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Monday, December 31, 2007

No More Slam dunks by Philip Giraldi

January 14, 2008 Issue
Copyright © 2007 The American Conservative

No More Slam Dunks

A reality-based assessment of Iran’s nuclear capability

by Philip Giraldi
The bombshell National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program asserted with a “high degree of certainty” that Tehran had abandoned its nuclear weapons in 2003 due to international pressure and as part of a negotiated agreement with the Europeans. The report stated that even if Tehran were to restart its program, it would not have enough highly enriched uranium for a weapon until 2010 at the earliest.

The NIE is widely seen as a decisive blow to the neoconservatives and Bush administration hawks who have been advocating a preemptive attack on Iran, depriving them of their principal casus belli. They have counterattacked, claiming that the report is based on flawed information or even Iranian disinformation, that the CIA has a history of poor analysis of proliferation issues, and that a politicized intelligence community is out to get the White House and/or Israel.

The political landscape in Washington has not yet shifted dramatically. By demonstrating that Iran has acted as a rational player, the report gives advocates of negotiations without preconditions a stronger hand. Those who still seek war have already re-written their talking points. They argue that as Iranian intentions and plans remain suspect, Teheran must be denied any ability to enrich uranium. On Dec. 4, President Bush stated that the military option remains on the table, while warning seven times that Tehran might use “knowledge” of how to enrich uranium to secretly construct a bomb. Other administration spokesmen have insisted that Iran must be denied the engineering infrastructure to manage the nuclear fuel cycle, even for peaceful purposes. The White House has asserted that it still regards Iran as its major foreign-policy problem.

An alarmed Israel, where the report’s conclusions have been rejected by both politicians and media, is considering taking unilateral action against the principal Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz. If Israel were to attack Iran, it would need Washington’s help, and U.S. forces would almost certainly be involved in any Iranian retaliation.

The history of how the NIE was developed provides an effective rebuke to those attacking it. Since late 2006, the White House has been aware that the NIE would not confirm the existence of an Iranian weapons program. In January 2007, John Negroponte resigned as director of national intelligence because he backed his analysts and refused to order the rewriting of the key judgments that appeared in the NIE draft. Vice President Dick Cheney’s office subsequently demanded several revisions and numerous reviews of the source material. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell is loyal to the president, but, like Negroponte, was unwilling to alter the conclusions for the White House, and the administration eventually became resigned to a final report that it knew would contradict policy.

Contrary to administration claims, when conclusive new intelligence demonstrating that the Iranians had cancelled their weapons program became available in early summer 2007, the White House was informed. It is no coincidence that President Bush and his aides soon began to downplay Iranian nukes and started to emphasize “they’re killing our soldiers” to make its case against Tehran. In November, McConnell, under pressure from Congress to finish the NIE, agreed to White House demands that it be kept classified, but when the report was finally completed a month later, an unclassified summary was prepared because of concerns that inevitable leaks by Democrats in Congress would make it appear that the administration was again deceiving the American people.

The actual NIE process makes clear how impossible it would be to cook the books in order to damage the administration. Sixteen separate intelligence agencies contribute to the report and must concur on key judgments. In the case of the Iran NIE, every detail of evidence for the report’s conclusions was looked at repeatedly and from all angles. In the classified version, there are more than 1,500 footnotes describing the sources used. When the draft came to tentative conclusions, the findings were attacked by analysts acting as a “red team” to determine if there were flaws in the analysis or whether Iranian disinformation was being used to mislead CIA analysts. This process was repeated over and over again until everyone was satisfied with the results. A final no-holds-barred review took place in the White House in mid-November, attended by Bush, Cheney, Robert Gates, Condoleezza Rice, and senior staff members, where objections to sourcing and conclusions were aired. No agenda-driven judgments could possibly survive the process.

The claim that the CIA has historically had trouble reporting accurately on proliferation is based on the 2002 and 2005 Iraq and Iran NIE’s. Reporting on Russia, China, India, Pakistan, and the A.Q. Khan network was also flawed. But the 2007 Iran NIE should be judged on its merits because intelligence is not a science but a process, based on the best assessment of available information.

After the fiasco of the Iraq NIE, the Agency took a hard look at what had gone wrong. It decided that there were three issues that produced bad analysis: poor information sources resulting in “garbage in, garbage out,” political pressure to make the intelligence match the policy, and “groupthink” where assumptions based on past intelligence shape the current analysis.

To address the poor information problem, the Agency launched a major operation against Iran designated the “Persian House,” involving 175 case officers and 35 analysts. It also aggressively went after traveling Iranian officials and businessmen in Europe and the Persian Gulf, most particularly in Dubai, where the Iranian government actively does business to avoid sanctions enforced elsewhere. The effort was successful and, combined with improved technical collection against Iran, provided a window into the Iranian nuclear program. Key information came from Ali Resa Asghari, a general in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, who was recruited in 2003 and jointly run by the CIA and the Turkish intelligence service, MIT. Before defecting in Istanbul in February, Asghari provided critical intelligence on the Iranian program as well as on Tehran’s defense communications, permitting the NSA and CIA to obtain still more information. The intelligence available to analysts on Iran improved dramatically.

Both the Iraq NIE and the 2005 NIE on Iran suffered from White House staffers, mostly neoconservatives from Vice President Cheney’s office, participating in the review process. To deal with the problem of such political pressure, Director of Central Intelligence Michael Hayden and DNI Mike McConnell isolated analysts from policymakers and also took steps to deal with the groupthink problem. In the 2002 Iraq NIE, the consensus view that Saddam Hussein must have weapons of mass destruction influenced analysis, but proved to be untrue. The Iran NIE was instead constructed from the ground up with every assumption being challenged. The critics of the NIE curiously engage in their own groupthink when they claim that the CIA’s record of failures in the past mean that it has likely failed again. This time, however, the CIA has gotten it right.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA Officer, is a partner in Cannistraro Associates.

The Five Iraqs by Scott Ritter

The Five Iraqs

Posted on Dec 30, 2007

By Scott Ritter

It has become a mantra of sorts among the faltering Republican candidates: Victory is at hand in Iraq. Mitt Romney, in particular, has taken to so openly embracing the “success” of the U.S. troop “surge” that it has become the centerpiece of his litany of attacks on the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton.

“Think of what’s happened this year,” Romney recently implored a crowd in Iowa. “General [David] Petraeus came in to report to Congress and Hillary Clinton said she couldn’t believe him. She said she just couldn’t believe General Petraeus. Now think about that. He’s been proven to be right. He should be on the cover, by the way, of Time magazine, and not Putin.”
About the Author

Scott Ritter
A former Marine Corps intelligence officer, Scott Ritter was a chief inspector for the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq from 1991 until 1998. He is the author of several books; “Target Iran,” with a new afterword by the author, was recently released in paperback by Nation Books.
For more on Scott Ritter, including his previous Truthdig columns, click here.

Clinton, for her part, has stood her ground. Addressing a crowd of voters in Iowa, she took a swipe back at Romney: “We all know the Republican candidates are just plain wrong when they declare mission accomplished about the troop surge.” She went on to note that U.S. casualty figures in Iraq for 2007 were at an all-time high, and that for all of the positive reports concerning the surge, Iraq remains a nation on the verge of a civil war, no closer today to a political solution than it was before the escalation. She promised that, if nominated, “I will not hesitate to go toe to toe with Republicans in the debates to end the war as quickly and responsibly as possible.”

Therein lies the catch. How does Clinton explain her commitment to quick and responsible withdrawal in the context of the short-term reduction of violence in Iraq achieved by the surge? How does she propose to rectify the admitted internal shortcomings inside Iraq, which she likens to near-civil war conditions, with her pledge for a “responsible” withdrawal? If one takes at face value the alleged successes of the surge, it is difficult to justify the embrace of an alternative policy option. Likewise, if one chooses to criticize the surge as all smoke and mirrors, as Clinton has, and yet argues for a quick and responsible end to the war in Iraq without revealing the details of how this would be accomplished, the rhetoric comes across as remarkably shallow.

I’m not one inclined to speak out in support of Hillary Clinton. She made her bed with Iraq, and she should now be forced to sleep in it. However, she is right that nothing the surge has accomplished so far remotely approaches a solution to these enormously destabilizing realities: a largely disaffected Sunni population which finds the current Shiite-dominated government of Iraq fundamentally unacceptable; a decisively fractured Shiite population torn between an Iranian-dominated government on the one hand (controlled by the political proxies of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, SCIRI, itself an Iranian proxy) or an indigenous firebrand, Muqtada al-Sadr; and a false paradise in Kurdistan, where the dream of an independent Kurdish homeland corrupts a viable Kurdish autonomy and threatens regional instability by provoking Turkish military intervention.

“Quickly and responsibly”? The problem with Clinton is that when it comes to Iraq, she is as shallow as the next candidate, and once one gets past her flowery rhetoric and protestations of expertise, it becomes crystal clear that she, like almost everyone else in the presidential race from either party, hasn’t a clue about what is really happening on the ground in Iraq.

There are, in fact, five Iraqs that must be dealt with by a singular American policy. The first is the Iraq of the Green Zone, and by that I mean the Iraqi government brought about by the “purple finger revolution” of January 2005. Those sham elections produced a sham democracy which lacks any viability outside of the never-never land of the U.S.-controlled Green Zone. This lack of centralized authority has led some, like Sen. Joe Biden and the U.S. Senate, to advocate the division of Iraq into three de facto states, one Sunni, one Shiite and one Kurdish, lumped together in a loose federation overseen by a weak central authority. Given that the 2005 elections were designed to prevent this very sort of Iraqi breakup to begin with, one can begin to understand the fallacy of any policy that contradicts the very foundation upon which it is built. But this sort of behavior defines the entire Iraq fiasco, one contradiction built upon another, until there has been woven a web of contradictions from which no clarity can ever be found. That, in a sentence, is the reality of the current Iraqi government. It is almost as if by design the Bush administration has cobbled together a wreck incapable of governance. How does Hillary Clinton propose to deal “quickly and responsibly” with such a mess?

The second Iraq is the one being managed from Tehran. This Iraq, stretching from Basra in the south up into Baghdad, exists outside of the reach of the compromised disaster that is the current government of Iraq, and is instead dominated by SCIRI and its military wing, the Badr Brigade. Here one finds the unvarnished reality of the dream of the pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiites, those who reached political maturity festering in the anti-Saddam ideology cooked up in the theocracy of Iran. Given the roots of this political movement, bred and paid for by the reactionary mullahs of Iran, the politics of revenge that it embraces should come as no surprise. However, whereas the mullahs in Tehran seek long-term political stability guaranteed by a friendly, compliant government in Baghdad, the Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiites seem more focused on rapidly reversing decades of inequities, real and perceived. Revenge is not a policy that breeds stability, and yet it is the politics of revenge that dominates the mind-set of SCIRI.

Serving as a major domestic counterweight to SCIRI is the indigenous grass-roots Iraqi Shiite movement controlled by Muqtada al-Sadr, the third Iraq. Possessing similar geographic reach as SCIRI, the Iraq of the “Mahdi Army” is one which rejects the SCIRI proxy government operating out of the Green Zone as but a tool of the American occupation, and the SCIRI movement itself as a tool of Iran. While maintaining close relations with Tehran, al-Sadr mocks those who would govern in south Iraq as having Farsi, vice Arabic, as their first tongue. The movement headed by al-Sadr bases its credibility on its pure Iraqi roots, derived as it is from the Shiites of Iraq who actually lived under the rule of Saddam Hussein. Surprisingly, these Shiites are more inclined to find common cause with their fellow Iraqis, including Sunnis who are disaffected with the current government, than with their SCIRI co-religionists. While much has been made of the Sunni-Shiite divide, the fact is that one of the most serious threats to stability in Iraq is the emerging Shiite-versus-Shiite conflict between al-Sadr and SCIRI.

The fourth Iraq is the Iraq of the Sunni. The first three years of the American occupation were dominated by violence emanating from the Sunni heartland as those elements loyal to Saddam, and those opposed to Shiite domination, worked together to make the American occupation, and any affiliated post-Saddam government derived from the occupation, a failure. To this extent, elements of the Sunni of Iraq, drawn primarily from the intelligence services of the Hussein regime, facilitated the creation and operation of al-Qaida in Iraq. The work of this Iraqi al-Qaida has been successful in destabilizing the country to the point that the United States has been compelled to fund, equip and train Sunni militias in an effort to confront al-Qaida, as well as to make up for the real shortfalls of the central Iraqi government when it comes to security and stability in the Sunni areas. The newfound relationship between the Sunni and the United States, especially in Anbar province, is cited as a major factor in the success of the surge.

The fifth Iraq is that of the Kurds. Long hailed as a poster child of stability and prosperity, the fundamental problems inherent in post-Saddam Kurdistan are coming to a head. The inherent incompatibility between the “sanctuary” created by the United States through the northern “no-fly zone” and post-Saddam Iraq is more evident today than ever. The Kurds, pleased with their status as a “special case” in the eyes of the Bush administration, have made no honest effort to assimilate into a centralized system of government. Furthermore, the false dream of an independent Kurdish homeland has not only poisoned relations with the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad (witness the conflict over oil deals in Kurdistan and the Iraqi national oil law), but also between the U.S. and its NATO ally, Turkey. The Iraqi Kurds’ ongoing support of Kurdish nationalist groups in Turkey and Iran has led to increased instability, the most current manifestation of which are the ongoing cross-border attacks into Iraqi territory by the Turkish military. And, given the high level of emotion attached to matters pertaining to Kurdish nationalism, the likelihood of the situation de-escalating anytime soon is remote.

Five Iraqs, and one Iraq policy ill-suited to the reality of any single situation, yet alone the whole. The success of the surge is pure fantasy, a fancy bit of illusion that would do David Copperfield proud, but not the people of Iraq or the United States. The surge addresses events in Iraq based upon short-term objectives (i.e., reducing the immediate level of violence) without resolving any of the deep-seated, long-term issues that promote the violence to begin with. It is like placing a Band-Aid on a gaping chest wound. The pink, frothy blood may not be visible on the surface, but the wound remains as grave as ever, and because it is not being directly attended to, it only gets worse. Eventually the lungs will collapse and the body will die. This is the reality of Iraq today. Thanks to the surge, we do not see the horrific wound that is Iraq for what it truly is. As such, our policies do nothing to cure the problem, and in doing nothing, only make the matter worse.

History will show that this period of relative “calm” we attribute to the surge is but the pause before the storm. Hillary Clinton is correct to label the surge a failed strategy. But her motivation for doing so rests more with her desire to position herself politically on the domestic front than it is a reflection of a thoughtful Iraq policy. So long as American politicians, regardless of political affiliation, seek to solve the problem of Iraq from a domestic political perspective, then the problem that is Iraq will never be resolved, either “quickly” or “responsibly.” Iraq is an unpopular war. There are, therefore, no “popular” solutions, only realistic ones.

The five-dimensional problem embodied in post-Saddam Iraq cannot be bundled up into a neat package. America, and its leaders, must do the right thing in Iraq, not for Iraq, but for America, even when doing so requires making some tough decisions. Narrow the problem set from five dimensions to two, and the problem becomes more manageable. For my money, I choose working with the Sunnis and al-Sadr to create a viable coalition, and then cutting a deal with Iran that trades off better relations in exchange for encouraging the current failed Iraqi government to step aside in favor of new elections. And the Kurds? Autonomy or nothing.

My loyalty is first and foremost to the United States, and when we look at the situation in Iraq from a genuine national security perspective, there is no threat worthy of the continued sacrifice being asked of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. As such, the only policy option worthy of consideration is that which brings our troops home as expeditiously as possible. Politicians who embrace a different policy are simply using the sacrifice of our service members as a shield behind which to hide their ignorance of Iraqi issues, and their personal cowardice, which manifests itself any time brave young men and women are allowed to die in order to preserve someone’s political viability.

As we in the United States celebrate this holiday season, let us not forget those who serve overseas in uniform, and the sacrifices they make in our name. And as we approach the coming election season, let us never forget those politicians who would have these sacrifices continue in order to safeguard their individual political fortune. This applies to all who seek the nomination for the office of the presidency, even those like Hillary Clinton who claim to embrace an anti-war position but whose words and actions strongly suggest something else.

Pakistasn in a vortex by Arnaud de Borchgrave

Pakistan in a vortex
December 31, 2007

By Arnaud de Borchgrave - Pakistan is one of the world's eight nuclear powers and the first to be categorized as a failing state. Not failed yet, but on its way, and the world's major powers are powerless to correct the downward spiral.

Some U.S. presidential hopefuls — e.g., Gov. Bill Richardson — are calling on President Pervez Musharraf to resign. At this juncture, such a resignation would guarantee widespread civil strife — and a failed nuclear state. Mr. Musharraf, who recently retired as military chief in a power-sharing deal with Benazir Bhutto brokered by the United States, appointed his deputy chief of army staff, Gen. Pervez Kayani, a former head of intelligence, as his successor. The army remains the only barrier to total chaos. It is also the guardian of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal (an estimated 60 city-busting weapons).

There is little doubt al Qaeda and Taliban had ordered Mrs. Bhutto's assassination. They saw her and her plans as the biggest threat to their privileged sanctuaries in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) that straddle the Pakistani-Afghan border. Over this past year, Taliban guerrillas in three of the seven FATAs — North and South Waziristan and Baijaur — fought the Pakistani army to a standstill. Hundreds were captured without a fight and then released with a pledge they would cease and desist killing Taliban fighters.

Mrs. Bhutto told this reporter two weeks before she flew home Oct. 18 about her plans to flush Taliban and al Qaeda out of FATA. She wanted to open up FATA to the country's principal political parties to compete with a coalition of six politico-religious parties, known as MMA, now the only ones allowed to campaign there. The objective was to wean Pashtun tribesmen from MMA, Taliban and al Qaeda control. This was to be done in conjunction with about $750 million in authorized U.S. aid to bring basic improvements to mountain villages that haven't changed much since the water-bearers in Rudyard Kipling's "Gunga Din."

Still unclear in Mrs. Bhutto's thinking was how to keep Taliban fighters at bay while modernity worked its magic. Pakistani's two provinces on the Afghan frontier — Baluchistan and the Northwest Frontier Province — are still governed by the MMA coalition of Taliban sympathizers.

Al Qaeda and Taliban and their secret supporters among renegade veterans of the Pakistani intelligence service that backed them throughout the 1990s, clearly had the most to gain by killing Mrs. Bhutto. In a recent statement, Ayman al-Zawahri, no. 2 to Osama bin Laden, said Mrs. Bhutto's return was a U.S.-orchestrated maneuver.

"Everything that is going on in Pakistan," said Zawahiri, "from the arrangements for the return of Bhutto to the declaration of the state of emergency ... to repressive measures, is a desperate American attempt to remedy the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan." Shortly before Mrs. Bhutto's return from exile Oct. 18, Taliban commander Haji Omar pledged she would be met by suicide bombers. The first suicide attack, hours after her return Oct. 18, killed 141, injured 350 — and Mrs. Bhutto escaped behind a few inches of metal in her vehicle.

Baitullah Mehsud, a tribal warlord in North Waziristan, told a Pakistani newspaper suicide bombers had been assigned to eliminate Mrs. Bhutto, but later denied he had said any such thing. Some 500 suicide volunteers have reportedly been trained in recent months.

Mrs. Bhutto also talked to me, not for publication, about Taliban in Afghanistan, which she considered a no-win situation for the United States and NATO allies unless Taliban and al Qaeda could be eliminated in the FATA tribal agencies. She didn't like the idea of allowing U.S. Special Forces to cross the unmarked border into Pakistan. "But we may have no other choice," she conceded, albeit off the record.

There is little doubt retired Inter-Services Intelligence generals who still have a following in the spy agency considered Mrs. Bhutto their principal enemy. They opposed her liberal, secular agenda. In a letter to Mr. Musharraf shortly before her Oct. 18 return, Mrs. Bhutto complained about Ijaz Shah, a self-avowed enemy who is the director of the Intel Bureau (IB), and a personal friend of the president.

She also mentioned two other ranking names in other agencies that were gunning for her.

NATO allies that have committed fighting forces to the Afghan operation — Britain, Canada and the Netherlands — have lost their initial enthusiasm to engage in peacemaking activities. Apart from the frequent firefights and casualties, costs are also mounting and domestic support in Ottawa, London and The Hague is waning. There is also the conviction that everything will be in vain unless Taliban is brought to heel on Pakistan's side of the border.

The longer the Afghan campaign lasts, the bigger the opium crop seems to grow — this past year, some 8,000 tons, an increase of 2,000 tons in the last two years. Two-thirds of Afghanistan's gross domestic product is now opium. It also lubricates corruption in every government department up to almost the top, supplies Taliban with cash for modern weapons, and Pakistan's ISI with petty cash for out-of-budget operations. ISI had assigned 1,500 agents to Taliban in its campaign to conquer Afghanistan in the mid-1990s.

The Bush administration may also be tiring of an endless Afghan conflict. Last week, the United States endorsed the secret contacts some allies have held with Taliban when William Wood, the U.S. ambassador in Kabul, said the two expelled diplomats from the European Union had been acting "with absolutely the best intentions." He also said the United States would support a reconciliation program with "those elements of the Taliban who are prepared to accept the constitution and the authority of the elected government of President Hamid Karzai." Shades of the early peace feelers in Vietnam after the 1968 Tet offensive?

In Pakistan, the only other national political figure who advocates democracy is Mrs. Bhutto's rival Nawaz Sharif, head of the Muslim League, who recently returned from exile where Mr. Musharraf had sent him packing in 1999. But Mr. Sharif is no Benazir Bhutto. Despite his strong denials, an al Qaeda operative, now in jail in the United States, said he knew Mr. Sharif was given $1 million in cash in 1997 by Osama bin Laden in return for keeping Pakistani law enforcement and military out of FATA — which, of course, Mr. Sharif denied.

Like it or not, the United States is now stuck with Mr. Musharraf again. Whether elections are held Jan. 8 as scheduled or postponed, is of little importance. ISI operatives will rig them, as they have been in all balloting since Mr. Musharraf seized power in 1999. Margins of win or lose are carefully calculated down to the last percentage point.

For the vast majority of 160 million Pakistanis, democracy has little meaning. Sixty percent of them are illiterate. The less chaotic periods in Pakistan's 60-year existence were the military coups whose ensuing dictatorships ruled for more than 30 years.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.

Bush's best-laid plans by Andrew Bacevich

From the Los Angeles Times
Bush's best-laid plans
The Bhutto assassination demonstrates anew the folly of the administration's efforts to manage history.
By Andrew J. Bacevich

December 30, 2007

Viewed from a historian's perspective, the Bush administration since 9/11 has ransacked the past to conjure up comforting expectations for the future. President Bush excels in this exercise, expressing confidence that the "untamed fire of freedom" will one day soon "reach the darkest corners of our world." Yet as the assassination of Benazir Bhutto reminds us yet again, events refuse to play along. History remains stubbornly recalcitrant.

Bush would have us believe otherwise. History, he insists, "has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty." That direction, the president believes, tends toward peace, democracy and freedom for all humankind. America's purpose, assigned by the Author of Liberty, is to nudge history toward its intended destination. More immediately, America's ostensible aim since 9/11 has been to make the blessings of liberty available to the Islamic world. As democracy spreads there, the threat posed by terrorism will diminish. Such at least has been the assumption underlying Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, the two wars begun on Bush's watch.

This strategy of militarized liberation has been fraught with contradictions, not the least of which has been the partnership forged between the United States and Pakistan. Bush has repeatedly declared Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf a valued and trusted ally. Since 9/11, the U.S. has provided Pakistan with at least $10 billion in aid, most of it going to the army. In hopes of ensuring Pakistani cooperation in the global war on terrorism, Washington has ignored that nation's record as perhaps the world's most egregious nuclear weapons proliferator.

Yet Musharraf has never shared Bush's professed commitment to democracy and freedom. A career soldier, Musharraf seized power in 1999 through a military coup. He is an authoritarian dictator who represents the interests of the Pakistani officer corps, distinguished less by any liberal inclinations than by its pronounced Islamist sympathies and a paranoid obsession with India. On Nov. 3, Musharraf declared a state of emergency, a pretext for jailing critics and getting rid of a troublesome Supreme Court. He ended the emergency on Dec. 15. Although Musharraf offers up occasional testimonials on behalf of democracy, they deserve to be taken about as seriously as Bush's calls for bipartisanship in Washington. It's cheap window dressing.

Still, as long as Musharraf appeared to be a stabilizing force and supportive of U.S. efforts to create a new Afghanistan, the Bush administration turned a blind eye to his anti-democratic tendencies. Not for the first time in U.S. history, ideals took a back seat to more pragmatic calculations. Washington talked democracy but opted in practice to support a strongman who promised order and cooperation against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, despite the fact that Pakistani assistance against the Islamic radicals operating within Pakistan was never more than spotty.

During the last year, however, the strongman began to appear less strong. Only as Musharraf's power waned did the United States actively press Pakistan to get onboard the democratic bandwagon. First, the Bush administration promoted a bizarre power-sharing agreement between Musharraf and Bhutto. When that shotgun marriage failed, it insisted on elections as the way to shore up the government's legitimacy. Now an assassin has demolished these carefully laid plans, possibly thrusting Pakistan into unprecedented turmoil while leaving Bush tied to a partner who increasingly invites comparisons to the shah of Iran.

Faced with the prospect of "losing" Pakistan, what should the world's sole superpower do? Despite Musharraf's flaws, should Washington back him to the hilt as the only alternative to chaos? Or should Bush commit the United States without reservation to building a strong democracy in Pakistan?

To pose such questions is to presume that decisions made in Washington will decisively influence the course of events in Islamabad. Yet the lesson to be drawn from the developments of the last several days -- and from U.S. involvement in Pakistan over the course of decades -- suggests just the opposite: The United States has next to no ability to determine Pakistan's fate.

How the crisis touched off by Bhutto's assassination will end is impossible to predict, although the outcome is likely to be ugly. Yet this much we can say with confidence: That outcome won't be decided in the White House. Once again, as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "events are in the saddle, and ride mankind," with those events reducing the most powerful man in the world to the status of spectator.

At the beginning of his second term, Bush spoke confidently of the United States sponsoring a global democratic revolution "with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." Ever since that hopeful moment, developments across the greater Middle East -- above all, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and on the West Bank -- have exposed the very real limits of U.S. wisdom and power.

Now the virtual impotence of the U.S. in the face of the crisis enveloping Pakistan -- along with its complicity in creating that crisis -- ought to discredit once and for all any notions of America fixing the world's ills.

Bush dreamed of managing history. It turns out that he cannot even manage Pakistan. Thus does the Author of Liberty mock the pretensions of those who presume to understand his intentions and to interpret his will.

Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University.

Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times

Bush's Twilight Year Looks Grim by Jim Lobe

Bush's Twilight Year Looks Grim
by Jim Lobe

If the last days of 2007 are any indication, U.S. President George W. Bush's last year in office is shaping up as grim and lonely.

Grim, because Bush's signature "war on terror" is nowhere near the kind of "victory" on which he had placed so much hope. Hundreds of billions of dollars from the U.S. Treasury have been spent, but the democratic transformation of the Middle East and the wider Islamic world has not materialized.

Indeed, while Bush's surge strategy has helped reduce violence in Iraq over the past year, his top military commanders stress that the relative peace that has been achieved to date is fragile and that prospects for national reconciliation – the surge's political goal – remain dim.

Meanwhile, victory in the larger terror effort is nowhere in sight, as this week's assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto helped illustrate.

Grim, because the economic news – which has generally remained upbeat over Bush's tenure – has turned decidedly negative in recent months. The chances that his successor may inherit a recession, as well as the many foreign-policy fiascoes created by the disastrous combination of the administration's ideological rigidity and incompetence, are growing steadily.

Lonely, not only because of the departure during the past year of virtually all of his closest and most long-standing loyalists – Dan Bartlett, Karen Hughes, Harriet Miers, Alberto Gonzales, and Karl Rove – but also because he is seen increasingly as both a lame duck and an albatross around the necks of his party's candidates.

Indeed, the focus of national and international attention – so far as the U.S. is concerned – appears to have shifted to the race to succeed him in next November's elections. Remarkably, the mainstream U.S. media this week devoted as much space to the reactions of the main presidential candidates to Bhutto's assassination as to the administration's.

The fact that all of the major Republican candidates not only rarely invoke his name, but also often suggest that his performance in office has been less than stellar, serves only to underline his marginalization.

As for the Democrats, Bush, whose public-approval ratings have hovered around 32 percent for more than a year (the worst sustained ratings of any president in more than 50 years), is the rhetorical target against whom they find it easiest to rally the party faithful. According to recent surveys, the Democratic Party has grown substantially over the past four years, largely as a result of what Bush's defenders have called "Bush hatred."

Bush, of course, is still hoping that 2008 may yet deliver his presidency from the fate of being judged as one of the very worst – if not the worst – in history.

A number of eminent historians have in fact already reached that judgment, based on, among other things, the strategic disaster of the Iraq war; the squandering of Washington's overseas image as a champion of international law and human rights; the defiance of constitutional safeguards at home; the politicization of the system of justice; and the distortion of scientific research regarding global warming and other critical issues.

His hopes of escaping that assessment rest primarily in the area of foreign policy, on which, as a "wartime president," he has staked his reputation.

Possible achievements that could help to redeem Bush's overall record before the end of his term would be the continued reduction of violence – if not reconciliation among the three main communal groups – in Iraq; a major breakthrough in the Israel-Palestinian negotiations leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state; or the denuclearization of North Korea.

But even the most likely of these three – North Korean denuclearization – remains highly uncertain. Most analysts here believe that Pyongyang has not yet made a strategic decision to give up its nuclear program as demanded by Washington.

Similarly, the initial indications after last month's Israeli-Palestinian summit in Annapolis do not look particularly favorable. Israel has spurned a cease-fire offer by Hamas – which, in any event, retains the ability to spoil any accord reached by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas – and, despite U.S. pressure, is playing coy about settlement activity in the contested Jerusalem area. Just how hard Bush is prepared to press Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert remains unknown.

As for Iraq, a big question mark is whether the planned withdrawal of 30,000 U.S. troops by July and 60,000 by the end of next year will spark a new round in the Sunni-Shia civil war, which the surge has helped to tamp down but not resolve. Another big question as 2007 draws to a close is whether Kurdistan – until now the most peaceful and pro-U.S. part of Iraq – will find its stability at risk due to U.S.-backed Turkish attacks on Kurdish guerrillas or by the approach of the newly scheduled referendum on the status of Kirkuk.

While these three areas may offer the brightest prospects for redemption, new crises – particularly those arising from the "war on terror" – could divert the administration's attention and further damage Bush's record.

Bhutto's assassination, for example, offered yet another example that Bush's war has been at best incompetently pursued, if not misconceived, from the very beginning.

Not only did Bush's diversion of both money and troops from Afghanistan to Iraq immediately after the defeat of the Taliban permit both Taliban and al-Qaeda to regroup and eventually extend their influence in the rugged tribal areas along the Afghan-Pakistan border, but his virtually unconditional backing – including more than $10 billion in mostly military aid – for the regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf served mainly to strengthen the Islamist parties at the expense of the secular, "moderate" forces to which his administration has given mainly rhetorical support.

When it became clear last summer that Pakistan's Taliban was making major advances and that Musharraf's popular base had dried up, the administration sought to forge an agreement between the military commander and the exiled Bhutto, whom it had long ignored.

The agreement, which included free elections that would likely result in Bhutto's election as prime minister, was designed, in the words of Bruce Reidel – a former senior CIA analyst now with the Brookings Institution – to give the Musharraf government "a democratic façade," bolster the moderates, and encourage the army to cooperate with U.S. counter-terror efforts.

The cynicism of the maneuver, combined with Washington's enduring support for Musharraf – even when he declared a state of emergency earlier this fall – forced Bhutto to back away, leaving the accord unconsummated. Now that she has been eliminated, a number of experts here have noted, Bush, predictably, lacks a "Plan B."

The prospect of a failed, nuclear-armed Pakistan makes even Iraq – not to mention a uranium-enrichment program in Iran – look benign. It could be a rough final year.

(Inter Press Service)

Panic Over Pakistan: Why precipitous intervention is not the answer by Justin Raimondo

Panic Over Pakistan
Why precipitous intervention is not the answer
by Justin Raimondo

The drumbeat to "do something" about Pakistan – preferably of a military nature – has been going on for some time, and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto is the perfect catalyst for such an enormous blunder. As far back as this last summer, the administration has been sending out signals that a direct assault on Waziristan, where Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants are reputed to be holed up, is not out of the question. It was almost embarrassing to hear the pleading tone in Pakistani Foreign Minister Kurshid Kasuri's voice, as he questioned the rationale for intervention and warned CNN's Wolf Blitzer that the U.S. had better not go there:

"If you have superiority in technical intelligence, please share that with us. And then you talk of going after targets – you will lose the war, the battle for hearts and minds. It is much better to rely on Pakistan['s] army. Pakistan['s] army can do the job much better, and the result will be that there will be far, far less collateral damage."

The irony is that, when it comes to actually capturing and/or killing al-Qaeda's top guns, the Pakistanis hold the world record, bar none: yet the mantra from Washington, getting increasingly loud and insistent as the American elections approach, is that it isn't enough. To which Kasuri replied:

"People in Pakistan get very upset when, despite all the sacrifices that Pakistan has been making, you know, you have the sort of questions that are sometimes asked by the American media."

These days, the question being asked by the Western media and some Western politicians (such as Hillary Clinton) is: did the regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, by neglecting to provide ample security for Bhutto, become complicit in her murder? This whole thing is beginning to resemble the media narrative in the aftermath of the assassination of Rafik Hariri in Lebanon, where the supposedly ubiquitous Syrian intelligence service was said to wield near-absolute power. Ipso facto, the Syrians did it (this in spite of evidence pointing to other possible perpetrators).

All sorts of elaborate conspiracy theories are being thrown together by the West's best fantasists, which suggest rather strongly that Musharraf is less than sincere in his condemnation of the killing, and hinting broadly at his indirect cooperation with Bhutto's killers – in spite of the fact that al-Qaeda has taken direct responsibility for the murder. An e-mail from Bhutto, released by the aforesaid Blitzer, is being touted as "evidence" that Musharraf's men deliberately left Bhutto vulnerable.

Potentially more destabilizing is the emerging dispute over how Bhutto was killed. The Pakistani government's official report specifies that she died as the result of a blow to the head: when the attack occurred, she was standing with her upper body through the sun roof of her bulletproof vehicle. Her bodyguards tried to pull her into the vehicle, hitting her skull on a lever in the car roof – that's what killed her. Other witnesses, however, attest to having supposedly seen bullet wounds.

All this is part and parcel of the typically simplistic Western media narrative of Bhutto, the martyred "democrat," a woman who stood up against the Islamists and the unsympathetic Musharraf, Pakistan's Pinochet. Yet the reality, as William Dalrymple points out in the Guardian, is far more complicated.

Pakistan is in many ways a modern, developed nation, and yet the rising middle class has yet to rise up politically: power is in the hands of the large landowners. Bhutto was the exemplar of this system, an autocrat who presided over her domain using methods that were far from democratic. During her years in power, Amnesty International condemned the Pakistani government for presiding over extra-judicial killings, frequent torture, and one of the highest rates of prison deaths in the world. Even her own family wasn't immune:

"Within her party, she declared herself the lifetime president of the PPP and refused to let her brother Murtaza challenge her. When he persisted in doing so, he ended up shot dead in highly suspicious circumstances outside the family home. Murtaza's wife Ghinwa and his daughter Fatima, as well as Benazir's mother, all firmly believed that Benazir gave the order to have him killed."

Now that the father and the son have succeeded her as head of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), the royal succession is official and will be tested in the upcoming elections. Whatever the PPP represents, however, it isn't the spirit of liberal democracy. As Dalrymple puts it:

"Today, Benazir is being hailed as a martyr for freedom and democracy, but far from being a natural democrat, in many ways, Benazir was the person who brought Pakistan's strange variety of democracy, really a form of 'elective feudalism', into disrepute and who helped fuel the current, apparently unstoppable, growth of the Islamists."

The corruption of the Bhutto family, including the martyred Benazir, is indisputable: they plundered the country and socked away $100 million in overseas bank accounts. It's not for nothing that Bhutto's husband, Asif Zardari, is known as "Mr. 10 Percent." Investigators uncovered a payment of some $10 million made by a gold dealer into Zardari's Citibank account in Dubai just as the Bhutto government granted the dealer a monopoly on gold imports for Pakistan's jewelry-making industry.

That's why the PPP didn't dare run him as the party's candidate for prime minister, choosing instead to make him co-chair of the PPP along with his son. Bilawal Zardari will henceforth take his mother's name, although, as the father puts it, Bilawal is "of tender years," so dad will take the helm for the time being. (Old Mr. Ten Percent will have plenty of time to collect his cut.) The PPP candidate for prime minister is Makhdoom Amin Fahim, formerly the vice chairman of the party, a decidedly uncharismatic party loyalist who will put a bland face on the monarchical decadence of the same old Bhutto gang.

Benazir was a personable, brave, and thoroughly Westernized woman, whose political style was nonetheless akin to that of the shah of Iran, or any of the other flamboyant despots who have ruled over that area of the world with the approval of the West. She spoke excellent English, her first language, but her Urdu needed work, and as for her Sindhi – suffice to say that she was, in many ways, a foreigner in her own country. Her distance from ordinary Pakistanis was underscored by the fact that she built herself a presidential palace that Dalrymple deftly described as resembling "the weekend retreat of a particularly flamboyant Latin-American industrialist" – this in a country where grinding poverty is endemic and the national debt is enormous.

Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister deposed by Musharraf in a 1999 military coup, offers no real democratic alternative. As I wrote at the time of the coup:

"Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was increasingly unpopular, and often accused of trying to establish a personal dictatorship: he had recently cracked down on the opposition, and made inroads on the authority of the judiciary, but the real reason for the decline of his political fortunes was his decision to withdraw support from Islamic radical rebels in Kashmir, a disputed province claimed by both Pakistan and India. For years, the Pakistani military has been encouraging Syed Salahuddin, chief of the Hizbul Mujahideen, the pro-Pakistani Islamic rebel organization in Kashmir, arming, supplying, and training the insurgents, who want 'reunion' with Pakistan. While Sharif tried to whip up and ride the wave of Islamic radicalism that has engulfed Pakistan, the movement he helped to create quickly decided that he was not radical enough and called for his dismissal. Amid an economic downturn, and the ongoing humiliation in Kashmir – where a primarily Muslim population is governed by Hindu nationalists in New Delhi – it was only a matter of time before the Sharif government fell. The only question was: who will replace him – the Islamic radicals, who invited Osama bin Laden as the guest of honor at a gigantic rally held in Islamabad last year, or the military? The military preempted the militants – but don't break out the champagne just yet."

Nawaz was the Kerensky of Pakistan's Islamist revolution: if Musharraf and the army hadn't acted, al-Qaeda would have had access to nuclear weapons two years before 9/11. Democracy may enthrall the Democratic candidates for president and their retinue of policy wonks in search of more gainful employment, but American interests and the history of Pakistan militate mightily against that unlikely prospect.

As in Iraq, and across much of Africa, we are left in Pakistan with the legacy of British imperialism, which imposed on the region national boundaries that bear little if any correspondence to real political, ethnic, and religious allegiances. Pakistan never was a genuine unitary state, and today, as the country comes apart at the seams, al-Qaeda is creeping into the cracks and crevices. While bin Laden's minions are not even close to coming to power, the mere prospect of U.S. military intervention makes the jihadists salivate with anticipation: their ranks are already swelling, and the Islamist parties are gaining. The idea that a sudden infusion of "democracy" is going to solve Pakistan's problems is a Western delusion that should have died a quick death in the sands of Iraq, and didn't.

What's interesting is that, on the home front, it's the Democrats who are taking the lead in calling for U.S. intervention. Proposing such a reckless course was Barack Obama's defining moment during the Democratic debates, dashing the hopes of some anti-interventionists, who saw, in the charismatic Iraq war critic, a potential antiwar standard-bearer. And although Hillary Clinton has lately been touting her experience in contrast to Obama's steep learning curve in the foreign policy realm, she's not exactly been ready for prime time during this crisis.

Clinton called Musharraf an "unreliable" ally and said she doubted elections could be held in the wake of Bhutto's death. This last proved to be jumping the gun, as both the PPP and Sharif's party have decided to contest the elections anyway, and, as for the former, it is hard to imagine that, in Musharraf's absence, the U.S. has any allies at all, never mind reliable ones. Hillary clearly wants to dump Musharraf, just as her husband was at least passively complicit in the overthrow of Sharif and the installation of Musharraf as military dictator in 1999. Sharif was no longer useful to the United States and had to go. Now Musharraf is useful to Mrs. Clinton only as the symbol of George W. Bush's failed policies.

Even worse, she is now recklessly indulging in conspiracy theories, openly speculating that Pakistan's military murdered Bhutto: "There are those saying that al-Qaeda did it. Others are saying it looked like it was an inside job – remember, Rawalpindi is a garrison city."

Will the Clintons stop at nothing in their bid to establish their dynastic claim to the Oval Office – not even the destabilization of a nuclear-armed Pakistan? A more disgusting opportunism would be hard to imagine – and talk about unpresidential! If this is the voice of experience, I'll take a greenhorn any time.

John Edwards isn't much more reassuring. He reported to Wolf Blitzer that, via his contacts with Pakistan's ambassador, Musharraf actually called him, and Edwards wasn't shy about revealing his advice: a "transparent international investigation" into Bhutto's murder, democratic elections, and more action in the tribal areas where bin Laden and his followers are supposedly ensconced. In short, he echoed Clinton and Obama, while adding that we needed to use our aid package to Pakistan as "leverage" to get "reform."

The reality is that the panicked atmosphere surrounding this issue is completely bogus: the Pakistanis are getting their act together, and the country is not falling into chaos. The hopped-up hysterics of our media during a very slow news cycle is closely tied up with their inherent bias in favor of yet another manufactured "crisis," which puts pressure on political candidates to respond with what is thought to be appropriate assertiveness.

"Well, then," David Shuster demanded of Ron Paul, during a television interview shortly after the assassination, "what would you do, what action would you take?" Action without thought of the consequences: that's the problem with the formulation of foreign policy in Western democracies – too much action and too little thought, when "doing something" is only apt to turn a crisis into a catastrophe. That, unfortunately, is how a politically driven foreign policy is often made in Western democracies, but Paul didn't fall for it.

Instead, he condemned the massive aid to the Musharraf regime and said that we shouldn't be undermining him, either, by "stirring up the fires of civil unrest." We don't need to be "endlessly involved in these conflicts." We didn't intervene when the Soviets had 40,000 nuclear weapons, and we don't need to intervene in Pakistan, either, under the dubious rationale that its nukes are about to fall into the hands of Islamists. In fact, no such possibility immediately presents itself, and the "crisis" atmosphere generated by the American news media, in this instance, is biased in favor of the clumsiest sort of interventionism.

Pakistan is not now fated to fall into the hands of radical Islamists. Such an outcome becomes more probable, however, the more determined we are to "do something." As Dr. Paul knows from his experience as a physician, the guiding rule of American foreign policy should be "First, do no harm." Taking "action" – intervening either militarily or politically – will do more harm than good. The illusion that we can control events on the other side of the world is a dangerous one: the sooner we get over it, the more likely we are to stay out of trouble.

Listing of SWJ OpEds re: Pakistan December 31, 2007

Demagoging Pakistan's Crisis - Washington Times editorial
Pakistan: A Monster Unleashed - Ottawa Citizen editorial
Pakistan: On America's Watch - Roger Cohen, New York Times
What about Pakistan’s Nukes? – Graham Allison, Newsweek
Musharraf, Army Should Step Aside Now – William Maley, The Australian
Can Musharraf Survive? – Ron Moreau, Newsweek
Reform Pakistan’s Only Hope – Chamberlain and Weinbaum, Sydney Morning Herald
Pakistan’s Political Void – Kevin Whitelaw, U.S. News and World Report
Pakistan in a Vortex - Arnaud de Borchgrave, Washington Times
What Bhutto Was Worried About - Robert Novak, Washington Post
Why Mrs. Bhutto Had to Die - Walid Phares, Washington Times
Bhutto of Greater Use as Martyr – Ralph Peters, The Australian
U.S. Failed Benazir Bhutto - John Nichols, Toronto Star
Pakistan Deserves Better - Tariq Ali, The Independent
Good May Emerge from Pakistan Disaster – Paul Sheehan, Sydney Morning Herald
Pakistan: Long-term Instability? - Christine Fair, Washington Times
Daughter of Destiny Becomes a Martyr - Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune
Born to Rule, Not Just in Pakistan - Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, The Independent

Listing of SWJ OpEds for December 30, 2007

Commander Leads U.S. Troops - Steve Fry, Topeka Capital-Journal
Heroes of the Year – Oliver North, Washington Post
Building Proper Peace in Afghanistan – Liam Fox, London Daily Telegraph
He Could Care Less about Obama’s Story – Reza Aslan, Washington Post
Pakistan: Into the Unknown – London Times editorial
Grieving for Benazir – Bernard-Henri Levy, Wall Street Journal
Bush's Best-laid Plans - Andrew Bacevich, Los Angeles Times
Pakistan's Blood-stained Democracy - William Buckley, Real Clear Politics
Bhutto's Destiny - Benazir Bhutto, New York Post
Pakistan May Not Make It – Peter Galbraith, Washington Post
Pakistan Won't See the Danger - Trudy Rubin, Philadelphia Inquirer
Unfortunate Allies - Lisa Schiffren, National Review
How a ‘Wisp of a Girl’ Conquered Pakistan – Mohammed Hanif, New York Times
As PM, Bhutto Did Little – Jemima Khan, London Daily Telegraph
Pakistan an al-Qaeda Target Now - Trudy Rubin, Miami Herald
Assassin Killed West’s Foreign Policy Too – Michael Portillo, London Times
Climax of a Grim Year in Pakistan – Claude Salhani, Washington Times
Saving Pakistan From Itself - Adil Najam, New York Daily News
Pakistan Politics Played Out in Britain – Matthew d’Acona, London Daily Telegraph
Peace Talks Skirt Housing Issue - Boston Herald editorial
Palestinians: Good Money After Bad - Shmuel Rosner, New York Post
Pelosi and Syria – James Zumwalt, Washington Times
Endless Conflict in West Sahara – Ahmed Charai, Washington Times
Humanizing the Revolution in Venezuela – Enrique Krauze, New York Times
So Who, Exactly, Voted for Putin? – Tom Keane, Boston Globe
Poles Get Cold Feet on Missile Defense – New York Times editorial
Waterboarding: A Clarification - Mark Bowden, Philadelphia Inquirer
TSA: Most Hated in Government - Kyle Smith, New York Post

Foreign Policy News and Commentary Update December 30, 2007

He Could Care Less About Obama's Story - Reza Aslan (Washington Post, December 30): The main issue in U.S. foreign policy that the next president will face is repairing our image in the world. But in foreign policy, unlike advertising, image is created through action, not branding.

Bill Richardson on Pakistan and American Values - (MyFox Kansas City, MO, December 28): Democratic presidential candidate Richardson: 'We cannot win the war against Al Qaeda alone. It is urgent that we rebuild our alliances, so that we can once again lead other nations. Trust is critical to getting allies to work with us in the secret world of counter terrorism and in the open world of public diplomacy. This administration has driven away our allies with swagger and saber rattling. I will rebuild our alliances by making common cause with partners who share our values and interests.'

America's constitution produces a pure democracy we will never have - Simon Jenkins (Sunday Times, December 16): America's friends abroad have felt more despair this past five years than in the previous 50. To turn a phrase once applied to Britain by the American diplomatist Dean Acheson, America has acquired an empire but not found a role.

Pakistan's Blood-Stained Democracy - William F. Buckley Jr. (National Review, December 29): The Bush administration should announce to the waiting world that the United States cannot be charged with responsibility for maintaining order in Pakistan, and does not accept responsibility for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Beyond Benazir: Bhutto assassinated, turmoil -- even civil war -- loom for nuclear-armed Pakistan Editorial (Los Angeles Times, December 29): The United States now finds itself with no strong ally in Pakistan besides Musharraf, and no good options remaining for promoting democratic change -- a situation for which the Bush administration is partly to blame.,0,263348.story?coll=la-opinion-leftrail

Blowback from an Unholy Alliance: The U.S. and Pakistan After 9/11 - Gary Leupp (Counterpunch, December 29/30): Pakistan, more or less stable as of 2001, has in the interval been knocked off balance by U.S. action in the region. Told it must be for or against the U.S., it was obliged to obey, with grim results.

Bush's best-laid plans: The Bhutto assassination demonstrates anew the folly of the administration's efforts to manage history - Andrew J. Bacevich (Los Angeles Times, December 30): The virtual impotence of the U.S. in the face of the crisis enveloping Pakistan -- along with its complicity in creating that crisis -- ought to discredit once and for all any notions of America fixing the world's ills.,0,952089.story?coll=la-opinion-center

Options for Pakistan: Salvaging US Diplomacy Amid Division - Helene Cooper and Steven Lee Myers (Spiegel Online - December 28): The assassination left in ruins the diplomatic effort the Bush administration had pursued in the last year.,1518,525626,00.html

In Memory of Benazir Bhutto, Cut US Ties to Musharraf - Medea Benjamin (Common Dreams, August 28): The US government must use this time to radically change its policy in Pakistan.

How Bhutto Won Washington - Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times, December 30): In the end, with yet another American administration behind her, Ms. Bhutto?s Washington network only underscored how little the United States fathomed the feudal politics of South Asia, and its own ability to control events in the cauldron of Pakistan.

"Musharraf has much to answer for": After Bhutto's death, the press in South Asia and Europe fear for democracy's future in Pakistan, which could go up in "turbulent smoke and bloody dust" - Edward M. Gomez (Salon, December 28)

Iraq suicide attacks on the rise: Gen. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander, notes that despite the slight recent upturn in such bombings, violence overall has dropped to its lowest sustained levels since 2005 - Tina Susman and Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times, December 30),0,4361370,print.story?coll=la-home-center

Iraq Attacks Fall 60 Percent, Petraeus Says - Stephen Farrell and Solomon Moore (New York Times, December 30): The top American military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, said Saturday that violent attacks in the country had fallen by 60 percent since June, but cautioned that security gains were tenuous and 'fragile,' requiring political and economic progress to cement them.

Despite Success, Iraq's Future Uncertain - Robert H. Reid, Associated Press (Washington Post, December 30): Nearly a year after the U.S. gambled by pouring troops into Iraq's capital, there is finally cause for hope that the worst of the Iraq war may have passed, even if the endgame takes longer than Americans and Iraqis want. But the political rivalries between Sunnis and Shiites that fueled the conflict remain unresolved. And time may be running out for America to midwife a solution.

Surge and spin cycles - Michelle Malkin (Washington Times, December 29): There should be no question what the top story of the year was: America's counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq, the Democrats' hapless efforts to sabotage it, and the Western mainstream media's stubborn refusal to own up to military progress.

Top Ten Myths about Iraq 2007 Juan Cole (Informed Comment: Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion. December 26): 1. Myth: The reduction in violence in Iraq is mostly because of the escalation in the number of US troops, or "surge." Fact: Although violence has been reduced in Iraq, much of the reduction did not take place because of US troop activity. Guerrilla attacks in al-Anbar Province were reduced from 400 a week to 100 a week between July, 2006 and July, 2007. But there was no significant US troop escalation in al-Anbar. Likewise, attacks on British troops in Basra have declined precipitously since they were moved out to the airport away from population centers. But this change had nothing to do with US troops.

An Iraqi solution for Iraq Editorial (Boston Globe, December 27): The sooner Iraq's contending sects and factions accept that none can dominate and that all stand to prosper from a regional power-sharing arrangement like that envisioned in the present constitution, the sooner Iraq's oil wealth will rain down on its people. And the sooner a disastrous occupation can end -- and US forces can come home.

Worthy and Unworthy Victims: Turkey's Bombing of Iraq - Anthony DiMaggio (CounterPunch, December 28): American media attention to the repression and terror of foreign countries is not driven by legitimate humanitarian concerns, but by the strength of the alliance between the U.S. and the country in question. Little else can explain why the very same Iraqi Kurds who are regarded as worthy victims when killed by US enemies such as Saddam Hussein are not worthy when killed by an allied government like Turkey.

Cold War Lite - Brian Whitmore (RFE/RL, December 29): This was the year Vladimir Putin implicitly compared the United States to the Third Reich and it was the year that -- despite the occasional diplomatic language to the contrary -- the last remnants of the vaunted strategic partnership between Russia and the West appeared headed for the dustbin of history.

Bear Market : Cold War classics for an age of a resurgent Russia - Ernest Lefever (Opinion Journal from the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page, December 29): 1. "The Twenty Years' Crisis: 1919-1939" by E.H. Carr (Macmillan, 1939). 2. "Darkness at Noon" by Arthur Koestler (Macmillan, 1941). 3. "The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness" by Reinhold Niebuhr (Scribner, 1944). 4. "The Super-Powers" by William T.R. Fox (Harcourt, 1944). 5. "The True Believer" by Erich Hoffer (Harper & Row, 1951).

The Poles Get Cold Feet Editorial (New York Times, December 30): Polish and Czech leaders seemed initially to like the idea of a European-based missile-defense system because they saw an American military presence on their soil as further protection against Russia. Russia's theatrical fury over the plan, coupled with the Bush administration?s general decline, has taken the gloss off. Why not put Russia's intentions to a practical test by seriously exploring President Vladimir Putin's offer to share a Russian early-warning radar in Azerbaijan? American officers who have checked out the site have come away impressed with its capabilities.

Long, Gone Neocons: The Bush administration is no longer influenced by neocons. Instead, it's governing the way its predecessors have - Michael Young (Reason, December 27): It's time to stop referring to the neocon policies of the Bush administration. The neocons are gone, many for so long that no one seems to remember their leaving. What we now have in Washington is a mishmash of old political realism and improvisation, topped with increasingly empty oratory on freedom and democracy. That should please quite a few of Bush's domestic critics. He's returned to the futile routine in the Middle East that they always urged him to.

Balance of Power Is Continuing to Shift From the US Leon Hadar (, December 29): If the financial crisis at home has accentuated US geo-economic weakness in the form of massive deficits, a weak dollar and rising oil prices, the mess in Iraq and the continuing tension with Iran and other global military diplomatic problems like North Korea expose the erosion in US geo-strategic power. The growing anti-globalization sentiment and anti-immigration mood in the United States in the form of political pressure in support of protectionism and isolationism suggest that the adjusting of US interests and policies to the changing realities of weakening American economic and military power will not be easy.

Passport Update: What's In Store for 2008 - Patricia Kushlis (Whirled View, December 26)

With Bhutto Gone, Does Bush Have Plan B? by Juan Cole

Published on Friday, December 28, 2007 by

With Bhutto Gone, Does Bush Have a Plan B?
Bush's failed policies in Pakistan, a nuclear power that al-Qaida still uses to plot against the West, threatens U.S. security more than Iraq ever did.

by Juan Cole

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto on Thursday provoked rioting in Islamabad and Karachi, with her supporters blaming President Pervez Musharraf , while he pointed his finger at Muslim extremists. The renewed instability in Pakistan came as a grim reminder that the Bush administration has been pursuing a two-front war, neither of which has been going well. Bush's decision to put hundreds of billions of dollars into an Iraq imbroglio while slighting the effort to fight al-Qaida, rebuild Afghanistan, and move Pakistan toward democracy and a rule of law has been shown up as a desperate and unsuccessful gamble. The question is whether President Musharraf now most resembles the shah of Iran in 1978. That is, has his authority among the people collapsed irretrievably?

The Bush administration backed military dictator Musharraf to the hilt as a way of dealing with U.S. security and al-Qaida on the cheap while it poured hundreds of billions into Baghdad. George W. Bush was entirely willing to let the Pakistani judiciary, the rule of law, and any real democracy be gutted by an ambitious general. For Washington, allowing Bhutto to return to Pakistan was simply a way to shore up Musharraf's legitimacy. Now Pakistan faces new turmoil, and Bush appears to have no Plan B. Since Pakistan is a nuclear power and al-Qaida extremists still use it as a base to plot against the West, this failure is inexcusable and threatens U.S. security in a way Iraq never did.

Bhutto, the leader of the Pakistan People's Party, was leaning out of the sunroof of a car leaving a political rally on Thursday evening in Rawalpindi near the capital, Islamabad, when an armed assailant dressed as a policeman approached, shot her twice, and then detonated a belt bomb, killing her and some 22 other persons. When Bhutto's death was announced, rioting broke out in Rawalpindi and her home base, the southern port city of Karachi. Many of her supporters blamed Musharraf, who, though he recently resigned from the military, came to power in a 1999 military coup and has ruled as a military dictator. The house of a senior politician from the Pakistan Muslim League (Qaid-i Azam), Musharraf's party, was burned down by an angry mob. It is clear that many in the Pakistan People's Party blame Musharraf and his supporters for Bhutto's death, whether fairly or unfairly. If this sentiment becomes widespread, it is hard to see how Musharraf can survive.

The Pakistan People's Party was expected to do well in the scheduled Jan. 8 parliamentary elections, which the Bush administration had hoped would begin a transition away from military rule. The PPP, which has an impressive grass-roots organization that has proved it can get out the vote in election after election, has been important in Pakistani politics since the 1970s. It has been in power at the federal level during 11 of the past 36 years and has particular strength in the Punjab, Pakistan's wealthiest and most populous province. The party will hold a convention to formally elect a successor to Bhutto, but whether parliamentary elections can still be held on Jan. 8 has been cast into doubt. Bhutto's rival, Nawaz Sharif, who heads the right-of-center Muslim League, announced that his party would boycott the elections to protest the failure of the Pakistani military to give Bhutto better security.

Bhutto's assassination was a profound blow to Bush administration policy in South Asia. Washington looked the other way when Musharraf had himself elected "president" in a referendum in spring of 2002, wherein he had no competition. It accepted Musharraf's interference in the fall 2002 elections, which was aimed at handicapping the two major parties, the Pakistan People's Party and the Muslim League. All Musharraf managed to do was to throw the key northwest frontier province and Baluchistan into the hands of the Muslim fundamentalist parties, which had never before done so well in those regions, but which were left without much competition when their rivals were hobbled by the military. These Muslim fundamentalist local governments in turn ran interference for Muslim radicals, denying that there was any such thing as al-Qaida.

The combination of political ineptitude whereby Musharraf helped put the fundamentalists in power in the Pushtun regions of Pakistan and the heavy-handedness of his military interventions in the fiercely independent tribal north, helped set the stage for the greater political violence. The government's neglect of the hardscrabble farming regions of the north also fueled discontent.

At the same time it was coddling the dictator, the United States has been attempting to do nation building in Afghanistan and to strengthen the government of Hamid Karzai, while trying to face down a resurgent Pushtun insurgency in the south of that country. In the frontier badlands of the tribal areas straddling Afghanistan and Pakistan, remnants of the Taliban and the "Arab Afghans" of al-Qaida have been hiding out and regrouping. There is some evidence that they continue to have contacts with, and even to train, Muslim militants based in Europe. The Pakistani military dislikes the Karzai government and sees the "Northern Alliance" that came to power with American help as overly friendly to India and Iran. It is suspected that some elements in the Pakistani army and its military intelligence branch, the Inter-Services Intelligence, are secretly stirring up Pushtun tribesmen against the Karzai regime in hopes that a government more friendly to Pakistan will come to power.

Paradoxically, the Pakistani military has cracked down hard on Taliban-like groups inside Pakistan itself. Troops have fought several major engagements in the rugged tribal territories of the north, and over time have captured some 700 al-Qaida operatives. But the fiercely independent tribespeople of Waziristan and its neighboring areas have fought back. Starting in September 2006 the military even attempted a truce with the tribal leaders in hopes that they would deal with the Muslim militants themselves. That truce began to break down when the military stormed the Red Mosque in the capital, Islamabad, where Pushtun and Baluch tribesmen belonging to a neo-Deobandi cult and advocating strict puritanism had established themselves and begun acting like vigilantes. Musharraf ordered his military to close the mosque, where the cultists had stored arms, resulting in a sanguinary conflict. In the aftermath, Muslim militants in Pakistan's northeast carried out a record number of suicide bombings.

If he faced a rural crisis deriving from the fundamentalism of neglected northern farming communities, Musharraf faced an urban crisis as well. Pakistan's good economic growth for the past six years has helped create a new middle class, numbering in the tens of millions, who are educated and connected to the world by cable television and the Internet. They depend on the rule of law to pursue their white-collar occupations, and when Musharraf attempted to fire the chief justice of the Supreme Court, the urban middle classes staged large rallies and resisted the packing of the courts. They won the first round when Musharraf, weakened by the Red Mosque fiasco, was forced to reinstate the chief justice.

Benazir Bhutto served as prime minister twice, from 1988 to 1990 and again from 1993 to 1996, and was dismissed on charges of corruption both times. She has been in political exile since 1999, the year of Musharraf's military coup. After the Red Mosque debacle and his conflict with the country's Supreme Court, Musharraf was so weakened that he accepted a new American plan. It provided for Bhutto to return and contest elections, such that she would likely be the next prime minister, and for Musharraf to resign from the military and become a civilian president. This plan was in danger of being derailed when the Supreme Court seemed likely to decide that Musharraf was ineligible to serve as president, and the dictator reacted by dismissing the court, packing it with his own supporters, and declaring a state of emergency. Bhutto expressed outrage at those high-handed actions and clearly feared that they would taint her own legitimacy. Under severe American pressure, Musharraf lifted the state of emergency and agreed to new elections on Jan. 8.

Pakistan's future is now murky, and to the extent that this nation of 160 million buttresses the eastern flank of American security in the greater Middle East, its fate is profoundly intertwined with America's own. The money for the Sept. 11 attacks was wired to Florida from banks in Pakistan, and al-Qaida used the country for transit to Afghanistan. Instability in Pakistan may well spill over into Afghanistan, as well, endangering the some 26,000 U.S. troops and a similar number of NATO troops in that country. And it is not as if Afghanistan were stable to begin with. If Pakistani politics finds its footing, if a successor to Benazir Bhutto is elected in short order by the PPP and the party can remain united, and if elections are held soon, the crisis could pass. If there is substantial and ongoing turmoil, however, Muslim radicals will certainly take advantage of it.

In order to get through this crisis, Bush must insist that the Pakistani Supreme Court, summarily dismissed and placed under house arrest by Musharraf, be reinstated. The PPP must be allowed to elect a successor to Ms. Bhutto without the interference of the military. Early elections must be held, and the country must return to civilian rule. Pakistan's population is, contrary to the impression of many pundits in the United States, mostly moderate and uninterested in the Taliban form of Islam. But if the United States and "democracy" become associated in their minds with military dictatorship, arbitrary dismissal of judges, and political instability, they may turn to other kinds of politics, far less favorable to the United States. Musharraf may hope that the Pakistani military will stand with him even if the vast majority of people turn against him. It is a forlorn hope, and a dangerous one, as the shah of Iran discovered in 1978-79.

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His most recent book Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) has just been published. He has appeared widely on television, radio and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. His weblog on the contemporary Middle East is Informed Comment.

© 2007

Agonizing Over the Candidates and Who They Really Are by Steve Clemons

December 30, 2007
Agonizing Over the Candidates and Who They Really Are
by Steve Clemons

Will Hillary Clinton really keep stroking the most anti-Castro crazed elder generation of Miami's Cuban-American community? Or will she look at the demographic and polling data that show that most Cuban-Americans want a new course in US-Cuba relations, particularly with regard to travel to and from Cuba for Cuban-American families?

Some near Hillary Clinton tell me that given Fidel Castro's recent hint that he is moving from the front line of Cuba's political machine to a row further back (or up) in order to make way for a new generation of leaders, she is considering a full-scale policy review of her stated US-Cuba policy (i.e., potentially changing her position away from embracing the Bush administration's direction in US-Cuba relations).

This would be good -- but the bottom line is that we are forced to guess about what she might do and don't have certainty about what she will do.

Will Barack Obama tilt more towards campaign advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski's vision of tough-minded calculation of how to re-sculpt America's place in the world or will he tilt more towards the priorities of his other campaign advisor Anthony Lake?

Lake is actively promulgating a "Concert of Democracies" initiative that seems to ignore the fundamental reality that American power has deteriorated and that most of the challenging problems ahead are with areas of the world where democrats and democracies are practically non-existent. This isn't to say that a Concert of Democracies doesn't have some appeal as a sideshow at some point -- but it does little to re-establish a stable global equilibrium and to get America's national security portfolio on a positive rather than destructive course.

Obama was brave and visionary in suggesting an alternative course for US-Cuba relations. One could think that his willingness to think out of the box and to escape the incrementalism of the current strategic class and the vested interests of today's national security circumstances would be worth embracing and supporting.

But then what happened when the next opportunity came to show the same sort of boldness Obama did on Cuba? Obama, Clinton, Edwards, and nearly all of the candidates -- except perhaps Biden and Christopher Dodd and the non-candidate Chuck Hagel -- went silent during the Annapolis Peace Summit which drew together most of the Arab world, the P-5 nations, Israel, and many European and Southeast Asian nations in an effort to restart negotiations between Israel and Palestine over their long-term standoff. They all went silent as best I could tell.

I agree completely with Zbigniew Brzezinski that America's "defining challenge" in this era is its challenge in the Middle East -- and that not to get America back in a situation where it can help birth a cascading set of positive trends will ultimately turn America into a 'hegemonic has-been' (although the trend may be irreversible). The fact that the leading Democratic contenders had nothing to say about the Annapolis Summit raises legitimate questions about whether they have the commitment and wherewithal to tackle the complexity of America's defining challenge in this era.

John McCain and all of the leading Democrats are all clearly anti-torture while Mitt Romney has been working hard embracing George Bush's tough brinksmanship on Iran and recommended doubling Guantanamo. At the same time, Romney's national security adviser has written articles suggesting that America must engage Syria. In fact, Romney's national security team is about as pro-engagement with some of the world's trouble-making regimes as Obama said he would be during the debates.

But this begs the question of who is the real Mitt Romney and what would the real Mitt Romney do in the Middle East or anywhere else? It's hard to say with confidence.

Ron Paul is the less cluttered and complex version of Jack Murtha -- completely anti-war and wants America's military engagement in Iraq to end now.

Paul is attracting anti-war Republicans and Democrats far beyond the libertarian base that he would normally draw from. He is attracting a lot of progressives who believe in global justice, want the war over, and want to return to a benign American model rather than a view where America is the dangerous destabilizer of the international system.

But then Ron Paul shocks this crowd by running an advertisement that is as hostile to immigration that I have ever seen. He actually has a shocking, Jesse Helmsian line, that outdoes anything that Rudy Giuliani has said: "No more visas for students from terrorist nations." This kind of position would appeal to those buying John Bolton's new book as a Christmas present and who are reverential to the kind of pugnacious hyper-nationalism that Dick Cheney manifests.

Who then is the real Ron Paul?

I could go on in a similar way about Edwards, about Giuliani, even about Huckabee -- who flip-flopped and was pro-economic engagement with Cuba when Arkansas' Governor and now is harsher than George W. Bush when running for President.

One can do this with all of the candidates.

The fact is that no matter who emerges at the top in the coming set of primaries and caucuses, we aren't going to know the real candidate. . .perhaps ever. All of these candidates are vessels for the interests and perspectives that surround them.

I remember sitting in the kitchen of a very close friend who is one of John McCain's closest personal advisers. This friend was deeply disturbed by McCain's speech at Liberty University and his triangulation on the the war and the Bush administration, designed to try to court the Republican "establishment" that Bush and Cheney presided over.

But this person who knows McCain better than most made the point that sometimes the "person" that the candidate is just doesn't matter all that much -- at some point, the candidate becomes a franchise of so many interests and perspectives, sometimes in internal conflict with one another, that what the candidate really thinks or feels becomes less important.

That is why I spend a lot of time looking at advisers, funders, and other interests that surround these candidates. Each is somewhat of a free trade zone unto himself or herself for political interests vying to steer him or her this way or that.

It's lousy that this is the case -- but it is, and we need to be engaged as American citizens in trying to compel the candidates one direction or another -- and to punish or reward based on the positions that they are occasionally brave enough to articulate.

I'm personally sick of platitudes from the candidates.

I want to see pragmatism and steely-eyed commitment to solutions-oriented efforts on both America's domestic and international fronts. I want to see some evidence of sensible judgment. I want to see someone who has an understanding of where incremental trends are taking the nation and some Acheson-like wizardry in re-imagining a different set of global and domestic arrangements (with detail) that can help the country leapfrog out of the morass it is in into a better, sustainable position.

It is really easy to understand why most of the candidates have not captured a decisive edge in the competitions ahead. Few of them want to sculpt in fine detail their political and policy personas and want to remain blurry.

They want us to guess what they might do -- and some of us who turn our guesses into votes for an ultimate winner will still find ourselves disappointed that the reasons we supported this or that candidate got shelved in the end.

Despite all of the drama of this campaign process, when I think this through, I can very easily constrain my enthusiasm for any of the candidates.

-- Steve Clemons is publisher of the popular political blog, The Washington Note.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Defining Israeli Zionist Racism: Part 1 by Kim Petersen and B.J. Sabri, Dissident Voices

Defining Israeli Zionist Racism: Part 1

by Kim Petersen and B.J. Sabri / December 29th, 2007

We must do everything to ensure they (the Palestinian refugees) never do return.
– David Ben-Gurion, in his diary, 18 July 1948.1

Let us not today fling accusations at the murderers. Who are we that we should argue against their hatred? For eight years now they sit in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their very eyes, we turn into our homestead the land and the villages in which they and their forefathers have lived.”
– Moshe Dyan (Israeli Defense Minister during the Israeli-Arab war, 1967), 1953.2

“No state has the right to exist as a racist state.”
– Palestinian activist and author, Omar Barghouti.3

Responding to issues raised by the article “Defining Racism,”4 Barbara Kay, a columnist with the Canadian newspaper National Post,5 employed a standard Zionist gimmick devoid of elementary principles, historical validity, or logical thematic constructs. Kay’s defense of the Zionist dispossession of Palestinians coupled with heinous crimes against humanity is patently manipulative since she flagrantly attempts at confounding the fundamental subject that defines Israeli Zionist racism in its factual historical context and sequence of events. Writes Kay:

They [Palestinians] were transferred for two reasons: i) because their own leaders told them to leave so they would not be in the path of war, which the Arab countries initiated in 1948 and fully expected to win, after which the people would return and take back all the land and homes of the Jews; and ii) because you cannot have hostile people in your own state if they will not agree to live as citizens. Transfers of populations go on all the time. If the Arabs had accepted the two-state solution proposed by the UN partition plan of 1947, they would have been living in their own state for 60 years in peace with Israel. Why do you blame Israel for Arab intransigence and stupidity?

You mention the expulsion of the European Jews. i notice you fail to mention the expulsion of the Jews in Arab lands, of which there were 600,000, the exact same number as the Palestinians. Except they were not left to rot by their brethren as the Arab refugees were; they were absorbed by Israel, just as the Arab refugees should have been absorbed by Jordan, since ethnically they are Jordanians. So let me ask you: Was it wrong for the Arabs to expel Jews from their lands? And since I now assume you will say yes, why don’t we agree to call it a draw. The Arabs are now happily free of Jews, and Israel - while happily living with their 1 million Arab citizens - is also happily free of those Palestinians who wish them dead.

We present a general dissection of Israeli Zionist racism with Kay being only the instigative trigger behind this series. Accordingly, Kay is just a minute personification of Zionism that we can use as a model for our dissection. Therefore, to deconstruct Kay’s (and by extension all Zionist analysts’) statements — hence, tearing down her manipulative ideological edifice — we have to address first the eminent question whether racism, pointedly, Israeli Zionist racism, is materially applicable to the Palestinian issue. To this end, we will divide this series in two sections: 1) analysis of Israeli Zionist racism, and 2) the deconstruction of Kay’s statement.
Section 1: Analysis of Israeli Zionist racism

Before demonstrating the material aspects and institutionalized policies of Israeli racism in Palestine (and actions and policies in the Arab world), we must define said racism in its practical and ideological terms. However, to do just that, we still have to define first the term, “racism” itself. As a preliminary approach, we decided to rely on the definition given by the United Nations Organization. This is in spite of the fact that 1) western colonialist-imperialist powers created this organization to defend –- exclusively — their strategic and geo-economic interests, an 2) it was this same organization that illegally sanctioned the partition of Palestine between the indigenous Palestinians and Jewish European invaders, thus leading to the installation of the racist state of Israel.


Sub-article # 1 of Article 1 of the United Nations’ International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination6 gives the following definition to racism:

In this Convention, the term “racial discrimination” shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.

Do all elements that the United Nations said constitute the practical manifestation of racism apply to the situation of Palestinians since the immigration of Europeans of Jewish faith to the Arabic Syrian region of Palestine in the early 20th century? Does the subsequent forcible installation of the Zionist entity in Palestine where diverse ethnic groups from disparate parts of world having no social, anthropological, or cultural relations amongst them except nominal adherence to Judaism, settled through violence, murder, intimidation, land expropriation, and then collectively joined in practice of ritualistic discrimination against the indigenous populations constitute, per se, racism?

To answer these questions methodically and give the reader the widest view possible on this subject, we relied on extensive anthological extracts dealing with Israeli Zionist racism from varied perspectives. We anticipate that Zionists and their sycophants and acolytes would want to debate this series or distort its basic conclusions. For this purpose, we want emphasize that we are not merchants of accommodating principals and have no inclination to debate insincere arguments such as that of Israeli racism vis-à-vis the Palestinians based on terms dictated by Zionists whereby cheap preemptive accusations, such as labeling those who disagree with Zionism and the über-colonialistic policies of Israel as “anti-Semites,” is a norm.

We took the position for not debating Zionists on their own terms primarily because, before dubbing anyone with this trite label, one needs to define what Semitism is in the first place, who invented the term, and who decided to use it to intimidate and silence the opponents of Zionism. In addition, if Zionists insist to make anti-Zionism and anti-“Semitism” (or more accurately and specifically, “anti-Jewish”) interchangeable or equivalent, then that would not be our problem to address, discuss, or resolve.
Facts about Israeli Zionist Racism

A) A historical view by Basel Ghattas

Writing for the Jerusalem Fund, Basel Ghattas, General Director of the Galilee Society (Haifa, Israel), gives the following account on the situation of the Palestinians (Christians and Muslims) who remained in the newly formed exclusivist Jewish state:

History and Demographics

The 156,000 Palestinians that remained in the newly established Jewish state of Israel in 1948 have grown into more than one million. Their annual birth rate exceeded five percent in the 1950s and 1960s, and decreased to around three percent in recent years.

More than 20 percent of these one million people are displaced from their towns and villages as internal refugees. Palestinians in Israel now live in three main geographical areas: the Galilee, or the northern district of Israel where they comprise half of the population; the central triangle of Israel; and in the Negev in the south. The majority of Palestinians in Israel (60 percent) live in 115 villages. An additional 20 percent live in 7 towns, 10 percent live in 6 mixed Jewish-Palestinian cities, and the rest live in over 40 “unrecognized” villages that are considered illegal by the government.

Statistics of Discrimination

Until 1966, the Palestinian citizens of Israel lived under military administration. Still today, despite supposedly being equal citizens of a democratic state, the Palestinian minority continues to be subjected to systematic institutional and legal discrimination, and is completely marginalized by the Israeli government. Israeli prime ministers from left and right have recently acknowledged this discrimination, yet little has been done to bridge the wide gap that has been created between Jews and Palestinians.

When one looks at the economic conditions of Palestinians in Israel, this gap becomes apparent. The Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics has classified all communities in Israel into 10 clusters according to their socio-economic status. All 10 communities in the lowest cluster are Palestinian. Out of 26 communities in the second lowest cluster, 23 are Palestinian. None of the Palestinian communities ranked higher than the five lowest classifications. Moreover, almost 50 percent of the children living below the poverty line in Israel are Palestinian, despite the fact that Palestinians do not comprise more than 20 percent of Israel’s entire population.

Palestinians in Israel also receive less education than their Jewish counterparts. Sixty percent of the Palestinian labor force have a maximum of nine years of education. Only five percent of Palestinians have college degrees or higher, compared to 17 percent of Jews in Israel.

In addition, Palestinians encounter problems of overcrowding. They own less than three percent of Israel’s land, and less than 50 percent of that land is under their local authority’s jurisdiction. The severe lack of appropriate, updated urban plans for their neighborhoods has created a serious housing problem. This shortage has resulted in a high population density, as well as more than 10,000 illegal houses threatened to be demolished under court order.

According to a report submitted to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, there are 17 Israeli laws that are discriminatory against Palestinians. These laws create a reality in which Palestinian citizens are deprived of basic educational, religious, social, and economic rights.7

B) A Statement by the United Nations

Recently, the United Nations, an organization that reflects the hypocritical establishment of its founders and signatories, condemned Israeli discrimination against the Palestinians.8 Before quoting on the nature of this discrimination, we have to point out to four relevant facts:

One: As for “suicide-bombing”, the UN, as one may expect, does not explain as why this type of attack (self-sacrificing against the Israeli occupiers of Palestine) is happening in the first place? An explanation, however, is readily available: 1) resistance against an occupation that has been lasting since 1967, and 2) frustration and despair against Israeli Zionist discrimination and racism.

Two: if the United Nations is concerned about anti-Palestinian discrimination, why has it never issued a resolution punishing Israel for its institutionalized racist policies and otherwise taken actions to stop the racism?

The use of the word “discrimination”, however, is a U.N. political ruse meant to appease Israel and mitigate the reality that pervades the Israeli relations with the Palestinians, which is racism. In fact, after the General Assembly adopted Resolution 3379 in 1975 that equated Zionism with racism (abrogated it in 1991 after Gulf War Aggression against Iraq and the de facto military occupation of the Gulf States) it would be impractical for the Israeli-controlled UN (via the US) to reapply the term “racism” to any racist act by Israel.

Three: the imperialist news agency, Reuters, reported on the discrimination charges by employing linguistic deception. It printed the charges under the headline: “UN: Israel must stop discrimination against Arabs, Palestinians.” [italics added] It is deception because, who is the Palestinian and who is the Arab in occupied Palestine, the occupied West Bank, and in the Gaza Strip? Does Reuters mean that Palestinians are distinct from the Arabs? Or maybe Arabs and Palestinians are two similar/dissimilar groups living in Palestine? Or maybe it wanted to imply that 1) it meant all indigenous Palestinians from all origins; or 2) it meant Arabs outside Palestine?

Arguably, therefore, Reuters’ attempt at concealing the victims of Israeli racism is apparent. The agency is trying to water down the Palestinian identity and merge it with that of the greater Arab nation primarily to promote the Zionist Israeli idea that Arab countries should absorb all Palestinian refugees in the countries where they are currently residing since they are all Arabs. …

Four: reporting on the UN charges against Israeli practices in the whole of Israeli-occupied Palestine was no less than Haaretz, a Zionist Israeli newspaper. This is somewhat peculiar since many in the West accredit it with progressive leanings. We believe this is sheer nonsense since Israel and all of its institutions, culture, and media are multiple faces for the same merchandize, that is, they are all expressions of the racist Zionist matrix that generated them. Specifically, Zionism and political or humanistic progressivism are antithetical because Zionism as a foundation and ideology could never reconcile with the reality that it has been trying to uproot and supplant Palestinians since the Balfour Declaration.

In quoting the United Nations, we added italics to all relevant situations where the charge of racism is transparent:

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said Israel’s security measures to ward off suicide bombings and other attacks must be re-calibrated to avoid discrimination against Arab Israelis or Palestinians living in Israeli-occupied lands such as the West Bank.

The committee specified that Israel should ease roadblocks and other restrictions on Palestinians and put a stop to settler violence and hate speech.

Its 18 independent experts, who examined the records of 13 countries at a four-week meeting in Geneva, also said Israel should cease building a barrier in and around the West Bank and ensure its various checkpoints and road closures do not reinforce segregation.

In its conclusions, the committee also voiced concern at an unequal distribution of water resources, a disproportionate targeting of Palestinians in house demolitions and the “denial of the right of many Palestinians” to return to their land.

Differing applications of criminal law between Jews and Arabs had caused “harsher punishments for Palestinians for the same offence,” said the committee, whose recommendations are not legally binding.

A high number of complaints by Arab Israelis against police officers are not properly investigated and many Arabs suffer discriminatory work practices and high unemployment, it said.

Excavations beneath and around the Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s holiest site in Jerusalem, should also be undertaken in a way that will “in no way endanger the mosque and impede access to it,” it added.

Israel argues that the UN committee’s remit, to ensure compliance with a 1965 international treaty against racial discrimination which the Jewish state has ratified, does not apply to the Palestinian territories it has occupied since 1967. The committee rejects that position.8

Next: Part 2 of 12

1. Quoted by Michael Bar Zohar’s in Ben-Gurion: the Armed Prophet (Prentice-Hall: 1967), p. 157. #
2. Quoted by Uri Avneri in Israel without Zionists (Macmillan: 1968), p. 134. #
3. Interview with Silvia Cattori, “Omar Barghouti: ‘No State Has the Right to Exist as a Racist State,’”, 7 December 2007. #
4. Kim Petersen, “Defining Racism,” Dissident Voice, 26 November 2007. #
5. David Beers, “Marc Edge on ‘Asper Nation,’” The Tyee, 13 November 2007. National Post, a chunk of “Canada’s Most Dangerous Media Company,” CanWest Global, is according to Mark Edge, associate professor of journalism at Sam Houston University, undermining democracy and attempting to set the political agenda through ownership manipulation of editorials. The Asper family that own the National Post are unabashed supporters of Zionism. #
6. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,” 21 December 1965. #
7. Basel Ghattas, “Palestinians in Israel: Discrimination and Resistance,” Palestine Center and The Jerusalem Fund, Information Brief No. 59, December 2000. #
8. Reuters, “UN: Israel must stop discrimination against Arabs, Palestinians,” Haaretz, 9 March 2007. # #
9. The Balfour Declaration #

Kim Petersen is co-editor of Dissident Voice. B. J. Sabri is an Iraq-American antiwar activist. They can be reached at: Read other articles by Kim Petersen.