of the world do not have to choose between the Taliban and the US government. All the beauty of human civilization — our art, our music, our literature — lies beyond these two fundamentalist, ideological poles. There is as little chance that the people of the world can all become middle-class consumers as there is that they’ll all embrace any one particular religion. The issue is not about Good vs Evil or Islam vs Christianity as much as it is about space. About how to accommodate diversity, how to contain the impulse towards hegemony — every kind of hegemony, economic, military, linguistic, religious, and cultural. Any ecologist will tell you how dangerous and fragile a monoculture is. A hegemonic world is like having a government without a healthy opposition. It becomes a kind of dictatorship. It’s like putting a plastic bag over the world, and preventing it from breathing. Eventually, it will be torn open.

One and a half million Afghan people lost their lives in the 20 years of conflict that preceded this new war. Afghanistan was reduced to rubble, and now, the rubble is being pounded into finer dust. By the second day of the air strikes, US pilots were returning to their bases without dropping their assigned payload of bombs. As one pilot put it, Afghanistan is “not a target-rich environment”. At a press briefing at the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld, US defense secretary, was asked if America had run out of targets.

“First we’re going to re-hit targets,” he said, “and second, we’re not running out of targets, Afghanistan is…” This was greeted with gales of laughter in the Briefing Room.

By the third day of the strikes, the US defense department boasted that it had “achieved air supremacy over Afghanistan”. (Did they mean that they had destroyed both, or maybe all 16, of Afghanistan’s planes?)

On the ground in Afghanistan, the Northern Alliance — the Taliban’s old enemy, and therefore the International Coalition’s newest friend — is making headway in its push to capture Kabul. (For the archives, let it be said that the Northern Alliance’s track record is not very different from the Taliban’s. But for now, because it’s inconvenient, that little detail is being glossed over.) The visible, moderate, “acceptable” leader of the Alliance, Ahmed Shah Masood, was killed in a suicide-bomb attack early in September. The rest of the Northern Alliance is a brittle confederation of brutal warlords, ex-communists, and unbending clerics. It is a disparate group divided along ethnic lines, some of whom have tasted power in Afghanistan in the past.

Until the US air strikes, the Northern Alliance controlled about 5 per cent of the geographical area of Afghanistan. Now, with the Coalition’s help and ‘air cover’, it is poised to topple the Taliban. Meanwhile, Taliban soldiers, sensing imminent defeat, have begun to defect to the Alliance. So the fighting forces are busy switching sides and changing uniforms. But in an enterprise as cynical as this one, it seems to matter hardly at all. Love is hate, north is south, peace is war.

Among the global powers, there is talk of ‘putting in a representative government’. Or, on the other hand, of ‘restoring’ the Kingdom to Afghanistan’s 89-year-old former king, Zahir Shah, who has lived in exile in Rome since 1973. That’s the way the game goes — support Saddam Hussein, then ‘take him out’; finance the mujahideen, then bomb them to smithereens; put in Zahir Shah and see if he’s going to be a good boy. (Is it possible to ‘put in’ a representative government? Can you place an order for Democracy — with extra cheese and jalapeno peppers?)

Reports have begun to trickle in about civilian casualties, about cities emptying out as Afghan civilians flock to the borders which have been closed. Main arterial roads have been blown up or sealed off. Those who have experience of working in Afghanistan say that by early November, food convoys will not be able to reach the millions of Afghans (7.5 million according to the UN) who run the very real risk of starving to death during the course of this winter. They say that in the days that are left before winter sets in, there can either be a war, or an attempt to reach food to the hungry. Not both.

As a gesture of humanitarian support, the US government air-dropped 37,000 packets of emergency rations into Afghanistan. It says it plans to drop a total of 5,000,000 packets. That will still only add up to a single meal for half-a-million people out of the several million in dire need of food. Aid workers have condemned it as a cynical, dangerous, public-relations exercise. They say that air-dropping food packets is worse than futile. First, because the food will never get to those who really need it. More dangerously, those who run out to retrieve the packets risk being blown up by landmines. A tragic alms race.

Nevertheless, the food packets had a photo-op all to themselves. Their contents were listed in major newspapers. They were vegetarian, we’re told, as per Muslim Dietary Law(!) Each yellow packet, decorated with the American flag, contained: rice, peanut butter, bean salad, strawberry jam, crackers, raisins, flat bread, an apple fruit bar, seasoning, matches, a set of plastic cutlery, a serviette and illustrated user instructions.

After three years of unremitting drought, an air-dropped airline meal in Jalalabad! The level of cultural ineptitude, the failure to understand what months of relentless hunger and grinding poverty really mean, the US government’s attempt to use even this abject misery to boost its self-image, beggars description.

Reverse the scenario for a moment. Imagine if the Taliban government was to bomb New York City, saying all the while that its real target was the US government and its policies. And suppose, during breaks between the bombing, the Taliban dropped a few thousand packets containing nan and kababs impaled on an Afghan flag. Would the good people of New York ever find it in themselves to forgive the Afghan government? Even if they were hungry, even if they needed the food, even if they ate it, how would they ever forget the insult, the condescension? Rudy Giuliani, Mayor of New York City, returned a gift of $10 million from a Saudi prince because it came with a few words of friendly advice about American policy in the Middle East. Is pride a luxury only the rich are entitled to?

Far from stamping it out, igniting this kind of rage is what creates terrorism. Hate and retribution don’t go back into the box once you’ve let them out. For every ‘terrorist’ or his ‘supporter’ that is killed, hundreds of innocent people are being killed too. And for every hundred innocent people killed, there is a good chance that several future terrorists will be created.

Where will it all lead?

Setting aside the rhetoric for a moment, consider the fact that the world has not yet found an acceptable definition of what ‘terrorism’ is. One country’s terrorist is too often another’s freedom fighter. At the heart of the matter lies the world’s deep-seated ambivalence towards violence. Once violence is accepted as a legitimate political instrument, then the morality and political acceptability of terrorists (insurgents or freedom fighters) becomes contentious, bumpy terrain. The US government itself has funded, armed, and sheltered plenty of rebels and insurgents around the world. The CIA and Pakistan’s ISI trained and armed the mujahideen who, in the 1980s, were seen as terrorists by the government in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan. While President Reagan posed with them for a group portrait and called them the moral equivalents of America’s founding fathers. Today, Pakistan — America’s ally in this new war — sponsors insurgents who cross the border into Kashmir in India. Pakistan lauds them as ‘freedom fighters’, India calls them ‘terrorists’. India, for its part, denounces countries who sponsor and abet terrorism, but the Indian army has, in the past, trained separatist Tamil rebels asking for a homeland in Sri Lanka — the LTTE, responsible for countless acts of bloody terrorism. (Just as the CIA abandoned the mujahideen after they had served its purpose, India abruptly turned its back on the LTTE for a host of political reasons. It was an enraged LTTE suicide-bomber who assassinated former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.)

It is important for governments and politicians to understand that manipulating these huge, raging human feelings for their own narrow purposes may yield instant results, but eventually and inexorably, they have disastrous consequences. Igniting and exploiting religious sentiments for reasons of political expediency is the most dangerous legacy that governments or politicians can bequeath to any people — including their own. People who live in societies ravaged by religious or communal bigotry know that every religious text — from the Bible to the Bhagwad Gita — can be mined and misinterpreted to justify anything, from nuclear war to genocide to corporate globalisation.

This is not to suggest that the terrorists who perpetrated the outrage on September 11 should not be hunted down and brought to book. They must be. But is war the best way to track them down? Will burning the haystack find you the needle? Or will it escalate the anger and make the world a living hell for all of us?

At the end of the day, how many people can you spy on, how many bank accounts can you freeze, how many conversations can you eavesdrop on, how many e-mails can you intercept, how many letters can you open, how many phones can you tap? Even before September 11, the CIA had accumulated more information than is humanly possible to process. (Sometimes, too much data can actually hinder intelligence — small wonder the US spy satellites completely missed the preparation that preceded India’s nuclear tests in 1998.)

The sheer scale of the surveillance will become a logistical, ethical and civil rights nightmare. It will drive everybody clean crazy. And freedom — that precious, precious thing — will be the first casualty. It’s already hurt and hemorrhaging dangerously.

Governments across the world are cynically using the prevailing paranoia to promote their own interests. All kinds of unpredictable political forces are being unleashed. In India, for instance, members of the All India People’s Resistance Forum, who were distributing anti-war and anti-US pamphlets in Delhi, have been jailed. Even the printer of the leaflets was arrested. The right-wing government (while it shelters Hindu extremists groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal) has banned the Students’ Islamic Movement of India and is trying to revive an anti-terrorist act which had been withdrawn after the Human Rights Commission reported that it had been more abused than used. Millions of Indian citizens are Muslim. Can anything be gained by alienating them?

Every day that the war goes on, raging emotions are being let loose into the world. The international press has little or no independent access to the war zone. In any case, mainstream media, particularly in the US, has more or less rolled over, allowing itself to be tickled on the stomach with press hand-outs from militarymen and government officials. Afghan radio stations have been destroyed by the bombing. The Taliban has always been deeply suspicious of the Press. In the propaganda war, there is no accurate estimate of how many people have been killed, or how much destruction has taken place. In the absence of reliable information, wild rumours spread.

Put your ear to the ground in this part of the world, and you can hear the thrumming, the deadly drumbeat of burgeoning anger. Please. Please, stop the war now. Enough people have died. The smart missiles are just not smart enough. They’re blowing up whole warehouses of suppressed fury.

President George Bush recently boasted: “When I take action, I’m not going to fire a $2 million missile at a $10 empty tent and hit a camel in the butt. It’s going to be decisive.” President Bush should know that there are no targets in Afghanistan that will give his missiles their money’s worth. Perhaps, if only to balance his books, he should develop some cheaper missiles to use on cheaper targets and cheaper lives in the poor countries of the world. But then, that may not make good business sense to the Coalition’s weapons manufacturers. It wouldn’t make any sense at all, for example, to the Carlyle Group — described by the Industry Standard as ‘the world’s largest private equity firm’, with $12 billion under management. Carlyle invests in the defense sector and makes its money from military conflicts and weapons spending.

Carlyle is run by men with impeccable credentials. Former US defense secretary Frank Carlucci is Carlyle’s chairman and managing director (he was a college roommate of Donald Rumsfeld’s). Carlyle’s other partners include former US secretary of state James A. Baker III, George Soros, Fred Malek (George Bush Sr’s campaign manager). An American paper — the Baltimore Chronicle and Sentinel — says that former President George Bush Sr is reported to be seeking investments for the Carlyle Group from Asian markets. He is reportedly paid not inconsiderable sums of money to make ‘presentations’ to potential government-clients.

Ho Hum. As the tired saying goes, it’s all in the family.

Then there’s that other branch of traditional family business — oil. Remember, President George Bush (Jr) and Vice-President Dick Cheney both made their fortunes working in the US oil industry.

Turkmenistan, which borders the northwest of Afghanistan, holds the world’s third largest gas reserves and an estimated six billion barrels of oil reserves. Enough, experts say, to meet American energy needs for the next 30 years (or a developing country’s energy requirements for a couple of centuries.) America has always viewed oil as a security consideration, and protected it by any means it deems necessary. Few of us doubt that its military presence in the Gulf has little to do with its concern for human rights and almost entirely to do with its strategic interest in oil.

Oil and gas from the Caspian region currently moves northward to European markets. Geographically and politically, Iran and Russia are major impediments to American interests. In 1998, Dick Cheney — then CEO of Halliburton, a major player in the oil industry — said: “I can’t think of a time when we’ve had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian. It’s almost as if the opportunities have arisen overnight.” True enough.

For some years now, an American oil giant called Unocal has been negotiating with the Taliban for permission to construct an oil pipeline through Afghanistan to Pakistan and out to the Arabian Sea. From here, Unocal hopes to access the lucrative ’emerging markets’ in South and Southeast Asia. In December 1997, a delegation of Taliban mullahs traveled to America and even met US State Department officials and Unocal executives in Houston. At that time the Taliban’s taste for public executions and its treatment of Afghan women were not made out to be the crimes against humanity that they are now. Over the next six months, pressure from hundreds of outraged American feminist groups was brought to bear on the Clinton administration. Fortunately, they managed to scuttle the deal. And now comes the US oil industry’s big chance.

In America, the arms industry, the oil industry, the major media networks, and, indeed, US foreign policy, are all controlled by the same business combines. Therefore, it would be foolish to expect this talk of guns and oil and defense deals to get any real play in the media. In any case, to a distraught, confused people whose pride has just been wounded, whose loved ones have been tragically killed, whose anger is fresh and sharp, the inanities about the ‘Clash of Civilisations’ and the ‘Good vs Evil’ discourse home in unerringly. They are cynically doled out by government spokesmen like a daily dose of vitamins or anti-depressants. Regular medication ensures that mainland America continues to remain the enigma it has always been — a curiously insular people, administered by a pathologically meddlesome, promiscuous government.

And what of the rest of us, the numb recipients of this onslaught of what we know to be preposterous propaganda? The daily consumers of the lies and brutality smeared in peanut butter and strawberry jam being air-dropped into our minds just like those yellow food packets. Shall we look away and eat because we’re hungry, or shall we stare unblinking at the grim theatre unfolding in Afghanistan until we retch collectively and say, in one voice, that we have had enough?

As the first year of the new millennium rushes to a close, one wonders — have we forfeited our right to dream? Will we ever be able to re-imagine beauty? Will it be possible ever again to watch the slow, amazed blink of a new-born gecko in the sun, or whisper back to the marmot who has just whispered in your ear — without thinking of the World Trade Center and Afghanistan?

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Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan: No Coincidence by Prof. Ira Chernus

September 24, 2007

Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan: No Coincidence by Prof. Ira Chernus

Dandelion Salad

by Prof. Ira Chernus
Global Research, September 23, 2007

NATO bombs killed at least 45 civilians in Afghanistan the other day. If you get your news from the front pages of the U.S. mainstream media, you wouldn’t know it. The New York Times did run news from Afghanistan on its front page the next day — a rather ghoulish piece about Muslims refusing to give Taliban suicide bombers a religious burial, because suicide bombing is morally reprehensible. And so it is.

But what about pushing a button in an airplane to drop bombs that fall on people’s homes? Not so reprehensible, apparently. The Times buried its report on the slaughter in Helmand province back on an inside page, as did the Washington Post. The LA Times relegated to a “World in Brief” notice.

If you take the time to read those back-page articles, they all tell you that NATO faces a dilemma: not a moral dilemma — when Westerners kill Afghans, the moral issue does not seem to arise — but a strategic dilemma. On the one hand, “our boys” have to kill Taliban. That’s a given. On the other hand, if we kill too many civilians in the process, we’ll alienate the locals and send them over to the Taliban side. All the mainstream reports agree that the string of recent bombings, killing sizeable numbers of civilians, is already creating a growing problem for NATO’s effort to win hearts and minds.

So what’s a poor NATO commander to do? American General Dan McNeill, who took control of all NATO forces in Afghanistan this spring, seems to have an answer: Bombs away, and let hearts and minds fall where they may. The spike in civilian deaths from NATO bombs is no coincidence. It reflects a major change in strategy, which has gone totally unreported in the American media.

The British public knows about it. Journalists Jason Burke and Robert Fox think it’s a story the Brits need to know, because it could well put the lives of British — as well as American — NATO troops in greater danger. And it will put British — as well as American — tax dollars to work paying for more bombs that kill more innocent civilians.

Senior British officers told these journalists that Gen. McNeill, with too few troops on the ground to hold off the Taliban offensive, plans to rely on massive aerial bombing to do the job. “Bomber McNeill,” the Brits call him bitterly, because they know that his heavy-handed strategy will be counter-productive in the long run. “Every civilian dead means five new Taliban,” a British officer recently returned from southern Afghanistan told Jason Burke. “This could lose the entire south of the country to the Taliban, alienating them permanently from the Karzai government and its international supporters,” Robert Fox adds. “In that case, the future of Hamid Karzai and his nemesis in Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, looks dim.”

The British are unhappy because they are losing too — losing control of the Afghan war effort. Before McNeill took command of NATO forces, they were headed by a British General, David Richards. He focused more on economic reconstruction and building good relations with the Afghan people. But the Americans and Karzai criticized him for being too soft. Now they’ve got the tough guy they want in charge.

The British saw it coming long ago. Back in December, Robert Fox reported that Karzai had removed Gen. Richards’ local protégé in Helmand, provincial governor Mohammed Daud. British intelligence officers and military commanders “blamed pressure from the CIA. … The Americans knew Daud was a main British ally, yet they deliberately undermined him and told Karzai to sack him.” Gen. Richards had also come in for American criticism as “too political,” Fox added. “The American supreme commander of NATO, General Jim Jones, has let it be known, according to sources, that General Richards `would have been sacked if he had been an American officer.’”

Now he’s been sacked. So now our tax dollars, and the Brits’, will be used not to win hearts and minds, but to drop bombs that destroy hearts and minds and lives.

In the U.S., the mainstream media agree that it’s all the fault of those evil Taliban, who attack NATO forces then scurry for cover inside local villages. The Taliban actually want to get more civilians kill, we are told, because it helps turn the locals against NATO and its puppet government in Kabul. It may be true. There is plenty about the Taliban that is reprehensible. It would be tragic if they returned to power.

But “Bomber McNeill” would be the first to tell you that, when you are at war, you use whatever tactics work best. The Taliban are guerilla fighters. Of course they live and hide among the people. Do we expect them to fight only in open fields, far away from villages, where NATO bombers can pick them off effortlessly?

If we want to keep the Taliban out of power, Gen. Richards’ “soft” strategy is the only one that has a chance. Richards and his supporters say that his strategy was working, that the Taliban made few real gains last year. Perhaps the Americans, who call the shots, are afraid of appearing (or feeling) too “soft.” Perhaps they are impatient.

Or perhaps something else is going on, too. This week Robert Fox reported that, in addition to stepped up bombing, “there is also to be a US-led campaign of indiscriminate aerial spraying of poppy fields, triggered by the UN report that last year’s poppy yield was 60 per cent higher than the year before..” But back in December, when Mohammed Daud was sacked, he wrote: “Governor Daud was appointed to replace a man the British accused of involvement in opium trafficking … Mr. Daud, who had survived several Taliban assassination attempts, was seen as a key player in Britain’s anti-drugs campaign in Helmand.” Will the poppy spraying really be “indiscriminate”? The CIA’s notorious record in poppy-growing regions should make us wonder.

Helmand is Afghanistan’s richest opium-producing province. Opium is at the heart of its economy, and its tangled politics. To get just a taste of how tangled, check out this long analysis by “Zmarial,” a resident of Helmand — not necessarily a very objective observer, but an insider who knows how many different interests are playing against, and with, each other in the province.

Though Daud was supposedly a key player in the British anti-drug campaign, this writer notes, “poppy production hit a record level in 2006 while Daud was governor of the province and enjoyed the full support of Britain.” What’s more, he cites one source claiming that “260 million dollars have been exchanged as bribery between locals and governmental officials. This is the figure which is tracked, but the untracked amount is unclear. The survey shows 58% of people who are anti-government are so because of domestic corruption.” All that money goes mainly to cover up and protect the opium trade. Can we really believe that the CIA, so determined to take control from the British in Helmand, is uninvolved?

It’s unlikely that even the best journalist can see the whole picture in Helmand, much less in all of Afghanistan. It’s way too complex. But NATO bombardiers thousands of feet above the ground certainly don’t know anything about the reality of the towns and villages — and human lives — they are destroying. They are just following “Bomber McNeill’s” simplistic “good guys” versus “bad guys” script, which the British find so typically American — with good reason. It’s the only story we are told in our mainstream media.

If we ever have journalists who tell the story in a more complex realistic way, we’ll see that it’s the same old story: the more we take sides in a civil war, the more harm we do, especially when we rely on massive aerial bombing as our main weapon. A heavy-handed U.S. intervention in the 1980s helped to create the Taliban. Now another heavy-handed intervention seems likely to help bring them back to power — and kill countless civilians along the way. All that (and perhaps opium too) paid for with our tax dollars.

And as the Afghans bury their dead, the whole story is buried in the back pages of our newspapers, as if the people our tax dollars killed just didn’t matter very much. While we denounce the immorality of the Taliban, let’s take a moment to look in the mirror.

Ira Chernus is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder and author of Monsters To Destroy: The Neoconservative War on Terror and Sin. Email: chernus@colorado.edu

Global Research Articles by Ira Chernus

 


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U.S. Use of Radiological Weapons

August 24, 2007

U.S. Use of Radiological Weapons 

Calls for an International Tribunal

 

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article18242.htm

By Mark H. Gaffney

08/23/07 “ICH” — – In 1991 the US military introduced a new weapon that the people of the world–––with hindsight–––will probably come to view as symbolic of America’s failed leadership after the Cold War. The introduced weapon was a new kind of munition: shells and bullets made from depleted uranium (DU). It turned out to be extremely effective in the first Gulf War against the forces of Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately, the DU weapons also proved nearly as dangerous to our own troops and to Iraqi civilians. The military alliance cobbled together by George Bush Sr. won a decisive victory in that war. But since its conclusion at least 13,000 American veterans have died from DU-related causes, far more than the 148 who died in combat; and of the nearly 700,000 who served in the war at least 250,000 are now (in 2007) permanently disabled; a percentage far higher than in any previous war.[1] Despite this, Pentagon generals continue to insist that DU munitions pose no danger, and  remain committed to their use. Even as I write, the Department of Defense (DoD) moves ahead with research that could lead to the deployment of DU weapons in space.[2]

Yet, a UN Sub-Committee has declared DU weapons illegal, and last November the European Union (EU) issued its fourth call for a DU moratorium. More and more frequently, one hears the charge that America’s use of these weapons in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia was a war crime. In 2004, for example, a citizen’s tribunal in Japan convicted George W. Bush in absentia for crimes against humanity.[3] Is America headed for a showdown with the world over depleted uranium?  

Although hyperbole has muddied the issue, the bare facts are shocking and need no amplification. Depleted Uranium (DU) is primarily U-238, the isotope of uranium that remains after the fissionable isotope, U-235, has been extracted from natural uranium ore. When enriched to 3% the preferred isotope, U-235, is used to fuel nuclear reactors. When further enriched to 90% or more it becomes “weapons grade” and is suitable for use in nuclear weapons. Enrichment thus “depletes” the natural uranium of its isotopic fraction of U-235. Depleted uranium (99.8% pure U-238) is the by-product of this separation process and was long viewed as a waste. Over the years hundreds of thousands of tons of the stuff accumulated on US military reservations. In fact, because of its low-level radioactivity and 4.5 billion-year half-life, DU presents a long-term storage headache.

In the 1970s the US military got serious about utilizing this waste after the Soviets introduced a superior kind of armor. Quite suddenly, the Pentagon found itself in need of a new penetrating weapon. DU offered attractive possibilities because it is extremely dense–––uranium is 1.7 times as heavy as lead. For this reason, tank shells made of U-238 have formidable kinetic energy: they will slice through the heaviest steel armor like the proverbial hot knife through butter. Quite simply, nothing can withstand them.  Although uranium is very soft, when alloyed with titanium it becomes tough enough to retain its shape when fired out of a tank barrel. Today, several companies make DU shells for the US military. These include Starmet Corporation, based in Concord, Massachusetts, and Aerojet, with plants in California and Tennessee. In the 1990s Alliant Techsystems (formerly Honeywell), based in Minneapolis, also produced millions of DU rounds for the US Air Force. In 2006 Alliant also received new orders worth $77 million to produce 120mm tank shells.[4]

In addition to being an extremely effective penetrator, U-238 is pyrophoric, meaning that it ignites at high velocity. When a ten-pound uranium shell slices through a target vehicle it sheds a part of its mass, causing a firestorm of burning and non-burning uranium fragments. These, in turn, cause catastrophic secondary fires and explosions. In war footage of Desert Storm the flaming DU shells can be seen arcing like tracers across the night sky. The slender rounds are solid DU–––no explosive charge is needed. Each has a plastic outer casing known as a sabot, which centers the round in the bore and which falls away after the shell exits the gun tube. The war footage is graphic. It shows that targeted Iraqi vehicles stood no chance. Pity the poor Iraqi soldiers who came under DU attack. Very few lived to tell about it. Within seconds, most were charred beyond recognition in an incendiary fireball. US military jargon even coined a new term, “crispy critters,” to describe the grisly Iraqi corpses of war.

When DU burns it oxidizes, reaching extreme temperatures (i.e., 3,000-5,000 C). On impact, between 40-70% of the depleted uranium is transformed into an aerosol of extremely fine U-238 particles which contaminate the battlefield long after the war. Geiger counter measurements confirm that even years later, burned-out Iraqi tanks were still hot: 1,000-2,000 times as radioactive as background, with the surrounding desert contaminated to a lesser degree.[5] Continuous exposure to this level of irradiation would be like having a chest X-ray every few minutes.[6] U-238 produces high energy gamma and beta radiation (which are electrons). But most of the emission is in the form of alpha particles, which are charged helium nuclei (i.e., He++). The alpha particles cannot penetrate human skin and for this reason the Pentagon claims that DU is harmless. The claim is false, however. As we will see, the dangers have been understated. Artillery and tank crews who handled DU shells were exposed to continuous alpha, beta and gamma radiation over weeks and months. But they probably had less exposure than soldiers who inhaled DU-laden smoke and dust, whether in combat or during clean-up operations after the war. Most US troops were unaware–––no one bothered to inform them–––that the use of DU rounds had spread low-level radioactive waste across the battlefield. After the fighting, tens of thousands of American soldiers frolicked among the burned-out Iraqi tanks, gathering souvenirs and posing for photographs like curious tourists. Others scavenged spare parts from US vehicles contaminated by “friendly fire,” oblivious that they were endangering themselves with every breath. 

The fire at Doha 

The contaminated zones were not limited to Iraq. Large parts of Kuwait were also affected, including the infamous “highway of death” where the US destroyed Saddam’s army as it retreated north out of Kuwait City. Several areas in Saudi Arabia were contaminated before the war during training exercises. There was even a major accidental release after the fighting ended, which I’m going to recount in detail because it illustrates the problems. In July 1991 a fire broke out in a motor-pool at the US base at Doha, north of Kuwait City. The fire started during refueling, and was caused by static electricity. It spread first to parked vehicles and then to a nearby ammunition dump.[7] Witnesses later said that explosions rocked the compound for six hours, scattering unexploded ordnance and debris over much of the 500-acre base. The raging fires destroyed or damaged dozens of buildings and more than 100 vehicles, including several M-1 Abrams tanks fully loaded with DU shells. 

The fire consumed an estimated $14 million in munitions, including 660 120mm DU rounds, about half of which were completely oxidized. A thick fume of black and white smoke reportedly billowed hundreds of feet above the base and drifted east-southeast toward Kuwait City. No warning was ever issued about the toxic danger posed by the DU-laden smoke and ash.[8] After the fire, soldiers worked on the clean up without even face masks or the standard protective clothing required by military regulations.[9]

The scene must have been surreal. Witnesses later reported seeing hundreds of GIs sweeping up the compound with brooms. A team with the equipment used to test for alpha radiation was dispatched to the base, but for reasons that are still unclear no monitoring was ever done. During a December 26, 1999 broadcast of the CBS weekly news show 60 Minutes, Morley Safer reported that CBS had obtained copies of military communications and incident log books which proved that the military was aware of the hazards, yet, failed to follow its own safety protocols. The base remained open despite DU contamination. Many thousands of US soldiers who transited through Doha in the months and years after the fire suffered exposure, as Kuwait’s seasonal wind storms remobilized the DU ash and dust. In fact, the contaminated base remains in operation to this day.

Clean-up? Or Cover-up?

But even if the military had issued respirators at Doha, it’s doubtful they would have protected our soldiers, given the lessons learned during a limited clean-up operation after the war; whose purpose was to dispose of about three-dozen DU-contaminated tanks and vehicles destroyed during “friendly fire” incidents. This limited operation was led by a reservist, Maj. Doug Rokke, a physicist in private life, who says his orders were signed by the field commander, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf.[10]

There were no field manuals. Rokke’s team had to develop the procedures on their own, through trial-and-error. Their first chore was the ticklish one of manually removing the unexploded DU ordnance still on-board the contaminated Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting vehicles. To accomplish this Rokke’s men had to enter and work inside the contaminated vehicles. There was no way to avoid stirring up the DU ash and dust that covered every surface. The men wore standard military-issue face masks, but according to Rokke they were useless. The problem was that the dust came right through the filters. The men lived with the constant metallic taste and smell of uranium oxide. The masks were of the cheapest design, and did not even meet the HEPA standard current in US industry. (HEPA, or High Efficiency Particulate Air filters, remove 99% of dust particles down to .3 microns in size.) Particles of 5 microns or less are breathable. But not even HEPA filters would have afforded full protection because the aerosols produced on impact by DU rounds are loaded with 0.1 micron-sized DU particles, as well as smaller nanoparticles ranging down to .01 microns. No known filter can prevent inhalation of particles of this size. Within 72 hours everyone on Rokke’s team developed skin rashes and began to complain of respiratory problems. 

Although sick, his men persisted. But it took them more than three months just to package 24 contaminated/destroyed vehicles for shipment back to the states. This included 15 Abrams tanks and 9 Bradley Fighting Vehicles. The team left behind a number of more badly contaminated vehicles: buried in a large hole in the desert. The Army spent $4 million to expand a facility in South Carolina for the purpose of decontaminating the returned equipment, but what the Army ended up with was an expensive holding facility: all for a mere 24 vehicles.[11] The US military had no plans at the time, and has no plans today, to clean up the thousands of Iraqi tanks, armored personnel carriers, trucks and other vehicles destroyed in the 1991 war. Later, the Kuwaiti government hired a private contractor, the Halliburton Corporation, to move most of the burned-out hulks in the vicinity of Kuwait City to a dump in the western desert, according to a plan prepared by Rokke and his colleagues. The site became known as the “Bone yard.” Nothing was done for Iraq, however. Untold numbers of contaminated tanks and vehicles still litter the southern part of the country, to this day.

In 1994 Maj. Rokke was named director of the Army’s Depleted Uranium Project, and was tasked to develop a training program to prepare US soldiers to handle DU weapons. Rokke was also assigned to develop environmental clean up procedures. After extensive research, including field trials at the Department of Energy’s (DoE’s) nuclear test site in Nevada, Rokke put together a comprehensive three-tier 40-hour educational program that employed videos and was based on the best available science, including work done by the DoD’s own scientists. Rokke and his team also prepared the reports and documents that became standard Army regulations about how to handle DU.[12] The Pentagon even saw fit to award Rokke two medals for this work. One citation commended him for “meritorious service while assigned as the depleted uranium project leader…Your outstanding achievements have prepared our soldiers for hazards and will have a vast payoff in the health, safety, and protection of all soldiers.”[13]

But the Pentagon never used Rokke’s training program and videos, not even during the run-up to the second Gulf War.[14] Instead, in 1996 Maj. Doug Rokke was fired. Why? Simple: His training program and validating research acknowledged a plain truth that the general staff found politically unacceptable: that once DU is released as an aerosol into the environment it is virtually impossible to clean up. The Pentagon feared and probably still fears that such an admission will fuel opposition to its continued use of DU weapons. As Rokke put it: “They’d wanted ‘proponency’ [sic] for DU weapons, and I was giving them the opposite.”[15]

A notorious 1991 memorandum by Lt. Col. M.V. Ziehmn of the Los Alamos Lab had cautioned the Department of Defense (DoD) that “if no one [i.e., at the Pentagon] makes the case for the effectiveness for DU on the battlefield, DU rounds may become politically unacceptable and thus, be deleted from the arsenal…I believe we should keep this sensitive issue in mind when after-action reports are being written.”[16] Rokke interpreted the memo as an instruction to be less than candid about DU’s health and environmental impact. When he refused, he was terminated.

Rokke and his men paid a heavy price for the service they rendered to the nation trying to clean up the DU mess created during Desert Storm. According to Rokke, almost every member of his 100-man team is now either sick or dead from various diseases, including lymphoma and other cancers.  It’s a charge the Pentagon has denied,[17] but which the affected veterans and their families can easily confirm. Rokke also claims the Veteran’s Administration (VA) refused medical care to his men, even while they were dying; and he further accuses the military of willfully destroying medical records and personnel files to avoid liability. Rokke’s own health was seriously impaired. When the VA finally tested him he learned that he has 5,000 times the permissible level of uranium in his body. Rokke, currently retired/disabled, has endured 18 kidney operations, as well as eye and gastrointestinal surgery, and he continues to have medical problems directly related to his exposure to DU.

The 1999 RAND Study

Even as tens of thousands of veterans became sick after the Gulf War, the Department of Defense stubbornly denied that DU was responsible. Many vets were told they were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The Pentagon took the position that because DU is only 60% as radioactive as natural uranium, it is harmless. After 1999, military spokespersons also frequently cited a study completed that year by the RAND Corporation, which found no evidence of harmful DU exposure during Desert Storm. The RAND team conducted no research of its own. It merely reviewed the peer-reviewed scientific literature on uranium toxicity. As RAND conceded, there were few published DU studies, as most of the early research was driven by the need to establish standards for the uranium milling/mining industry; for which reason most of the literature deals with exposure to natural or enriched uranium. While all uranium is hazardous inside the human body, dust particles of natural unprocessed uranium tend to be less invasive because they are relatively large in size; hence, are not inhaled as easily.[18]  Moreover, the tiny cilia in the bronchial passages are efficient at removing particles of this size during breathing. When swallowed in food or water, natural uranium also tends to pass through the GI tract attached to organic matter without much absorption.[19]

Critics countered that the Pentagon itself funded and even partly staffed the RAND study, for which reason it cannot be regarded as an independent assessment. Critics also pointed out that the RAND report is far from comprehensive. A peace activist named Gretel Munroe identified 70 pertinent scientific papers that RAND failed to consider.[20]

 Some of these were DU studies conducted under contract to various branches of the US military, including a comprehensive DU investigation completed just six months before Desert Storm by none other than the Army itself.[21] This latter study accurately foresaw that the use of DU penetrators in combat would release large amounts of depleted uranium oxides. It noted that DU is a “low-level alpha radiation emitter which is linked to cancer when exposures are internal.” The Army study warned that aerosol exposures to both soldiers and civilians “could be significant with potential radiological and toxicological effects.” It also correctly predicted that exposed soldiers would suffer cancers and kidney problems. The Army’s prescient report acknowledged that “some form of remedial action in a post-combat environment” would be needed after the war, in other words, a clean up. It even warned that the long-term health risks could make the continued use of DU weapons socially and politically unacceptable. How did the Pentagon react to its own study? Simple. By ignoring it; and RAND did likewise. Both also ignored a 1993 study by the US Government Accounting Office (GAO), which concluded that “the health hazards [from DU] occur primarily due to internal exposures. Soluble forms present chemical hazards to the kidneys, while insoluble forms present hazards to the lungs from ionizing radiation, with particle size being an important factor.”[22] Importantly, these studies also acknowledged that exposure to DU particulates is very different from exposure to natural uranium dust, for which reason RAND’s reliance on studies of natural uranium was inappropriate, and its conclusions dubious.

According to the Pentagon, DU is so inert you can eat the stuff without harm. Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Defense William Cohen made a statement to this effect in 1996. And while it’s probably true that U-238, if ingested, will pass through the gut like natural uranium, without much absorption, nonetheless, Cohen’s statement ignored the fact that when high-velocity DU shells impact hard objects the DU is transformed into a much more invasive substance. Once aerosolized, DU is loose in the environment and it’s only a matter of time before it finds its way into water and food; in which case, DU particles, due to their small size, are easily absorbable through the intestinal lining. They are even more easily inhaled, and will even pass through the skin, making exposure unavoidable in contaminated areas. Submicron-sized DU particles behave like a gas. They are too small to be removed by the cilia in the bronchioles and have no trouble reaching the tiny alveolar sacs in the lungs. In fact, particles of this size can pass directly into the blood and will cross every blood-barrier in the body. Naomi Harley, one of the authors of the RAND study, demonstrated her ignorance of the serious implications of this size factor in her July 1999 testimony before the Presidential Special Oversight Board, where she stated that DU will not cross the blood-brain barrier.[23] Nonsense. Aerosolized DU particles move with ease into the brain, which, no doubt, explains the many neurological problems reported by Gulf War veterans.[24] DU particles also cross the placenta into the unborn child, which is extremely serious because the fetus is especially vulnerable to both radiological and chemical toxicity. No doubt, this explains the increased level of birth abnormalities reported in the children of Gulf War vets, and the even higher incidence in Iraq, where mothers no longer ask, “Is it a boy, or a girl?, but rather: “Is my baby normal?”[25]

Aerosolized DU is also different from unprocessed natural uranium in another important respect. Under the conditions of extreme temperature and high velocity impact, DU particles are rendered ceramic-like, which makes them insoluble. The body has trouble excreting them, for which reason they tend to persist. This explains why 8-10 years after the war veterans of Desert Storm were still excreting DU in their urine, semen, and even in their sweat.[26] This retention of DU poses serious health risks for a number of reasons: firstly, because radiation, even low-level radiation, is cumulative. In fact, the term “low-level radiation” is a misnomer. It is misleading because it wrongly suggests that low-level radiation is not dangerous. Recent studies show just the opposite: that a low-level alpha source inside the body is even more dangerous per unit of exposure than higher levels of radiation. While it is true that an alpha particle, due to its vastly greater size and mass, does not travel nearly as far as an X-ray, the new research indicates that a single alpha particle can cause 1,000 times as much damage.[27] 

Low-level alpha emission in the lung causes scar tissue and greatly increases the risk of lung cancer. Some of the insoluble DU is also scavenged from the lung into the thoracic lymph nodes, where it damages the immune system and also causes lymphoma and leukemia. Many DU nano-particles are also absorbed into the blood and transported via cholesterol and lipids throughout the body. Some DU is excreted by the kidneys, but not all. Much of it accumulates in organs, tissues and bones, and even in human semen. In fact, DU’s affinity for the sexual organs is an especially serious problem because DU is known to cause chromosomal damage, thus burdening future generations with birth abnormalities. The problem is a double whammy: DU is a mutagen due to its radiological properties, and also due to its chemical properties because it is a heavy metal. It turns out that uranium has a chemical affinity for phosphate. Diane Stearns, a biochemist at Northern Arizona University, recently showed that when living cells are exposed to uranium the uranium binds to the phosphate structure in the DNA and causes mutations from chemical effects, quite apart from the radioactive properties.[28]

Finally, new research indicates that DU’s radiological and chemical effects are not additive, but act in synergy. The combination of the two is much worse than the sum of both. A 2002 paper by Dr. Alexandra C. Miller, a chemist at the Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute (AFRRI), described an in vivo study that found DU to be much more damaging to DNA than would be expected solely on the basis of U-238’s radiolytic properties. Miller attributed this to a synergistic multiplier effect.[29]

 In a 2003 interview she told the Guardian: “you can get more than an eight-fold greater effect than you’d expect.”[30] Miller’s findings are potentially explosive because they flatly contradict the official position of the Department of Defense (her boss) that DU presents no serious dangers. This probably explains why the Pentagon subsequently muzzled one of their top scientists. In 2006 the DoD refused to allow the BBC to interview Dr. Miller.[31] The BBC reported that the Pentagon also turned down Miller’s repeated requests for funding to continue her DU research (in 2004, 2005 and 2006). Obviously, if you don’t look, you won’t discover unpleasant facts. 

Gulf War Sickness: a progressive wasting condition

All of the above helps to explain why Gulf War sickness is not a single malady, but a progressive wasting condition. One physician defined it as “a complex incapacitating multi-organ system disorder.”[32[ The many symptoms and associated conditions read like a litany of horrors: fatigue, shortness of breath, joint pain, bleeding gums and lesions, headaches and neurological problems, memory loss, kidney dysfunction, bloody stools, flu-like symptoms, pneumonia, gynecological infections in female soldiers, unsteady gait, rashes and, ultimately, cancer and premature death. Nor is this a comprehensive list. Put simply: DU trashes the body.

Although nearly 700,000 American soldiers served in the first Gulf War, we still don’t know how many were exposed to DU because the Pentagon refused to screen and test our veterans. Although Army regulations require the testing/treatment for GIs wounded by, or exposed to, radioactive materials, including DU, not even one of the hundreds of thousand of soldiers with known or suspected exposure to DU was tested or treated after the war. The Pentagon obviously shrank from a full accounting because it feared the fiscal liability of caring for so many sick vets. The Veteran’s Administration (VA) even dragged its feet caring for the most obviously affected, i.e., the unfortunate troops exposed to large amounts of DU in so-called “friendly fire” incidents. Seven years after the war the Pentagon was still grossly under-reporting the actual number of US soldiers who had come under DU attack by our own side. Why fudge the numbers? Well, probably because the many self-inflicted casualties were an embarrassment. 

But fiscal liability and public embarrassment were not the only, nor even the primary, reasons why the Pentagon sought to conceal the facts about DU weapons. The main reason is that the generals fully intended to use them again. Certainly the Pentagon was not keen on giving them up. Let us remember: During the 1990s Iraq was a free-fire zone. No doubt, the US military continued using DU weapons through this period, in which case the actual expenditure was much greater than the officially acknowledged 340 tons. During the 1994-95 Bosnian War the US used DU weapons again, some 10 tons, and another 3 tons in Kosovo in 1999. The US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt, nicknamed the “Warthog,” accounted for most of the DU expended in these wars, as in Desert Storm. The attack plane’s main weapon is an advanced Gatling gun, the GAU-8  Avenger, mounted in the nose of the plane. The gun is so enormous that the plane literally had to be designed around it. This accounts for its ungainly appearance, and the nickname. But the Warthog was never designed for good looks. Its rotating cannon is all business, and lays down a devastating barrage of thousands of 30mm DU rounds per minute. 

Horror in Basra

Beginning in 1993, Iraqi doctors reported a disturbing increase in the incidence of malignancies around Basra, in southern Iraq. Basra is Iraq’s second largest city and is located near the battlefields where most of the DU was expended in the first Gulf War. An epidemiological study conducted by Dr. Alim Yacoub, a British-educated trained doctor and dean of the medical school at Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, and his colleague, Dr. Jenan Hassan from the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Basra, found that between 1990-2001 all types of malignancies quadrupled. During this same period the number of birth defects increased six-fold. Moreover, the incidence of childhood leukemia jumped from just 2 cases in 1990 to 41 in 2001, a shocking twenty-fold increase. Even more disturbing was a further spike to 53 cases of leukemia in 2002, a 22% increase in a single year; which suggested that an acceleration was underway.[33]

The observed onset in 1993 jibes with the known latency period of leukemia, which can be as short as 2-3 years. The cancer epidemic was exacerbated by the UN embargo, which prevented urgently needed medicines from reaching the victims. Although the Iraqi doctors did not have access to western medical journals, Dr. Thomas Fasy of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine presented their research at a 2003 health conference in New York City. Dr. Fasy had traveled to Basra some months before. Although the Iraqi physicians lacked the necessary scientific equipment to establish a firm link to inhaled or ingested DU, Dr. Hari Sharma, a Canadian radio-chemist, later confirmed the link. When Dr. Sharma examined tissue samples of 38 dead Iraqis from Basra using a supersensitive instrument known as a mass spectrometer, he found DU in the lungs, thoracic lymph nodes and kidneys. Some of the cadavers also had DU in their livers.[34] In a 2003 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle Dr. Yacoub complained that international sanctions prevented the Iraqi doctors from from importing the necessary medical technology.[35]  According to Yacoub, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) refused to approve the equipment on the excuse that Saddam Hussein might divert it for military use.  Once again, the children of Iraq were the principal victims of the US-led embargo.

Most disturbing of all were reports from Basra of extreme birth deformities, as well as a new phenomenon: multiple cancers. By now (in 2007), photos of the Iraqi birth defects have been widely posted around the internet, and the pictures must be seen to be believed.[36] As for the multiple cancers, they were first reported in 2003 at a medical conference in Japan by Dr. Jawad Al-Ali, an oncologist at Basra’s largest hospital. Dr. Al-Ali told the conference: “Two strange phenomena have come about in Basra which I have never seen before. The first is double and triple cancers in one patient: for example, leukemia and cancer of the stomach. The second is the clustering of cancers in families. We have 58 families here with more than one person affected with cancer.”[37] The reports from Basra were alarming, but the Pentagon dismissed them as Iraqi propaganda. The Kuwaiti government did likewise, and even banned Dr. Al-Ali from crossing the border. Other skeptics cast doubt in a different way. They pointed out that southern Iraq suffered contamination by numerous toxic agents during the 1991 war. DU, after all, was only one among many possible causes. In the absence of compelling evidence linking DU to the leukemias and birth defects it was more likely that some other agent was responsible. The cynics even suggested that Saddam Hussein had poisoned his own people by his past use of chemical weapons. 

The skeptics had a point. It’s certainly true that the first Gulf War unleashed numerous toxic substances. The 1991 battlefield was probably the most polluted in history. In addition to DU, soldiers contended with experimental and/or impure vaccines. Soldiers and Iraqis alike breathed acrid black smoke from burning oil wells and were exposed to a wide array of chemical emissions due to the bombing of Iraqi infrastructure. Destroyed factories and industries can spew large amounts of toxic substances. Moreover, after the war US units destroyed at least 100 Iraqi munitions dumps, including an enormous complex at Khamisiyah which according to eyewitnesses included stores of chemical and biological agents (some supplied by the US and other western nations).[38]  It was even reported that the US command ordered the bombing of Iraqi nuclear research reactors.[39] This evidently occurred during the “Shock and Awe” phase of the war. The Pentagon has since released few details, but assuming the reports are correct the order to blow up these sites was incredibly stupid, arguably even insane, as it no doubt had the effect of dispersing dangerous chemicals and possibly radioactive materials across the Iraqi landscape. All of these factors surely increased the level of toxic exposure; and for some years this caveat allowed the US military to deflect some of the criticism regarding its use of DU weapons. 

Transuranic elements and fission by-products

The Pentagon’s case was not helped in 1999 when the Department of Energy (DoE) was forced to admit that America’s DU weapons were not pure U-238, but were laced with small amounts of U-236, plutonium, neptunium, americium, and nearly 200 other unstable transuranic elements and fission by-products, including strontium-90 and Cesium-137.[40] It seems that for many years Union Carbide, Martin Marietta, and Lockheed Martin, the companies that produced the enriched uranium for Uncle Sam, made a practice of recycling spent reactor fuel back into the enrichment process. They did so for purely economic reasons. When the price of U-235 rose enough, it became profitable to recover more of the preferred U-235 fraction in this way. As a result, the DU waste stream became a witches brew of unstable isotopes and daughter products, none of them naturally-occurring. All are created in reactors and every one is thousands of times more radioactive than U-238. 

The Pentagon took pains to emphasize that the presence of plutonium and the other transuranics presented no additional health risk, since the amounts were tiny. Only trace amounts were involved. What the Pentagon failed to mention is that there is no safe level of exposure. For instance, consider plutonium: the most toxic substance known to man. The element was discovered by the chemist Glenn Seaborg, who named it after “Pluto,” the Greek god of death (or hell). And for good reason: unlike uranium, plutonium is not found in Nature. It is produced only in the irradiated bowels of nuclear reactors by neutron bombardment of U-238; and it is 200,000 more radioactive than uranium. In fact, it is so nasty that the tiniest speck in the lung is a death sentence. A pound of plutonium, if uniformly distributed, could wipe out the entire human race. Plutonium is the preferred fissile material for nuclear weapons because so little of it is needed. A mere ten pounds, a lump the size of a grapefruit, is enough to make a hydrogen bomb. 

But the dangers are not limited to nuclear weapons. For many years both the US and Russian governments, as well as the former Soviet regime, utilized one of the isotopes of plutonium, Pu-238, in their space programs. Plutonium-238 is 280 times more radioactive than the more common isotope, plutonium-239, and is used in small reactors to generate electrical power for space probes. Though controversial, the practice has continued in recent years. NASA, for example, powered the 1997 Cassini Saturn probe with a U-238-fueled reactor. This use faced considerable scientific opposition at the time because the lengthy mission required 72 pounds of U-238 fuel, by far the largest amount NASA had ever sent into space. The launch involved a Titan-4 military rocket, an old and unreliable design with a less than reassuring history of 10% failed launches. Fortunately, the Cassini lift-off was successful; but the risks were not limited to the launch phase. After first circling Venus, Cassini returned and made a second dangerous pass around earth to gain the necessary momentum to “slingshot” the probe in the direction of Saturn. Again, we were lucky and there was no disastrous spillage of plutonium. The mission went according to plan; however, other space shots have amply demonstrated the principle that if something can go wrong, it will. Since 1964 several plutonium-powered satellites have crashed to earth, spreading a total of a few pounds of plutonium-238 around the planet. The amount seems trivial, but it was enough, according to Dr. John Gofman, to cause a small but measurable increase in the world-wide rate of lung cancer.[41] This sobering fact gives some idea of plutonium’s extreme toxicity. 

Gofman is a leading authority on radiation. While still a graduate student at UC Berkeley he codiscovered U-233, one of the isotopes of uranium. During World War II Gofman assisted the Manhattan Project at the behest of J. Robert Oppenheimer. He was the first to extract significant amounts of plutonium, then needed for the Bomb program. Many years later, as Biomedical Director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Gofman ran afoul of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) when his research on low-level radiation became an inconvenience to the nuclear establishment. In 1969, building on the work of British radiation expert Alice Stewart, as well as the American scientist E.B. Lewis, Gofman, estimated that the cancer risk to the general population from America’s nuclear programs was much greater than most physicists believed at the time.[42]  Gofman charged that the AEC had underestimated the number of cancers by a factor of at least twenty times, which meant an excess of 32,000 cancers. Even though he had provided crucial assistance to the Manhattan Project and was regarded as a nuclear loyalist–––Gofman supported weapons development–––he was sacked because the government disapproved of his conclusions about low-level radiation. Gofman lost his research staff and funding and had to go back to teaching. 

The case is no exception. Other top scientists have endured similar treatment. The list is long, and includes Linus Pauling, the famous chemist whose 1957-58 petition, signed by thousands of scientists world-wide, helped to bring about a moratorium on atmospheric nuclear testing. In 1962 Pauling won a second Nobel Prize for his peace work; but, thereafter, was shunned by the US government, which repeatedly refused Pauling’s requests for federal grant money.[43] This went on for many years. Not even J. Robert Oppenheimer was above attack. Indeed, the former director of the Manhattan Project suffered an even worse fate when he opposed Edward Teller’s H-Bomb program in the 1950s. Oppenheimer became the target of a McCarthy-era witch-hunt, which ended his career, tarnished his reputation, and brought about his early death. It is of interest that Andrei Sakharov, the leading Soviet nuclear scientist, was similarly humiliated by Nikita Khrushchev for speaking out against the arms race. Even after Sakharov won the 1975 Nobel Peace Prize, he was placed under house arrest when he spoke out against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The lesson is clear: East or West, the War Machine brooks no deviation from its central aims. When great scientists speak out or cease to be useful, they are punished and discarded.

But time proved Gofman correct about low-level radiation. Over the years the accepted standards have become more stringent, not less. On three separate occasions the International Commission for Radiation Protection (ICRP), which draws up the rules for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has tightened up the standards. The ICRP did this in 1965, in 1986 (the year of the Chernobyl disaster), and again in 1990, when it cut the maximum safe dose by a factor of five. Incidentally, the US did not accept the latest revision and today, as a result, has a standard five times less stringent than in the rest of the world. But even the international trend toward an increasingly strict “permissible dose” misses the point. In 2005 Gofman was finally vindicated in full when the National Academy of Sciences, after a five-year comprehensive investigation, released a 700-page report that endorsed what he and a few other brave scientists have been saying for many years, namely, that all radiation exposure is cumulative and adds to the risk of cancer.[44] The notion of a safe dose is an oxymoron.

The Standard Risk Model

But what led AEC scientists to seriously underestimate the radiation dangers in the 1950s and 1960s? The question is important because it bears on the depleted uranium issue. At the time there were no studies of the internal effects of low-level radiation. The presumed risk was an extrapolation from studies of the incidence of cancer and leukemia in the atomic survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In both cases the primary source of exposure was assumed to be external: a brief but intense shower of neutrons and gamma radiation. The burst was extremely penetrating and distributed over the human body as a whole, for which reason physicists calculated cancer risk as an average whole-body dose. This approach led them to estimate zero-risk for low-level radiation, i.e., radioactive fallout. Why? Because when a low-level dose is averaged over the body, or even over an organ, the calculated risk is vanishingly small. This is why many scientists in government and industry insist, even today, that something other than leaked radiation must be causing the cancer clusters frequently reported downwind from nuclear plants. The same approach led Frank von Hippel, an authority on nuclear weapons, to conclude that the health risks from depleted uranium are “statistically undetectable,” except in cases of embedded DU shrapnel wounds.[45] 

This standard method of determining radiation risk is flawed, however. In the first place, because the explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unmonitored, the calculated release of radiation was not based on firm numbers, but on estimates; and by 1981 it was clear that the estimates were in error. In fact, physicists had over-estimated the release of neutrons by as much as ten times.[46] This meant that the impact per unit of radiation was actually worse, since a much lower level of radiation had caused the cancers and leukemias. This was not good news for nuclear advocates. Furthermore, the follow-up studies of atomic survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts were not designed to capture information about low-level effects. The sampling was geared to screen for burst effects, hence, was much too limited. One 30-year study, for example, tracked only those survivors who happened to be within 2,000 yards of the epicenter. This guaranteed that many of the subsequent cancers and birth defects due to fallout would go undetected.[47]

The more fundamental problem is that the standard risk model was developed before the discovery of DNA. It’s interesting that in his memoirs Andrei Sakharov mentions the tremendous impact that Watson and Crick’s discovery of the double helix had on him. In the mid-1950s Sakharov began to worry that nuclear fallout was causing genetic damage and killing babies. In 1957 he warned that nuclear testing up to that point had already caused 500,000 deaths from “non-threshold,” i.e., low-level effects, and this was a conservative estimate.[48] Linus Pauling’s estimates were even higher. On this basis Sakharov, Pauling and others began to call for an end to atmospheric testing. This was finally realized in 1963 with the signing of the Partial Test Ban Treaty; after which, interestingly, the world infant mortality rate began to drop again, after leveling off from 1950-1963. Indeed, after studying the figures on infant mortality an American scientist, Dr. Ernest Sternglass, shocked the scientific community when he announced in 1968 that atmospheric testing had caused the deaths of 375,000 babies in the US alone, mainly from the effects of  radioactive iodine-131.[49] His estimate triggered a fierce debate that sunk to the level of personal attacks against Sternglass. However, in retrospect, his estimate may well have been correct.

It is a fact of biology, not physics, that living cells are variably sensitive to radiation. This is why continuous emission from a radioactive source within the body, even a low-level source, can have a comparable or even greater impact than a brief burst of high-level radiation. When cells are quiescent, the usual state in an adult, cells are much more resistant to radiation than when undergoing cell division or repair, both of which involve DNA replication. In fact, during DNA replication cells are 600 times more sensitive.[50] This explains why continuous internal low-level radiation caused by nuclear fallout or DU is so serious. It’s no wonder that infants and children are so vulnerable. Their rapidly growing bodies are adding many new cells, hence, are replicating DNA at a much faster rate. Photomicrographs of “hot particles” in lung tissue also illustrate why the standard approach of averaging a low-level dose over the whole body is wrong.[51] In the photos the particles assume a characteristic star pattern. The rays are the many tracks of alpha particles in process of irradiating nearby cells. Compared with x-rays and gamma rays, alpha particles are large and massive, hence, do not travel far in the body. Yet, for this very reason all of their energy is deposited near the point of emission. Over time, the local impact of low-level radiation is more than enough to account for the mutagenic effects of fallout–––and DU.

Leukemia in the Balkans

In 2001, news reports of cancer clusters in the Balkans were not so easily dismissed as nothing but Serbian propaganda; and when twenty-four NATO peacekeepers died from leukemia that same year a wave of concern swept across Europe. Portugal accused NATO of a DU cover-up and pulled its troops out of Kosovo. Italy called for a moratorium on the use of DU weapons; and this was echoed by France, Germany, Norway and Greece.[52]  Some nations began to screen their soldiers for DU exposure. In Kosovo a UN a team sent to investigate found low-level beta radiation at eight of eleven sites where DU weapons had been used. According to Pekka Havisto, the former Finnish minister of the environment who headed up the team, the sites included villages where children were seen playing.[53] In Bosnia-Herzegovina the UN team detected airborne DU particles at two sites, and confirmed DU contamination of a local water supply. They also discovered that spent DU rounds were corroding rapidly in the soil. Seven years after the Bosnian war, the fragments had already lost 25% of their mass. The team estimated that within 25-35 years the shells would disintegrate completely, and thus posed a serious threat to ground water.[54] The UN team prudently recommended that all the fragments be promptly collected and removed. They also urged precautionary measures, such as the monitoring of air and water supplies. In 2003 Britain’s most prestigious scientific body, the Royal Society, repeated their advice when it called on the US and UK to clean up the DU fragments scattered across Iraq during the two Gulf wars.[55]  But Washington refused. During a BBC interview the Pentagon’s spokesperson, Lt. Col. David Lapan, reiterated the by-now familiar position that “there are no long-term effects from DU;” hence, no need for a clean-up.[56]

In August 2001, after many invitations by the Iraqi government, the World Health Organization (WHO) sent a delegation to Baghdad to investigate the reported increase in cancer rates and birth defects.[57] The initial WHO visit prompted discussions at the United Nations, and proposals for continued monitoring and research in order to confirm whether DU was responsible. The result was a UN resolution, which came before the General Assembly in November 2001.[58] However, in the emotionally charged aftermath of the September 11 attack, the US used its considerable influence to defeat the resolution. Soon after, the Bush administration launched a round-the-clock media blitz to persuade the American people that Saddam Hussein was linked to Al Qaeda, hence, to the events of 9/11. This media circus had the unfortunate effect of diverting attention from the growing concerns about the use of DU. Even though the Bush administration offered not a scrap of evidence, only rhetoric and innuendo, by the onset of the second Gulf War in March 2003, polls showed that a majority of Americans stood firmly behind the president. A shocked international community looked on in disbelief, and who can blame them, for the world knew better. The US mass media’s spectacular success in persuading a free society of this blatant lie was a propaganda triumph far beyond the dubious achievements of the Nazi Third Reich. Indeed, the episode is sufficiently horrifying that it should motivate all of us who care about our country to take sober stock of what America has become.

It’s likely that the Bush administration also had a hand in blocking the release of a 2001 World Health Organization (WHO) paper on the effects of DU. The monograph was the work of Dr. Keith Baverstock, the WHO’s top radiation expert for 11 years. In 2004, after his retirement, Baverstock charged that the WHO had suppressed his study. He told the London Sunday Herald that “…the widespread use of depleted uranium weapons in Iraq could pose a unique health hazard to the civilian population. There is increasing scientific evidence that radioactivity and the chemical toxicity of DU causes more damage to human cells than is assumed.”[59] Later, in a BBC interview Baverstock described DU as “a potentially dangerous carcinogen.” He also hinted that political interference had prevented his paper from being released in 2001.[60] The doctor emphasized that his report, had it not been suppressed, would have increased pressure on the US and its UK ally to sharply limit their use of DU weapons in Afghanistan and Iraq.

DU health crisis in Afghanistan?

This begs the question: Just how much DU has the US expended since the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001? The estimates range from 100-200 tons[61] to 2,200 tons, or more.[62] Unfortunately, today the actual amount is unknown because the Pentagon has refused to release this information, no doubt, because of mounting criticism. Yet, there are indications that the upper DU estimates may be closer to the true figure. A medical team dispatched to Afghanistan in May 2002 found “astonishing levels” of uranium in the urine of everyone they tested. 

Dr. Asaf Durakovic, who organized this monitoring effort, is a former professor of medicine at Georgetown University. Years earlier, in 1999, he had reported DU in the urine of US Gulf War veterans. Eight years after Desert Storm the vets were still excreting copious amounts of uranium. However, the level in the samples from Afghanistan was many times higher, in fact, an astounding 100-400 times higher.[63] Durakovic concluded on this basis that the US military used even greater quantities of DU weapons in Afghanistan than during the first Gulf War, perhaps including a new class of DU penetrators. His team gathered the samples in Nangarhar province, a strategically important area that includes Kabul, Jalalabad and also Tora Bora, where the US probably used bunker-buster and seismic shock weapons. A second batch of samples taken in September 2002 confirmed the first survey, and also demonstrated contamination over a “potentially much broader area.” The team found sick Afghanis everywhere US bombing had occurred, and the sick displayed the by-now familiar symptoms of Gulf War illness. Durakovic told the BBC he was “stunned” by the results. He made it clear he believes DU is implicated, since “in Afghanistan there were no oil fires, no pesticides, and nobody had been vaccinated.” Then, he added, “if [the lab’s] Nangarhar findings are corroborated in other communities across Afghanistan, the country faces a severe public health disaster. Every subsequent generation is at risk.”

At the time of the first Gulf War Dr. Durakovic headed up a nuclear medicine program at a Veterans Administration (VA) hospital in Wilmington, Delaware. Then an Army Colonel, Durakovic only learned after the war that DU weapons had been used. “I was horrified,” he said. “I was a soldier, but above all, I am a doctor.”[64] When sick veterans approached him in 1993 Durakovic attempted to care for them, but soon got into trouble with his superiors and lost his job. He says two other doctors, Dr. Burroughs and Dr. Slingerland at a VA facility in Boston, also ran into trouble when they tried to order the medical equipment needed to test for DU in the body.

Durakovic eventually had to leave the United States after warnings that his life was in danger because of his work on behalf of sick veterans. In September 2000 Durakovic told a conference of nuclear scientists in Paris that tens of thousands of American and British soldiers were dying from their exposure to depleted uranium.[65] He presented evidence obtained with a mass spectrometer, documenting the presence of DU in the lungs, bones and other organs of dead veterans.[66] The findings confirmed his suspicion that inhaled particles of DU move throughout the human body. Durakovic has not minced words about DU. He says these are radiological weapons that kill indiscriminately.[67] He also emphasizes that infants and children are the most affected because their developing bodies are especially sensitive to the effects of ionizing radiation. 

An Indiscriminate Weapon?

Recent evidence that aerosolized DU particles can travel long distances supports Durakovic’s assertion that DU has indiscriminate effects. In February 2006 the London Sunday Times reported that within days of the Shock and Awe phase of the second Gulf War radiation detectors in the UK recorded a four-fold spike in air-born uranium.[68]

 Since the 1980s Britain’s Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) has been required to monitor air samples at five nuclear plants (Aldermaston, Green Audit, Castle Cottage, Sea View Place, and Aberystwyth) following the discovery of a child-leukemia cluster near one of the facilities. The samples are regularly collected by special high-volume air filters. After the second Gulf War Dr. Chris Busby, a professor at Liverpool University, sought to obtain the sampling data for analysis, in order to scrutinize the government’s position that depleted uranium used in combat does not travel more than a few tens of meters before falling out of the air. Busby, a well-known government advisor on low-level radiation, eventually did obtain the samples, but only after a lengthy freedom-of-information battle. Although the Halliburton Corporation, which currently manages the UK’s nuclear plants for the British government, refused to release the data, in the end Busby obtained the recordings from a separate government agency. Laboratory analyses of the samples then showed that within nine days of the start of the March 2003 bombing of Iraq all five sites in the UK registered a sudden rise in the level of uranium. On two occasions the levels exceeded the threshold requiring notification of the UK’s Environmental Agency. In March 2006 Busby’s research was published in a European science journal.[69] In his paper Busby and co-author Saoirse Morgan also presented meteorological data supporting their contention that the prevailing winds had carried the DU-laden dust/ash first northward from Iraq, then westward across Europe. 

Their charge that the use of DU shells during the war exposed much of Europe to breathable uranium dust touched a raw political nerve in the UK. Negative reaction was swift. Britain’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) summarily dismissed the charge. A number of experts agreed with the MoD, and insisted that the uranium had to be of local origin. However, no one was able to identify a source in the UK. One of the experts who took issue with Busby’s paper, Brian Spratt, offered a different hypothesis. Spratt, who had chaired a DU study for the Royal Society, conceded that the uranium might have come from Iraq on the wind. He argued, however, that the probable source was not DU but natural uranium from the Iraqi desert: stirred up by the US-UK invasion force.[70] Spratt’s hypothesis was absurd, since Iraq has no significant deposits of natural uranium. Yet, it was typical of the hasty responses occasioned by Busby’s controversial paper, as officials and experts scurried about frantically trying to explain why the highest levels of uranium ever detected in the atmosphere over Britain just happened to coincide with the March 2003 attack on Saddam Hussein. Busby was not the first, however, to present hard evidence that DU dust is highly mobile. Air monitors in Hungary and Greece detected a similar spike in airborne uranium in the 1990s after the NATO bombing of Kosovo and Bosnia; and, like Busby they too concluded it had arrived on the wind, an ill omen.[71] 

Genetic Mutilation?

It is well-known that smoke and dust can travel long distances. Dust from the Gobi desert frequently blows across the Pacific to the American West, and ice cores taken from glaciers and ice sheets provide a historical record of global volcanic activity. Certainly DU particles in the soil can be re-suspended by desert wind-storms, which are common in the Mideast. But re-suspension is not the only concern. According to Leuren Moret, a geologist and former employee of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, DU particles less than a micron in size can remain suspended in the atmosphere for long periods.[72] Moret has studied wind transport systems and she says Busby is quite correct. DU particles can circle the globe within a matter of weeks, hence, are likely to contaminate food and water supplies thousands of miles from the point of origin, just as nuclear fallout did in the era of atmospheric testing.[73]  Moret warns that the long-term consequences of DU dispersal are likely to be similar. The effects may also mimic the Chernobyl disaster, by now well-documented despite a Russian cover-up and continuing efforts by the IAEA to downplay the extent of the tragedy. In Belarus, even districts not in the direct path of the radioactive plume later suffered a disturbing increase in cancers, birth defects, infant mortality, and a drop in IQ scores and life expectancy. Diseases formerly seen only in the elderly are now commonplace in younger age groups. In fact, by every measure the health of the population has declined.[74] Moret calls this “genetic mutilation” and she warns that because of DU’s 4.5 billion year half-life, the impacts will only grow more serious over time. Five-hundred years from now, assuming the human race survives, no one will remember why the first and second Gulf Wars were fought, but depleted uranium will still be wreaking havoc with the human gene pool and in the wider biosphere. Moret points out that shortly after America’s 2003 invasion of Iraq the World Health Organization (WHO) predicted a doubling of world cancer rates by 2020.[75] What prompted the dire prognostication? Did the US military’s expenditure of DU weapons in Iraq and Afghanistan have something to do with it? Moret thinks the timing was not just a coincidence. 

Obviously, the US general staff is blind to the simple truth that nothing, certainly not short-term military expedience, can justify the long-term consequences of using DU weapons. The Pentagon cannot plead ignorance, because, in addition to the sources already mentioned, a leaked official document proves that the general staff was informed about DU’s toxic effects as early as 1943, when three top US scientists sent a report to Brigadier Gen. Leslie R. Groves, director of the Manhattan Project.[76] Their report was titled the “Use of Radioactive Materials as a Military Weapon” and it was signed by Drs. James B. Conant, Arthur. H. Compton, and Harold C. Urey. Dr. Conant chaired the Chemistry department at Harvard and went on to become president of that prestigious university. During World War I he helped to develop mustard gas for the US Army. Compton, even more famous, discovered Compton scattering of electromagnetic radiation by electrons, also known as the Compton effect, for which he won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1927. Harold Urey discovered deuterium, one of the isotopes of hydrogen, and demonstrated the existence of “heavy” water, for which he won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1934. During the Manhattan Project, Urey also helped to develop the gaseous diffusion method of enriching uranium, the preferred method still in use today. In short, all three men were extremely capable scientists, and in their 1943 report to Groves they described how depleted uranium could be made into a gas warfare agent by grinding the substance into particles of microscopic size. Their report explained that DU weapons would be delivered using “ground-fired projectiles” and ”distributed in a dust or smoke form so finely powdered that it will permeate a standard gas mask filter in quantities large enough to be extremely damaging.” The report mentioned that such weapons could be used as a “terrain contaminant,” that is, to deny the enemy access to large areas of territory. It even predicted the kinds of respiratory problems experienced by Doug Rokke’s team. In short, the 1943 report described in chilling detail the very weapon later developed by the US Department of Defense. 

Conclusion

A number of disturbing conclusions follow from all of this. They are unpleasant but must be faced squarely. In recent years, White House spokespersons and national security advisers have repeatedly warned that Islamic terrorists could strike cities in the US with radiological weapons.[77] In recent days we’ve heard these same warnings repeated,  again, this time in especially shrill tones. Based on the above evidence, however, it’s clear that America’s leaders have already done what we’ve accused terrorists of only planning to do. Worse, our leaders have done it on a greater scale. America’s use of DU weapons has already caused the deaths of hundreds of times more Iraqi and Afghani civilians, including women and children, than died in the 9/11 attack. Moreover, it is likely that the DU particles already released into the environment, given their insidious effects and 4.5 billion year half-life, will go on killing innocent people for a very long time, indeed, perhaps for the rest of human history, essentially for all of time. In short, our leaders have permanently fouled our nest, surely the ultimate atrocity. They cannot plead ignorance. As I have shown, the toxic effects of DU were understood even at the time of the Manhattan Project. Our leaders knew the facts, but used the weapons anyway, probably because they just didn’t care–––a breach of trust with the American people so odious it can only be compared with an earlier US government policy of utilizing American GIs as guinea pigs during the period of atmospheric testing. We know that at least 300,000 American soldiers were willfully exposed to high levels of radiation during dozens of nuclear tests; not to mention the millions of American civilians who were also exposed to the fallout.[78]

In short, our leaders are guilty of not merely incompetence, nor even malfeasance, but of outright terrorism. Indeed, if the use of DU weapons is not terrorism, the word has no meaning. No doubt, for this reason, in June 2007, at a conference in Vancouver, BC, a gathering of 9/11 scholars and peace activists called for the creation of an international tribunal to hold America’s leaders accountable for crimes against humanity and the environment. Their brave initiative deserves our support, because it is absurd to think the US government will police itself. Thus far, the US Congress has shown no sign of providing the necessary leadership. What is clear is that if we fail to end the use of these weapons and bring the guilty to justice, the people of the world will hold all Americans collectively responsible; and rightly so. Our leaders’ reckless and immoral use of DU weapons in the name of freedom has seriously undermined not only America’s standing in the world, but also her security. Far from enhancing our security, DU weapons have made us much more vulnerable. When the peoples of the earth learn the terrible truth about what we’ve done, they will hate us more than ever; and if they insist on retribution we will be lucky to escape retaliatory strikes against American cities. 

With regard to 9/11, a further conclusion also appears inescapable. Given that our leaders knowingly used weapons certain to kill, injure and maim tens of thousands of our own soldiers, is it not likely they are also capable of murdering a smaller number of American civilians on 9/11 for similar reasons, i.e., out of political expedience? Given the naked facts, it would be hard to conclude anything else.

Mark H. Gaffney’s latest book, Gnostic Secrets of the Naassenes, was a finalist for the 2004 Narcissus Book Award. Mark can be reached for comment at markhgaffney@earthlink.net. Visit his web site at http://www.GnosticSecrets.com

Notes

1 Beyond Treason, a film by William Lewis, American Gulf War Vets. http://www.beyondtreason.com/

2 The DoD program is known as “Rods from God,” and would involve the deployment in earth orbit of 20-foot long DU penetrator rods, which could be fired at targets on earth, reaching 7,000 mph before impact. Helen Caldicott and Craig Eisendrath, War in Heaven, The New Press, New York, 2007, p. 82.

3 Nao Shimoyachi, “Citizens find Bush guilty of Afghan war crimes,” Japan Times, March 14, 2004.  posted at http://search.japantimes.co.jp/member/member.html?nn20040314a5.htm

4 John Byrne, “US signs $38 million deal for depleted uranium tank shells,” The Raw Story, March 2, 3006. posted at http://rawstory.com/news/2006/U.S._signs_38_million_deal_for_0302.html

5 Scott Peterson, “The Monitor finds high levels of radiation left by US armor-piercing shells,” Christian Science Monitor, May 15, 2003.

6 Interview with physicist Michio Kaku, in Poison Dust, a 2005 film by Sara Flounders and Sue Harris, available from the Peoples Rights Fund Poison Dust Project, 212-633-6646, or at www.poisondust.com

7 email from Doug Rokke, July 14, 2007.

8 According to Maj. Doug Rokke, former director of the Army’s Depleted Uranium Project, at the time of the fire the 3rd U.S. Army Materiel Command’s (AMC) DU assessment recovery team was well aware of the hazards. So were the commanding officers on the scene who, unfortunately, failed to implement the safety procedures specified in US Army Technical Bulletin  9-1300-2378. Email from Doug Rokke, July 14, 2007.

9 The pertinent document is U.S. Army Technical Bulletin 9-1300-278, Guidelines for Safe Response to Handling, Storage and Transportation Accidents Involving Army Tank Munitions or Armor Which Contain Depleted Uranium, July 21, 1996.

10 email from Doug Rokke, July 14, 2007.

11 “Health and Environmental Consequences of Depleted Uranium Use in the US Army,” US Army Environmental Policy Institute (AEPI), June, 1995, p. 87.

12 Roke’s team also prepared several reports and documents, including: US Army Regulation 700-48, US Army PAM 700-48, and the DU CTT: Task number: 031-503-1017 “RESPOND TO DEPLETED URANIUM/LOW LEVEL RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS (DULLRAM) HAZARDS”, STP 21-1-SMCT: Soldiers Manual of Common Tasks, Headquarters Department of the Army, Washington, D.C.

13 David Rose, “Weapons of Self-Destruction,” Vanity Fair, November, 2004.

14 David Edwards, “Army made video warning about dangers of depleted uranium but never showed it to troops, February 6, 2007. posted at http://www.rawstory.com/news/2007/CNN_Agent_Orange_tame_compared_to_0206.html

15 David Rose, “Weapons of Self-Destruction,”  Vanity Fair, November, 2004.

16 Lt. Col. M.V. Ziehmn, “The Effectiveness of Depleted Uranium Penetrators,” Los Alamos National Laboratory memorandum, March 1, 1991.

17 In April 2003 Assistant Secretary of Defense William Winkenwerder claimed that only two members of Rokke’s team had died. See his letter “Depleted uranium  poses no risks to troops,” Miami Herald, April 14, 2003.

18 Harley, N., Foulkes, E., Hilborne, L., Hudson, A., Anthony, C.R., “A Review of the Scientific Literature as it Pertains to Gulf War Illnesses: Vol. 7 Depleted Uranium,” National Defense Research Institute (RAND), 1999. Also see Berlin, M., and B. Rudell, “Uranium,” in L. Friberg, G. F. Nordberg, V. B. Vouk, eds., Handbook on the Toxicology of Metals, 2nd ed., New York: Elsevier, 1986, pp. 617-637.

19 Spencer, H. S., D. Osis, I. M. Fisenne, P. Perry, N. H. Harley, “Measured Intake and Excretion Patterns of Naturally Occurring 238U and Calcium in Humans,” Radiation Res, 24, 1990, pp. 90-95. The RAND team conceded, however, that in studies of rats GI absorption was greater in juvenile rats, compared with adults, which suggests that children are more vulnerable than adults. Foulkes, E. C., and D. Bergman, “Inorganic Mercury Absorption and Mature and Immature Rat Jejunum: Transcellular and Intercellular Pathways in Vivo and in Everted Sacs,” Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, 120, 1993, pp. 89-95.

20 Gretel Munroe, “Health Effects of Depleted Uranium,” Grassroots Actions for Peace, Military Toxics Project, October 2004.

21 “US Army Kinetic Energy Penetrator Long Term Strategy Study,” AMCCOM, 1990: D(1); also see J.A. Glissmeyer et al., Characterization Of Airborne Uranium From Test Firings Of XM774 Ammunition. This study may be viewed on line at http://www.mindfully.org/Nucs/Airborne-Uranium-Glissmeyer1nov79.htm; also see J.A. Glissmeyer, J. Mishima, and J.A. Bamberger, “Prototype Firing Range Air Cleaning System,” 19th DOE Nuclear Airborne Waste Management and Air Cleaning Confer., Baltimore, Maryland 12-16 August, 1984, pp. 846-872.

22 “Army not Adequately Prepared to Deal with Depleted Uranium Contamination,” US General Accounting Office , GAO/NSIAD-93-90, January 1993.

23 Hearing of the Presidential Special Oversight Board, George Washington University, July 13, 1999, posted at http://www.oversight.ncr.gov/xcript_hearing_13jul99.html#rand

24 Pelmar, et al, “Distribution of uranium in rats implanted with depleted uranium fragments,” Toxicological Sciences,  Vol. 49, pp.2-39, 1999; McDiarmid, et al, “Health effects of depleted uranium on exposed Gulf War veterans,” Environmental Research, Vol. 82 (2) February, 2000, pp. 168-80.

25 Elizabeth Neuffer, “Iraqis Trace Surge in Cancer to US Bombings,” Boston Globe, January 26, 2003.

26 Larry Johnson, “Iraqi cancers, birth defects blamed on US depleted uranium,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 12, 2002.

27 This is the work of Dr, Eric Wright, professor of Experimental Haematology at the University of Dundee. For an overview of his work go to http://www.dundee.ac.uk/pathology/ew.htm

28 “When Cells are exposed to uranium they acquire mutations,” Medical News Today, April 9, 2006. Strearn’s research was published in the journals Mutagenesis and Molecular Carcinogenesis.

29 Alexandra C. Miller, et al, “Depleted uranium-catalyzed oxidative DNA damage: absence of significant alpha particle decay,” Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, Vol. 91 (2002), pp. 246-252.

30 Ian Sample and Nic Fleming, “When the dust settles,” The Guardian, April 17, 2003.

31 BBC Press Release: US and UK military continued to use depleted uranium weapons despite cancer warnings, October 10, 2006.

32 Asaf Durakovic, “Undiagnosed Illnesses and Radioactive Warfare,” Croatian Medical Journal, 2003, Vol. 44, pp. 526.

33 Dr Thomas Fasy presented the results of the Basra study on June 14, 2003 at the NPRI conference on “The Health Effects of DU” at the New York Academy of Medicine. Dr. Fasy is an Associate Professor of Pathology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and had traveled to Basra some months before where he met with the Iraqi doctors. The title of his talk was “The Recent Epidemic of Malignancies and Congenital Malformations in Southern Iraq: the biological plausibility of DU as a carcinogen and teratogen.” 

34 Dr. Hari Sharma, “Investigations of Environmental Impacts from the Deployment of Depleted Uranium-Based Munitions, December 2003. The paper is available through the Military Toxics Project at www.miltoxproj.org

35 Robert Collier, “Iraq Links Cancers to Uranium Weapons,” San Francisco Chronicle, January 13, 2003.

36 Some shocking photos are posted at http://www.xs4all.nl/~stgvisie/VISIE/extremedeformities.html

37 Doug Westerman, “Depleted Uranium – Far Worse Than 9/11,” Global Research, May 3, 2006.

38 Beyond Treason, a film by William Lewis, available from Gulf War Vets. http://www.beyondtreason.com/

39 Rick Atkinson and Ann Devroy, “US Claims Iraqi Nuclear Reactors Hit Hard,” Washington Post, January 21, 1991.

40 DoE press release: Past Recycled Uranium Programs Under Review as Energy Department Investigation Continues (provides updated information on Cold War era operations), September 29, 1999. NATO was forced to make a similar admission in 2001 after the UNEP team independently assayed DU fragments from Kosovo. NATO press release, January 18, 2001

41 Karl Grossman, “US Plans to Wage War in Space,” presentation in Toronto, Canada, October, 2000.

42 For an excellent discussion see Harvey Wasserman and Norman Solomon, Killing Our Own, The Disaster of America’s Experience with Atomic Radiation, New York, Delta, 1982, pp. 94-101.

43 Ibid. 

44 Press release: July 7, 2005: Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER). Cancer Risks for Women and Children Due to Radiation Exposure Far HIgher Than for Men. New National Academy of Sciences Report Raises Major Issues for Radiation Protection, Independent Institute Claims. The title of the report: The Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation.

45 Steve Fetter and Frank von Hippel, “After the dust settles,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November-December 1999, pp. 42-45.

46 Eliot Marshall, “New A-Bomb Studies Alter Radiation Estimates,” Science, Vol. 212, May 22, 1981; also see Eliot Marshall, New A-Bomb Data Shown to Experts,” Science, Vol. 212, June 19, 1981.

47 William J Schull et al, “Genetic Effects of the Atomic Bombs: A Reappraisal,” Science, Vol. 213, September, 1981, pp.1220-1227.

48 Andrei Sakharov, Memoirs, New York, Alfred Knopf, 1990, p. 202.

49 Ernest J. Sternglass, “Infant Mortality and Nuclear Tests,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 25, 1969, pp. 26-28.

50 For an excellent discussion see the paper that Dr. Chris  Busby presented to the Royal Society in 2000: Science on Trial, posted at http://www.llrc.org/du/subtopic/durs.htm

51 For an example go to http://www.mindfully.org/Nucs/Hot-Particle-Lung-Tissue1997.htm

52 Dr. Ali Ahmed Rind, “Clear and Present Danger: The Balkan Syndrome,” Baltimore Chronicle, December 5, 2001.

53 Helen Caldicott MD., The New Nuclear Danger, The New Press, New York, 2002, p. 159.

54 “Depleted Uranium Contaminates Bosnia-Herzegovina,” ens-newswire, March 25, 2003.

55 Paul Brown, “Scientists urge shell clean-up to protect civilians,” The Guardian, April 17, 2003.

56 Alex Kirby, “US rejects Iraq DU clean-up,” BBC News Online, April 14, 2003. In February 2002 the Pentagon formally appealed to Congress for relief from environmental regulations that it claimed was impeding crucial exercises and combat readiness. The military’s concerns were not limited to relief from protecting endangered habitat and threatened species. Although the request made no mention of DU, its list of complaints included a case on a gunnery range at the Massachusetts Military Reservation on Cape Cod where a live-fire training exercises were terminated after munitions contaminated ground water. Vernon Loeb, “Rules on Environment Concern Pentagon: Military Says Laws Inhibit Training,” Washington Post, January 13, 2002.

57 WHO to probe Depleted Uranium in Iraq, WHO press release, September 5, 2001.

58 Irwin Arieff, “US Wins Defeat of Deleted Uranium Study,” Reuters, November 30, 2001.

59 Rob Edwards, “WHO suppressed scientific study into depleted uranium cancer fears in Iraq,” Sunday Herald, February 22, 2004.

60 BBC Press Release: US and UK military continued to use depleted uranium weapons despite cancer warnings, October 10, 2006.

61 Dan Fahey, “he Use of Depleted Uranium in the 2003 Iraq War: An Initial Assessment of Information and Policies,” June 24, 2003.

62 “The use of Depleted Uranium in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Seattle Post Intelligencer, August 4, 2003.

63 Alex Kirby, “Afghans’ uranium levels spark alert,” BBC News Online, May 22, 2003.

64 Felicity Arbuthnot, “Depleted Uranium – A Way Out? Compensation to those affected by this poisoned legacy,” Global Research, June 3, 2007.

65 Jonathan Carr-Brown and Martin Meissonnier, “Tests show Gulf war victims have uranium poisoning,” London Sunday Times, September 3, 2000.

66 Horan P., Dietz L., and Durakovic A., “The quantitative Analysis of depleted uranium isotopes in British, Canadian, and US Gulf War veterans,” Military Medicine, Vol. 167, 2002, pp. 620-627; also see Mil. Med. Vol. 168, 2003, p. 474.

67 Asaf Durakovic, “Undiagnosed Illnesses and Radioactive Warfare,” Croatian Medical Journal, Vl. 44 (5)2003, pp. 52-523.

68 Mark Gould and Jon Ungoed-Thomas, “UK radiation jump blamed on Iraq shells,” The Sunday Times (London), February 19, 2006.

69 Christopher Busby and Saoirse Morgan, “Did the use of Uranium weapons in Gulf War 2 result in contamination of Europe?”, European Biology and Bioelectromagnetics, March 2006.

70 Mark Gould and Jon Ungoed-Thomas, “UK radiation jump blamed on Iraq shells,” The Sunday Times (London), February 19, 2006.

71  A. Kerekes et. al, “Did NATO Attacks in Yugoslavia Cause a Detectable Environmental Effect in Hungary?”, Health Physics, Vol. 80 (2), February 2001, pp. 177-178.

72 talk by Leuren Moret, “Depleted Uranium: Nuclear Holocaust and The Politics of Radiation, Los Altos, California, sponsored by the Women’s Solidarity Movement, April 21, 2003, posted at http://www.mindfully.org/Nucs/2003/DU-Leuren-Moret21apr03.htm

73 conversation with Leuren Moret, January 12, 2007.

74 C.C.Busby and A.V. Yablokov, editors, Chernobyl 20 Years On: Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident, published on behalf of the European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR) by Green Audit, Brussels, 2006. For a summary and free download go to http://www.llrc.org/index.html

75 Press release, “Concerted action is the only answer to rising cancer deaths: Two million lives could be saved by 2020 and 6.5 million lives by 2040 according to a new WHO/UICC cancer booklet,” June 3, 2003.

76 Memorandum to Brigadier General L. R. Groves, posted at http://www.mindfully.org/Nucs/Groves-Memo-Manhattan30oct43.htm

77 Bill Gertz, “Reports reveal Zarqawi nuclear threat,” The Washington Times, April 20, 2005.

78 Harvey Wasserman and Norman Solomon, Killing Our Own, Dell Publishing, New York, 1981, see especially chapter two, p. 31.

The Invisible Government By John Pilger

July 22, 2007

The Invisible Government By John Pilger

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Dandelion Salad

In a speech in Chicago, John Pilger describes how propaganda has become such a potent force in our lives and, in the words of one of its founders, represents ‘an invisible government’.
By John Pilger

07/20/07 “
ICHThe title of this talk is Freedom Next Time, which is the title of my book, and the book is meant as an antidote to the propaganda that is so often disguised as journalism. So I thought I would talk today about journalism, about war by journalism, propaganda, and silence, and how that silence might be broken. Edward Bernays, the so-called father of public relations, wrote about an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. He was referring to journalism, the media. That was almost 80 years ago, not long after corporate journalism was invented. It is a history few journalist talk about or know about, and it began with the arrival of corporate advertising. As the new corporations began taking over the press, something called “professional journalism” was invented. To attract big advertisers, the new corporate press had to appear respectable, pillars of the establishment—objective, impartial, balanced. The first schools of journalism were set up, and a mythology of liberal neutrality was spun around the professional journalist. The right to freedom of expression was associated with the new media and with the great corporations, and the whole thing was, as Robert McChesney put it so well, “entirely bogus”.

For what the public did not know was that in order to be professional, journalists had to ensure that news and opinion were dominated by official sources, and that has not changed. Go through the New York Times on any day, and check the sources of the main political stories—domestic and foreign—you’ll find they’re dominated by government and other established interests. That is the essence of professional journalism. I am not suggesting that independent journalism was or is excluded, but it is more likely to be an honorable exception. Think of the role Judith Miller played in the New York Times in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Yes, her work became a scandal, but only after it played a powerful role in promoting an invasion based on lies. Yet, Miller’s parroting of official sources and vested interests was not all that different from the work of many famous Times reporters, such as the celebrated W.H. Lawrence, who helped cover up the true effects of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in August, 1945. “No Radioactivity in Hiroshima Ruin,” was the headline on his report, and it was false.

Consider how the power of this invisible government has grown. In 1983 the principle global media was owned by 50 corporations, most of them American. In 2002 this had fallen to just 9 corporations. Today it is probably about 5. Rupert Murdoch has predicted that there will be just three global media giants, and his company will be one of them. This concentration of power is not exclusive of course to the United States. The BBC has announced it is expanding its broadcasts to the United States, because it believes Americans want principled, objective, neutral journalism for which the BBC is famous. They have launched BBC America. You may have seen the advertising.

The BBC began in 1922, just before the corporate press began in America. Its founder was Lord John Reith, who believed that impartiality and objectivity were the essence of professionalism. In the same year the British establishment was under siege. The unions had called a general strike and the Tories were terrified that a revolution was on the way. The new BBC came to their rescue. In high secrecy, Lord Reith wrote anti-union speeches for the Tory Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and broadcast them to the nation, while refusing to allow the labor leaders to put their side until the strike was over.

So, a pattern was set. Impartiality was a principle certainly: a principle to be suspended whenever the establishment was under threat. And that principle has been upheld ever since.

Take the invasion of Iraq. There are two studies of the BBC’s reporting. One shows that the BBC gave just 2 percent of its coverage of Iraq to antiwar dissent—2 percent. That is less than the antiwar coverage of ABC, NBC, and CBS. A second study by the University of Wales shows that in the buildup to the invasion, 90 percent of the BBC’s references to weapons of mass destruction suggested that Saddam Hussein actually possessed them, and that by clear implication Bush and Blair were right. We now know that the BBC and other British media were used by the British secret intelligence service MI-6. In what they called Operation Mass Appeal, MI-6 agents planted stories about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, such as weapons hidden in his palaces and in secret underground bunkers. All of these stories were fake. But that’s not the point. The point is that the work of MI-6 was unnecessary, because professional journalism on its own would have produced the same result.

Listen to the BBC’s man in Washington, Matt Frei, shortly after the invasion. “There is not doubt,” he told viewers in the UK and all over the world, “That the desire to bring good, to bring American values to the rest of the world, and especially now in the Middle East, is especially tied up with American military power.” In 2005 the same reporter lauded the architect of the invasion, Paul Wolfowitz, as someone who “believes passionately in the power of democracy and grassroots development.” That was before the little incident at the World Bank.

None of this is unusual. BBC news routinely describes the invasion as a miscalculation. Not Illegal, not unprovoked, not based on lies, but a miscalculation.

The words “mistake” and “blunder” are common BBC news currency, along with “failure”—which at least suggests that if the deliberate, calculated, unprovoked, illegal assault on defenseless Iraq had succeeded, that would have been just fine. Whenever I hear these words I remember Edward Herman’s marvelous essay about normalizing the unthinkable. For that’s what media clichéd language does and is designed to do—it normalizes the unthinkable; of the degradation of war, of severed limbs, of maimed children, all of which I’ve seen. One of my favorite stories about the Cold War concerns a group of Russian journalists who were touring the United States. On the final day of their visit, they were asked by the host for their impressions. “I have to tell you,” said the spokesman, “that we were astonished to find after reading all the newspapers and watching TV day after day that all the opinions on all the vital issues are the same. To get that result in our country we send journalists to the gulag. We even tear out their fingernails. Here you don’t have to do any of that. What is the secret?”

What is the secret? It is a question seldom asked in newsrooms, in media colleges, in journalism journals, and yet the answer to that question is critical to the lives of millions of people. On August 24 last year the New York Times declared this in an editorial: “If we had known then what we know now the invasion if Iraq would have been stopped by a popular outcry.” This amazing admission was saying, in effect, that journalists had betrayed the public by not doing their job and by accepting and amplifying and echoing the lies of Bush and his gang, instead of challenging them and exposing them. What the Times didn’t say was that had that paper and the rest of the media exposed the lies, up to a million people might be alive today. That’s the belief now of a number of senior establishment journalists. Few of them—they’ve spoken to me about it—few of them will say it in public.

Ironically, I began to understand how censorship worked in so-called free societies when I reported from totalitarian societies. During the 1970s I filmed secretly in Czechoslovakia, then a Stalinist dictatorship. I interviewed members of the dissident group Charter 77, including the novelist Zdener Urbanek, and this is what he told me. “In dictatorships we are more fortunate that you in the West in one respect. We believe nothing of what we read in the newspapers and nothing of what we watch on television, because we know its propaganda and lies. I like you in the West. We’ve learned to look behind the propaganda and to read between the lines, and like you, we know that the real truth is always subversive.”

Vandana Shiva has called this subjugated knowledge. The great Irish muckraker Claud Cockburn got it right when he wrote, “Never believe anything until it’s officially denied.”

One of the oldest clichés of war is that truth is the first casualty. No it’s not. Journalism is the first casualty. When the Vietnam War was over, the magazine Encounter published an article by Robert Elegant, a distinguished correspondent who had covered the war. “For the first time in modern history,” he wrote, the outcome of a war was determined not on the battlefield, but on the printed page, and above all on the television screen.” He held journalists responsible for losing the war by opposing it in their reporting. Robert Elegant’s view became the received wisdom in Washington and it still is. In Iraq the Pentagon invented the embedded journalist because it believed that critical reporting had lost Vietnam.

The very opposite was true. On my first day as a young reporter in Saigon, I called at the bureaus of the main newspapers and TV companies. I noticed that some of them had a pinboard on the wall on which were gruesome photographs, mostly of bodies of Vietnamese and of American soldiers holding up severed ears and testicles. In one office was a photograph of a man being tortured; above the torturers head was a stick-on comic balloon with the words, “that’ll teach you to talk to the press.” None of these pictures were ever published or even put on the wire. I asked why. I was told that the public would never accept them. Anyway, to publish them would not be objective or impartial. At first, I accepted the apparent logic of this. I too had grown up on stories of the good war against Germany and Japan, that ethical bath that cleansed the Anglo-American world of all evil. But the longer I stayed in Vietnam, the more I realized that our atrocities were not isolated, nor were they aberrations, but the war itself was an atrocity. That was the big story, and it was seldom news. Yes, the tactics and effectiveness of the military were questioned by some very fine reporters. But the word “invasion” was never used. The anodyne word used was “involved.” America was involved in Vietnam. The fiction of a well-intentioned, blundering giant, stuck in an Asian quagmire, was repeated incessantly. It was left to whistleblowers back home to tell the subversive truth, those like Daniel Ellsberg and Seymour Hersh, with his scoop of the My-Lai massacre. There were 649 reporters in Vietnam on March 16, 1968—the day that the My-Lai massacre happened—and not one of them reported it.

In both Vietnam and Iraq, deliberate policies and strategies have bordered on genocide. In Vietnam, the forced dispossession of millions of people and the creation of free fire zones; In Iraq, an American-enforced embargo that ran through the 1990s like a medieval siege, and killed, according to the United Nations Children’s fund, half a million children under the age of five. In both Vietnam and Iraq, banned weapons were used against civilians as deliberate experiments. Agent Orange changed the genetic and environmental order in Vietnam. The military called this Operation Hades. When Congress found out, it was renamed the friendlier Operation Ranch Hand, and nothing change. That’s pretty much how Congress has reacted to the war in Iraq. The Democrats have damned it, rebranded it, and extended it. The Hollywood movies that followed the Vietnam War were an extension of the journalism, of normalizing the unthinkable. Yes, some of the movies were critical of the military’s tactics, but all of them were careful to concentrate on the angst of the invaders. The first of these movies is now considered a classic. It’s The Deerhunter, whose message was that America had suffered, America was stricken, American boys had done their best against oriental barbarians. The message was all the more pernicious, because the Deerhunter was brilliantly made and acted. I have to admit it’s the only movie that has made me shout out loud in a Cinema in protest. Oliver Stone’s acclaimed movie Platoon was said to be antiwar, and it did show glimpses of the Vietnamese as human beings, but it also promoted above all the American invader as victim.

I wasn’t going to mention The Green Berets when I set down to write this, until I read the other day that John Wayne was the most influential movie who ever lived. I a saw the Green Berets starring John Wayne on a Saturday night in 1968 in Montgomery Alabama. (I was down there to interview the then-infamous governor George Wallace). I had just come back from Vietnam, and I couldn’t believe how absurd this movie was. So I laughed out loud, and I laughed and laughed. And it wasn’t long before the atmosphere around me grew very cold. My companion, who had been a Freedom Rider in the South, said, “Let’s get the hell out of here and run like hell.”

We were chased all the way back to our hotel, but I doubt if any of our pursuers were aware that John Wayne, their hero, had lied so he wouldn’t have to fight in World War II. And yet the phony role model of Wayne sent thousands of Americans to their deaths in Vietnam, with the notable exceptions of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Last year, in his acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Literature, the playwright Harold Pinter made an epoch speech. He asked why, and I quote him, “The systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought in Stalinist Russia were well known in the West, while American state crimes were merely superficially recorded, left alone, documented.” And yet across the world the extinction and suffering of countless human beings could be attributed to rampant American power. “But,” said Pinter, “You wouldn’t know it. It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.” Pinter’s words were more than the surreal. The BBC ignored the speech of Britain’s most famous dramatist.

I’ve made a number of documentaries about Cambodia. The first was Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia. It describes the American bombing that provided the catalyst for the rise of Pol Pot. What Nixon and Kissinger had started, Pol Pot completed—CIA files alone leave no doubt of that. I offered Year Zero to PBS and took it to Washington. The PBS executives who saw it were shocked. They whispered among themselves. They asked me to wait outside. One of them finally emerged and said, “John, we admire your film. But we are disturbed that it says the United States prepared the way for Pol Pot.”

I said, “Do you dispute the evidence?” I had quoted a number of CIA documents. “Oh, no,” he replied. “But we’ve decided to call in a journalistic adjudicator.”

Now the term “journalist adjudicator” might have been invented by George Orwell. In fact they managed to find one of only three journalists who had been invited to Cambodia by Pol Pot. And of course he turned his thumbs down on the film, and I never heard from PBS again. Year Zero was broadcast in some 60 countries and became one of the most watched documentaries in the world. It was never shown in the United States. Of the five films I have made on Cambodia, one of them was shown by WNET, the PBS station in New York. I believe it was shown at about one in the morning. On the basis of this single showing, when most people are asleep, it was awarded an Emmy. What marvelous irony. It was worthy of a prize but not an audience.

Harold Pinter’s subversive truth, I believe, was that he made the connection between imperialism and fascism, and described a battle for history that’s almost never reported. This is the great silence of the media age. And this is the secret heart of propaganda today. A propaganda so vast in scope that I’m always astonished that so many Americans know and understand as much as they do. We are talking about a system, of course, not personalities. And yet, a great many people today think that the problem is George W. Bush and his gang. And yes, the Bush gang are extreme. But my experience is that they are no more than an extreme version of what has gone on before. In my lifetime, more wars have been started by liberal Democrats than by Republicans. Ignoring this truth is a guarantee that the propaganda system and the war-making system will continue. We’ve had a branch of the Democratic party running Britain for the last 10 years. Blair, apparently a liberal, has taken Britain to war more times than any prime minister in the modern era. Yes, his current pal is George Bush, but his first love was Bill Clinton, the most violent president of the late 20th century. Blair’s successor, Gordon Brown is also a devotee of Clinton and Bush. The other day, Brown said, “The days of Britain having to apologize for the British Empire are over. We should celebrate.”

Like Blair, like Clinton, like Bush, Brown believes in the liberal truth that the battle for history has been won; that the millions who died in British-imposed famines in British imperial India will be forgotten—like the millions who have died in the American Empire will be forgotten. And like Blair, his successor is confident that professional journalism is on his side. For most journalists, whether they realize it or not, are groomed to be tribunes of an ideology that regards itself as non-ideological, that presents itself as the natural center, the very fulcrum of modern life. This may very well be the most powerful and dangerous ideology we have ever known because it is open-ended. This is liberalism. I’m not denying the virtues of liberalism—far from it. We are all beneficiaries of them. But if we deny its dangers, its open-ended project, and the all-consuming power of its propaganda, then we deny our right to true democracy, because liberalism and true democracy are not the same. Liberalism began as a preserve of the elite in the 19th century, and true democracy is never handed down by elites. It is always fought for and struggled for.

A senior member of the antiwar coalition, United For Peace and Justice, said recently, and I quote her, “The Democrats are using the politics of reality.” Her liberal historical reference point was Vietnam. She said that President Johnson began withdrawing troops from Vietnam after a Democratic Congress began to vote against the war. That’s not what happened. The troops were withdrawn from Vietnam after four long years. And during that time the United States killed more people in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos with bombs than were killed in all the preceding years. And that’s what’s happening in Iraq. The bombing has doubled since last year, and this is not being reported. And who began this bombing? Bill Clinton began it. During the 1990s Clinton rained bombs on Iraq in what were euphemistically called the “no fly zones.” At the same time he imposed a medieval siege called economic sanctions, killing as I’ve mentioned, perhaps a million people, including a documented 500,000 children. Almost none of this carnage was reported in the so-called mainstream media. Last year a study published by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health found that since the invasion of Iraq 655, 000 Iraqis had died as a direct result of the invasion. Official documents show that the Blair government knew this figure to be credible. In February, Les Roberts, the author of the report, said the figure was equal to the figure for deaths in the Fordham University study of the Rwandan genocide. The media response to Robert’s shocking revelation was silence. What may well be the greatest episode of organized killing for a generation, in Harold Pinter’s words, “Did not happen. It didn’t matter.”

Many people who regard themselves on the left supported Bush’s attack on Afghanistan. That the CIA had supported Osama Bin Laden was ignored, that the Clinton administration had secretly backed the Taliban, even giving them high-level briefings at the CIA, is virtually unknown in the United States. The Taliban were secret partners with the oil giant Unocal in building an oil pipeline across Afghanistan. And when a Clinton official was reminded that the Taliban persecuted women, he said, “We can live with that.” There is compelling evidence that Bush decided to attack the Taliban not as a result of 9-11, but two months earlier, in July of 2001. This is virtually unknown in the United States—publicly. Like the scale of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. To my knowledge only one mainstream reporter, Jonathan Steele of the Guardian in London, has investigated civilian casualties in Afghanistan, and his estimate is 20,000 dead civilians, and that was three years ago.

The enduring tragedy of Palestine is due in great part to the silence and compliance of the so-called liberal left. Hamas is described repeatedly as sworn to the destruction of Israel. The New York Times, the Associated Press, the Boston Globe—take your pick. They all use this line as a standard disclaimer, and it is false. That Hamas has called for a ten-year ceasefire is almost never reported. Even more important, that Hamas has undergone an historic ideological shift in the last few years, which amounts to a recognition of what it calls the reality of Israel, is virtually unknown; and that Israel is sworn to the destruction of Palestine is unspeakable.

There is a pioneering study by Glasgow University on the reporting of Palestine. They interviewed young people who watch TV news in Britain. More than 90 percent thought the illegal settlers were Palestinian. The more they watched, the less they knew—Danny Schecter’s famous phrase.

The current most dangerous silence is over nuclear weapons and the return of the Cold War. The Russians understand clearly that the so-called American defense shield in Eastern Europe is designed to subjugate and humiliate them. Yet the front pages here talk about Putin starting a new Cold War, and there is silence about the development of an entirely new American nuclear system called Reliable Weapons Replacement (RRW), which is designed to blur the distinction between conventional war and nuclear war—a long-held ambition.

In the meantime, Iran is being softened up, with the liberal media playing almost the same role it played before the Iraq invasion. And as for the Democrats, look at how Barak Obama has become the voice of the Council on Foreign Relations, one of the propaganda organs of the old liberal Washington establishment. Obama writes that while he wants the troops home, “We must not rule out military force against long-standing adversaries such as Iran and Syria.” Listen to this from the liberal Obama: “At moment of great peril in the past century our leaders ensured that America, by deed and by example, led and lifted the world, that we stood and fought for the freedom sought by billions of people beyond their borders.”

That is the nub of the propaganda, the brainwashing if you like, that seeps into the lives of every American, and many of us who are not Americans. From right to left, secular to God-fearing, what so few people know is that in the last half century, United States adminstrations have overthrown 50 governments—many of them democracies. In the process, thirty countries have been attacked and bombed, with the loss of countless lives. Bush bashing is all very well—and is justified—but the moment we begin to accept the siren call of the Democrat’s drivel about standing up and fighting for freedom sought by billions, the battle for history is lost, and we ourselves are silenced.

So what should we do? That question often asked in meetings I have addressed, even meetings as informed as those in this conference, is itself interesting. It’s my experience that people in the so-called third world rarely ask the question, because they know what to do. And some have paid with their freedom and their lives, but they knew what to do. It’s a question that many on the democratic left—small “d”—have yet to answer.

Real information, subversive information, remains the most potent power of all—and I believe that we must not fall into the trap of believing that the media speaks for the public. That wasn’t true in Stalinist Czechoslovakia and it isn’t true of the United States.

In all the years I’ve been a journalist, I’ve never know public consciousness to have risen as fast as it’s rising today. Yes, its direction and shape is unclear, partly because people are now deeply suspicious of political alternatives, and because the Democratic Party has succeeded in seducing and dividing the electoral left. And yet this growing critical public awareness is all the more remarkable when you consider the sheer scale of indoctrination, the mythology of a superior way of life, and the current manufactured state of fear.

Why did the New York Times come clean in that editorial last year? Not because it opposes Bush’s wars—look at the coverage of Iran. That editorial was a rare acknowledgement that the public was beginning to see the concealed role of the media, and that people were beginning to read between the lines.

If Iran is attacked, the reaction and the upheaval cannot be predicted. The national security and homeland security presidential directive gives Bush power over all facets of government in an emergency. It is not unlikely the constitution will be suspended—the laws to round of hundreds of thousands of so-called terrorists and enemy combatants are already on the books. I believe that these dangers are understood by the public, who have come along way since 9-11, and a long way since the propaganda that linked Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda. That’s why they voted for the Democrats last November, only to be betrayed. But they need truth, and journalists ought to be agents of truth, not the courtiers of power.

I believe a fifth estate is possible, the product of a people’s movement, that monitors, deconstructs, and counters the corporate media. In every university, in every media college, in every news room, teachers of journalism, journalists themselves need to ask themselves about the part they now play in the bloodshed in the name of a bogus objectivity. Such a movement within the media could herald a perestroika of a kind that we have never known. This is all possible. Silences can be broken. In Britain the National Union of Journalists has undergone a radical change, and has called for a boycott of Israel. The web site Medialens.org has single-handedly called the BBC to account. In the United States wonderfully free rebellious spirits populate the web—I can’t mention them all here—from Tom Feeley’s International Clearing House, to Mike Albert’s ZNet, to Counterpunch online, and the splendid work of FAIR. The best reporting of Iraq appears on the web—Dahr Jamail’s courageous journalism; and citizen reporters like Joe Wilding, who reported the siege of Fallujah from inside the city.

In Venezuela, Greg Wilpert’s investigations turned back much of the virulent propaganda now aimed at Hugo Chávez. Make no mistake, it’s the threat of freedom of speech for the majority in Venezuela that lies behind the campaign in the west on behalf of the corrupt RCTV. The challenge for the rest of us is to lift this subjugated knowledge from out of the underground and take it to ordinary people.

We need to make haste. Liberal Democracy is moving toward a form of corporate dictatorship. This is an historic shift, and the media must not be allowed to be its façade, but itself made into a popular, burning issue, and subjected to direct action. That great whistleblower Tom Paine warned that if the majority of the people were denied the truth and the ideas of truth, it was time to storm what he called the Bastille of words. That time is now.

Speech delivered at the Chicago Socialism 2007 Conference on Saturday June 16 2007