Archive for the ‘Iraq’ Category

White House, Press Spinning Iran’s Centrifuges By Ray McGovern

December 11, 2007

White House, Press Spinning Iran’s Centrifuges By Ray McGovern

By Ray McGovern
12/09/07 “
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Those who know about the centrifuges used to refine uranium tell me they must spin at an almost unrivaled velocity—almost unrivaled, because Bush administration statements are being spun at equivalent speed by White House and corporate media spiders. Without Spinmeister Karl Rove and former spokesman Tony Snow, it is amateur hour at the White House. And the theater would be as funny as The Daily Show, were the subject not so serious.

Judging from President George W. Bush’s words and body language he is far from giving up on ways to “justify” attacking Iran’s nuclear program—weapons-related or not. He appears convinced he must honor the pledge he has made to Israel’s current leaders to eliminate what they have called an “existential threat” to Israel. This came through in a particularly pointed way on October 17, when an agitated president ad-libbed about the possibility of World War III, complaining loudly, “We’ve got a leader in Iran who has announced he wants to destroy Israel.”

Not at all helpful to the president was the judgment of U.S. intelligence that the Iranians halted their nuclear weapons-related program in 2003, a judgment the administration made public this week. The White House knew only too well that that this bombshell could not be kept secret very long—the more so since Congress’ intelligence committees, Pentagon brass, and senior CIA officials reportedly made it quite clear they would go public if the White House did not publish a sanitized version of the key judgments of the latest National Intelligence Estimate.

On Oct. 26, National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell launched a trial balloon, declaring he would no longer declassify and release summaries of National Intelligence Estimates, but that balloon was quickly shot down.

So what can Cheney and Bush do now to “justify” striking Iran? Several months ago, about the time new intelligence established there was no active nuclear weapons program in Iran, there were signs in the rhetoric coming from the president and Gen. David Petraeus that the argument was going to hinge on claims that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards were supplying the wherewithal to kill our troops in Iraq. Petraeus was clearly ready to play that game, but his superior, Admiral “we’re-not-going-to-do-Iran-on-my-watch” William Fallon would not play along. And neither would the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates is now back from a brief visit to Iraq and his caution so far on this issue suggests he is paying more heed to Fallon than to Petraeus. In other words, there is no sign that Gates wants to abet using Iranian meddling in Iraq as a pretext for a military strike on Iran. Gates’ well-deserved chameleon-like reputation counsels caution here, since a word from Cheney or Bush could conceivably make Gates a fervent champion of this pretext for war. But people do mature; Gates is smart; and I doubt he would want to be so closely associated with starting a regional war, if not WW III.

Spinning Enrichment

So where does that leave the beleaguered president? This week’s spinning by the White House and subservient media suggests the administration still thinks it can make a case for war, by obfuscating the nuclear program in Iran. This has become clearer as administration mouthpieces blur the distinction between uranium enrichment for a civilian energy use (permitted to signatories of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty) and the much more demanding requirements of a nuclear weapons program.

The spinners have resurrected the discredited argument that Iran’s nuclear program must be for weapons, because Iran’s oil and gas should suffice to meet all its energy requirements. Thus, the administration’s Pravda, also known as the editorial page of the Washington Post, on Dec. 5: “Iran’s massive overt investment in uranium enrichment meanwhile proceeds…even though Tehran has no legitimate use for enriched uranium.”

And thus another major administration mouthpiece, also known as the New York Times, on Dec. 6, in an op-ed, “In Iran We Trust?” by Valerie Lincy and Gary Milhollin: “Why, by the way, does Iran even want a nuclear energy program, when it is sitting on an enormous pool of oil that is now skyrocketing in value.”

This is a familiar canard; i.e., that Iran’s claim that its nuclear program is for electricity production is given the lie by its own large oil and natural gas reserves, so uranium enrichment must be for nuclear weapons development. Condoleezza Rice took that line over a year and a half ago (shades of those (in)famous aluminum tubes that she said could “only” be used in a nuclear application but turned out to be for conventional artillery). At about the same time Dick Cheney complained that since the Iranians are “already sitting on an awful lot of oil and gas. Nobody can figure why they need nuclear as well to generate energy.”

It all makes me think of Harry Truman’s complaint: “They must think we were born yesterday!” Rice and Cheney have selective memories—or take us for fools. Back in 1976—with Gerald Ford president, Dick Cheney his chief of staff, Donald Rumsfeld secretary of defense—the Ford administration bought the Shah’s argument that Iran needed a nuclear program to meet its future energy requirements. That argument, of course, is even more valid today, with the price that can be obtained for oil and the specter of Peak Oil.

Cheney and Rumsfeld persuaded a hesitant President Ford to offer Iran a deal that would have meant at least $6.4 billion for U.S. corporations like Westinghouse and General Electric, had not the Shah been unceremoniously dumped three years later. The offer included a reprocessing facility for a complete nuclear fuels cycle—essentially the same capability that the U.S. and Israel now insist Iran cannot be allowed to acquire.

A pity that our domesticated media seem unable to catch the disingenuousness.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C. During his 27-year career as a CIA analyst, he chaired some National Intelligence Estimates and produced/briefed the President’s Daily Brief.

This article appeared first on Consortiumnews.com

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

The Global Impact of Bush’s War Crimes in Iraq: King Midas in Reverse by Walter C. Uhler

November 28, 2007

The Global Impact of Bush’s War Crimes in Iraq: King Midas in Reverse by Walter C. Uhler

by Walter C. Uhler
The Smirking Chimp
Nov 26 2007

Journalist Robert Fisk recently explained the Bush/Cheney abomination in the Middle East quite succinctly, when he asserted: “The world in the Middle East is growing darker and darker by the hour. Pakistan. Afghanistan. Iraq. “Palestine”. Lebanon. From the borders of Hindu Kush to the Mediterranean, we – we Westerners that is – are creating (as I have said before) a hell disaster. Next week, we are supposed to believe in peace in Annapolis, between the colorless American apparatchik and Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister who has no more interest in a Palestinian state than his predecessor Ariel Sharon.” [Robert Fisk, “Darkness falls on the Middle East,” Independent.co.uk, 24 Nov. 2007]

On Friday, November 23rd, a bomb exploded in a pet market in central Baghdad. It followed a “brazen attack against U.S.-backed Sunni fighters on the southern belt of Baghdad” and a mortar and rocket attack on the Green Zone a day earlier that constituted “the biggest attack against the U.S.-protected area in weeks.” [Bushra Juhi, “Twin bombings Kill at Least 26 in Iraq,” Associated Press, 23 Nov. 2007]

You might keep such information in mind whenever you hear dishonest Republicans and feckless Democrats shy away from the awful truth about the “hell disaster” in Iraq and the Middle East.

And the awful truth is this: During the seven months preceding the Bush administration’s reckless, immoral, illegal and incompetent invasion of Iraq, the architects of that criminal war — Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, Wolfowitz, Feith and Perle — lied repeatedly about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and links to al Qaeda, grossly exaggerated both the welcome American troops would receive and the ease with which democracy could be established in Iraq, while fraudulently understating the projected costs of their evil venture. In a word, our “MBA President” and his cronies failed to exercise due diligence with the American people.

Yet, while these criminals were preparing to commit their crime, critics of the proposed invasion were struggling to be heard, struggling to penetrate the herd mentality of the mainstream news media – which, except for some reporters at Knight Ridder, found itself shocked and awed by the administration’s war mongering propaganda. As we now know, post-invasion facts on the ground vindicated the critics, not only for doubting the Bush administration’s bogus claims about Iraq’s WMD and links to al Qaeda, but also for questioning the very need for preemptive (actually preventive) war and the very feasibility of forcing democracy at gunpoint.

Unfortunately, more than 31,000 American soldiers have been killed or wounded in the course of executing Bush’s criminal plans. Add to that figure “at least 20,000 U.S. troops who were not classified as wounded during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan…[now] found with signs of brain injuries.” [Gregg Zoroya, “Combat Brain Injuries Multiply,” USA Today, Nov. 23, 2007]

Moreover, although some 3,875 soldiers have died in Iraq since March 2003, 6,256 US veterans committed suicide in 2005 alone. According to CBS News, the suicide rate among veterans is double that of the civilian population and veterans aged 20 through 24 – those caught up in Bush’s war – had the highest suicide rates among all veterans. Finally, consider that almost 8,000 soldiers deserted the US Army during fiscal years 2006 and 2007.

Beyond such casualties, Bush’s war has strained the U.S. Army to the breaking point. As Army Chief of Staff, Gen. George Casey recently observed, “The current demand for our forces exceeds the sustainable supply.” According to Senator Jack Reed and security analyst Michele A. Flournoy, “Roughly half of the 2000 and 2001 West Point classes have already decided to leave the Army” citing multiple, back-to-back combat tours as the primary reason. Moreover, “roughly half of the U.S. Army’s equipment is in Iraq or Afghanistan, where the harsh environment and the high tempo of operations are wearing out equipment at up to 9 times the normal rate.”

Then, there’s the exorbitant cost of Bush’s war of choice. According to Democrats on the Joint Economic Committee, when the hidden costs of Bush’s war are considered, the total economic cost has exceeded $1.5 trillion. The surge in the price of oil, from approximately $37 per barrel at the beginning of the war to over $90 in recent weeks, constitutes a major portion of those hidden, but very real costs.

Finally, citizens of the United States have seen their liberties subverted by the Bush administration in the name of national security. Through the abuse of signing statements, the use of torture and the embrace of illegal wiretapping the Bush administration has moved America creepily closer to those horrid dictatorships its citizens once derided.

Yet, the costs to the United States constitute mere chump change when compared with the price paid by Iraqis. Life in Iraq during Bush’s reign of terror has been far worse than life was during the last years of Saddam’s brutal regime. Consider the national humiliation associated with America’s successful invasion, its brutal occupation and its degrading torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

According to Robert Dreyfuss and Tom Engelhardt, “There are, by now, perhaps a million dead Iraqis, give or take a few hundred thousand. If a typical wounded-to-dead ratio of 3:1 holds, then you’re talking about up to 4 million war, occupation, and civil-war casualties. Now, add in the estimated 2-2.5 million who went into exile, fleeing the country, and another estimated 2.3 million who have had to leave their homes and go into internal exile as Iraqi communities hand neighborhoods were ‘cleansed.’”

As columnist Cesar Chelala recently wrote in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “One child dies every five minutes because of the war, and many more are left with severe injuries. Of the estimated 4 million Iraqis who have been displaced in Iraq or lest the country, 1.5 million are children.” Quoting from an assessment by 100 British and Iraqi doctors, Chelala adds: “sick or injured children, who could otherwise be treated by simple means, are left to die in the hundreds because they don’t have access to basic medicines and other resources. Children who have lost hands, feet and limb are left without prostheses. Children with grave psychological distress are left untreated.”

Chronic shortages in electricity persist. And, as Bobby Cain Calvan of McClatchy Newspapers reported on November 18th, “the percentage of Iraqis without access to decent water supplies has risen from 50 percent to 70 percent since the start of the U.S.-led war…The portion of Iraqis lacking decent sanitation…[has been] even worse – 80 percent.” Yet, the horrors in Iraq have been grossly underreported by America’s mainstream news media. As Dahr Jamail concludes in his new book, Beyond the Green Zone, “If the people of the United States had the real story about what their government has done in Iraq, the occupation would already have ended.” [p. 291]

One might ask how Bush and his co-conspirators are able to sleep at night, given all this blood and carnage on their hands. Why do they remain in office? Why haven’t they been impeached? Why haven’t they been thrown in prison?

But, then, one also might ask why the many conservative scholars and pundits who got everything so wrong — especially those despicable neo-cons – still fill opinion pages and the airwaves with their vile excuses for yet more war. Their latest con is to argue that the surge is working. Some dishonest clowns even mention the word “victory.”

Of course, they spew yet more propaganda designed to maintain or bolster the 70 percent of Republicans who still support Bush’s criminal war. (How different are they from Hitler’s die-hard supporters during World War II?) For example, one of the more obnoxious and consistently wrong neo-cons, Charles Krauthammer, waxed euphoric in his November 23rd column about just how well the surge was going in Iraq.

Yet, the 23rd was the day of the pet market blast, which had followed the previous day’s “brazen attack” in the southern belt of Baghdad and the rocket attack on the Green Zone. Those attacks prompted two reporters from the Los Angeles Times to suggest that “insurgents appeared intent on sending a message to U.S. and Iraqi officials that their recent expressions of optimism on the nation’s security were premature.”

But, then, consider the source. This is the very same Krauthammer who wrote in November 2001: [T]he way to tame the Arab street is not with appeasement and sweet sensitivity but with raw power and victory….The elementary truth that seems to elude the experts again and again…is that power is its own reward. Victory changes everything, psychology above all. The psychology in the [Middle East] is now one of fear and deep respect for American power. Now is the time to use it.” [Andrew J. Bacevich, The New American Militarism, p 93]

Tell me, Mr. Krauthammer, how’s the “fear and deep respect” playing out in the Middle East and the world in November 2007? How stupid could you be? And why are you still employed by the Washington Post?

The Post’s Thomas Ricks provides a more honest assessment. “I just got back from Baghdad last week, and it was clear that violence has decreased. But it hasn’t gone away. It is only back down to the 2005 level – which to my mind is kind of like moving from the eighth circle of hell to the fifth….I’ve interviewed dozens of officers and none were willing to say we are winning. What they were saying is that at least now, we are not losing.” [Editor & Publisher, Nov. 24, 2007] Yet, if you recall that, on May 12, 2004, General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, told a Senate committee, “There is no way to militarily lose in Iraq. There’s also no way to militarily win in Iraq,” you might want to question why we’re still there.

Anthony Cordesman recently published a more realistic appraisal of the surge. Titled, “Violence versus Political Accommodation: The True Elements of Victory in Iraq,” Cordesman credits the surge for playing a secondary role in reducing violence in Iraq. But he cautions: “It is still far from clear that US success against al Qaeda in the rest of central Iraq has brought stability and security to any mixed area where there is serious tension and violence. If anything, the fact that the ’surge’ has not halted the pace of Iraqi displacements and has often created a patchwork of Arab Shiite versus Arab Sunni divisions in towns and areas that extend far beyond Baghdad, has laid the ground for further struggles once the US is gone.” [p. 11]

Cordesman adds: “Most of Southern Iraq is now under the control of competing local and regional Shiite gangs,” which have become the “equivalent of rival mafias.” [p. 13]

More significantly, Cordesman concludes: “The US cannot win the war; it can only give Iraq’s central government and those leaders interested in national unity and political accommodation the opportunity to do so.” [p. 10] [N]o amount of American military success can – by itself – have strategic meaning.” [p. 13]

Finally, those who propagandize that the “surge” is working are advised to contemplate the work of MIT economist Michael Greenstone. As summarized in the December issue of The Atlantic, Greenstone has examined the financial markets in Iraq, especially the market for Iraqi state bonds. He found that “from the start of the surge earlier this year until September, there was a ’sharp decline’ in the price of Iraqi state bonds, signaling a ‘40% increase in the market’s expectation that Iraq will default’ on its obligations.”

The Atlantic article goes on to note: “Since the bonds are sold on international markets (hedge funds hold a large portion), where the profit motive eliminates personal and political bias, the trajectory of bond prices may be the most accurate indicator available for assessing America’s military strategy. And the data suggest that ‘the surge is failing to pave the way toward a stable Iraq and may in fact be undermining it.” [The Atlantic Dec. 2007, p. 26]

Consequently, were we merely limiting ourselves to the catastrophes that has bedeviled both the United States and Iraq as a consequence of Bush’s war, we’d be forced to conclude that Bush’s national security policy has the touch of King Midas in reverse. Everything Bush touches turns to shit!

Unfortunately, as serious pre-war scholars and critics feared and predicted, Bush’s King Midas touch in reverse has extended far beyond Iraq and the United States. Simply recall their warnings about the war’s impact on the price of oil, their fears that such a war might undermine US efforts against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, their concern that Bush’s invasion might inflame hatred of America throughout the Muslim world, their suspicions that Iran might be the principal beneficiary of a US-led invasion that placed Iraqi Shiites in power and their worries about how a destabilized Iraq might provoke intervention by it neighbors, Iran, Syria and Turkey, and thus embroil the entire region.

Thanks to the perverse King Midas touch of the Bush administration, Iran has indeed emerged as the most influential player in Iraq and Turkey is poised to invade Iraqi Kurdistan. Moreover, as Anne Applebaum has written in the Washington Post: [T] he collateral damage inflicted by the war on America’s relationships with the rest of the world is a lot deeper and broader than most Americans have realized.”

In support of Ms. Applebaum’s assertion, simply recall the words uttered to Condoleezza Rice in October 2007 by Tanya Lokshina, chairwoman of the Demos Center for Information and Research, a Russian human rights organization: The United States had “lost the high moral ground.” “The American voice alone doesn’t work anymore…The Russians are not influenced by it.” [Steven Lee Myers, New York Times Oct. 15, 2007]

Finally, mention also must be made of another catastrophe feared and predicted by the pre-war critics of Bush’s invasion, one which now looms on the horizon: the destabilization of nuclear armed Pakistan. As Robert Parry wrote in September 2002, “One reason a war with Iraq might increase, rather than decrease, the danger to the American people is that the invasion could spread instability across the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world…[impacting] most notably the dictatorship of Gen. Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan.”

As Parry observed: “Today, even as Musharraf cooperates with the U.S. war on terror, his regime is confronted by pro-al Qaeda factions both inside and outside his government. Many past and present Pakistani military officers continue to sympathize with the fundamentalists.” [Robert Parry, “Bush’s Nuclear Gamble,” [consortiumnews.com, September 30, 2002]

As if describing Bush’s reverse Midas touch in Pakistan, Juan Cole has observed: “The pressure the Bush administration put on the Pakistani military government to combat Muslim militants in that country weakened the legitimacy of [military dictator Pervez] Musharraf, whom the Pakistani public increasingly viewed as an oppressive American puppet.” Not content with such long-term undermining of its client dictator, the Bush administration then “brokered a deal whereby [Benazir] Bhutto was allowed to return to Pakistan.” But, “the huge explosion that greeted Bhutto in her home turf of Karachi…suggests that her arrival is hardly the remedy for Pakistan’s instability.” [Cole, Salon.com Oct. 24, 2007]

Thus, given its profoundly devastating King Midas touch that has rippled around the world, one can confidently predict that the Bush administration will further embolden militant Muslims and secure its legacy as the worst presidency in U.S. history by attacking Iran, thereby bringing America’s staggering and tottering empire crashing to the ground. Like Lenin, during the pre-revolutionary period in Tsarist Russia, it would be tempting to say, “the worse, the better” for America. Except: (1) I don’t believe the loss of empire will prompt Americans to wake up and (2) America’s fervent Bush-supporting crackpot Christians, seeing evidence for their long awaited Rapture and End Times in the calamities actually wrought by Bush, already have a stranglehold on Lenin’s dictum.

(More about such crackpot Christians in a future article).

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

INVASION – A COMPARISON OF SOVIET AND WESTERN MEDIA PERFORMANCE

November 26, 2007
november 20, 2007

INVASION – A COMPARISON OF SOVIET AND WESTERN MEDIA PERFORMANCE

By: Nikolai Lanine and Media Lens

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Humanitarian War of Self-Defence

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

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

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

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

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

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

The same paper noted:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Democracy And Human Rights – America And Britain Attack

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

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

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

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

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

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

In April 2002, Rory Carroll wrote in the Guardian:

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

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

The New York Times wrote in September 2007:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Accordance With International Law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blaming ‘External Interference’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In similar vein, the Observer reported in August:

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

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

An Independent leader commented:

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

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

Patriotism And ‘Backing Our Troops’

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

One Soviet journalist claimed of Soviet political advisors:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Invisible Civilian Casualties

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cost of Leaving

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

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

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

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

The journal Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn commented:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perle responded:

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

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

Soviet And Western Media – Similarities And Differences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selected Bibliography

In Russian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Iraqi Army raids Shiite militia strongholds, finds cache of Iranian-made weapons

November 21, 2007

Copyright (c) 2007 The Daily Star
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Iraqi Army raids Shiite militia strongholds, finds cache of Iranian-made weapons
 
 

Compiled by Daily Star staff

 

Iranian-made weapons were among a large cache of arms and ammunition found during operations in a Shiite militia stronghold south of Baghdad, the Iraqi Army said Monday.

Major General Jamil Kamel al-Shimari, a senior officer in the 8th Iraqi Army Division, said the cache was the biggest store of weapons found since the launch of Operation Lion Pounce on Saturday.

Iraqi security officials said that 3,000 Iraqi soldiers and policemen supported by military tanks and hundreds of US and Polish troops launched the assault Saturday to flush out Shiite militants from the city.

The stockpile, which included roadside bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, mortar bombs and explosives, was uncovered in Diwaniyya, 180 kilometers south of Baghdad.

Four suspected militants were arrested at the scene, among 74 who have been detained since the operation began.

“All of their hands are bloodied,” Shimari said.

“There are seven Iranian-made roadside bombs and nine anti-tank mines. These are a big danger threatening our forces,” Shimari told reporters.

US military officials accuse Iran of arming and training Shiite militias in Iraq, a charge Tehran denies.

Iran in turn blames the violence in Iraq, in which tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed, on the American-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Some Washington and US Embassy officials in Iraq have noted recent improvements in Iran’s involvement in Iraq, but the US military says Iranian weapons and components are still being found in Iraq.

US and Polish helicopters and soldiers supported Iraqi security forces in the Diwaniyya operation, said Polish military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Wlodzimierz Glogowski.

The operation, which Glogowski said included two Iraqi Army battalions and one police brigade, is trying to squeeze militants out of the area.

Qadisiyya Province, of which Diwaniyya is the capital, has been spared much of the sectarian bloodshed that has rocked other parts of Iraq.

But it has been hit hard by factional fighting between rival Shiite militias, including the feared Mehdi Army loyal to influential anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Shiite militants have attacked military bases, including those used by about 900 Polish troops in Qadisiyya.

Witnesses said the city of over 1 one million people was under curfew and US aircraft were dropping leaflets urging locals to cooperate in locating militant hideouts.

Sadr’s office in the town of Nafar, south of Diwaniyya, was also raided Monday as part of the crackdown, said a report from AFP.

Diwaniyya’s police chief, Major General Ali Akmoush, said the assault also led to the dismissal of 70 policemen, including some officers. “They have been dismissed for supporting armed gangs,” he told AFP.

Iraq’s second-largest city, Basra, is also witnessing a similar Shiite turf war, with several political factions fighting bitterly to control the vast oil reserves in the province.

On Monday, at least six people were killed, including three children, when a rocket slammed into a house in the town of Al-Qibla near Basra, police and a health official said.

“Three children, one woman and two men were killed in the attack,” Basra police Colonel Karim al-Zaidi told AFP.

Basra health department spokesman Kadhim Jawad also confirmed the casualties.

The British military has withdrawn its forces from Basra and plans to hand over the province to Iraqi troops in December.

In another incident, gunmen attacked a police station in Zaghaniyya, south of Baqouba, killing three policemen, said the city’s police Captain Ha-zim Yasin.

Baqouba, the capital of Diyala, has seen an increase in violence in the past few weeks despite a series of US and Iraqi military assaults targeting Al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters.

On Sunday, three American soldiers were killed in Baqouba by a suicide bomber as they were distributing  soccer balls and toys to children near a schoolyard, the US military said.

Major Peggy Kageleiry, spokeswoman for the military, said the soldiers were killed while they were walking among children in the restive city about 60 kilometers north of Baghdad.

“They were handing out soccer balls and stuffed animals to children next to a schoolyard when someone walked up and detonated himself,” she said.

“The only evidence of this we have so far is forensic,” she said, adding that army experts had found one of the dead was wearing a “suicide vest.”

On Monday, one person was killed and nine wounded when a roadside bomb went off near a bus carrying passengers in Al-Baladiyat neighborhood of east Baghdad, a security official said.

An Iraqi translator who used to work for the US-led coalition in the city of Nasiriyya until a month ago was shot dead by gunmen Monday, police Lieutenant Colonel Falah al-Siaidi said.

The US military, meanwhile, announced its troops last week found the remains of five people at an execution site in Diyala. – Reuters, AFP


Copyright (c) 2007 The Daily Star

Loving the Bomb for Seven Decades: Are You With Us … or Against Us?

November 19, 2007

Loving the Bomb for Seven Decades: Are You With Us … or Against Us?
The road from Washington to Karachi to nuclear anarchy. Jonathan Schell
November 14 , 2007

[Introduction by Tom Engelhardt]

Before I met Jonathan Schell, I already knew him in the best way possible: on the page. Even in his days as a neophyte journalist in Vietnam, he committed a writer’s greatest act of generosity. First in the pages of The New Yorker, and then in his books, he took readers to places most of us never could have gone on our own—to The Village of Ben Suc, for instance, as American troops cleared it of its 3,500 peasant inhabitants and destroyed it in what was, in 1967, the largest military operation of the Vietnam War to date; and, not so long after, in The Military Half—from the back seats of tiny Forward Air Control planes—to two South Vietnamese provinces where Americans were wreaking utter havoc. (In that book, he offered a still-unmatched journalistic vision of what war looks like, up close and personal, from the air.) In the 1970s, in The Time of Illusion, he would seat us all front-row center at the great Constitutional crisis that preceded our present one, the Nixonian near coup d’état that we now call “Watergate.”

In The Unconquerable World (for which I was the editor), looking back from a new century, he considered several hundred years of growing state violence that culminated in a single weapon capable of destroying all before it—and the various paths, violent and nonviolent, by which the people of this planet refused to heed the wishes of a seemingly endless series of putative imperial masters. I needed to know no more to feel sure, in March 2003, that the shock-and-awe fantasies of the Bush administration would be just that. In other words, he made me seem prophetic at Tomdispatch.

But if one subject has been his, it’s been the nuclear issue. Like me, he came into this world more or less with the Bomb (a word which, back when it represented the only world-destroying thing around, we tended to capitalize) and its exterminatory possibilities have never left his thoughts. In his bestselling The Fate of the Earth, as the 1980s began (and an antinuclear movement grew), he approached the subject in print, beginning famously: “Since July 16, 1945, when the first atomic bomb was detonated, at the Trinity test site, near Alamogordo, New Mexico, mankind has lived with nuclear weapons in its midst.” And so, sadly, we continue to do, despite his best efforts. He returned to the subject (when critics claimed he had no “solution” to the nuclear conundrum he had so vividly laid out) in The Abolition in 1984, and again in the post-Cold War 1990s, in The Gift of Time, The Case for Abolishing Nuclear Weapons, when the vast arsenals of the two superpowers were still sitting there like great unmentionable embarrassments, mission-less and yet going nowhere fast. (It was, of course, a time when people largely preferred to pretend that the nuclear danger was a thing of the past.)

Now 62 years old, the bomb (which, long ago, lost its capital B) is no longer an embarrassment, no longer mission-less. The old Cold War arsenals are being updated; possession of the weaponry has spread; and the Bush administration, which drove the American people to war partly with nuclear fantasies, has made such weapons, whether real or imagined, the heart and soul of its imperial policies—and again, there is a Jonathan Schell book to guide us. Think of The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger as a brilliant intervention, an essential guidebook to a world gone mad in a new way.

It begins: “The nuclear age has entered its seventh decade. If it were a person, it would be thinking about retirement—reckoning up its pension funds, weighing different medical plans. But historical periods, unlike human lives, have no fixed limit, and the nuclear age is in fact displaying youthful vigor.” From there on, short as it is, it never slows down. So consider Jonathan Schell’s latest on nuclear Pakistan below and then pick up The Seventh Decade, which is officially published today. Tom Engelhardt

Loving the Bomb for Seven Decades: Are You With Us … or Against Us?
The road from Washington to Karachi to nuclear anarchy.
By Jonathan Schell

The journey to the martial law just imposed on Pakistan by its self-appointed president, the dictator Pervez Musharraf, began in Washington on September 11, 2001. On that day, it so happened, Pakistan’s intelligence chief, Lt. General Mahmood Ahmed, was in town. He was summoned forthwith to meet with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who gave him perhaps the earliest preview of the global Bush doctrine then in its formative stages, telling him, “You are either one hundred percent with us or one hundred percent against us.”

The next day, the administration, dictating to the dictator, presented seven demands that a Pakistan that wished to be “with us” must meet. These concentrated on gaining its cooperation in assailing Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, which had long been nurtured by the Pakistani intelligence services in Afghanistan and had, of course, harbored Osama Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda training camps. Conspicuously missing was any requirement to rein in the activities of Mr. A.Q. Khan, the “father” of Pakistan’s nuclear arms, who, with the knowledge of Washington, had been clandestinely hawking the country’s nuclear-bomb technology around the Middle East and North Asia for some years.

Musharraf decided to be “with us”; but, as in so many countries, being with the United States in its Global War on Terror turned out to mean not being with one’s own people. Although Musharraf, who came to power in a coup in 1999, was already a dictator, he had now taken the politically fateful additional step of very visibly subordinating his dictatorship to the will of a foreign master. In many countries, people will endure a homegrown dictator but rebel against one who seems to be imposed from without, and Musharraf was now courting this danger.

A public opinion poll in September ranking certain leaders according to their popularity suggests what the results have been. Osama bin Laden, at 46% approval, was more popular than Musharraf, at 38%, who in turn was far better liked than President Bush, at a bottom-scraping 7%. There is every reason to believe that, with the imposition of martial law, Musharraf’s and Bush’s popularity have sunk even further. Wars, whether on terror or anything else, don’t tend to go well when the enemy is more popular than those supposedly on one’s own side.

Are You with Us?

Even before the Bush administration decided to invade Iraq, the immediate decision to bully Musharraf into compliance defined the shape of the policies that the President would adopt toward a far larger peril that had seemed to wane after the Cold War, but now was clearly on the rise: the gathering nuclear danger. President Bush proposed what was, in fact if not in name, an imperial solution to it. In the new dispensation, nuclear weapons were not to be considered good or bad in themselves; that judgment was to be based solely on whether the nation possessing them was itself judged good or bad (with us, that is, or against us). Iraq, obviously, was judged to be “against us” and suffered the consequences. Pakistan, soon honored by the administration with the somehow ridiculous, newly coined status of “major non-NATO ally,” was clearly classified as with us, and so, notwithstanding its nuclear arsenal and abysmal record on proliferation, given the highest rating.

That doctrine constituted a remarkable shift. Previously, the United States had joined with almost the entire world to achieve nonproliferation solely by peaceful, diplomatic means. The great triumph of this effort had been the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, under which 183 nations, dozens quite capable of producing nuclear weapons, eventually agreed to remain without them. In this dispensation, all nuclear weapons were considered bad, and so all proliferation was bad as well. Even existing arsenals, including those of the two superpowers of the Cold War, were supposed to be liquidated over time. Conceptually, at least, one united world had faced one common danger: nuclear arms.

In the new, quickly developing, post-9/11 dispensation, however, the world was to be divided into two camps. The first, led by the United States, consisted of good, democratic countries, many possessing the bomb; the second consisted of bad, repressive countries trying to get the bomb and, of course, their terrorist allies. Nuclear peril, once understood as a problem of supreme importance in its own right, posed by those who already possessed nuclear weapons as well as by potential proliferators, was thus subordinated to the polarizing “war on terror,” of which it became a mere sub-category, albeit the most important one. This peril could be found at “the crossroads of radicalism and technology,” otherwise called the “nexus of terror and weapons of mass destruction,” in the words of the master document of the Bush Doctrine, the 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States of America.

The good camp was assigned the job not of rolling back all nuclear weapons but simply of stopping any members of the bad camp from getting their hands on the bomb. The means would no longer be diplomacy, but “preventive war” (to be waged by the United States). The global Cold War of the late twentieth century was to be replaced by global wars against proliferation—disarmament wars—in the twenty-first. These wars, breaking out wherever in the world proliferation might threaten, would not be cold, but hot indeed, as the invasion of Iraq soon revealed—and as an attack on Iran, now under consideration in Washington, may soon further show.

…Or Against Us?

Vetting and sorting countries into the good and the bad, the with-us and the against-us, proved, however, a far more troublesome business than those in the Bush administration ever imagined. Iraq famously was not as “bad” as alleged, for it turned out to lack the key feature that supposedly warranted attack—weapons of mass destruction. Neither was Pakistan, muscled into the with-us camp so quickly after 9/11, as “good” as alleged. Indeed, these distinctions were entirely artificial, for by any factual and rational reckoning, Pakistan was by far the more dangerous country.

Indeed, the Pakistan of Pervez Musharraf has, by now, become a one-country inventory of all the major forms of the nuclear danger.

*Iraq did not have nuclear weapons; Pakistan did. In 1998, it had conducted a series of five nuclear tests in response to five tests by India, with whom it had fought three conventional wars since its independence in 1947. The danger of interstate nuclear war between the two nations is perhaps higher than anywhere else in the world.

*Both Iraq and Pakistan were dictatorships (though the Iraqi government was incomparably more brutal).

*Iraq did not harbor terrorists; Pakistan did, and does so even more today.

*Iraq, lacking the bomb, could not of course be a nuclear proliferator. Pakistan was, with a vengeance. The arch-proliferator A.Q. Khan, a metallurgist, first purloined nuclear technology from Europe, where he was employed at the uranium enrichment company EURENCO. He then used the fruits of his theft to successfully establish an enrichment program for Pakistan’s bomb. After that, the thief turned salesman. Drawing on a globe-spanning network of producers and middlemen—in Turkey, Dubai, and Malaysia, among other countries—he peddled his nuclear wares to Iran, Iraq (which apparently turned down his offer of help), North Korea, Libya, and perhaps others. Seen from without, he had established a clandestine multinational corporation dedicated to nuclear proliferation for a profit.

Seen from within Pakistan, he had managed to create a sort of independent nuclear city-state—a state within a state—in effect privatizing Pakistan’s nuclear technology. The extent of the government’s connivance in this enterprise is still unknown, but few observers believe Khan’s far-flung operations would have been possible without at least the knowledge of officials at the highest levels of that government. Yet all this activity emanating from the “major non-NATO ally” of the Bush administration was overlooked until late 2003, when American and German intelligence intercepted a shipload of nuclear materials bound for Libya, and forced Musharraf to place Khan, a national hero owing to his work on the Pakistani bomb, under house arrest. (Even today, the Pakistani government refuses to make Khan available for interviews with representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency.)

*Iraqi apparatchiks could not, of course, peddle to terrorists, al-Qaedan or otherwise, technology they did not have, as Bush suggested they would do in seeking to justify his war. The Pakistani apparatchiks, on the other hand, could—and they did. Shortly before September 11, 2001, two leading scientists from Pakistan’s nuclear program, Dr. Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, the former Director General of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, and Chaudry Abdul Majeed, paid a visit to Osama bin Laden around a campfire in Afghanistan to advise him on how to make or acquire nuclear arms. They, too, are under house arrest.

If, however, the beleaguered Pakistani state, already a balkanized enterprise (as the A.Q. Khan story shows) is overthrown, or if the country starts to fall apart, the danger of insider defections from the nuclear establishment will certainly rise. The problem is not so much that the locks on the doors of nuclear installations—Pakistan’s approximately 50 bombs are reportedly spread at sites around the country—will be broken or picked as that those with the keys to the locks will simply switch allegiances and put the materials they guard to new uses. The “nexus” of terrorism and the bomb, the catastrophe the Bush Doctrine was specifically framed to head off, might then be achieved—and in a country that was “for us.”

What has failed in Pakistan, as in smashed Iraq, is not just a regional American policy, but the pillars and crossbeams of the entire global Bush doctrine, as announced in late 2001. In both countries, the bullying has failed; popular passions within each have gained the upper hand; and Washington has lost much of its influence. In its application to Pakistan, the doctrine was framed to stop terrorism, but in that country’s northern provinces, terrorists have, in fact, entrenched themselves to a degree unimaginable even when the Taliban protected Al-Qaeda’s camps before September 11th.

If the Bush Doctrine laid claim to the values of democracy, its man Musharraf now has the distinction, rare even among dictators, of mounting a second military coup to maintain the results of his first one. In a crowning irony, his present crackdown is on democracy activists, not the Taliban, armed Islamic extremists, or al-Qaeda supporters who have established positions in the Swat valley only 150 miles from Islamabad.

Most important, the collapsed doctrine has stoked the nuclear fires it was meant to quench. The dangers of nuclear terrorism, of proliferation, and even of nuclear war (with India, which is dismayed by developments in Pakistan as well as the weak Bush administration response to them) are all on the rise. The imperial solution to these perils has failed. Something new is needed, not just for Pakistan or Iraq, but for the world. Perhaps now someone should try to invent a solution based on imperialism’s opposite, democracy, which is to say respect for other countries and the wills of the people who live in them.

Jonathan Schell is the author of The Fate of the Earth, among other books, and the just-published The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger. He is the Harold Willens Peace Fellow at The Nation Institute, and a visiting lecturer at Yale University.

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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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House Dem. Talking Points on New Iraq Bill By David Swanson

November 15, 2007

House Dem. Talking Points on New Iraq Bill By David Swanson

~ Lo

Dandelion Salad

By David Swanson
After Downing Street
Nov. 14, 2007

Here’s the Iraq bill the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on, on Wednesday:
http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/downloads/bridgebullbill.pdf

Here are the actual talking points the Democratic misleadership thinks will coat this pig with lipstick:

“Iraq Redeployment Bill

1. “Requires the redeployment of US troops from Iraq to begin within 30 days of enactment, with a target for completion of December 15, 2008;”

No, the counter-recruitment movement and the worst year of U.S. Army recruiting since the Vietnam War requires the withdrawal, not redeployment, of a small number of troops. Targets are for archery camp, not for dictators. Asking Bush and Cheney to agree to a “target” or a “goal” that you know they will never attempt to meet is not helpful or appropriate. We can do that. You are the United States Congress. The first half of the U.S. Constitution is devoted to making you the most powerful branch of our government. Have you read it?

2. “Requires a transition in the mission of US forces in Iraq from primarily combat to: force protection and diplomatic protection; limited support to Iraqi security forces; and targeted counter-terrorism operations;”

Call it whatever you want. They’re not occupying YOUR country. People in Iraq sometimes used to have good moments. Their lives were constrained by a brutal dictator, but they had predictability, stability, and even good times. They now have almost unmitigated misery. Over a million of them are dead. Over 4 million have been displaced. You have done this to them by funding your occupation of their country. Your first act must be to stop funding genocide. Period. Stop funding it. No more bills.

3. “Prohibits deployment of any troops not fully equipped and trained; waivable with a presidential national security certification;”

Do you not understand that even when you require Bush and Cheney to do things, they laugh at you? How seriously do you think they take waivable suggestions? The American people consider waivable requirements of Bush and Cheney to be indications that you are either insane or believe we are remarkably stupid, and we know you’d never think we were stupid.

4. “Extends to all US government agencies and personnel the limitations in the Army Field Manual on permissible interrogation techniques;”

So do the Eighth Amendment and the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions. So what? The question is what you are going to do about it. Pretending that until this moment the CIA was permitted to torture is a way of granting immunity, when you should be drafting indictments and articles of impeachment.

5. “Provides $50 billion to meet the needs of the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan but defers the consideration of the remainder of the President’s nearly $200 billion request.”

Name me one troop who believes he or she is going to get that $50 billion or any sliver of it. I dare you to pass this bill with an amendment that makes it conditional on majority approval by the active duty troops in Iraq whose bodies you hide behind. Give them a choice of coming home or “being funded,” and your whole charade will collapse.

This is a bill first and foremost to do what you bury in your final talking point: throw another 50 billion dollars at the occupation of Iraq. You’ve consciously avoided banning the use of this money for attacking Iran. You’ve required no withdrawal, no closing of bases. You’ve not used the power of the purse. You’ve not so much as mentioned mercenaries or contractors. You’ve not explained where this $50 billion will come from, mush less all the other resulting costs. Your own study says we’ve already spent $1.5 trillion. And you want to spend more? Again, are you insane?

Bush just signed the biggest military pork bill in history. Withdrawing from Iraq is pocket change. You can pass a bill to fund a withdrawal if you want to, but this isn’t it. This is a bill to fund more occupation.

Ninety of you committed to not voting for bills like this one: http://afterdowningstreet.org/peacepledge If you do not stand by your word, your word will be known as worthless henceforth.

Speaker Pelosi, if you are willing to cut off the money should Bush not accept your latest bill (as if the Senate will), then why not cut the money off now? There are lives in the balance and your top concern is being able to “blame” Bush for saving them? You need to get out more. Talk to people. Listen to them.

Here’s something they just told pollsters at American Research Group: 94% of Democrats say Cheney has abused his power, 69% say he’s committed impeachable offenses, 63% say he should be removed from office. You only said impeachment was off the table for Bush, not Cheney. And, even then, you said you could not predict where investigations might lead.

Stop funding genocide, Nancy, and allow the Judiciary Committee to do it’s job, and your desk will be covered with flowers and your coffers overflowing.

Any of your gang who votes to fund more war will have only impeachment as a path to redemption. If they fail there, they will be utterly worthless, and you will be to blame.

Email Congress: http://www.democrats.com/peoplesemailnetwork/124

Phone Congress: 202-224-3121.

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Double-crossing in Kurdistan By Pepe Escobar

November 2, 2007

Double-crossing in Kurdistan By Pepe Escobar

By Pepe Escobar
ICH
11/01/07 “Asia Times


The George W Bush administration would not flinch to betray its allies in Iraqi Kurdistan if that entailed a US “win” in the Iraq quagmire. And it would not flinch to leave its Turkish North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies in the wilderness as well – if that entailed further destabilization of Iran. Way beyond the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) vs Turkey skirmish, one of these two double-crossing scenarios will inevitably take place. Washington simply cannot have its kebab and eat it too.

The Bush administration’s double standards are as glaring as meteor impacts. When, in the summer of 2006, Israel used the capture of two of its soldiers by Hezbollah to unleash a pre-programmed devastating war on Lebanon, destroying great swathes of the country, the Bush administration immediately gave the Israelis the green light. When 12 Turkish soldiers are killed and eight captured by PKK guerrillas based in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Bush administration urges Ankara to take it easy.

The “war on terror” is definitely not an equal-opportunity business. That has prompted Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek to mischievously remark, regarding Turkey, “It’s as if an intruder has gatecrashed the closed circle of ‘we’, the domain of those who hold the de facto monopoly on military humanitarianism.”

The US and Israeli establishment regards Hezbollah as a group of evil super-terrorists. But the PKK consists of just “minor” terrorists, and very useful ones at that, since the US Central Intelligence Agency is covertly financing and arming the PJAK (Party for Free Life in Kurdistan), the Iranian arm of the PKK, whose mission is to “liberate” parts of northwest Iran.

Not accidentally, the new PKK overdrive coincides with US – and also Israeli – covert support for the PJAK. Israel has not only invested a lot in scores of business ventures in Iraqi Kurdistan, it has also extensively trained Kurdish peshmerga special commandos, who could easily share their knowledge with their PKK cousins.

The new PKK offensive coincides with a PKK flush with new mortars, anti-tank weapons, rocket-propelled grenades and even anti-aircraft missiles. And most of all, the PKK drive coincides with the mysteriously vanished scores of light weapons the Pentagon sent to Iraq with no serial numbers to identify 97% of them.

The person responsible for this still unsolved mystery is none other than the counterinsurgency messiah and top commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus. The suspicion that the Pentagon never wanted these weapons to be traced in the first place cannot be easily dismissed. Either that or the PKK has been very active lately in the black market for light weapons.

The Turkish-Israeli plan

US corporate media totally ignore the US/Israeli coddling of the PJAK – and by extension the PKK. The larger context is lost. No one bothers to ask how come the Bush administration seems to be such a huge fan of a greater Kurdistan.

As much as the PJAK – and the PKK – use American largesse for greater Kurdistan ends, the Bush administration uses especially the PJAK for its wider “war on terror” target: the destabilization of Iran. Turkish-US relations in this case are no more than a casualty of war. Now the Turks are up not only against Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), but also the US and the European Union in Brussels. And in addition, the PKK denies it has attacked Turkey out of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Turkey has angrily reacted to the US Senate proposal for “soft” partition of Iraq. This is the famous US “Plan B” for Iraq – more an “A” than a “B” because it was floated years ago. And the authors are Israel and … the Turks themselves.

The plan has been extensively documented, among others, by the Center for Research at the Kurdish Library in New York. According to its “Kurdish Life” newsletter, “Back in 1990, Turkey’s then prime minister Turgut Ozal made a deal with the US and Kurdish leaders Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani. Masterminded by an Israel obsessed with breaking up the ’sea of Arabs’ in the Middle East, the plan has proceeded apace ever since, influencing and directing virtually all of Washington’s political and military tactics in Iraq. And yet even today it remains nobody’s business.”

The Israeli mastermind was Leslie Gelb, a relatively moderate Zionist. The plan duly featured in the Turkish press at the time. It proposed a federal Iraq, with a Kurdistan, a section of Kirkuk and Mosul for the Turkomans; and the rest, in fact most of the country, for “the Arabs”, Sunni and Shi’ite alike.

To get their autonomous mini-state, the Iraqi Kurds just had to guarantee to smash the PKK. As for Turkish Kurds, the Turkish prime minister’s spokesman said at the time that since “two-thirds of Turkey’s Kurds are scattered through the country” and the rest “fully integrated into Turkish society”, they would have no business dreaming about autonomy.

Barzani and Jalal Talabani, Iraqi Kurdish leaders, rival warlords and wily opportunists, duly fulfilled their part of the deal – especially in October 1992 during a joint offensive with the Turkish army against the PKK. They may have sold out the PKK 15 years ago, but that won’t happen again; at least that’s what the two have vocally promised. For their part, the PJAK-PKK have been tremendously helpful for the Bush administration agenda of “destabilizing” Iran.

The Kurdish Life newsletter argues that the cause of Turkey’s current woes is not the US or the Iraqi Kurds. It’s a self-inflicted wound, all spelled out in Ozal’s plan. “With his untimely death in 1993, the plan was revised, with an autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan to include Kirkuk, and more, and the remainder of Iraq to be divided between Sunni and Shi’ite Arabs. The Republicans of the Bush administration cemented it into the Iraqi constitution under the rubric ‘federation’.”

That’s no less than the “soft” partition the US Senate recently voted for. That’s the future Washington wants for Iraqi Kurdistan. And that’s the scheme the US – and Israel – don’t want their ally

Turkey to spoil by attacking the PKK in Iraqi Kurdistan. No wonder the Turkish leadership – not to mention Turkish public opinion – is fuming.

Chronicle of an invasion foretold

To compound this misery, the much-touted Turkish invasion has been in the making for months. As early as March, Bush administration officials were promising the Turks that US special forces would dislodge the PKK from the Qandil mountains. Nothing happened.

In April, Barzani was threatening “to take responsibility for our response” if the Turks interfered with a referendum on the integration of oil-rich Kirkuk into Kurdistan. Also in April, the US prohibited Turkish cross-border raids, according to the Turkish daily Sabah. The massing of Turkish soldiers at the Iraqi border started in May.

Then in June, Turkish General Yasar Buyukanit virtually spelled out in public what this was all about, “There is not only the PKK in northern Iraq. There is Massoud Barzani as well. Turkey cannot afford an independent Kurdish state headed by Barzani on its southern border.” Barzani – who for Turkish popular media is the country’s public enemy number one – answered back with a startling concept; he said that if Turkey invaded, “We would deal with it as an Iraqi issue.”

So what kind of Kurdish “sovereignty” is this? Iraqi Kurds detest, and ignore, the Baghdad government like the plague, and prize their independence; but as soon as they’re threatened, they instantly seek refuge under Baghdad’s (clipped) wings.

Kurdistan and its mountainous 75,000 square kilometers is not really Iraq. Baghdad is an entity far, far away. Iraqi Kurdistan has its own constitution, parliament, anthem, legal code, language, currency and media – and most of all the well-trained peshmerga army. A democracy it is not – because virtually everything is subordinated to the two warlords turned politicians, Barzani and Talabani.

The KRG has paid the price for Kurdistan as a “model” of a functioning Iraq by collaborating no-holds-barred with the US since the early 1990s. In June, Barzani confirmed that the PKK is an Iraqi problem, “A Turkish invasion would be first of all an attack on Iraqi sovereignty, and then an attack on the Kurds.” Following Barzani’s logic, since Iraq is under occupation, the Turks would be actually invading a colonial possession of the US. Thus it should be Petraeus to confront the Turks about what they’re up to. Washington in a way has proved its point: Iraqi Kurdistan is a fragile entity that only exists because it always depended on American protection.

Turkey and Iran, united

Kurdistan’s pull in Washington is guaranteed thanks largely to Qubad Talabani, son of President Jalal Talabani, also known in Kurdistan as “Uncle Jalal”. While dad sells Kurdistan as an indisputable success story, son lobbies furiously, to the extent that Frank Lavin, US under secretary of commerce for international trade, recently went to Kurdistan to promote it as a gateway for US businesses in Iraq.

But to believe that Ankara will tolerate an oil-rich, water-rich Kurdish mini-state on its southeast border, creating a magnet for Kurdish minorities in Turkey, Iran and Syria, is to believe in miracles. Not only Turkey and Iran are vehemently against it, but also Saudi Arabia (the House of Saud believing that a Kurdistan counterpart – Shi’iteistan in southern Iraq – would be subservient to Iran). What the Bush administration’s games have achieved so far is to unite Turkey and Iran on the issue.

Turkey regards the Kurds just like China regards Tibetans and Uighurs; they are part of a unitary Turkish state and have no right to autonomy. If Washington condemns China for its repression of Tibetans and Uighurs, it should behave the same way regarding Turkey. Not only will this not happen, but now the Americans need the Turks more than the Turks need the Americans.

A true measure of White House and neo-conservative desperation to facilitate the relentless surge towards war on Iran is whether it would be willing to plunge Iraqi Kurdistan into war, compromise the Turkish-Iraq corridor (through wich flows 70% of US supplies to Iraq) and future US Big Oil investments in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Barzani keeps insisting he and Washington are in sync, both wanting a peaceful solution for this royal mess; but he always points out “we are a nation” which will not accept Turkish threats.

US plans for Iraqi Kurdistan, stretching back to that 1990 Israeli-devised Turkish plan, are in jeopardy. And once again all because of the enemy within.

Washington played the ethnic card in Afghanistan, pitting Tajiks against Pashtuns; the result, apart from a never-ending war in Afghanistan, was that Pashtuns on both sides of the border united and are now destabilizing even further the US ally, Pakistan.

Washington played the Kurd card to destabilize Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and as a beachhead for its control of the country after the invasion. Not only Iraq turned into a quagmire, Washington helped to plunge Kurdistan into the line of (Turkish) fire.

There’s no evidence these lessons have been learned. No matter what happens in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Bush administration will still insist on the ethnic card to precipitate regime change in Iran.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007). He may be reached at pepeasia@yahoo.com.

Copyright 2007 Asia Times Online Ltd.

Ill-Equipped Soldiers Opt for “Search and Avoid” by Dahr Jamail

November 1, 2007

Ill-Equipped Soldiers Opt for “Search and Avoid” by Dahr Jamail

Dandelion Salad

by Dahr Jamail
Global Research, October 31, 2007
Inter Press Service

WATERTOWN, New York, Oct 24 (IPS) – Iraq war veterans now stationed at a base here say that morale among U.S. soldiers in the country is so poor, many are simply parking their Humvees and pretending to be on patrol, a practice dubbed “search and avoid” missions.

Phil Aliff is an active duty soldier with the 10th Mountain Division stationed at Fort Drum in upstate New York. He served nearly one year in Iraq from August 2005 to July 2006, in the areas of Abu Ghraib and Fallujah, both west of Baghdad.

“Morale was incredibly low,” said Aliff, adding that he joined the military because he was raised in a poor family by a single mother and had few other prospects. “Most men in my platoon in Iraq were just in from combat tours in Afghanistan.”

According to Aliff, their mission was to help the Iraqi Army “stand up” in the Abu Ghraib area of western Baghdad, but in fact his platoon was doing all the fighting without support from the Iraqis they were supposedly preparing to take control of the security situation.

“I never heard of an Iraqi unit that was able to operate on their own,” said Aliff, who is now a member of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). “The only reason we were replaced by an Iraqi Army unit was for publicity.”

Aliff said he participated in roughly 300 patrols. “We were hit by so many roadside bombs we became incredibly demoralised, so we decided the only way we wouldn’t be blown up was to avoid driving around all the time.”

“So we would go find an open field and park, and call our base every hour to tell them we were searching for weapons caches in the fields and doing weapons patrols and everything was going fine,” he said, adding, “All our enlisted people became very disenchanted with our chain of command.”

Aliff, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), refused to return to Iraq with his unit, which arrived in Kirkuk two weeks ago. “They’ve already lost a guy, and they are now fostering the sectarian violence by arming the Sunnis while supporting the Shia politically … classic divide and conquer.”

Aliff told IPS he is set to be discharged by the military next month because they claim his PTSD “is untreatable by their doctors”.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the number of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans seeking treatment for PTSD increased nearly 70 percent in the 12 months ending on Jun. 30.

The nearly 50,000 VA-documented PTSD cases greatly exceed the 30,000 military personnel that the Pentagon officially classifies as wounded in both occupations.

VA records show that mental health has become the second-largest area of illness for which veterans of the ongoing occupations are seeking treatment at VA hospitals and clinics. The total number of mental health cases among war veterans increased by 58 percent; from 63,767 on Jun. 30, 2006, to 100,580 on Jun. 30, 2007, according to the VA.

Other active duty Iraq veterans tell similar stories of disobeying orders so as not to be attacked so frequently.

“We’d go to the end of our patrol route and set up on top of a bridge and use it as an over-watch position,” Eli Wright, also an active duty soldier with the 10th Mountain Division, told IPS. “We would just sit with our binoculars and observe rather than sweep. We’d call in radio checks every hour and say we were doing sweeps.”

Wright added, “It was a common tactic, a lot of people did that. We’d just hang out, listen to music, smoke cigarettes, and pretend.”

The 26-year-old medic complained that his unit did not have any armoured Humvees during his time in Iraq, where he was stationed in Ramadi, capital of the volatile Al Anbar province.

“We put sandbags on the floors of our vehicles, which had canvas doors,” said Wright, who was in Iraq from September 2003 until September 2004. “By the end of our tour, we were bolting any metal we could find to our Humvees. Everyone was doing this, and we didn’t get armoured Humvees in country until after we left.”

Other veterans, like 25-year-old Nathan Lewis, who was in Iraq for the invasion of March 2003 until June of that year while serving in the 214th field artillery brigade, complained of lack of training for what they were ordered to do, in addition to not having armoured Humvees for their travels.

“We never got training for a lot of the work we did,” he explained. “We had a white phosphorous mortar round that cooked off in the back of one of our trucks, because we loaded that with some other ammo, and we weren’t trained how to do it the right way.” The “search and avoid” missions appear to have been commonplace around much of Iraq for years now.

Geoff Millard served nine years in the New York Army National Guard, and was in Iraq from October 2004 until October 2005 working for a general at a Tactical Operation Centre.

Millard, also a member of IVAW, said that part of his duties included reporting “significant actions”, or SIGACTS, which is how the U.S. military describes an attack on their forces.

“We had units that never called in SIGACTS,” Millard, who monitored highly volatile areas like Baquba, Tikrit and Samarra, told IPS. “When I was there two years ago, there were at least five companies that never had SIGACTS. I think ’search and avoids’ have been going on there for a long time.”

Millard told IPS “search and avoid” missions continue today across Iraq.

“One of my buddies is in Baghdad right now and we email all the time,” he explained, “He just told me that nearly each day they pull into a parking lot, drink soda, and shoot at the cans. They pay Iraqi kids to bring them things and spread the word that they are not doing anything and to please just leave them alone.”

Dahr Jamail is a frequent contributor to Global Research.
Global Research Articles by Dahr Jamail

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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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