Search This Blog

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Is America's presence in Iraq legal? by Jack Miles

International Herald Tribune

Occupational Hazard
by Jack Miles
Thursday, August 30, 2007

Is America's presence in Iraq legal?

As Republicans and Democrats debate the ethical and practical considerations for and gainst the withdrawal of the United States forces, this question scarcely comes up. But within a few months, it could, suddenly and with potentially decisive impact.

In May 2003, just weeks after the overthrow of Iraq's government, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1483 recognized "the Authority" - which was to say "the occupying powers under unified command" - as Iraq's effective legal government.

In October 2003, it took a further step and mandated that the United States-led multinational force establish security and stability in Iraq. While noting that this mandate would expire within a year, the council expressed its "readiness to consider on that occasion any future need for the continuation of the multinational force, taking into account the views of an internationally recognized, representative government of Iraq."

In June 2004, Security Council Resolution 1546 stipulated that "by 30 June 2004, the occupation will end and the Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist, and that Iraq will reassert its full sovereignty." Subsequently, as sovereign Iraq has moved by stages through elections and complex deliberations to the formation of its current government, the United Nations has renewed the mandate for the multinational force at the request of successive Iraqi prime ministers - Ibrahim al-Jaafari in 2005 and Nuri Kamal al-Maliki last year.

The current mandate expires at the end of December. Will it be renewed? In June, the Iraqi Parliament passed a bill requiring that the next renewal should not be made without its advice and consent. Maliki has not signed the bill and could conceivably veto it. However, given the worsening of his relations with Washington, it seems increasingly likely he will give it his signature and, come December, do as it instructs.

The Iraqi Parliament, for its part, has already passed a nonbinding resolution calling for a timetable for a withdrawal of foreign forces. If it voted in December not to seek a renewal of the mandate, the American troops deployed in Iraq would be there illegally.

Would this legal difference make a material difference? The Bush administration is of course unlikely to give too much heed to any Security Council resolution. But the expiration of the mandate may matter greatly to the Iraqis, even to the point of becoming the signal for a general uprising of Shiites against foreign forces.

The 2004 siege of Najaf - the one collective uprising of Shiites that Iraq has seen since the war began - extended American troops to the limit. Najaf multiplied many times over might precipitate a very different kind of endgame than the United States command now seems to contemplate. Moreover, Moktada al-Sadr, who led the Najaf uprising, has become perhaps the most popular and powerful Arab in Iraq.

Another way in which the legal difference over the American presence would make a material difference would be if Maliki (or his successor) were to follow through with his recent threat to "find friends elsewhere." He issued that warning to the Bush administration, significantly enough, at a news conference in Syria.

Another possible "friend" is increasingly truculent Russia. Moscow would not grieve if after the Iraqi debacle the United States were demoted from the status of sole superpower to that of one great power among several.

But the most obvious and presumably most willing new partner for Maliki would be Shiite-dominated Iran.

If things head that way, while U.S. troops are still on the ground, should the United States attack Iran pre-emptively? Some in high places favor this, but a pre-emptive American attack on Iran could quickly lead to an Iranian counterattack closing the Straits of Hormuz at the lower end of the Persian Gulf. The American forces would then be trapped - both their main supply line and their main evacuation route cut off.

It may be time to change the slogan on the yellow ribbon from "support the troops" to "defend the nation." Rather than see the American army of liberation humiliatingly voted out of Iraq or have its avenue of exit cut off by opportunistic enemies, the Senate should join the Iraqi Parliament, through a "sense of the Senate" resolution, and call for the next Security Council mandate to be one that requires the progressive withdrawal of all foreign forces from Iraq, without haste but with all deliberate speed.

Jack Miles is a senior fellow for religious affairs with the Pacific Council on International Policy and a professor of English and religious studies at the University of California, Irvine.

The Bush Administration is Trying to Provoke Iran by Robert Naiman

Robert Naiman

Slam Dunk: The Bush Administration is Trying to Provoke Iran

Posted August 30, 2007 | 12:44 PM (EST)

The Bush administration is once again escalating its confrontation with Iran. Clearly they have multiple motivations for doing so. They're trying to "change the channel" from the failure of the "surge," ahead of the September Congressional debate on Iraq. They would dearly love to split off from the Democratic opposition on Iraq Members of Congress who share the AIPAC goal of confronting Iran. And they want to undermine negotiations taking place between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency over Iran's nuclear program.

* Email
* Print
* Comment

But details have emerged from the recent escalation that strongly indicate what many have long suspected: the Bush administration's fundamental conflict with Iran is not about its nuclear program or alleged weapons smuggling -- so far unproven -- into Iraq.

It's simply a great-power struggle for influence. And while there's nothing too shocking about that, people in the United States should ask themselves -- and be asked by others -- what sacrifices we are really willing to bear so that the Bush administration can try to keep Iran from having the influence in Iraq that they would normally have -- and almost certainly will have -- if there is a democratic government in Iraq, given that 60 percent of the Iraqi population is Shiite and has strong cultural and religious ties to their co-religionists in Iran. How many U.S. soldiers' lives is that goal worth? How many billions of U.S. tax dollars?

On Wednesday, The New York Times reported:

Members of an Iranian Energy Ministry delegation were arrested and held overnight by American troops in Baghdad for having unauthorized weapons, before being released this morning, American and Iraqi officials said in Baghdad. Iranian officials protested the detentions today. The group had been invited to Baghdad to help resolve Iraq's electricity crisis, Iraqi and Iranian officials said.


a media adviser to the Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq told Reuters news agency that the group was in Baghdad at the invitation of Iraq's Ministry of Electricity to help build a power station in the Shiite city of Najaf.

Why were these Iranians arrested by U.S. troops if, according to Iraqi officials, they were part of an Energy Ministry delegation invited to Baghdad to "help resolve Iraq's electricity crisis"? That Iraq has a serious electricity crisis is well known. Surely such assistance should be welcomed. There must have been some mistake.

Not so, apparently, The Times reports. A manager at the hotel where the Iranians were staying said:

"I told [the U.S. soldiers] that the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity had invited them, that they were guests of the ministry and that we had a letter from the ministry confirming this."

So, prior to the Iranians' arrest, U.S. soldiers were aware that the hotel where the Iranians were staying had proof that the Iranians were in Iraq at the invitation of Iraq's Energy Ministry.

What was the point of arresting these officials? Surely the U.S. forces could have anticipated that they would be compelled politically to quickly release them, since, as they knew, these officials were in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government. There is a strong whiff of harassment and provocation about this.

Here is something very simple Congress could do to indicate that they are serious about preventing the Bush Administration from provoking a war with Iran. They could mandate that U.S. forces in Iraq cannot arrest Iranian government officials who can prove that they are in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government, unless they have explicit authorization from the "sovereign" Iraqi government to do so.

Get involved.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Lobby by David Remnick, The New Yorker

David Remnick in the current issue of the New Yorker on Mearsheimer/Walt. Just to remind, they speak at Politics and Prose on Sept 6th.
The Lobby
by David Remnick September 3, 2007

Last year, two distinguished political scientists, John J. Mearsheimer, of the University of Chicago, and Stephen M. Walt, of the John F. Kennedy School of Government, at Harvard, published a thirty-four-thousand-word article online entitled “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,” a shorter version of which appeared in The London Review of Books. Israel, they wrote, has become a “strategic liability” for the United States but retains its strong support because of a wealthy, well-organized, and bewitching lobby that has a “stranglehold” on Congress and American élites. Moreover, Israel and its lobby bear outsized responsibility for persuading the Bush Administration to invade Iraq and, perhaps one day soon, to attack the nuclear facilities of Iran. Farrar, Straus & Giroux will publish a book-length version of Mearsheimer and Walt’s arguments on September 4th.

Mearsheimer and Walt are “realists.” In their view, diplomatic decisions should be made on the basis of national interest. They argue that in the post-Cold War era, in the absence of a superpower struggle in the Middle East, the United States no longer has any need for an indulgent patronage of the state of Israel. Three billion dollars in annual foreign aid, the easy sale of advanced weaponry, thirty-four vetoes of U.N. Security Council resolutions critical of Israel since 1982—such support, Mearsheimer and Walt maintain, is not in the national interest. “There is a strong moral case for supporting Israel’s existence,” they write, but they deny that Israel is of critical strategic value to the United States. The disappearance of Israel, in their view, would jeopardize neither America’s geopolitical interests nor its core values. Such is their “realism.”

The authors observe that discussion about Israel in the United States is often circumscribed, and that the ultimate price for criticizing Israel is to be branded an anti-Semite. They set out to write “The Israel Lobby,” they have said, to break taboos and stimulate discussion. They anticipated some ugly attacks, and were not disappointed. The Washington Post published a piece by the Johns Hopkins professor Eliot Cohen under the headline “Yes, It’s Anti-Semitic.” The Times reported earlier this month that several organizations, including a Jewish community center, have decided to withdraw speaking invitations to Mearsheimer and Walt, in violation of good sense and the spirit of open discussion.

Mearsheimer and Walt are not anti-Semites or racists. They are serious scholars, and there is no reason to doubt their sincerity. They are right to describe the moral violation in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. (In this, most Israelis and most American Jews agree with them.) They were also right about Iraq. The strategic questions they raise now, particularly about Israel’s privileged relationship with the United States, are worth debating––just as it is worth debating whether it is a good idea to be selling arms to Saudi Arabia. But their announced objectives have been badly undermined by the contours of their argument—a prosecutor’s brief that depicts Israel as a singularly pernicious force in world affairs. Mearsheimer and Walt have not entirely forgotten their professional duties, and they periodically signal their awareness of certain complexities. But their conclusions are unmistakable: Israel and its lobbyists bear a great deal of blame for the loss of American direction, treasure, and even blood.

In Mearsheimer and Walt’s cartography, the Israel lobby is not limited to AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. It is a loose yet well-oiled coalition of Jewish-American organizations, “watchdog” groups, think tanks, Christian evangelicals, sympathetic journalists, and neocon academics. This is not a cabal but a world in which Abraham Foxman gives the signal, Pat Robertson describes his apocalyptic rapture, Charles Krauthammer pumps out a column, Bernard Lewis delivers a lecture—and the President of the United States invades another country. Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Exxon-Mobil barely exist.

Where many accounts identify Osama bin Laden’s primary grievances with American support of “infidel” authoritarian regimes in Islamic lands, Mearsheimer and Walt align his primary concerns with theirs: America’s unwillingness to push Israel to end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. (It doesn’t matter that Israel and the Palestinians were in peace negotiations in 1993, the year of the first attack on the World Trade Center, or that during the Camp David negotiations in 2000 bin Laden’s pilots were training in Florida.) Mearsheimer and Walt give you the sense that, if the Israelis and the Palestinians come to terms, bin Laden will return to the family construction business.

It’s a narrative that recounts every lurid report of Israeli cruelty as indisputable fact but leaves out the rise of Fatah and Palestinian terrorism before 1967; the Munich Olympics; Black September; myriad cases of suicide bombings; and other spectaculars. The narrative rightly points out the destructiveness of the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and America’s reluctance to do much to curtail them, but there is scant mention of Palestinian violence or diplomatic bungling, only a recitation of the claim that, in 2000, Israel offered “a disarmed set of Bantustans under de-facto Israeli control.” (Strange that, at the time, the Saudi Prince Bandar told Yasir Arafat, “If we lose this opportunity, it is not going to be a tragedy. This is going to be a crime.”) Nor do they dwell for long on instances when the all-powerful Israel lobby failed to sway the White House, as when George H. W. Bush dragged Yitzhak Shamir to the Madrid peace conference.

Lobbying is inscribed in the American system of power and influence. Big Pharma, the A.A.R.P., the N.R.A., the N.A.A.C.P., farming interests, the American Petroleum Institute, and hundreds of others shuttle between K Street and Capitol Hill. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s national-security adviser, recently praised Mearsheimer and Walt in the pages of Foreign Policy for the service of “initiating a much-needed public debate,” but he went on to provide a tone and a perspective that are largely missing from their arguments. “The participation of ethnic or foreign-supported lobbies in the American policy process is nothing new,” he observes. “In my public life, I have dealt with a number of them. I would rank the Israeli-American, Cuban-American, and Armenian-American lobbies as the most effective in their assertiveness. The Greek- and Taiwanese-American lobbies also rank highly in my book. The Polish-American lobby was at one time influential (Franklin Roosevelt complained about it to Joseph Stalin), and I daresay that before long we will be hearing a lot from the Mexican-, Hindu-, and Chinese-American lobbies as well.”

Taming the influence of lobbies, if that is what Mearsheimer and Walt desire, is a matter of reforming the lobbying and campaign-finance laws. But that is clearly not the source of the hysteria surrounding their arguments. “The Israel Lobby” is a phenomenon of its moment. The duplicitous and manipulative arguments for invading Iraq put forward by the Bush Administration, the general inability of the press to upend those duplicities, the triumphalist illusions, the miserable performance of the military strategists, the arrogance of the Pentagon, the stifling of dissent within the military and the government, the moral disaster of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, the rise of an intractable civil war, and now an incapacity to deal with the singular winner of the war, Iran—all of this has left Americans furious and demanding explanations. Mearsheimer and Walt provide one: the Israel lobby. In this respect, their account is not so much a diagnosis of our polarized era as a symptom of it. ♦

Palestine: A Policy of deliberate blindness by Regis Debray

Le Monde diplomatique, August 2007.
Palestine: a policy of deliberate blindness
How The World Backed Itself Into A Corner

by Régis Debray

August 08, 2007

Le Monde diplomatique

Last year President Jacques Chirac asked Régis Debray to study the situation in the Middle East. On 15 January 2007 Debray sent the French authorities the following document on Palestine. It is an important key to understanding a long policy drift whose results are now obvious.

Dennis Ross, formerly the United States envoy to the Middle East, admitted back in 2000 that mistakes had been made in the 1978 Camp David accords: the diplomatic process had not taken enough account of developments on the ground, especially the settlements. The number of Jewish settlers in the Palestinian territories doubled from 1994 to 2000. As many Israelis have settled in the West Bank since the Oslo accords of 1993 as in the previous 25 years. With an international conference again being discussed, it would be a mistake to continue to ignore the real state of affairs. There is no need for a committee of inquiry. The report has already been drawn up, many times over. No conflict in the world is as well documented, mapped and recorded.

The OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), a United Nations agency, keeps up-to-date, detailed maps of the disputed territories, with photographs, population counts and graphs. It takes an hour to look at them, but doing so might forestall some of the never-ending statements of good intentions.

The maps show that the physical, economic and human basis for a viable Palestinian state is disappearing. The two-state solution and Israeli writer Amos Oz's "fair divorce" (a territory shared between two national homes, one smaller than the other and demilitarised but sovereign, viable and continuous) are now empty phrases belonging to the realm of might-have-been. Some might argue that we have not yet reached the point of no return and that the Israelis may have won the territorial battle (with only 22% of British mandate Palestine now outside their control) but the Palestinians are sure to win the demographic battle. They invoke the resilience of the local population in the face of the steam roller that is slowly but surely implementing the 1968 Allon Plan and the 1984 "Road Plan 50".

It is clear from developments on the ground that:

o the purpose of the security wall is not, as is believed, to trace a border that, however illegal (since it encloses over 10% of the West Bank), will at least serve as the dotted line for a future international frontier;

o it is true (as Ehud Omert said on Israeli army radio on 20 March 2006) that Israel's strategic border lies on the Jordan: the whole valley has been declared a forbidden area and the intervening area has been nibbled away (cross-river transit is only possible at certain points);

o the new east-west bypass roads built at the expense of the old north-south axis clearly chart a territory in the process of annexation, with space for three or four Arab bantustans (Jenin, Ramallah and Jericho). The exhaustion of natural resources in these overcrowded enclaves will eventually lead to massive emigration (much of the elite, especially Christian, has already left); and

o with the construction of the separation wall, the ongoing judaisation of East Jerusalem and reconfiguration of the Jerusalem municipality, the UN's repeated but purely formal condemnations have no effect on Israel's grip on the whole city (1).

There is a huge gap between what is said because we want to hear it (local withdrawals, easing of travel restrictions, removal of one checkpoint out of 20, a change of tone) and what is being done on the ground, which we don't want to see (interlinking of settlements, construction of bridges and tunnels, encirclement of Palestinian towns, expropriation of land, destruction of houses). Some would describe that gap as duplicity, others as ambiguity. The gradual encroachment happens out of sight of the cameras, without causing a stir and without an explicit colonial diktat. Nobody makes a formal complaint, even supposing they can find out what's going on - difficult if you haven't grown up locally. Israeli maps and school textbooks refer to the West Bank as Judea and Samaria and, following the Knesset's recent rejection of a proposal from a Labour education minister, obliteration of the 1967 green line is now a legal fait accompli.

This is not just a gap between the de facto and de jure situations. It reflects a method and tradition going back to the earliest days of the Yishuv (2): the strategy of fait accompli. That strategy has always paid off: the Jewish state was there before it was declared and recognised in 1948, as was the army. What we have is a theatre with two stages: on the international stage we hear repeated vague and encouraging speeches concerning withdrawal, coexistence and a Palestinian state, but the things that count (settlements, roads, tunnels, water tables) happen on the operational stage next door, where the outcome is decided out of public view.

Understanding how public opinion works in a democracy, successive Israeli governments of the left and right take care to administer regular painkillers, plans for unilateral withdrawal or the partial dismantlement of settlements and encouraging announcements that are always conditional and come to nothing. The media live from day to day, with no attempt to remember. Who now recalls that the road map (3) was supposed to be "a final and comprehensive settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict by 2005"?

The Oslo process did not just remain a dead letter: with the military reoccupation of Zones A and B (4) in April 2002, it went into reverse.

Territorial fragmentation cuts off local authorities from any possible central Palestinian administration and from each other, while the systematic physical destruction of national institutions, Palestinian infrastructure and political leaders by the Israeli army ensures internal anarchy and the spread of clans and gang violence: bottomless chaos. Clearly the path that has been taken is not that of nation building but the deconstruction of all possible governance beyond the separation wall. It is the logical counterpart of a 30-year annexation process that will be endorsed, when the time comes, "in view of the new reality on the ground".

In these circumstances, constant invocation of the road map by all parties has more to do with autosuggestion than a sober look at the consistent transformation of reality. That reality may not be visible from Geneva, Paris or New York, but it is immediately apparent to anyone travelling throughout the country after a few years' absence. It is a land carved up by military force, where the Israeli settlements are no longer shapes on a Palestinian background - instead the Palestinian areas appear as shapes on a solidly-infrastructured Israeli background: a land where water reserves are confiscated and a temporary travel restriction is very close to a permanent ban.

Some may take comfort in these ideas:

o since it was possible to withdraw settlements from Gaza, it should be possible in the near future in the West Bank. That is to ignore the fact that the withdrawal of 8,000 settlers from one place in Gaza was soon followed by the unpublicised installation of 20,000 settlers in another (the West Bank/Jerusalem). Gaza is not part of the promised land, whereas Judea and Samaria are its backbone. Sharon did not make any secret of the fact that withdrawal on the margins would be compensated by strengthening the Israeli presence elsewhere (438,000 settlers to date, including 192,910 in East Jerusalem);

o the dismantling of four small settlements in the north (1,000 settlers) and the proposed concentration of 60,000 settlers in the most populous blocs, Maale Adumim, Ariel and Gush Etzion, will create a free space. But with the settlements linked in a continuous string under cover of the security wall, the West Bank has been effectively cut in two. The wall separates Palestinians from each other even more than it separates them from the Israelis.

What is taking shape is not the Palestinian state announced and desired by all: it is an as yet unperceived Israeli territory enclosing three self-governing Palestinian enclaves.

All parties have a vested interest in preserving the international pretence (5). For the Israelis, history is being created under the cover of the pretence. The Palestinians cannot be told the truth - they are under occupation yet hoping for a better life and not self-destruction; wishful thinking provides notables, elected representatives and officials with a living, status, dignity and a raison d'être. The Europeans chose to salve their consciences by providing financial and humanitarian aid to apologise for their political passivity and voluntary blindness. The thinking of the Americans owes more to the Old Testament than the New; their link with Israel is a parent-child relationship beyond criticism. This shared illusion of self-protection results from the coincidence of opposing interests.

Is this situation tenable to the end of the century? It seems doubtful, given Israel's obsession with security, which makes it less secure, and its disregard for the demographic and religious trends in the region (6). Could not at least one European government convey to our Israeli friends that we are not all taken in by the deception, and that those who deceive may not be be its first victims - but will certainly be its last? ________________________________________________________

Régis Debray is a writer and philosopher, and honorary chairman of the IESR (European Institute of Religious Studies), Paris

(1) See Dominique Vidal and Philippe Rekacewicz, "Jerusalem: whose very own and golden city?", Le Monde diplomatique, English edition, February 2007.

(2) A Hebrew term used by the Zionist movement before the creation of the State of Israel to designate Palestine's Jewish inhabitants and new immigrants.

(3) The road map, a proposal for ending the Israel-Palestine conflict, was adopted by the Quartet (UN, US, EU and Russia) on 30 April 2003.

(4) The Palestinian territories comprise the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip (45 km long and 10 km wide). The Oslo accords divided them into three zones:
- Zone A comprising, since 1994, Gaza and the towns of Jericho, Jenin, Qalqilya, Ramallah, Tulkarem, Nablus, Bethlehem (Hebron was the subject of a separate agreement in January 1997), in which the Palestinian Authority has civil jurisdiction and police powers; - Zone B comprising the remaining areas of the West Bank, in which the Palestinian Authority has civil jurisdiction but shares responsibility for internal security with the Israeli army;
- Zone C comprising the Israeli settlements establishing in the West Bank, Gaza (since dismantled) and East Jerusalem, which remain under the control of the Jewish state.

(5) See Alain Gresh, "Palestine wrecked", Le Monde diplomatique, English edition, July 2007.

(6) See the report (PDF) submitted to the UN secretary general on 5 May by Alvaro de Soto, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.

Leaving Iraq Without Leaving Behind Holocaust by Johann Hari

Leaving Iraq Without Leaving Behind Holocaust
Johann Hari
The Independent
August 27, 2007

As it bleeds into its 5th year, the Iraq War is excelling only in savagery and surrealism. We now have an American president publicly citing the similarities to Vietnam as a reason why the US must not withdraw – and he is merrily quoting Graham Greene's anti-war masterpiece "The Quiet American" in his defense. Far from thinking anything has gone wrong, he declares: "The Iraqi people owe the American people a great debt of gratitude. That's the problem here in America. They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that's significant enough in Iraq."

Meanwhile, the Iraqi psyche is so wrecked by the seven-days-in-a-week blasting on to their streets 24 hours a day that my Iraqi friends report mass hysteria gnawing into the survivors. After a small string of attacks by badgers – you know, the little furry creatures – in Basra, so many people were convinced this was a new weapon of war that UK military spokesman Maj. Mike Shearer had to announce publicly: "We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area."

The last excuse the remaining defenders of the war can scrape together is – yes, but it'll be even worse if we leave. As David Petraeus, the commander of US forces, says: "If you don't like Darfur, you're going to hate Baghdad [after a US withdrawal]."

But buried in all the self-serving propaganda about staying the course, there is a dilemma for those of us genuinely worried about the Iraqi people. What if a genocide begins to unfold in a broken Iraq after the withdrawal of international troops? There are harbingers of it already. The jihadi suicide-massacres of the Yezidis in northern Iraq last week is only one signal. I have been startled by how viciously even my democratic, liberal Iraqi friends now talk about the other side in sweeping, annihilatory language. Almost every institution of the Iraqi state – the police, army, even the hospitals – are now divided into Shiite and Sunni wings which detest each other. There is a real and hefty risk that this will metastasize into an attempt to physically eliminate each other. Just as dark is the risk of the neighboring countries invading Iraq after a simple US withdrawal. This would create a Congo-on-the-Tigris.

But is this a case for keeping the US forces there? A recent, much-discussed-in-DC article in The New York Times by Brookings Institution scholars Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack said so. They argued that "the surge" of 21,000 troops into Iraq is finally working, and creating momentum away from sectarian violence.

If this were true, it would be important – but their own institution's figures show it is the opposite of the truth. It makes no sense to compare statistics on violence in Iraq month-to-month, because the violence fluctuates seasonally (as it does in most cities in the world). For reliable figures, you have to compare this July to last July.

And what do you find in the Brookings statistics? The number of Iraqi military personnel and police killed are up 23 percent. People dying in multiple-fatality bombings is up 19 percent. US troop fatalities are up 80 percent. The size of the insurgency is up 250 percent. Attacks on oil and gas pipelines are up 75 percent. Hours of electricity available per day are down 14 percent. Far from creating the space for political compromise among Iraqis, this has led to Sunnis and secularists marching angrily out of Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki's government. This is success? This is momentum?

The US troops cannot be an agent of anything positive in Iraq, after using chemical weapons in cities, after using torture routinely, after overseeing the deaths of 650,000 Iraqis. Today, 78 percent of Iraqis say the US presence "is doing more harm than good" and that they should leave. This is hardly surprising: Jeff Englehart, formerly a US soldier in Iraq, said recently: "The general attitude was: a dead Iraqi is just another dead Iraqi."

But how do they get out without leaving behind something even more hellish? To grope for a solution, we must first be honest and clear about the Bush administration's motives.

It is currently trying to force the Iraqi Parliament, as its top priority, to pass an oil law that would hand two-thirds of Iraq's oil fields to their friends and paymasters in Big Oil. Ordinary Iraqis see this new plan as crude looting of their wealth, with 63 percent appalled in a recent poll. Yet the US is suppressing resistance: They leaned on the Ministry of the Interior to use Saddam-era laws to ban the oil worker's trade unions, which have been democratically, peacefully fighting the law.

Only massive public pressure will change this course. So what should we demand they do? Former presidential candidate George McGovern, who fought heroically against the Vietnam War, has worked on a detailed way to leave Iraq that doesn't also leave behind a holocaust. It is mapped out in his book Out of Iraq.

McGovern's plan begins with a simple, stark apology from the US, Britain and other invaders for the catastrophe we have wrought – the opposite of Bush's deranged demands for thanks. There must then be a commitment to dismantle all permanent US bases on Iraqi soil, and to allow Iraqis to own their country's oil – with royalties paid equally to every citizen, in a regular check, like they do in Alaska.

The US then needs to convene a regional conference, at which it pledges to pay full-whack for an international stabilization force to police Iraq, manned exclusively by Muslim countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, and Jordan. These countries will need all sorts of financial inducements to send troops. Tough. Pay them. McGovern calculates that even at top-rate, this would cost $5.5 billion – just 3 percent of keeping the US forces there for the next two years. Once the police are fellow-Muslims, the often-murderous insurgents will be much more isolated. Al-Qaeda's tiny presence (estimated by US generals to be fewer than 500 fighters, rendering Bush's claims they will take over the country absurd) will be even more despised. Only troops like this could have the legitimacy needed to stop a genocide.

It's not a perfect plan. People will still die in the fallout. But it is less lethal than any other option I can see. The present course is too horrific to maintain. In Baghdad today, people have stopped eating fish from the rivers Tigris and Euphrates. The reason? So many dead bodies are being dumped there every day – and being munched by the fish – that Iraqis began to fear they would contract diseases associated with cannibalism.

That's the scoreboard so far: to reduce Iraqis from the horror of Saddamism to physically consuming themselves. Now what was the president saying about gratitude?

Can We Win the Ideological War by Patrick Buchanan



Can We Win the Ideological War?

Patrick J. Buchanan

Asked during World War II why the British continued to fight so ferociously, Churchill is said to have snorted, "If we stop, you'll find out."

The question arises in the war on terror: we know who the main enemy is, al-Qaeda, the men and movement responsible for 9/11, but what are they fighting for? What is their war all about?

A year ago, in Salt Lake City, President Bush, addressing the American Legion, sought to define the war from his perspective: "The war we fight today is more than a military conflict; it is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century. On one side are those who believe in the values of freedom and moderationhe right of all people to speak, and worship, and live in liberty. And on the other side are those driven by the values of tyranny and extremismhe right of a self-appointed few to impose their fanatical views on all the rest."

Certainly terrorists who massacre innocents are fanatics. Certainly, the caliphate bin Laden's acolytes would establish would be tyrannical. But if the enemy were only a cabal of terrorists, hell-bent on establishing a tyranny, they would not be on the verge of expelling us from Iraq and perhaps from Afghanistan.

Why are we losing the war if President Bush has correctly defined the stakes in this "ideological struggle"?

One reason is that the true goals of bin Laden, the insurgents in Iraq, and the Taliban are not so abstract as those of Mr. Bush. They are concrete, understandable, realizable, and appealing to millions.

In his declaration of war on the United States, bin Laden listed three goals: expel U.S. forces from the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia, stop the persecution of innocent Iraqis through U.S.-UN sanctions, and end the Israeli repression and dispossession of the Palestinian people.

Not only do these goals have broad appeal to Arab peoples, bin Laden has achieved victory in the first. After 9/11, U.S. forces were pulled out of Saudi Arabia at the request of the king.

And while Bush calls this an ideological struggle, the enemy has allied itself with some very powerful ideas. As did Mao and Ho Chi Minh, our enemy has captured the flag of nationalism: We fight to get your troops off our land! We fight to get your hooks out of our government! Leave us to rule ourselves!

More importantly, our enemy has rooted his cause in a 1,400-year-old religion that has 1.2 billion adherents, has survived crusades, invasions and occupations, and is growing again in militancy and converts.

Our enemy, be it Shia or Sunni in Iraq or the Taliban in Afghanistan, claims to be fighting for a rule of law, Sharia, sanctioned by the Koran, and a form of government the Prophet mandates for Islamic peoples. And that is not some secular-liberal, do-your-own-thing democracy.

As for the tactics the enemy uses, decent Muslims the world over are said to be growing disgusted with the slaughter by suicide bombers of men, women, and children.

But are these not the tactics the French maquis and Italian and Yugoslav partisans used on the Nazis and their collaborators? Was this not the way Israelis expelled the British, the Algerians expelled the French, the Afghans expelled the Soviets, the ANC overthrew apartheid, and Hezbollah drove the IDF out of Lebanon?

Clausewitz would understand: terrorism is the extension of Islamist politics by other means.

If we know what al-Qaeda is fighting for, what exactly are we fighting for? Taking the president literally, we are fighting for the right of Islamic peoples "to speak, and worship, and live in liberty."

Here we come to our dilemma. Devout Muslims in Islamic lands do not believe people should be free to blaspheme or insult the Prophet. They do not believe all religions are equal or should be treated equally. They do not believe Christians should be free to preach in their lands. The punishment for those who do, and for those who convert from Islam in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia as well as Iran, is death.

Moreover, in every Middle East country, Islamic parties have broadening support. In free elections in Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, and Iran, Islamists made gains or racked up victories. In Turkey, a moderate Islamic party just won national power.

It is Western secularism that is in retreat. It is our friends in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, the Gulf states, and Israel who seem most apprehensive about any more elections among the Arab masses. The Islamists seem to welcome themnd to succeed in them.
Should U.S. soldiers die for democracy in the Islamic world, when democracy may produce victory for the political progeny of the Muslim Brotherhood? Is that worth the lives of America's young?

Patrick J. Buchanan

Asked during World War II why the British continued to fight so ferociously, Churchill is said to have snorted, "If we stop, you'll find out."

The question arises in the war on terror: we know who the main enemy is, al-Qaeda, the men and movement responsible for 9/11, but what are they fighting for? What is their war all about?

A year ago, in Salt Lake City, President Bush, addressing the American Legion, sought to define the war from his perspective: "The war we fight today is more than a military conflict; it is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century. On one side are those who believe in the values of freedom and moderationhe right of all people to speak, and worship, and live in liberty. And on the other side are those driven by the values of tyranny and extremismhe right of a self-appointed few to impose their fanatical views on all the rest."

Certainly terrorists who massacre innocents are fanatics. Certainly, the caliphate bin Laden's acolytes would establish would be tyrannical. But if the enemy were only a cabal of terrorists, hell-bent on establishing a tyranny, they would not be on the verge of expelling us from Iraq and perhaps from Afghanistan.

Why are we losing the war if President Bush has correctly defined the stakes in this "ideological struggle"?

One reason is that the true goals of bin Laden, the insurgents in Iraq, and the Taliban are not so abstract as those of Mr. Bush. They are concrete, understandable, realizable, and appealing to millions.

In his declaration of war on the United States, bin Laden listed three goals: expel U.S. forces from the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia, stop the persecution of innocent Iraqis through U.S.-UN sanctions, and end the Israeli repression and dispossession of the Palestinian people.

Not only do these goals have broad appeal to Arab peoples, bin Laden has achieved victory in the first. After 9/11, U.S. forces were pulled out of Saudi Arabia at the request of the king.

And while Bush calls this an ideological struggle, the enemy has allied itself with some very powerful ideas. As did Mao and Ho Chi Minh, our enemy has captured the flag of nationalism: We fight to get your troops off our land! We fight to get your hooks out of our government! Leave us to rule ourselves!

More importantly, our enemy has rooted his cause in a 1,400-year-old religion that has 1.2 billion adherents, has survived crusades, invasions and occupations, and is growing again in militancy and converts.

Our enemy, be it Shia or Sunni in Iraq or the Taliban in Afghanistan, claims to be fighting for a rule of law, Sharia, sanctioned by the Koran, and a form of government the Prophet mandates for Islamic peoples. And that is not some secular-liberal, do-your-own-thing democracy.

As for the tactics the enemy uses, decent Muslims the world over are said to be growing disgusted with the slaughter by suicide bombers of men, women, and children.

But are these not the tactics the French maquis and Italian and Yugoslav partisans used on the Nazis and their collaborators? Was this not the way Israelis expelled the British, the Algerians expelled the French, the Afghans expelled the Soviets, the ANC overthrew apartheid, and Hezbollah drove the IDF out of Lebanon?

Clausewitz would understand: terrorism is the extension of Islamist politics by other means.

If we know what al-Qaeda is fighting for, what exactly are we fighting for? Taking the president literally, we are fighting for the right of Islamic peoples "to speak, and worship, and live in liberty."

Here we come to our dilemma. Devout Muslims in Islamic lands do not believe people should be free to blaspheme or insult the Prophet. They do not believe all religions are equal or should be treated equally. They do not believe Christians should be free to preach in their lands. The punishment for those who do, and for those who convert from Islam in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia as well as Iran, is death.

Moreover, in every Middle East country, Islamic parties have broadening support. In free elections in Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, and Iran, Islamists made gains or racked up victories. In Turkey, a moderate Islamic party just won national power.

It is Western secularism that is in retreat. It is our friends in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, the Gulf states, and Israel who seem most apprehensive about any more elections among the Arab masses. The Islamists seem to welcome themnd to succeed in them.
Should U.S. soldiers die for democracy in the Islamic world, when democracy may produce victory for the political progeny of the Muslim Brotherhood? Is that worth the lives of America's young?

Missing the Point: A Review of the forthcoming Mearsheimer/Walt Bookby Ben Fishman

A review of the forthcoming Mearsheimer/Walt book from a hostile source. One counter-intuitive claim: the Saudi lobby outflanked the Israeli lobby in 2001-1. M/W will be speaking about their book at Politics and Prose on Sept 6th at 7 pm.

Missing the Point
By Ben Fishman
National Interest Online
August 27, 2007

Copies of the highly anticipated new book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt arrived on bookshelves in Washington late last week despite a reported "embargo" from the publisher until its official September 4 release. In a sign of the book's controversial nature, the New York Times reported on August 16 that organizations such as the Chicago Council on Global Affairs have canceled scheduled events with Mearsheimer and Walt. This new debate about the rights of the prominent political scientists to present their critique of Israel adds to the question of whether their work is anti-Semitic -- a claim made against the professors' original "Israel Lobby" paper published last March. Rather, the central issue on which reviewers of Mearsheimer and Walt's book should focus is whether the evidence the professors present supports their arguments about the significant influence of the Israel lobby on U.S. foreign policy decisions.

Despite well over one thousand endnotes and updated chapters on the lobby's role in influencing the Bush Administration's approach to Israel, Iraq, Syria, Iran and the Lebanon War of 2006, the book consistently misrepresents U.S. decision-making in the Middle East. Mearsheimer and Walt manufacture causal connections between the lobby's activities and American actions that Bush Administration insiders rebuke.

Unfortunately, the book does not include any interviews with current or former government officials about the lobby's influence on foreign policy. (The one interview cited in the endnotes refers to the departure of Flynt Leverett from the Brookings Institution. Leverett, who served on the National Security Council staff during the Bush Administration's first term and has been an ardent critic of its policies since, is not quoted about his views on the lobby's influence or the Bush Administration and the Middle East). Earlier this year, Mearsheimer and Walt argued that they did not need interviews since "we felt we already had sufficient information about the lobby's operations" and additional research "would not have altered our conclusions." In fact, what Mearsheimer and Walt would have discovered, as I did, is that their interpretation of events does not accord with how Bush officials characterize the reasons for policy decisions and their interactions with the Israel lobby.

Before addressing the flaws in Mearsheimer and Walt's claims and the specific cases they misinterpret, it is first essential to understand their core argument: The Israel lobby acts not just as one important voice informing government officials, but consistently shapes American foreign policy decisions. Originally, they asserted, "the overall thrust of U.S. policy in the region is due almost entirely to U.S. domestic politics, and especially to the activities of the 'Israel Lobby.'"

That sentence has disappeared from the book, but its essence remains in a series of claims about particular areas in which the lobby played a central if not determinative role. They write, the lobby "was the principal driving force behind the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq in 2003." Similarly, the Bush administration has failed to settle the Arab-Israeli conflict, "because there has been little change in the balance of power between Bush and the lobby." And on Syria, they state, "absent the lobby, there might already be a peace treaty between Israel and Syria."

At a minimum, Mearsheimer and Walt depict the Israel lobby as guiding American policy decisions toward Israel and throughout the Middle East. Maximally, the professors portray presidents and secretaries of state as subservient to the executive director of the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and neoconservative sub-cabinet officials.

Responding to each of these charges, and the five chapters in which they present their evidence, would require significant space. However, a close examination of the critical period of U.S.-Israel relations from 2001-2002 -- the period that motivated Mearsheimer and Walt's work on this subject -- reveals that events on the ground in the Middle East drove the administration's policies, not the activities of the Israel lobby.

In the months following the September 11 attacks, Mearsheimer and Walt claim, "American policy makers believed that shutting down the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or at least making an attempt to do so, would undermine support for terrorist groups like al Qaeda." To achieve this, "President Bush began pushing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to show restraint in the Occupied Territories," and soon Bush "said publicly for the first time that he supported a Palestinian state." However, this version of events reverses the impact of 9/11 on the Bush Administration and ignores the role played by Saudi Arabia during this period.

In the weeks preceding September 11, the Bush Administration faced a growing crisis in its relations with Saudi Arabia because it had not placed enough emphasis on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah refused to meet Bush until the administration changed course. According to a Washington Post report, Saudi Ambassador Bandar bin Sultan delivered a message to the President from Crown Prince Abdullah, stating that since American "national interest in the Middle East is 100-percent based on Sharon . . . we will protect our national interests, regardless of where America's interests lie in the region."

Because of this potential rift with the kingdom, President Bush wrote to the Saudi crown prince pledging to work toward alleviating Palestinian suffering. As Bruce Riedel, the senior National Security Council official for the Middle East at the time, later told me, "the driving force" of American policy toward the Middle East during this period was Saudi Arabia and "policy was set under pressure from the Saudi lobby."

While Mearsheimer and Walt claim that the United States was busy trying to appease Arab opinion after 9/11 by pressuring Israel, administration officials explain the opposite was taking place. One senior State Department official told me, "9/11 tended to transform the administration's view of the conflict, and frame it more in terms of a wider ideological struggle between forces of extremism and democratic modernization in the region. Arafat's continuing flirtation with terrorism solidified the view that he was on the wrong side of the emerging divide in the region." Finally, the president's first official announcement in support of a Palestinian state was not pressure at all, since Ariel Sharon had already accepted the concept of Palestinian statehood. Riedel explained, "We weren't going to get in trouble for supporting something Sharon already supported."

The second case Mearsheimer and Walt cite as evidence for the effectiveness of the Israel lobby occurred just four months later, at the time of Israel's reentry into West Bank cities in response to a massive suicide bombing that killed thirty Israelis celebrating Passover. Mearsheimer and Walt note that President Bush and senior officials initially urged Israel to withdraw from the West Bank but later ceased such calls and ultimately sided with Sharon, calling him a "man of peace." The lobby, of course, was responsible for this switch.

Yet Mearsheimer and Walt fail to describe the events leading up to Israel's Operation Defensive Shield. They completely ignore the mission of General Anthony Zinni to renew security cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians during this period-and the envoy's conclusion that Palestinian Authority leader Yasir Arafat was the impediment to progress on the peace process. Zinni made his first trip as envoy in December and returned in January the very day Israel intercepted the ship Karine-A on its way to delivering fifty tons of weaponry purchased by Arafat. (Mearsheimer and Walt write "there was no definitive evidence that directly implicated Arafat" in the weapons purchase, but captured Israeli documents establish that Fouad Shubaki, the director of finances for the Palestinian Authority's security forces, provided the funds for the cargo and the operation.)

Zinni believed that the capture of the Karine-A would end the security negotiations he was pursuing, but found the Israelis continued to be amenable to compromise. When he offered his own "bridging plan" to resolve differences between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators on the parameters for an agreement, Zinni found that the Israelis accepted the plan without reservations. However, Zinni could not get a final answer from Arafat and ultimately concluded, "Arafat was the stumbling block . . . No matter what he told anyone, he would not make compromises." Consequently, Zinni recognized that the Passover bombing had a "9/11 effect" on Israelis, even among the security professionals who had been most forthcoming during his negotiations.

By not even referencing Zinni's mission or the level of terror that provoked Israel's Operation Defensive Shield (63 Israelis had been killed and hundreds injured in suicide bombings since Zinni's first trip as envoy), Mearsheimer and Walt present a particularly one-dimensional view of the president's reaction. Indeed, had they read further into President Bush's remarks when he called for Israel to withdraw from its incursions into the West Bank, they would have discovered the real reason why the administration soon withdrew its demands for a pull-back. The president said,

"I speak as a committed friend of Israel. I speak out of a concern for its long-term security, a security that will come with a genuine peace. As Israel steps back, responsible Palestinian leaders and Israel's Arab neighbors must step forward and show the world that they are truly on the side of peace. The choice and the burden will be theirs."

Predictably, no one stepped forward and by June the administration called for new Palestinian leadership and would no longer deal with Arafat. The new policy emerged as a result of Arafat's own failings, his unwillingness to halt terror attacks and the frustrations of the administration in dealing with him. According to Bush officials, the Israel lobby played no role in this policy shift.

These examples highlight how the lobby is not the driving force behind U.S. policy toward the Middle East. And if it does not determine U.S. decisions toward Israel specifically, the lobby is highly unlikely to exert greater influence over policy toward other Middle Eastern countries, such as Syria, Iran or Iraq.

Perhaps the most pernicious claim that appears in The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy is that the lobby "was the principal driving force" behind the decision to invade Iraq. The origin of the Iraq War will likely be debated by historians for generations to come, but it is pretty clear that Mearsheimer and Walt greatly simplify a complex story by arguing that "a small band of neoconservatives" led the march toward war, which Israeli officials helped sell to the American public.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld responded best to the charge that Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith from the Pentagon and other neoconservatives from the vice president's office were the "driving force behind the Iraq war", in Mearsheimer and Walt's words. Rumsfeld told the New Yorker's Jeffrey Goldberg, "I suppose the implication of that is that the President and the Vice-President and myself and Colin Powell just fell off a turnip truck to take these jobs." Interestingly, Rumsfeld barely appears as a principal actor in Mearsheimer and Walt's treatment of the events shaping the Iraq War.

Similarly, Peter Wehner, former deputy assistant to the president and director of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives, called Mearsheimer and Walt's description of the lobby's role in the Iraq War "ludicrous." Instead, Wehner explained, "The principal driving forces behind the decision to invade Iraq were (a) Saddam Hussein and his aggressive and malevolent regime; and (b) the lesson the Administration took away from the attacks on September 11, which were that you do not wait on events while dangers gather." Once again, by failing to consult officials, Mearsheimer and Walt attribute influence to the lobby when other factors dominated the administration's thinking and actions.

Although The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy appears to contain much clearly documented research, its authors fail to capture the realities of policy formation and present a series of letters, statements and rallies by supporters of Israel as evidence of the lobby's manipulation of Washington. Mearsheimer and Walt would have benefited from conversations with foreign policy officials or representatives of the lobby itself to get a more precise portrayal of the events they describe. Had they done so, they would have found that their description of American foreign policy is often inaccurate or misleading, and their overall thesis is contradicted by central figures in their story.

Ben Fishman is a researcher and special assistant to former Ambassador Dennis Ross at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Troops Cheer Call For Iraq Withdrawal

Troops Cheer Call For Iraq Withdrawal By AP
Governor's Call For U.S. Withdrawal From Iraq Greeted With Standing Ovation At National Guard Conference.

Middle East Turmoil Could Cause World War

Middle East Turmoil Could Cause World War: U.S. Envoy By Reuters

Zalmay Khalilzad told the daily Die Presse the Middle East was now so disordered that it had the potential to inflame the world as Europe did during the first half of the 20th century.

The Great Iraq Swindle by Rolling Stone Magazine

The Great Iraq Swindle By Rolling Stone Magazine
How Bush Allowed an Army of For-Profit Contractors to Invade the U.S. Treasury.

Options on the Table by Noam Chomsky

Options On The Table

By Noam Chomsky

The sabre-rattling rhetoric about "containing Iran" has escalated to the point where both political parties and practically the whole US Press corps accept it as legitimate and, in fact, honourable, that "all options are on the table," to quote the leading presidential candidates - possibly even nuclear weapons.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Washington Fear Mongering by Winslow Wheeler

Trying to sound tough and responsible, President Bush and aspiring Republican and Democratic politicians have gotten themselves into a hot lather over the prospect of Iran's sharing its - assumed - future nuclear weapons with terrorists to attack the United States. Straus Military Reform Project Adviser Charles Pena deconstructs their logic in a commentary originally published Aug. 16, 2007, by United Press International.

"Nuclear Fear Factor" by Straus Military Reform Project Adviser Charles Pena was originally published on Aug. 16, 2007 by United Press International.

Even as the International Atomic Energy Agency is meeting with Iranian officials to discuss increasing the openness of Iran's nuclear program, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad remains defiant about Tehran’s right to pursue such a program -- including uranium enrichment, which would give Iran de facto nuclear weapon capability.

This raises the specter of one of the greatest fears in the post-Sept. 11 world: nuclear terrorism.

Indeed, this was the prospect brandished by President Bush to help gain public support for invading Iraq and deposing Saddam Hussein. "If the Iraqi regime is able to produce, buy, or steal an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball, it could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year,” he said. “And Saddam Hussein would be in a position to pass nuclear technology to terrorists."

But how likely is it that a regime with ties to terrorist groups would give them a nuclear weapon?

The conventional wisdom is that if a regime such as Iran acquired a nuclear weapon it could give that weapon to a terrorist group it supports (such as Hezbollah) and that the group would use the weapon against a common foe of the group and the regime (presumably the United States.)

This is the logic of the enemy of my friend is my enemy, which is emotionally appealing and based on the assumption that regimes and terrorist groups hate us for who we are.

But it is deeply flawed.

First and foremost, there is no history of hostile regimes supplying terrorist groups with chemical or biological weapons they have access to, let alone a nuclear weapon.

Saddam was known to support anti-Israeli Palestinian terrorist groups (including Hamas) for years, but he never gave chemical or biological weapons to those groups to use against Israel, a country he hated as much as he hated the United States. The same is true for the mullahs in Tehran.

It is also important to understand that terrorist groups aided by hostile regimes are not completely controlled by those regimes. There is an assumption that a terrorist group would use a nuclear weapon to attack the United States -- and that this is the only plausible scenario.

But a nuclear weapon would also give the terrorist group the ability to topple the regime that supplied it, and the regime would have no way to prevent that from happening once the weapon was out of its control.

Moreover, it would be logistically easier for the terrorists to attack the regime that supplied it -- rather than trying to clandestinely transfer the weapon to a foreign target like the United States.

Two other factors would affect a regime's decision to transfer a nuclear weapon to terrorists. First, the cost to develop such weapons is significant -- several billions of dollars. One has to question whether any regime would make that kind of investment simply to give a weapon away.

Second, once a weapon is in the hands of terrorists, they could use it against any target of their choosing. If that target is not the one approved by the regime, nuclear forensics could be used to trace the weapon back to its source (even without nuclear forensics, the list of suspects will be relatively short).

As a result, the regime would have to worry that a terrorist group would commit an act that would endanger its own survival -- especially if U.S. policy is to reserve the right to retaliate against the suspect regime using its vastly superior nuclear arsenal.

Indeed, if deterring U.S.-imposed regime change is one of the primary incentives for certain countries to pursue nuclear weapons, giving them away to terrorists would be counter-productive and more likely to invite the very action the regime seeks to avert.

Overall, a regime would have to have suicidal tendencies to engage in such risky behavior -- yet while individual fanatics may sometimes be willing to commit suicide for a cause, prominent political leaders rarely display that characteristic.

So while the logic of the enemy of my friend is my enemy has popular appeal, the reality is that there are clear and significant disincentives for any regime to simply give away a nuclear weapon to a terrorist group.

Thus, although we must be concerned about the prospect of nuclear terrorism, we should also not be mesmerized by rhetoric of smoking guns in the form of mushroom clouds and live in dire fear of it.

(Charles Pena is an adviser to the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information, a senior fellow with George Washington University's Homeland Security Policy Institute and author of Potomac Books’ “Winning the Un-War: A New Strategy for the War on Terrorism.”)

Winslow T. Wheeler


Straus Military Reform Project

Center for Defense Information

202 797-5271 in DC

301 840-8992 in MD

In the Twiglight of His Deployment by Steve Clemons

In the Twilight of His Deployment

I just came across this blog of an American military guy that the Pentagon has not yet shut down called "Army of Dude."

Here are some choice entries:

Stupid Shit of The Deployment Awards!

Working with 1920s -- A Sunni insurgent group we've been battling for months, responsible for the death of my friend and numerous attacks, agreed to fight Al Qaeda alongside us. Since then, they've grown into a much more organized, lethal force. They use this organization to steal cars and intimidate and torture the local population, or anyone they accuse of being linked to Al Qaeda. The Gestapo of the 21st century, sanctioned by the United States Army.

The Surge -- The beefing up of ground forces in Iraq at the beginning of the year, started by the 82nd Airborne. Unit deployments were moved up several months to maintain a higher level of boots on the ground to quell the Baghdad situation. What most don't realize is the amount of actual fighting troops in a brigade, something in the area of 2,000 soldiers in a brigade of 5,000 depending on what unit it is. So for every 2,000 fighters, there are 3,000 pencil pushers sucking up resources in every brigade that was surged. A logistical nightmare that, surprise, failed miserably. The increase of troops in Baghdad pushed the insurgents to rural areas (like Diyala), hence our move here in March. The surge was nothing more than a thorn in the side of nomadic fighters having to move thirty five miles while the generals watched Baghdad with stubborn eyes.

I Can Taste It

This occupation, this money pit, this smorgasbord of superfluous
aggression is getting more hopeless and dismal by the second. It's
maddening to think that more than a year's worth of blood, sweat and
tears will lead to little more than a pat on the back and a hideously
redundant speech from someone who did none of the bleeding, sweating or

Despite being in a meaningless situation, my life has never had this much meaning. I watch the backs of my friends and they do the same for me. I've killed to protect them, and they've killed to protect me. For friends and family, being deployed is like being pregnant or surviving a car wreck; everyone is nice to you all of a sudden. People I don't even know send me kind words and packages from all over. They came out of the woodwork knowing my plight and shared with me heartfelt hope and luck.

The fact that you're reading this now, dear reader, is a testament to that. Would you have cared about what I thought, felt or did two years ago? This position I'm in, shared by less than one percent of the U.S. population, has given me the distinct privilege of sharing my experiences and ruminations of this war, observations undiluted by perpetually delirious officials like General Petreaus and mainstream media sirens. I have felt every extreme of the human condition, physically, morally and emotionally. I've never laughed so hard, cried so long or felt more ashamed of myself in all of my life. In a matter of weeks it'll be over, and I'll have just the memories of enduring 130 degree heat, and poker games lasting well into the night.

I'll look back on the hysterical laughter during fifteen hour Baghdad clears, the terror of being pinned down by machine gun fire, the sight of a Stryker on its side and the unfolding of a body bag under the flames of a nearby school, unzipped tenderly to fit the body of Chevy as RPGs screamed overhead. Soon this place will all be in the past.

The Enemy of My Enemy of My Enemy of My Enemy...

Fourteen months into this deployment and things are taking a turn for the surreal.

Throughout Mosul and Baghdad, we were fighting what could best described as an insurgent cocktail: parts of Islamic State of Iraq, Al Sadr's Mahdi Army, 1920 Revolution Brigade and simple, pissed off farmers. Shia and Sunni. Organized militias and rag tags. All they had in common was a shared goal: a total withdraw of occupational forces.

This seems like a blogger in the field that The New Republic should have hired -- or at least added to its team.
09:12 AM | Permalink

Allawi Lobbying by Abu Aardvark

Allawi lobbying

I've been enjoying the exposure of Iyad Allawi's contracts with DC consultants, which Iraqslogger uncovered and got into the mainstream media. It really shouldn't be all that surprising - Allawi has always been about foreign support, not a domestic political base. The idea that the road to power in Baghdad lies through DC lobbyists is not a particularly strange one, especially given the experience of Iraqi exile politicians in 2002-2003. It's also worth noting that Allawi's bid for a return to power is nothing new - his candidacy has been pushed by the Saudis and other Arab states, and by some Americans since last fall. I warned about this Allawi gambit back in March:

Will Iyad Allawi, the rotund one-time Iraqi Prime Minister and current London resident, be the next Prime Minister of Iraq? He certainly seems to want the job, and he suits the Bush administration's agenda suspiciously well. But his return to power would not only fail to end the civil war - it would also signal a decisive end to democratic aspirations in Iraq and the Arab world, increase America's role at a time when most Americans would prefer to leave, and pave the way to a confrontation with Iran.

I think that analysis from the spring holds up pretty well, for better or for worse. Allawi would not solve any of America's problems in Iraq, and - as several people have pointed out - he'd have a rough time getting a change of government through Parliament or taking control of an Iraqi state thoroughly penetrated and controlled by pro-Iranian Shia factions. But he represents an easy out for those who want to blame Maliki for problems which really flow from the nature of the Iraqi state, and an excuse to kick the can down the road for another year. What makes Allawi plausible is the absence of any other serious contenders to rule Iraq - which is, perhaps, the real indictment of the Iraqi political system.
Posted on August 27, 2007 at 10:17 AM | Permalink |

Scott Horton: The Next War Draws Nearer

The Next War Draws Nearer

BY Scott Horton
PUBLISHED August 23, 2007

Hardly a week passes in which I don’t get a message from someone within the great bureaucratic wasteland on the Potomac about the Bush Administration’s latest schemes relating to war against Iran. Now we’re going through another one of those periods in which the pace is quickening and the pitch is becoming more intense. I continue to put the prospects for a major military operation targeting Iran down as “likely,” and the time frame drawing nearer. When will Bush give the go ahead? I think late this year or early next would be the most congenial time frame from the perspective of the war party. Some of the developments that go into my call:

* Labeling the Revolutionary Guards as ‘Terrorists.’ Last week the Bush Administration floated the idea that it would schedule Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (an official part of the Iranian government) as a terrorist organization. This is related to the Administration’s propaganda drive to portray the Revolutionary Guard as deeply engaged in training terrorists in Iraq. (Iran is deeply engaged in outfitting and supporting factions loyal to it in Iraq, as is Saudi Arabia and other states.) Of course, the Revolutionary Guards answer directly to Supreme Leader Khamenei, so in taking this position, the Bush Administration is essentially saying that it has decided to ditch an initiative that focuses on skirting Ahmadinejad by going directly to Khamenei—that is, it is limiting its diplomatic options, yet again. No real surprise there, since it’s clear—notwithstanding statements from Condoleezza Rice about the exhaustion of diplomatic approaches—that the White House (read: Dick Cheney) places no store whatsoever in a diplomatic effort for Iran.
* Preparation for a ‘Dirty War’? The branding of the Revolutionary Guard as terrorists raises troubling prospects with respect to targeting and military operations in Iran. Based on prior Bush Administration postures (adopted with respect to the Taliban, and units of Saddam Hussein’s military), it would mean that they are denied Geneva Convention protections in the coming war and could be treated to “highly coercive interrogation techniques” (i.e., torture) if captured. In sum, it looks like the Bush Administration is busily preparing for another “dirty war.”
* Costing for Ground Operations in Iran. In the last two weeks the Department of Defense has begun pushing regular contractors very aggressively for “unit costs” to be used for logistical preparations for reconstruction and ground operations in a certain country of West Asia. In the last week, the requests have gotten increasingly harried. And what, exactly, is the country in question? Iran.
* ‘There Will Be an Attack on Iran.’ Former senior CIA analyst Bob Baer has a piece in the current Time Magazine called “Prelude to an Attack on Iran.” Baer also sees a quickening pace and an increasing likelihood of a sustained military assault on Iran, driven by the Neocons. Baer develops the scenario, showing how the Revolutionary Guards will be portrayed as terrorists, they will be linked to armor-penetrating projectiles used in Iraq, and this will be taken as a pretext to wage a war against Iran. He quotes an Administration official who says these explosive devices “are a casus belli for this Administration. There will be an attack on Iran.”
* Bolton Wants Bombs in Six Months. John Bolton appeared on Fox News and was asked a question based on Bob Baer’s report. Bolton “absolutely hopes” it is true that bombs will start falling on Iran within six months.
* The Predictable Role of Fox News. Fox News is intimately intertwined with the Administration’s propaganda machine, as a study of its coverage of the run-up to the Iraq War shows (and similarly, its decision to all but pull the plug on more recent coverage of the dismal situation in Iraq). Producer Robert Greenwald has done a terrific summary of how Fox News continues a propaganda build-up to support military action against Iran which closely parallels what it did for its masters in the run-up to the Iraq War. Catch the video here.

Domestic Use of Spy Satellites Questioned


The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee scolded Homeland
Security Secretary Michael Chertoff last week for failing to notify him
of plans to expand the use of intelligence satellites for homeland
security applications.

"Unfortunately, I have had to rely on media reports to gain information
about this endeavor because neither I nor my staff was briefed on the
decision to create this new office prior to the public disclosure of
this effort," wrote Rep. Bennie Thompson in an August 22 letter to
Secretary Chertoff (who has been mentioned as a possible nominee to
replace Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General).

"I need you to provide me with an immediate assurance that upon its
October 1st roll out, this program will be operating within the
confines of the Constitution and all applicable laws and regulations,"
Chairman Thompson wrote.

"Additionally, because I have not been informed of the existence of
this program for over a two year period, I am requesting that for the
next six weeks, you provide me with bi-weekly briefings on the progress
of the [National Applications Office] working groups."

The Thompson letter as well as the new homeland security initiative
were first reported in the Wall Street Journal.

A Washington Post editorial said that any use of spy satellites for
domestic monitoring "must be accompanied... by robust protections for
privacy and civil liberties." The failure to properly advise Congress
was "not a comforting start for a landmark change."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

White House Shell Game - New York Times Editorial

White House Shell Game
The New York Times | Editorial

Friday 24 August 2007

The Bush administration's obsession with secrecy took another absurd turn this week. The administration is claiming that the White House Office of Administration is not covered by the Freedom of Information Act, even though there are some compelling reasons to think it is. Like the fact that the office has its own FOIA officer. And it responded to 65 FOIA requests last year. And the White House's own Web site, as of yesterday, insisted the office is covered by FOIA.

The administration's logic-free claim about the Office of Administration follows fast on the heels of Vice President Dick Cheney's laughable claim that he was immune to an open-government law because his office supposedly was not an executive agency.

The fight over the Office of Administration's status is part of a larger battle over access to an estimated five million e-mail messages that have mysteriously disappeared from White House computers. The missing messages are important evidence in the scandal over the firing of nine United States attorneys, apparently because they refused to use their positions to help Republicans win elections. The Office of Administration seems to know a lot about when and how those messages disappeared, but it does not want to tell the public.

What exactly does the administration want to hide? It is certainly acting as if the e-mail messages would confirm suspicions that the White House coordinated the prosecutors' firings and that it may have broken laws. It is hard to believe the administration's constant refrain that there is nothing to the prosecutor scandal when it is working so hard to avoid letting the facts about it get out.

The administration's refusal to comply with open-government laws is ultimately more important than any single scandal. The Freedom of Information Act and other right-to-know laws were passed because government transparency is vital to a democracy. The American people cannot monitor their elected officials, and ensure that they act in the public interest, if government is allowed to operate under a veil of secrecy.

Fortunately, the White House does not have the final say on the Office of Administration. It made its absurd arguments to a federal judge who can restore some logic to the situation by ruling that the Freedom of Information Act applies, and the data must be turned over.

Unilateral Foreign POlicy or Unitary Executive; Both Undermine Democracy by Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III

Unilateral Foreign Policy or Unitary Executive; Both Undermine Democracy
By Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III
t r u t h o u t | Guest Contributor

Friday 24 August 2007

When you operate alone, you operate at great risk. It's one thing if you are the only individual who will suffer the consequences of your hubris. It's a much greater problem when your country and its democracy pay the price for your arrogance.

The Bush administration's foreign policy of imposing American unilateralism through blatant disregard of multinational organizations and agreements will cause American presidents, diplomats and average citizens to suffer the consequences of these actions for years to come. On the national scene, operating as a unitary executive, as though the president possesses all of the executive power at the expense of the legislative branch, takes America dangerously close to a dictatorship.

As technology such as the Internet brings citizens of the world closer together and transforms isolated economies into globalized economies that require alliances and cooperation, the Bush administration chooses to operate unilaterally. Under the pretext of protecting "American interests" and fighting "the war on terror," the Bush administration is imposing its will on other countries for short-term political gain, with no appreciation or sensitivity to the long-term damage it has caused.

In 1997, the US and other industrialized nations agreed on the Kyoto Protocol to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2012. In 2001, the Bush administration decided unilaterally that it would not implement the Kyoto Protocol. The European Union, the United Nations and other parties to the agreement felt this grave error in judgment tarnished US credibility around the globe.

Also in 2001, the Bush administration notified Russia that the US would withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. This treaty was negotiated almost 30 years ago with the former Soviet Union during the Cold War. It specifically forbade testing and deployment of ballistic missile defense systems. President Bush said in the White House Rose Garden, "I have concluded the ABM treaty hinders our government's ability to develop ways to protect our people from future terrorist or rogue state missile attacks." (Was this the precursor to the administration's plan to deploy missile defense sites in Eastern Europe?)

In 2002, the Bush administration decided to not take part in the International Criminal Court based in The Hague. This decision ended US participation in an agreement signed in 1998 to create the world's first permanent tribunal to prosecute war crimes, genocide and other crimes against humanity. (Was this the precursor to President Bush exempting himself and others in his administration from being retroactively prosecuted in US courts under the War Crimes Act of 1996?)

In 2003, the United States led the invasion of Iraq, committing what has become known to many as the greatest foreign policy blunder in the history of the United States. President Bush declared the objective of the invasion was "to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction (WMD's), to end Saddam Hussein's support for terrorism, and free the Iraqi people." It has now been accepted that the WMD's did not exist and Saddam Hussein was not involved in supporting terrorism. To date, 3,707 US troops have died in Iraq.

According to The New York Times, McClatchy Newspapers and other sources, the Bush administration is preparing to declare that Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps is a foreign terrorist organization. This escalation of tensions with Iran is concerning US allies in Europe and the Middle East. Once again, US unilateral foreign policy is wreaking havoc in the region. Many wonder if the Bush administration is laying the groundwork for a military confrontation with Iran.

According to the Guardian Observer, "... Iranian President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad audaciously signaled his determination to counter US global power ... by meeting his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, in open defiance of Washington's wishes. Addressing a joint White House press conference last week, Mr. Bush said: "I would be very cautious about whether or not the Iranian influence in Afghanistan is a positive force." Karzai flatly contradicted him by describing Iran as "a helper and a solution." Who are we to believe about what is best for Afghanistan: President Bush or Afghan President Karzai?

As the Bush administration continues to vilify Iran's president, Ahmadinejad denounced a US plan to unilaterally deploy missile defense sites in Eastern Europe. Last week Ahmadinejad, the leaders of Russia, China and four Central Asian countries attended the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. According to The Associated Press, "Russian President Vladimir Putin told the summit that "any attempts to solve global and regional problems unilaterally are hopeless" and called for "strengthening a multi-polar international system that would ensure equal security and opportunities for all countries."

When you operate alone, you operate at risk. The United States needs to understand that some of its so-called "villains" are not viewed as such on the world stage. Individuals such as Iranian President Ahmadinejad, Russian President Putin and Venezuelan President Chavez are garnering increased international support as they stand up to the US and its quest to become the sole imperial power.

On the domestic front, the framers of the Constitution designed a system of "checks and balances" to limit the powers of the executive and protect the minority interests in the country against tyranny of the majority, yet the Bush administration operates as a unitary executive. This theory of the unitary executive argues for strict limits on the power of Congress to divest the president of control of the executive branch. This is in direct contradiction with the concept of checks and balances.

Since taking office, President Bush has added "signing statements" to more than 750 laws passed by Congress. By attaching these "signing statements" to bills that he feels conflict with his interpretation of the Constitution, the president selectively determines which laws he will enforce and which he will not. Attaching a signing statement to a bill as he signs it is similar to a line item veto.

As we look at the illegal invasion of Iraq, the firing of the US attorneys, the Scooter Libby commutation, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's misleading testimony in the Senate, warrantless wiretapping, suspension of habeas corpus, torture, extraordinary renditions, and members of the Bush administration's failure to respond to Congressional subpoenas, one must ask what has happened to Congressional oversight and checks and balances? Where is the outrage from the American people; where are the Democrats; where has this oversight - a pillar of our democracy - gone?

There has always been a power struggle between the three branches of government; that's by design. There's an inherent friction between the executive, legislative and judicial branches - the logic being that government is not static, it is dynamic, and you need this friction in order to deal with changing times and changing interests.

One real problem in our current circumstance is that most of the issues or events that the current administration is using as rationale to support its need for expanded powers have been created by the administration to serve its own ends. There were no WMD's, and there was no attempt by Saddam to buy yellowcake. If the Bush administration had not illegally invaded Iraq, there would not be insurgents killing thousands of American soldiers. This so-called war on terror is a marketing ploy to scare Americans into believing that the world is against us, enabling the Bush administration to force through draconian measures to concentrate power in the executive branch at the expense of the civil rights and civil liberties of the American people.

Whether implementing foreign policy on the world stage or domestic policy within the confines of our borders, unilateral foreign policy and the unitary executive damage the democratic process. When you operate alone, you operate at great risk. If this president's attempt to dramatically consolidate power goes unchallenged, our constitutional design of checks and balances will be lost.


Dr. Wilmer Leon is Producer/Host of the nationally broadcast call-in talk radio program "On With Leon" on XM Satellite Radio Channel 169, Producer/Host of the television program "Inside The Issues With Wilmer Leon" and a regular guest on CNN's "Lou Dobbs Tonight," and a teaching associate in the Department of Political Science at Howard University in Washington, DC. Go to or email:

If the Democrats Want to Lose ... by Robert Parry

If the Democrats Want to Lose ...
By Robert Parry
Consortium News

Wednesday 22 August 2007

Many national Democrats saw last year's election as a political turning point. They cheered the voters' repudiation of a Republican one-party state; they hailed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's ouster the next day; and they were sure that resurgent GOP "realists" would help wind down the Iraq War.

In this Democratic view, George W. Bush was going to be both the lamest of lame ducks and a deadly albatross draped around the neck of the Republican Party in Election 2008. The Democrats believed they could pretty much start measuring their curtains for a move into the White House on Jan. 20, 2009.

But a very different reality is now confronting the Democrats. News of the neoconservative demise proved premature; the meaning of Rumsfeld's departure was misunderstood (he was booted when he privately called for an Iraq War de-escalation); and the Republican "realists" remained outside Bush's inner circle looking in.

Then, the Democratic leaders stumbled and crumbled in the face of a president determined to escalate the war in Iraq, expand his "war on terror" surveillance powers, and ratchet up pressure for a possible new war with Iran.

The hard fact that the national Democrats missed was that the political dynamics of Washington had not changed very much. Plus, their wishful thinking in November 2006 and their irresolute actions throughout 2007 alienated millions of Americans who had hoped a Democratic majority in Congress might make a difference.

Today, the U.S. capital is in the midst of a bizarre replay of 2002 when Democrats tried to assuage Bush by acceding to his demands and major mainstream news outlets joined with the powerful right-wing media in a lock-step march toward war.

For instance, the Washington Post's neoconservative editorial-page editors are beating the drums for war with Iran, much as they did five years ago when they bought into Bush's bogus WMD claims in the prelude to war with Iraq.

The Post not only endorsed Bush's plan to label Iran's Revolutionary Guard a "specially designated global terrorist" organization for its alleged role aiding Shiite militias in Iraq, but has suggested that Bush go further.

In an Aug. 21 lead editorial entitled "Tougher on Iran," the Post editors accepted uncritically the administration's claims about Iran's actions in Iraq, such as supplying sophisticated roadside bombs that kill American soldiers.

The Post called the terrorist designation, which could put the two countries firmly on a path toward confrontation, "the least the United States should be doing, given the soaring number of Iranian-sponsored bomb attacks in Iraq."

[For more on the media's Iraq War role, see our new book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush.]

Tough-Guy Consensus

What is perhaps most telling about Official Washington's continued "tough-guy" consensus is that the roster of the Post's neocon-dominated op-ed page remains almost the same as it was in fall 2002 with the most notable change the addition of former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson to provide even more pro-Bush opinions.

While it's true the nation's other premier newspaper, the New York Times, has editorialized against the Iraq War and urged serious diplomacy with Iran, it too has bent over backwards to open its op-ed section to pro-Bush propaganda.

The Times gave prominent play to an influential - and misleading - Iraq War article, entitled "A War We Just Might Win" by pro-surge pundits Kenneth Pollack and Michael O'Hanlon. [See's "NYT's New Pro-War Propaganda."]

By contrast, the Times buried on page 11 of its "Week in Review" section an extraordinary article by seven 82nd Airborne soldiers finishing up 15-month tours in Iraq, entitled "The War as We Saw It."

These seven soldiers, six sergeants and one Army specialist, called the political debate in Washington "surreal" and added:

"To believe that Americans, with an occupation force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. … We are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest that we see everyday."

Beyond the lesser play that the Times afforded the non-coms, their article got far less bounce on the chat shows than did the Pollack-O'Hanlon piece, even though one was written by soldiers with first-hand experience and the other by two think-tank analysts who were chaperoned on a carefully managed tour of selected scenes in Iraq.

When the non-com article was discussed on TV and radio, it often was framed as a debate over the propriety of non-coms in a battle zone expressing opinions. Similarly in the run-up to the Iraq invasion, Americans who visited Iraq and expressed doubts about Bush's WMD claims were questioned about their motives and patriotism.

America's right-wing news media also remains a powerful and well-financed force, disseminating pro-war talking points through print, radio, Internet and TV outlets. Anyone who doesn't praise the military progress in Iraq is deemed "wedded to failure" or eager to set a "surrender date" or simply "soft on terror."

For the same career reasons that prevailed in 2002, many mainstream journalists tilt their reporting to the right to avoid the damaging "liberal" label.

Air America's Struggles

After Election 2006, liberals and progressives also turned away from a sustained commitment to build media outlets that would resist right-wing pressure and make sure an alternative viewpoint reached the American public.

Air America Radio went in and out of bankruptcy but remains today an under-funded operation, while progressive and independent Web sites continue to struggle with negligible financial support.

Instead, since November 2006, liberal/progressive money has poured into the political campaigns of Democratic presidential hopefuls or into "organizing." The goal of a new media infrastructure has been neglected again.

On the political front, the leading Democratic presidential candidates have all staked out anti-Iraq War positions, but some - along with a growing list of congressional Democrats - have begun to equivocate in the face of the new pro-war propaganda.

For instance, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, who voted to give Bush war authorization in 2002, is inserting new rhetoric into her speeches praising U.S. military progress under Bush's "surge" strategy.

"We've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in Anbar province, it's working," Clinton told the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Aug. 21.

Other Democrats, who spent part of their August recess taking guided tours of Iraq, also have come back hailing military progress.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, not only cited supposed battlefield gains but offered Bush a ready alternative if he wants to guarantee war funding through 2008. Levin recommended the ouster of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, an idea that Bush didn't discourage when asked about it.

So, if Bush arranges for Maliki's removal - either with a violent Diem-like coup as happened in Vietnam or by arranging a comfy exile for Maliki - Levin effectively has bought into another year or so of war funding to give a new Iraqi government a chance to succeed.

Some junior Democratic congressmen have returned from Iraq trimming their sails on the war after getting buffeted by both a well-presented military tour of Iraq and an aggressive Republican pressure campaign back home.

For instance, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-California, expressed a readiness to be more flexible on troop withdrawal timelines after being shown the supposed progress in Anbar province and other areas of Iraq.

"We should sit down with Republicans, see what would be acceptable to them to end the war and present it to the president, start negotiating from the beginning," McNerney said in an interview. [Washington Post, Aug. 22, 2007]


In 1967, Michigan's Republican Gov. George Romney (yes, Mitt Romney's father) famously described how he had returned from a military-arranged tour from Vietnam in 1965 having undergone "the greatest brainwashing that anybody can get."

Now, the Democrats are getting the same treatment, focusing on Anbar and other silver linings in the very dark cloud of Iraq.

This latest "brainwashing" also follows a pattern from the past four years at other "turning points" - the capture of Saddam Hussein, the new constitution, the "purple-ink" election, Iraqi military "standing up," etc. [For more on the new Anbar fallacy, see's "Misreading Iraq, Again."]

It's also galling to some rank-and-file Democrats that the congressional leadership caved in on granting Bush sweeping new surveillance powers so members could rush off for their August recess and send some of their impressionable young members to get choreographed inspection tours of Iraq. [Regarding the wiretapping surrender, see's "Bush Gets a Spying Blank Check."]

If national Democrats think that their feckless behavior on war in the Middle East and their timidity in defending the Constitution represent the pathway to victory in 2008, they may find themselves in for a very rude awakening.


Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, can be ordered at His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth' are also available there.