Archive for the ‘International Law’ Category

War Paint and Lawyers

November 28, 2007

War Paint and Lawyers:
Rainforest Indians versus Big Oil

Published <!– by Greg Palast –> November 26th, 2007 in Articles

Greg Palast investigates for BBC Newsnight
Chevron: “Nobody has proved that crude causes cancer.”

Tuesday, November 27, 10:30pm GMT [5:30pm New York Time] – live on BBC2 TV or on the net at www.BBC.co.uk/Newsnight.
Greg getting in Canoe

BBC Television Newsnight has been able to get close-in film of a new Cofan Indian ritual deep in the heart of the Amazonian rainforest. Known as “The Filing of the Law Suit,” natives of Ecuador’s jungle, decked in feathers and war paint and heavily armed with lawyers, are filmed presenting a new complaint in their litigation seeking $12 billion from Chevron Inc., the international oil goliath.

It would all be a poignant joke – except that the indigenous tribe is suddenly the odds-on favorite to defeat the oil company known for naming its largest tanker, “Condoleezza,” after former Chevron director, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Cofan Leader CriolloRice.

For Newsnight, reporter Greg Palast, steps (somewhat inelegantly) into a dug-out log canoe to seek out the Cofan in their rainforest village to investigate their allegations. Palast discovers stinking pits of old oil drilling residue leaking into drinking water – and meets farmers whose limbs are covered in pustules.

The Cofan’s leader, Emergildo Criollo, tells Palast that when Texaco Oil, now part of Chevron, came to the village in 1972, it obtained permission to drill by offering the Indians candy and cheese. The indigenous folk threw the funny-selling cheese into the jungle.

Criollo says his three-year son died from oil contamination after, “He went swimming, then began vomiting blood.”

Flying out of the rainforest, past the Andes volcanoes, Palast gets the other side of the story in Ecuador’s capitol, Quito. “It’s the largest fraud in history!” asserts Chevron lawyer Jaime Varela reacting to the Cofan law suits against his company. Chevron-Texaco, Varela insists, cleaned up all its contaminated oil pits when it abandoned the country nearly 15 years ago – except those pits it left in the hands of Ecuador’s own state oil company.

What about the Indian kids dying of cancer? Texaco lawyer Rodrigo Perez asks, “And it’s the only case of cancer in the world? How many cases of children with cancer do you have in the States, in Europe, in Quito? If there is somebody with cancer there, [the Cofan parents] must prove [the deaths were] caused by crude or by petroleum industry. And, second, they have to prove that it is OUR crude – which is absolutely impossible.” The Texaco man stated, “Scientifically, nobody has proved that crude causes cancer.”

Even if the Indians can prove their case and win billions to clean up the jungle, collecting the cash is another matter. Chevron has removed all its assets from Ecuador.Sludge in Ecuador

But, this week, the political planet tilts toward the natives as Alberto Acosta takes office as President of Ecuador’s new Constitutional Assembly. Newsnight catches up with Acosta – who gives Chevron a tongue-lashing. “Chevron is responsible for environmental and social destruction in the Amazon. And that’s why they’re on trial.”

“He LOVES Chavez”
Little Ecuador does not seem like much of a match against big Chevron – whose revenue exceeds the entire GDP of the Andean nation. However, behind Little Ecuador is Huge Venezuela – and its larger-than-life leader, Hugo Chavez. “Acosta,” complains one local pundit to the BBC, “loves – LOVES – Chavez.”

And apparently, the feeling is mutual. That is, Chavez sees in Ecuador’s new government, which won election campaigning to the tune of the Twisted Sister hit, We’re Not Gonna Take it Anymore, a new ally in his fight with George Bush over control of Latin hearts and minds – and energy.

Chevron LawyersChevron-Texaco’s largest new oil reserves are in Venezuela; Venezuela stands with Ecuador; and Ecuador now stands with its “affectados,” the Indians and farmers claiming the poisons in their bodies trace right back to the Texaco star.

Suddenly, the David-versus-Goliath story of Little Indians versus Big Oil is becoming part of the larger conflict between Uncle Sam and Uncle Hugo. The outcome is now a cliff-hanger. Indeed, Newsnight has learned that this month, Chevron will face a new legal challenge by Cofan attorneys before US securities regulators to investigate whether the company has fully disclosed to shareholders the massive potential legal liability from the equatorial Rumble in the Jungle.

Watch the story live on BBC2 or, in the US, on the net at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/default.stm after broadcast – or via a link from www.GregPalast.com. WARNING: The day’s news events may require Newsnight to delay broadcast to another evening.

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Iraq war is a betrayal of American democracy By Matt Howard (IVAW)

November 16, 2007

Iraq war is a betrayal of American democracy By Matt Howard (IVAW)

Dandelion Salad

By Matt Howard
ICH
11/14/07 “Rutland Herald

Editor’s note: Matt Howard gave this statement at a recent protest at the Statehouse.

In 2003 I illegally invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq with 1st Tank battalion 1st Marine Division. My commander in chief unleashed the world’s fiercest fighting force upon the country and people of Iraq, and now those of us used and betrayed by him are demanding justice.

Four and a half years after our opening “shock and awe” Bush’s lies are known throughout the world, and yet he continues to act with impunity. Four and a half years later the Bush regime has unleashed a hell upon the country of Iraq that only those who have been there can truly understand.

As a two-tour combat veteran of this brutal war, I have a responsibility to speak honestly and openly about what has been done and what continues to be done in our name. We veterans know that this war is not the one being sanitized on the nightly news. It has nothing to do with the liberation of the people of Iraq; instead it has everything to do with the subjugation and domination of these people in the name of U.S. imperial economic and strategic interests.

We did not go to war with the country of Iraq, we went to war with the people of Iraq. During the initial invasion we killed women. We killed children. We senselessly killed farm animals. We were the United States Marine Corps, not the Peace Corps, and we left a swath of death and destruction in our wake all the way to Baghdad.

Let me say again so that there is no misunderstanding. I stand here today as a former U.S. Marine saying we are killing women and children in Iraq. This is the true nature of war. War lends itself to atrocities. Don’t think you can use an organization designed to kill other human beings for anything humanitarian. That has never been our mission. That was crystal clear from the moment I was forced to bury the crate of humanitarian food given to me in Kuwait.

Four and a half years later we as soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are done. We are done being told under threat of court martial to run over children that get in the way of our speeding convoys.

We are done raiding and destroying the homes of innocent Iraqis on a nightly basis.

We are done abusing and torturing prisoners.

We are done being hired thugs for the 160,000 contractors and U.S. corporate interests in Iraq.

We are done being poisoned by depleted uranium, the unspoken Agent Orange of this war.

We are done coming home broken, from two, three, four tours of duty – only to find our commander in chief has actually tried to CUT funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs. To find our doctors being told to diagnose us with pre-existing personality disorders instead of post traumatic stress syndrome.

We are done killing for lies.

So Iraq Veterans Against the War is taking back our history – the history that has been robbed from us. We are dispelling the myth that the Vietnam war ended when the Democrats started voting against it. Instead we are spreading the truth about how the American War in Vietnam ended.

The Vietnam War ended when soldiers put down their weapons and refused to fight; when pilots dropped their bombs in the ocean.

We are re-educating the public to let them know that the power ultimately lies with the people. Just take a look at the thousands of pages of internal documents from the Department of Defense explicitly detailing how at the end of the Vietnam war the military had collapsed. It was literally in a state of mutiny. And that movement is slowly starting again. Because ultimately in every war waged throughout human history, those forced to fight quickly realize they have much more in common with those they are being told to kill than with those telling them to do the killing.

And we are re-educating the public about the true nature of sectarian violence. No, the middle east is NOT inherently violent. In fact, in the 1,400-year schism between Sunnis and Shias – there has NEVER been a civil war fought. They have always lived in the same neighborhoods and even intermarried. The United States has caused this civil war using the classic colonial techniques of divide and conquer.

George Bush is a war criminal who has violated international law, the Geneva convention and the Nuremberg standards and needs to tried accordingly for crimes against humanity.

I ask every red-blooded American today: What would you do if your homeland was savagely invaded and occupied by another country? The Iraqis will continue to resist and fight until the last American has left their homeland. Period. End the violence in Iraq? End the occupation.

We veterans are speaking out to stop the violence being perpetrated in our name. When we voted in the Democrats on an anti-war mandate, the Bush regime expanded the war. As we are marching against further occupation, the Bush regime is making threats against Iran.

And we will not continue to be silenced by the mainstream media. Top generals and bottom privates are all speaking in unison now. We know the truth about the slaughter of upwards of one million Iraqis. Why is no one listening? We will not stand by as this regime tricks the country into thinking that if you oppose the war you do not support the troops. We ARE the troops and we have never felt support from this administration. Stop mindlessly supporting the troops. Start demanding that we come home – and maybe think about apologizing to us when we get back.

Matt Howard attained the rank of corporal in the United States Marine Corps. He is head of the Vermont chapter for Iraq Veterans Against the War.

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Torturing Palestinian Detainees by Stephen Lendman

November 15, 2007

Torturing Palestinian Detainees by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, November 14, 2007

B’Tselem is the conservative Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories with a well-deserved reputation for accuracy. A group of prominent academics, attorneys, journalists and Knesset members founded the organization in 1989 to “document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human rights culture in Israel” to convince government officials to respect human rights and comply with international law.

Its work covers a wide range of human rights issues that include detentions and torture. In May, 2007, it prepared a detailed 100 page report titled “Absolute Prohibition: The Torture and Ill-treatment of Palestinian Detainees” that’s now available in print for those who request it. This article summarizes its findings that represent a joint effort by B’Tselem and HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual that was founded in 1988 to support Palestinian rights during the first intifada in the late 1980s.

Since the early 1990s, B’Tselem published more than ten reports on Israelis’ use of torture and mistreatment of Palestinian detainees. This is the latest one in an effort to raise public awareness and help abolish these abhorrent practices. The findings are based on testimonies solicited from a small “unrepresentative” sample of 73 Palestinian West Bank residents who were arrested between July, 2005 and January, 2006, agreed to tell their stories, and who met predetermined criteria for the study.

They were chosen from the names of 4460 Palestinian detainees whose relatives contacted HaMoked for help to locate their whereabouts. HaMoked provides this service because Israel violates international law and its own military regulations by denying family members any information about who was detained or where they’re being held. From its many years investigating Israeli torture, B’Tselem believes the information in this report accurately reflects the types and extent of Israeli abusive practices.

Torture, abuse or degrading treatment are abhorrent in any form for any reason, and long-standing international law forbids these practices under all circumstances. The four 1949 Geneva Conventions banned any form of “physical or mental coercion” and affirmed sick, wounded, war prisoners and civilians must be treated humanely. All four conventions have a common thread called Common Article Three that requires all non-combatants to be treated humanely at all times. There are no exceptions for any reasons, and violations are grave breaches of Geneva and other international law that constitute crimes of war and against humanity.

Nonetheless, the 1987 Landau Commission (headed by retired Israeli Supreme Court Chief Justice Moshe Landau) cited the “necessary defense” provision in the Penal Law to recommend using “psychological and moderate physical pressure,” to obtain evidence for convictions in criminal proceedings. Its justification was that coercive interrogation tactics were necessary against “hostile terrorist activity” it defined to include not just threats or acts of violence but all activities related to Palestinian nationalism.

Later in September, 1999, Israel’s High Court of Justice (HCJ) responded to the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel’s petition (PCATI) and issued a landmark decision (reversing Landau recommendations) and barred the use of torture against detainees. It was, however, a hollow gesture as at the same time it ruled pressure and a measure of discomfort were legitimate interrogation side-effects but should not be used to break a detainee’s spirit. It then added a giant loophole allowing interrogators to use physical force and avoid prosecutions in “ticking time bomb” cases even though international law allows no exceptions, and Israeli authorities could claim that excuse for anyone in custody.

Since its occupation of Gaza and the West Bank (the OPT) in 1967, Israel imprisoned over 650,000 Palestinians according to the Palestinian peace and justice group MIFTA. That’s equivalent to about one-sixth of the OPT’s population today. The security services currently hold around ten to twelve thousand Palestinian men, women and children in its prisons under deplorable conditions with many under administrative detention without charge. Based on earlier assessments by Hamoked, B’Tselem estimates as many as 85% of them are subjected to torture and mistreatment in custody even though most of them aren’t accused of terrorism. These practices are routinely and systematically used against political activists, students accused of being pro-Islam, sheikhs and religious leaders, people in Islamic charitable organizations, relatives of wanted individuals or any man, woman or child Israel targets for any reason.

B’Tselem’s May, 2007 report states that the Israeli Security Agency (ISA – formerly called the General Security Service or GSS) admits to using “exceptional” methods that include “physical pressure” of interrogation in “ticking bomb” cases that can be used as an excuse to abuse anyone. In addition, law enforcement officials openly admit harsh measures are approved retroactively so that Palestinian detainee rights can be freely violated without fear of recrimination. In other words, ISA interrogators know the rules – don’t ask permission, use any methods you wish, and don’t worry about the consequences after the fact. There won’t be any, and it shows in what detainees told B’Tselem.

They reported being “softened up” for interrogation from the moment of their arrest to when ISA agents took over. Abuses at the outset included beatings, painful binding, swearing, humiliation and denial of basic needs. The ISA procedure then included seven key forms of abuse that violated the detainees’ dignity and bodily integrity. They were inflicted to break their spirit, but international law calls it torture when it includes verified intent, severe pain or suffering, improper motive, and involvement of the state. All those conditions apply to Israeli abusive practices that included:

– isolation that prohibited detainees from contact with family, an attorney or ICRC representatives; this exacerbated detainees’ sense of powerlessness by creating a situation in which they’re completely at the mercy of interrogators; it’s also known to cause them serious psychological harm when continued for extended periods;

– psychological pressure from solitary confinement in “putrid, stifling cells three to six square meters in size” with no windows or access to daylight and fresh air; a fixed overhead light on 24 hours a day; walls made of rough plaster making them uncomfortable or impossible to lean against; a water faucet on one wall and some cells with sinks; a usually dirty and damp mattress and “filthy putrid” blankets on the floor; nothing else in cells; reading and writing materials not allowed; in many cells, toilets were holes in the floor; detainees denied all human contact except for guards and interrogators.

– physical conditions in solitary confinement cells are regulated in Criminal Procedure Regulations issued by Israel’s Minister of Internal Security with the approval of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee; they don’t apply to “security detainees,” however, so cells have no bed, chairs and most often no sink; nothing else provided including use of a telephone and right to have visitors provide items; cells were too small to walk around in, and no daily outside exercise was allowed;

– detainees weakened from lack of physical activity, sleep deprivation and inadequate food; they’re denied basic needs like food and liquids, medicines or the right to relieve themselves; throughout long hours of interrogation, they’re shackled to a chair unable to move hands or legs even minimally; they had nutritional deficiencies and food received was inadequate, cold, improperly cooked, flavorless and often repulsive in appearance; many detainees resisted eating as long as possible;

– shackling in the “shabah” position that’s the prolonged and painful binding of detainees’ hands and feet to a standard-sized unupholstered, metal frame, rigid plastic chair fixed to the floor with no armrests; hands tightly bound behind the back in adjustable plastic handcuffs and connected to a ring at the back of the seat to stretch them uncomfortably below the backrest; legs bound to the chair’s front legs; detainees were unable to get up throughout interrogation that on average lasted eight consecutive hours without a break and on the first day ran 12 hours; later in the interrogation period, sessions shortened to four or five hours;

– interrogations only for a small portion of this time; for most if it, interrogators were out of the room; at those times air conditioning turned up to uncomfortably cold levels; most often only one meal served during a day’s interrogation; very sparing toilet privileges allowed; nearly all detainees complained of severe back, neck, shoulder, arms and wrist pain during interrogation; numbness or loss of sensation in limbs also reported; the Israeli High Court of Justice (HCJ) ruled in 1999 that all “shabah” shackling procedures are unlawful since they violate rules for “reasonable and fair interrogation” and injure detainees’ dignity and well-being; ISA interrogators ignore the ruling with impunity;

– cursing and humiliating strip searches of detainees as well as shouting, spitting in the face and other related abusive practices; detainees forced to strip naked and submit to body searches while being yelled at and mocked;

– intimidations made to include threats of physical torture (called “military interrogation”), arrest of family members and destruction of homes;

– using informants (”asafirs”) to get information that’s not abusive as such but is a very questionable method following preparatory “softening up.”

B’Tselem then discussed “special” interrogation methods that mostly involve physical violence:

– sleep deprivation for 30 to 40 hours during which detainees left painfully shackled in interrogation rooms; guards frequently awakened detainees between midnight and 5AM; various type oppressive noises used at night to interfere with sleep;

– use of “dry” beatings that included punching, kicking all parts of the body, striking with rifle butts and face slapping; detainees hit with clubs, helmets and other objects; heads slammed against a wall, floor or hard surface; beatings inflicted when detainees’ hands were bound behind their back, and they were blindfolded; additional beatings during physical inspections with their hands cuffed;

– painful binding with handcuffs or other devices tight enough to cut off blood flow circulation and cause swelling;

– sharp twisting of the head forcefully and suddenly sideways or backwards;

– forced “frog” crouching on tiptoes with cuffed hands behind the back accompanied by shoving or beating until detainees lost their balance and fell forward or backward; this method inflicts pain by increasing pressure on leg muscles and also hurts wrists after falling;

– use of forced “banana” position that involves bending the back in a painful arch while the body is extended horizontally to the floor on a backless chair with arms and feet bound beneath it.

Prison killings also occur like the October 22 one at the notorious Ketziot Detention Center in the Negev desert where 2300 Palestinians are held under very harsh conditions. It happened at 2AM when prison guards began searching tents and strip-searching inmates in a deliberate middle of the night provocation. Prisoners resisted and about 550 members of the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) Metsada riot dispersal unit responded with excessive force by beating them with plastic clubs and rifle butts as well as firing rubber-coated bullets, live ammunition, tear gas and stun grenades that set tents ablaze and caused as many as 250 inmate injuries and at least nine serious ones. During the assault, Mohammed Al Ashqar was killed after being shot in the head.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) maintains that prisoner abuse, repressive tactics and killing Palestinians is official Israeli policy that’s become even worse under current IPS director, Beni Kaniak. PCHR reports he instituted these punitive measures:

– reductions in food and cleaning materials rations;

– additional items prisoners forbidden to have;

– confiscated prisoners’ money and prevented none sent from families to reach them;

– widespread use of solitary confinement;

– periodic movement of prisoners to new facilities to prevent any sense of stability;

– repeated unannounced harsh late night raids like the October 22 one at Ketziot.

These tactics and Palestinian detainee torture and abuse are condoned “under the auspices of the Israeli law enforcement system.” B’Tselem reported since 2001, Israel’s State Attorney’s Office got over 500 complaints of these practices but investigated none of them. Overall, instances of detainee mistreatment are rarely looked into and even fewer ever result in indictments. Further, despite its 1999 ruling, Israel’s High Court of Justice (HCJ) aids ISA interrogations by refusing to accept even one of hundreds of petitions brought before it for redress. HCJ also lets ISA conceal information from detainees that abusive orders were issued against them or that legal petitions were filed on their behalf. It further allows evidence obtained under torture to be used in criminal proceedings.

B’Tselem and HaMoked are committed to ending Israel’s use of torture against Palestinian detainees. They cite the example of the US Army’s September, 2006 Field Manual for Human Intelligence Collector Operations as a proper guide to conducting interrogations even though authorized physical and psychological brutality became official administration policy under George Bush post-9/11. Nonetheless, this manual covers 18 interrogation methods experience showed work under varying situations and conditions. They range from establishing trust between interrogator and detainee to the use of ruses and psychological manipulation. In all cases, they don’t involve torture or other unlawful practices.

It’s one thing to have rules and laws and another to abide by them. The US under George Bush condones and practices “the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency” according to once secret Department of Justice (DOJ) legal opinions. It’s no different in Israel where the ISA systematically and routinely uses banned interrogation measures with impunity. B’Tselem and HaMoked want these practices ended and urge the Israeli government to halt them by enacting enforceable laws “strictly prohibiting torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” in accordance with international law.

They further recommend every complaint of abuse and torture be investigated by an independent body, persons found to have broken the law to be prosecuted, and that “every detainee receives minimum humane conditions.”

Israel claims to be a civilized state. It’s about time it acted like one.

Stephen Lendman is Research Associate of the Centre for research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at www.sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on www.TheMIcroEffect.com Mondays at noon US central time.

Stephen Lendman is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Stephen Lendman
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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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

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Suicide and Spin Doctors By H. Candace Gorman

October 24, 2007

Suicide and Spin Doctors By H. Candace Gorman

Dandelion Salad

By H. Candace Gorman
In These Times
October 18, 2007

Now that the U.S. military has “cleared” my notes, I can tell you about my July meeting at Guantánamo with my client Abdul Hamid al-Ghizzawi.

Al-Ghizzawi was visibly shaken when I entered the meeting room and he immediately told me of his despair over the May death of a fellow inmate, a young Saudi man named Abdel Rahman Al Amri. Al-Ghizzawi knew that Amri had been suffering from Hepatitis B and tuberculosis, the same two conditions from which he himself suffers. Like al-Ghizzawi, Amri had not been treated for his illnesses. Al-Ghizzawi, now so sick he can barely walk, told me that Amri, too, had been ill and then, suddenly, he was dead.

Al-Ghizzawi also mentioned that Amri had engaged in hunger strikes in the past but had stopped a long time ago because of his health. I knew about Amri’s death. I also know our military has called it an “apparent suicide.”

As I sat with al-Ghizzawi I found myself thinking about South African anti-apartheid activist Steven Biko. In his book I Write What I Like, Biko declares that “the most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” There are many ways for the oppressor to force himself into the mind of the oppressed, but one surefire way is through indefinite detention. Never knowing when—or if—you will be released is a cruel form of psychological torture. It allows you to keep hope while simultaneously filling you with fear. South Africa’s apartheid government sharpened this tactic when it passed the Terrorism Act of 1967, which allowed the police to pick up Biko as a “suspect” involved in terrorism (“involvement” under that law was defined as “anything that might endanger the maintenance of law and order”) and detain him for an indefinite period without trial. Biko’s indefinite detention ended after only a month, when he suffered a brutal death at the hands of the South African police. The government claimed that Biko died as the result of a hunger strike. (In U.S. military parlance, that would be an “apparent suicide.”) Autopsy results later showed that Biko died of a head trauma and that his body was badly beaten. Our government officials, clever devils that they are, apparently learned from the “mistake” of South Africa and refuse to release Amri’s autopsy records.

Back in 2005, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld explained in a speech that Guantánamo is a great training ground for our interrogators because they learn what works and what doesn’t. The Pentagon’s little laboratory gathered speed last December when the military moved several hundred men into Camp 6. Included in the randomly selected group was al-Ghizzawi.

Camp 6 is worse than any of America’s supermax prisons because inmates are given little to occupy their minds as they sit in tiny cells with no natural light or air for at least 22 hours every day. The men are allowed one book per week, but it’s the same old books that have been around year after year. Guards also allow the men two hours of “recreation time” in four-foot-by-four-foot cages. As part of the experiment, the military plays with the “rec” times: Sometimes the guards show up at 3 a.m. for al-Ghizzawi’s recreation time. He is too polite to tell the guards what I would feel compelled to say. Instead he shows his dignity by refusing to stand in the dark. Other times, when the Cuban sun is at its hottest, al-Ghizzawi is offered the opportunity to stand in the metal cage under the blistering sun where there is no shade.

Al-Ghizzawi told me in July that he now finds himself talking out loud even though no one is there to talk to. We both know he is in dangerous territory. We talked about ways to help fight the mental deterioration, such as trying to read, exercising his body or focusing on his wife and daughter. Even though his body is already shot to hell with almost six years of physical and psychological abuse and medical neglect, at least he had been maintaining his mind. He was able to put his life in perspective. He had hope, though mingled with fear for the future. But now he can no longer read the books because his eyes too are shot, so he spends his days in tedious boredom. (In September, I requested that military officials provide him reading glasses, but what is the likelihood that they will give him glasses when they will not give him medical treatment?) So al-Ghizzawi spends his days pacing in his cell, washing and rewashing his clothes and preparing for the death he knows is looming.

When I left our September meeting a few days ago, al-Ghizzawi was doubled over in pain and gagging on his own phlegm. Again, I thought about Steven Biko and the young Saudi, Amri. I feared al-Ghizzawi may suffer a cruel, solitary death. I promised him the only things I could: that his death will not go unnoticed and that I will not let him be listed as an apparent suicide. Then I asked al-Ghizzawi to please not let them take his mind.

Until they clear my notes, his response is classified.

H. Candace Gorman is a civil rights attorney in Chicago. She blogs regularly about legal issues surrounding Guantanamo detainees at The Guantanamo Blog.

h/t: Antiwar.com

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Tomgram: Chalmers Johnson, 12 Books in Search of a Policy By Tom Engelhardt

October 23, 2007

Tomgram: Chalmers Johnson, 12 Books in Search of a Policy By Tom Engelhardt

By Tom Engelhardt
October 22, 2007

They came in as unreformed Cold Warriors, only lacking a cold war — and looking for an enemy: a Russia to roll back even further; rogue states like Saddam’s rickety dictatorship to smash. They were still in the old fight, eager to make sure that the “Evil Empire,” already long down for the count, would remain prostrate forever; eager to ensure that any new evil empire like, say, China’s would never be able to stand tall enough to be a challenge. They saw opportunities to move into areas previously beyond the reach of American imperial power like the former SSRs of the Soviet Union in Central Asia, which just happened to be sitting on potentially fabulous undeveloped energy fields; or farther into the even more fabulously energy-rich Middle East, where Saddam’s Iraq, planted atop the planet’s third largest reserves of petroleum, seemed so ready for a fall — with other states in the region visibly not far behind.

It looked like it would be a coming-out party for one — the debutante ball of the season. It would be, in fact, like the Cold War without the Soviet Union. What a blast! And they could still put their energies into their fabulously expensive, ever-misfiring anti-missile system, a subject they regularly focused on from January 2000 until September 10, 2001.

They were Cold Warriors in search of an enemy — just not the one they got. When the Clintonistas, on their way out of the White House, warned them about al Qaeda, they paid next to no attention. Non-state actors were for wusses. When the CIA carefully presented the President with a one-page, knock-your-socks-off warning on August 6, 2001 that had the screaming headline, “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.,” they ignored it. Bush and his top officials were, as it happened, strangely adrift until September 11, 2001; then, they were panicked and terrified — until they realized that their moment had come to hijack the plane of state; so they clambered aboard, and like the Cold Warriors they were, went after Saddam.

Chalmers Johnson was himself once a Cold Warrior. Unlike the top officials of the Bush administration, however, he retained a remarkably flexible mind. He also had a striking ability to see the world as it actually was — and a prescient vision of what was to come. He wrote the near-prophetic and now-classic book, Blowback, published well before the attacks of 9/11, and then followed it up with an anatomy of the U.S. military’s empire of bases, The Sorrows of Empire, and finally, to end his Blowback Trilogy, a vivid recipe for American catastrophe, Nemesis: The Fall of the American Republic. All three are simply indispensable volumes in any reasonable post-9/11 library. Here is his latest consideration of that disastrous moment and its consequences as part of a series of book reviews he is periodically writing for Tomdispatch. Tom

A Guide for the Perplexed

Intellectual Fallacies of the War on Terror

By Chalmers Johnson

[This essay is a review of The Matador’s Cape, America’s Reckless Response to Terror by Stephen Holmes (Cambridge University Press, 367 pp., $30).]

There are many books entitled “A Guide for the Perplexed,” including Moses Maimonides’ 12th century treatise on Jewish law and E. F. Schumacher’s 1977 book on how to think about science. Book titles cannot be copyrighted. A Guide for the Perplexed might therefore be a better title for Stephen Holmes’ new book than the one he chose, The Matador’s Cape: America’s Reckless Response to Terror. In his perhaps overly clever conception, the matador is the terrorist leadership of al Qaeda, taunting a maddened United States into an ultimately fatal reaction. But do not let the title stop you from reading the book. Holmes has written a powerful and philosophically erudite survey of what we think we understand about the 9/11 attacks — and how and why the United States has magnified many times over the initial damage caused by the terrorists.

Stephen Holmes is a law professor at New York University. In The Matador’s Cape, he sets out to forge an understanding — in an intellectual and historical sense, not as a matter of journalism or of partisan politics — of the Iraq war, which he calls “one of the worst (and least comprehensible) blunders in the history of American foreign policy” (p. 230). His modus operandi is to survey in depth approximately a dozen influential books on post-Cold War international politics to see what light they shed on America’s missteps. I will touch briefly on the books he chooses for dissection, highlighting his essential thoughts on each of them.

Holmes’ choice of books is interesting. Many of the authors he focuses on are American conservatives or neoconservatives, which is reasonable since they are the ones who caused the debacle. He avoids progressive or left wing writers, and none of his choices are from Metropolitan Books’ American Empire Project. (Disclosure: This review was written before I read Holmes’ review of my own book Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic in the October 29 issue of The Nation.)

He concludes: “Despite a slew of carefully researched and insightful books on the subject, the reason why the United States responded to the al Qaeda attack by invading Iraq remains to some extent an enigma” (p. 3). Nonetheless, his critiques of the books he has chosen are so well done and fair that they constitute one of the best introductions to the subject. They also have the advantage in several cases of making it unnecessary to read the original.

Holmes interrogates his subjects cleverly. His main questions and the key books he dissects for each of them are:

* Did Islamic religious extremism cause 9/11? Here he supplies his own independent analysis and conclusion (to which I turn below).

* Why did American military preeminence breed delusions of omnipotence, as exemplified in Robert Kagan’s Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order (Knopf, 2003)? While not persuaded by Kagan’s portrayal of the United States as “Mars” and Europe as “Venus,” Holmes takes Kagan’s book as illustrative of neoconservative thought on the use of force in international politics: “Far from guaranteeing an unbiased and clear-eyed view of the terrorist threat, as Kagan contends, American military superiority has irredeemably skewed the country’s view of the enemy on the horizon, drawing the United States, with appalling consequences, into a gratuitous, cruel, and unwinnable conflict in the Middle East” (p. 72).

* How was the war lost, as analyzed in Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor (Pantheon, 2006)? Holmes regards this book by Gordon, the military correspondent of the New York Times, and Trainor, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general, as the best treatment of the military aspects of the disaster, down to and including U.S. envoy L. Paul Bremer’s disbanding of the Iraqi military. I would argue that Fiasco (Penguin 2006) by the Washington Post’s Thomas Ricks is more comprehensive, clearer-eyed, and more critical.

• How did a tiny group of individuals, with eccentric theories and reflexes, recklessly compound the country’s post-9/11 security nightmare? Here Holmes considers James Mann’s Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet (Viking, 2004). One of Mann’s more original insights is that the neocons in the Bush administration were so bewitched by Cold War thinking that they were simply incapable of grasping the new realities of the post-Cold War world. “In Iraq, alas, the lack of a major military rival excited some aging hard-liners into toppling a regime that they did not have the slightest clue how to replace…. We have only begun to witness the long-term consequences of their ghastly misuse of unaccountable power” (p. 106).

* What roles did Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld play in the Bush administration, as captured in Michael Mann’s Incoherent Empire (Verso, 2003)? According to Holmes, Mann’s work “repays close study, even by readers who will not find its perspective altogether congenial or convincing.” He argues that perhaps Mann’s most important contribution, even if somewhat mechanically put, is to stress the element of bureaucratic politics in Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s manipulation of the neophyte Bush: “The outcome of inter- and intra-agency battles in Washington, D.C., allotted disproportionate influence to the fatally blurred understanding of the terrorist threat shared by a few highly placed and shrewd bureaucratic infighters. Rumsfeld and Cheney controlled the military; and when they were given the opportunity to rank the country’s priorities in the war on terror, they assigned paramount importance to those specific threats that could be countered effectively only by the government agency over which they happened to preside” (p. 107).

* Why did the U.S. decide to search for a new enemy after the Cold War, as argued by an old cold warrior, Samuel Huntington, in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (Simon and Schuster, 1996)? It is not clear why Holmes included Huntington’s eleven-year-old treatise on “Allah made them do it” in his collection of books on post-Cold War international politics except as an act of obeisance to establishmentarian — and especially Council-on-Foreign-Relations — thinking. Holmes regards Huntington’s work as a “false template” and calls it misleading. Well before 9/11, many critics of Huntington’s concept of “civilization” had pointed out that there is insufficient homogeneity in Christianity, Islam, or the other great religions for any of them to replace the position vacated by the Soviet Union. As Holmes remarks, Huntington “finds homogeneity because he is looking for homogeneity” (p. 136).

* What role did left-wing ideology play in legitimating the war on terror, as seen by Samantha Power in “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide (Basic, 2002). As Holmes acknowledges, “The humanitarian interventionists rose to a superficial prominence in the 1990s largely because of a vacuum in U.S. foreign-policy thinking after the end of the Cold War…. Their influence was small, however, and after 9/11, that influence vanished altogether.” He nonetheless takes up the anti-genocide activists because he suspects that, by making a rhetorically powerful case for casting aside existing decision-making rules and protocols, they may have emboldened the Bush administration to follow suit and fight the “evil” of terrorism outside the Constitution and the law. The idea that Power was an influence on Cheney and Rumsfeld may seem a stretch — they were, after all, doing what they had always wanted to do — but Holmes’ argument that “a savvy prowar party may successfully employ humanitarian talk both to gull the wider public and to silence potential critics on the liberal side” (p. 157) is worth considering.

* How did pro-war liberals help stifle national debate on the wisdom of the Iraq war, as illustrated by Paul Berman in Power and the Idealists (Soft Skull Press, 2005)? Wildly overstating his influence, Holmes writes, Berman, a regular columnist for The New Republic, “first tried to convince us that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, far from being a tribal war over scarce land and water, is part of the wider spiritual war between liberalism and apocalyptic irrationalism, not worth distinguishing too sharply from the conflict between America and al Qaeda. He then attempted to show that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden represented two ‘branches’ of an essentially homogeneous extremism” (p. 181). Berman, Holmes points out, conflated anti-terrorism with anti-fascism in order to provide a foundation for the neologism “Islamo-fascism.” His chief reason for including Berman is that Holmes wants to address the views of religious fundamentalists in their support of the war on terrorism.

* How did democratization at the point of an assault rifle become America’s mission in the world, as seen by the apostate neoconservative Francis Fukuyama in America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy (Yale University Press, 2006)? Holmes is interested in Fukuyama, the neoconservatives’ perennial sophomore, because he offers an insider’s insights into the chimerical neocon “democratization” project for the Middle East.

Fukuyama argues that democracy is the most effective antidote to the kind of Islamic radicalism that hit the United States on September 11, 2001. He contends that the root of Islamic rebellion is to be found in the savage and effective repression of protestors — many of whom have been driven into exile — in places like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. Terrorism is not the enemy, merely a tactic Islamic radicals have found exceptionally effective. Holmes writes of Fukuyama’s argument, “[T]o recognize that America’s fundamental problem is Islamic radicalism, and that terrorism is only a symptom, is to invite a political solution. Promoting democracy is just such a political solution” (p. 209).

The problem, of course, is that not even the neocons are united on promoting democracy; and, even if they were, they do not know how to go about it. Fukuyama himself pleads for “a dramatic demilitarization of American foreign policy and a re-emphasis on other types of policy instruments.” The Pentagon, in addition to its other deficiencies, is poorly positioned and incorrectly staffed to foster democratic transitions.

* Why is the contemporary American antiwar movement so anemic, as seen through the lens of history by Geoffrey Stone in Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism (W. W. Norton, 2004)? Holmes has nothing but praise for Stone’s history of expanded executive discretion in wartime. A key question raised by Stone is why the American public has not been more concerned with what happened in Iraq at Abu Ghraib prison and in the wholesale destruction of the Sunni city of Fallujah. As Holmes sees it, the Bush administration, at least in this one area, was adept at subverting public protest. Among the more important lessons George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove, and others learned from the Vietnam conflict, he writes, was that if you want to suppress domestic questioning of foreign military adventures, then eliminate the draft, create an all-volunteer force, reduce domestic taxes, and maintain a false prosperity based on foreign borrowing.

* How did the embracing of American unilateralism elevate the Office of the Secretary of Defense over the Department of State, as put into perspective by John Ikenberry in After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order After Major Wars (Princeton University Press, 2001)? This book is Holmes’ oddest choice — a dated history from an establishmentarian point of view of the international institutions created by the United States after World War II, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and NATO, all of which Ikenberry, a prominent academic specialist in international relations, applauds. Holmes agrees that, during the Cold War, the United States ruled largely through indirection, using seemingly impartial international institutions, and eliciting the cooperation of other nations. He laments the failure to follow this proven formula in the post-9/11 era, which led to the eclipse of the State Department by the Defense Department, an institution hopelessly ill-suited for diplomatic and nation-building missions.

* Why do we battle lawlessness with lawlessness (for example, by torturing prisoners) and concentrate extra-Constitutional authority in the hands of the president, as expounded by John Yoo in The Powers of War and Peace: The Constitution and Foreign Affairs After 9/11 (University of Chicago Press, 2005)? In this final section, Holmes puts on his hat as the law professor he is and takes on George Bush’s and Alberto Gonzales’ in-house legal counsel, the University of California, Berkeley law professor John Yoo, who authored the “torture memos” for them, denied the legality of the Geneva Conventions, and elaborated a grandiose view of the President’s war-making power. Holmes wonders, “Why would an aspiring legal scholar labor for years to develop and defend a historical thesis that is manifestly untrue? What is the point and what is the payoff? That is the principal mystery of Yoo’s singular book. Characteristic of The Powers of War and Peace is the anemic relations between the evidence adduced and the inferences drawn” (p. 291).

Holmes then points out that Yoo is a prominent member of the Federalist Society, an association of conservative Republican lawyers who claim to be committed to recovering the original understanding of the Constitution and which includes several Republican appointees to the current Supreme Court. His conclusion on Yoo and his fellow neocons is devastating: “[I]f the misbegotten Iraq war proves anything, it is the foolhardiness of allowing an autistic clique that reads its own newspapers and watches its own cable news channel to decide, without outsider input, where to expend American blood and treasure — that is, to decide which looming threats to stress and which to downplay or ignore” (p. 301).

Is Islam the Culprit or Merely a Distraction?

In addition to these broad themes, Holmes investigates hidden agendas and their distorting effects on rational policy-making. Some of these are: Cheney’s desire to expand executive power and weaken Congressional oversight; Rumsfeld’s schemes to field-test his theory that in modern warfare speed is more important than mass; the plans by some of Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s advisers to improve the security situation of Israel; the administration’s desire to create a new set of permanent U.S. military bases in the Middle East to protect the U.S. oil supply in case of a collapse of the Saudi monarchy; and the desire to invade Iraq and thereby avoid putting all the blame for 9/11 on al Qaeda — because to do so would have involved admitting administration negligence and incompetence during the first nine months of 2001 and, even worse, that Clinton was right in warning Bush and his top officials that the main security threat to the United States was a potential al Qaeda attack or attacks.

This is not the place to attempt a comprehensive review of Holmes’ detailed critiques. For that, one should buy and read his book. Let me instead dwell on three themes that I think illustrate his insight and originality.

Holmes rejects any direct connection between Islamic religious extremism and the 9/11 attacks, although he recognizes that Islamic vilification of the United States and other Western powers is often expressed in apocalyptically religious language. “Emphasizing religious extremism as the motivation for the [9/11] plot, whatever it reveals,” he argues, “…terminates inquiry prematurely, encouraging us to view the attack ahistorically as an expression of ‘radical Salafism,’ a fundamentalist movement within Islam that allegedly drives its adherents to homicidal violence against infidels” (p. 2). This approach, he points out, is distinctly tautological: “Appeals to social norms or a culture of martyrdom are not very helpful…. They are tantamount to saying that suicidal terrorism is caused by a proclivity to suicidal terrorism” (p. 20).

Instead, he suggests, “The mobilizing ideology behind 9/11 was not Islam, or even Islamic fundamentalism, but rather a specific narrative of blame” (p. 63). He insists on putting the focus on the actual perpetrators, the 19 men who executed the attacks in New York and Washington — 15 Saudi Arabians, two citizens of the United Arab Emirates, one Egyptian, and one Lebanese. None of them was particularly religious. Three were living together in Hamburg, Germany, where they did appear to have become more interested in Islam than they had been in their home countries. Mohamed Atta, the leader of the group, age 33 on 9/11, had Egyptian and German degrees in architecture and city planning and became highly politicized in favor of the Palestinian cause against Zionism only after he went abroad.

Holmes notes, “According to the classic study of resentment, [Friedrich Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals (1887)] ‘every sufferer instinctively seeks a cause for his suffering; more specifically, an agent, a “guilty” agent who is susceptible of pain — in short, some living being or other on whom he can vent his feelings directly or in effigy, under some pretext or other.’ If suffering is seen as natural or uncaused it will be coded as misfortune instead of injustice, and it will produce resignation rather than rebellion. The most efficient way to incite, therefore, is to indict” (p. 64).

The role of bin Laden was, and remains, to provide such a hyperbolic indictment — one that men like Atta would never have heard back in authoritarian Egypt but that came through loud and clear in their German exile. Bin Laden demonized the United States, accusing it of genocide against Muslims and repeatedly contending that the presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia ever since the first Gulf War in 1991 was a far graver offense than the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, even though that had led to the death of one million Afghans and had sent five million more into exile.

The fact that the 9/11 plot involved the attackers’ own self-destruction suggests possible irrationality on their part, but Holmes argues that this was actually part of the specific narrative of blame. Americans feel contempt for Muslims and ascribe little or no value to Muslim lives. Therefore, to be captured after a terrorist attack involved a high likelihood that the Americans would torture the perpetrator. Suicide took care of that worry (and provided several other advantages discussed below).

The United States as “Sole Remaining Superpower”

Another subject about which Holmes is strikingly original is the subtle way in which the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the United States’ self-promotion as the sole remaining superpower clouded our vision and virtually guaranteed the catastrophe that ensued in Iraq. “Because Americans…. have sunk so much of their national treasure into a military establishment fit to deter and perhaps fight an enemy that has now disappeared,” he argues, “they have an almost irresistible inclination to exaggerate the centrality of rogue states, excellent targets for military destruction, [above] the overall terrorist threat. They overestimate war (which never unfolds as expected) and underestimate diplomacy and persuasion as instruments of American power” (pp. 71-72).

Holmes draws several interesting implications from this American overinvestment in Cold-War-type military power. One is that the very nature of the 9/11 attacks undermined crucial axioms of American national security doctrine. In a much more significant way than in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, a non-state actor on the international stage successfully attacked the United States, contrary to a well-established belief in Pentagon circles that only states have the capability of menacing us militarily. Equally alarming, by employing a strategy requiring their own deaths, the terrorists ensured that deterrence no longer held sway. Overwhelming military might cannot deter non-state actors who accept that they will die in their attacks on others. The day after 9/11, American leaders in Washington D.C. suddenly felt unprotected and defenseless against a new threat they only imperfectly understood. They responded in various ways.

One was to recast what had happened in terms of Cold-War thinking. “To repress feelings of defenselessness associated with an unfamiliar threat, the decision makers’ gaze slid uncontrollably away from al Qaeda and fixated on a recognizable threat that was unquestionably susceptible to being broken into bits” (p.312). Holmes calls this fusion of bin Laden and Saddam Hussein a “mental alchemy, the ‘reconceiving’ of an impalpable enemy as a palpable enemy.” He endorses James Mann’s thesis that Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and others did not change the underlying principles guiding American foreign policy in response to the 9/11 attacks; that, in fact, they did the exact opposite: “[T]he Bush administration has managed foreign affairs so ineptly because it has been reflexively implementing out-of-date formulas in a radically changed security environment” (p. 106).

Unintended consequences also played a role, Holmes argues: “If conservative Congressmen had not blocked [Pennsylvania Governor] Tom Ridge’s nomination as Defense Secretary [in 2000] for the ludicrously immaterial reason that he was wobbly on abortion, then the Cheney-Rumsfeld group, including Wolfowitz and [Douglas] Feith, would have been in no position to hijack the administration’s reaction to 9/11″ (pp. 93-94). Rumsfeld enthusiastically endorsed Bush’s description of his “new” policies as a “war” because the Office of the Secretary of Defense then became the lead agency in designing and carrying out America’s response.

There was little or no countervailing influence. “By sheer chance,” Holmes writes, “Rice and Powell — no doubt orderly managers — have pedestrian minds and perhaps deferential personalities. Neither provided a gripping and persuasive vision of the United States’ role in the world that might have counteracted the megalomania of the neoconservatives, and neither was capable of outfoxing the hard-liners in an interagency power struggle” (p. 94).

The costs of equating al Qaeda with Iraq and of concentrating on a military response were high. “It meant that some of the troops sent to Iraq in the first wave believed, disgracefully, that they were avenging the 3,000 dead from September 11…. Cruel and arbitrary behavior by some U.S. forces helped stoke the violent insurgency that followed” (p. 307).

American confusion about the nature of the enemy — rogue state vs. non-state terrorist organization — produced two different counterstrategies, both of which almost certainly made the situation worse. First, by focusing on a rogue state (Iraq), rather than on a non-state actor (al Qaeda), the Pentagon drew attention to what it came to call the “hand-off scenario” in which a nuclear-armed rogue state might hand over weapons of mass destruction to terrorists who would use them against the U.S. To counter this threat, the Pentagon developed a strategy of preventive war against rogue states with the objective of bringing about regime change in them. The only way to prevent nuclear proliferation to terrorist groups — so the argument went — was to forcibly democratize Middle Eastern authoritarian regimes, some of which had long been allied with the United States.

The other strategy was a return to what seemed like a form of deterrence: a “scare the Muslims” campaign. This involved a resort to massive “shock and awe” bombing raids on Baghdad with the intent of demonstrating the futility of defying the United States.

By reacting to the threat of modern terrorism with an attack on a substitute target — without even bothering to calculate the enormous potential costs involved — the Pentagon greatly overestimated what military force could achieve. Both the regime-change and overawe-the-Muslims approaches carried with them potentially devastating unintended consequences — particularly if any of the premises, such as about who possessed WMD, were wrong. Overly abstract ideas were substituted for empirical knowledge of, and logical responses to, an enemy’s capabilities. Thus, insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, two devastated, poor countries, have managed to fight one of the most powerful American expeditionary forces in history to a virtual standstill. In short, “America’s bellicose response to the 9/11 provocation was not only dishonorable and unethical, given the cruel suffering it has inflicted on thousands of innocents, but also imprudent in the extreme because it was bound to produce as much hatred as fear, as much burning desire for reprisal as quaking paralysis and docility. Some of the sickening effects are unfolding before our eyes. That even more malevolent consequences remain in store is a grim possibility not to be wished away” (p. 10).

Complicity of the Left in American Imperialism

Holmes is also interesting on why the American Left has been so ineffectual in countering the efforts of Washington’s pro-war party. Deeply guilt-ridden over the Clinton administration’s failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda and frustrated by the constraints of international law and United Nations procedures, some influential progressives in America had already advocated a preemptive and unilateralist turn in American foreign policy that the Bush administration hijacked. Human rights activists had heavily promoted intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo to halt ethnic cleansing — and doing so without any international sanction whatsoever. Some of them became as enthusiastic about using the American armed forces to achieve limited foreign policy goals as many neocons. Even U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Madeleine Albright made herself notorious with her 1993 wisecrack to then Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell: “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

Although Holmes tries not to overstate his case, he suspects that the humanitarian interventionism of the 1990s — at one point he speaks of “human rights as imperial ideology” (p. 190) — may have played at least a small role in the public’s acceptance of Bush’s intervention in Iraq. If so, it is hard to imagine a better example of the disasters that good intentions can sometimes produce. The result in Iraq, in turn, has more or less silenced calls from the Left for further campaigns of military intervention for humanitarian purposes. The U.S. is conspicuously not participating in the U.N. intervention in the Darfur region of Sudan.

The Rule of Law

As a legal scholar, Holmes is committed to the rule of law. “[L]aw is best understood,” he writes, “not as a set of rigid rules but rather as a set of institutional mechanisms and procedures designed to correct the mistakes that even exceptionally talented executive officials are bound to make and to facilitate midstream readjustments and course corrections. If we understand law, constitutionalism, and due process in this way, then it becomes obvious why the war on terrorism is bound to fail when conducted, as it has been so far, against the rule of law and outside the constitutional system of checks and balances” (p. 5).

This short-circuiting of normal constitutional procedures he sees as probably the most consequential post-9/11 blunder of the Bush administration. The President’s repeated claims that he needs high levels of secrecy and the ability to arbitrarily cancel established law in order to move decisively against terrorists draw his utter contempt. “By dismantling checks and balances, along the lines idealized and celebrated by [John] Yoo, the administration has certainly gained flexibility in the ‘war on terror.’ It has gained the flexibility, in particular, to shoot first and aim afterward” (p. 301). Although such an assumption of dictatorial powers has happened before during periods of national emergency in the United States, Holmes is convinced that the humanitarian interventionism of the 1990s helped anesthetize many Americans to the implications of what the government was doing after 9/11.

Even now, with the Iraq War all but lost and public opinion having turned decisively against the President, there is still a flabbiness in mainstream criticism that reveals a major weakness in the conduct of American foreign policy. For example, while many hawks and doves today recognize that Rumsfeld mobilized too few forces to achieve his military objectives in Iraq, they tend to concentrate on his rejection of former Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki’s advice that he needed a larger army of occupation. They almost totally ignore the true national policy implications of Rumsfeld’s failed leadership. Holmes writes, “If Saddam Hussein had actually possessed the tons of chemical and biological weapons that, in the president’s talking points, constituted the casus belli for the invasion, Rumsfeld’s slimmed-down force would have abetted the greatest proliferation disaster in world history” (p. 82). He quotes Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor: “Securing the WMD required sealing the country’s borders and quickly seizing control of the many suspected sites before they were raided by profiteers, terrorists, and regime officials determined to carry on the fight. The force that Rumsfeld eventually assembled, by contrast, was too small to do any of this” (pp. 84-85). As a matter of fact, looters did ransack the Iraqi nuclear research center at al Tuwaitha. No one pointed out these flaws in the strategy until well after the invasion had revealed that, luckily, Saddam had no WMD.

With this book, Stephen Holmes largely succeeds in elevating criticism of contemporary American imperialism in the Middle East to a new level. In my opinion, however, he underplays the roles of American imperialism and militarism in exploiting the 9/11 crisis to serve vested interests in the military-industrial complex, the petroleum industry, and the military establishment. Holmes leaves the false impression that the political system of the United States is capable of a successful course correction. But, as Andrew Bacevich, author of The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War, puts it: “None of the Democrats vying to replace President Bush is doing so with the promise of reviving the system of checks and balances…. The aim of the party out of power is not to cut the presidency down to size but to seize it, not to reduce the prerogatives of the executive branch but to regain them.”

There is, I believe, only one solution to the crisis we face. The American people must make the decision to dismantle both the empire that has been created in their name and the huge, still growing military establishment that undergirds it. It is a task at least comparable to that undertaken by the British government when, after World War II, it liquidated the British Empire. By doing so, Britain avoided the fate of the Roman Republic — becoming a domestic tyranny and losing its democracy, as would have been required if it had continued to try to dominate much of the world by force. To take up these subjects, however, moves the discussion into largely unexplored territory. For now, Holmes has done a wonderful job of clearing the underbrush and preparing the way for the public to address this more or less taboo subject.

Chalmers Johnson is the author of the bestselling Blowback TrilogyBlowback (2000), The Sorrows of Empire (2004), and Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2007).

Copyright 2007 Chalmers Johnson

Turkey approves Iraq incursion

October 17, 2007

Iraq’s PM has requested his Turkish counterpart for a diplomatic solution to the issue [EPA]
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Turkey says the PKK enjoys free movement in northern Iraq, is tolerated by the region’s Kurdish leaders and obtains weapons and explosives there for attacks across the border in Turkey.

 

The US has advised against passing the motion saying that Turkish action could destabilise northern Iraq.

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Big win

 

Al Jazeera’s Barnaby Philips reporting from Turkey said that 507 of the 550 MPs voted for the motion.

Philips said 19 MPs voted against the motion while some others abstained.

“It means it was not only the Kurdish TDP opposition party MPs who rejected the motiion. But the voting also points to some uneasiness among ruling party MPs and some abstentions could have come from MPs who are from Kurdish south-east,” he said.

George Bush, the US president, has meanwhile strongly urged Turkey not to carry out cross-border strikes.

“We are making it very clear to Turkey that we don’t think it is in their interests to send troops into Iraq,” he said at a White House press conference on Wednesday.

“There’s a better way to deal with the issue than having the Turks send massive troops into the country – massive additional troops into the country,” the president said.

Iraqi plea

In a telephone conversation on Wednesday, Nuri al-Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister, told Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his Turkish counterpart, that Baghdad was “absolutely determined” to end the presence of Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq.

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He assured Erdogan that he had given orders to the autonomous Kurdish administration in northern Iraq to take action against the PKK.

Turkey’s Anatolia state news agency said al-Maliki had also asked for “a new opportunity” to help resolve the issue through diplomatic means and proposed talks.

Erdogan was said to have responded that he was willing to meet Iraqi officials to discuss the issue, but warned that Ankara cannot tolerate “further waste of time”, the agency said.

Turkey and Iraq signed an accord last month to combat the PKK but failed to agree on a clause allowing Turkish troops to engage in “hot pursuit”  against fighters fleeing into Iraqi territory as they did regularly in the 1990s.

Peaceful solution

Jalal Talabani, Iraq’s president, added his voice to those urging Turkey not to launch an attack against the PKK in Iraq following a meeting with Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, on Wednesday.

Talabani said: “We hope the wisdom of our friend [Turkish] prime minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan will be so active that there will be no military intervention.”

The Iraqi president said his country wanted to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.

“We are ready to co-operate with the Turkish authorities and we are for activating the committee formed by America, Turkey and Iraq to solve this problem.

“We consider the activities of the PKK against the interests of the Kurdish people and against the interests of Turkey.

“We have asked the PKK to stop fighting and end military activity,” he said.

Kurdish warning

The autonomous Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq warned Turkish MPs on Wednesday that the planned vote to authorise an armed incursion would be illegal.

Jamal Abdullah, a regional government spokesman, said: “We see the problem [of the PKK] as a Turkish internal problem.

“If the Turkish parliament gives the authorisation to the army to enter another country, we consider this illegal and a violation of international law and the United Nations’ charter.”

Abdullah said the Kurdish government supported diplomatic efforts by Baghdad to bring an end to the crisis, but said that any deals signed with the Turks involving the region should be approved by the regional authorities in Arbil.

“If a deal is related to the political, economic, social region of Kurdistan, it needs to be approved by the Kurdistan parliament,” he said.

Mahmud Othman, a senior Kurdish politican, said: “PKK members are present in the Kurdistan region but the regional government is preventing them from carrying out any attacks against Turkish targets.

“The Iraqi government is taking a position of giving in to Turkey. The military is not a solution, it will worsen the situation.

“I hope the Turkish government will review and reverse its decision [in favour of military action] and start dialogue with the central Iraqi government and the regional Kurdish government to find a political solution.”

Othman said that the Turkish government had refused a proposal from the Iraqi Kurdish government to offer an amnesty to PKK fighters.

Syrian backing

Meanwhile, Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president, has backed Turkey, Syria’s neighbour, in its tough stance against the PKK.

On a vist to Turkey on Wednesday, al-Assad said: “Without a doubt, we support the decisions taken by the Turkish government against terrorism and we accept them as a legitimate right of Turkey.”

Opposition to a Kurdish state has pushed Turkey closer to Syria and Iran, with the foreign ministers of Turkey and Syria signing an agreement on boosting economic, political, security and energy co-operation during al-Assad’s trip.

The Syrian president said US forces in Iraq were the main source of “terrorist activities” in that country.

In video

 

Al Jazeera’s interview with Kurdish separatist leader Murat Karayilan

In an exclusive interview on Tuesday, Murat Karayilan, the head of PKK operations in northern Iraq, told Al Jazeera that the group would confront Turkish forces if they are attacked.

Karayilan said: “If Turkey is going to use violence against our movement, our leader and our people, then we will respond.

Speaking from his camp in the Qandil mountains straddling the Iraq-Turkey border, he said: “It seems Turkey is preparing for an attack, then we have to resist.”

Karayilan said Turkey was using the threat of military action against the PKK to put pressure on Iraqi Kurdistan.

 
 
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Indigenous Congress Demands Teeth for UN Declaration

October 17, 2007
Indigenous Congress Demands Teeth for UN Declaration
by Franz Chávez; IPS; October 16, 2007

LA PAZ, Oct 12 (IPS) – Indigenous leaders are holding a regional congress in Bolivia to discuss strategies to oblige governments to take on board as state policy the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 13.

The U.N. declaration, achieved after a 20-year struggle, recognises the right of the world’s 370 million indigenous people to autonomy, self-determination and control of their territory and resources for their own benefit.

However, as a mere declaration, it lacks the legally binding nature of U.N. conventions, which form part of the framework of international law. This is the goal that the leaders of native peoples are now pursuing.

Representatives from several countries began a three-day meeting on Wednesday, called the Encounter for World Indigenous People’s Historic Victory. Guatemalan indigenous activist Rigoberta Menchú, winner of the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize, was one of the participants.

The congress, Menchú said, is a way of demonstrating support for the work of Bolivia’s leftwing indigenous President Evo Morales, who convened a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution with the aim of achieving recognition of indigenous peoples’ cultural values, customs and right to land and self-determination.

The cities of La Paz and Tiwanaku, in the country’s Andean region, and Chimoré in central Bolivia, were the sites selected for this week’s multicultural congress which is being attended by representatives of the Aymara and Quechua people of Bolivia and ethnic groups from Central and South America.

Sixty percent of Bolivia’s 9.6 million people belong to 36 different indigenous groups, and a further 25 to 30 percent are “mestizo” (of mixed indigenous and European ancestry). The country is currently experiencing heated debate over the demands by indigenous people for autonomy and governments and territories of their own.

The U.N. declaration is a major boost to President Morales’ plans to “re-found” the country and grant the indigenous majority rights that have been denied to them since Bolivia became an independent country in 1825.

Morales could become the leader of an international movement for the effective implementation of the principles set out in the declaration, Menchú told IPS.

“The declaration is an extraordinary beginning, but now we must continue the struggle for an actual international convention on the rights of indigenous peoples,” she said.

In a speech to the congress, Menchú praised the changes being brought about in Bolivia, and emphasised the significance of Morales as the country’s first and only indigenous president.

She also said that her being in Bolivia was a gesture of support for Morales’ candidacy to the Nobel Peace Prize, and said she hoped that he would become the second indigenous person to be awarded the distinction.

In fact the prizewinners, announced in Oslo on Friday, are former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), for their efforts to spread awareness of man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for corrective measures.

Morales charged indigenous peoples with the task of leading a new struggle for the defence of the environment, and vigorously criticised rich nations, whom he blamed for global warming. “Unless we change capitalism, we are doomed to finish off the planet. We must change, and wake up to new ways of living,” he said.

The Bolivian leader said that to save humanity, imperialism must be fought, and water, energy, land and natural resources should be preserved in the hands of the state, and not privatised.

Native peoples in the United States, who make up 2.5 percent of the population, hope to incorporate their rights in the country’s legislation, LaDonna Harris, head of the organisation Americans for Indian Opportunity, told IPS.

But they will wait for a new government, as presidential elections are due in 2008, before they begin lobbying to that end, she said.

Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States refused to sign the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but Harris, a Comanche, still believes that battling for the preservation of the identity and culture of the 550 tribes living in the U.S. is worthwhile, and that their cause can prevail.

Nieves Mamani, an Aymara woman who lives in Pacajes, in the highlands of the province of La Paz, said that she hopes the Bolivian constituent assembly will recognise the U.N. declaration on indigenous rights, but added that her main aspiration is for women in her communities to be more highly valued.

“In rural areas, women are longsuffering and marginalised. Women must start out on a new path and march at the head of the column,” she told IPS, speaking in Aymara.

In Guatemala, the indigenous majority are subjugated by powerful companies that exploit mining deposits and natural wealth at the expense of people who live in poverty, Candelaria Hernández, the representative of Organización Ceiba, told IPS.

The U.N. declaration must bring about better living conditions for the people, Delfín Tenesaca from Ecuador, the head of the Chimborazo Indigenous Confederation, told IPS. Irrational policies based on the exploitation of natural resources by foreign companies must be put aside, injustice and corruption must be uprooted, and a plurinational state must be created, he said.

An economy based on solidarity, that respects the capabilities and autonomy of indigenous peoples, without hunger and without violence, will ensure better days, Tenesaca said.

In Mexico, the U.N. declaration has opened doors for discussion and the possibility of incorporating indigenous people’s rights in state legislation, Franco Hernández, the representative of the Study Centre for Educational Development in Oaxaca, told IPS.

UN adviser criticises Quartet

October 15, 2007

Rice met Abbas on Monday in Ramallah a day after holding meetings with senior Israeli officials
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Speaking to Al Jazeera on Monday, John Dugard said the Quartet of Middle East negotiators are not dealing effectively with the issue of Palestinian human rights.

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Dugard said the UN should withdraw from the Quartet – a grouping comprising the UN, the US, EU and Russia – unless those concerns are addressed.

 

For instance, the Quartet has never even mentioned the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, which sets out the legal framework for dealing with the Palestinian territory, he said.

 

Dugard, a South African law professor who is the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, said: “If the UN is not able to persuade other members of the Quartet, particularly the US, to acknowledge that Israel is a serious violator of human rights and is in serious violation of international law, then the UN should give serious consideration to withdrawing from the Quartet.”

 

Rice meetings

 

Dugard’s warning coincides with the arrival of Rice on her seventh trip this year to the region, this time to prepare for the US-sponsored peace summit in Annapolis, Maryland, in late November.

 

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Al Jazeera’s David Chater, reporting from the West Bank city of Ramallah, said that Rice would be taking note of Dugard’s comments.

 

One of the points Dugard raised was that hopes are being fanned in a large way by the ongoing talks, and if those hopes are frustrated, that could lead to a third intifada, Chater said.

 

Rice held a lengthy meeting with Abbas on Monday in Ramallah despite playing  down hopes of a breakthrough.

 

Her convoy swept into the Palestinian leadership compound after being briefly held up because of security concerns about a suspect car on the road from occupied Jerusalem.

 

It turned out to be a false alarm, news agencies said.

 

Israel chided

 

Rice earlier cautioned that Israel’s plan to seize Palestinian land in East Jerusalem could damage confidence in Annapolis meeting on Palestinian statehood.

Before her arrival in Jerusalem on Sunday, she said that Israeli clarifications that the project was to ease Palestinian movement did little to ease concerns.

 

The land is being confiscated to build a road linking Palestinian areas cut off by the route of the separation barrier.

Palestinians say the plan threatens the ability to create an independent state in the West Bank.

 

Shuttle diplomacy

Rice on Sunday discussed the land seizure with Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, as well as ways to ease restriction on Palestinians travelling across the occupied West Bank, an Israeli official said.

She then held talks with Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, and the leaders of Israel’s main political parties before having dinner with Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister in the West Bank government.

Rice discussed the latest Israeli land seizure
with Barak in Jerusalem on Monday [AFP]

But even before she began her meetings, Olmert suggested that an outline agreement was not necessary for the conference to go ahead.

The goal “is to arrive at a joint statement during the international conference, even though the existence of such a statement was never a condition for holding this conference,” Olmert said.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams have already begun discussing the document which is expected to address “core issues”, such as borders, sovereignty over disputed Jerusalem and a solution for Palestinian refugees.

Israel is pressing for a vaguely worded document that would give it more room to manoeuvre, while the Palestinians want a detailed preliminary agreement with a timetable for creating a Palestinian state.

 
 
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Israel’s settlement burden

October 10, 2007
By Jacky Rowland in the West Bank

Maale Adumim, one of the West Bank’s largest
and most controversial settlements [EPA]
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When Israeli troops rolled into the West Bank in 1967 it was, in military terms, a complete victory.

 

But even before the war came to an end, Israeli strategists were grappling with the political implications of the triumph.

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Shlomo Gazit was working in military intelligence at the time. He believed that Israel should offer to withdraw from newly captured territory – in exchange for full, comprehensive peace treaties with its neighbours.    

“On June 9 1967 we drew up a document giving our view of what should be our policy following the military victory,” he says.

“That assessment, those recommendations are valid to this very day.”

Israel’s political leaders were uncertain about what to do with the newly conquered lands. In the meantime, a group of ideological Jews started to establish facts on the ground – in the shape of the first settlements.

‘Call from God’

Settlements – facts and figures

 

– Between 1967 and 1977 Israel constructed 30 settlements with more than 5,000 settlers, mostly in the West Bank

– Israel pulled out of all 17 Gaza settlements and four West Bank settlements in August 2005

– Now there are about 440,000 settlers in total in the West Bank and East Jerusalem

– Settlements cost the Israeli government about $556m per year

– Israel’s wall around occupied West Bank will stretch for more than 700km, looping around most settlements there

– Based on the current plan, 8.6 per cent of the West Bank falls on the Israeli side of the wall

–  Wall sections around the Ariel and Maale Adumin settlements most contentious as cut deep into the West Bank, dividing it from East Jerusalem

Source: Peace Now

Daniela Weiss was among those first settlers. She led a group of Israelis on a march from the cities of the coastal plain to the hills of the West Bank.

“We were part of a movement,” she says. “The miracle of the Six Day War was a call from God to return to the birthplace of our nation, which is here on these hills.”

Those settlements have since swollen and burgeoned. 

At present, more than 400,000 Israelis live on occupied Arab land, and the settlements in the West Bank are a major obstacle to an agreement with the Palestinians based on exchanging land for peace.

“I believe that both parties are quite ready to accept a compromise,” says General Gazit.

“Unfortunately we do not have the strong leadership that’s capable of doing it at present.”

Holding on

Hardcore settlers are taking advantage of this lack of leadership. They have heard politicians talk about disengagement from the West Bank but they do not intend to go anywhere.  

“I am not discouraged in the least,” Weiss says.

“I am aggravated that a Jewish prime minister can think in terms of transferring Jews in their homeland.  But I am not intimidated.”

The military victory of 1967 has left successive Israeli governments with a burden. 

As long as the West Bank remains occupied, there can be no real state for the Palestinians – and no real peace for the Israelis.

The Jewish settlement of Kfar Adumim located 10km east of Jerusalem in the Judea desert in the West Bank [AFP]