Thursday, March 1, 2007
Wednesday, February 28
The television show 24 has become a foreign policy guide for the right wing. Numerous conservative pundits have cited 24 as a sanction for harsh interrogation practices. In September, Laura Ingraham stated, “The average American out there loves the show 24. … In my mind that’s close to a national referendum that it’s OK to use tough tactics against high-level Al Qaeda operatives as we’re going to get.”Vyan
Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan recently told the 24 producers that he was concerned that the show’s promotion of illegal torture “was having a damaging effect on young troops.” In a new interview with Newsweek, former U.S. Army specialist Tony Lagouranis, who left the military with an honorable discharge in 2005, confirms Finnegans fears — that U.S. soldiers did take cues from 24 to torture prisoners:
Interrogators didn’t have guidance from the military on what to do because we were told that the Geneva Conventions didn’t apply any more. So our training was obsolete, and we were encouraged to be creative. We turned to television and movies to look for ways of interrogating. I can say that I saw that with myself, also. I would adopt the posture of the television or movie interrogator, thinking that establishing that simple power arrangement, establishing absolute power over the detainee, would force him to break. …
[We adopted mock] executions and mock electrocution, stress positions, isolation, hypothermia. Threatening to execute family members or rape detainees’ wives and things like that.
Lagouranis has teamed up with Human Rights First to advocate against torture, noting that what is seen on 24 “is not an effective technique for gaining intelligence.” Kiefer Sutherland, the actor who stars as Jack Bauer, has also said that the torture techniques employed in the show are not effective ways to get information in real life. He recently agreed to speak with cadets at the West Point military academy to teach them that torture is wrong.
No, no, let's be fair. Let's show the iron logic for which this column is famed. It is time to set on one side the catastrophic record of Bush, Cheney and the neocons, and look dispassionately at what they are now proposing. In considering the case for an attack on Iran, let us try to ignore the results of the demented adventure in Iraq.
It is not easy. The Iraq war has led to the deaths of more than 3,000 US service personnel, about 133 British troops, and anything between 50,000 and 655,000 Iraqis, most of them innocent civilians. There are about 100 Iraqis dying every day, or being hideously maimed, in the course of suicide-bomb attacks. It is undeniable - or at least it is undeniable by anyone except Tony Blair - that the war in Iraq has greatly increased the threat of terrorist attacks in this country and across the world.
But let us momentarily shut our eyes to those truths, and let us decide whether the warmongers are right this time.
A second American aircraft-carrier battle group will soon be in position. The US special forces are apparently on the border, or even operating in Iran itself. Some time this month, we are told, the US administration will ratchet up the pressure by the usual means: the UN will be asked to agree a resolution on the use of force, and failing that, the Israelis will simply go ahead with the bombing, and the US will pile in behind them.
Is it possible that this time, unlike last time, they will get it right? Can we really exclude the possibility that Dubya knows what he is doing? Just because he got it so disastrously wrong in Iraq is no reason to think he is always wrong. Perhaps he is like a brilliant brain surgeon who happens to have made one tragic slip of the knife. Perhaps he is a Nijinsky who launched his career with one bad pratfall. Perhaps there really is a good, solid case to be made for following him into battle again.
Perhaps Cheney and co are right to say that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a new Hitler, and that he could pass his weapons to terrorists, and so on. Indeed, on the face of it, Washington is absolutely correct to be alarmed.
In an ideal world, a man like Ahmadinejad would not have access to nuclear weapons. In an ideal world, the Israelis would find a way of doing one of their lightning raids and depriving Iran of its nuclear capability - and given that the Iranian leader has threatened to wipe Israel off the map, they would have every justification.
Frankly, I would be thrilled if the Americans were really able to knock out the Iranian nukes, if they were able to do it quickly, efficiently and with minimum bloodshed, and to do it in such a way as to stop the hydra regrowing its heads.
And, yet, even if I blot out all memories of past performance, I doubt the wisdom of this administration in taking on any such mission.
These Iranian nuclear-processing plants are not only dotted all over the country; they are also buried under up to 18 metres of concrete. Are the Americans or the Israelis really going to use bunker-busting nuclear weapons to get at them? Are they going to launch a nuclear first strike against a country that still claims its purposes are entirely peaceful?
Put yourself in Iranian shoes, and you will see that any such action would be even more cataclysmic in its consequences than the attack on Iraq. A nuclear attack by America on a sovereign country - and a country that is offering no violence against America - would instantly and globally legitimise reprisals against America, Americans, American interests and American allies.
It is utter madness, and it must not be allowed to happen. As for a conventional attack, it would be much less likely to succeed, and its consequences for the region would be scarcely less baleful - above all in Iraq.
What is the real reason for American rage with Teheran, apart from the nuclear programme? It is the knowledge that the Iranians have made them look like complete idiots, like orang-utans playing chess against a grandmaster.
The Shia exiles such as Ahmed Chalabi were instrumental in bamboozling the Americans to go to war in Iraq. They conned the administration into removing Iran's most ferocious opponent in the region, and the net result of the whole exercise is that neither Saddam Hussein nor George Bush is the dominant power in Iraq. The dominant power in Iraq is Iran.
Never mind the Iranian-backed Shia militias who are causing such carnage. Look at the composition of the Iraqi parliament, the democratically elected body that Blair occasionally holds up in pathetic vindication of his policy. The single largest group is the 32 Shias who are, again, loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr and who control several of the ministries, while being directly linked to the militias.
If you want a flavour of the nightmare and anarchy in Iraq, the Americans were forced, the other day, to arrest a junior health minister called Hakim al-Zamili because he saw no reason why Iraqi ambulances should not be used to transport weapons for the al-Sadr Mahdi Army!
As anybody who has been to Basra soon observes, the people in charge are the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, whose military wing was trained by Iran's Revolutionary Guards.
Any attack on Iran, in other words, would be answered by yet more viciousness in Iraq, yet more slaughter. Isn't that obvious?
By all means let us tighten the noose on Ahmadinejad. He is a grotesquely incompetent and socialistic buffoon who is already in deep political trouble. Let us target measures against him and his regime. I don't even mind a spot of sabre-rattling, if that will really help deter them from their nuclear programme. But for heaven's sake don't let Dubya draw that sabre again.
I look at these people in Washington, and I ask myself whether I trust them to embark on such a lunatically risky venture, and in the words of Amy Winehouse I say no, no, no.
Join me now. Say no to Dubya and a war on Iran.
Because professional Islamophobes in the organized American Jewish community or among US Zionist groups would certainly not mind and would probably be overjoyed if their incitement against Islam led to the expulsion or even to the genocide of American Muslim communities (see Note below), these fanatic Muslim haters are probably guilty of the crime of fomenting genocide and should be indicted at the Hague for crimes against humanity.He has since provided some evidence to back up this charge in form of an addendum here:
Concerned Americans must begin seriously to consider whether fanatic and extremist Jewish Americans, more committed to Zionism than either to their fellow Americans or to basic human decency, should continue to play important roles in US media, academia and politics.
Certainly, the AJC and its spin-off Commentary are crossing the line into the sort of un-American and subversive activities not seen to such a degree since the pro-Soviet subversion of the 20s, 30s, and 40s.
Mark Steyn, who is a Canadian political commentator of mixed Jewish ethnic Ashkenazi and Catholic Belgian ancestry and who is often associated with Neoconservatism, has already somewhat obliquely opened up the discussion of genociding Western Muslims in his recently published book America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, in which he states the following.
Why did Bosnia collapse into the worst slaughter in Europe since World War Two? In the thirty years before the meltdown, Bosnian Serbs had declined from 43 percent to 31 percent of the population, while Bosnian Muslims had increased from 26 percent to 44 percent.Mark Kleiman discusses Mark Steyn's final solution to the Muslim problem here.
In a democratic age, you can't buck demography - except through civil war. The Serbs figured that out - as other Continentals will in the years ahead: if you can't outbreed the enemy, cull ’em [my emphasis]. The problem that Europe faces is that Bosnia’s demographic profile is now the model for the entire continent.
Rabbi Yaakov Salomon of Aish Hatorah proposes the final solution to the Palestinian problem in a video here.
Salomon is not really offering a "final solution" to the Palestinian problem. He is advocating that the West cut off all humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. I suppose they could still get it somewhere. Still, it's a pretty nasty way of thinking. He also uses Judaism (The Talmud) to provide religious backing for his plan.
Interestingly, a look at the Aish Hatorah website does not seem to indicate that it is an extremist Jewish site; on the contrary, it appears to be a relatively moderate Jewish site, which makes Salomon's comments all the more disturbing.
As far as Steyn, I am not exactly sure what he is trying to say but he is surely playing with rhetorical fire. I still do not agree with Martillo that these Jews ought to be tried for incitement to genocide at the Hague, but he has added some weight to his argument that some pretty prominent Jews are saying some pretty insane things about their Muslim enemies.
By Andrew J. Bacevich | March 1, 2007
RATHER THAN vainly sniping at President Bush over his management of the Iraq war, the Democratic-controlled Congress ought to focus on averting any recurrence of this misadventure. Decrying the so-called "surge" or curbing the president's authority to conduct ongoing operations will contribute little to that end. Legislative action to foreswear preventive war might contribute quite a lot.
Long viewed as immoral, illicit, and imprudent, preventive war -- attacking to keep an adversary from someday posing a danger -- became the centerpiece of US national security strategy in the aftermath of 9/11. President Bush unveiled this new strategy in a speech at West Point in June 2002. "If we wait for threats to fully materialize," he said, "we will have waited too long." The new imperative was to strike before threats could form. Bush declared it the policy of the United States to "impose preemptive, unilateral military force when and where it chooses."
Although the Constitution endows the legislative branch with the sole authority to declare war, the president did not consult Congress before announcing his new policy. He promulgated the Bush Doctrine by fiat. Then he acted on it.
In 2003, Saddam Hussein posed no immediate threat to the United States; arguing that he might one day do so, the administration depicted the invasion of Iraq as an act of anticipatory self-defense. To their everlasting shame, a majority of members in both the House and the Senate went along, passing a resolution that "authorized" the president to do what he was clearly intent on doing anyway. Implicitly, the Bush Doctrine received congressional endorsement.
Events since have affirmed the wisdom of seeing preventive war as immoral, illicit, and imprudent.
Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University.
Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh discusses his new article, “The Redirection,” about how America is now backing Salafist Sunni radicals against Hezbollah in Lebanon, Shi’ite radicals in Iraq, every kind of radical but the Shi’ites in Iran, the manner in which American black ops are financed, why this is all worse than Iran-Contra, John Negroponte’s conflict with Dick Cheney and his move from Director of National Intelligence to number 2 at State.
US, Iraq forces set for Baghdad Sadr City push
Troubles for the Iraq Oil Deal
Selling Iraq by the barrel
Under the production-sharing agreements provided for in Iraq's draft oil law, foreign companies will not come under the jurisdiction of Iraqi courts. As a result, many believe that the country will not only lose out on its oil wealth, but also have its sovereignty compromised
The "surge" in US troops in Iraq was calculated to send a message but not to the insurgency, rather to the Iraqi cabinet and the Iran government (which is the next target). The follow-up approval by the Iraqi quisling cabinet of the new US drafted "Iraqi" oil law will take Iraq oil out of reach of its people (and outside of the OPEC arrangements) and put it in the hands of a quisling government ministers who are obligated to appoint foreign (read US and British) company executives to an "Iraq Federal Oil and Gas Council" which will dictate policy and award contracts. Iraqi national oil company will thus be reduced to just another company competing for contracts. The continuing "surge" seeks to guarantee compliant follow through deliveries of Iraq's wealth into the pockets of others.
By ANDREW TAYLOR, Associated Press Writer 1 minute ago
Just hours after floating the idea of cutting $20 billion from President Bush's $142 billion request for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan next year, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (news, bio, voting record) was overruled by fellow Democrats Thursday.
"It's nothing that any of us are considering," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (news, bio, voting record), D-Nev., told reporters.
Conrad's trial balloon to cut war funding would have affected the budget year beginning Oct. 1 and was separate from the ongoing debate over Bush's $100 billion request for immediate supplemental funding for Iraq and Afghanistan.
Even the Pentagon acknowledges that its $142 billion 2008 war funding request is simply a best guess of Iraq and Afghanistan costs, and Conrad's proposal didn't earn rebukes from Budget Committee Republicans.
But the speed with which it was rejected by his colleagues seemed to reflect Democrats' sensitivity to any accusations of giving shortshrift treatment to funding for troops in battle.
"Our caucus feels strongly that we should go with the president's numbers" on 2008 war costs, Conrad said. He spoke just hours after floating the idea of curbing Bush's request for next year's war budget.
The North Dakota Democrat said he was simply seeking to come up with the most accurate figures possible for war costs as he develops a Democratic budget blueprint for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. The $20 billion cut was based on Congressional Budget Office estimates — instead of the administration's February budget request — of Iraq and Afghanistan war costs.
The administration asked for $141.7 billion for fiscal 2008, but assumes only $50 billion for 2009 and no war funding after that.
CBO issued an estimate last month that forecasts 2008 costs of $120 billion for Pentagon operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and military aid for the armies of those two countries. The estimates would drop to $75 billion in 2009 and to $40 billion in 2010.
The CBO scenario assumes the number of troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan are reduced to 30,000 by 2010.
Even before restoring the proposed cut for 2008, Conrad's budget plan assumed $85 billion more in war funds than Bush requested. That's because Conrad included money for a continued troop presence over 2010-2012.
"We are going to provide actually more funding, because we think the president's budget has understated the war costs over the five-year period," Conrad had said at the time he broached the idea of slashing $20 billion from the budget request.
Conrad added that the congressional budget resolution he is drafting for debate later this month will provide Bush's request for a $49 billion boost — to $481 billion — in the core Pentagon budget.
The annual congressional budget blueprint sets guidelines but is not binding, and the actual war budget will be set under a fiscal 2008 defense spending bill that will advance later this year.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England told the budget panel that the administration's $142 billion 2008 war request is the Pentagon's best estimate but that it "could go up or down" depending on how well the war goes.
The nearly four-year-old war in Iraq has thus far been financed primarily through emergency spending bills, to growing criticism from lawmakers who say it should be part of the long-term budget. Last month's Bush budget submission represented the first time the administration offered a detailed war funding request so far in advance.
A separate issue is the looming $100 billion Iraq and Afghanistan funding bill, which continues to roil Capitol Hill.
Democrats are deeply divided over their Iraq strategy, but leaders such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif., want the war funding bill to require that any troops deployed in Iraq be properly trained, equipped and rested.
The conditions could be waived, under their most recent plan, but President Bush would have to do so himself, and report to Congress each time.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (news, bio, voting record), R-Ohio, said Republicans would vote against the war funding measure if it contained restrictions that inhibited Bush, but he said Republicans would have to see a detailed proposal before reaching any such decision.
"We will fight every effort that the Democrats attempt to put handcuffs on the president to stymie his ability to wage this war in Iraq and to win it," Boehner said.
The comments marked something of a role revision for Republicans, who have savaged Democrats for proposing conditions on the Iraq spending measure, saying they were trying to cut off funding for the troops.
Monday, February 19, 2007
Jim Lobe notes the deep contrast between the current neocon propaganda war against Iran and the neocon propaganda war which led to the attack on Iraq. The differences are even more striking if you consider the propaganda coming from the Bush Administration itself. The lies about Iraq were ubiquitous and unrelenting. There was essentially no dissent from the Bush Administration position, either in the reporting of the mainstream media or the statements of the spokesmodels for the Administration.
Iran is completely different. The lies are coming from anonymous sources, as if nobody wants to be associated with them. The New York Times has them re-typed by the joke named Michael Gordon (Pinocchio has a more credible by-line, and it is as if some trickster in the Times is trying to subvert the Zionist lies of the ownership by having someone as obvious as Gordon do the re-typing). Important officials, often strikingly from the higher levels of the Pentagon (hardly an anti-war crowd), are obviously off-message. Even Bush can’t keep a consistent hard-line position.
The deep structure of the propaganda war is different. Remember Feith and the lies produced by the office of Special Plans? There is an equivalent lying group for Iran, but there is nothing like the same quantity and quality of ‘stovepiping’. Indeed, almost all the manipulation of intelligence, which formed the base story of the preamble to the attack on Iraq, is missing. So what’s going on?
I think Bush is trying to satisfy two masters. A passive-aggressive drunk like Bush can’t say no to anybody. The Zionists, both Christian and Jewish, blood dripping – as always – from their fangs, are screaming for yet another murderous attack. At the same time, Bush’s father’s friends have decided that American Establishment interests require an obvious effort by the U. S. to calm the Middle East. Bush tells the Zionists he is working as fast as he can within the limits of the powerful anti-Semites around him. The propaganda war, such as it is, is intended to make it seem that he is doing something for them. On the other hand, he is telling his father’s friends not to worry, that he is managing the Zionists. The ‘surge’ and the usual abandonment of the Palestinians is the sop he is throwing to the Zionists to assuage their lust for blood while he delays them on Iran.
Of course, if Bush keeps delaying, the Establishment wins and the Zionists lose. The Establishment feels comfortable that they can avert the ultimate disaster of an attack on Iran, but fears a traitorous Gulf of Tonkin incident arranged by Zionists in the Gulf (thus the peculiar ‘conspiracy theory’ warning by Brzezinski).
The history of American Establishment views is interesting in itself, and also explains the blood-thirstiness of American Zionists. The recent military loss of Israel in Lebanon was a disaster for Israel for many reasons, not the least of which was that it highlighted to the American Establishment, asleep at the wheel for years, that:
- Israel’s judgment could no longer be trusted; and
- Israel’s interests in the Middle East were not the same as American Establishment interests, and constant Israeli meddling in aid of Zionist colonialism would soon imperil American money, thus necessitating a change in American policy towards the Middle East.
Suddenly, in the wake of Lebanon, the Walt-Mearsheimer paper made perfect sense. The only other time in the last thirty years that the United States hasn’t blindly followed Zionist policies in the Middle East came after the previous disastrous attack by Israel on Lebanon (unrelenting Israeli avarice for Lebanese land and water may end up being the real cause of the end of Israel). That small window of American sanity and independence in the 80’s came at the instance of a Reagan Administration official named James Baker!
The history explains why the American Zionists are so crazed about Iran, sometimes literally, in the case of Pipes and Dershowitz, foaming at the mouth like rabid dogs. The Zionists have put all their eggs in the basket of American support. Israel, easily the most hated nation in the world, has only one friend, and apparently no prospect of any others. Everybody, including the Zionists, knows that Iran poses no real threat to Israel. If Iran is very lucky in its science, changes its research interests, and has no moderation in its politics for the next ten years, there is a small chance that it might end up with a few bombs that would create, at most, the beginnings of mutually assured destruction with Israel and its nukes. So why all the Zionist preoccupation with Iran? The United States has to ‘prove its love’. The insecure Zionists quite properly fear the loss of American servitude. Israel keeps setting higher and higher tests for the Americans to follow if they are to remain tools of the Zionists. Lebanon was such a test and, for the first time ever, the Americans failed to take the Israeli bait. Thus the need to create the most insane test of all, an attack on Iran that would permanently destroy American wealth and power.
Israel plans to build a settlement neighborhood near Qalanida checkpoint
Thursday March 01, 2007 02:07
by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies
The 'Arabs48' news website published an article based on a report by an Israeli newspaper on Wednesday morning, stating that the Israeli Government is preparing a plan to construct a new settlement neighborhood that includes 11,000 settlement housing units, near Qalanida checkpoint north of Jerusalem.
The plan includes digging a tunnel under Kufur Aqib Arab neighborhood in order to link the new settlement neighborhood with the Eastern Settlement Bloc which remained on the other side of the Annexation Wall.
The Arabs48 said that if this plan is carried out, it will be the largest settlement construction plan in that area since Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967.
Meanwhile, Israeli sources reported that the plan was welcomed by the Jerusalem Municipality, but is not yet officially approved.
The Municipality said that it will examine the plan when it is officially submitted to it. The Israeli Housing Ministry said that it had no information regarding this project.
The Annexation Wall section in Qalandia, separating the Palestinian neighborhoods in north Jerusalem from the neighborhoods in Ramallah is expected to be finalized soon. This area is one of the most densely populated areas in the West Bank.
The new settlement neighborhood is planned to be linked with Kokhav Jacob settlement, east of Jerusalem. The planned tunnel is intended to shorten the distance between the Beit El settlement Bloc and Jerusalem.
I laughed at all the bounce back hype yesterday. The DOW up 50 points after the previous day's 400 point drop is more like a plop than a bounce.
The trading day isn't over in New York.
Meanwhile have a look at:
Maybe Russell is right: May be good reason to be uneasy about stocks prices
Brimelow, CBS Marketwatch
Editorial: After the Sell-Off
New figures show dramatic rise in terror attacks worldwide since the invasion of Iraq
By Kim Sengupta and Patrick Cockburn
Published: 28 February 2007
Innocent people across the world are now paying the price of the "Iraq effect", with the loss of hundreds of lives directly linked to the invasion and occupation by American and British forces.
An authoritative US study of terrorist attacks after the invasion in 2003 contradicts the repeated denials of George Bush and Tony Blair that the war is not to blame for an upsurge in fundamentalist violence worldwide. The research is said to be the first to attempt to measure the "Iraq effect" on global terrorism. It found that the number killed in jihadist attacks around the world has risen dramatically since the Iraq war began in March 2003. The study compared the period between 11 September 2001 and the invasion of Iraq with the period since the invasion. The count - excluding the Arab-Israel conflict - shows the number of deaths due to terrorism rose from 729 to 5,420. As well as strikes in Europe, attacks have also increased in Chechnya and Kashmir since the invasion. The research was carried out by the Centre on Law and Security at the NYU Foundation for Mother Jones magazine.
Iraq was the catalyst for a ferocious fundamentalist backlash, according to the study, which says that the number of those killed by Islamists within Iraq rose from seven to 3,122. Afghanistan, invaded by US and British forces in direct response to the September 11 attacks, saw a rise from very few before 2003 to 802 since then. In the Chechen conflict, the toll rose from 234 to 497. In the Kashmir region, as well as India and Pakistan, the total rose from 182 to 489, and in Europe from none to 297.
Two years after declaring "mission accomplished" in Iraq President Bush insisted: "If we were not fighting and destroying the enemy in Iraq, they would not be idle. They would be plotting and killing Americans across the world and within our borders. By fighting these terrorists in Iraq, Americans in uniform are defeating a direct threat to the American people."
Mr Blair has also maintained that the Iraq war has not been responsible for Muslim fundamentalist attacks such as the 7/7 London bombings which killed 52 people. "Iraq, the region and the wider world is a safer place without Saddam [Hussein]," Mr Blair declared in July 2004. Announcing the deployment of 1,400 extra troops to Afghanistan earlier this week - raising the British force level in the country above that in Iraq - the Prime Minister steadfastly denied accusations by MPs that there was any link between the Iraq war an unravelling of security elsewhere.
Last month John Negroponte, the Director of National Intelligence in Washington, said he was "not certain" that the Iraq war had been a recruiting factor for al-Qa'ida and insisted: "I wouldn't say that there has been a widespread growth in Islamic extremism beyond Iraq, I really wouldn't."
Yet the report points out that the US administration's own National Intelligence Estimate on "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States" - partially declassified last October - stated that " the Iraq war has become the 'cause célèbre' for jihadists ... and is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives."
The new study, by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, argues that, on the contrary, "the Iraq conflict has greatly increased the spread of al-Qa'ida ideological virus, as shown by a rising number of terrorist attacks in the past three years from London to Kabul, and from Madrid to the Red Sea.
"Our study shows that the Iraq war has generated a stunning increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist attacks, amounting to literally hundreds of additional terrorist attacks and civilian lives lost. Even when terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan is excluded, fatal attacks in the rest of the world have increased by more than one third."
In trying to gauge the "Iraq effect", the authors had focused on the rate of terrorist attacks in two periods - from September 2001 to 30 March 2003 (the day of the Iraq invasion) and 21 March 2003 to 30 September 2006. The research has been based on the MIPT-RAND Terrorism database.
The report's assertion that the Iraq invasion has had a far greater impact in radicalising Muslims is widely backed security personnel in the UK. Senior anti-terrorist officials told The Independent that the attack on Iraq, and the now-discredited claims by the US and British governments about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, had led to far more young Muslims engaging in extremist activity than the invasion of Afghanistan two years previously.
Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, head of the Secret Service (MI5) said recently: "In Iraq attacks are regularly videoed and the footage is downloaded into the internet.
"Chillingly, we see the results here. Young teenagers are being groomed to be suicide bombers. The threat is serious, is growing and will, I believe, be with us for a generation."
In Afghanistan the most active of the Taliban commanders, Mullah Dadullah, acknowledged how the Iraq war has influenced the struggle in Afghanistan.
"We give and take with the mujahedin in Afghanistan", he said. The most striking example of this has been the dramatic rise in suicide bombings in Afghanistan, a phenomenon not seen through the 10 years of war with the Russians in the 1980s.
The effect of Iraq on various jihadist conflicts has been influenced according to a number of factors, said the report. Countries with troops in Iraq, geographical proximity to the country, the empathy felt for the Iraqis and the exchange of information between Islamist groups. "This may explain why jihadist groups in Europe, Arab countries, and Afghanistan were more affected by the Iraq war than other regions", it said.
Russia, like the US, has used the language of the "war on terror" in its actions in Chechnya, and al-Qa'ida and their associates have entrenched themselves in the border areas of Pakistan from where they have mounted attacks in Kashmir, Pakistan and India.
Statistics for the Arab-Israel conflict also show an increase, but the methodology is disputed in the case of Palestinian attacks in the occupied territories and settler attacks on Palestinians.
* The US is joining the Iraqi government in a diplomatic initiative inviting Iran and Syria to a "neighbours meeting" on stabilising Iraq, the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday. The move reflects a change of approach by the Bush administration, which previously had resisted calls to include Iran and Syria in such talks.
The cloud of guilt over the fact that fulfilling the Zionist enterprise entailed destruction of the Palestinian nation will not dissipate
Last update - 11:58 01/03/2007
The metamorphoses of legitimization
By Meron Benvenisti
Among the conditions for ending the boycott of a Palestinian government headed by or including Hamas, the condition of recognizing Israel stands out. This can be expressed either in ideological terms (recognizing its right to exist) or diplomatic terms (recognizing the state and honoring agreements with it). At first glance, such a condition is self-evident: Someone who does not recognize the existence of the Jewish state seeks its destruction, and therefore, it would be wrong to aid this existential enemy, even if holding back humanitarian aid hurts millions of innocents.
Hamas leaders' insistence on not deviating from their refusal to recognize Israel, "regardless of how much the United States and the Quartet pressure us," is not only a position that rests on religious principles. It also reflects a basic Palestinian worldview: Only the Palestinians, the victims of Zionism, are capable of granting the Jewish state legitimacy. Granted, they are an occupied and defeated people, but as long as they insist on the illegitimacy of the Zionist enterprise and maintain that Israel, having been founded on stolen Palestinian lands, has no right to exist, the cloud of guilt over the fact that fulfilling the Zionist enterprise entailed destruction of the Palestinian nation will not dissipate.
Denying the legitimacy of the Jewish state, 60 years after its establishment and its consolidation as a regional power, seems at first glance like a blunt, rusty weapon. And indeed, it has already been said that it is not Israel that needs Hamas' recognition, but the opposite: It is Hamas that needs Israel's recognition. But the fact is that Israel, which is haunted by the nightmare of the "return" of Palestinian refugees and bewails urgings that it "live by the sword," insists on obtaining Hamas' recognition and demands that the Quartet members not concede on this point.
Some will say that Israel's demand for "recognition of its right to exist" is no more than a pretense, a precondition presented so that Hamas would fail to meet it, thereby thwarting any progress toward an agreement, which would entail concessions. But past experience shows that Israel was willing to pay a fairly high price for Palestinian legitimization: The entire Oslo process was based on the fact that Yasser Arafat - with the support of many activists of the first intifada but contrary to others - decided to recognize Israel in exchange for its recognition of the PLO.
It was not long before this breakthrough - after which both sides began rewriting their histories based on mutual delegitimization - burned up in the flames of the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Definitions of the other as "terrorists" and "the Satanic Zionist entity" reappeared. Only tattered scraps of mutual recognition were left, in the form of pathetic meetings between the Israeli prime minister and the Palestinian Authority chairman. But even these faint echoes are dying away, as can be seen from the adoption of Hamas' formulations by senior Fatah officials and the Israeli retreat from any discussion of final-status issues. In the situation that has been created, mutual nonrecognition has become the stumbling block that cannot be removed because it goes to the root of the Israeli and Palestinian experiences: If you do not recognize me, you are plotting to destroy me. If I recognize you, I will clear you of guilt for the disaster you inflicted on my people.
A long time will pass before the two sides are able to deal with the basic issues entailed by mutual recognition, and meanwhile, it is clear that anyone who insists on making this a condition for negotiations is seeking not peace, but a continuation of the conflict. As for those outside parties that are involved in setting conditions for "recognition," they should stay away from these existential issues because they do not even begin to understand what "recognizing the right to exist" means to both sides. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict revolves around fundamental questions of self-identity, self-expression and a fight over symbolic and tangible assets. It is a struggle over the supreme values of identity and survival. The path of wisdom involves translating all this into rational terms and not dealing with the metaphysics of "recognizing the right to exist."
Thursday, March 1, 2007
THE U.S. House of Representatives, having passed one nonbinding resolution against President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq, appears poised to deliver another largely symbolic gesture of dissent.
Under the latest plan being floated by House Democrats, the president would be required to sign a waiver if he chose to send troops to Iraq without being sufficiently trained, equipped or rested according to certain standards. The measure would be attached to a nearly $100 billion war funding bill requested by the administration.
The problem with this measure is that there is little reason to believe that it would stop the administration from escalating this war. Yes, it does pose the potential for embarrassment by highlighting the well-documented deficiencies in the preparation of our troops for battle. A recent Chronicle story, for example, detailed how one brigade from Georgia had to squeeze one year of training into four months and was practicing on old military trucks instead of the armored vehicles they would be using in battle.
But the fundamental question is whether shame or public outrage even matters with this White House, when it comes to the war in Iraq. Its stubbornness has not been diminished by the November elections or the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.
Another concern is this administration's open defiance of laws it finds inconvenient to its mission in its broadly defined -- and, in the case of Iraq, misdirected -- war on terrorism. Whether the issue is torture, domestic surveillance or attaching "signing statements" to bills passed by Congress, this administration seems intent on stretching its definitions of executive power. We wouldn't be surprised if President Bush were to attach a "signing statement" to the waiver requirement, stating that he reserves the right to ignore it as needed to fulfill his duties as commander in chief.
A more meaningful challenge to Bush's war escalation appears to be evolving in the U.S. Senate, where several senior Democrats are talking about repealing the 2002 resolution that authorized the use of military force in Iraq. Many of the underpinnings of that resolution have now been exposed as false: There were no weapons of mass destruction and no firm links between Iraq and al Qaeda. Also, the administration has been interpreting its authority under this resolution so broadly that it's not inconceivable that it might try to use it to attack Iran.
Senate Democrats are contemplating replacing the 2002 resolution with a new one that narrows the definition of the mission in Iraq and includes a commitment to begin withdrawing forces this summer.
Congress should not be timid about asserting its constitutional authority on matters of war.
This article appeared on page B - 6 of the San Francisco Chronicle
There were so many reasons to be appalled by President Bush’s decision to detain people illegally and subject them to mental and physical abuse. The unfolding case of Jose Padilla reminds us of one of the most important: mistreating a prisoner makes it hard, if not impossible, for a real court to judge whether he has committed real crimes.
The Case of the Missing Movie
...what happened to a crucial video recording of Padilla being interrogated in a U.S. military brig that has mysteriously disappeared?
Terror Suspect's Brig Life Detailed
Wednesday February 28, 2007 1:46 AM
By CURT ANDERSON
Associated Press Writer
MIAMI (AP) - The exterior window in Jose Padilla's 80-square-foot cell in a Navy brig was painted over. At times, he had to sleep on a steel bunk with no mattress. He went months without a clock and was sometimes seen weeping in his cell.
But officials at the brig in Charleston, S.C., testified Tuesday that the alleged al-Qaida operative was not physically abused during his 3 years in military custody, nor did he display serious symptoms of mental problems.
Craig Noble, the brig's main psychologist, and Sanford Seymour, the brig's technical director, testified for the first time in public Tuesday in Padilla's competency hearings. The hearings are to determine whether Padilla can stand trial in April on terrorism-related charges.
Padilla, a 36-year-old U.S. citizen and Muslim convert, was arrested in 2002 in Chicago in what U.S. authorities initially claimed was a mission to set off a radioactive ``dirty bomb'' in a major city. He was held at the brig without being charged after President Bush declared him an enemy combatant.
Padilla was added to a Miami terrorism support case in late 2005. That indictment does not mention the ``dirty bomb'' plot.
Two mental experts hired by Padilla's lawyers say he cannot assist in his defense because he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, which they claim results from isolation and alleged torture at the brig. U.S. officials deny he was tortured.
Noble said he examined Padilla when he arrived June 10, 2002, and again on May 14, 2004. He said Padilla had begun wearing glasses, but he found the second visit ``unremarkable'' for any signs of problems.
The second interview was conducted at Padilla's cell door, with the prisoner speaking through a small slot, Noble said.
``He was responsive, made good eye contact, in fact smiled frequently,'' Noble said. ``There were no changes.''
Seymour described some of the cell conditions, including the painted-over window, lack of clock and periodic removal of Padilla's mattress and Quran. He also said he remembered two instances where he watched Padilla - who was under 24-hour surveillance - crying in his cell.
But Seymour also said that the brig staff allowed Padilla outside for recreation, when he sometimes shot baskets. He was allowed no contact with any other inmate.
``Sometimes he sat in the sun,'' Seymour said. ``If it was a nice day, we tried to get him out.''
Padilla has claimed his cell was often filled with noxious fumes and that brig staff injected him with LSD or some other hallucinogenic drug.
Seymour said the injection was a flu shot. And he testified that the odors come from a paper mill less than a mile away. ``We often had a nasty odor throughout the facility,'' he said.
U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke barred Padilla's lawyers from delving into the details of this testimony unless it was directly related to a competency report prepared by a Bureau of Prisons psychologist.
Cooke scheduled closing arguments on the competency issue for Wednesday. It was not clear when she would rule.
Padilla and co-defendants Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi face up to life in prison if convicted of charges they were part of a North American terror support cell that provided recruits, money and supplies to Islamic extremist groups.
Quote of the Day
By Mike Whitney
Yesterday’s stock market freefall has Greenspan’s bloody fingerprints all over it. And, no, I’m not talking about Sir Alan’s crystal ball predictions about the impending recession; that’s just more of his same circuitous blather. The real issue is the Fed’s suicidal policies of low interest rates and currency deregulation which have paved the way for economic Armageddon. Whether the Chinese stock market contagion persists or not is immaterial; the American economy is headed for the dumpster and it’s all because of the wizened former fed-chief, Alan “Great Depression” Greenspan.
So, what does the stumbling Chinese stock market have to do with Greenspan?
Greenspan was the driving force behind deregulation which keeps the greenback floating freely while the Chinese and Japanese manipulate their currencies. This gives their industries a competitive advantage by allowing them to consistently underbid their foreign rivals. Big business loves this idea, because it offers cheaper sources of labor and allows them to maximize their profits. It’s been a disaster for Americans though, who’ve seen their good paying jobs increasingly outsourced while US manufacturing plants are dismantled and air-mailed to the Far East.
Greenspan has been the biggest champion of deregulation; it’s another way he pays tribute to the Golden Calf of “free trade", the god of personal accumulation.
Yesterday, the Chinese got whacked with their own stick. By keeping the value of their currency down, they spawned a wave of speculation which inflated their stock market by 140% in one year. When the government threatened to tighten up interest rates the stock market went into a nosedive and the overall index got a 9% haircut in a matter of hours. If they had been playing by the “free market” rules, rather than pegging their currency to artificially cheap greenbacks they could have avoided inflating their stock market.
As it happens, the rumblings in the Chinese market sent tremors through the global system and triggered a 416 point loss on Wall Street; the biggest one day slide since 9-11. Now the world is watching nervously to see if the markets can recuperate or if this is just the beginning of America’s great economic unwinding.
Wednesday’s revised numbers of GDP are not encouraging. The Commerce Dept revised their original data from a robust 3.5% GDP to a paltry 2.2. The economy is shrinking faster than anyone had anticipated. Also, durable goods plummeted beyond expectations and the real estate market continues to swoon. Troubles in the sub-prime market are spreading to non traditional loans as more and more over-leveraged homeowners are unable to make their monthly mortgage payments. (By the end of December 24 sub-prime mortgage lenders had already gone belly-up) Greenspan’s empire of debt is bound to come under greater and greater pressure as volatility increases.
On Monday, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported a 3% jump in the sales of existing homes, but it was all hogwash. The housing industry has joined the media in trying to conceal what’s really going on by showering the public with cheery talk of a recovery. Don’t believe it. Go to their website and you’ll see that “year over year” January sales were down by a whopping 290,000 homes. Add that tidbit to “new home sales” (announced today) which “fell by 16.6%, the most since 1994” (Bloomberg) and you get bird’s-eye-view of an industry teetering on the brink of collapse.
Greenspan pumped the housing bubble so full of helium; we’ll be feeling the back-draft for a decade or more. Still, the gnomish ex Fed-master had the audacity to stand in front of the cameras and say, “We have not had any major, significant spillover effects on the American economy from the contraction in housing.”
Apparently, Greenspan hasn’t taken note of the skyrocketing rate of foreclosures or the growing number of people on public assistance. It’s doubtful that one notices the struggles of the working stiff from their manicured sanctuary in the Aspen foothills.
It’s not just the housing market that’s buckling from the expansion of debt, but the stock market as well. The Associated Press reported last week that, “Investors are borrowing at a record pace to sink into the stock market, and the trend is raising concerns on Wall Street about what might happen if a major correction occurs….The amount of margin debt, which is how brokers define this kind of borrowing, hit a record $285.6 billion in January on the New York Stock Exchange. Such a robust appetite, amid a backdrop of complacent market conditions, could leave investors badly exposed if major indexes are snagged by a market decline. Some could find themselves forced to sell stock or other assets to meet what’s known as a margin call, when a broker effectively calls in the loan".
That last time margin debt was this high was at the height of the dot.com bubble in March 2000. We all know how that turned out; the bubble burst taking with it $7 trillion in savings and retirement from working class Americans.
It all could have been avoided if there were prudent and enforceable regulations on margin debt. Of course, that would have been a violation of the central tenet of free market exploitation: “There shall be no law inhibiting the unscrupulous ripping-off of the American people”.
Margin debt is a red flag that the market is over-inflated by speculation. When the market hits a speed-bump like yesterday the fall is steeper than normal, because panicky, over-leveraged investors start scampering for the exits. This probably explains much of what happened on Wall Street after the sudden decline in the Chinese market.
The problems facing the stock market will soon play out whether or not we recover from this “dress rehearsal”for disaster. America’s huge account imbalances and the massive expansion of personal (mortgage) debt ensure that there’s more trouble ahead.
The real problem is deep, systemic and difficult to understand. It relates to basic monetary policy which has been tragically mishandled by the Federal Reserve. A healthy economy requires that money supply not exceed the growth of real GDP; otherwise inflation will ensue. The Fed has been cranking up the money supply at a rate of over 11% for the last 6 years ensuring that we will eventually face a cycle of agonizing hyper-inflation.
More worrisome is the fact that the world is about to face a global liquidity crisis for which there is no easy solution. See, the Fed loans money to the banks by buying government debt. Then, the banks, through the magic of “fractional banking”, are then able to multiply the amount of money they loan out to their customers. In other words, the loans exceed the amount of the reserves by a considerable margin.
Grasping the magnitude of this phenomenon is the only way to appreciate the storm that lies ahead. This excerpt may shed some light on the issue:
“In the 1970s the reserve requirements on deposits started to fall with the emergence of money market funds, which require no reserves. Then in the early 1990s, reserve requirements were dropped to zero on savings deposits, CDs, and Eurocurrency deposits. At present, reserve requirements apply only to "transactions deposits" - essentially checking accounts. THE VAST MAJORITY OF FUNDING SOURCES USED BT PRIVATE BANKS TO CREATE LOANS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH BANK RESERVES AND IN EFFECT CREATE WHAT IS KNOWN AS “MORAL HAZARD” AND SPECULATIVE BUBBLE ECONOMIES.
Consumer loans are made using savings deposits which are not subject to reserve requirements. These loans can be bunched into securities and sold to somebody else, taking them off of the bank's books.
THE POINT IS SIMPLE. COMMERCIAL, INDUSTRIAL AND CONSUMER LOANS NO LONGER HAVE ANY LINK TO BANK RESERVES. SINCE 1995, THE VOLUME OF SUCH LOANS HAS EXPLODED, WHILE BANK RESERVES HAVE DECLINED.” (Wickipedia)
That’s why we should not be surprised when we discover that, although there are currently $3.5 trillion in bank deposits in the USA, the actual reserves are about $40 billion.
This system works fairly well unless there’s a major market meltdown or a run on the banks, in which case people will quickly find that there are, in fact, no reserves. Even this would not be a concern if the Fed had not increased the money supply by leaps and bounds while, at the same time, fueling the housing bubble through obscenely low interest rates. Now, millions of homeowners will be facing default on their loans, the banks will be stretched to the max, and the stock market will begin to falter.
Something’s gotta give.
Last week, in Davos, Switzerland, German banker, Max Weber, warned the G-8 Summit, “If you misprice risk, don't come looking to us for liquidity assistance. The longer this goes on and the more risky positions are built up over time, the more luck you need… It is time for financial market to move back to more adequate risk pricing and maybe forego a deal even if it looks tempting… Global liquidity will dry up and when that point comes some of this underpricing of risk will normalize. If there is much less liquidity around, people will not go into such high risk.”
It is unlikely that Weber’s advice will be heeded. The United States has grown addicted to “cheap money” and ever-expanding debt. The Federal Reserve will keep greasing the printing presses and diddling the interest rates until someone takes away the punch bowl and the party comes to an end.
There’ve been plenty of warnings, but they’ve all been brushed aside with equal disdain. In a recent article on Counterpunch.org, (“Lame Duck”) Alexander Cockburn refers to a report published by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) “a body set up under the purview of the British Treasury to monitor financial markets and protect the public interest by raising the alarm about shady practices and any dangerous slides towards instability.”
The report “Private Equity: A Discussion of Risk and Regulatory Engagement” states clearly:
“Excessive leverage: The amount of credit that lenders are willing to extend on private equity transactions has risen substantially. This lending may not, in some circumstances, be entirely prudent. Given current levels and recent developments in the economic/credit cycle, the default of a large private equity backed company or a cluster of smaller private equity backed companies seems inevitable. This has negative implications for lenders, purchasers of the debt, orderly markets and conceivably, in extreme circumstances, financial stability and elements of the UK economy.”
The problem is even worse in the US where personal and mortgage debt has increased by over $7 trillion in the last 6 years! This is not an issue that can be resolved by a meager 10% correction in the stock market. The reaction on Wall Street to the sudden downturn in China demonstrates the fragility of the market and presages greater volatility and retrenchment.
We should expect to see bigger and more destructive market-fluctuations as investors get increasingly skittish over bad economic news and weakness in the dollar. Yesterday’s 400 point somersault is just the first sign that Greenspan’s Goldilocks’ economy is cracking at the seams.
By Robert Parry
March 1, 2007
Vice President Dick Cheney says he stands by his accusation that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plan for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq would “validate the al-Qaeda strategy.” And he apparently thinks he got the better of this latest war of words.
However, if Pelosi ever goes beyond complaining that Cheney is impugning her “patriotism” – while Cheney counters that he is only questioning her “judgment” – she might point out that it is the Bush administration that has “validated” al-Qaeda’s 9/11 strategy over the past five years.
Captured al-Qaeda documents reveal that Osama bin Laden’s principal goal in the 9/11attacks was to lure the United States into a clumsy counterattack in the Middle East that would alienate Muslims, help al-Qaeda recruit more jihadists and bog down the American military in a no-win war.
Though bin Laden was mistaken in believing that Afghanistan would become the central front, he was right in pretty much every other part of his plan. At the time of 9/11, al-Qaeda was a fringe player in the Muslim world, with its leaders driven into exile and holed up in the mountains of Afghanistan.
Bin Laden understood that his movement had little hope if it couldn’t sharpen the animosities between the West and Islam – and force Muslims to pick sides between the U.S. “crusaders” and the “defenders of Islam.” He sought to position his terrorist movement as the chief beneficiary of that dividing line.
But bin Laden’s gamble over 9/11 was that al-Qaeda’s leadership might not survive a precise blow by the Americans.
According to Ron Suskind’s book, The One Percent Doctrine, bin Laden almost miscalculated by underestimating the ferocity and effectiveness of the original U.S. offensive in fall 2001. As he found himself cornered in the mountains of Tora Bora, bin Laden apologized to his followers for bringing them to the edge of destruction.
But then, in what may go down as one of the biggest military blunders in U.S. history, President George W. Bush failed to deploy American troops to block bin Laden’s escape routes, relying instead on Pakistani forces that were slow to move into place. Bin Laden and some of his top lieutenants escaped on horseback.
Bush then compounded his error by redirecting the focus of U.S. Special Forces from Afghanistan to Iraq. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were badly bloodied but survived – and began to regroup.
By switching the central front from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2003, Bush even may have accelerated al-Qaeda’s progress.
Bush’s invasion of Iraq vitiated the international goodwill that surrounded the United States after the 9/11 attacks. It also eliminated one of bin Laden’s chief Arab rivals, the secular Saddam Hussein, while letting al-Qaeda exploit the chaos by attracting thousands of young jihadists to Iraq.
In spring 2003, however, Bush was basking in his acclaim as the “liberator” of both Afghanistan and Iraq. On May 1, 2003, he flew onto the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and addressed the nation under the banner, “Mission Accomplished.”
In those heady days, Bush’s neoconservative advisers joked about whether they should attack Syria or Iran next, with the punch line: “Real men go to Tehran.” It was like they were reliving the days of Alexander the Great, conquering one country of the ancient world after another.
A different reality, however, was taking shape across the Middle East. The Arab street was turning decisively against Bush, Cheney and the United States. The Bush-Cheney arrogance and aggressiveness made bin Laden seem, to some, almost a prophet.
Scandals over Guantanamo Bay detentions, Abu Ghraib abuses and secret CIA prisons further fueled Islamic extremism and gave new political life to the 9/11 masterminds. Al-Qaeda’s ranks were swelling, both in Iraq and at new bases set up inside Pakistan.
Meanwhile, Bush, the self-proclaimed “war president,” refused to acknowledge the growing seriousness of an Iraqi insurgency. As the death toll mounted, however, Bush’s popularity within the United States slipped.
In 2004, Bush found himself locked in a close race with Democrat John Kerry, who despite a lackluster campaign was running neck and neck with the incumbent President. The prospect of a Kerry victory – and a possible reversal of Bush’s policies – represented a threat to al-Qaeda’s rebound.
So, on the Friday before the Nov. 2, 2004, election, bin Laden broke nearly a year of silence to release a videotape denouncing Bush. Bush’s supporters quickly spun bin Laden’s tirade as an “endorsement” of Kerry and pollsters recorded a jump of several percentage points for Bush, from nearly a dead heat to a five- or six-point lead.
Four days later, Bush hung on to win a second term by an official margin of less than three percentage points. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Bush-Bin Laden Symbiosis.”]
The intervention by bin Laden – essentially urging Americans to reject Bush – had the predictable effect of driving voters to the President. After the videotape appeared, senior CIA analysts concluded that ensuring a second term for Bush was precisely what bin Laden intended.
“Bin Laden certainly did a nice favor today for the President,” said deputy CIA director John McLaughlin in opening a meeting to review secret “strategic analysis” after the videotape had dominated the day’s news, according to Suskind’s The One Percent Doctrine, which draws heavily from CIA insiders.
Suskind wrote that CIA analysts had spent years “parsing each expressed word of the al-Qaeda leader and his deputy, [Ayman al] Zawahiri. What they’d learned over nearly a decade is that bin Laden speaks only for strategic reasons. … Today’s conclusion: bin Laden’s message was clearly designed to assist the President’s reelection.”
Jami Miscik, CIA deputy associate director for intelligence, expressed the consensus view that bin Laden recognized how Bush’s heavy-handed policies were serving al-Qaeda’s strategic goals.
“Certainly,” Miscik said, “he would want Bush to keep doing what he’s doing for a few more years.”
As their internal assessment sank in, the CIA analysts were troubled by the implications of their own conclusions. “An ocean of hard truths before them – such as what did it say about U.S. policies that bin Laden would want Bush reelected – remained untouched,” Suskind wrote.
Even Bush recognized that his struggling campaign had been helped by bin Laden. “I thought it was going to help,” Bush said in a post-election interview about the videotape. “I thought it would help remind people that if bin Laden doesn’t want Bush to be the President, something must be right with Bush.”
Bin Laden, a well-educated Saudi and a keen observer of U.S. politics, appears to have recognized the same point in cleverly tipping the election to Bush.
Prolonging the War
Al-Qaeda’s leaders recognized that their greatest strategic vulnerability would come from the United States withdrawing its forces from Iraq. Not only would that deny al-Qaeda its chief recruitment attraction but it could free up American troops for a renewed offensive against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
It was as if al-Qaeda had its own version of Bush’s line about fighting the terrorists in Iraq so we don’t have to fight them in America, except al-Qaeda’s version was that it was best to keep U.S. troops tied down in Iraq so they couldn’t fight al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Plus, there was concern about an al-Qaeda collapse inside Iraq if the Americans departed too quickly and the young jihadists gave up the fight and went home.
According to a captured July 9, 2005, letter, attributed to Zawahiri, al-Qaeda leaders fretted that a sudden U.S. withdrawal from Iraq might touch off the disintegration of their operations there.
“The mujahaddin must not have their mission end with the expulsion of the Americans from Iraq, and then lay down their weapons, and silence the fighting zeal,” said the “Zawahiri letter,” according to a text released by the office of the U.S. Director of National Intelligence.
In another captured letter, dated Dec. 11, 2005, another senior al-Qaeda operative, known as “Atiyah,” wrote that “prolonging the war [in Iraq] is in our interest.” [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Al-Qaeda’s Fragile Foothold.”]
Al-Qaeda’s “Bush-second-term” strategy now appears to be paying big dividends. Al-Qaeda’s Taliban allies are back on their feet and back on the offensive in Afghanistan. New al-Qaeda units also are undergoing training in Pakistan.
In Iraq, al-Qaeda still makes up only a small percentage of the armed insurgency – probably less than five percent – but it benefits from the arrival of new recruits and the opportunity to test out military tactics against the Americans.
Plus, al-Qaeda has been rebuilding its command-and-control structure.
“American officials said there was mounting evidence that Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, had been steadily building an operations hub in the mountainous Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan,” the New York Times reported on Feb. 19.
“As recently as 2005, American intelligence assessments described senior leaders of al-Qaeda as cut off from their foot soldiers and able only to provide inspiration for future attacks. But more recent intelligence describes the organization’s hierarchy as intact and strengthening,” the Times wrote.
The Times quoted one American government official as saying “the chain of command has been reestablished” and that al-Qaeda’s “leadership command and control is robust.” [NYT, Feb. 19, 2007]
This al-Qaeda comeback was the backdrop for Cheney’s recent trip to the Middle East during which he accused Speaker Pelosi of playing into al-Qaeda’s hands by advocating a phased U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
“Al Qaeda functions on the basis that they think they can break our will,” Cheney said. “That’s there fundamental underlying strategy: that if they can kill enough Americans or cause enough havoc, create enough chaos in Iraq, then we’ll go home. …
“If we adopt the Pelosi policy, that then we will validate the strategy of al-Qaeda.”
After Pelosi protested to the White House, Cheney responded, “She accused me of questioning her patriotism. I didn’t question her patriotism. I questioned her judgment.” [Washington Post, Feb. 24, 2007]
Later, in a thinly disguised background briefing attributed only to a “senior administration official,” Cheney told reporters along on his trip, “I was very careful” in choosing the words used to criticize Pelosi. [Washington Post, March 1, 2007]
However, the larger question is whether the U.S. intelligence analysts are right about al-Qaeda’s desire for Bush and Cheney to continue their war policies in Iraq – or whether Bush and Cheney are right that al-Qaeda really wants U.S. forces out of Iraq.
At this point, the evidence – and the results of five years of the Bush-Cheney policies – would seem to support a conclusion that al-Qaeda is just delighted for the U.S. occupation of Iraq to continue indefinitely.
That disastrous war, more than anything, has validated al-Qaeda’s bloodthirsty 9/11 strategy.
Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'
Last update - 01:41 01/03/2007
Bedouin girl shot in head; IDF suspected
By Mijal Grinberg
A Bedouin girl in the northern Negev was shot in the head on Wednesday, apparently by a soldier of the Israel Defense Forces. The military police are investigating.
The girl, 12, was hospitalized at the Soroka Medical Center in Be'er Sheva with life-threatening wounds.
The girl, who had been herding sheep, was brought to an IDF base by a Bedouin man who said the girl had been shot by IDF soldiers after wandering into a firing zone.
A paramedic confirmed severe head wounds. The girl was evacuated to the hospital.
The IDF has not confirmed any details of the incident.
It is unclear whether the girl's family had a permit for herding in the area. The herding season has begun and many Bedouin have complained of a shortage in herding permits.
Since 1999, no new permits have been issued.
By Kathleen and Bill Christison
ADBUSTERS #70 – Journal of the Mental Environment
A quarter century ago, the executive director of AIPAC – the American Israel Public Affairs Committee – established an analytical unit inside the organization to write in-depth advocacy papers for policymakers. The year was 1981, the president was Ronald Reagan, and AIPAC had just lost a hard-fought battle in Congress over the sale of AWACS surveillance aircraft to Saudi Arabia. The AIPAC leader was an energetic former congressional aide named Thomas Dine, who used the setback to build AIPAC into a formidable political force. Over the next few years, Dine quadrupled AIPAC’s grassroots membership as well as its budget and aggressively expanded contacts with Congress and policymakers. He set out to supply politicians with analyses geared toward advancing Israeli interests, in the stated belief that anyone who wrote papers read by policymakers would effectively “own” the policymakers.
This was a seminal moment in the decades-long growth of the lobby’s influence on US Middle East policy, often to the detriment of US national interests. Many have characterized the relationship between what the United States does in the Middle East and what the lobby wants it to do as a case of the Israeli tail wagging the US dog. Israel and its US supporters, although constituting the junior partner in the relationship, are seen as virtually dictating policy to whatever administration and Congress are in power. There are myriad examples of this dynamic, most notably Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, which dragged the US into a disastrous intervention, and Israel’s invasion of the West Bank in 2002, during which Prime Minister Ariel Sharon openly and repeatedly defied President George Bush’s demand for a withdrawal. Others maintain that the tail-wagging is the other way around: that the United States, as the superpower, patron of Israel, and its major aid donor, is unmistakably the senior partner and the dog that wags the tail. The question, therefore, is which is the accurate assessment, or is the cynical view of Israeli commentator Michel Warschawski correct, that “there is neither a dog nor a tail, but one global war of re-colonization, and one aggressive monster with two ugly heads”?
Despite the growing power of the Israel lobby, and the growing convergence of US and Israeli efforts toward global and regional Middle East domination, public debate over the size and substance of the lobby’s role in US policymaking was almost non-existent until two political scientists, John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen Walt of Harvard University, issued an 81-page report in March 2006 analyzing lobby strength. Mearsheimer, the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science, and Walt, Belfer Professor of International Affairs, are leading proponents of the realist school of foreign policy, which argues that states act to further military and economic power rather than pursue idealism and ethics. Their report sparked widespread interest when it was published in abbreviated form in the London Review of Books. Defining the lobby broadly as “the loose coalition of individuals and organizations who actively work to shape US foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction,” Mearsheimer and Walt conclude that the thrust of US policy in the Middle East is overwhelmingly the result of the lobby’s activities. They observe that, while other lobbies and interest groups have also demonstrated an ability to skew policy, “no lobby has managed to divert US foreign policy as far from what the American national interest would otherwise suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that US and Israeli interests are essentially identical.”
The report aroused instantaneous and vocal opposition from the very individuals whom the authors identify as members of the lobby. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a vociferous advocate of Israel, called the authors “liars” engaging in “crass bigotry” and likened their arguments to neo-Nazi propaganda, filled with “thinly veiled charges of Jewish control of American thought” reminiscent of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Abraham Foxman and his Anti-Defamation League (ADL) charged that the report’s main thesis “is the embodiment of classic, anti-Jewish conspiracy theory.”
Most criticism from Israel’s strongest advocates fails, however, to address the principal points of the Mearsheimer-Walt study: that influential elements in the United States – non-Jews as well as Jews – who have as a primary objective the advancement of Israeli interests have gained undue influence over US Middle East policy and use this influence to tilt policy toward Israel in ways that are contrary to US national interests. Instead, critics argue off the point, raising straw men that distract from the report’s main thesis.
The accusation that Mearsheimer and Walt are “anti-Semitic” is the charge most commonly heard from supporters of Israel across the political spectrum. Not coincidentally, it is also a line of attack long used by the lobby to silence and indeed attack anyone who dares question Israeli policies or the United States’ close ties to Israel. The question of anti-Semitism was addressed during a major debate in New York in September that pitted Mearsheimer and two allies against a former Israeli official and two policymakers from the Clinton administration, Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk. These three opponents of Mearsheimer, although clearly supporters of Israel, are generally regarded as centrists, neither particularly hard-core like Dershowitz nor rightwing, but all three echoed Dershowitz in charging that the report “lowers itself to the level of anti-Semitism” or “has connotations of anti-Semitism,” simply because it discusses the role of some Jews in positions of power and influence.
This debate around anti-Semitism is a diversion from the main issue and is undoubtedly intended as such. The New York panel spent fully one-third of its allotted time examining whether Mearsheimer and Walt are anti-Semitic before getting to any substantive analysis of the report’s conclusions and evidence. Criticism of former President Jimmy Carter’s book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid follows the same pattern. Critics charge poor scholarship or hint at anti-Semitism because Carter uses the term “apartheid” to describe Israel’s policies in the occupied Palestinian territories. Many, including the Democratic Party leadership, have criticized the book, but few have provided evidence to support their charges or seriously examined the evidence behind Carter’s thesis.
A member of the New York panel who spoke in support of the Mearsheimer-Walt report, New York University professor Tony Judt, has written about the crippling effect that Americans’ induced fear of being labeled anti-Semitic has had on public discourse about anything relating to Israel and ultimately on policy. During the panel discussion, he highlighted the phenomenon by observing that, although there are “hundreds of distorting lobbies” in the US, the Israel lobby is the only one that not only acts energetically in pursuit of its cause, “but acts constantly and very effectively to silence criticism of its cause.” In a similar vein, Mearsheimer observed in an interview with Mother Jones that the main reason the strong affinity between the US and Israel continues is the absence of open and candid discussion about the relationship. There would be far less sympathy for Israel, he said, if Americans knew what Israelis are doing in the occupied territories. “In essence, America’s present relationship with Israel could not withstand public scrutiny.”
Jimmy Carter’s book makes a major effort to provide more scrutiny, but its success is so far uncertain. Scott Ritter, who worked closely with Israel as a military intelligence officer and as a UN weapons inspector in Iraq, reiterates both Judt’s and Mearsheimer’s observations in his new book Target Iran. While many nations maintain active lobbies in the US, he writes, none has “the scope and clout” of the Israel lobby and none operates in its “brazen manner.” Ritter foresees a potentially catastrophic US-Israeli confrontation with Iran and believes the only way to avoid this will be by bringing the nature of the US-Israeli relationship into the national discourse, fundamentally re-examining why the US operates in “continued national impotence as another nation, Israel, dictates national security policy for all America.”
In a 2003 critique of Israel and the U.S.-Israeli relationship in the New York Review of Books, Judt touched on what Mearsheimer and Walt later laid out as their principal thesis. Judt wrote that Israel continued “to mock its American patron” by building illegal settlements even as the US was pushing the “Roadmap” peace plan calling for a freeze on settlement construction. Israel had reduced the powerful president of the United States, he said, to a “ventriloquist’s dummy, pitifully reciting the Israeli cabinet line.” Its behavior “has been a disaster for American foreign policy.” The United States’ unconditional support for Israel “is the main reason why most of the rest of the world no longer credits our good faith.”
James Abourezk knows the lobby well. A US senator from South Dakota from 1972-1978, Abourezk says, from his experience in Congress, that “the support Israel has in that body is based completely on political fear” – fear that “anyone who does not do what Israel wants done” will be defeated by the lobby. Abourezk reinforces the point about the lobby’s efforts to silence. “Even one voice is attacked,” he writes, “on grounds that if Congress is completely silent on the issue, the press will have no one to quote, which effectively silences the press as well. Any journalists or editors who step out of line are quickly brought under control by well organized economic pressure against the newspaper caught sinning.” Jimmy Carter has described a similar phenomenon in recent commentaries, noting that AIPAC’s “extraordinary lobbying efforts” have silenced all debate in policymaking councils, in Congress, and in the media about Israeli policies.
Abourezk describes pressure tactics that were already in full swing before AIPAC set out to “own” policymakers, and Carter has made it clear that the lobby’s stranglehold on discourse and on decisionmaking has tightened. The pro-Israeli tilt that has, to one degree or another, been characteristic of most administrations and most Congresses since Israel’s creation was clearly not Dine’s invention or a phenomenon that emerged only in the 1980s. But Dine institutionalized the process, strengthening it significantly.
In 1984, in addition to the internal analytical unit, AIPAC spun off another body, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), that remains a pre-eminent think tank – one that has placed its analysts in policymaking jobs in several administrations. Dennis Ross, who was the senior Middle East policymaker in the administrations of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, came from WINEP and returned there after leaving government service. Martin Indyk, an original member of AIPAC’s analytical unit and WINEP’s first director, entered a senior policymaking position in the Clinton administration from there. Mearsheimer and Walt correctly describe both men as situated “at the core of the lobby.”
This assertion addresses a critical aspect of the lobby question by emphasizing the reality that the lobby has in recent decades actually become a part of various administrations. The lobby is also not confined to the formal Jewish-American organizations such as AIPAC and the ADL and think tanks like WINEP and JINSA, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, but also includes numerous individuals who work on Israel’s behalf and encompasses the very large fundamentalist Christian right. The Christian right strongly supports Israel’s continued control over the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem as the essential prerequisite to the so-called Millennium, when they believe Jesus Christ will reappear. During the last several years in particular, the Christian right has used its vast numbers to lobby both the administration and Congress in support of Israel’s policies and in opposition to any proposal that would require Israeli concessions.
The kind of blunt pressure on decisionmakers that Abourezk describes is only one way in which the organized lobby operates. The bond between Israel and the US has always had its grounding as much in soft emotions as in the hard realities of geopolitical strategy. Over the years since Israel’s creation, there has been a pervasive atmosphere in which Israel is simply assumed to be so close to the US, its interests so closely intertwined with American interests, that it is accepted almost as a part of the US.
The lobby reinforces this sentiment, channeling it into institutional ways of involving ordinary Americans in supporting Israel. Jeffrey Blankfort, a northern California radio host and long-time commentator on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and other Middle East issues, points out, for instance, that 1,700 unions in the US own more than $5 billion of Israel bonds. This effectively obliges the unions to support Israel, Blankfort believes, making the American labor movement a part of the lobby. It is one reason that the organized left in the United States has opposed making the Palestine issue part of the anti-war movement. Many states and universities also invest in Israel bonds, as well as in Israeli companies, giving these local governments and institutions an interest in supporting Israel’s policies in order to keep the Israeli economy going.
The pervasiveness of the lobby’s influence makes Tony Judt’s reference to the US president as a “ventriloquist’s dummy” particularly apt. As Walt pointed out in a Mother Jones interview, no matter what Israel does, the United States continues to support it. “They continue to build settlements even though every president since Lyndon Johnson has thought that was a bad idea. They spy on us routinely. They’ve given or sold American military technology to other countries. Alsothey have conducted a wide variety of human rights violations, and yet none of those activities ever slows down American support.” For the last several decades, AIPAC has frequently involved itself directly in the legislative process, writing legislation relating to the Middle East and pushing a series of anti-Arab, pro-Israeli resolutions that state the stance of the Senate and the House on various issues, such as Israel’s construction of the separation wall and Israel’s summer 2006 attack on Lebanon. AIPAC often boasts that it vets and exerts influence over presidential candidates. During the 2004 presidential campaign when Howard Dean issued a mild and seemingly non-controversial call for an “even-handed” US policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict, he was roundly condemned by the lobby and by fellow Democrats, and he quickly dropped the call. Long-serving congressmen who deviate are targeted for electoral defeat. In the 1980s, Representative Paul Findley and Senator Charles Percy, who had each served multiple terms in Illinois, were defeated through the efforts of AIPAC after both spoke out in favor of negotiating with the PLO. More recently, Georgia’s Cynthia McKinney has twice been the target of AIPAC’s electoral interference.
The list goes on. Israel and its lobby have been the policy initiators, the US the follower, in Israel’s 1967 war, its 1982 invasion of Lebanon, its 2002 invasion of the West Bank, its 40-year settlement-construction enterprise in the occupied Palestinian territories, its disproportionate attacks on Palestinians, its assault on Lebanon. The scope of the lobby’s infiltration of government policymaking councils has been unprecedented during the current Bush administration, and there is strong evidence that neo-conservatives inside the administration – whose ties to Israel’s right wing are undeniable – were the architects of the invasion of Iraq and of the administration’s push to “transform” the Middle East and spread “democracy” throughout the region. Mearsheimer and Walt assert that the Iraq war was “at least partly intended to improve Israel’s strategic position” – a reality that would seem to be confirmed by the fact that some of these same neo-cons authored a strategy paper, entitled “A Clean Break,” in the mid-1990s for then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, laying out a plan for attacking Iraq that was later pushed when the neo-cons entered the Bush administration. The strategy was designed explicitly to assure Israel’s regional dominance, to undermine the Oslo peace process, and to relieve Israel of pressure to make concessions to the Palestinians.
One of the authors, David Wurmser, remains in government as Vice President Richard Cheney’s Middle East adviser; the others, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, were closely involved in Iraq war planning as, respectively, an adviser to the Pentagon and an undersecretary of defense. Almost all the other neo-cons, both Jews and non-Jews, have also compiled long records of advocacy on behalf of Israel. These include Paul Wolfowitz, Elliott Abrams, John Bolton, and their cheerleaders on the sidelines such as William Kristol, Robert Kagan, Norman Podhoretz, the late Jeane Kirkpatrick, and numerous rightwing, pro-Israeli think tanks in Washington.
In response to the lobby’s pressure on legislators and policymakers, the US has given Israel massive amounts of military and economic aid over the years. Mearsheimer and Walt cite statistics from the US Agency for International Development indicating that between 1976 and 2003, the US gave Israel a total of $140 billion in aid, in constant 2003 dollars. One economist, Thomas Stauffer, who has long tracked aid to Israel, put the figure much higher in 2002, estimating a total of $240 billion in the preceding 30 years, adjusted to current dollars. Israel now receives an automatic $2-3 billion annually in grant aid, mostly military, in addition to large increments of additional aid to compensate for the cost to Israel of such actions as the Lebanon war and the Gaza withdrawal.
Defining the National Interest
The truly important part of the debate over the lobby’s power swirls around the issue of national interests – what constitutes national interests, who determines them, and whether real national interests are harmed by the lobby. A group of commentators and analysts on the left who are highly critical of Israel’s policies have nonetheless been dismissive of the notion that the lobby has particular influence over policy. Their arguments center on the issue of what actually constitutes the US national interest. Noam Chomsky has frequently indicated that Middle East policy is determined largely by what he calls the “tight state-corporate linkage” where domestic power is concentrated – in other words, the military-industrial complex working in cooperation with the government, whose special interests, Chomsky believes, ultimately define US national interests. The Israel lobby has some impact on determining policy in Chomsky’s estimation, but to a far lesser extent and generally only insofar as the lobby’s interests conform to corporate-government interests.
Chomsky and the other left critics of the lobby study essentially believe that US policy has always been directed at the advancement of US imperial and corporate interests, and that Israel, far from leading the US into harmful policies and foreign adventures, has always done the US bidding. The US would pursue its imperial objectives even without Israel, and it has pursued these in areas outside the Middle East, such as Chile, Indonesia, Central America, and elsewhere, without benefit of any lobby. The Israel lobby, in this view, functions as merely a handy adjunct to US policy, not an agent with any control or particular influence.
One thing this argument ignores, however, is that the lobby and its close ties to US arms makers strengthen the ability of the military-industrial complex to control what are defined as US national interests. The Israel lobby holds unquestionable sway over many individual congressmen and executive branch officials, including in the White House, making it difficult for anyone to influence the alleged national interests of the US in ways that the lobby might feel weakened Israel’s uniquely special relationship with the US. Any debate involving this taboo subject, even indirectly, would almost certainly be quashed before it started, buried under paeans for Israel from both Republicans and Democrats.
Afif Safieh, the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization Mission in Washington, makes another point. He calls the approach of Chomsky and others on the left a “mechanistic” view that does not allow for the fact that each situation has its own specificity, the specificity in this case being that the junior partner can often “hijack” and “monopolize” decisionmaking on Middle East issues. The left’s argument comes from a kind of determinism that assumes US policy has rarely if ever deviated from a clearly laid-out imperial strategy designed to promote corporate interests.
But simply because the US overthrew a government deemed inimical to American business interests in Chile or supported a dictator in Indonesia where the oil industry had interests does not prove that whenever Israel has attacked Arab countries, as with Egypt in 1967 and Lebanon in 1982, it was acting to serve the United States or was, as Chomsky has alleged, performing a “huge service to the US-Saudis-Energy corporations by smashing secular Arab nationalism.” Israel in no way serves to ensure US access to or control over the Middle East’s oil resources, nor does it work in conjunction with the oil industry.
There is no denying the intricate interweaving of the US military-industrial-financial complex with Israel’s military, industrial, and financial interests, as Chomsky and others on the left contend, but rather than a relationship in which Israel does the bidding of the US corporate-government conglomeration, in reality the entanglement is much more one between two independent players. And the lobby essentially functions to sustain and manipulate the entanglement. Blankfort maintains that the influence of the lobby “is actually underestimated. Not only does it keep Congress in thrall to its demands on issues pertaining to Israel and the Middle East in general, it also serves, less conspicuously, as a powerful lobbying force for maintaining America’s high levels of military spending and for integrating the Israeli arms industry with that of the US.” This integration, Blankfort says, “goes a long way to explain why there has been no significant opposition to the annual military budget from any sector of Congress.”
Israel and its lobby work hand in glove with the US arms industry to advance their combined, usually compatible interests. The relatively few powerful, wealthy families that dominate the Israeli arms industry are just as interested in pressing for aggressively militaristic US and Israeli foreign policies as are the CEOs of US arms corporations. As globalization has progressed, so have the ties of joint ownership and close financial and technological cooperation among the arms corporations of the two nations grown ever closer. The relationship is symbiotic, and the lobby cooperates intimately to keep it alive; lobbyists can go to many in Congress and tell them credibly that if aid to Israel is cut off, thousands of arms-industry jobs in their districts will be lost. The lobby does not simply passively support the desires of the military-industrial complex. It actively twists arms in Congress and the administration to perpetuate acceptance of certain “national interests” that many Americans believe is wrong.
A Two-Headed Monster
As Tony Judt noted, much of the rest of the world now “no longer credits our good faith.” Strong US support for Israel has long roiled Arab public opinion, but since the collapse of the peace process and the start of the Palestinian intifada and Israel’s harsh crackdown in September 2000, opinion polls in Arab and Muslim countries have repeatedly shown strong and growing distrust of the United States, linked principally to US support for Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians and more recently to the Iraq war. Hostile attitudes reach into the 70-80 percent range in many Arab countries. Similar, although not as strong or pervasive, distrust of the US emerges in polls in Europe. The growing anti-US sentiment resulting from the close US relationship with Israel is a principal emphasis in the Mearsheimer-Walt report. The authors point out at the opening of their report that Bush administration policies, heavily influenced by the Israel lobby, have helped produce a “resilient insurgency in Iraq, a sharp rise in world oil prices, and terrorist bombings in Madrid, London, and Amman.” The United States’ “unwavering” support for Israel, they write, has “inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized US security.” They believe the US has actually set aside its own security to advance the interests of another state.
The obvious result has been more terrorism against the US and its allies. Osama bin Laden’s videos and taped statements from the 1990s talk about the Palestinians and his anger with the US because of its alliance with Israel. His anger and that of other radical Islamists is on behalf of Muslims who have been killed and exploited by the US, Israel, and the West for decades, and Palestinians are perhaps the most prominent among these. His anger is shared by millions of the oppressed, and he can attract the radicals among them to his struggle on the basis of his stance as a defender of Palestinians and all oppressed Muslims. This is a danger to the United States, arising directly from the strong US-Israel tie and the lobby’s strenuous efforts to sustain it, that cannot be underestimated.
The tragedy of the present situation is that it has become impossible to separate Israeli from alleged US interests – that is, not what should be real US national interests, but the selfish and self-defined “national interests” of the political-corporate-military complex that, in conjunction with the lobby, dominates the Bush administration, Congress, and both major political parties. The specific groups that now dominate the government are the globalized arms, energy, and financial industries, and the entire military establishments, of the US and of Israel – groups that have quite literally hijacked the government and stripped it of most vestiges of democracy. The “aggressive monster with two ugly heads” that Michel Warschawski speaks of is a reality.
This convergence of manipulated “interests” has a profound effect on US policy choices in the Middle East. If the United States is unable to distinguish the world’s or its own real needs from those of another state and that state’s lobby, then it simply cannot say that it always acts in its own best interests. In the face of the massive human rights violations being committed against Palestinians today, the failure to recognize this reality is where those who belittle the lobby’s power and accept US Middle East policy as simply an unchangeable part of a longstanding strategy are particularly dangerous.
Bill Christison is a former senior official of the CIA. He served as a National Intelligence Officer and as Director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis.
Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 30 years. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.