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Neuroscience and Moral Politics: Chomsky’s Intellectual Progeny by Gary Olson

October 24, 2007

Neuroscience and Moral Politics: Chomsky’s Intellectual Progeny by Gary Olson

Dandelion Salad

by Gary Olson
Dissident Voice
October 24th, 2007

Are humans “wired for empathy”? How does this affect what Chomsky calls the “manufacturing of consent”?

Throughout the world, teachers, sociologists, policymakers and parents are discovering that empathy may be the single most important quality that must be nurtured to give peace a fighting chance.
—Arundhati Ray

The official directives needn’t be explicit to be well understood: Do not let too much empathy move in unauthorized directions.
—Norman Solomon

The nonprofit Edge Foundation recently asked some of the world’s most eminent scientists, “What are you optimistic about? Why?” In response, the prominent neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni cites the proliferating experimental work into the neural mechanisms that reveal how humans are “wired for empathy.”Iacoboni’s optimism is grounded in his belief that, with the popularization of scientific insights, these recent findings in neuroscience will seep into public awareness and “… this explicit level of understanding our empathic nature will at some point dissolve the massive belief systems that dominate our societies and that threaten to destroy us.” (Iacoboni, 2007, p. 14)

While there are reasons to remain skeptical (see below) about the progressive political implications flowing from this work, a body of impressive empirical evidence reveals that the roots of prosocial behavior, including moral sentiments such as empathy, precede the evolution of culture. This work sustains Noam Chomsky’s visionary writing about a human moral instinct, and his assertion that, while the principles of our moral nature have been poorly understood, “we can hardly doubt their existence or their central role in our intellectual and moral lives.” (Chomsky, 1971, n.p., 1988; 2005, p. 263)

In his influential book Mutual Aid (1972, p. 57; 1902), the Russian revolutionary anarchist, geographer, and naturalist Petr Kropotkin, maintained that “… under any circumstances sociability is the greatest advantage in the struggle for life. Those species which willingly abandon it are doomed to decay.” Species cooperation provided an evolutionary advantage, a “natural” strategy for survival.

While Kropotkin readily acknowledged the role of competition, he asserted that mutual aid was a “moral instinct” and “natural law.” Based on his extensive studies of the animal world, he believed that this predisposition toward helping one another—human sociality—was of “prehuman origin.” Killen and Cords, in a fittingly titled piece “Prince Kropotkin’s Ghost,” suggest that recent research in developmental psychology and primatology seems to vindicate Kropotkin’s century-old assertions (2002).

The emerging field of the neuroscience of empathy parallels investigations being undertaken in cognate fields. Some forty years ago the celebrated primatologist Jane Goodall observed and wrote about chimpanzee emotions, social relationships, and “chimp culture,” but experts remained skeptical. A decade ago, the famed primate scientist Frans B.M. de Waal (1996) wrote about the antecedents to morality in Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals, but scientific consensus remained elusive.

All that’s changed. As a recent editorial in the journal Nature (2007) put it, it’s now “unassailable fact” that human minds, including aspects of moral thought, are the product of evolution from earlier primates. According to de Waal, “You don’t hear any debate now.” In his more recent work, de Waal plausibly argues that human morality—including our capacity to empathize—is a natural outgrowth or inheritance of behavior from our closest evolutionary relatives.

Following Darwin, highly sophisticated studies by biologists Robert Boyd and Peter Richerson posit that large-scale cooperation within the human species—including with genetically unrelated individuals within a group—was favored by selection. (Hauser, 2006, p. 416) Evolution selected for the trait of empathy because there were survival benefits in coming to grips with others. In his book, People of the Lake (1978) the world-renowned paleoanthropologist Richard Leakey unequivocally declares, “We are human because our ancestors learned to share their food and their skills in an honored network of obligation.”

Studies have shown that empathy is present in very young children, even at eighteen months of age and possibly younger. In the primate world, Warneken and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute at Leipzig, Germany, recently found that chimps extend help to unrelated chimps and unfamiliar humans, even when inconvenienced and regardless of any expectation of reward. This suggests that empathy may lie behind this natural tendency to help and that it was a factor in the social life of the common ancestor to chimpanzees and humans at the split some six million years ago (New Scientist, 2007; Warneken and Tomasello, 2006). It’s now indisputable that we share moral faculties with other species (de Waal, 2006; Trivers, 1971; Katz, 2000; Gintis, 2005; Hauser, 2006; Bekoff, 2007; Pierce, 2007). Pierce notes that there are “countless anecdotal accounts of elephants showing empathy toward sick and dying animals, both kin and non-kin” (2007, p. 6). And recent research in Kenya has conclusively documented elephant’s open grieving/empathy for other dead elephants.

Mogil and his team at McGill University recently demonstrated that mice feel distress when they observe other mice experiencing pain. They tentatively concluded that the mice engaged visual cues to bring about this empathic response (Mogil, 2006; Ganguli, 2006). De Waal’s response to this study: “This is a highly significant finding and should open the eyes of people who think empathy is limited to our species.” (Carey, 2006)

Further, Grufman and other scientists at the National Institutes of Health have offered persuasive evidence that altruistic acts activate a primitive part of the brain, producing a pleasurable response (2007). And recent research by Koenigs and colleagues (2007) indicates that within the brain’s prefrontal cortex, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex or VMPC is required for emotions and moral judgment. Damage to the VMPC has been linked to psychopathic behavior. This led to the belief that as a rule, psychopaths do not experience empathy or remorse.

A study by Miller (2001) and colleagues of the brain disorder frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is also instructive. FTD attacks the frontal lobes and anterior temporal lobes, the site of one’s sense of self. One early symptom of FTD is the loss of empathy.

We know from neuroscientific empathy experiments that the same affective brain circuits are automatically mobilized upon feeling one’s own pain and the pain of others. Through brain imaging, we also know that separate neural processing regions then free up the capacity to take action. As Decety notes, empathy then allows us to “forge connections with people whose lives seem utterly alien from us” (Decety, 2006, p. 2). Where comparable experience is lacking, this “cognitive empathy” builds on the neural basis and allows one to “actively project oneself into the shoes of another person” by trying to imagine the other person’s situation (Preston, in press), Preston and de Waal (2002). Empathy is “other directed,” the recognition of the other’s humanity.

***

So where does this leave us? If morality is rooted in biology, in the raw material or building blocks for the evolution of its expression, we now have a pending fortuitous marriage of hard science and secular morality in the most profound sense. The technical details of the social neuroscientific analysis supporting these assertions lie outside this paper, but suffice it to say that progress is proceeding at an exponential pace and the new discoveries are persuasive (Decety and Lamm, 2006; Lamm, 2007; Jackson, 2004 and 2006).

That said, one of the most vexing problems that remains to be explained is why so little progress has been made in extending this empathic orientation to distant lives, to those outside certain in-group moral circles. Given a world rife with overt and structural violence, one is forced to explain why our deep-seated moral intuition doesn’t produce a more ameliorating effect, a more peaceful world. Iacoboni suggests this disjuncture is explained by massive belief systems, including political and religious ones, operating on the reflective and deliberate level. These tend to override the automatic, pre-reflective, neurobiological traits that should bring people together.

Here a few cautionary notes are warranted. The first is that social context and triggering conditions are critical because, where there is conscious and massive elite manipulation, it becomes exceedingly difficult to get in touch with our moral faculties. Ervin Staub, a pioneering investigator in the field, acknowledges that even if empathy is rooted in nature, people will not act on it “… unless they have certain kinds of life experiences that shape their orientation toward other human beings and toward themselves (Staub, 2002, p. 222). As Jensen puts it, “The way we are educated and entertained keep us from knowing about or understanding the pain of others” (2002). Circumstances may preclude and overwhelm our perceptions, rendering us incapable of recognizing and giving expression to moral sentiments (Albert, n.d.; and also, Pinker, 2002). For example, the fear-mongering of artificially created scarcity may attenuate the empathic response. The limitation placed on exposure is another. As reported recently in the New York Times, the Pentagon imposes tight embedding restrictions on journalist’s ability to run photographs and other images of casualties in Iraq. Photographs of coffins returning to Dover Air Base in Delaware are simply forbidden. Memorial services for the fallen are also now prohibited even if the unit gives its approval.

The second cautionary note is Hauser’s (2006) observation that proximity was undoubtedly a factor in the expression of empathy. In our evolutionary past an attachment to the larger human family was virtually incomprehensible and, therefore, the emotional connection was lacking. Joshua Greene, a philosopher and neuroscientist, adds that “We evolved in a world where people in trouble right in front of you existed, so our emotions were tuned to them, whereas we didn’t face the other kind of situation.” He suggests that to extend this immediate emotion-linked morality—one based on fundamental brain circuits—to unseen victims requires paying less attention to intuition and more to the cognitive dimension. If this boundary isn’t contrived, it would seem, at a minimum, circumstantial and thus worthy of reassessing morality (Greene, 2007, n.p.). Given some of the positive dimensions of globalization, the potential for identifying with the “stranger” has never been more robust.

Finally, as Preston (2006-2007; and also, in press) suggests, risk and stress tend to suppress empathy whereas familiarity and similarity encourage the experience of natural, reflexive empathy. This formidable but not insurmountable challenge warrants further research into how this “out-group” identity is created and reinforced.

It may be helpful, as Halpern (1993, p. 169) suggests, to think of empathy as a sort of spark of natural curiosity, prompting a need for further understanding and deeper questioning. However, our understanding of how or whether political engagement follows remains in its infancy and demands further investigation.

***

Almost a century ago, Stein (1917) wrote about empathy as “the experience of foreign consciousness in general.” Salles’ film The Motorcycle Diaries addresses empathy, albeit indirectly. The film follows Ernesto Guevara de la Serna and his friend Alberto Granada on an eight-month trek across Argentina, Peru, Columbia, Chile and Venezuela.

When leaving his leafy, upper middle-class suburb (his father is an architect) in Buenos Aires in 1952, Guevara is 23 and a semester away from earning his medical degree. The young men embark on an adventure, a last fling before settling down to careers and lives of privilege. They are preoccupied with women, fun and adventure and certainly not seeking or expecting a life-transforming odyssey.

The film’s power is in its depiction of Guevara’s emerging political awareness that occurs as a consequence of unfiltered cumulative experiences. During their 8,000-mile journey, they encounter massive poverty, exploitation, and brutal working conditions, all consequences of an unjust international economic order. By the end, Guevara has turned away from being a doctor because medicine is limited to treating the symptoms of poverty. For him, revolution becomes the expression of empathy, the only effective way to address suffering’s root causes. This requires melding the cognitive component of empathy with engagement, with resistance against asymmetrical power, always an inherently political act. Otherwise, empathy has no meaning. (This roughly parallels the political practice of brahma-viharas by engaged Buddhists.) In his own oft-quoted words (not included in the film), Guevara stated that, “The true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.”

Paul Farmer, the contemporary medical anthropologist, infectious-disease specialist and international public health activist, has adopted different tactics, but his diagnosis of the “pathologies of power” is remarkably similar to Guevara. He also writes approvingly of Cuba’s health programs, comparing them with his long work experience in Haiti. Both individuals were motivated early on by the belief that artificial epidemics have their origin in unjust socioeconomic structures, hence the need for social medicine, a “politics as medicine on a grand scale.” Both exemplify exceptional social outliers of engaged empathy and the interplay of affective, cognitive and moral components. For Farmer’s radical critique of structural violence and the connections between disease and social inequality, see (Farmer, 2003; Kidder, 2003). Again, it remains to be explained why there is such a paucity of real world examples of empathic behavior? Why is U.S. culture characterized by a massive empathy deficit of almost pathological proportions? And what might be reasonably expected from a wider public understanding of the nature of empathy?

Hauser posits a “universal moral grammar,” hard-wired into our neural circuits via evolution. This neural machinery precedes conscious decisions in life-and-death situations, however, we observe “nurture entering the picture to set the parameters and guide us toward the acquisition of particular moral systems.” At other points, he suggests that environmental factors can push individuals toward defective moral reasoning, and the various outcomes for a given local culture are seemingly limitless. (Hauser, 2006) For me, this discussion of cultural variation fails to give sufficient attention to the socioeconomic variables responsible for shaping the culture.

“It all has to do with the quality of justice and the availability of opportunity.” (2006, p. 151). Earlier, Goldschmidt (1999, n.p.) argued that, “Culturally derived motives may replace, supplement or override genetically programmed behavior.”

Cultures are rarely neutral, innocent phenomena but are consciously set up to reward some people and penalize others. As Parenti (2006) forcefully asserts, certain aspects of culture can function as instruments of social power and social domination through ideological indoctrination. Culture is part and parcel of political struggle, and studying culture can reveal how power is exercised and on whose behalf.

Cohen and Rogers, in parsing Chomsky’s critique of elites, note that “Once an unjust order exists, those benefiting from it have both an interest in maintaining it and, by virtue of their social advantages, the power to do so.” (Cohen, 1991, p. 17) (For a concise but not uncritical treatment of Chomsky’s social and ethical views, see Cohen, 1991.) Clearly, the vaunted human capacity for verbal communication cuts both ways. In the wrong hands, this capacity is often abused by consciously quelling the empathic response. When de Waal writes, “Animals are no moral philosophers,” I’m left to wonder if he isn’t favoring the former in this comparison. (de Waal, 1996b, n.p.)

One of the methods employed within capitalist democracies is Chomsky’s and Herman’s “manufacture of consent,” a form of highly sophisticated thought control. Potentially active citizens must be “distracted from their real interests and deliberately confused about the way the world works.” (Cohen, 1991, p. 7; Chomsky, 1988)

For this essay, and following Chomsky, I’m arguing that the human mind is the primary target of this perverse “nurture” or propaganda, in part because exposure to certain new truths about empathy—hard evidence about our innate moral nature—poses a direct threat to elite interests. There’s no ghost in the machine, but the capitalist machine attempts to keep people in line with an ideological ghost, the notion of a self constructed on market values. But “. . . if no one saw himself or herself as capitalism needs them to do, their own self-respect would bar the system from exploiting and manipulating them.” (Kelleher, 2007) That is, given the apparent universality of this biological predisposition toward empathy, we have a potent scientific baseline upon which to launch further critiques of elite manipulation, this cultivation of callousness.

First, the evolutionary and biological origins of empathy contribute hard empirical evidence—not wishful thinking or even logical inference—on behalf of a case for organizing vastly better societies.

In that vein, this new research is entirely consistent with work on the nature of authentic love and the concrete expression of that love in the form of care, effort, responsibility, courage and respect. As Eagleton reminds us, if others are also engaging in this behavior, “. . . the result is a form of reciprocal service which provides the context for each self to flourish. The traditional name for this reciprocity is love.” Because reciprocity mandates equality and an end to exploitation and oppression, it follows that “a just, compassionate treatment of other people is on the grand scale of things one of the conditions for one’s own thriving.” And as social animals, when we act in this way we are realizing our natures “at their finest.” (2007, pp. 170, 159-160, and 173) Again, the political question remains that of realizing a form of global environment that enhances the opportunity for our nature to flourish.

I’ve noted elsewhere, Fromm’s classic book The Art of Loving is a blistering indictment of the social and economic forces that deny us life’s most rewarding experience and “the only satisfying answer to the problem of human existence.” For Fromm, grasping how society shapes our human instincts, hence our behavior, is in turn the key to understanding why “love thy neighbor,” the love of the stranger, is so elusive in modern society.

The global capitalist culture with its premium on accumulation and profits not only devalues an empathic disposition but produces a stunted character in which everything is transformed into a commodity, not only things, but individuals themselves. The very capacity to practice empathy (love) is subordinated to our state religion of the market in which each person seeks advantage in an alienating and endless commodity-greedy competition.

Over five decades ago, Fromm persuasively argued that “The principles of capitalist society and the principles of love are incompatible.” (Fromm, 1956, p. 110). Any honest person knows that the dominant features of capitalist society tend to produce individuals who are estranged from themselves, crippled personalities robbed of their humanity and in a constant struggle to express empathic love. Little wonder that Fromm believed radical changes in our social structure and economic institutions were needed if empathy/love is to be anything more than a rare individual achievement and a socially marginal phenomenon. He understood that only when the economic system serves women and men, rather than the opposite, will this be possible (Olson, 2006).

***

The dominant cultural narrative of hyper-individualism is challenged and the insidiously effective scapegoating of human nature that claims we are motivated by greedy, dog-eat-dog “individual self-interest is all” is undermined. From original sin to today’s “selfish gene,” certain interpretations of human nature have invariably functioned to retard class consciousness. These new research findings help to refute the allegation that people are naturally uncooperative, an argument frequently employed to intimidate and convince people that it’s futile to seek a better society for everyone. Stripped of yet another rationalization for empire, predatory behavior on behalf of the capitalist mode of production becomes ever more transparent. And learning about the conscious suppression of this essential core of our nature should beg additional troubling questions about the motives behind other elite-generated ideologies, from neo-liberalism to the “war on terror.”

Second, there are implications for students. Cultivating empathic engagement through education remains a poorly understood enterprise. College students, for example, may hear the ‘cry of the people’ but the moral sound waves are muted as they pass through a series of powerful cultural baffles. Williams (1986, p. 143) notes that “While they may be models of compassion and generosity to those in their immediate circles, many of our students today have a blind spot for their responsibilities in the socio-political order. In the traditional vocabulary they are strong on charity but weak on justice.”

Nussbaum (1997) defends American liberal education’s record at cultivating an empathic imagination. She claims that understanding the lives of strangers and achieving cosmopolitan global citizenship can be realized through the arts and literary humanities. There is little solid evidence to substantiate this optimism. My own take on empathy-enhancing practices within U.S. colleges and universities is considerably less sanguine. Nussbaum’s episodic examples of stepping into the mental shoes of other people are rarely accompanied by plausible answers as why these people may be lacking shoes—or decent jobs, minimum healthcare, and long-life expectancy. The space within educational settings has been egregiously underutilized, in part, because we don’t know enough about propitious interstices where critical pedagogy could make a difference. Arguably the most serious barrier is the cynical, even despairing doubt about the existence of a moral instinct for empathy. The new research puts this doubt to rest and rightly shifts the emphasis to strategies for cultivating empathy and identifying with “the other.” Joining the affective and cognitive dimensions of empathy may require risky forms of radical pedagogy (Olson, 2006, 2007; Gallo, 1989). Evidence produced from a game situation with medical students strongly hints that empathic responses can be significantly enhanced by increased knowledge about the specific needs of others—in this case, the elderly (Varkey, 2006). Presumably, limited prior experiences would affect one’s emotional response. Again, this is a political culture/information acquisition issue that demands further study.

Third, for many people the basic incompatibility between global capitalism and the lived expression of moral sentiments may become obvious for the first time. (Olson, 2006, 2005) For example, the failure to engage this moral sentiment has radical implications, not the least being consequences for the planet. Within the next 100 years, one-half of all species now living will be extinct. Great apes, polar bears, tigers and elephants are all on the road to extinction due to rapacious growth, habitat destruction, and poaching. These human activities, not random extinction, will be the undoing of millions of years of evolution (Purvis, 2000). As Leakey puts it, “Whatever way you look at it, we’re destroying the Earth at a rate comparable with the impact of a giant asteroid slamming into the planet…” And researchers at McGill University have shown that economic inequality is linked to high rates of biodiversity loss. The authors suggest that economic reforms may be the prerequisite to saving the richness of the ecosystem and urge that “… if we can learn to share the economic resources more fairly with fellow members of our own species, it may help to share ecological resources with our fellow species.” (Mikkelson, 2007, p. 5)

While one hesitates imputing too much transformative potential to this emotional capacity, there is nothing inconsistent about drawing more attention to inter-species empathy and eco-empathy. The latter may be essential for the protection of biotic communities. Decety and Lamm (2006, p. 4) remind us that “… one of the most striking aspects of human empathy is that it can be felt for virtually any target, even targets of a different species.”

This was foreshadowed at least fifty years ago when Paul Mattick, writing about Kropotkin’s notion of mutual aid, noted that “… For a long time, however, survival in the animal world has not depended upon the practice of either mutual aid or competition but has been determined by the decisions of men as to which species should live and thrive and which should be exterminated. … [W]herever man rules, the “laws of nature” with regard to animal life cease to exist.” This applies no less to humans and Mattick rightly observed that the demands of capital accumulation and capitalist social relations override and preclude mutual aid. As such, neuroscience findings are welcome and necessary but insufficient in themselves. For empathy to flourish requires the elimination of class relations (Mattick, 1956, pp. 2-3).

Fourth, equally alarming for elites, awareness of this reality contains the potential to encourage “destabilizing” but humanity-affirming cosmopolitan attitudes toward the faceless “other,” both here and abroad. In de Waal’s apt words, “Empathy can override every rule about how to treat others.” (de Waal, 2005, p. 9) Amin (2003), for example, proposes that the new Europe be reframed by an ethos of empathy and engagement with the stranger as its core value. The diminution of empathy within the culture reduces pro-social behavior and social cohesiveness. Given the dangerous centrifugal forces of ethno-nationalism and xenophobia, nothing less than this unifying motif will suffice, while providing space for a yet undefined Europe, a people to come.

Finally, as de Waal observes, “If we could manage to see people on other continents as part of us, drawing them into our circle of reciprocity and empathy, we would be building upon rather than going against our nature.” (de Waal, 2005, p. 9) An ethos of empathy is an essential part of what it means to be human and empathically impaired societies, societies that fail to gratify this need should be found wanting. We’ve been systematically denied a deeper and more fulfilling engagement with this moral sentiment. I would argue that the tremendous amount of deception and fraud expended on behalf of overriding empathy is a cause for hope and cautious optimism. Paradoxically, the relative absence of widespread empathic behavior is in fact a searing tribute to its potentially subversive power.

Is it too much to hope that we’re on the verge of discovering a scientifically based, Archimedean moral point from which to lever public discourse toward an appreciation of our true nature, which in turn might release powerful emancipatory forces?

Acknowledgement:

A highly abbreviated version of this paper appeared at Zmag (5/20/07). Helpful comments were offered by N. Chomsky, D. Dunn, M. Iacoboni, K. Kelly, S. Preston and J. Wingard. Thanks, per usual, to M. Ortiz.
References

Gary Olson is Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science, Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA. He can be reached at: olson@moravian.edu. Read other articles by Gary.

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Putin to visit Iran despite threats

October 15, 2007

Putin is travelling to Iran for a summit of leaders from the five states around the Caspian Sea [AFP]
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“The competent authorities are actively working with foreign partners on the information received yesterday about a terrorist threat in relation to Russia’s head of state,” the source was quoted on Monday as saying by RIA, Itar-Tass and Interfax news agencies in virtually identical reports.

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Putin said he would not call off his trip but he acknowledged the intelligence reports, adding that the security services “must do their work”.

 

“Of course I am going to Iran,” Putin told a news conference after talks with Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor.

“If you react to various threats and recommendations of the security services, then you should sit at home”.

 

Iran denial

But Tehran has described as “totally baseless” the report, which said Russian security services had been told suicide bombers and kidnappers were training to kill or capture Vladimir Putin.

The Russian president is travelling to Tehran to attend a summit of the five states that surround the Caspian Sea, and Mohammad Ali Hosseini, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, said this would go ahead as planned.

 

“Reports published by some media are totally baseless and are in line with the psychological war launched by enemies who want to harm Iran and Russia’s relationship,” Hosseini said.

 

Putin is the first Kremlin leader to travel to Iran since Josef Stalin, the former Soviet leader, attended a wartime summit with Winston Churchill, former British prime minister, and Franklin Roosevelt, former US president, in 1943.

‘Bombers preparing’

The Interfax report said that: “a reliable source in one of the Russian special services, has received information from several sources outside Russia, that during the president of Russia’s visit to Tehran an assassination attempt is being plotted.

“It could
be some international scheme, perhaps connected
with Russia’s enemies like the Chechens”


Fred Weir,
Christian Science Monitor

“A number of groups of suicide bombers are preparing for this aim.”

Fred Weir, Moscow correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor newspaper, told Al Jazeera that assassination plots against the Russian leader had previously been discovered in Ukraine and Azerbaijan, both reportedly connected to the separatist movement in Chechnya.

“It could be some international scheme, perhaps connected with Russia’s enemies like the Chechens,” he said.

“Or it could be some elaborate rumour, in Russia we have this transitional phase, we are not sure if Putin is leaving his job or changing his job next year. All of this sort of thing excites power struggles and rumours are a major weapon in that.”

Putin’s second term as president ends next year and the constitution prevents him standing for a third consecutive term. He has said he will stand for parliament and could become prime minister.

Nuclear standoff

Putin is expected to meet Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, during his visit, giving him a chance to attempt to find a peaceful solution to the standoff over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

Although Russia has backed two rounds of punitive UN sanctions against Iran, Moscow says engagement is a more effective way of tackling the situation.

Putin said on Monday that negotiation was the best tool for dealing with Iran and trying to intimidate Tehran was “hopeless”.

“But to demonstrate patience and look for a way out is possible and should be done,” he said.

“If we have a chance to keep up these direct contacts, then we will do it, hoping for a positive, mutually advantageous result.”

Russia has sold weapons to Iran, in defiance of US concerns, and is building a nuclear power station at Bushehr.

 
 
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Boy survives two-hour flight to Moscow hanging onto plane wing

September 26, 2007

Boy survives two-hour flight to Moscow hanging onto plane wing

24/09/2007 20:56 MOSCOW, September 24 (RIA Novosti) – A 15-year-old boy from the Urals suffered acute frostbite after riding the wing of a Boeing-737 plane on a two-hour flight from Perm to Moscow, Russian radio station Mayak reported on Monday.

After clinging on for the entire 1300-kilometer (808-mile) flight to Vnukova Airport, the boy, named Andrei, collapsed onto the tarmac. His arms and legs were so severely frozen that rescuers were at first unable to remove his coat and shoes, the radio station said.

The airport did not confirm the report. “We have no information on this,” the Vnukovo press service told RIA Novosti.

However, Moscow’s air and water transport control department said the radio’s claim was true. A department spokesman said the incident occurred on Friday, and that the boy’s parents were immediately informed, and flew to the capital the same day.

Doctors said it was nothing short of a miracle that Andrei survived the flight, with temperatures hitting minus 50 degrees Celsius (-58 Fahrenheit), the radio station said. The Boeing-737 has a cruising speed of 900 kmh (560 mph).

The boy reportedly made the journey after a commonplace domestic dispute. Angry with his father, who reportedly has a drinking problem, and with his mother for siding with her husband in family rows, Andrei ran away to the neighboring village, where his grandmother lives. On reaching the village, he decided to go on, and hitched a 220-km (137-mile) ride to the regional center, Perm, where he was dropped off at the airport.

It remains unclear how Andrei was able to climb on a plane wing un-noticed, and the Perm Airport security service is being asked some serious questions, the radio station said.

Andrei is now being treated in a Moscow hospital, Radio Mayak said.

America’s “Long War”: The Legacy of the Iraq-Iran and Soviet-Afghan Wars by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

September 17, 2007

America’s “Long War”: The Legacy of the Iraq-Iran and Soviet-Afghan Wars by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Dandelion Salad

by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

Global Research, September 16, 2007

– 2007-07-05

Yesterday’s events influence the direction of tomorrow. The question is: are future developments, as a result of past events, foreseen or unforeseen?

Are the results of past events mostly unintended consequences or serendipity?

This is an age old subject that has been pondered on by logicians, mathematicians, philosophers, social scientists, and historians. In the case of geo-politics and geo-strategy it may be argued that yes there has been a series of calculated steps taken to establish intended developments. Given this case, how far does this drive to achieve expected outcomes go back? It can be argued that, since the dawn of civilization, humanity has always striven to control its prospects.

Return to the Cold War?

 

On the eve of the 2007 anniversary of the defeat of Germany in the Second World War, President Vladimir Putin stated that the foreign policy of the U.S. government resembled that of the war march of the German Third Reich that sparked the Second World War. The Russian President warned Russians that the threat of another global war was very much alive in reference to increasing U.S. antagonism across the globe. [1] Just months before, in February of 2007, the Russian President told a gathering of international leaders in Bavaria that the U.S. was dangerously trying to impose itself as the centre of global power and decision making. [2] He bluntly said that Russia was determined to stay an independent nation and when answering a question he confidentially said that he was certain “the historians of the future will not describe our conference [at Munich] as one in which the Second Cold War was declared.” [3]

 

In 1998, Hubert Védrine, a former French foreign minister, started describing America as a “hyperpower.” This was a reference to the increasingly aggressive conduct of the U.S. government in global affairs.

The statements of Russia, China, and various other nation-states are an alarming indicator of the deteriorating situation in international relations, but this is a direction that American policy makers have been directing the United States towards for decades. Vladimir Putin is correct in the sense that the “Second Cold War” did not begin in 2007; it started years earlier, at the end of the first Cold War, during the decline of the Soviet Union. Or at least the preparations for it were being made during the decline of the Soviet Union.

 

On close inspection, a series of unfolding international events have been anticipated and systematically engineered since the end of the Cold War.  The “long war” that is absorbing the globe did not start in 2001, but at the end of the Cold War through a continuum of wars and international events. A global war may have been initiated years before the declaration of the “Global War on Terror” and much of the globe may not have been aware of it.

 

Future historians may end up categorizing several wars going back to the Kosovo War of 1999 as different stages in one singular and “long war.” Several fixtures of geo-strategic chess have been unfolding globally, in which the Middle East is one of the most important stages. As simple as it may sound, the endgame of this match of deadly chess is economic control and supremacy.

 

Continuous Reagan-Bush Sr.-Clinton-Bush Jr. War Strategy: Laying the Groundwork for the “Long War”

 

“As in chess, American global planners must think several moves ahead, anticipating possible countermoves. A sustainable geostrategy must therefore distinguish between the short-run perspective (the next five years), the middle term (up to twenty or so years), and the long run (beyond twenty years). Moreover these phases must be viewed not as watertight compartments but as part of a continuum. The first phase must gradually and consistently lead into the second — indeed, be deliberately pointed toward it — and the second must then lead subsequently into the third.”

 

-Zbigniew Brzezinski (The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, 1997)

 

U.S. foreign policy and the wars in the Middle East cut across U.S. political party lines and presidential administrations. There exists no bipartisanship in American foreign policy. The pinnacles of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party have historically worked hand-in-hand in regards to U.S. foreign policy objectives.

 

The White House and the Pentagon were basically given a carte blanche to execute longstanding war plans made under previous presidential administrations after the dire events of September 11, 2001. The war march has been part of a continuum and, in a historical perspective, almost a seamless process. Upon careful examination, it is apparent one presidential administration after another has laid the foundations for the foreign wars of their beneficiaries in the White House.

 

George H. Bush Sr. went to war with Baghdad, arranged the groundwork to dismantle Yugoslavia, and produced the economic sanctions regime that weakened Iraq. William (Bill) J. Clinton weakened Iraq further through a bombing regime, expanded NATO, pressed U.S. bases eastward, helped dismantle Yugoslavia, and laid the footing for invading Afghanistan and lunching the “Global War on Terror.” Finally George W. Bush Jr. invaded Iraq and publicly resurrected the Cold War projects of America. Under the Bush Jr. Administration a vital NATO military presence was also established in Afghanistan. Afghanistan can serve as a bridgehead in the Eurasian landmass and is amidst the borders of China, Iran, the former Soviet Union, and the Indian sub-continent.

 

The Carter Doctrine: The Link between the Soviet-Afghan and Iraq-Iran Wars

 

Looking back, in retrospect the grounds for weakening Iraq and Iran simultaneously were established under both the presidential administrations of James (Jimmy) E. Carter, and Ronald W. Reagan. United States Central Command (CENTCOM) was also established in 1983, during the Iraq-Iran War. The establishment of CENTCOM is an important step in the continuous projection of American power into the Middle East and Eurasia.

 

The U.S. Rapid Deployment Force was the antecedent of CENTCOM, which was designed to challenge Soviet intervention in Iraq, Iran, and the Persian Gulf. U.S. Rapid Deployment Force was a large-scale contingent of the U.S. military that was constantly on standby for massive theatre-level war anywhere on the globe. The force also gave special priority to the Persian Gulf and Middle East. The force was essentially the largest standby military contingent of the U.S. and had a special mandate in regards to the geo-strategically important Persian Gulf, an energy breadbasket.

 

The Carter Doctrine was consequently declared after the U.S.S.R. intervened militarily in Afghanistan. On January 23, 1980, Jimmy Carter stated that the U.S. government would use military force within the Persian Gulf region to defend U.S. economic interests. [4] The doctrine was deliberately portrayed as a response to Soviet actions, but nothing could be further from the truth. Eight months later, in September of 1980, the Iraq-Iran War broke out.  The Carter Doctrine was a clear message that the Soviet Union should not get involved in the Iraq-Iran War. Afghanistan was also conveniently keeping the Soviets busy while America had an open hand in the Persian Gulf. This was deliberately arranged as part of a cunning American project.

 

According to Zbigniew Brzezinski in a 1998 interview with Le Nouvel Observateur, the Soviet Union was baited into invading Afghanistan in 1979 by the Carter Administration and the CIA. [5] High ranking officials within the Carter Administration also contributed to triggering the Iraq-Iran War, after failing to manipulate the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The involvement of the Soviets in Afghanistan prevented them from intervening in a significant way in Iran. With the Soviets busy in Afghanistan, the Reagan Administration was free to fully push Iraq and Iran, the major military powers of the Middle East, against one another.

Machiavellian Geo-Strategy: Playing Iraq against Iran in the “Northern Tier”

 

Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan were in an area called the “Northern Tier” by American strategists. This area was believed to be the region from which the Soviet Union could breakout of Eurasia by reaching the Persian Gulf. It was also considered to be the area bordering the Soviet Union’s most sensitive area. It was from here that a game of expansion, containment, and penetration was being carried out. A balance of power was very important in this regard.

 

One country above all others was vital for the balance of power and that was Iran. If the Soviets overran Iran, they would have direct access to the Persian Gulf and if American or British troops were in Iran they would be directly on the southern and sensitive borders of the Soviet Union.  The status quo had been, since the time of the so-called “Great Game” between Britain and Czarist Russia, that Iran would be a military buffer zone. While Iran was an ally of the U.S. and NATO before 1979, there were also restrictions on it in the context a longstanding bilateral relationship with the Soviet Union.

Iran severed its military alliance with the United States after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. This was seen as a geo-strategic victory by the Soviet Union. Although the Soviets were concerned about the ideology of the new government in Iran, they were relieved that Iran was no longer colluding with the U.S. and its partners. Nonetheless, there was still a state of mistrust between Moscow and Tehran. The Americans could not intervene militarily in Iran with a view to gaining control over Iran’s oil fields.  A bilateral treaty between Iran and the Soviets had allowed the Soviet Union to intervene in Iran if forces of a third party operating within Iran were perceived as a menace to Soviet security. Naturally, Moscow would perceive any American invasion of Iran, on the direct borders of the U.S.S.R., as a threat and invoke the bilateral treaty.

 

This is where Iraq, a Soviet ally, became useful against Iran. Before the Iraq-Iran War there existed no diplomatic relations between the Iraqi and U.S. governments. Iraq had gravitated outside of the Anglo-American orbit in 1958, after a revolution ousted the Iraqi branch of the Hashemite Dynasty and in 1967 Baghdad cut its ties with America. In 1972 the Soviets and Iraqis had also signed a Friendship Treaty that resulted in large Soviet weapon deliveries to the most independent-minded Arab country in the Arab World, which became a real threat to U.S. and Israeli interests. [6]

 

A real match of geo-strategic chess was being played. According to Henry Kissinger, Iraq was the single most radical Arab country that posed the greatest danger to U.S. interests during the Nixon era. Furthermore, the U.S. was afraid that if Iraq was not neutralized that the Soviets would take the geo-strategic initiative of penetrating into the Middle East and overwhelming Iran. If one remembers Afghanistan also had a pro-Soviet government too. In Henry Kissinger’s words, “The Soviet Union would try to squeeze Iran between [a pro-Soviet] Afghanistan and its Iraqi client.” [7]

Under these circumstances, it was to keep their socialist allies in power in Kabul and to prevent the destabilization of Soviet Central Asia via Afghanistan that Soviet troops entered Afghanistan, in context with the 1978 Soviet-Afghan Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Good Neighbourliness.

Henry Kissinger has written in regards to the danger from Iraq, “Though not strictly speaking a Soviet satellite, once fully armed with Soviet weapons Iraq would serve Soviet purposes by intimating pro-Western government, such as Saudi Arabia; simultaneously, it would exert pressure on Jordon and even Syria, which while leaning to the radical side was far from being a Soviet puppet.” [8] The Americans and their British allies were intent on neutralizing an independent Iraq and an Iran steaming with revolutionary fervor. Also, the other goal of the U.S. and Britain was to regain the lost oil fields of both Middle Eastern countries. The Iraq-Iran War was America’s chance to recover the lost oil fields of Iraq and Iran.

Maps

The Red Factor in Iran: The Soviet Union’s Treaty Right to Intervene

Close to the start of the Iraq-Iran War, the Soviet government, after talks with the revolutionary government in Tehran, was notified that Iran was terminating Moscow’s right to militarily intervene in Iran, and by extension in the Persian Gulf, under the 1921 Treaty of Friendship signed between the Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic (S.F.S.R.) and Iran. [9] The reason the agreement was made between the Russian S.F.S.R., instead of the U.S.S.R., and Iran was because the U.S.S.R. was in the process of forming and all its constituent republics had not integrated at the time, in 1921.

It was the Treaty of Friendship that was invoked during the Second World War by the Soviets in an attempt to legitimize the Anglo-Soviet invasion of Iran. Under Article 5 and Article 6 of the 1921 Treaty of Friendship, the Soviet military was legally permitted to intervene in Iran if preparations were being made for an armed attack on the U.S.S.R. by a foreign power (e.g., the U.S.). [10] The Soviets objected to Tehran’s decision, but were reluctant and bogged down in Afghanistan. Eventually and with time they tacitly accepted the Iranian decision.

It was this agreement between the Soviets that kept the U.S. from invading Iran. It is also because of this agreement that the British did not try to invade Iran, but created an internationally illegal military blockade that prevented Iranian trade and the export of oil when the government of Dr. Mossadegh, the prime minister of Iran, nationalized Iranian oil in 1951. It is obvious that international laws are only useful to the leaders of America and Britain, who misuse their nation’s foreign policies, only when it benefits them. [11]

 

This Soviet treaty right was also one of the rationales for the existence of U.S. Rapid Deployment Force and its special mandate for the Persian Gulf. The U.S. feared that the Soviets could use Iran’s military ties to the U.S. as a pretext into invading Iran and establishing control over the Persian Gulf. The Soviets eventually and essentially relinquished this treaty right after the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the unilateral annulment by Tehran. This was only because Iran was no longer an American ally.

 

By instigating war between Iraq, a Soviet ally, and Iran the U.S. also effectively obstructed any warming of Soviet-Iranian relations that would have greatly endangered Anglo-American interests in the Middle East and caused a geo-strategic nightmare for the White House. They also neutralized the Soviet’s Iraqi allies. When Iranian communist leaders were arrested the official newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Pravda, declared that the U.S. had instigated the situation to create animosity between Moscow and Tehran. This was in light of the fact that Iranian communists had helped oust Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Iran’s last shah or king.

 

Geo-Strategic Chess: Destabilizing Areas of Concern for Future Operations

 

“The southern rim of Asia — Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan — is a region of the world that may seem remote and strange to Americans, and yet it is a pivot of the world’s security. Within a few years of my 1973 journey, it became an area of upheaval. From the Iranian revolution to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to the Iran-Iraq war, events dramatized the vulnerability of the Persian Gulf — the lifeline of the West’s oil supply. The vital importance of that region had been one of the themes of the shrewd strategic analysts I was to visit next: Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai.”

 

-Henry Kissinger (Years of Upheaval, 1982)

 

The Soviet Union, Iraq, Afghanistan, and, lastly in 1979, Iran were independent-minded states in regards to America. By 1980 America had systematically created an arc of volatility and instability from the borders of Soviet Central Asia and Afghanistan running through Iran and Iraq to the Persian Gulf; in the process four nations (the Soviet Union, Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq) on the doorstep or gateway into the core of Eurasia were weakened. America was also using all four nations to destabilize one another. In retrospect it can be argued that the ground was being prepared for future operations in these areas.

 

During the bloody Iraq-Iran War, both sides were used to weaken one another. The intention was, quoting Henry Kissinger, to “let them [meaning Iraq and Iran] kill each other.” Thus, the U.S. tried to keep either side from winning and always in a military deadlock. According to a May 20, 1984 issue of Newsday, an American newspaper, the U.S. feared an Iranian victory and developed a contingency plan to militarily intervene on the side of Iraq by using the U.S. Air Force against Iran in a bombing campaign if the Iranians should advance towards Baghdad. [12]

Maps

The Iraq-Iran War and Market Manipulation: Destabilizing Eurasian Economies

 

The U.S. had realized from the time of the 1968 Arab Oil Embargo that it had a powerful economic weapon on its hands. Even during the 1968 Arab Oil Embargo the Saudi government was sustaining the U.S. by reinvesting large amounts of capital into the American economy. Henry Kissinger confirmed in his 1982 memoirs that the U.S. was able to strengthen its economic influence over the European and Japanese economies because of the price increase in the oil market, which was linked to the U.S. dollar. [13] The rise in petroleum prices was also used to weaken (or more properly to globally integrate) the economies of the Eastern Bloc and the Communist World. The Iraq-Iran War further tightened the American grip on the global economy.

 

The work of the American sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein puts forward the notion that there is essentially only a singular, but fragmented, “world-system” that is connected and interrelated through a network of economic relationships. This thesis is useful in part for explaining the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc.

One could argue that the Iraq-Iran War was a key aspect in the collapse of the Soviet Union, because of the position of the U.S.S.R. within the singularity of the “world-system.” The Soviet Union was a true “energy superpower” in all aspects of the term. It should be noted that Soviet hydrocarbon resources were the sum of all the energy resources of Russia, Central Asia, and the Republic of Azerbaijan. So why didn’t the Soviet Union with the combined energy resources of Russia, Central Asia, and the Caucasus profit from the Iraq-Iran War?

 

The price of Soviet petroleum also increased because of the Iraq-Iran War, but to no real benefit to the Soviets. The Soviet economy was affected largely because of the war in Afghanistan, a U.S. snare that ensured that the Soviet economy would not benefit from the rise in petroleum prices. The rise in petroleum prices during the Iraq-Iran War also created a state of economic shock in Eastern Europe. The economic disturbances in Eastern Europe also had a negative toll on the Soviet economy. The Eastern Bloc also opened the door to Western Banks for financial aid to cope with the economic shock that was created by the rise in petroleum prices. This would be a lethal mistake. Moreover, while the manipulation of oil prices benefited France and West Germany to some extent; it also benefited the Anglo-American alliance by spoiling any economic rapprochement between Paris, Bonn, and Moscow.

 

It should be noted that the Soviet Union disengaged itself from Afghanistan in 1988, the same year that the Iraq-Iran War ended. In 1988, the Soviet effort to stabilize the Soviet economy was also underway. After the Iraq-Iran War ended in 1988, the U.S. tried to sabotage and to further destroy the devastated economies of Iraq, Iran, and the Soviet Union by deliberately getting Saudi Arabia and the Arab Sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf to lower the price of oil.  The Soviets, the Iraqis, and the Iranians were planning on making the most of their vast energy resources, but their programs were stopped or obstructed in their tracks by the deliberate manipulation of petroleum markets. Washington D.C. was cleverly “killing several birds with one stone,” so to speak.

 

Military Upsurge in the Persian Gulf and the Wars against Iraq

 

“…America possesses not only overwhelming strategic power— constantly enhanced by technological innovation— but also an unmatched capability to project its conventional forces to distant areas.”

 

-Zbigniew Brzezenski (Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the 21st Century, 1993)

 

In one of his books, Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the 21st Century, Zbigniew Brzezenski writes, “For the world at large, one of the most impressive aspects of the U.S. military performance in the Gulf War of 1991 was the manner in which the United States was able to deploy, and logistically sustain, a force of several hundred thousand men in the distant Arabian peninsula [sic].” [14] The truth is that President George H. Bush Sr. would never have been able to deploy forces to the Middle East with such ease without the work of his presidential predecessors. The groundwork was prepared for him by the Reagan, the Carter, and the Ford Administrations.

The existence of the U.S. Rapid Deployment Force, which later became CENTCOM, was an extremely important step for U.S. operations in the Middle East. The deployment of U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia in 1991 was part of an operational continuum. It should be noted that U.S. Rapid Deployment Force was created by the Carter Administration on August 24, 1977 through a presidential directive based on the work of President Gerald Ford and Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller. With the collapse of the Soviet Union the U.S. was able to bolster its plans to dominate the Persian Gulf.

The Persian Gulf was militarized over a long period of time through three successive wars: the Iraq-Iran War (1980-1988), the Persian Gulf War (1991), and the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq (2003). After the British left the Persian Gulf, the area was militarized by the U.S. through the arguable necessitation of foreign ships being present to protect oil shipments and maritime traffic. This position was further endorsed during the Iraq-Iran War when the U.S. Navy flagged Kuwait oil tankers and fought against the Iranian Navy.

 

The invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent American-led war with Iraq allowed the U.S. to establish bases in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf in a second phase of militarization. A third phase of militarization started in 2003. This third phase involved the transfer of American and British assets into Iraq and the establishment of permanent super-bases starting in 2003/2004. NATO has also signed agreements with Arab states in the Persian Gulf littoral as the Franco-German entente becomes more involved in the management of the Middle East.

 

The U.S. Wants to Stay “Permanently” in the Persian Gulf: Baghdad’s 1990 Warnings

 

“The country that exerts the greatest amount of influence on the region, on the [Persian] Gulf and its oil, will consolidate its superiority as an unrivaled superpower. This proves that if the population of the [Persian] Gulf — and of the entire Arab World — is not vigilant, this area will be ruled according to the wishes of the United States.”

 

-Saddam Hussein, 5th President of Iraq: Speech to the Arab Cooperation Council in Amman (February 24, 1990)

 

The British attempted to control the Persian Gulf in the past and the U.S. government has inherited this task. The interests of the same Anglo-American elites are still at play, but America is the new vessel or agent of execution. American foreign policy in the Middle East is a continuation of British foreign policy in the area.

After the Iraq-Iran War the understanding between Iraq and Washington D.C. faded. Iraq was no longer needed; Iraq had crippled its own economy in the process of confronting Iran militarily. In February 1990, Saddam Hussein warned the Arab World that the U.S. was seeking to establish itself permanently in the Middle East and to take control of the region and its resources. Little did Saddam Hussein know that he would be baited into a disastrous war about a year later, a war which provided the U.S. with the pretext for the permanent U.S. deployment in the Middle East that he forewarned against. Iraq would become a victim of the Carter Doctrine.

 

In 2007, the White House and the Pentagon clarified that U.S. troops would be deployed in permanent bases in Iraq, described as the “post-occupation” phase of the U.S. deployment in Iraq. [15] The American presence in Iraq was contrasted with that of the American presence in the Korean Peninsula since the end of the bloody Korean War. U.S. officials, including Vice-President Cheney, have also threatened both allies and foes alike; cautioning that the U.S. does not intend on leaving the Persian Gulf. [16]

 

In the later half of the 1990s, Iraq, which needed heavy financial help to fight Iran, was headed towards even greater levels of external debt because of the deliberate economic manipulation of oil prices. Oil prices were pushed downwards through excess production. At the time, Iraqi debts to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were in the tens of billions of dollars.  The late Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi government were angry and at odds with the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the U.A.E., Bahrain, and Qatar for what they saw as a betrayal. Iraq accused their governments, especially Kuwait, the U.A.E., and Saudi Arabia, of conspiring to destabilize the Iraqi economy and impoverishing its people. The manipulation of oil prices by the U.S. and the Arab Sheikdoms was seen by Baghdad as economic warfare. This was all after Iraq, once liberally termed “the superpower of the Arab World,” had shattered its economy, military strength, and resources fighting Iran and all for naught.

 

The Arab Conspiracy against Iraq

“The year 1991 saw the definitive end of the Cold War and the bipolar era.”

 

-U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, (Forward of the 1991 Yearbook of the United Nations)

 

When Lebanon was attacked by Israel in July of 2006 the Lebanese stated that there was an “Arab conspiracy” against Lebanon. The Arab dictators and regimes had been co-opted to support Israel against them they said, but before there was an Arab conspiracy against Lebanon in 2006 there was one against the Iraqi people dating back to the end of the Iraq-Iran War. Although it should be noted that Palestine suffered betrayal from Arab leaders before both Lebanon and Iraq.

 

Tariq Aziz is quoted as saying during an Arab summit, in Tunisia in 1990, “We [meaning Iraq] are sure some Arab states are involved in a conspiracy against us. We want you to know that our country [Iraq] will not kneel, our women will not become prostitutes, our children will not be deprived of food.” [17] A conspiracy against Iraq by fellow Arab governments was economical and Iraq had caught on. Baghdad perceived the U.S. to be the main architect of the scheme.  In fact Iraq would also catch on and try to fight back economically, almost ten years later, by selling its oil in other foreign currencies besides the American dollar in November of 2000.

 

In February 1990, Saddam Hussein asked Saudi Arabia to honour the limits on oil production rates or quotas set by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Arab countries like Kuwait and the U.A.E. were deliberately breaching the quotas set by OPEC in coordination with the White House. The Iranians also sided with Iraq and in addition blamed the Arab Sheikhdoms of the Persian Gulf of conspiring with the U.S. against Iran too.  Oddly, the U.S.S.R. appears to have kept silent. In May of 1990, Saddam Hussein finally gave a summit of Arab leaders in Baghdad a warning that the continued violation of OPEC production rates by fellow Arab nations represented a de facto declaration of war against Iraq, but Kuwait and the U.A.E., encouraged by the U.S., continued to violate their OPEC quotas. [18]

 

Choreographing Iraq into invading Kuwait: Planting the Seeds of 2003

 

“[The Gulf War] is an historic moment. We have in this past year made great progress in ending the long era of conflict and cold war. We have before us the opportunity to forge for ourselves and for future generations a ‘New World Order’…”

 

-George H. Bush Sr., 41st President of the United States (January 16, 1991)

Finally Iraq was entrapped into invading Kuwait in August of 1990 with what Baghdad believed was an okay from President George H. Bush Sr. and the White House through April Glaspie, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. [19] The transcripts of the discussion between Ambassador Glaspie and Saddam Hussein confirm that Iraq was ensnared by the Bush Sr. Administration. [20] U.S. officials in Washington D.C. also made it appear that the U.S. believed that the invasion of Kuwait was an “Arab-Arab issue.” The Iraqis also claimed that they invaded Kuwait to stop Kuwait from permanently damaging the Iraqi economy by flooding the global market with more oil.

 

John Kelly, The U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, testified to the U.S. Congress that the “United States has no commitment to defend Kuwait and the U.S. has no intention of defending Kuwait if it is attacked by Iraq,” on July 31, 1990, two days before the Iraqi Army marched into Kuwait. [21] Margaret Tutweiler, the U.S. State Department spokeswoman, also told the international press on July 26, 1990 that the U.S. government had no objections or diplomatic message to Iraq about the mobilization of 30, 000 Iraqi troops that appeared to be planning an invasion of Kuwait. [22] The U.S. was aware that the Iraqis would be monitoring Washington D.C.’s responses to Iraqi mobilization and Baghdad’s plans to invade Kuwait. Iraq was clearly led on by the U.S. government.

 

Aside from Iraq’s global importance as an energy supplier, Iraq’s geographic location is also central to the whole Middle East. With a central footing in Iraq the U.S. could spread out or control the rest of the Middle East and the head of the Persian Gulf. The Middle East, in addition to the Indian sub-continent, is also sandwiched between America’s Eurasian bridgeheads, Europe, and the Far East. Additionally, Iraq serves as a gateway of entry into Iran and as a natural barrier between Iran and the rest of the Arab World and debatably even the Persian Gulf. On the other hand, Iran serves as a geographic gateway into the Caucasus, the Caspian Sea, and Central Asia. Establishing a footing in Iraq is a logical step in containing the spread of Iranian influence in the Arab World and pushing inwards into Central Asia. Therefore the invasion of Iraq would be vital in a drive towards Central Asia, through securing Iran, and ultimately encircling Russia and China.

 

1997-1999: The Preparation Years for the “Long War”

 

“Eurasia is the world’s axial supercontinent. A power that dominated Eurasia would exercise decisive influence over two of the world’s three most economically productive regions, Western Europe and East Asia. A glance at the map also suggests that a country dominant in Eurasia would almost automatically control the Middle East and Africa. With Eurasia now serving as the decisive geopolitical chessboard, it no longer suffices to fashion one policy for Europe and another for Asia. What happens with the distribution of power on the Eurasian landmass will be of decisive importance to America’s global primacy and historical legacy.”

 

-Zbigniew Brzezinski, (A Geostrategy for Eurasia, Foreign Affairs, September/October 1997)

 

A lot of work and planning goes into preparing military campaigns, especially ones of great magnitude such as the “Global War on Terror.” In 1997 the Clinton Administration began taking the necessary steps and planning for NATO expansion into Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet vacuum. This was not done under the Clinton Administration’s individual initiative, but as part of a long-term American agenda. By this time, the Soviet Union, the dinosaur of Eurasia, had finally collapsed. Containment had just redefined itself as penetration. On October 9, 1997 Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of America’s most prominent geo-strategists, told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee that NATO’s enlargement was crucial to the future of the U.S. and American foreign objectives on a global scale.

 

The European Union, under France and Germany, and America were also portrayed as partners, working through NATO, in leading the global post-Cold World order. Brzezinski testified that NATO enlargement and expansion was “central to the step-by-step construction of a secure international system in which the Euro-Atlantic alliance [meaning NATO] plays the major role in ensuring that a peaceful and democratic Europe is America’s principle partner.” [23]

 

On October 10, 1997, on day after Zbigniew Brzezinski’s testimony the U.S. helped create an alliance of ex-Soviet republics that were predisposed towards entering the orbit of NATO. The Organization for Democracy and Economic Development, better known as the GUAM Group was created as a political, economic and strategic alliance between Georgia, Ukraine, the Republic of Azerbaijan (Azarbaijan), and Moldavia. GUAM, the organization’s alternative name was an acronym for the names of these countries. The leaders of all four were vying for greater independence from the orbit of Moscow. NATO was critical for offering support to the four ex-Soviet republics. GUAM was designed to be NATO’s stepping stone into the former Soviet Union. All four nations were slatted by Washington D.C. and Brussels to ultimately join NATO.

 

Two years later, in 1999, NATO expanded into Eastern Europe and Uzbekistan left the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) to join the GUAM Group, which became renamed as the GUUAM Group. In 1998, NATO troops were already holding joint exercises in Uzbekistan with Uzbek troops and Uzbekistan was getting large amounts of aid from the U.S. and NATO.  In the same year that Uzbekistan left CSTO and NATO expanded, 1999, the groundwork on establishing a joint missile shield with Japan also began in Asia. This was in line with Zbigniew Brzezinski’s demands that a single policy be developed for Europe and Asia.

America was starting to take a Eurasian approach to its policies in Europe and Asia. 1999 was also the year that NATO declared war on Yugoslavia under the ironic pretext of a “humanitarian mission” in Kosovo. NATO and U.S. bases were also pushed eastwards in Europe.

 

None of these events are coincidental; they are all carefully planned steps of a “military roadmap.”  It was the subsequent bases that were established in the Balkans after the 1999 NATO war on Yugoslavia that allowed the logistical groundwork for an invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 to take place. These are different battles of the same war.

 

Additionally, a month before speaking to the U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee on NATO expansion, in September of 1997, Brzezinski had also indicated to the Council on Foreign Relations that the U.S. must control Eurasia through a presentation on U.S. geo-strategy that appeared in Foreign Affairs, an influential international relations journal run by the Council on Foreign Relations. [24] The Council on Foreign Relations was also told that the U.S. must harmonize its European and Asian polices. This explains the push to drive Asia and Europe towards a single military alliance and the coordination between the missile shield projects in Asia and Europe. It is clear America had started the process of encircling Russia, China, and their allies. Zbigniew Brzezinski even put forward the scheme that Russia should be portioned into a loose confederation consisting of a “European Russia, a Siberian Republic, and a Far Eastern Republic.” [25]

 

Breaking Yugoslavia: Eastward Prerequisite for Targeting Russia and the Middle East?

 

“Yugoslavia, consisting of Serbia and Montenegro, fits into the geopolitical plans of the U.S., and to a lesser degree NATO countries, because it’s there, strategically located, and this has to be addressed.”

 

-Ramsey Clark, 66th United States Attorney-General (October 6, 2000)

 

Bill Clinton said “If we’re going to have a strong economic relationship that includes our ability to sell around the world, Europe has got to be a key…That’s what this Kosovo thing [meaning the war with Yugoslavia] is all about,” during the NATO bombing campaign over Serbia and Montenegro. The wars in Yugoslavia were a case where the Franco-German entente, France and Germany, and the Anglo-American alliance, the U.S. and Britain, were working hand-in-hand to extend their spheres of influences. Future developments were being foreshadowed from the Franco-German and Anglo-American collusion.

 

In the wake of the Dayton agreement of 1995 and the NATO invasion of Kosovo in 1999, U.S. and NATO military bases, formally and informally, mushroomed in the Balkans with no treaty limitations. One of the largest U.S. military facilities in the Balkans is the Bondsteel military base. Bondsteel is situated in the Serbian province of Kosovo, inhabited predominately by ethnic Albanians. From Kosovo, the former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) was also destabilized and engaged into the orbit of NATO powers.

 

The 1991 Gulf War, the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq are functionally related to the wars in the Balkans and the dismantling of Yugoslavia. These series of wars are part of a broader post-Cold War military roadmap in Eurasia. The destabilization and subsequent bombardment of Yugoslavia should be considered as a distinct stage in the “Eurasian roadmap,” which was beneficial to the establishment of U.S. bases and an extended U.S. sphere of military influence in Southeastern Europe. Britain, France, and Germany were America’s partners in this endeavour.

 

The stage was being set for the long march east towards the heart of Eurasia. These bases in the Balkans subsequently also had no limitations stipulated by international treaty with Russia and its allies on the number of forces the U.S. is allowed to post in Europe. The bases set up in the Balkans were also not under the scrutiny of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE-1989) or the Adapted Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE-1999).

 

Preparing for the “Long War:” Drafting the “Bush Doctrine” and the “Global War on Terror”

 

“The attitude of the American public toward the external projection of American power has been much more ambivalent. The public supported America’s engagement in World War II largely because of the shock effect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.”

 

-Zbigniew Brzezinski (The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives, 1997)

 

The Washington Post reported in 2002 that the Bush Jr. Administration inherited its counter-terrorism strategies used in the “Global War on Terror” from the Clinton Administration. [26] The fight against Al-Qaeda was not initiated by the Bush Jr. Administration, but was initiated and drafted by the Clinton Administration. It should also be noted that it is also under the term of the Clinton Administration that Al-Qaeda was revealed to be an American product being used in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Balkans. This is an important fact to remember.

 

The Clinton Administration had also crafted the invasion plans for Iraq. In fact it was the economic sanctions and the Anglo-American bombing campaigns under the Clinton Administration that softened Iraq for a ground invasion under the Bush Jr. Administration. Iraqi air defences were also seriously eroded by the time Iraq was invaded in 2003. The no-fly zones over pre-2003 Iraq, that were declared by the U.S., British, and French government were also not internationally recognized or de jure (legal).

 

The bombardment of Iraq and Iraqi defensive facilities was carried on for years under the Clinton Administration, but were acts that were hardly noticed by the North American and British press. Under the Clinton Administration a dual containment policy in regards to Iraq and Iran had also been drafted, or upgraded. This was in addition to an ambitious dual-phased invasion plan for conquering both Iraq and Iran. [27] In Afghanistan the U.S. and British governments sponsored radical elements of the Afghan Mujahedin and helped nurture what became the repressive Taliban via Pakistan and the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

The division of Iraq and the restructuring of the Middle East has become an Anglo-American and Israeli ground operation. The religious, sectarian, and ethnic tensions being fueled in Iraq, Turkey, the Persian Gulf, and Lebanon are a part of this process. In hindsight it is worth quoting a translation of the Yinon Plan drafted by Oded Yinon in 1982: “[Iraq’s] dissolution is even more important for [Israel] than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel. An Iraqi-Iranian war will tear Iraq apart and cause its downfall at home even before it is able to organize a struggle on a wide front against [Israel]. Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and in Lebanon. In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines as in Syria during Ottoman times is possible. So, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, and Shiite [Muslim Arab] areas in the south will separate from the Sunni [Muslim Arab] and Kurdish north. It is possible that the present Iranian-Iraqi confrontation will deepen this polarization.” [28]

These 1982 Israeli policy statements forecast the strangulation of the Iraqi nation through the geo-strategic manipulation of Iraq and Iran against one another. However, this was not an idiosyncratic Israeli strategy, but an element of a far broader joint Anglo-American and Israeli strategy in the Middle East and Eurasia. Many years have passed since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the bloody Iraq-Iran War. Both wars were instigated by the White House and 10 Downing Street as part of a calculated and long-term global strategy. It is through these wars and both the 1991 Gulf War and 1999 Kosovo War that the seeds of the wars of the Twenty-First Century have been planted. Just as the First World War led to the Second World War, these wars have led to further conflicts and wars. There is no doubt, these wars are elements of a “long war” that is part of the effort to establish what Professor Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama calls an “end to history” through a singular global polity or what George H. Bush Sr. called a “New World Order” during the period of the Gulf War. This is the history and the ultimate objective of the bloody march to war.

NOTES

 

[1] Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, Speech at the Military Parade Celebrating the 62nd  Anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War, (Commemoration Speech, Red Square, Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2007).

http://www.kremlin.ru/eng/text/speeches/2007/05/09/1432_type82912type127286_127675.shtml

 

Note: The Great Patriotic War is the name used in Russia and the former U.S.S.R. to designate the Second World War.

 

[2] Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, Speech and the Following Discussion at the Munich Conference on Security Policy (Address, Munich Conference on Security Policy, Munich, Bavaria, February 10, 2007).

http://www.kremlin.ru/eng/speeches/2007/02/10/0138_type82912type82914type82917type84779_118123.shtml

[3] Ibid.

 

[4] James Earl Carter, Third State of the Union Address, (State of the Union Address, Capitol Hill, Washington, District of Columbia, January 23, 1980).

 

[5] Zbigniew Brezinski, “Oui, la CIA est entrée en Afghanistan avant les Russes…,” Le Nouvel Observateur, January 15-21 Issue, 1998, p.76.

Note: The term Russians (“Russes” in French) is improperly used instead of Soviets, the proper national label.

 

[6] Henry Kissinger, Years of Upheaval (Boston, Massachusetts: Little, Brown and Company, 1982), p.669.

 

[7] Ibid., p.675.

 

[8] Ibid.

 

[9] William M Reisman, Termination of the U.S.S.R.’s Treaty of Right of Intervention in Iran, American Journal of International Law, vol. 74, no. 1 (January 1980): p.144-154.

 

[10] Treaty of Friendship between Iran and the Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic, signed and entered into force February 26, 1921, Russian S.F.S.R.-Kingdom of Iran, articles 5-6, League of Nations Treaty Series (L.N.T.S.) 9:403

 

Note: Outside of Iran the treaty title used the name “Persia,” the title used in reference to Iran outside of the Middle East until 1935, to refer to Iran. It was in 1935 that the government of Reza Pahlavi asked those nations referring to Iran as Persia to use the proper title (Iran), which was used by Iranians themselves to refer to their country. Reza Pahlavi also did this as a result of British attempts to divide Iran, like the Ottoman Empire, during the First World War. A comparison to this would be if Greece requests the international community use the name Hellas instead of Greece or if Finland asked the international community to refer to it by the name Suomi instead of Finland or if Germany asked to be called Deutschland.

The subject is also compounded by the fact that labeling Iranians as Persians and Iran as Persia is incorrect and is similar to labeling all Britons as Englishmen and Britain as England. Englishmen, Scots, and Welshmen are all Britons or British. England is only just one of the component countries of Britain or formally the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In similarity Persians, like Kurds, are just one Iranian sub-group and Persia or Pars/Fars is historically a province within Iran. The ancient Achaemenids, such as Cyrus II and Xerxes I, the Arsacids, such as Mithridates I, and Sassanids all referred to their empires as Iran or different variances of Iran.

 

The following are important extracts from the Treaty of Friendship between Iran and the Russian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic; it should also be noted that the “Allies of Russia” are the other constituent Soviet Socialist Republics of the U.S.S.R., which essentially means the rest of the Soviet Union;

 

ARTICLE 5

 

The two High Contracting Parties undertake:

 

(1) To prohibit the formation or presence within their respective territories, of any organization or groups of persons, irrespective of the name by which they are known, whose object is to engage in acts of hostility against Persia or Russia, or against the Allies of Russia. They will likewise prohibit the formation of troops or armies within their respective territories with the aforementioned object.

 

(2) Not to allow a third party or organization, whatever it be called, which is hostile to the other Contracting Party, to import or to convey in transit across their countries material which can be used against the other party.

 

(3) To prevent by all means in their power the presence within their territories or within the territories of their Allies of all armies or forces of a third party in cases in which the presence of such forces would be regarded as a menace to the frontiers, interests or safety of the other Contracting Party.

 

ARTICLE 6

 

If a third party should attempt to carry out a policy of usurpation by means of armed intervention in Persia, or if such Power should desire to use Persian territory as a base of operations against Russia, or if a Foreign Power should threaten the frontiers of Federal Russia or those of its Allies, and if the Persian Government should not be able to put a stop to such menace after having been once called upon to do so by Russia, Russia shall have the right to advance her troops into the Persian interior for the purpose of carrying out the military operations necessary for its defence. Russia undertakes, however, to withdraw her troops from Persian territory as soon as the danger has been removed.

 

[11] Those who sit in the halls of power have an intimate link to private enterprise or large corporations. They use their nations’ foreign policies and state revenues to advance the needs of these enterprises. For example, most directors of the CIA come from Wall Street and go back to Wall Street once they leave the CIA or many generals in the Pentagon end up sitting on the boards of huge corporations. For example General Shelton, who was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff until September 30, 2001, upon his retirement obtained several lucrative corporate positions. Hence, Dwight D. Eisenhower’s statement in his farewell 1960 speech: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

The following is taken from Chapter 7 (David Simon: The Transformer) of The New Global Leaders: Richard Branson, Percy Barnevik, David Simon and the Remaking of International Business to further illustrate this point; “Twenty-four hours after the Labour party’s landslide victory in the British general election in May 1997, the Financial Times mentioned almost as a by-the-way comment that Sir David Simon, chairman of British Petroleum, was to be offered the position of minister of Europe and a seat in the House of Lords. The rumor was pounced on by the pro-Tory press, clearly eager to exploit what looked like an early breach in Prime Minister Tony Blair’s cabinet…”

[12] Joseph Stark and Martha Wenger, U.S. Ready to Intervene in the Gulf War, Middle East Research and Information Projects (MERIP) Reports, no. 125/126 (July-September, 1984): p.47-48.

 

Note: The term Persian Gulf War was originally used to describe the Iraq-Iran War. Because of the animosity of Iraq and the Arab Sheikdoms towards Iran a modern naming dispute over the body of water came about. Iraq and the Arab Sheikhdoms started calling the Persian Gulf the “Arab Gulf” or simply the “Gulf.” The name Arab Gulf or Arabian Gulf has been the alternative historical name of the Red Sea, but is used as ammunition in the socio-political dimensions of disputes with Iran, first under Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and then under Ayatollah Khomeini. The disputed name of the body of water between Iran and the Arab Sheikdoms to its south has deliberately been used to fuel ethnic and national tensions between Arabs and Iranians.

 

[13] Kissinger, Years of Upheaval, Op. cit., p.863.

 

[14] Zbigniew Brezinski, Out of Control: Global Turmoil on the Eve of the 21st Century (NYC, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons Macmillan Publishing Company, 1993), p.88.

 

[15] Thomas E. Ricks, Military Envisions Longer Stay in Iraq, The Washington Post, June 10, 2007, p. A01.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/09/AR2007060901464.html

 

[16] Cheney warns Iran, assures allies on Gulf visit, Reuters, May 11, 2007.

 

[17] John Edward Wilz, The Making of Mr. Bush’s War: A Failure to Learn from History?, Presidential Studies Quarterly, Summer 1996.

http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/wilz.htm

 

[18] Ibid.

 

[19] Russell Watson et al., Was Ambassador Glaspie Too Gentle with Saddam?, Newsweek, April 1, 1991, p.17.

 

[20] Excerpts From Iraqi Document on Meeting with US Envoy, The New York Times, September 22, 1990, p.19.

 

Note: ABC News provided the Iraqi Foreign Ministry transcripts from the July 25, 1990 meeting between Saddam Hussein and April Catherine Glaspie, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.

 

[21] Kaleem Omar, Is the US State Department still keeping April Glaspie under wraps?, Jang, December 25, 2005.

 

[22] Ibid.

 

[23] Zbigniew Brzezinski, Introductory Statement on NATO Enlargement, (Testimony, United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Washington, District of Columbia, October 9, 2007).

 

[24] Zbigniew Brzezinski, A geostrategy for Eurasia, Foreign Affairs, vol. 76, no. 5 (September- October, 1997): p.50-64.

 

Note: The writings from Brzezinski’s paper for Foreign Affairs and the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) were also used for his book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and the Geostrategic Imperatives that had its first edition published in 1997. Brzezinski’s 1997 Foreign Affairs journal entry is a condensed synopsis of his 1997 book. Points and quotes cited from it are identical or almost identical to the writing from his 1997 book.

 

[25] Ibid.

 

[26] Barton Gellman, A Strategy’s Cautious Evolution: Before Sept. 11, the Bush Anti-Terror Effort Was Mostly Ambition, The Washington Post, January 20, 2002, p.A01.

 

[27] The dual-containment policy used in regards to both Iraq and Iran was designed for two reasons. The first reason was to prepare the framework for U.S. control of both nations, and the second was to prevent Iran from establishing a large sphere of hegemonic control. The U.S. clearly recognized Iran as their adversary in the Middle East, whereas Iraq was identified as an objective. The Iraq-Iran War and the Gulf War, along with U.N. economic sanctions, had broken Iraq.

[28] Oded Yinon, A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties, trans. Israel Shahak, Zionist Plan for the Middle East, ed. Israel Shahak (Belmont, Massachusetts: Association of Arab-American University Graduates, 1982), p.12.

MAPS

 

[1] The Indo-Arabian Region [map]. Scale not given. In: Michael MccGwire. Military Objectives in Soviet Foreign Policy. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 1987, p.184.

[2] Kenneth Velasquez. The Sino-Soviet Bloc and Three Central Strategic Fronts [map]. Scale not given. In: Zbigniew Brzezinski. The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and the Geostrategic Imperatives. NYC, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997, p.7.

[3] Kenneth Velasquez. Global Zone of Percolating Violence [map]. Scale not given. In: Zbigniew Brzezinski. The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and the Geostrategic Imperatives. NYC, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997, p.53.

[4] Eric Waddell. Middle East Theatre of War [map]. approx. 1:60, 000, 000. In: Michel Chossudovsky, America’s “War on Terrorism.” Pincourt, Québec: Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), 2003, p.2.

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is an indepedent writer based in Ottawa specializing in Middle Eastern affairs. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).

Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya is a frequent contributor to Global Research.  Global Research Articles by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya

 


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Economic Crisis: The U.S. Political Leadership Has Failed by Richard C. Cook

September 13, 2007

Economic Crisis: The U.S. Political Leadership Has Failed by Richard C. Cook

by Richard C. Cook

Global Research, September 12, 2007

As the 2007 economic collapse picks up speed, it’s time to take a hard look at the performance of the U.S. national political leadership in meeting some of their most fundamental responsibilities. It’s time to face the fact of serious failure over the last quarter century.

During this time, the leaders of both political parties and of major institutions such as the Federal Reserve have presided over the abandonment of some of the most solemn obligations of constitutional government. They have done this in order to embrace an agenda favorable mainly to the financial, corporate, and government elites.

On January 20, 1981, a full generation ago, President Ronald Reagan said in his first inaugural address, “Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem.”

Reagan was both right and wrong.

The problem the U.S. was facing then was the collapse of the nation’s manufacturing base through a recession that happened when the Federal Reserve raised interest rates to over the twenty percent level. It did so almost a decade after President Richard Nixon removed the gold peg for the dollar, leading to the inflation of the 1970s when our currency flooded world markets through the oil trade.

Reagan’s statement that “government is the problem” was correct to the extent that failed financial policies and the out-of-control actions of a Federal Reserve beholden to private financial interests combined in the worse economic downturn since the Great Depression to wreck the world’s greatest industrial powerhouse.

But he was wrong in thinking that the solution was deregulation of the economy, particularly deregulation of financial and investment institutions which took place during his two terms. The result was enormous growth in the power and influence of Wall Street and the big banks over the rest of the economy. The era of leveraged mergers, acquisitions, and buyouts was the predecessor of the disaster of today with the unfolding fiasco of equity, hedge, and derivative funds in the process of collapse.

After Reagan came President George H.W. Bush. By the end of his term, the loss of manufacturing jobs had produced another recession. Within a couple of years of Bill Clinton’s election in 1992, action by Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin to strengthen the dollar attracted enough foreign investment to create the dot.com bubble.

Clinton then cut the federal budget enough by reducing federal employment that he was able to achieve a budget surplus. This lessened the drag on the economy from the national debt which Reagan had left behind from his tax cuts and trillion dollar military build-up. But the over-leveraged dot.com bubble burst with the stock market collapse of 2000, leaving us in recession again.

Enter President George W. Bush. Despite the “achievement” of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan in creating another bubble—the housing one—big enough to float the U.S. economy for four consecutive years—2002 to 2005—the economic fundamentals today are horrendous. We are living in an economy that has begun to crash, with the Federal Reserve, the Treasury Department, and Congress cobbling together bail-outs of various descriptions which they hope will right what is obviously a sinking ship.

We can only hope they will succeed to some extent, because it would be heartless to wish disaster on the ones who suffer the most from the consequences of the greed and stupidity of people in power—namely the ordinary people who work for a living and who honestly try to raise their families and hold to a decent standard of living. But life is becoming very hard for the vast majority of Americans who have been bearing the brunt of our failed economic and monetary polices of the last three decades.

Our political leadership has let us down in the following critical respects:

 

  • Going back to the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established an economic system—the New Deal—that pulled the U.S. out of the Great Depression, enabled us to fight World War II, and created the world’s greatest industrial democracy. He did this largely through programs that, taken together, were based on the principle of low-cost credit treated as a public utility. This persisted into the 1960s and 70s, when it was replaced with the system of monetarism, whereby the economy is now regulated by the Federal Reserve through raising and lowering of interest rates. This system, with interest rates much higher, on average, than during previous decades, has been catastrophic for the U.S. economy. It has enriched the financial industry at the expense of everyone else through what can only be called institutionalized usury. Under this system, every period of economic growth since 1983 has been a bank-created bubble, while the general population has become steadily poorer. The Federal Reserve claims that it raises interest rates to reduce inflation, when in fact higher interest rates cause inflation by making every transaction more expensive. Under the reign of monetarism, the U.S. dollar has lost over eighty percent of its value. In fact, government policies are designed to generate inflation, because this makes it cheaper to pay down the national debt and while augmenting tax revenues.

  • It has been well-documented that since the early 1980s the federal government has acquiesced in every respect to economic policies that have resulted in the steady erosion of our manufacturing base, elimination of millions of skilled industrial jobs, creation of a crushing burden of household and individual debt, crumbling of our physical infrastructure, privatization or elimination of public services, failure to meet such crises as the Katrina disaster, export of jobs to low-cost foreign labor markets, unfair distribution of taxation, and toleration of the influx of millions of illegal aliens who keep wages low within the domestic economy.

  • Since the Clinton administration, the government has misled the public through distortion of economic indicators. Calculations of the GDP are too high and exaggerate the growth of the economy. The consumer price index on which government cost-of-living adjustments are based has eliminated such items as food, fuel, and home buying. Actual inflation is running at a rate of three times what the government estimates; i.e. closer to ten percent than the three percent which is claimed. Regarding the money supply, the Federal Reserve has stopped reporting one of the most important indicators, which is M3—the amount of money available to the largest institutional investors. Data which are available today show without question that the producing economy—that is, the everyday world of people who work for a living—has been in recession for over a year. Meanwhile, the financial economy that lives off the producers as a parasite continues to float on rollovers of mega-loans originating with the Federal Reserve and its policy of allowing banks to capitalize the massive amounts of repurchase agreements generated by electronic funds transfer.

  • Insufficient attention has been paid to the disastrous effects of NAFTA in destroying family farming in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. On top of this has been the diversion of agricultural products into bio-fuel production with the attendant inflationary effects. Meanwhile, our food supply has been taken over by agribusiness and the financial markets at the same time that two-thirds of the nation has been in the grip of long-term drought. The high interest rates of the monetarist regime have worked to make farming at the local level impossible and have destroyed the production of entire regions, such as the once-great Idaho potato industry. Unless local farming can be revived, there is a real-danger of massive food shortages breaking out under a prolonged economic crisis.

  • Finally, there are our failed foreign and military policies. After the U.S. lost the Vietnam War, we had reason to believe that our political leaders might have learned a lesson about military adventures abroad, particularly land wars on the continent of Asia. Instead, starting in earnest with the “Reagan doctrine” of endless proxy conflicts on every continent, the U.S. has embarked on a policy of world military conquest. The Iraq War, the planned permanent occupation of that country, and the designs being formulated against Iran, are part of a policy of military control of the Middle East that has been ongoing for almost twenty years. The dual objectives of this policy are to control Middle Eastern oil and advance the interests of Israel. Talk of the “surge,” troop drawdown, etc., are nonsense, because the U.S. plans to occupy permanent bases and control the remaining oil reserves in the region. These wars are being paid for by sale of Treasury bonds to possible future adversaries such as China, while the U.S. bubble economy that is backing up our military forces overseas is deflating. Clearly something has to give, either through exhaustion of our military capability abroad, economic collapse at home, or the catastrophe of a world war. The denouement seems to be drawing closer as foreign governments dump their U.S. dollars which are declining in value due to the twin trade and fiscal deficits. What our leaders should now be doing is recognize the fact that we live in a multilateral world where conflicts can only be resolved by nations acting as equals under the umbrella of the U.N.

So many mistakes have been made over the last several decades that it is difficult to see how real change could take place without a revolutionary transformation of American society. Those who worked for change in the 1960s through opposition to the Vietnam War hoped for such a transformation, but the opposite has happened.

The cause has been the assertion of influence by the corporate-financial-government elites, who have essentially negated the ability of the people through their elected representatives to manage affairs for the sake of the general welfare as stated in the preamble to our Constitution.

The government under the leadership of both political parties has even violated some of its basic constitutional mandates.

Congress, for instance, has failed to exercise its duties with respect to oversight and control of the monetary system, having ceded its authority to the private banking industry through the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. Congress has also failed to provide effective regulation of the financial industry under the interstate commerce clause of Article One, as the subprime mortgage debacle and other abuses have clearly demonstrated.

The government as a whole has failed to provide for equal protection of the laws as specified in the Fourteenth Amendment by allowing so much of the wealth of the nation to be transferred to the upper income brackets who manipulate the corporate and financial systems to their advantage. It could also be argued that the passivity of the government in standing by while millions of people have lost their homes, jobs, or pensions due to fraudulent financial practices or speculative bubbles violates the Fifth Amendment provision which specifies that “no person shall be…deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

Finally, it could be argued that many of our economic and tax policies violate the Thirteenth Amendment which states that, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

We’re used to interpreting the Thirteenth Amendment as applying only to chattel slavery, but economic servitude can be almost as onerous. Certainly the provision of the 2005 bankruptcy reform legislation which makes student loan debt and unpaid taxes a lifetime obligation, not subject to bankruptcy write-off, constitutes “involuntary servitude.” So too may a cumulative tax burden where up to fifty percent of an individual’s income goes for taxes at the federal, state, and local levels.

It is obvious that the elite intend to make every effort to ride out the current crisis. This is what the so-called “soft landing” is about.

At the point in time when it may become possible to have real change, it can only be done effectively as it was accomplished during the New Deal—through control of credit as a public utility. This is because the causes of social distress are economic, and the economy is controlled through the monetary system. The essence of monetary policy is who controls credit and for what ends.

It would not be difficult to create programs, institutions, and systems to develop an updated New Deal to meet present conditions. The knowledge is there, as is the technology. What is lacking is political recognition and will. Today most individuals are passive spectators to the ongoing train wreck, and none of the leading presidential candidates is addressing basic policy issues. Ninety-five percent of what they are saying is media fluff.

As an example of what could be done, it would be possible immediately to place all pubic infrastructure programs within the U.S. under a funding mechanism whereby a federal infrastructure bank could be self-capitalized by special Treasury infrastructure bonds with lending at zero percent interest for a multitude of long-term projects.

A new money supply would thereby come into being that would completely by-pass the Federal Reserve System. This could be supplemented by a citizens’ basic income guarantee and a National Dividend, similar to the Alaska Permanent Fund, which would reduce poverty and inject purchasing power at the grassroots level. The denial of purchasing power except through more debt in a country where the wage and salary base has stagnated is an economic crime. One purpose is doubtless to create an impoverished underclass as a source of military recruitment.

Such measures would revolutionize local economies and restore the ability of the general population to participate in the economic life of the nation. But until enough people wake up to what is going on and the fact that they have the power within themselves to make a difference, nothing will change. They will continue to be fleeced by the rich and powerful as they have been throughout most of history.

Richard C. Cook is a retired federal analyst, whose career included service with the U.S. Civil Service Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Carter White House, and NASA, followed by twenty-one years with the U.S. Treasury Department. His articles on monetary reform, economics, and space policy have appeared on Global Research, Economy in Crisis, Dissident Voice, Atlantic Free Press, and elsewhere. He is the author of “Challenger Revealed: An Insider’s Account of How the Reagan Administration Caused the Greatest Tragedy of the Space Age.” His website is at www.richardccook.com.

Richard C. Cook is a frequent contributor to Global Research.  Global Research Articles by Richard C. Cook

Region must be wary of Venezuela: U.S. official

August 24, 2007

A nice hit piece.  I’m including a graph at the bottom.

*******

Region must be wary of Venezuela: U.S. official

Thu Aug 23, 2007 6:07PM EDT

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Venezuela’s regional neighbors should be ready to respond to a potential threat from President Hugo Chavez’s arms build-up, which could be used to intimidate rather than for self-defense, a senior U.S. defense official said on Thursday.

Chavez, a self-styled socialist staunchly opposed to Washington, has irked the White House by spending billions of dollars on Russian fighter jets, attack helicopters and Kalashnikov rifles to refurbish the military.

The Bush administration has banned U.S. arms sales to Venezuela, criticized Chavez’s purchase of jets from Moscow and said his plans to build rifle factories raise concerns about weapons reaching guerrillas in neighboring Colombia.

“It seems as if a build up of this character doesn’t really respond to the reality on the ground there,” U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Western Hemisphere Affairs Stephen Johnson told reporters during a visit Bogota.

“It has an effect of intimidating neighbors … and democracies in the region need to be able to respond to this in a way that will help reduce this kind of threat,” he said.

Johnson said governments should turn to diplomacy as “the first line of defense” and work through groups such as the Organization of American States in Washington.

Chavez, a former soldier popular for his heavy spending on social programs for the poor, says he is training the armed forces to repel a possible U.S. attack. He says the weapons purchases are needed to modernize Venezuela’s armed forces.

The Venezuelan leader, a close ally of Cuba and Iran, says he wants to forge a regional alliance to counter U.S. foreign and trade policies. But U.S. officials and critics brand him a would-be dictator who has undermined Venezuela’s democracy.

Colombia is Washington’s strongest ally in a region where left-wing leaders such as Chavez have gained ground. President Alvaro Uribe has received billions of dollars in U.S. aid to fight left-wing rebels and cocaine trafficking that helps fuel the country’s four-decade-old war.

http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSN2327002620070823

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Palestinians mourn Gaza raid dead

July 6, 2007
Palestinians mourn Gaza raid dead

Medics said more than 25 Palestinians were wounded during the raid and an ambulance destroyed [AFP]
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Troops, backed by tanks, entered Gaza early on Thursday and killed nine fighters from the al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, as well as a member of the smaller armed group, Islamic Jihad, and a man medical staff said was a civilian.

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More than 25 Palestinians were injured in Thursday’s attacks, including an Al-Aqsa TV journalist, shot as he was covering the story.

 

Call for revenge

Thousands of people marched in the streets of al-Barij refugee camp on Friday and armed men fired rifles into the air, vowing revenge.

 

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In a statement, al-Qassam Brigades said: “This blood will only increase our determination to chase the enemy and to strike it and resist by all our might until the last drop of our blood.”

 

A spokesman for Fatah joined Ismail Haniya of Hamas, the deposed Palestinian prime minister, in condemning what Haniya called Israel’s “military escalation” and “criminal massacre” and said Palestinian fighters had the right to respond.

Emad Ghanem, a journalist working for Hamas’ satellite channel Al-Aqsa TV, was filming near the al-Barij refugee camp in the east during Thursday’s raid when he was hit by Israeli gunfire.

 

After falling to the ground, video footage showed him being hit by several more shots before fellow journalists came to his aid.

 

He was eventually carried off and both his legs were amputated in hospital.

 

An Israeli military spokeswoman said journalists were at risk if they entered a combat zone but soldiers did not deliberately target them.

 

A military source added that Israel did not consider a cameraman working for Hamas to be a journalist.

 

In a separate incident around the same incursion, Israeli soldiers fired on a rooftop where several journalists, including a Reuters camera crew, were filming. No one was injured.

 

‘Human shields’

 

Also during Thursday’s raid, Azmi Abu Dalal, a Palestinian ambulance worker, said Israeli forces seized him and several colleagues when they tried to evacuate a wounded Palestinian man from a security post Hamas fighters had been using.

 

In Video


Watch Nour Odeh’s report on Israel’s Gaza incursion

Abu Dalal said soldiers used them as “human shields” to exit the area.

 

Israeli law bans soldiers from using civilians for protection but the county has been repeatedly accused of breaching the rule.

 

The deaths bring to 5,776 the number of people killed since the outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising in September 2000, most of them Palestinians, according to a tally by the AFP news agency.

 

Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 after 38 years of occupation, but continues to carry out armed incursions and air strikes in the territory from where Palestinian fighters fire rockets into Israeli territory.

http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/BF45F79E-8C1F-418F-B7CF-BBF85862CC19.htm

Iraqi Terror Link a Propaganda Coup

July 3, 2007

The revelation that one of the men allegedly involved in the failed terror attacks on Glasgow and London was an Iraqi doctor who trained in Baghdad is a Propaganda coup for the British and American governments who will no doubt use the fact to tie Al Qaeda to Iraq and as justification for a continued presence there.

Meanwhile the hysteria surrounding these events has reached such ridiculous heights that all manner of unconfirmed information is being put out by the mainstream media without rebuttal or even comment from the police or the government.

Sources named one of the men arrested in connection with the events as an Iraqi, Dr Bilal Abdulla. The AP has reported that according to the British General Medical Council’s register, a man named Bilal Talal Abdul Samad Abdulla was registered in 2004 and trained in Baghdad.

Another man being questioned is also a doctor, Mohammed Asha, a Jordianian or Saudi depending which source you believe, described as a “brilliant neurologist working for the NHS”.

Reports also indicate that one of the two men who drove the blazing Jeep Cherokee into the terminal building at Glasgow airport on Saturday afternoon is also a doctor. It is not clear whether this man is either Asha or Abdulla or someone else. The reason details are unclear is that police have not divulged any information and everything that has been reported is media speculation.

The government seems quite happy to allow conjecture and rumour to foment further hysteria.

The news comes as police blew up a suspect car outside the Royal Alexandra Hospital near Glasgow, the same hospital the third doctor is said to have worked in – another car was also detonated on Sunday, reports Sky News.

Some have speculated that the police were onto the two men who drove the Jeep into Glasgow airport beforehand because they are connected to the two failed car “bombs” in London. In addition in the two weeks before these incidents the terror alert level was raised and specific warnings were given that clubs may be targeted.

The media is also already speculating that the fact an Iraqi carried this act out indicates that insurgents from Iraq are now infiltrating Britain and that we may see car bombings become routine as they are in Iraq.

According to reports, British intelligence had warned the Government that Iranian Kurds could be plotting a campaign of terror to coincide with the handover of power from Tony Blair to Gordon Brown, reports the Daily Mail.

US sources today suggested radical Al Qaeda affiliated Kurdish group Ansar al-Islam would have a motive for an attack on Britain, having been driven out of its northern Iraqi stronghold and into Iran after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Many of its fighters have since returned to Iraq to carry out a series of suicide and car bombings, the report continues.

This is likely to be totally bogus and a blatant attempt to connect the events to Al Qaeda and Iraq. Like Al Qaeda, Ansar al-Islam has documented ties with U.S. intelligence.

In any case all at once we are being told we have been attacked by some imported doctors, a radical Islamic Kurdish group who now reside in Iran and Al Qaeda! And all this without the police or government having uttered a word on the events.

The ridiculous fearmongering mainstream media seems to think the term “Al Qaeda” is now simply a synonym for “terrorist” in general.

This ludicrous moulding of public opinion dovetails nicely for the U.S. government as it provides a justification for a continued military presence in Iraq at a time when Britain as well as Australia seem on the verge of pulling troops out.

The fresh violence also provides the re-shuffled British government under a new Prime Minister to push for an revamping of laws for the detention without trial of terror suspects.

In her first Commons statement since her appointment on Thursday, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: “Terrorism is a serious threat to us all. We must ensure our resources, capability and legislation support our common endeavour to defend the shared values of this country from terror.”

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Should we suddenly see the “Baghdadification” of the UK, serious questions need to be asked as to why that has occurred. We are still in Iraq, the country we invaded on a pack of lies and have since totally destroyed physically, morally and spiritually. In addition immigration from the middle east into Britain, via Europe continues unabated and at a rampant pace with little oversight.

In addition we have also exposed the fact that our special operations units are literally arming and training insurgents in Iraq.

If indeed Iraqi insurgents are “invading” UK shores to plan attacks whose fault is it?

In the past we have worked to expose false flag terror operations, however judging from the total lack of sophistication of the latest “attacks” we are now apparently seeing do it yourself REAL terrorism taking precedent rather than state sponsored or intelligence provocateured terrorism, indicating that a section of people have become so radicalized that the intelligence services do not even have to have a hand in the plot.

http://infowars.net/articles/july2007/020707Propaganda.htm