Saturday, January 13, 2007

Hasbara, Shmuel Rosner and the Israel Factor


Laura Knight-Jadczyk

Being subscribed to dozens of email newsletters, I get lots of interesting news sent to me by compilers of news from various perspectives. The SOTT forum is also a rich source of global news and human doings of various sorts. It was thanks to the forum and forum member a.saccus, that I became aware of the World Union of Jewish Students Hasbara Handbook which you can read HERE. It has also been archived HERE.


Johnny got his gun

January 12, 2007
by William Blum

In the past year Iran has issued several warnings to the United States about the consequences of an American or Israeli attack. One statement, issued in November by a high Iranian military official, declared: "If America attacks Iran, its 200,000 troops and 33 bases in the region will be extremely vulnerable, and both American politicians and military commanders are aware of it."[1] Iran apparently believes that American leaders would be so deeply distressed by the prospect of their young men and women being endangered and possibly killed that they would forswear any reckless attacks on Iran. As if American leaders have been deeply stabbed by pain about throwing youthful American bodies into the bottomless snakepit called Iraq, or were restrained by fear of retaliation or by moral qualms while feeding 58,000 young lives to the Vietnam beast. As if American leaders, like all world leaders, have ever had such concerns.

Let's have a short look at some modern American history, which may be instructive in this regard. A report of the US Congress in 1994 informed us that:

Approximately 60,000 military personnel were used as human subjects in the 1940s to test two chemical agents, mustard gas and lewisite [blister gas]. Most of these subjects were not informed of the nature of the experiments and never received medical followup after their participation in the research. Additionally, some of these human subjects were threatened with imprisonment at Fort Leavenworth if they discussed these experiments with anyone, including their wives, parents, and family doctors. For decades, the Pentagon denied that the research had taken place, resulting in decades of suffering for many veterans who became ill after the secret testing.[2]

In the decades between the 1940s and 1990s, we find a remarkable variety of government programs, either formally, or in effect, using soldiers as guinea pigs -- marched to nuclear explosion sites, with pilots sent through the mushroom clouds; subjected to chemical and biological weapons experiments; radiation experiments; behavior modification experiments that washed their brains with LSD; widespread exposure to the highly toxic dioxin of Agent Orange in Korea and Vietnam ... the list goes on ... literally millions of experimental subjects, seldom given a choice or adequate information, often with disastrous effects to their physical and/or mental health, rarely with proper medical care or even monitoring.[3]

In the 1990s, many thousands of American soldiers came home from the Gulf War with unusual, debilitating ailments. Exposure to harmful chemical or biological agents was suspected, but the Pentagon denied that this had occurred. Years went by while the veterans suffered terribly: neurological problems, chronic fatigue, skin problems, scarred lungs, memory loss, muscle and joint pain, severe headaches, personality changes, passing out, and much more. Eventually, the Pentagon, inch by inch, was forced to move away from its denials and admit that, yes, chemical weapon depots had been bombed; then, yes, there probably were releases of deadly poisons; then, yes, American soldiers were indeed in the vicinity of these poisonous releases, 400 soldiers; then, it might have been 5,000; then, "a very large number", probably more than 15,000; then, finally, a precise number -- 20,867; then, "The Pentagon announced that a long-awaited computer model estimates that nearly 100,000 U.S. soldiers could have been exposed to trace amounts of sarin gas."[4]

If the Pentagon had been much more forthcoming from the outset about what it knew all along about these various substances and weapons, the soldiers might have had a proper diagnosis early on and received appropriate care sooner. The cost in terms of human suffering has been incalculable.

Soldiers have also been forced to take vaccines against anthrax and nerve gas not approved by the FDA as safe and effective; and punished, sometimes treated like criminals, if they refused. (During World War II, soldiers were forced to take a yellow fever vaccine, with the result that some 330,000 of them were infected with the hepatitis B virus.[5])

And through all the recent wars, countless American soldiers have been put in close proximity to the radioactive dust of exploded depleted uranium-tipped shells and missiles on the battlefield; depleted uranium has been associated with a long list of rare and terrible illnesses and birth defects. It poisons the air, the soil, the water, the lungs, the blood, and the genes. (The widespread dissemination of depleted uranium by American warfare -- from Serbia to Afghanistan to Iraq -- should be an international scandal and crisis, like AIDS, and would be in a world not so intimidated by the United States.)

The catalogue of Pentagon abuses of American soldiers goes on ... Troops serving in Iraq or their families have reported purchasing with their own funds bullet-proof vests, better armor for their vehicles, medical supplies, and global positioning devices, all for their own safety, which were not provided to them by the army ... Continuous complaints by servicewomen of sexual assault and rape at the hands of their male counterparts are routinely played down or ignored by the military brass ... Numerous injured and disabled vets from all wars have to engage in an ongoing struggle to get the medical care they were promised ... One should read "Army Acts to Curb Abuses of Injured Recruits" (New York Times, May 12, 2006) for accounts of the callous, bordering on sadistic, treatment of soldiers in bases in the United States ... Repeated tours of duty, which fracture family life and increase the chance not only of death or injury but of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).[6]

National Public Radio's "All Things Considered", on December 4 and other days, ran a series on· Army mistreatment of soldiers home from Iraq and suffering serious PTSD. At Colorado's Ft. Carson these afflicted soldiers are receiving a variety of abuse and punishment much more than the help they need, as officers harass and punish them for being emotionally "weak."

Keep the above in mind the next time you hear a president or a general speaking on Memorial Day about "honor" and "duty" and about how much we "owe to the brave young men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause of freedom and democracy."

And read "Johnny Got His Gun" by Dalton Trumbo for the ultimate abuse of soldiers by leaders of nations.

The conscience of our leaders
After he ordered the bombing of Panama in December 1989, which killed anywhere from 500 to a few thousand totally innocent people, guilty of no harm to any American, the first President George Bush declared that his "heart goes out to the families of those who have died in Panama".[7]

When asked by a reporter: "Was it really worth it to send people to their death for this? To get Noriega?", Bush replied: "Every human life is precious, and yet I have to answer, yes, it has been worth it."[8]

Speaking in November 1990 of his imminent invasion of Iraq, Bush, Sr. said: "People say to me: 'How many lives? How many lives can you expend?' Each one is precious."[9]

While his killing of thousands of Iraqis was proceeding merrily along in 2003, the second President George Bush was moved to say: "We believe in the value and dignity of every human life."[10]

In December 2006, the White House spokesman for Bush, Jr., commenting about American deaths reaching 3,000 in Iraq, said President Bush "believes that every life is precious and grieves for each one that is lost."[11]

Both father and son are on record expressing their deep concern for God and prayer both before and during their mass slaughters. "I trust God speaks through me," said Bush the younger in 2004. "Without that, I couldn't do my job."[12]

After his devastation of Iraq and its people, Bush the elder said: "I think that, like a lot of others who had positions of responsibility in sending someone else's kids to war, we realize that in prayer what mattered is how it might have seemed to God."[13]

God, one surmises, might have asked George Bush, father and son, about the kids of Iraq. And the adults. And, in a testy, rather ungodlike manner, might have snapped: "So stop wasting all the precious lives already!"

In the now-famous exchange on TV in 1996 between Madeleine Albright and reporter Lesley Stahl, the latter was speaking of US sanctions against Iraq, and asked the then-US ambassador to the UN, and Secretary of State-to-be: "We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And -- and you know, is the price worth it?" Replied Albright: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price -- we think the price is worth it."[14]

Ten years later, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, continuing the fine tradition of female Secretaries of State and the equally noble heritage of the Bush family, declared that the current horror in Iraq is "worth the investment" in American lives and dollars.[15]

And don't forget that we can't pull out of Iraq now because it would dishonor the troops who haven't died yet.

The American media as the Berlin Wall
In December 1975, while East Timor, which lies at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago, was undergoing a process of decolonization from Portugal, a struggle for power took place. A movement of the left, Fretilin, prevailed and then declared East Timor's independence from Portugal. Nine days later, Indonesia invaded East Timor. The invasion was launched the day after US President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had left Indonesia after giving President Suharto permission to use American arms, which, under US law, could not be used for aggression. But Indonesia was Washington's most valuable ally in Southeast Asia and, in any event, the United States was not inclined to look kindly on any government of the left.

Indonesia soon achieved complete control over East Timor, with the help of the American arms and other military aid, as well as diplomatic support at the UN. Amnesty International estimated that by 1989, Indonesian troops had killed 200,000 people out of a population of between 600,000 and 700,000, a death rate which is probably one of the highest in the entire history of wars.[16]

Is it not remarkable that in the numerous articles in the American daily press following President Ford's death last month, there was not a single mention of his role in the East Timor massacre? A search of the extensive Lexis-Nexis and other media databases finds mention of this only in a few letters to the editor from readers; not a word even in the reports of any of the news agencies, like the Associated Press, which generally shy away from controversy less than the newspapers they serve; nor a single mention in the mainstream broadcast news programs.

Imagine if following the recent death of Augusto Pinochet the media made no mention of his overthrow of the Allende government in Chile, or the mass murder and torture which followed. Ironically, the recent articles about Ford also failed to mention his remark a year after Pinochet's coup. President Ford declared that what the United States had done in Chile was "in the best interest of the people in Chile and certainly in our own best interest."[17]

During the Cold War, the American government and media never missed an opportunity to point out the news events embarrassing to the Soviet Union which became non-events in the communist media.

Man shall never fly
The Cold War is still with us. Because the ideological conflict that was the basis for it has not gone away. Because it can't go away. As long as capitalism exists, as long as it puts profit before people, as it must, as long as it puts profit before the environment, as it must, those on the receiving end of its sharp pointed stick must look for a better way.

Thus it is that when Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announced a few days ago that he plans to nationalize telephone and electric utility companies to accelerate his "socialist revolution", the spokesperson for Capitalism Central, White House press secretary Tony Snow, was quick to the attack: "Nationalization has a long and inglorious history of failure around the world," Snow declared. "We support the Venezuelan people and think this is an unhappy day for them."[18]

Snow presumably buys into the belief that capitalism defeated socialism in the Cold War. A victory for a superior idea. The boys of Capital chortle in their martinis about the death of socialism. The word has been banned from polite conversation. And they hope that no one will notice that every socialist experiment of any significance in the past century has either been corrupted, subverted, perverted, or destabilized ... or crushed, overthrown, bombed, or invaded ... or otherwise had life made impossible for it, by the United States. Not one socialist government or movement -- from the Russian Revolution to Cuba, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the FMLN in Salvador, from Communist China to Grenada, Chile and Vietnam -- not one was permitted to rise or fall solely on its own merits; not one was left secure enough to drop its guard against the all-powerful enemy abroad and freely and fully relax control at home. Even many plain old social democracies -- such as in Guatemala, Iran, British Guiana, Serbia and Haiti, which were not in love with capitalism and were looking for another path -- even these too were made to bite the dust by Uncle Sam.

It's as if the Wright brothers' first experiments with flying machines all failed because the automobile interests sabotaged each test flight. And then the good and god-fearing folk of America looked upon this, took notice of the consequences, nodded their collective heads wisely, and intoned solemnly: Man shall never fly.

Tony Snow would have us believe that the government is no match for the private sector in efficiently getting large and important things done. But is that really true? Let's clear our minds for a moment, push our upbringing to one side, and remember that the American government has landed men on the moon, created great dams, marvelous national parks, an interstate highway system, the peace corps, built up an incredible military machine (ignoring for the moment what it's used for), student loans, social security, Medicare, insurance for bank deposits, protection of pension funds against corporate misuse, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, the Smithsonian, the G.I. Bill, and much, much more. In short, the government has been quite good at doing what it wanted to do, or what labor and other movements have made it do, like establishing worker health and safety standards and requiring food manufacturers to list detailed information about ingredients.

When George W. took office one of his chief goals was to examine whether jobs done by federal employees could be performed more efficiently by private contractors. Bush called it his top management priority. By the end of 2005, 50,000 government jobs had been studied. And federal workers had won the job competitions more than 80 percent of the time.[19]

We have to remind the American people of what they've instinctively learned but tend to forget when faced with statements like that of Tony Snow -- that they don't want more government, or less government; they don't want big government, or small government; they want government on their side.

And by the way, Tony, the great majority of the population in the last years of the Soviet Union had a much better quality of life, including a longer life, under their "failed nationalized" economy, than they have had under unbridled capitalism.

None of the above, of course, will deter The World's Only Superpower from continuing its jihad to impose capitalist fundamentalism upon the world.

Unwelcome guests at the table of the respectable folk
Sen. Joseph Biden, Democrat from Delaware, the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has announced four weeks of hearings focused on every aspect of US policy in Iraq. He really wants to get to the bottom of things, find out how and why things went so wrong, who are the ones responsible, hold them accountable, and what can be done now. The committee will hear the testimony of top political, economic and intelligence experts, foreign diplomats, and former and current senior US officials, like Condoleezza Rice, Brent Scowcroft, Samuel Berger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright and George Shultz.[20] All the usual suspects.

But why not call upon some unusual suspects? Why do congressional committees and committees appointed by the White House typically not call experts who dissent from the official explanations? Why not hear from people who had the wisdom to protest the invasion of Iraq and condemn it in writing before it even began? People who called the war illegal and immoral, said we should never start it, and predicted much of the horrible outcome. Surely they may have some insights and analyses that will not be heard from the mouths of the usual suspects.

Likewise, why didn't the September 11 Committee, or any of the congressional committees dealing with the terrorist attack, call upon any of the numerous 9-11 experts who have done extensive research and who question various aspects of the official story?

Traditionally, of course, such committees have been formed to put a damper on dissident questioning of official stories, to ridicule them as "conspiracy theorists", not to give the dissidents a larger audience.

Speaking engagements
January 25 -- Flagstaff, AZ
March 9 -- Venice, CA
March 10 -- Irvine, CA
March 17 or 18 -- Columbus, OH

See for the details


[1] Fars News Agency, November 21, 2006

[2] Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, "Is Military Research Hazardous to Veterans' Health? Lessons Spanning Half a Century", December 8, 1994, p.5

[3] Ibid., passim

[4] Washington Post, October 2 and 23, 1996 and July 31, 1997 for the estimated numbers of affected soldiers.

[5] "Journal of the American Medical Association", September 1, 1999, p.822

[6] Washington Post, December 20, 2006, p.19

[7] New York Times, December 22, 1989, p.17

[8] New York Times, December 22, 1989, p.16

[9] Los Angeles Times, December 1, 1990, p.1

[10] Washington Post, May 28, 2003

[11] Washington Post, January 1, 2007, p.1

[12] Washington Post, July 20, 2004, p.15, statement attributed to President Bush in the Lancaster (Pa.) New Era newspaper from a private meeting with Amish families on July 9. The White House later said Bush said no such thing. Yes, we know how the Amish lie.

[13] Los Angeles Times, June 7, 1991, p.1

[14] CBS "60 Minutes", May 12, 1996

[15] Associated Press, December 22, 2006

[16] National Security Archive -- -- Search ; William Blum, Rogue State, p.188-9

[17] New York Times, September 17, 1974, p.22

[18] Washington Post, January 10, 2007, p.7

[19] Washington Post, March 23, 2006, p.21

[20] Washington Post, January 5, 2007

William Blum is the author of:
Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower
West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire
Portions of the books can be read, and copies purchased, at

America Cannot Win the War in Iraq

Thu, 01/11/2007 - 9:07pm

America Cannot Win the War in Iraq


On May 10th, 2003, less than two months after the first combat units rumbled across the Kuwaiti border into Iraq, President George W. Bush dawned a flight suite and delivered a speech from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. In this now infamous speech, later dubbed the 'Mission Accomplished' speech, the beaming Commander-in-Chief proclaimed a halt to major combat operations in Iraq. America and its peace meal coalition had succeeded in toppling the notorious Saddam regime. For the moment, the world breathed a sigh of relief, seemingly casting aside all pre-war doubts regarding flimsy intelligence and weak rationale for an invasion. Maybe preemptive war IS tolerable. After all, the world now had one less dictator to stomach.

Three and a half years after this speech, optimism has given way to pessimism. And for good reason. The situation in Iraq is deteriorating, maybe even spiraling out of control towards all out civil war. The insurgency movement in Iraq is growing, making nation building on the part of America and its allies ineffective. The U.S. military finds itself stretched excessively thin, with many members serving unprecedented two and three tours of duty in Iraq. Casualty counts, both civilian and military, are on the rise and expensive, but delicate, military hardware is grinding to a halt under the stress of combat in such a rugged environment. America has poured vast sums of its fortune into Iraq, hoping to kick-start a new nation. On the home front and throughout the world, support for the war is waning. Moreover, in Iraq itself, the very people America purports to have liberated from Saddam Hussein now clamor for liberation from what they believe is an occupation by meddling Westerners.

In the coming months, America will have to confront some difficult choices. With the results of the 2006 general election, it is clear that American voters have already voiced their opinion that efforts in Iraq are not working. It has become clear that America cannot win the war in Iraq and it is time for a change in course.

Historical Precedent

History may well be the best indicator when making predictions about the eventual outcome of the Iraq war. The United States historically has found exceptional difficulty in waging war against a foe which resorts to guerilla warfare and unconventional tactics, which is undeniably now the case in Iraq. No other conflict in American history illustrates this fact better than the 10 year “police action” in Vietnam, where American conventional forces were pitted against an earlier resourceful and determined guerilla force.

America lost the war in Vietnam but it was not because the pajama-clad communist guerilla forces American service members faced in the jungles and rice paddies of Southeast Asia held all the decisive advantages. As is true today in the Middle East, American combat troops of the 1960's and 1970's were better equipped, better trained, and enjoyed better support than the forces they opposed on the battlefield.

During the Vietnam years, America leveraged its super power status, pouring vast portions of its ground forces, air assets, and naval might into the struggle, while the communists relied on a resilient ground force equipped with little more than a Chinese AK-47 Assault Rifle, a knowledge of their own territory, some determination, the will to win, and time-tested guerilla warfare tactics. Where Iraq is concerned, this recipe has not changed. The AK-47 carrying guerilla fighter in Iraq willingly trades archaic mortars and crude explosives and booby traps for a lack of air superiority, high troop mobility, and multi-million dollar machines of war in the hopes that history will repeat, and a global super power will be defeated.

There are several other similarities when comparing the two struggles, notably on the home front. Both conflicts have generated civil strife, amassed protests, and seen waning public support as the war progressed. Political backlash, both domestic and international, are commonalities. Finally, as the body counts rise, so does the media's scrutiny.

On April 30, 1975, the South Vietnam capitol of Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese, ending a decade long struggle which claimed the lives of over 2 million Vietnamese and over 58 thousand Americans. In the end, a simple David, armed only with primitive tools of war, slew a modern day Goliath - a hulking beast built for war. If history is an indicator, Goliath is poised to fall once again.

Military Limitations

Militarily speaking, the United States has consistently won all the key battles in Iraq but one has to wonder if we are not losing the war in the meantime. Many indicators point to a grand defeat. Most notably, the Pentagon appears to be struggling, both in terms of manpower and in financing the war.

National level decision makers, hoping to avoid the backlash that accompanied the Vietnam era draft, have forgone the use of conscripts, relying instead on the nation's relatively small volunteer force. The “grunts” of the Army and Marine Corps have been been forced to endure most of the workload in Iraq, resulting in a seemingly never-ending rotation in and out of battle. Many of these troops return home physically maimed and psychologically effected for the rest of their lives after just one deployment. The odds increase with multiple deployments, and the troops know it.

The limited number of units military tacticians have available for rotation has also resulted in a heavy reliance on part-time Reserve and National Guard personnel, with many of them being called to serve up to two years at a time. This level of demand has led to sagging troop retention and poor recruitment, forcing the Pentagon to offer costly enlistment and reenlistment bonuses, further indebting the taxpayer already footing the bill for the war in Iraq to the tune of over 350 billion dollars thus far.

In spite of all the stubborn “stay the course” rhetoric coming from an Administration mired in stalemate, certain policies seem to be free to tinker with. In order to swell the ranks, higher educational standards and character requirements have been relaxed at recruiting stations throughout the country. In essence, the high standards of quality in our volunteer military are being compromised for the sake of quantity in hopes of ensuring a steady line of clean boots for the front. The long-term negative effects of this knee-jerk reaction will not be felt for years, but rest assured; America will have to rebuild a diluted military one day.

In another feeble attempt at plugging the holes, thousands of service members are subjected to a mandatory stop-loss program, keeping them in uniform far beyond their enlistment contract. Many view this as a “back door draft” which hurts morale, forcing many to vote with their feet once the stop-loss order is lifted. Ironically, several Congress members have begun calling for a draft in recent months, hoping this tool of last resort will somehow prevent a complete depletion of the volunteer force.

The signs of desperation in our war machine are easy to detect. The brass in the Pentagon has been busy trying to ensure a victory in Iraq with limited options. The quick fixes and temporary bandages will hurt America's military branches in the end while simultaneously draining the nation's coffers. Perhaps preservation of individual careers and the influence of the politics of war are more powerful forces than the realities of war, especially for civilian and high-ranking chess players in the Pentagon who carry on their days without fear of being killed by a roadside bomb. Whatever the case, the course the Pentagon is on now will only result in prolonging the inevitable - that America cannot win militarily, in Iraq.

Qualified Opinions

One does not have to look very hard to find qualified personalities who concede that a victory in Iraq is untenable. Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State under President Richard Nixon, recently stated during a televised interview that a military win in Iraq is impossible (Panja, 2006):

"If you mean by 'military victory' an Iraqi government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don't believe that is possible," he told the British Broadcasting Corp.

It should be noted that Kissinger's tenure as Secretary of State spanned the last two years of the Vietnam Conflict, which raged from 1965 to 1975. Given his historical perspective, the point can be argued that perhaps no other living human being is more qualified to draw the conclusion that an American military solution in Iraq will not succeed.

Former foreign relations gurus are not the only ones sounding alarm bells. The current UN envoy to Iraq, Special Representative Ashraf Qazi, fears all-out civil war (Herald Sun, 2006). Citing the devastation caused by recent tandem car bombings in the Baghdad burrow of Sadr City which killed approximately 200 Iraqi civilians, he warns, “Iraq would continue to descend into a civil war situation and people would become the victims of an unprecedented human rights catastrophe.”

None of these warnings have been wasted on our service members. In fact, history will likely show that some of the first rumblings regarding America's dire consequences in Iraq have originated from those experiencing it first-hand. While deployed to Iraq in 2004, one “old and seasoned Non-Commissioned Officer with nearly 20 years under [his] belt” (Lorents, 2004) offered his belief in an essay that America's preference for politics and wholesale refusal to accept the reality of the guerrilla war in Iraq runs parallel with Vietnam, and will ultimately cost us another victory.


As of Sunday, November 26, 2006, America's military involvement in the small Middle East country of Iraq has carried on longer than the U.S. engagement in World War II (Forbes, 2006), a war that spanned the entire globe. The only other war that America lost lasting longer than our WWII involvement was Vietnam -a localized guerilla war, just like Iraq. If history is an indicator, America cannot win in Iraq.

Vic Blazier, Iraq War Veteran and Proud IVAW Member
"Bullies kick butt. A leader can take a whooping every now and then."



U.S. needs help of Syria and Iran, analysts in Middle East say

Iraq neighbors' assistance would carry a high price
- Robert Collier, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, January 12, 2007

By accusing Iran and Syria of supporting Iraq's terrorists and insurgents Wednesday night, President Bush inadvertently highlighted a key stumbling block to peace -- the difficulty of reconciling the rival Sunnis and Shiites without also sitting down face-to-face with the Tehran and Damascus governments.

In his speech, Bush signaled a newly confrontational stance against Iran, accusing it of funneling arms to Iraqi militias and announcing that an aircraft carrier group was being sent to the Persian Gulf.

But in telephone interviews with The Chronicle, analysts in Baghdad, Tehran and Damascus said Bush is playing a losing hand. Because the United States has been unable to bludgeon Iraq's Sunni-led insurgency or Shiite militias into obedience, they said, it must seek the cooperation of the Iranian and Syrian governments.

"Iran could be able to bring the militias into line, but it would require a high price from the United States," said Wamidh Nadhmi, a political science professor at Baghdad University who is a leader of the National Foundation Conference of Resistance to the Occupation, a coalition of Sunni, Shiite and secular groups.

Marwan al-Kabalan, a professor in media and international relations at Damascus University, said that Syria "hopes that the United States will eventually agree to some sort of a quid-pro-quo deal ... to make sure that no enemy (of Syria) controls next-door Lebanon."

Meeting any part of the Iranian or Syrian wish lists would be an embarrassing turnaround for Bush. His administration imposed new financial sanctions on Iran this week because of its uranium-enrichment program, and U.S. officials have accused Syria of attempting to engineer a Hezbollah-led overthrow of the Lebanese government.

Chief among Syria's list of demands, said Sami Moubayed, a professor of international relations at al-Kalamoun University in Damascus, are an end to U.S. sanctions against Syria and pressure on Israel to return the Golan Heights.

Iran has its own range of demands, said Nasser Hadian, a political scientist at Tehran University. He cited the nuclear dispute, U.S. complaints of Iranian aid to Hezbollah and Hamas, and Iran's desire for a guarantee that it will not be attacked militarily by the United States or Israel.

Two authoritative reports last month on Bush's choices in Iraq advocated extending olive branches to Iran and Syria. The bipartisan Iraq Study Group recommended that the U.S. government seek assistance from both countries, although the group's report said those contacts should not address the disputes over Iran's nuclear program or Syria's role in Lebanon.

A blunter recommendation came from the International Crisis Group, an influential Brussels-based think tank that is funded mainly by Western governments, including the United States.

"Polite engagement of Iraq's neighbors will not do," the group said in a report issued Dec. 19. "For as long as the Bush administration's paradigm remains fixated around regime change, forcibly remodeling the Middle East, or waging a strategic struggle against an alleged axis composed of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas, neither Damascus nor Tehran will be willing to offer genuine assistance."

Instead, the report said, Washington should offer concessions to gain Iran's and Syria's cooperation in getting Iraq's opposing sides to compromise on issues such as de-Baathification, prisoner amnesty and suppression of Sunni terrorists and Shiite death squads.

Iran has a significant level of control over the Badr Corps and some influence with the Mahdi Army, the two leading Shiite militias, while Syria has tribal links to some of the Sunni insurgent groups, the report said.

Persuading Tehran and Damascus to use this leverage to press for concessions would require U.S. attention to some, but not all, of their demands, analysts say.

As a first step, the Iranian government probably would want the U.S. president to demonstrate goodwill by lifting sanctions on Iranian banks and businesses, Hadian said.

"Iran would have to be sure that this isn't just a tactical move by the United States to get out of its problem in Iraq so that it can then go ahead and attack Iran," he said.

Siamak Namazi, managing director of Atieh Bahar Consulting, a Tehran firm that advises foreign investors, said that Iran has a vested interest in promoting peace in Iraq. "Chaos in Iraq will have dire consequences for us -- refugees, border insecurities, regional power maneuvering, potential rise of separatist issues, etc.," he said.

In Iraq, neither the Sunni insurgents nor the Shiite militias appear eager for their foreign patrons to start twisting arms.

In an interview with a Chronicle correspondent in Iraq, a former division general of the Republican Guard, Saddam Hussein's most elite military corps, dismissed the widespread assumption that Syria's tribal links to the Sunni-led insurgents would give it leverage.

"We still remember how Syria sided with Iran during the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s, when they closed the Iraqi oil pipeline passing through its territory and provided Iran with ground-to-ground missiles to attack Baghdad," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Mudhafar al-Amin, who was Iraq's ambassador to Britain from 1999 until the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, said the insurgents also would reject any involvement by Iran. "Iraq's basic problem is Iran, so how could it be a solution?" he said. "Iran has been trying to expand its influence in Iraq for centuries, and they still are doing so."

Many Iraqi Shiites are equally resistant to the possibility of pressure from next door.

"Iraqis are patriotic, and we don't like to be pressured," said Jawad al-Khalisi, a Shiite ayatollah in Baghdad who has tried to reconcile Shiite and Sunni radicals under a nationalist banner advocating U.S. troop withdrawal.

"Yes, Iran and Syria, and especially the United States, have influence, although we wish it weren't so. They can do everything, anything."

A Chronicle correspondent in Iraq, who requested anonymity for security reasons, contributed to this report. E-mail Robert Collier at

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Hebron settler filmed attacking Arab

By Nir Hasson

The Hebron police opened an investigation yesterday of local Jewish Quarter resident Yifat Alkobi, who was documented on video cursing and attacking the Abu-Aisha family in the city.

Alkobi is well known to Hebron police for her alleged attack of a 10-year-old Palestinian child in March 2005, for which she is to go on trial February 1. The boy, Yusuf Aza, told investigators from the human rights organization Yesh Din that he was walking on the path between his home and Alkobi's with two friends, when she began pelting him with stones. Aza added that Alkobi "grabbed me by the shirt and pushed me up against the wall. A soldier tried to help, but she pushed him away, and he fell down. She held me with one hand and with the other pushed a rock into my mouth and forced my mouth closed. I felt my teeth breaking." Aza said the soldier got up and called for help on his radio.

Yesh Din has protested that, nearly two years after the attack, Alkobi is not under arrest.

The spokesperson for the Hebron settlers, Orit Struk, responded that the latest incident and others should be seen as "part of the whole picture and the harassment of Jews by Arabs in the city."
Videotaped Hebron settler violence just the tip of the iceberg
Press Release, B'Tselem, 11 January 2007

The Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem calls on Israeli authorities not to make the settler, Yifat Alkoby a scapegoat for law enforcement failures in the West Bank. Alkoby was summoned for questioning following the extensive airing of a B'Tselem video in which she is seen assaulting and swearing at women and girls from the Abu-'Ayesha family, in Tel Rumeida, Hebron. The incident, as grave as it is, is only the tip of the iceberg of the daily violence committed by Hebron settlers, against their Palestinian neighbors, under the protection of the army.

The attacks in Hebron are carried out in full view of Israeli soldiers, who are unable or unwilling to stop them. The Hebron police, who have received hundreds of complaints about settler violence, are also well aware of the situation. The fact that the Defense Minister and the security establishment feign ignorance and mobilize to respond to the problem only following the public controversy generated by this video is outrageous.

The widespread settler violence in Hebron is not the result of a specific failure of one kind or another, but is the consequence of a consistent and longstanding Israeli policy to ignore harm to Palestinians, which is aimed at encouraging them to abandon parts of the city.

Related Links
  • B'Tselem - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories
  • BY TOPIC: Settlements and Settlers
  • NGOs to sue US over WMD claims

    SOME 30 non-governmental organisations in Niger said overnight they are going to sue the United States for nearly two billion dollars for "unfairly accusing" Niger of selling uranium to the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

    "Our lawyers are about to file a lawsuit against the US calling for damages of about 1000 billion CFA francs ($2.42 billion dollars) for the harm suffered" by the country, Moustapha Kadi, president of the Collective of organisations in Niger defending the right to energy (CODDAE).

    The lawsuit by the collective will be filed at either French or Belgian courts, Kadi added.

    In January 2003, US President George W. Bush accused Saddam of having bought uranium from Niger to make weapons of mass destruction.

    The Niger collective said in a statement that investigations by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), world media and US officials, all concluded that it was a "false accusation" against Niger.

    That false information was used by Bush "to invade Iraq," said the collective's statement, which also called for support from Niger's President Mamadou Tandja, who back in 2003 said the US allegations were "harming Niger's image".

    Niger is the world's third-largest producer of uranium with about nine percent of the global market, according to 2003 figures.

    The country's two uranium deposits have been mined for 40 years by the French group Areva, number one in civil nuclear energy.

    The Other Losing War: ORLANDO PATTERSON - The Drug War

    Published: January 13, 2007

    America’s unwillingness to recognize the socioeconomic context of the drug crisis at home and abroad is as incomprehensible as the quagmire in Iraq.

    Kingston, Jamaica

    Preoccupation with Iraq has drawn attention from another unwinnable American war that has been far more destructive of life both at home and abroad and has caused far greater collateral damage in other countries, in addition to spreading contempt for American foreign engagements. This is the failed war on drugs.

    It was Nixon who, in 1971, first declared war on drugs. As with Iraq, the strategy is flawed in its conception and execution, made worse by a refusal to change course in the face of failure. It strongly emphasizes eradicating the source of drugs, interdiction of traffic and draconian punishment for offenders. It neglects what nearly every expert believes — and European experience has shown — to be the only successful strategy: a demand-side emphasis on preventive programs and rehabilitation of addicts. The present administration's claims of a shift to preventive measures is belied by the budget of its drug control office, which allocates a 94 percent share to disrupting the supply, mainly through environmentally hazardous spraying in Latin America and the Caribbean that alienates local farmers. .....


    Another Failed War Needs Withdrawal

    Military Expands Domestic Surveillance

    January 14, 2007

    WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 — The Pentagon has been using a little-known power to obtain banking and credit records of hundreds of Americans and others suspected of terrorism or espionage inside the United States, part of an aggressive expansion by the military into domestic intelligence gathering.

    The C.I.A. has also been issuing what are known as national security letters to gain access to financial records from American companies, though it has done so only rarely, intelligence officials say.

    Banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions receiving the letters usually have turned over documents voluntarily, allowing investigators to examine the financial assets and transactions of American military personnel and civilians, officials say.

    The F.B.I., the lead agency on domestic counterterrorism and espionage, has issued thousands of national security letters since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, provoking criticism and court challenges from civil liberties advocates who see them as unjustified intrusions into Americans’ private lives.



    For the House GOP, it’s important to punish those who are right

    January 13, 2007
    Posted 12:21 pm

    I disagree with him on almost every political issue I can think of, but Rep. Walter Jones Jr. (R-N.C.) seems to have learned a great deal over the last few years, particularly when it comes to the war in Iraq.

    Jones, you may recall, came up with the idea of changing the name of “french fries” to “freedom fries” in the House dining hall in 2003. Asked why the move was necessary, Jones said, “This isn’t a political or publicity stunt…. It’s a gesture just to say to the French, ‘Up yours!’” Classy.

    That was then. By May 2003, Jones was publicly criticizing the war, saying we invaded Iraq “with no justification.” He lined the hallway outside his office with “the faces of the fallen” and ultimately suggested that lawmakers may have been “given misinformation intentionally by people in this administration.” Now, Jones is as active an opponent of the president’s policy in Iraq as any Democrat on the Hill.

    And he’s paying a price for being right.

    House Armed Services ranking member Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., has disciplined one of his party’s most vocal anti-war members by denying him a minority leadership position on the powerful defense committee.

    Hunter, a loyal supporter of President Bush and an outspoken hawk on the Iraq war, recently told Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., that he would be passed over for the Readiness Subcommittee ranking member slot because of his stance on the war, Jones said in an interview Thursday. […]

    “We have to pay a price, from time to time,” Jones said of Hunter’s decision.

    Jones was one of seven House Republicans to send Bush a letter this week, urging him not to escalate the U.S. presence in Iraq. “This goes all the way back to four years ago, when the president told us we had to go to war over weapons of mass destruction,” Jones said. “I don’t think the president is listening.”

    And neither, apparently, are House GOP leaders.

    To his credit, Jones has no regrets.

    In 2005, Jones teamed up with Democratic Reps. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii to sponsor the first resolution calling on the administration to set a date for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by October 2006.

    “Clearly we are giving Iraqis every reasonable chance for a democracy, but at some time in the near future, the ultimate fate of Iraq will, and should, rest in the hands of the Iraqis,” Jones said at the time, advancing an argument now being made by virtually all mainstream Democrats in Congress.

    Last year, Jones was one of five GOP lawmakers to vote “present” for a GOP resolution calling for victory in the war on terror and reaffirming the U.S. commitment to prevailing in Iraq.

    Jones said he will not be discouraged from opposing the war.

    I wish I could say that I’m surprised Jones is being punished for being right about the war, but House Republicans are still House Republicans.

    For what it’s worth, House Armed Services Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee Chairman Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), a strong advocate of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, said Jones’ treatment was “rotten,” and that he would “welcome” Jones into the Democratic caucus if the conservative lawmaker wanted to switch parties.


    Occupied Territories: US Secretary of State preparing to recognize Apartheid Wall

    Year: 2007

    Tel Aviv, 11 January - As the Israeli daily Maariv informs, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is preparing to tour the Middle East with the intention to initiate a resumption of peace negotiations over the final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    According to Rice's plans, which had been discussed yesterday between the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah II, what is to be called a Palestinian State would established within interim borders based on the actual route of the Apartheid Wall built by Israel.

    Totally ignoring the internationally recognized Green Line, the Apartheid Wall reaches far into the Occupied Palestinian Territories cutting them into chunks and taking large swaths of territory on which the huge Jewish settlements have been erected, as well as the entire city of Jerusalem with its surrounding hinterland.

    Pentagon Remark on Detainees Stuns Legal Experts

    Legal Affairs

    Listen to this story...Here


    Weekend Edition Saturday, January 13, 2007 · A deputy assistant secretary of defense says corporate leaders should pressure law firms to stop representing Guantanamo detainees. The Pentagon says the views do not reflect policy, but legal experts are aghast.

    'Doomsday Clock' to move closer to Armageddon

    I covered this story yesterday, but found this particular headline provocative. Keep in mind that the Armageddonists have moved from the fringe of the Republican Party to it's core.
    'Doomsday Clock' to move closer to Armageddon
    Jeff Sharlet's essay, Through a Glass, Darkly in Harper's Magazine December 2006 on how the Christian right is reimagining U.S. history examines their power in U.S. politics.

    His previous essay for Harper's appears here:

    Soldiers of Christ, November 2, 2006. Originally from May 2005.

    The Armageddonist influence on the Bush Administration is extraordinary.

    Duplicity of the UN Security Council


    By Ardeshir Ommani

    In light of the imposition of new sanctions brought by the United Nations Security Council against Iran, and in the face of a massive U.S.-led military build-up in the Persian Gulf, American-Iranian Friendship Committee (AIFC) calls on all peace loving and justice-seeking people to defend Iran’s sovereignty, to demand U.S. withdrawal of its naval forces from the Persian Gulf, and call for the annulment of U.N. Resolution 1737 against the Iranian people.

    Under the ongoing pressure and probable offer of economic incentives from the United States and Britain, the United Nations Security Council on December 23, 2006 approved Resolution 1737 that:

    • Requires Iran to suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities and to stop work on the construction of a heavy-water research reactor at Arak.
    • Prohibits all member states from supplying Iran with items including dual-use equipment and prohibits Iran from exporting any related equipment or technology to other countries.
    • Requires all states to avoid providing Iran with technical assistance, training or financial services that could contribute to a nuclear program advancement.
    • Requires all states to freeze the assets of a specified list of individuals and entities identified as having a key role in Iran’s nuclear program, and requires all states to notify the sanctions committee of travel by those individuals outside of Iran.
    • Requires the suspension of Iran’s uranium enrichment as a necessary pre-condition for the resumption of Iran-European Union (EU3) negotiation.

    As if all those restrictions were not enough, the U.S. plans for strangulation of Iran go far beyond the formal decisions of the UN Security Council. Immediately after the Council’s votes, U.S. Secretary of State for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns impatiently said, “We’re certainly not going to put all our eggs in the UN basket…We’d like to see countries stop doing business as usual with Iran…We would like countries to stop selling arms to Iran. We would like countries to try to limit export credits to Iran.” On a self-congratulatory note, he boasted that the U.S. already has in place “full-scope sanctions on Iran in every conceivable area” since the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

    Finally, Mr. Burns showed his hand and clearly stated that the United States’ differences with Iran go far beyond its nuclear issue. “Our beef with the Iranians is threefold,” he said. First is their effort to attain a nuclear capability, second is their support for the Palestinian and Lebanese movements and their interference in Iraq, and third is the system of their governance domestically, according to Mr. Burns. The question is whether there is anything in Iran that the U.S. government does not oppose?

    We believe the answer is in the negative. Not so long ago the U.S. government called for “regime change” in Iran and towards that objective the Congress approved more than a $100 million budget to finance covert and overt activities to provoke insecurity and undermine the country’s economic, social and political stability.

    It is indisputable that in each and every major nuclear issue confronting the United Nations nuclear non-proliferation regime, the United States and Britain have tried to replace the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with the Security Council in which they can secure a majority vote. In cases of geopolitical discord, as in Iraq, they by-pass the UN and begin a pre-emptive war without the consent of the international community that they are so fond of reciting.

    In AIFC, it is our sincere belief that Iran for reasons other than its nuclear energy program, as was acknowledged by R. Nicholas Burns, has been singled out and charged unfairly with violations of the UN nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In essence, UN Resolution 1737 is a flagrant violation of the Treaty (NPT) that Iran has been a signatory to and member of since 1970 and has fulfilled its commitments to the Treaty and has dutifully complied with the NPT governing rules and IAEA regulations. In this connection, for the purpose of confidence-building and eradication of any misconception of the West with regard to Iranian “intentions”, the government of Iran voluntarily suspended its nuclear enrichment and processing operations for a period as along as 15 months while holding marathon negotiations with EU3, Britain, France, and Germany for close to three years. After all the good will shown by Iran and months of dialogue, the EU3 not only did not provide a resolution that would entrust Iran to produce its own nuclear fuel (in accord with the provisions of the NPT), but behind the scenes collaborated with the United States and accused Iran of the “intention” of building nuclear weapons. All the while, this was the objective being pursued by the big powers.

    1. Whereas Iran has remained a stable and committed member of the NPT for 37 years, it expects to enjoy its legitimate and inalienable rights to research and development of a nuclear industry for peaceful use, as it is stipulated in Article Four of the Treaty.

    2. The UN nuclear energy agency (IAEA) has consistently declared that Iran has made no diversion of nuclear materials and equipment for purposes other than the use for civilian nuclear energy. According to veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, in its recent intelligence work, “The CIA found no conclusive evidence, as yet, of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program running parallel to the civilian operation that Iran has declared to the IAEA.”

    3. To portray Iran as a threat to peace in the Middle East or in the continents of Europe and America is to spread a sheer fallacy, because contrary to the war-like history of the U.S., U.K., Germany, Japan, France, Russia and Italy, the country of Iran has not initiated a single war against any nation on earth in the last 250 years. This cannot be claimed by any member of the list mentioned above. To insist on depicting Iran as a member of the “axis of evil” and as a menace to peace and tranquility in the Middle East is to be in a deep denial as to the true causes of the immense fatalities and destruction in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine.

    4. The U.S. anti-Iran foreign policy has its deep roots not in Iran’s future plans for proliferation of military nuclear technology, but in the U.S.’s insatiable thirst for controlling Iran’s present and tangible flow of gas and oil. By extension, it is the U.S. and EU’s crave for absolute control over Iraq’s oil reserves that like pots of honey has attracted tens if not hundreds of thousands of Western troops and armaments to the region and absolutely not for the non-existent presence of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD’S) or the presence of armies of terrorists ready to invade Europe and America. It is not surprising to see that the three members of the Security Council plus Germany are precisely from the same countries whose troops are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    5. Another, but similar, source of the U.S.-Britain anti-Iran policy is the strong opposition of the Iranian government to the presence of the so-called “coalition of the willing” in the region. This could be considered the missing link between the Iraq war and the U.S. anti-Iran foreign policy. It is not hard to see that the U.S.-British cry about the Iranian “danger” and its alleged interference in the internal affairs of Iraq is one more cover for their plan of remaining in the war-torn countries with the self-deceiving and wishful thinking of establishing their uncontestable domination over gas and oil reserves.

    6. It is worthy to know that no government in the Middle East, with the exception of Israel, considers Iran’s civilian nuclear energy program a threat to their national security. It must be added that the only country in the Middle East that is armed with more than 200 nuclear bombs, as acknowledged recently by its Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, is the Zionist entity, the very same country that has been at war with all its neighbors for the entirety of its short life span.

    7. Iran has consistently placed its entire nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards; furthermore, it adopted and fully implemented the Additional Protocol for over 2 years and announced its readiness for extension of its implementation.

    8. Iran permitted over 2000 person days of IAEA inspections of all its relevant and even unrelated facilities.

    9. The question is how come the IAEA has made no demand to receive an entry permit to visit Israel’s nuclear stockpiles and the UNSC has issued no resolution of sanctions against it? Apparently, the UN rules and regulations only apply to certain countries while overlooking the ones which have the backing of the big powers.

    10. Therefore, it is not an overstatement to say that the U.S. and the U.K. are a serious threat to peace, security and progress in Iran and the entire region of the Middle East. The menacing presence of the U.S.S. Enterprise, which includes all the warships that compose Carrier Strike Group 12 (CGS12) Destroyer Squadron 2 and Carrier Air Wing1 (CVW1) in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea, is a clear sign of U.S. plans of intimidation and hostility.

    The American-Iranian Friendship Committee (AIFC) calls on the anti-war movement, especially progressives, to mobilize in full force against all U.S. provocations – sanctions, arrests of Iranian diplomats in Iraq and all forms of coercion on Iranians living in the United States. At the same time, we call on all Iranian patriotic individuals and organizations to join the anti-war movement, become active and contribute to the forces in opposition to the U.S. invasion, occupation and destruction of the peoples and environment of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East. Today, do what you would be proud of explaining to your children and grand-children when they ask you “What did you do when the United States attacked Iran and the neighboring countries?” Contact us at

    Author’s Bio: Ardeshir Ommani is a writer and an activist in the anti-war and anti-imperialist struggle for many years, including against the Vietnam War. Ardeshir is a co-founder of the American-Iranian Friendship Committee (AIFC) , where news of his most recent visit to Iran in March & April 2006 can be read. He helped launch the successful campaign. In the 1960's, he was a co-founder of the Iranian Students Association (ISA), which contributed to the struggle against the Shah of Iran, a U.S. puppet.

    His most recent article: “Addicted to War” can be viewed at: and

    Getting the Other Side To Fire the First Shot

    by William H. Peterson

    A Century of War: Lincoln, Wilson, Roosevelt.

    By John V. Denson
    Ludwig von Mises Institute, Auburn, AL

    War or peace? Article 1, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution is firm about Congress alone having the power to declare war. Yet Article 2, Section 2, says the President, along with his other duties, also serves as Commander in Chief of the armed forces. Could this knotty condition get a President, say Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson or Franklin Roosevelt, into maneuvering a real or imagined enemy, such as the Confederate South or World War I Germany or Modern Japan or Nazi Germany, into firing – if perhaps with the best of intentions – the first shot, and so forcing the hand of Congress?

    Our author answers – boldly, incisively – Yes. For this is the neat if politically incorrect thesis of Alabama Circuit Judge John Denson, a history buff, in this, his third well-documented work and one that could or should make waves in the current tension on our War on Iraq and War on Terrorism as well as on supposedly settled historical scenarios on just how the Civil War and U.S. entry into World Wars I and II, both already well underway, got started.

    At first the Civil War had little to do with the slavery question. In the North the big issue was Preserve The Union, which the South rejected. In the South, the main issue was States Rights, including the right to secede, which the North rejected. But at the time of the Mexican War (1846–1848), precipitated by U.S. annexation of Mexican-designated if secessionist Texas in 1845, then Congressman Abraham Lincoln hailed the right of secession in 1847, as cited by Judge Denson, in these ringing and profound, if later antithetical and embarrassing words:

    "Any people, anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right, a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world."

    The way by which President Lincoln got the South to fire the first shot on Fort Sumter on April 15, 1861, and launch the Civil War (which the South called "the War Between the States") was shrewd. What Lincoln did was to order a Union fleet to relieve and reinforce Fort Sumter in the middle in Charleston harbor and other nearby forts – but to do so by having a lead vessel merely supply food to hungry soldiers at Fort Sumter. The move worked. Confederate President Jefferson Davis, holding that the Union fleet invading Confederate waters amounted to a declaration of war, ordered the Charleston shore batteries to fire on Fort Sumter. Our author quotes historian Bruce Catton that thus Lincoln neatly got South Carolina standing "before the civilized world as having fired upon bread."

    Our author notes how President Woodrow Wilson, No. 2 in the Denson trilogy, ran on a strict neutrality plank in the 1916 Presidential campaign, as the Great War raged on. One Democratic Party motto was "He Kept Us Out of War." But Wilson was meanwhile playing footsie with the British, whose troops had gotten badly mauled on the Western Front. In fact, on October 17, 1915 Wilson wrote a secret letter to British Government leaders offering to bring America into the war on the side of the Allies so as to enable them to win decisively.

    Working all along on the insatiable ego of Wilson was his primary adviser, Colonel Edward House, who several times visited Britain in 1914 and 1915 to discuss possible U.S. entry into the war. Meanwhile, Svengali-like Colonel House privately told Wilson he would become the "Savior of the World," the new "Prince of Peace." By April 1917 the U.S. was in "The War to End Wars" and would "Make the World Safe for Democracy." Yeah, sure.

    But Wilson, the new if vain and outfoxed Savior of the World, didn't fare well in the Treaty of Versailles secret parleying. There Germany wound up saddled with the war guilt clause, which Hitler later exploited. And, moreover, the U.S. Senate rejected both the Versailles Treaty and the U.S. joining the League of Nations, "wisely" so adds Judge Denson.

    Not that a tired and discouraged President Wilson hadn't tried in a national tour to mobilize public opinion against such action, even to the point of foregoing his previous lofty sentiments on the nature of the war and discovering an altogether new enemy: foul international economics. Or as he put it in a speech in St. Louis on September 5, 1919:

    "Why, my fellow citizens, is there any man here, or any woman – let me say, is there any child here, who does not know that the seed of war in the modern world is industrial and commercial rivalry? .... This war, in its inception, was a commercial and industrial war. It was not a political war."

    Our author tracks similar moves by Franklin Roosevelt to maneuver the Germans to fire the first shot on Americans. One provocative act was the Lend-Lease Act of March 1941, which had the U.S. sending 50 destroyers to Britain to aid the British war effort and provoke the Germans. Another provocative act was the U.S. claim that its warship, the USS Greer, has been suddenly attacked off Iceland on September 4, 1941, by a torpedo-firing German sub while the Greer had been merely carrying U.S. mail to Iceland. But Admiral Harold Stark, chief of U.S. naval operations, soon admitted that the Greer had in fact first given three hours chase to the sub which then fired off torpedoes at the Greer. In any event, Hitler was not taking the bait; he was avoiding war with America.

    But Roosevelt had what one critic tagged a "back door to war": Japan, a key ally of Nazi Germany. The back-door worked (hush-hush, everybody), even if it did lead to Pearl Harbor. Judge Denson cites work by historian Robert Stinnett on how Roosevelt adopted the so-called McCollum Plan, dated October 7, 1940, step by step, eight agent provocateur steps in all:

    • Arranging with Britain for the use of British bases in the Pacific, particularly Singapore;
    • Sending two divisions of submarines to the Orient;
    • Sending one division of long-range heavy cruisers to the Orient, the Philippines, or Singapore;
    • Keeping the main strength of the U.S. Pacific fleet in the Hawaiian Islands;
    • Giving all possible aid to the Chinese Government of Chiang-Kai-Shek;
    • Arranging with the Dutch for the use of facilities and acquisition of supplies in the Dutch East Indies;
    • Insisting that the Dutch refuse to grant Japanese undue economic concessions, especially oil;
    • And completely embargoing U.S. trade with Japan, in collaboration with a similar embargo imposed by the British.

    Judge Denson claims that both Admiral Husband Kimmel and Lieutenant General Walter Short, the military commanders of U.S. forces in Hawaii, were denied much critical intelligence on Japanese military strategy and tactics, even though American cryptographers had broken the Japanese naval or military code by October 1940.

    Our author reports that former CIA Director William Casey in his book, The Secret War Against Hitler, said that even the British sent word to Washington "that a Japanese fleet was steaming east toward Hawaii." But somehow that word never got to Admiral Kimmel or General Short.

    War or peace. One recalls the campaign speech in Boston on October 30, 1940, when Candidate Franklin Roosevelt, up for a third presidential term, declared:

    "And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars."

    I suppose the saving word in the above statement is "foreign." Or is it?

    For have we forgotten the wisdom of President George Washington in his Farewell Message of September 17, 1796, in which he urged us to utilize and enjoy foreign commerce but added on the matter of foreign policy:

    "Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all ... 'Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances, with any portion of the foreign world ... There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation."


    January 11, 2007

    William Peterson [send him mail] is an adjunct scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and the 2005 Schlarbaum Laureate.

    Copyright © 1959 William H. Peterson

    Escaping the Trap: Why the United States Must Leave Iraq



    Ted Galen Carpenter
    Vice President, Defense and Foreign Policy Studies
    Cato Institute

    before the

    Senate Foreign Relations Committee

    Escaping the Trap: Why the United States Must Leave Iraq

    January 11, 2007

    Download a podcast of Ted Galen Carpenter's testimony

    Optimism about the U.S. mission in Iraq has faded dramatically in the past few months. The bipartisan Iraq Study group conceded that the situation in Iraq was "grave and deteriorating." The Pentagon’s report to Congress in November 2006 paints a similarly dismal picture, with attacks on U.S. troops, Iraqi security forces, and Iraqi civilians at record levels.

    Yet proponents of the war refuse to admit what is becoming increasingly obvious: Washington’s Iraq occupation and democratization mission is failing, and there is little realistic prospect that its fortunes will improve. Something much more dramatic than a modest course correction is needed.

    It is essential to ask the administration and its hawkish backers at what point they will admit that the costs of this venture have become unbearable. How much longer are they willing to have our troops stay in Iraq? Five years? Ten years? Twenty years? How many more tax dollars are they willing to pour into Iraq? Another $300 billion? $600 billion? $1 trillion? And most crucial of all, how many more American lives are they willing to sacrifice? Two thousand? Five thousand? Ten thousand?

    Proponents of the mission avoid addressing such unpleasant questions. Instead, they act as though victory in Iraq can be achieved merely through the exercise of will power.

    The Dire Security Situation in Iraq

    Whether or not one describes it as a civil war, the security situation in Iraq is extraordinarily violent and chaotic. Moreover, the nature of the violence in that country has shifted since the February 2006 bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, one of Shia Islam’s holiest sites. The Sunni-led insurgency against U.S. and British occupation forces and the security forces of the U.S.-sponsored Iraqi government is still a significant factor, but it is no longer the dominant one. The turmoil now centers around sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites. Baghdad is the epicenter of that strife, but it has erupted in other parts of the country as well. The Iraq Study Group noted that four of Iraq’s 18 provinces are "highly insecure." Those provinces account for about 40 percent of the country’s population.

    A November 2006 UN report highlights the extent of the growing bloodshed. The carnage is now running at approximately 120 victims each day. This is occurring in a country of barely 26 million people. A comparable pace in the United States would be a horrifying 1,400 deaths per day-or nearly 500,000 per year. If violence between feuding political or ethno-religious factions was consuming that many American lives, there would be little debate about whether the United States was experiencing a civil war.

    In addition to the casualties in Iraq, there are other human costs. The United Nations estimates that some 1.6 million people have been displaced inside Iraq (i.e., they are "internal refugees") as a result of the fighting. Another 1.8 million have fled the country entirely, mostly to Jordan and Syria. Moreover, the pace of the exodus is accelerating. Refugees are now leaving Iraq at the rate of nearly 3,000 a day. The bulk of those refugees are middle and upper class families. Indeed, there are affluent neighborhoods in Baghdad and other cities that now resemble ghost towns.

    The Complex Nature of the Violence

    The mounting chaos in Iraq is not simply a case of Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence, although that is the dominant theme. The Iraq Study Group notes the complexity of Iraq’s security turmoil. "In Kirkuk, the struggle is between Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen. In Basra and the south, the violence is largely an intra-Shia struggle." Implicitly rejecting the arguments of those who contend that the violence is primarily a Sunni-Shia conflict confined to Baghdad, the members of the commission point out that "most of Iraq’s cities have a sectarian mix and are plagued by persistent violence. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warns of that conflicts in the various regions could be "Shi’ite versus Shi’ite and Sunni versus Sunni."

    There is also mounting evidence that the majority of Iraqis no longer want U.S. troops in their country. The bottom line is that the United States is mired in a country that is already in the early stages of an exceedingly complex, multi-sided civil war, and where all significant factions save one (the Kurds) want American troops to leave. That is an untenable situation.

    Illusory Solution-Send More Troops

    Increasing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq by 20,000 or so is a futile attempt to salvage a mission that has gone terribly wrong. In all likelihood, it would merely increase the number of casualties-both American and Iraqi--over the short term while having little long-term impact on the security environment. Moreover, the magnitude of the proposed buildup falls far short of the numbers needed to give the occupation forces a realistic prospect of suppressing the violence. Experts on counterinsurgency strategies have consistently concluded that at least 10 soldiers per 1,000 population are required to have a sufficient impact. Indeed, some experts have argued that in cases where armed resistance is intense and pervasive (which certainly seems to apply to Iraq), deployments of 20 soldiers per thousand may be needed.

    Given Iraq’s population (26 million) such a mission would require the deployment of at least 260,000 ground forces (an increase of 115,000 from current levels) and probably as many as 520,000. Even the lower requirement will strain the U.S. Army and Marine Corps to the breaking point. Yet a lesser deployment would have no realistic chance to get the job done. A limited "surge" of additional troops is the latest illusory panacea offered by the people who brought us the Iraq quagmire in the first place. It is an idea that should be rejected.

    Consequences of Leaving

    Proponents of staying in Iraq offer several reasons why a prompt withdrawal would be bad for the United States. Those arguments vary in terms of plausibility. All of them, though, are ultimately deficient as a reason for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq.

    Allegation: Al-Qaeda Would Take Over Iraq

    Administration officials and other supporters of the war have warned repeatedly that a "premature" withdrawal of U.S. forces would enable Al-Qaeda to turn Iraq into a sanctuary to plot and launch attacks against the United States and other Western countries. But Al-Qaeda taking over Iraq is an extremely improbable scenario. The Iraq Study Group put the figure of foreign fighters at only 1,300, a relatively small component of the Sunni insurgency against U.S. forces. It strains credulity to imagine 1,300 fighters (and foreigners at that) taking over and controlling a country of 26 million people.

    The challenge for Al-Qaeda would be even more daunting than those raw numbers suggest. The organization does have some support among the Sunni Arabs in Iraq, but opinion even among that segment of the population is divided. A September 2006 poll conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland found that 94 percent of Sunnis had a somewhat or highly unfavorable attitude toward Al Qaeda. As the violence of Al Qaeda attacks has mounted, and the victims are increasingly Iraqis, not Americans, many Sunnis have turned against the terrorists. There have even been a growing number of reports during the past year of armed conflicts between Iraqi Sunnis and foreign fighters.

    The PIPA poll also showed that 98 percent of Shiite respondents and 100 percent of Kurdish respondents had somewhat or very unfavorable views of Al Qaeda. The notion that a Shiite-Kurdish-dominated government would tolerate Iraq becoming a safe haven for Al Qaeda is improbable on its face. And even if U.S. troops left Iraq, the successor government would continue to be dominated by the Kurds and Shiites, since they make up more than 80 percent of Iraq’s population and, in marked contrast to the situation under Saddam Hussein, they now control the military and police. That doesn’t suggest a reliable safe haven for Al Qaeda.

    Allegation: The Terrorists Would Be Emboldened Worldwide

    In urging the United States to persevere in Iraq, President Bush has warned that an early military withdrawal would encourage Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. Weak U.S. responses to challenges over the previous quarter century, especially in Lebanon and Somalia, had emboldened such people, Bush argues. Hawkish pundits have made similar allegations.

    It is a curious line of argument with ominous implications, for it assumes that the United States should have stayed in both countries, despite the military debacles there. The mistake, according to that logic, was not the original decision to intervene but the decision to limit American losses and terminate the missions. That is a classic case of learning the wrong lessons from history.

    Yes, Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups apparently concluded that the Lebanon and Somalia episodes showed that U.S. leaders and the American people have no stomach for enduring murky missions that entail significant casualties. They are likely to draw a similar lesson if the United States withdraws from Iraq without an irrefutable triumph. That is why it is so imperative to be cautious about a decision to intervene in the first place. Military missions should not be undertaken unless there are indisputably vital American security interests at stake.

    A decision to withdraw and leave Iraq to its own fate is not without adverse consequences. America’s terrorist adversaries will portray a pull-out as a defeat for U.S. policy. But the cost of staying on indefinitely in a dire security environment is even worse for our country. President Bush and his advisors need to consider the possibility that the United States might stay in Iraq for many years to come and still not achieve its policy goals. And the costs, both in blood and treasure, continue to mount.

    Allegation: The Conflict Will Spill Over Iraq’s Borders and Create Regional Chaos

    That concern does have some validity. The ingredients are in place for a regional Sunni-Shia "proxy war." Predominantly Shiite Iran has already taken a great interest in political and military developments in its western neighbor. Indeed, Washington has repeatedly accused Tehran of interfering in Iraq. There is little doubt that Iran wants to see a Shiite-controlled government in Baghdad and would react badly if it appeared that Iraq’s Sunni minority might be poised to regain power and once again subjugate the Shiite majority. The current Iraqi government is quite friendly to Iran, and Tehran can be expected to take steps to protect the new-found influence it enjoys in Baghdad.

    But Iraq’s other neighbors are apprehensive about the specter of a Shiite-controlled Iraq. Saudi Arabia, in particular, regards the prospect of such a state on its northern border as anathema, worrying about the impact on its own Shia minority-which is concentrated in the principal oil-producing region. There are indications that wealthy Saudis are already providing funds to Sunni forces in Iraq.

    A regional Sunni-Shiite proxy war in Iraq would turn the Bush administration’s policy there into even more of a debacle than it has already become. Even worse, Iraq’s neighbors could be drawn in as direct participants in the fighting. Washington should take steps to head off those dangers.

    Probably the best approach would be for the United States to convene a regional conference that included (at a minimum) Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, and Turkey. The purpose of such a conference should be to make all parties confront the danger of the Iraqi turmoil mushrooming into a regional armed struggle that ultimately would not be in the best interests of any country involved. Ideally, that realization might lead to a commitment by the neighboring states to refrain from-or at least bound the extent of--meddling in the escalating violence in Iraq.

    Ultimately, though, maintaining a U.S. military occupation of Iraq to forestall a possible regional proxy war is simply too high a price to pay, both in money spent and American lives sacrificed.

    Allegation: Leaving Iraq Would Betray a Moral Obligation to the Iraqi People.

    In addition to their other objections, opponents of withdrawal protest that we will leave Iraq in chaos, and that would be an immoral action on the part of the United States. Even some critics of the war have been susceptible to that argument, invoking the so-called Pottery Barn principle: "You broke it, you bought it."

    There are two major problems with that argument. First, unless some restrictions are put in place, the obligation is seemingly open-ended. There is little question that chaos might increase in Iraq after U.S. forces leave, but advocates of staying the course do not explain how the United States can prevent the contending factions in Iraq from fighting the civil war they already seem to have started. At least, no one has explained how the United States can restore the peace there at anything resembling a reasonable cost in American blood and treasure.

    Leaving aside the very real possibility that the job of building a stable democracy might never be done, the moral obligation thesis begs a fundamental question: What about the moral obligation of the U.S. government to its own soldiers and to the American people? There is clearly an obligation not to waste either American lives American tax dollars. We are doing both in Iraq. Staying the course is not a moral strategy; it is the epitome of an immoral one.

    The Consequences of Staying in Iraq

    Leaving Iraq is clearly not cost-free, but the costs (both tangible and intangible) of a prompt exit must be measured against the costs of staying the course. Moreover, even if the United States absorbs the costs of a prolonged mission, there is no certainty that anything resembling victory resides at the end of that effort. Indeed, most of the indicators suggest that we would be merely delaying defeat.

    Damage to America’s Standing in the World

    Even the September 2006 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq conceded that the U.S. occupation of Iraq had served as a focal point and inspiration for Muslim extremists. Equally worrisome, it had also served as a training arena for such militants to hone their military and terrorist skills. An Al Qaeda letter intercepted by the U.S. military indicates that the organization itself regards a continued U.S. military presence and, consequently, a long war in Iraq as a boon to its cause.

    A December 2006 Zogby poll of populations in five Arab nations reveals just how much anti-U.S. sentiment has increased throughout that region. Opinions of the United States, which were already rather negative, have grown significantly worse in the past year.

    Outside the Arab world, there also has been a hardening of attitudes toward the United States. Even among long-standing friends and allies (in such places as Europe and East Asia), the United States is viewed in a significantly more negative light. The longer we stay in Iraq, the worse those problems will become.

    Straining the All-Volunteer Military

    Even some hawks are concerned about the negative impact of the Iraq mission on the all- volunteer force (AVF). They should be concerned. In December 2006, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army’s chief of staff, bluntly told a House committee that the active-duty Army "will break" unless there was a permanent increase in force structure. And that is before any contemplated additional deployments to Iraq.

    The military leaders are not exaggerating. Already the Army has struggled to meet its recruiting goals, even though it has diluted the standards for new recruits, including by issuing waivers in cases where there is evidence of criminal behavior or mental illness. Indeed, the Iraq occupation has been sustained to this point only through extraordinary exertions, including an unprecedented number of "stop loss" orders, preventing military personnel from returning to civilian life when their terms of enlistment are up, and recalling members of the reserves-including some people in their 40s and 50s. The AVF is straining to the breaking point already, and the longer we stay in Iraq, the worse those strains will become.

    Costs in Blood and Treasure

    The tab for the Iraq mission is already more than $350 billion, and the meter is now running at approximately $8 billion a month. Furthermore, even those appalling figures do not take into account indirect costs, such as long-term care for wounded Iraq war veterans.

    Except when the survival of the nation is at stake, all military missions must be judged according to a cost-benefit calculation. Iraq has never come close to being a war for America’s survival. Even the connection of the Iraq mission to the larger war against radical Islamic terrorism was always tenuous, at best. For all of his odious qualities, Saddam Hussein was a secular tyrant, not an Islamic radical. Indeed, the radical Islamists expressed nearly as much hatred for Saddam as they did for the United States. Iraq was an elective war-a war of choice, and a bad choice at that.

    Deciding to Leave

    The United States needs to adopt a withdrawal strategy measured in months, not years. Indeed, the president should begin the process of removing American troops immediately, and that process needs to be complete in no more than six months. A longer schedule would simply prolong the agony. It would also afford various Iraq factions (especially the Kurds and some of the Shia political players) the opportunity to try to entice or manipulate the United States into delaying the withdrawal of its forces still further.

    Emotionally, deciding to leave under current conditions will not be easy, for it requires an implicit admission that Washington has failed in its ambitious goal to create a stable, united, democratic, secular Iraq that would be a model for peace throughout the Middle East. But that goal was unrealistic from the outset. It is difficult for any nation, and especially the American superpower, to admit failure. However, it is better to admit failure when the adverse consequences are relatively modest. A defeat in Iraq would assuredly be a setback for the United States, particularly in terms of global clout and credibility. But one of the advantages to being a superpower is that the country can absorb a setback without experiencing catastrophic damage to its core interests or capabilities. Defeat in Iraq does not even come close to threatening those interests or capabilities. Most important, a withdrawal now will be less painful than withdrawing years from now when the cost in blood, treasure, and credibility will prove far greater.

    The withdrawal needs to be comprehensive, not partial. The only troops remaining in Iraq should be a modest number of Special Forces personnel who would work with political factions in Iraq inclined to eradicate the Al Qaeda interlopers in their country. It must be clear to Iraqis and populations throughout the Muslim world that Washington has no intention of trying to maintain a military presence in Iraq.

    Above all, U.S. policymakers need to absorb the larger lesson of the Iraq debacle. Launching an elective war in pursuit of a nation-building chimera was an act of folly. It is a folly they should vow never to repeat in any other country.