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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Letter from Senator Hagel to President Bush about America's Iran Policy

Dear Colleagues & Friends:

I am writing to send to your attention a previously unreleased letter from Senator Chuck Hagel to President Bush about America’s Iran policy.

In the letter, copied to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, Hagel urges Bush to pursue “direct, unconditional and comprehensive talks with Iran.”

The contents of the letter — and a bit more including the reported reaction from Centcom Commander Admiral Fallon are available here:

Best regards,

Steve Clemons

Steven Clemons
Director, American Strategy Program, New America Foundation
and Publisher,

202-986-2700, ext. 307
202-986-3696 fax Email

The Democratic duel of the race
The Democratic duel of the race

The debate in Philly: Edwards and Biden come out swinging, Obama sticks to smooth jazz, and Clinton stands tall but then stumbles.

By Walter Shapiro

Reuters/Tim Shaffer

Democratic presidential candidates John Edwards, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama before the start of the debate at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Oct. 30, 2007.

Oct. 31, 2007 | Memo to Democratic voters: If you missed Tuesday night's debate on MSNBC -- the most explosive event of this endless pre-primary season -- troll through YouTube, throw yourself on the mercy of friends with TiVo, stalk the network's Web site. Do anything to watch the first hour plus the last 10 minutes of this fandango in Philly, this duel at Drexel, this Democratic donnybrook that may well define the race.

The tag-team questioning of Brian Williams and Tim Russert yielded not only heat (perhaps inevitable as we reach the highly combustible point in the campaign calendar) but also light. Not only crystal-clear interludes (Joe Biden's epic putdown of Rudy Giuliani: "There are only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun and a verb and 9/11") but also enlightening moments that illuminated the choices facing Democrats.

Before the debate, the evening was ballyhooed as Barack Obama's breakout night -- the point in the campaign when the fledgling Illinois senator would finally display his mettle by aggressively challenging Hillary Clinton. Obama telegraphed his punches in advance, promising the New York Times in an interview, "Now's the time for us to make these distinctions clear."

Instead, Obama could not even muster the gumption to lob a rhetorical coconut cream pie in Clinton's direction. He set the tone for the evening in the first seconds of the debate when, challenged to repeat his recent critiques of Clinton, he said soothingly, "Well, first of all, I think some of this stuff gets off-hyped" before lapsing into a labored (and obviously rehearsed) Rocky versus Apollo Creed analogy.

Later in the evening, Obama extended this turn-the-other-cheek magnanimity to none other than Mitt Romney, who had referred to him as "Osama" twice in a single day. Rather than charging, as many assume, that Romney's verbal slips were not accidental, Obama instead claimed, "I don't pay much attention to what Mitt Romney has to say." This was his way of setting up a mild joke. "At least what he says this week. It may be different next week."

This is Obama's smooth-jazz style, and his supporters should accept that it is not likely to change no matter how much they may crave red-meat rhetoric. Obama's signature line -- delivered after Clinton bobbed and weaved her way through another question without quite answering -- was "Let's broaden the conversation here."

A stranger to politics who had somehow missed the outbreak of "Obama-mania" -- the nearly $80 million he raised, the often rhapsodic press coverage and the huge crowds -- might have assumed from watching Tuesday's debate that the Illinois senator was a minor candidate on the fringes of the action. It seemed as if Clinton's principal antagonists were John Edwards and -- when he was given a chance to speak -- Chris Dodd. The two of them, sometimes joined by Biden, took on the traditional political task of bringing the highflying front-runner back to earth.

This may have been Edwards' best debate, as he displayed the smiling aggressiveness that had eluded him when he was going head-to-head with Dick Cheney as the 2004 vice-presidential nominee. Again and again, Edwards took lines from his stump speech and made them seem fresh as debate responses. Edwards rattled off a litany of Clinton's zigzag comments on topics ranging from Iraq to Iran to Social Security before concluding harshly, "I think the American people ... deserve a president of the United States that they know will tell them the truth."

As Edwards continued banging away with drumbeats of criticism throughout the evening (saying of Clinton's Iran position, "Our responsibility as presidential candidate is to be in 'tell the truth' mode all the time"), the cameras caught Clinton glaring at Edwards with daggers darting from her eyes before turning on a smile when she was asked to respond.

Dodd, who somehow had shed the generic senatorial mannerisms that had dogged him during earlier debates, crisply challenged Clinton's claims to be the Democrat most likely to win back the White House. "Whether it's fair or not fair," the white-haired Connecticut senator declared, "the fact of the matter is that ... there are 50 percent of the American public that say they're not going to vote for her ... I don't necessarily like it, but those are the facts."

Clinton, displaying the hard-won poise of a public figure who has been in the crosshairs for 16 years, seemed unflappably resigned to her assigned role as the evening's piñata. She came out fighting, claiming that the constant GOP attacks are her reward for "standing against the Republicans, George Bush and Dick Cheney." Even though some of her answers seemed consciously baffling in their imprecision, she stuck to her candidate-speak, poll-tested talking points: "I am not going to balance Social Security on the backs of seniors and hardworking middle-class Americans."

Only in the last 10 minutes of the debate, long after it seemed as if she had absorbed the worst without losing her stride, did the New York senator suddenly stumble in the homestretch. Asked if she supported New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's plan to permit illegal immigrants to apply for driver's licenses, Clinton appeared to express home-state solidarity by declaring, "What Gov. Spitzer is trying to do is fill the vacuum left by the failure of this administration to bring about comprehensive immigration reform." After Dodd, veering right, came out against this proposal, Clinton suddenly interrupted the proceedings to announce, "I just want to add, I did not say that it should be done."

That was the moment when Edwards pounced with the quickness of a trial lawyer who has realized that an opposing lawyer has just made a fatal error that undermines her case. "Unless I missed something," Edwards said with ill-disguised glee, "Senator Clinton said two different things in the course of about two minutes ... America is looking for a president who will say the same thing, who will be consistent, who will be straight with them. Because what we've had for seven years is double talk from Bush and from Cheney." All that was missing was a Marvel comic-book exclamation like "Pow!" or "Whap!"

Presidential debates bring out the drama critic in everyone who watches -- reporters, political partisans and ordinary television viewers. The debates are, after all, a form of performance and it is tempting to grade them for their sheer theatricality. But politics does not work like that -- and individual aesthetic judgments by reporters are subjective interpretations rather than surefire predictions of primary victors.

Little more than nine weeks before the Iowa caucuses about all that can be said with certainty is that the Tuesday night debate was enhanced by giving Mike Gravel and his angry-old-man act the well-deserved hook. Dennis Kucinich stepped into the void with some deft one-liners, particularly after he admitted that, yes, he had once seen a UFO. Joking that he was going to move his campaign headquarters to Roswell, N.M., Kucinich added, "More people in this country have seen UFOs than I think approve of George Bush's presidency."

Mostly, though, what the debate demonstrated is the volatility of the Democratic race. Clinton's caution may still prove galling, despite her political artistry. Obama's blandness could cost him his featured role as the designated giant slayer. Edwards retains the potential to mount a major breakthrough, though his is a high-wire act of smiling and snarling at the same time. Dodd, Biden and even Bill Richardson still have a chance of making this more than a three-candidate contest. And judging from the collective performances Tuesday night, Democratic voters have reason to be uncharacteristically upbeat about their presidential choices -- seven candidates who come across as anything but dwarfs.

For Neocons, Iran Aim Is Still Regime Change by Gareth Porter
October 31, 2007
For Neocons, Iran Aim Is Still Regime Change
by Gareth Porter

Vice President Dick Cheney and his neoconservative allies in the George W. Bush administration only began agitating for the use of military force against Iran once they had finally given up the illusion that regime change in Iran would happen without it.

And they did not give it up until late 2005, according to a former high-level Foreign Service officer who participated in the United States discussions with Iran from 2001 until late 2005.

Hillary Mann, who was the director for Persian Gulf and Afghanistan Affairs on the National Security Council staff in 2003 and later on the State Department's Policy Planning Staff, observes that the key to neoconservative policy views on Iran until 2006 was the firm belief that one of the consequences of a successful display of U.S. military force in Iraq would be to shake the foundations of the Iran regime.

That central belief was conveyed to conservative columnist Arnaud de Borchgrave of the Washington Times in April 2002 by prominent neocon figures who told him the Bush administration "had decided to redraw the geopolitical map of the Middle East."

The Bush doctrine of preemption, they said, "had become the vehicle for driving axis of evil practitioners out of power." The removal of Saddam Hussein, according to the neocon scenario, would bring a democratic Iraq that would then spread through the region, "bringing democracy from Syria to Egypt and to the sheikdoms, emirates, and monarchies of the Gulf."

Under the influence of this central myth, after the 9/11 attacks, some of Cheney's allies in the Pentagon conceived the objective of removing every regime in the Middle East that was hostile to the U.S. and Israel.

In November 2001, Gen. Wesley Clark, who had recently retired from his post as head of the U.S. Southern Command, learned from a general he knew in the Pentagon that a memo had just come down from the office of the secretary of defense outlining the objective of the "take down" of seven Middle Eastern regimes over five years.

The plan would start with the invasion of Iraq, and then go after Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan, according to an account in Clark's 2003 book, Winning Modern Wars. The memo indicated the plan was to "come back and get Iran in five years."

The neocons were very serious about going after Syria. In the weeks following the initial U.S. blow at Hussein, Paul Wolfowitz, the chief neoconservative architect of the Iraq invasion, argued unsuccessfully for taking advantage of the presumed military triumph there to overthrow the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad, according to the right-leaning Insight magazine.

But contrary to the popular notion that the neocons believed that "real men go to Tehran," no one was yet proposing that Iran should be next military target.

In September 2003, Cheney brought in David Wurmser, a close friend and protégé of Richard Perle and one of the architects of the neoconservative plan for regime change in Iraq, as his adviser on the Middle East. Wurmser had previously articulated very specific ideas about how taking down Hussein by force would help destabilize the Iranian regime.

In a 1999 book, Wurmser had laid out a plan for using the Iraqi Shi'ite majority and their conservative clerics as U.S. allies in the "regional rollback of Shi'ite fundamentalism" – meaning the Islamic regime in Iran.

But Wurmser also believed that the Ba'athist regime in Syria was an obstacle to regime change in Iran. Beginning with the "Clean Break" memo to incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which he had co-authored with Perle and Douglas Feith in 1996, he had argued that once Hussein was removed, the next step was to take down the Assad regime in Syria.

In a September 2007 interview with the Telegraph, after he had left Cheney's office, Wurmser confirmed his belief that regime change in Syria – by force, if necessary – would directly affect the stability of the Tehran regime. If Iran were seen to be unable to do anything to prevent the overthrow of the regime in Syria, he suggested, it would seriously undermine the Islamic regime's prestige at home.

From 2003 to 2005, Wurmser and the neocons were in denial about the increasingly obvious reality that the U.S. occupation of Iraq was actually boosting Iranian influence there rather than shaking the regime's power at home, according to former NSC specialist Mann. She was well acquainted with the neoconservatives' thinking from her associations with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in the 1990s, and she told IPS in a recent interview that she was "astounded" to hear neocons in the administration suggest as late as 2005 that the situation in Iraq was on track to help destabilize the Iranian regime.

The neocons had long viewed the Iranian reformists, led by President Mohammed Khatami, as the primary obstacle to the popular revolution against the mullahs for which they were working. As French Iran specialist Frédéric Tellier noted in an early 2006 essay, they believed the electoral defeats of the reformists in 2003 and 2004 would also help open the way to a revolutionary political upheaval in Tehran.

In an appearance on the Don Imus show on Jan. 20, 2005, Cheney said the Israelis might attack Iran's nuclear sites if they became convinced the Iranians had a "significant nuclear capability." That remark underlined the fact that he was not thinking seriously about a U.S. strike against Iran.

By the end of 2005, however, the neocons had finally accepted the reality of the failure of the Bush administration's military intervention in Iraq, according to Mann. She also notes that the electoral victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, representing a new breed of nationalist conservative with a mass base of popular support, in the June 2005 presidential election, spelled the "death knell" to the neocon optimism about regime change in Iran.

Mann observes that the neocons had never forsworn the use of force against Iran, but they had argued that less force would be needed in Iran than had been used in Iraq. By early 2006, however, that assumption was being discarded by prominent neoconservatives.

Reuel Marc Gerecht of the American Enterprise Institute had been more aggressive than anyone else in arguing that Iraq's Shi'ites, liberated by U.S. military power, would help subvert the Iranian regime. But in April 2006, he called in a Weekly Standard article for continued bombing of Iran's nuclear sites until the Iranians stopped rebuilding them.

Within the administration, meanwhile, Wurmser was looking for the opportunity to propose a military option against Iran. In his September 2007 interview with the Telegraph shortly after leaving Cheney's office, he insisted that the United States must be willing to "escalate as far as we need to go to topple the [Iranian] regime if necessary."

That opportunity seemed to present itself in the aftermath of Israel's failed attempt to deal a major blow to Hezbollah in southern Lebanon in the summer of 2006.

Neoconservatives aligned with Cheney argued that Iran was now threatening U.S. dominant power in the region, through its proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, and the Palestinian territory and its nuclear program. They insisted the administration had to push back by targeting Iran's Quds Force personnel in Iraq, increasing naval presence in the Gulf, and accusing Iran of supporting the killing of U.S. troops.

Although the ostensible rationale was to pressure Iran to back down on the nuclear issue, in light of the previous views, it appears that they were hoping to use military power against Iran to accomplish their original goal of regime change.

(Inter Press Service)

Attacking Iran for Israel? by Ray McGovern

Attacking Iran for Israel?
by Ray McGovern

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is at her mushroom-cloud hyperbolic best, and this time Iran is the target.

Her claim last week that "the policies of Iran constitute perhaps the single greatest challenge to American security interests in the Middle East and around the world" is simply too much of a stretch.

To gauge someone's reliability, one depends largely on prior experience. Sadly, Rice's credibility suffers in comparison with that of the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohammed ElBaradei, who insists there is no evidence of an active nuclear weapons program in Iran.

If this sounds familiar, ElBaradei said the same thing about Iraq before it was attacked. But three days before the invasion, American nuclear expert Dick Cheney told NBC's Tim Russert, "I think Mr. ElBaradei is, frankly, wrong."

Here we go again. As in the case of Iraq, U.S. intelligence has been assiduously looking for evidence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran; but, alas, in vain.

Burned by the bogus "proof" adduced for Iraq – the uranium from Africa, the aluminum tubes – the administration has shied away from fabricating nuclear-related "evidence."

Are Bush and Cheney again relying on the Rumsfeld dictum, that "the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence"? There is a simpler answer.

Cat Out of the Bag

The Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Sallai Meridor, let the cat out of the bag while speaking at the American Jewish Committee luncheon on Oct. 22. In remarks paralleling those of Rice, Meridor said Iran is the chief threat to Israel.

Heavy on the chutzpah, he served gratuitous notice on Washington that effectively countering Iran's nuclear ambitions will take a "united United States in this matter," lest the Iranians conclude, "come January '09, they have it their own way."

Meridor stressed that "very little time" remained to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. How so?

Even were there to be a nuclear program hidden from the IAEA, no serious observer expects Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon much sooner than five years from now.

Truth be told, every other year since 1995 U.S. intelligence has been predicting that Iran could have a nuclear weapon in about five years.

It has become downright embarrassing – like a broken record, punctuated only by so-called "neoconservatives" like James Woolsey, who last summer publicly warned that the U.S. may have no choice but to bomb Iran in order to halt its nuclear weapons program.

Woolsey, self-described "anchor of the Presbyterian wing of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs," put it this way: "I'm afraid that within, well, at worst, a few months – at best, a few years – they [the Iranians] could have the bomb."

The day before Meridor's unintentionally revealing remark, Vice President Dick Cheney reiterated, "We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."

That remark followed closely on President George W. Bush's apocalyptic warning of World War III, should Tehran acquire the knowledge to produce a nuclear weapon.

The Israelis appear convinced they have extracted a promise from Bush and Cheney that they will help Israel nip Iran's nuclear program in the bud before they leave office.

Never mind that there is no evidence that the Iranian nuclear program is any more weapons-related than the one Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld persuaded President Gerald Ford to approve in 1976 for Westinghouse and General Electric to install for the shah (price tag $6.4 billion).

With 200-300 nuclear weapons in its arsenal, the Israelis enjoy a nuclear monopoly in the Middle East. They mean to keep that monopoly and are pressing for the U.S. to obliterate Iran's fledgling nuclear program.

Anyone aware of Iran's ability to retaliate realizes this would bring disaster to the whole region and beyond. But this has not stopped Cheney and Bush before.

The rationale is similar to that revealed by Philip Zelikow, confidant of Condoleezza Rice, former member of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and later executive director of the 9/11 Commission. On Oct. 10, 2002, Zelikow told a crowd at the University of Virginia:

"Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us? I'll tell you what I think the real threat is – it's the threat to Israel. And this is the threat that dare not speak its name … the American government doesn't want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it is not a popular sell."


The political offensive against Iran coalesced as George W. Bush began his second term, with Cheney out in front pressing for an attack on its nuclear-related facilities.

During a Jan. 20, 2005, interview with MSNBC, just hours before Bush's second inauguration, Cheney put Iran "right at the top of the list of trouble spots," and noted that negotiations and UN sanctions might fail to stop Iran's nuclear program.

Cheney then added with remarkable nonchalance:

"Given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards."

Does this not sound like the so-called "Cheney plan" being widely discussed in the media today? An Israeli air attack; Iranian retaliation; Washington springing to the defense of its "ally" Israel?

A big fan of preemption, Cheney has done little to disguise his attraction to Israel's penchant to preempt, such as Israel's air strike against the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981.

Ten years after the Osirak attack, then-Defense Secretary Cheney reportedly gave Israeli Maj. Gen. David Ivri, commander of the Israeli air force, a satellite photo of the Iraqi nuclear reactor destroyed by U.S.-built Israeli aircraft. On the photo Cheney penned, "Thanks for the outstanding job on the Iraqi nuclear program in 1981."

Nothing is known of Ivri's response, but it is a safe bet it was along the lines of "we could not have done it without U.S. help."

Indeed, though the U.S. officially condemned the attack (the Reagan administration was supporting Saddam Hussein's Iraq at that point), the intelligence shared by the Pentagon with the Israelis made a major contribution to the success of the Israeli raid.

With Vice President Cheney calling the shots now, similar help may be forthcoming prior to any Israeli air attack on Iran.

It is no secret that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon began to press for an early preemptive strike on Iran in 2003, claiming that Iran was likely to obtain a nuclear weapon much earlier than what U.S. intelligence estimated.

Sharon made a habit of bringing his own military adviser to brief Bush with aerial photos of Iranian nuclear-related installations.

More troubling still, in the fall of 2004, retired Gen. Brent Scowcroft, who served as national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush and as chair of the younger Bush's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, made some startling comments to the Financial Times.

A master of discretion with the media, Scowcroft nonetheless saw fit to make public his conclusion that Sharon had Bush "mesmerized," that he had our president "wrapped around his little finger."

Needless to say, Scowcroft was immediately removed from the advisory board.

An Unstable Infatuation

George W. Bush first met Sharon in 1998, when the Texas governor was taken on a tour of the Middle East by Matthew Brooks, then executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. Sharon was foreign minister and took Bush on a helicopter tour over the Israeli-occupied territories.

An Aug. 3, 2006, McClatchy wire story by Ron Hutcheson quotes Matthew Brooks:

"If there's a starting point for George W. Bush's attachment to Israel, it's the day in late 1998, when he stood on a hilltop where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, and, with eyes brimming with tears, read aloud from his favorite hymn, 'Amazing Grace.' He was very emotional. It was a tear-filled experience. He brought Israel back home with him in his heart. I think he came away profoundly moved."

Bush made gratuitous but revealing reference to that trip at the first meeting of his National Security Council on Jan. 30, 2001.

After announcing he would abandon the decades-long role of "honest broker" between Israelis and Palestinians and would tilt pronouncedly toward Israel, Bush said he would let Sharon resolve the dispute however he saw fit.

At that point he brought up his trip to Israel with the Republican Jewish Coalition and the flight over Palestinian camps, but there was no sense of concern for the lot of the Palestinians.

In Ron Suskind's Price of Loyalty, then-Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who was at the NSC meeting, quotes Bush: "Looked real bad down there," the president said with a frown. Then Bush said it was time to end America's efforts in the region. "I don't see much we can do over there at this point," he said.

O'Neill also reported that Colin Powell, the newly minted but nominal secretary of state, was taken completely by surprise at this nonchalant jettisoning of long-standing policy.

Powell demurred, warning that this would unleash Sharon and "the consequences could be dire, especially for the Palestinians." But according to O'Neill, Bush just shrugged, saying, "Sometimes a show of strength by one side can really clarify things." O'Neill says that Powell seemed "startled."

It is a safe bet that the vice president was in no way startled.

What Now?

The only thing that seems to be standing in the way of a preemptive attack on Iran's nuclear facilities is foot-dragging by the U.S. military.

It seems likely that the senior military have told the president and Cheney: This time let us brief you on what to expect on Day 2, on Week 4, on Month 6 – and on the many serious things Iran can do to Israel, and to us in Iraq and elsewhere.

CentCom commander Adm. William Fallon is reliably reported to have said, "We are not going to do Iran on my watch." And in an online Q&A, award-winning Washington Post reporter Dana Priest recently spoke of a possible "revolt" if pilots were ordered to fly missions against Iran. She added:

"This is a little bit of hyperbole, but not much. Just look at what Gen. [George] Casey, the Army chief, has said … that the tempo of operations in Iraq would make it very hard for the military to respond to a major crisis elsewhere. Beside, it's not the 'war' or 'bombing' part that's difficult; it's the morning after and all the days after that. Haven't we learned that (again) from Iraq?"

How about Congress? Could it act as a brake on Bush and Cheney? Forget it.

If the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) with its overflowing coffers supports an attack on Iran, so will most of our spineless lawmakers. Already, AIPAC has succeeded in preventing legislation that would have required the president to obtain advance authorization for an attack on Iran.

And for every Fallon, there is someone like the inimitable, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, a close associate of James Woolsey and other "neocons."

The air campaign "will be easy," says McInerney, a Fox News pundit who was a rabid advocate of shock and awe over Iraq. "Ahmadinejad has nothing in Iran that we can't penetrate," he adds, and several hundred bombers, including Stealth bombers, will be enough to do the trick:

"Forty-eight hours duration, hitting 2,500 aim points to take out their nuclear facilities, their air defense facilities, their air force, their navy, their Shahab-3 retaliatory missiles, and finally their command and control. And then let the Iranian people take their country back."

And the rationale? Since it will be a hard sell to promote the idea, against all evidence, of an imminent threat that Iran is about to have a nuclear weapon, the White House PR machine is likely to focus on other evidence showing that Iran is supporting those "killing our troops in Iraq."

The scary thing is that Cheney is more likely to use the McInerneys and Woolseys than the Fallons and Caseys in showing the president how easily it can be done.


It is not as though we have not had statesmen wise enough to warn us against foreign entanglements, and about those who have difficulty distinguishing between the strategic interests of the United States and those of other nations, even allies:

"A passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation facilitates the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, infuses into one the enmities of the other, and betrays the former into participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification."
- George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796

This article originally appeared at

The Lobby, Unmasked by Justin Raimondo

October 31, 2007
The Lobby, Unmasked
The Israel lobby: "We have an 'unwritten contract' with the American media"
by Justin Raimondo

Progressive writer Philip Weiss reports on his excellent blog a speech by Andrea Levin, president of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA):

"The fact is, you know, we may be unhappy with the New York Times from time to time, and we at CAMERA have been, but I have to say we are fortunate. The American media is much, much more geared to understanding that there is an unwritten contract between them and us, and that is, that things should be factually accurate, and we get corrections all the time. Those corrections are very meaningful sometimes. We can prevent the repetition of serious errors. … So there is that give and take here in the States."

What is this "unwritten contract"? I'll tell you what it is: it's an agreement to censor anything and everything that offends the Lobby and its glorified, sanitized view of Israel. Here, after all, is a country that practices apartheid, imprisons children, and was founded on ethnic cleansing and bigoted religious obscurantism – and yet they present themselves to the world as a valiant little "democracy," a beleaguered outpost of "the West" in the midst of an Arab sea. It takes a lot of cosmetics to hide the true face of this dog, and that's what CAMERA is all about – prettifying an increasingly ugly reality. The Lobby reserves the right to censor any material that presents Israel in a more realistic light, and anyone who opposes them in their mission on behalf of a foreign power is smeared as an "anti-Semite."

When National Public Radio refused to kowtow to their demands for more favorable coverage of Israel, they mounted a vicious campaign of demonization that led to huge financial losses to the station. NPR, which CAMERA called "National Palestine Radio" – a bit of racist snark that they feel powerful enough to get away with – soon mended its ways. At a moment's notice, CAMERA can unleash its winged monkeys to bury an offending media outlet in an avalanche of phone calls, e-mails, and angry missives via snail mail taking the "anti-Semitic" offender to task.

Weiss recorded Levin's comments at an unusual event: a CAMERA conference on "Jewish defamers of Israel." Among the speakers, aside from Levin, were Indiana University professor Alvin Rosenfeld, whose "study" [.pdf] of the "Jewish defamers" targets Jews who question the Lobby's motives and "unwritten contracts" with the American media. Among the alleged "defamers": former New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis and Henry Siegman, director of the U.S./Middle East Project at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Why single out Jews – a tactic that would get any other organization in a whole lot of trouble, at least from a public relations point of view? Because that's precisely what Israeli ultra-nationalists like CAMERA can't abide – someone they can't smear as an anti-Jewish bigot raising his or her voice against the Lobby and speaking truth to the gathering power of the Israeli state. The "anti-Semite" canard doesn't work when applied to, say, Michael Lerner or Philip Weiss. And that's their only defense: these days, it's the only way they can prevent a real discussion about Israel's relations with the U.S. and the Lobby's distortion of American foreign policy. So when that fails, they're essentially left without any arguments, except the sort of special pleading that any advocate of dual loyalties engages in – and that is no longer quite enough. Not when the price we must pay for our "loyalty" to Israel is yet another Middle Eastern war, this time with a much more populous nation, and at a moment when our military has been exhausted almost beyond repair.

That's why the Lobby is getting desperate: what with the publication of John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's magisterial The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy and the increasingly vocal "Jewish defamers," WASPy types like James Fallows feel empowered enough to write the following:

"To the (ongoing) extent that AIPAC – the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which calls itself 'America's Pro-Israel Lobby' – is trying to legitimize a military showdown between the United States and Iran, it is advancing its own concerns at the expense of larger American interests. The people who are doing this are not from one ethnic group in the conventional sense but are mainly of one religion (Jewish)."

That Fallows was discussing the power of ethnic lobbies in general, including the Cubans and the Armenians, did not spare him the slings and arrows of the real defamers:

"Today Gabriel Schoenfeld of Commentary Magazine quotes only the part about AIPAC – and then asks why I am singling out the Jews!?!?! 'Why is this game played only one way, with America's Jews the primary target?' … This makes me nostalgic for the comparative 'honesty' of the Chinese state media I've been dealing with recently."

The Chinese state media has nothing on the Lobby's mouthpieces, which are much more vicious and single-note than anything put out by the ChiComs: the only difference is that they don't wield state power. Not that they aren't trying, as Weiss reports:

"Someone in the audience asked if the Israeli government couldn't take action. 'Good question,' Levin said. 'Many many times we have urged in regard to American coverage – to really, really serious defamatory reports in the American media – we have urged the Israel government, whether it was the IDF or some other components of officialdom, to be involved. Times that we thought that legal actions could be taken.' But evidently that couldn't happen in Israel, where they have a 'very free press.'"

Here is the totalitarian mentality of fanatic nationalists like Levin exposed for all to see: she and her fellow fifth columnists are lobbying a foreign government to interfere with freedom of the press in America, on behalf of foreign interests. It doesn't get much more disgusting than that, now does it?

Yeah, they have a "very free press" in Israel – much freer than our own, thanks to groups like CAMERA. In Israel, of course, newspapers like Ha'aretz regularly report on matters that offend the Lobby – such as, for example, the existence and unmitigated power of the Lobby itself – and CAMERA can't do a damn thing about it because their influence there is minimal. It's only in the U.S. – where they are bold enough to have called on the Israeli government to take legal action against American media – that they have the kind of power they need to close down debate over U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Here we have the truth coming out of their own mouths – so now do you believe in the decisive power and influence of the Israel lobby?


Over at Taki's Top Drawer, I'm bashing the fake "libertarians" who are snarking at Ron Paul, and here I talk about how Ron Paul is not only rising in the polls, he's rising in the estimation of even the most hidebound pundits of the "conventional wisdom."

Obama, Edwards Take on Clinton in Debate

Obama, Edwards Take on Clinton in Debate
Democratic Rivals Spar With Hillary Rodham Clinton in Debate As She Strengthens Her Lead

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., speaks as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., listens during a debate at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2007. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
The Associated Press
By NEDRA PICKLER Associated Press Writer

Democrats Barack Obama and John Edwards sharply challenged Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's candor, consistency and judgment Tuesday in a televised debate that underscored her front-runner status two months before the first presidential primary votes.

Obama, the Illinois senator, began immediately, saying Clinton has changed her positions on the North American Free Trade Agreement, torture policies and the Iraq war. Leadership, he said, does not mean "changing positions whenever it's politically convenient."
Top Politics stories

Rivals Accuse Clinton of Flip-Flopping
Exclusive: ABC News Obtains Text of Blackwater Immunity Deal
THE NOTE: Can Obama Best Clinton?

Related Topics

Hillary Rodham Clinton
George W Bush
Republican Party
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Edwards, the former North Carolina senator, was even sharper at times, saying Clinton "defends a broken system that's corrupt in Washington, D.C." He stood by his earlier claim that she has engaged in "doubletalk."

Clinton, standing between the two men, largely shrugged off the remarks and defended her positions. She has been the focus of Republican candidates' "conversations and consternation," she said, because she is leading in the polls.

She said she has specific plans on Social Security, diplomacy and health care. "I have been standing against the Republicans, George Bush and Dick Cheney," she said, "and I will continue to do so, and I think Democrats know that."

But she avoided direct answers to several questions. The New York senator wouldn't say how she would address the fiscal crisis threatening Social Security, she declined to pledge whether she would stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon or say whether she supports giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Rather, she tried to turn every issue into an argument against President Bush.

It was the Democrats' first debate in a month, and during that time Clinton has solidified her front-runner position, gaining in polls, taking the lead in fundraising and dominating the agenda. The Iowa caucuses are scheduled for Jan. 3, and the New Hampshire primary could be even earlier.

Clinton defended her Senate vote in favor of designating Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group. Obama, Edwards and others have said Bush could interpret the measure as congressional approval for a military attack.

Edwards caustically challenged Clinton's claim that she stands up to the Bush administration. "So the way to do that is to vote yes on a resolution that looks like it was written literally by the neocons?" he said.
Top Politics stories

Rivals Accuse Clinton of Flip-Flopping
Exclusive: ABC News Obtains Text of Blackwater Immunity Deal
THE NOTE: Can Obama Best Clinton?

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Hillary Rodham Clinton
George W Bush
Republican Party
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"In my view, rushing to war we should not be doing that but we shouldn't be doing nothing," Clinton said. "And that means we should not let them acquire nuclear weapons, and the best way to prevent that is a full court press on the diplomatic front."

Clinton also was the main focus during a discussion of the Iraq war. Again, Edwards leveled the toughest charges against the New York senator.

"If you believe that combat missions should be continued in Iraq" without a timetable for withdrawal, Edwards said, "then Senator Clinton is your candidate." Edwards vowed to have all combat troops out of Iraq "in my first year in office."

Clinton replied forcefully, saying "I stand for ending the war in Iraq, bringing our troops home." She added, however, that "it is going to take time," and some troops must remain to fight al-Qaida in Iraq.

"I don't know how you pursue al-Qaida without engaging them in combat," she said.

Edwards, drawing a link between Iraq and Iran, pressed on. "What I worry about is, if Bush invades Iran six months from now, I mean, are we going to hear: 'If only I had known then what I know now?'" He was alluding to comments Clinton has made about her 2002 vote to authorize military action against Saddam Hussein.

Some candidates expressed frustration that most of the questions were directed to Clinton, Obama and Edwards. Seventeen minutes into the debate, Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich had yet to get a question and blurted out, "Is this a debate here?" Minutes later, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson threw up his hands in protest that he hadn't been called on either and exchanged a frustrated glance with Kucinich.

Obama, alluding to the partisanship that bedeviled Bill Clinton's presidency, told the former first lady: "Part of the reason that Republicans, I think, are obsessed with you, Hillary, is because that's a fight they're very comfortable having. It is the fight that we've been through since the '90s."

Richardson criticized his rivals for challenging Clinton so sharply, rebuking their "holier-than-thou attitude."
Top Politics stories

Rivals Accuse Clinton of Flip-Flopping
Exclusive: ABC News Obtains Text of Blackwater Immunity Deal
THE NOTE: Can Obama Best Clinton?

Related Topics

Hillary Rodham Clinton
George W Bush
Republican Party
Democratic Party

But Edwards and Dodd cited Clinton's relatively high unfavorability ratings.

"Fifty percent of the American public say they're not going to vote for her," Dodd said.

On Social Security, Russert asked Clinton why she told an Iowa voter, in an offstage comment overheard by an Associated Press reporter, that she was open to raising the cap on payroll taxes when the proposal is not part of her platform.

Clinton said she did not have a "private position" on Social Security. She would convene a bipartisan commission to recommend ways to strengthen the program, she said, and all the well-known suggestions "would be considered."

Only briefly did the candidates aim their remarks at Republicans. Delaware Sen. Joe Biden said former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani "is genuinely not qualified to be president."

Giuliani's entire message is "a noun, a verb and 9/11," Biden said, but that he had "done nothing" to implement anti-terrorism recommendations by the 9/11 Commission.

Edwards, meanwhile, felt at least one jab. Kucinich, alluding to Edwards' past financial dealings, said: "When people get money from New York hedge funds and then they attack another person for getting money from Washington interest groups, you know what? They're both right."

Clinton said a New York state proposal to give drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants "makes a lot of sense," but she stopped short of a wholehearted endorsement. Only Dodd said he flatly opposed the idea.

In the debate's lightest moment, Kucinich confirmed seeing an unidentified flying object at the Washington state home of actress Shirley MacLaine. He said, with a smile, he would open a campaign office in Roswell, N.M., home to many alleged UFO sightings.

Obama said he would accompany his daughters in trick-or-treating on Halloween while wearing a Mitt Romney mask, which has "two sides to it, it goes in both directions."

The debate, held at Drexel University, was aired by MSNBC. Organizers excluded former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel on grounds that he did not meet fundraising and polling thresholds.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Something to consider before attacking

Something to consider before attacking
By Rami G. Khouri
Daily Star staff
Saturday, October 27, 2007

The main Middle Eastern issue being discussed in the US these days is not Iraq, Arab-Israeli peacemaking, or Turkish-Kurdish-Iraqi tensions, but rather what to do about Iran and its perceived threat to the region, the US and the world. The Bush administration sets a shrill and aggressive tone on this and is taking action, including this week's new sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, its Quds Force, and several banks.

Possible American moves against Iran should be considered in light of the 2001-2007 lessons of US-led wars to change regimes and remake national governance systems in Afghanistan and Iraq, and more indirectly in Palestine and Lebanon. This is not just a Bush-Cheney problem, but an all-American one, since most presidential candidates in both parties do not stray far from the administration's aggressive policy options.

The post-2001 experience suggests that American military attacks against Iran would probably result in more turmoil in the Middle East and Asia, and greater anti-American sentiments and actions around the world. The American-led wars and aggressive diplomatic stances vis-a-vis Iran, Hamas, Hizbullah and Syria have already generated two specific phenomena: widespread criticism of the US in public opinion around the entire world (see the recent BBC and Pew polls); and, a determination by many Middle Eastern actors to actively resist and defy the US, and militarily fight it (or its Arab and Israeli proxies) when such an opportunity arises in Lebanon and Iraq, rather than to react with the expected acquiescence and compliance.

The six-year-old US-led "global war on terror" has expanded terror networks and their threats, hastened weapons of mass destruction proliferation by assorted regimes, bolstered Arab-Asian dictators, weakened indigenous democracy movements, mangled nascent rule of law traditions, badly isolated and weakened the US diplomatically, and virtually nullified the deterrent power of American-Israeli military might. Attacking Iran will only exacerbate these trends in the short term.

Americans should grasp precisely why a US-led war on global terror has backfired, and isolated the US as much as the terrorists. The main reason, simply, is that every single aspect of Washington's "global war on terror" is perceived by the majority of people in the Arab-Asian region as reviving, reaffirming, expanding and accelerating all the negative Western policies that have devastated the people of the Middle East for nearly a century. Here is a quick summary list of these issues:

l From the days of Napoleon's invasion of Egypt two centuries ago to the birth of the modern Middle East state system at Euro-colonial hands a century ago, a steady stream of Western armies that invade, occupy and seek to remake the Middle East to suit Western strategic aims;

l European and now American policies that blatantly favor Israel at the expense of Arab rights, and turn a blind eye to Israel's continued colonization of Palestinian land;

l Persistent marginalization of Palestinian rights, and collusion in barbaric Israeli policies against the Palestinians, such as this week's Israeli move to cut electricity supplies to civilians in Gaza;

l Supporting autocratic Arab regimes and police states, and showing chronic disdain for the democratic aspirations of Arab citizens;

l Promoting the ethnic and sectarian division of the region in order to enhance American hegemony and Israeli control (why is the US today the only source of apparently serious proposals to divide Iraq into three smaller units?);

l Demonizing Islam and Islamic values, to the point where 75 percent of Arabs and Muslims surveyed recently express an astounding fear that the US actually wants to dominate or destroy Islam itself;

l Attacking any Arab or Islamic power or mass popular force that rises in the region, such as Nasser's Egypt, Baathist Iraq, Iran, Hizbullah, the Muslim Brotherhood, and others;

l Dictating economic, political, social, educational, and religious norms and values that should define Arab-Asian societies, and trying to enforce those values through military power and political force;

l Pursuing blatant double standards in implementing UN resolutions and international law, such as relating to Israeli occupation and colonization of Arab land, Iran's nuclear industry, recognizing or rejecting democratic elections, and other issues;

l Exploiting local leaders and movements to suit Western policies, then dropping these erstwhile allies and friends when they are no longer needed;

l Maintaining control of Arab-Asian natural resources, such as oil, gas and strategic geography.

This is what ordinary Arabs, Iranians and other Middle Easterners see when they hear about American plans possibly to attack Iran. This is not because people in the Middle East have fertile imaginations, but rather because this is the actual history that they have experienced for the past century at the hands of once colonial masters who have now turned into post-colonial and neo-colonial nightmares. They see America's "global war on terror" as a frightening renewal and continuation of foreign threats and predatory intrusions at the hands of powerful Western armies and political demagogues.

Rami G. Khouri is published twice-weekly by THE DAILY STAR.

No evidence Iran is making nuclear weapons: ElBaradei

No evidence Iran is making nuclear weapons: ElBaradei

by Jitendra JoshiSun Oct 28, 12:29 PM ET

Chief UN atomic watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei said Sunday he had no evidence that Iran is building nuclear weapons and accused US leaders of adding "fuel to the fire" with recent bellicose rhetoric.

"I have not received any information that there is a concrete active nuclear weapons program going on right now," the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency told CNN.

"Even if Iran were to be working on a nuclear weapon ... they are at least a few years from having such a weapon," he said, citing assessments by US officials themselves.

"At this stage we need to continue to work through creative diplomacy ... as I don't see any other solution than diplomacy and inspections," ElBaradei said.

The White House Friday rejected any parallels between its Iran rhetoric and the run-up to the Iraq invasion, after fresh sanctions on Tehran and escalating US warnings fueled comparisons to the months before the 2003 invasion.

"We are absolutely committed to a diplomatic process," spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters.

"We would never take options off the table, but the diplomatic process is what we want to move forward with," he said, calling it "unwise" to rule out the use of force.

His comments came as US President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have been sharply ramping up their rhetoric about Iran, leading some critics to draw parallels with the late 2002 verbal escalation against Iraq.

In recent months, Bush has predicted "nuclear holocaust" and "World War III" if Tehran gets atomic weapons, while Cheney has warned of "serious consequences" for Iran if it defies global demands to freeze uranium enrichment -- echoing the UN resolution that Washington says authorized war in Iraq.

ElBaradei said if the United States had more information on Iran's nuclear drive than the IAEA, "I would be very happy to receive it and go forward."

He said "we cannot give Iran a pass right now, because there is still a lot of question marks."

"But have we seen Iran having the nuclear material that can readily be used into a weapon? No. Have we seen an active weaponization program? No," he said.

Merely "exchanging rhetoric" would not resolve the Iranian nuclear case, ElBaradei said, pointing to ongoing negotiations with North Korea as an example of dealing with the Islamic republic.

Under six-nation talks, North Korea has agreed to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs in return for a broad package of economic and diplomatic incentives.

ElBaradei said it is time "to stop spinning and hyping the Iranian issue," warning that military force could spark a global "conflagration."

"It could even accelerate a drive by Iran, even if they are not working on a nuclear weapon today, to go for a nuclear weapon," the IAEA chief added.

"So we can talk about use of force if and when we exhausted diplomacy ... but we are far, far away from that stage."

The six major powers involved in talks about Iran's nuclear program will meet in Europe in early November to discuss strengthened UN sanctions against Tehran, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack announced Friday.

Political directors from the foreign ministries of France, Britain, Russia, China, Germany and the United States will meet "toward the end of next week," McCormack told reporters.

Diplomatic sources said the meeting could take place Friday in London.

Who's Behind the PKK?

Who's Behind the PKK?
In a word: Washington by Justin Raimondo The recent threat by the Turks to invade Iraq in hot pursuit of PKK terrorists has the administration scrambling to appease Ankara and stave off a major blow to its claim that the U.S. occupation has provided "stability" to the region. Kurdistan, after all, has been touted up until now as a model of peace, prosperity, and unalloyed happiness – a foretaste of the country's golden future, provided "defeatists" in the U.S. don't pull the rug out from under our imminent victory. To see this veritable utopia smashed by Turkish force of arms would be a disaster for Washington – but even worse would be the revelation of how we got ourselves into this wholly untenable position to begin with. Worse, that is, for whoever would be indicted and prosecuted for pulling off what may turn out to be one of the most ambitious, and dangerous, "rogue" operations since Iran-Contra.

The serial numbers of arms captured from PKK fighters have been traced back to U.S. shipments to Iraqi military and police units. Responding to Turkish complaints, the Americans claim these arms were diverted by the Iraqis – presumably the Kurdish regional government – but the Turks aren't buying it: if the large quantity of U.S.-made arms (1,260 seized so far) turns out to have been directly provided to the PKK by the Americans, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul warned, U.S.-Turkish "relations would really break apart." U.S. diplomats immediately rebuffed this suggestion, and Washington dispatched the Pentagon's general counsel, William J. Haynes, to the scene, where he met with top Turkish military leaders. According to at least one report, "The meeting discussed an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Defense into reports that U.S. arms were being sold by U.S. troops in Iraq."

Another clue to what is really going on here is provided by the news that the FBI has volunteered to help the Turks find out where the PKK is getting its funding and weapons – and doesn't that strike you as odd? FBI director Robert Mueller said, "We are working with our counterparts elsewhere in Europe and in Turkey to address the PKK and work cooperatively, to find and cut off financing to terrorist groups, be it PKK, al-Qaeda," or whatever. Yet why would the FBI get involved at all, unless, of course, Americans were somehow involved? Foreign Minister Gul confirmed this to the Turkish media, stating:

"1,260 weapons captured from the PKK are American-made. We documented it to the U.S. These are of course not given directly to the PKK by the U.S. These are the ones that were given to the Iraqi army. Unfortunately some U.S. officers were corrupt. The Department of Defense informed us that a serious investigation is underway."

Is it that a few bad apples are "corrupt" – or something else?

As Seymour Hersh has reported, the U.S. and Israel are financing and otherwise aiding the Kurdish Party of Life, otherwise known as "Pejak," founded to "liberate" western Iran, which has a large and restive Kurdish population. Furthermore, the ties between the PKK and Pejak are more than merely fraternal: they are basically the same organization, sharing not only bases in the mountainous Quandil region of Kurdistan, but also common personnel and leadership.

The sudden outbreak of PKK violence – two spectacular ambushes, one of which resulted in the killing of 12 Turkish soldiers and the capture of eight, who are now being used as bargaining chips – also requires some explanation. Up until this point, the PKK had carried out low-level operations, with groups of six to eight militants planting bombs and generally harassing the Turks on a small scale. In recent months, however, the overall level of attacks has undergone a radical increase, with hundreds of PKK fighters deployed in a single attack and a new sophistication in terms of both firepower and the technical equipment required to pull off complex operations such as the recent ambush-and-capture.

Ever since the Syrians stopped supporting the PKK in the late 1990s, the group was largely incapable of launching major operations and had to content itself with terrorist actions directed at tourist facilities. Membership was down, cut virtually in half, and the capture of their leader, Abdullah Ocalan, demoralized large sections of the PKK, amid reports of splits. The revival of the group's fortunes coincided with news of the Pejak-U.S. connection and – tellingly – the disappearance of U.S. munitions and other equipment from Iraq.

Nearly one out of every 25 weapons provided to the Iraqis by the U.S. has disappeared. Furthermore, the system for tracing them never functioned. 370,000 light weapons have been sent to Iraq by the U.S. since 2003, yet just 3 percent had their serial numbers recorded by the U.S. Defense Department prior to being handed over. For some unfathomable reason, the general who was in charge of that particular task – by the name of Petraeus – has never been held accountable for what is one of the biggest scandals of the war.

The idea that "corrupt" U.S. soldiers sold weapons on the black market to PKK guerrillas is not all that far-fetched, but the absence of any system to account for all these guns invites larger-scale suspicions. Could it have been set up that way precisely because the Pentagon – or someone else – wanted to make sure the weapons couldn't be traced? This would certainly facilitate the arming of groups like Pejak, to put pressure on the Iranians and give the serial regime-changers in the Pentagon a huge weapons cache from which to draw at will.

We know that both the U.S. and Israel have been aiding Pejak, and surely this allowed the PKK to feed off of the arms pipeline, albeit "indirectly." The Israeli factor is yet another angle to this story: Seymour Hersh also reported that the Israelis have taken out a rather large stake in Kurdistan, not only investing in several major business operations but also involving themselves in the training of Kurdish "commandos." Could some of these commandos possibly be PKK operatives?

Both Iran and Turkey have pledged to cooperate in eradicating the Kurdish threat, and this cooperation is yet another reason for the general decline in relations between Ankara on the one hand and Washington and Tel Aviv on the other. What was once a tight alliance started to unravel when the Turks refused to let the U.S. use their territory as a launching pad for the invasion of Iraq, and things have gone rapidly downhill since. The regime-changers inside the administration, centered around Dick Cheney's office and the civilian upper reaches of the Pentagon, may have decided that the Turks have to be thrown overboard now that the campaign to target Tehran is going full-gear. If the Kurds' price for subverting the Iranian regime is covert aid for their continuing assault on Turkey, then it hardly beggars belief that the War Party is willing to pay it: loyalty is not one of their strong suits, as Iraq's Shi'ites can readily attest.

I have a great deal of difficulty believing that the large number of confiscated American weapons that apparently found their way into the hands of PKK fighters just happened to show up on the black market, without any knowledge or complicity by higher authorities. How high the "corruption" goes, remains to be seen. What we do know is this: the War Party isn't shy about engaging in "rogue" operations and doing end-runs around the properly constituted authorities when it suits their purposes.

A recent demonstration by Turkish students against PKK terrorism had the protesters denouncing both the Kurds and the U.S. government: "Down with the PKK!" – they shouted – "Down with the U.S.!" In Turkey, at least, they seem to know who and what is behind the wave of terrorism that has shaken the country.

In America, however, it's a different story altogether: the "news" media hasn't really said anything about the FBI investigation and the possible involvement of Americans, nor do we hear much about the U.S. – or Israeli – connection to the Kurdish "liberation" groups, such as Pejak, except from Hersh and a few others. As far as the "mainstream" media is concerned, what's going on between the Turks and the Kurds is just another of those ancient, endless Middle Eastern blood feuds. No one bothers to ask: Why is this old problem escalating now?

That the PKK and Pejak have turned themselves into pawns of the War Party is quite understandable: after all, they want to liberate their people and unite them in the age-old dream of a "Greater Kurdistan." Like Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, they are ready, willing, and able to use the Americans in order to advance their own agenda. The question for the U.S. Congress, however, is whether the American taxpayers are now subsidizing terrorism directed at the Turks in order to further the War Party's agenda.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Iran: The Road to Armageddon?

Iran: The Road to Armageddon?
by Felicity Arbuthnot
Global Research, October 27, 2007 Global Research and the UN Observer

Reminder to the crusading Armageddonists ..... “Thou shalt not kill.” Exodus 20: 13

They are at it again. Remember when Milosovic was labelled “the butcher of Belgrade”, the new Hitler?

Then Saddam Hussein was “the butcher of Bagdad” and, of course the most dangerous man since Hitler - with weapons of mass destruction which could be unleashed on the world “in forty five minutes”.

Colin Powell lied to the U.N., about the danger Iraq posed to the planet; George Bush lied to anyone who would listen; Tony Blair lied to Parliament and aides concocted dossiers so dodgy they were laughable, yet in spite of the millions who marched, protested and knew the lies for what they were, there were millions who bought fiction as fact.

And here we go again. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (wait for “the tyrant of Tehran”) threatens the planet, is supplying weapons to Iraq's resistance, is destabilising the region and the paradise that is occupied Iraq.

Whilst there are indeed plenty of Iranians or Iranian sympathisers in Iraq, they came in with the occupiers. Many in high places in Iraq's corrupt, militia driven, American puppet government, speak Farsi, not Arabic.

The increasingly hysterical claims regarding Iran, the latest threat to life as we know it, is being brought to you by the very same warmongers who wrought the duplicity that resulted in Iraq's murderous decimation, the hawks' nest which is the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and their friends.

A glance at the AEI website lists those including:

Paul Wolfowitz (“entrepreneurship and development”),
Michael Rubin (“Arab democracy”),
Richard Perle (“defence ...intelligence”),
Joshua Muravchik (“global democracy”),
John Bolton (“foreign policy”),
Lynne Cheney, whose husband, as ever, is believed a driving force behind the attack plan (“culture and education”),
Michael Ledeen (latest book: “The Iranian Time Bomb: The Mullah Zealots Quest for Destruction”),
Daniell Pletka (“Vice President for foreign and defence policy studies”) who, writing in the “Wall Street Journal” (28th September 2007) referred to Iran's “illegal nuclear weapons ... Washington's impotence” and “clear information of a link to a weapons of mass destruction programme”. This in spite of the International Atomic Energy Authority finding no indication of such programmes.

It all sounds chillingly familiar.

Interestingly, an item on the Institute's list of “Research Projects” is “Global Investment in Iran”. Surely a matter for Iran - or does the AEI already regard Iran's oil fields and assets as their fiscal frolic zone?

Orchestration is continuing apace:

“Even as we are succeeding in Iraq” (really?) “Iran is working against us ... we will not achieve peace in the region if we ignore this threat”, writes Ledeen. Further, there are clear plans to liberate Iran's women, Afghan style: “Since 1979, Iran has changed from a society where women could attend university and have careers, to one where they are second class citizens ... sold as slaves ...”. writes Diana Furchgott-Roth in the New York Sun (14th September 2007.)

There must be two Irans: “Literacy is well over ninety percent, even in the rural areas and in 2005, more than sixty five percent of students entering university were women. The voices that come through most strongly on the Iranian blogosphere are those of this educated, young generation.” Over sixty five percent of this country of seventy million are under thirty years old.

“I feel cold when I think about a possible war against my homeland”, wrote one blogger: “My picture of war hasn't come from Hollywood movies, I have seen the pain, the kids tears, bloody streets ...” In a picture showing a meeting of the Tehran Photographers Association, the venue is packed with vibrantly dressed women - and one man. (See : Inside Iran, New Internationalist, March 2007: )

Iran is not perfect, but where is? Britain's Prime Minister Brown "refuses to rule out" joining the US military intervention - to decimate for “democracy” and plunder resources. According to the Sunday Telegraph (1st October 2007), a dossier is being drawn up on Iran's violations of International Law, as with Iraq. “Violations of International Law”? Two countries, Britain and America have not alone violated, but torn up International Law. Yet again, who guards the guards?

Can a nation, which even invaded Grenada (which has no armed forces, main exports: bananas, nutmeg, mace; a war for nutmegs?) in 1983, totalling a psychiatric hospital (24th anniversary, 25th October) population 94.103 (1994) v. United States, population 260.713.000 (1994) because it was a “threat”, be trusted?

But the war drums are beating: “WE MUST bomb Iran”, is the header for Josua Muravchik's Los Angeles Times article (19th June 2007.)

He begins with quotes straight from the Pentagon's Iraq propaganda handbook: “...since the country's secret nuclear programme was brought to light ... the path of diplomacy and sanctions has led nowhere.” Tehran has “spurned” a “string of concessions”; the UN Security Council was derelict in its duty toward the Iranian threat.

The completion of Iran's nuclear arsenal grows closer daily, this “premier state sponsor of terrorism” could “slip nuclear material to terrorists”. The bomb Iran doesn't have, would, of course “constitute a dire threat to Israel's six million population”. No mention of Israel being the fifth largest nuclear power on earth, without a blink towards the non-proliferation treaty, or indeed even an admission of having such weapons.

However Iran's non-weapons: “would spend finis to the entire non-proliferation system”. The “ struggle” with Iran is “akin” to the forty year one with the Soviet Union and - wait for it – “a clash of civlisations”.

“The only way to forestall these frightening developments is by the use of force ... by an air campaign against Tehran's nuclear facilities. We have considerable information about these facilities; by some estimates they comprise about 1,500 targets.... What should be the timing of such an attack? If we did it next year, that would give time for U.N. diplomacy to further reveal its bankruptcy ...'” is Murachik's conclusion. “Deja vu, all over again.”

Not mentioned, anywhere, in the demented rhetoric regarding an attack on Iran, is the “A” word: Armageddon. “Likely targets for saturation bombing” (that look likely to involve tactical nuclear weapons) “are the Bushehr nuclear power plant” (where Russian and other foreign national technicians are present) “a uranium mining site at Saghand” (near a major city, Yazd) “the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, a heavy water plant and radioisotope facility at Arak, the Arkedan Nuclear Fuel Unit, the Uranium Enrichment Facility and Nuclear Technology Centre in Isfahan, the Tehran Nuclear Research Cnetree, the Tehran Molybdenum, Iodine and Xenon Radioisotope Production Facility .... a reportedly dismantled uranium enrichment plant at Lashkar Abad and the Radioactive Waste Storage Units in Karaj and Anarak”.(Wayne Madsen: )

These were facilities, many begun after the US/UK overthrow of Iran's democratically elected, democratic Prime Minister, Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953, after he had nationalised the country's oil. The coup was engineered by the CIA's Kermit Roosevelt, grandson of Theodore. General Norman Schwartzkopf's father then travelled to Iran, to help train Savak, the murderous, ruthless, secret police of America's friend, the Shah.

However, modern history aside, forget global warming.

Consider the enormity of the seemingly proposed attack, apart from the unimaginable horror of those fried and irradiated in the immediate vicinity and surrounding countries (including “allied”, troops throughout the region.).

This is a succinct description of what the explosion of just one nuclear power plant generated, Chernobyl, in 1986: “Irradiated human cells splinter into fragments called micronuclei ... a definitive pre-cursor of cancer. During the nuclear reactor disaster at Chernobyl, the ...radiation released was the equivalent of four hundred atomic bombs ... Exposed Russians quickly developed blood cell micronuclei ...” (The Radiation Poisoning of America, Amy Worthington, 9th October 2007: )

The plight of the children and the Chernobyl region's cancers twenty one years on, have become an ongoing, tragic, global health study, as Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the residents of the Pacific islands, after the British and French nuclear tests. Chernobyl's radiation traversed the globe within days. In the highlands of the U.K., Wales and Cumbria, livestock straying in affected areas are still inedible and unsaleable. Chernobyl was doused from the air with fire retardant, by crews, which, in spite of protection by heavily leaded cockpit floors, reportedly, not one has survived the ravaging resultant cancers. If Chernobyl was four hundred atomic bombs, see the above list and do the maths. Don't forget to add the “coalition's” democratic nuclear weapons dropped on them.

Norman Podhoretz, one of the founding fathers of neo-conservatism in the United States, is gung-ho, another one reportedly urging Bush to bomb Iran. He told Bush: “You have the awesome responsibility to prevent another holocaust. You are the only one with the guts to do it.”(Sunday Times, 1st October 2007.) A holocaust by any other name ...

Mohammad Mossadegh and Saddam Hussein made fatal mistakes. They nationalised their countries' oil. Saddam Hussein finally tied the noose around his neck, when he switched Iraq's oil revenues out of US Dollars and into Euros in 2000.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has also vowed to switch from US Dollars and move to a currency “further east”.

As Iraq, is this really about a nuclear threat?

Will the millions who believed the last great lie, be fooled again? If they are not, will it make any difference, in the illegal space the US and UK Administrations inhabit?

On the ground in the Middle East (or in this case on the water) it seems not. Here is a communication from a Landing Signals Officer* (an LSO directs carrier aircraft whilst landing) on a carrier attack group that is planning and staging a strike group deployment in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's most strategically vital oil routes, which is controlled by Iran.

The LSO is convinced Iran will be attacked, commenting that “... all Air Operation Planning and Asset Tasking are finished (meaning) all targets have been chosen, prioritized and tasked to specific aircraft, bases, carriers, missile cruisers ...” Further, the LSO comments, there is deep disquiet amongst senior officers about “staging a massive attack on Iran”. However, “I have seen more than one senior Commander disappear ...”; it's weird, because everyone who has “disappeared” has questioned this mission.

How limited would the attack be?

“I don't think it's limited at all. We are shipping in and assigning every Tomahawk, we have an inventory. I think this is going to be massive and sudden (with) thousands of targets. I believe no American will know when it happens, until after it happens.”The LSO ponders that discussing a secret attack is “treason” but is so concerned “something tells me to tell it anyway.”

“Yes, we are going to hit Iran big time. Whatever political discussion that is going on is window dressing ... a red herring. I see what's going on here below deck, in the hangers and weapons bay - and I have a sick feeling about how it is going to turn out.'”

Would the US Administration really endanger the entire planet?

Here is a story told to me by Bernard Lown, one of co-founders of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) during the Reagan era. Lown worked closely with another eminent fellow cardiac surgeon, the (then) USSR's Yevgeny Chazov. Since physicians know no borders, they had formed a friendship, then a movement, which bridged the cold war, the Reagan “Evil Empire” (re. the Soviet Union) nonsense and within two years, had doctors and surgeons from eighty two countries spreading the word, that even cardiac arrest paled against nuclear war.

In 1995, IPPNW collectively won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Since Lown travelled, lecturing, to the USSR frequently and had built trust over many years at all levels, the US State Department asked if he would engage in some unofficial diplomacy. Relations between the two countries were far worse than most realised. After one such visit to Moscow, I met Lown in Paris. We sat in dappled Spring sun, at a pavement breakfast café - fresh squeezed orange, coffee, croissants.

“I came back two days ago and went to talk (at the State Department) of the concerns in Moscow. Afterwards, a senior official - a household name (he declined to divulge) walked me to the exit. As we neared the exit, he put his arm round my shoulders:

'Don't worry, Professor Lown, if there is a nuclear war, we will be the first ones to rise up and meet Jesus in the sky.'” Lown, used to the vagaries of the unwell, responded: “Tell me, does anyone else in this building feel as you do?”

“Oh yes, many of us do.”

The swathe of “household names”, from the Reagan era, are now in the Bush Administration and the American Enterprise Institute.

The Armageddonists are back.

The world should be very afraid - or should the physicians in white coats move in?

Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist and activist who has visited the Arab and Muslim world on numerous occasions. She has written and broadcast on Iraq, her coverage of which was nominated for several awards. She was also senior researcher for John Pilger's award-winning documentary,

"Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq".

and author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of “Baghdad” in the “Great Cities” series, for World Almanac Books (2006.)


*Regarding the LSO, this came from a second, but highly trusted source, who for obvious reasons, would not divulge the name or further details of the LSO.

Please also see:

Livni behind closed doors: Iran nukes pose little threat to Israel

Religious Extremists in America (Christian Zionists)

Kill Or Convert, Brought To You By the Pentagon

Military Religious Freedom Foundation

Christians be aware!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Political Psychodrama=A Political Psychodrama

A Political Psychodrama
In Search of Logic About Iran


In Bushies' march to war with Iran. Many are concerned and see the dangers of war as imminent. Others are openly advocating for U.S. aggression against Iran and they scream for bombardment of another nation, just because we can!

Forces of Good and Evil are lining up. And this is no movie. There is no middle ground either. If Evil takes over, all that there is will have to succumb to Evil. Which side are you standing with? And which side do you think has the upper hand? I like to think it's the Good. Unfortunately I've been proven wrong before!

Brook's PsychoBush Theorem

Rosa Brook, a columnist for Los Angeles Times, puts is very bluntly, and she has got it right. The Bushies are all insane. Thus one cannot confront them in the domain of logic. One has to wonder how a psychotic Bush sold us one War for Peace, and how he continues his road shows selling more of Elixir Of Death as Elixir Of Life?

We are past the 9/11 patriotism. But it still takes guts for Brook to say it as she sees it. May the force protect her from blacklists!

Forget impeachment. Liberals, put it behind you. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney shouldn't be treated like criminals who deserve punishment. They should be treated like psychotics who need treatment.

Writing in Newsweek on Oct. 20, Fareed Zakaria, a solid centrist and former editor of Foreign Affairs, put it best. Citing Bush's invocation of "the specter of World War III if Iran gained even the knowledge needed to make a nuclear weapon," Zakaria concluded that "the American discussion about Iran has lost all connection to reality. . . . Iran has an economy the size of Finland's. . . . It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are . . . allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?"

The Jihadi Cowboy

Dr. Ali Ettefagh, writing from Tehran in Washington Post, argues that since Iran hasn't attacked anyone U.S. should leave her alone. This argument will make perfect sense to sane and/or logical people. But based on Brook's PsychoBush Theorem discussed above, we need to come up with new arguments to deal with psychotic Bushies. All evidence indicates that the Bushies only believe in language of force. To come and say "Iran hasn't invaded any countries" only aggravates the situation and causes the Bushies to show more teeth. You should instead write about all the times Iran has invaded and conquered others. Feel free to go back a few thousand years!

We have to accept that we live in an era of intellectual rip-offs, tactics sold as policy and instant strategies broadcast live on TV. The show on the plastic box and talking-head spin-meisters will do the thinking and planning for us all. Accordingly, we lower expectations and shall not be surprised when we see childish games are sold as a mimic of statesmanship. His Excellency, the president of a superpower, is now demanding that the world forget what it knows and listen to his version of stories.

Finally, it's useful to review history. Iran has not started a war, or grabbed a neighbor's territory, since the United States became an independent country. Iran helped the Allies during World War II, providing a supply route to Russia and a safe escape route for Polish Jews, some of whom settled in Iran. Iran has never trampled on the dignity of any one.

But a small Middle Eastern country fabricated after World War II might well start the world's next Iranian conflict--a country that that aspires to be the real spin-meister of cheap tactics in Washington.

The Real Threat

Lamis Andoni, a Middle East consultant for Al Jazeera, writing in Washington Post talks about worries of the people in the Arab world. What people like Lamis fail to understand is Bushies doesn't give a hoot (to be polite) for the anxiety and uncertainty of the Arabs. But no hard feelings. Katrina victims were treated the same, if not worse!

Talk of an American war against Iran has provoked anxiety and uncertainty here in the Arab world, especially in the Gulf Region, Jordan, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon. People are still reeling from the effects of the continuing war in Iraq and the lack of resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Many believe Iran's military power is the region's only deterrent against Israel--and many here support Iran's legal right to develop nuclear power. The view from the region is largely defined by the world's silence towards Israeli nuclear power.

Oil Gets Nervous

Considering Iran produces 4 million bpd and sits strategically between Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf, there is no question nervousness will turn into mass hysteria if sanity forbid the first GWB missile lands in Iran. Guess who will pay the price then? Now if some people have to pay more, others will naturally collect more. It's left an exercise to the readers to find who the select others are.
Then again you may ask that when the whole planet is going down with global warming, does it make sense to continue maximizing profits by engaging in Massive Murder and Destruction (WMD)? To that I have to answer you are thinking logically again. Please go back and study the PsychoBush Theorem again!

Crude oil rose above $90 a barrel to a record in New York the day after a government report showed an unexpected drop in U.S. stockpiles.

New U.S. sanctions against Iran, warnings of a Turkish assault on Kurdish militants in Iraq and a falling dollar also pushed prices higher today.

Hillary Clinton Advocates More Insanity

Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner Democratic Presidential Candidate, supports the new Bush Sanctions against Iran. We could perhaps forgive Hillary for voting for the war on Iraq. We can blame that on temporary insanity; or maybe she followed Bush blindly and natively. What now? Now that all the cards are on the table, what's her excuse? Maybe the insanity wasn't temporary after all? Is this the best that we can get for a first woman president? I Pass!

Here's the official statement from Hillary Clinton on Bush's Iran Sanctions Announcement:

"We must use all the tools at our disposal to address the serious challenge posed by Iran, including diplomacy, economic pressure, and sanctions.

"I believe that a policy of diplomacy backed by economic pressure is the best way to check Iran's efforts to acquire a nuclear weapons program and stop its support of terrorism, and the best way to avert a war. That's why I took to the Senate floor last February and warned the President not to take military action against Iran without going to Congress first and why I've co-sponsored Senator Webb's legislation to make that the law of the land. I've been concerned for a long time over George Bush's saber rattling and belligerence toward Iran.

"We must work to check Iran's nuclear ambitions and its support of terrorism, and the sanctions announced today strengthen America's diplomatic hand in that regard. The Bush Administration should use this opportunity to finally engage in robust diplomacy to achieve our objective of ending Iran's nuclear weapons program, while also averting military action. That is the policy I support."

Loony Romney Wants The Blood Flowing In Persian Gulf

Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney best exemplifies the mentality of the Republican hopefuls, except for Ron Paul of course. They are all eager to replace the flow of oil through Persian Gulf with blood. The Republicans, have turned the presidential campaign into an I'll Attack Iran First race instead. Mitt and company are screaming at the top of their lungs everywhere they go on the campaign trail trying to create a monster out of Iran, and they all try to top each other in how they plan to obliterate Iran. Will the voters see the real monsters close at home?

According to CNN, Romney told voters in New Hampshire that he would take military action, including a blockade or "bombardment of some kind," to stop Iran's move to gain nuclear weapons.

"If for some reasons they continue down their course of folly toward nuclear ambition, then I would take military action if that's available to us," Romney said. "That's an option that's on the table. And it's not something which we'll spell out specifically."

Romney also spoke out in favor of the Bush administration's sanctions against Tehran.

May Sanity Prevail

There is still hope. Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska wants engagement not confrontation. Rays of wisdom are forcing their way through the clouds of hatred and warmongering in Washington. But will the sun come out?

"Unilateral sanctions rarely, ever work," Hagel said by phone during his weekly news conference. "I just don't think the unilateral approach and giving war speeches helps the situation. It will just drive the Iranians closer together."

Hagel, a Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said there's no question that Iran's behavior presents a problem, citing the country's activities in Iraq and elsewhere. But, he said, the answer is not "to throw unilateral sanctions on them." "It escalates the danger of a military confrontation," Hagel said. "I certainly think engagement is critical ... direct engagement," said Hagel. "That's what great powers do.

Senator Chris Dodd, a Democratic Presidential Candidate, also spoke against the new sanctions:

"I recognize the obvious threat a nuclear Iran poses to the region and beyond, and that we must stop Iran's continued support for international terrorism.

"Unfortunately, the action taken by the Administration today comes in the context of escalating rhetoric and drumbeat to military action against Iran.

"I am deeply concerned that once again the President is opting for military action as a first resort.

"The glaring omission of any new diplomatic measures by the President today is the reason I voted, and urged my colleagues to vote, against the Kyl -Lieberman resolution on September 26.

"The aggressive actions taken today by the Administration absent any corresponding diplomatic action is exactly what we all should have known was coming when we considered our vote on the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, and smacks, frankly, of a dangerous step toward armed confrontation with Iran."

But it was John Edwards, another Democratic Presidential Candidate, who had the harshest words for Bush, Cheney and above all Hillary Clinton:

"Today, George Bush and Dick Cheney again rattled the sabers in their march toward military action against Iran. The Bush Administration has been making plans to attack Iran for many months. At this critical moment, we need strong leadership to stand against George Bush's dangerous 'preventive war' policy, which makes force the first option, not the last.

"I learned a clear lesson from the lead up to the Iraq War in 2002: if you give this president an inch, he will take a mile - and launch a war. Senator Clinton apparently learned a different lesson. Instead of blocking George Bush's new march to war, Senator Clinton and others are enabling him once again.

"I have called for strong, capable diplomacy to deal with the challenge of Iran, and a carrots and sticks strategy aimed at results--not the Bush/Cheney path, which would escalate tensions, enable attacks, and lead to unintended consequences.

"The New Yorker recently reported that one reason the administration has not yet attacked Iran is because public opinion has turned against such a course. Senator Clinton's actions undermine the American people's opposition to war with Iran. Today's advancement of the Bush strategy on Iran shows how much we need strong opposition on this issue. I learned my lesson the hard way in 2002, but it appears that others still have some learning to do."

The High Costs

Unfortunately, the cryptic statement from Senator Barak Obama, another Democratic Presidential Candidate, didn't cut it. He's taken the middle ground (as if there is one). Obama wants us to believe he isn't for war. But he is afraid to be forceful and daring. He's obviously too concerned about the political costs: " It is important to have tough sanctions on Iran, particularly on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard which supports terrorism. But these sanctions must not be linked to any attempt to keep our troops in Iraq, or to take military action against Iran. Unfortunately, the Kyl-Lieberman amendment made the case for President Bush that we need to use our military presence in Iraq to counter Iran - a case that has nothing to do with sanctioning the Revolutionary Guard."

A Small Man Standing Tall

Congressman Dennis Kucinich is by far the strongest anti-war Democratic Presidential candidate. One can expect to hear straight words from Kucinich. No beating around the Bushies. He is a man of wisdom and logic. They've tried to put him down because of his height. But he's standing taller than all other candidates:

"The Administration has been dramatically increasing its efforts in the last several weeks to go to war with Iran," Kucinich said. "This latest stunt is nothing more than an attempt to deceive Americans into yet another war-this time with Iran."

Last week, President Bush stated in a news conference: "So I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them (Iran) from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."

In a speech Sunday to the Washington Institute for Near East Studies, Vice President Dick Cheney said that if Iran continues on its current course, the United States and other nations are "prepared to impose serious consequences. Our country, and the entire international community, cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions."

In announcing the sanctions today, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said:

"Unfortunately the Iranian government continues to spurn our offer of open negotiations, instead threatening peace and security by pursuing nuclear technologies that can lead to a nuclear weapon, building dangerous ballistic missiles, supporting Shia militants in Iraq and terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, and denying the existence of a fellow member of the United Nations, threatening to wipe Israel off the map."

"After the lies and deception used to lead us to war in Iraq, the belligerent Bush Administration cannot be given leeway with statements that suggest a preemptive attack on Iran is necessary," Kucinich said. "We are systematically destroying every available route to restoring peace and security in the Middle East."Congress must take back its exclusive authority to declare war from the Bush Administration."

In Search of Logic

In the following video, Chris Matthews is probing Joshua Muravchik of American Enterprise Institute, a Neo Cons' den, for an iota of logic. But as hard as he tries, nothing comes out. This could be funny. However, considering psychotics like Muravchik are at the control of the nuclear buttons, this is as scary as it can get.
Ali Moayedian the editor of Payvand Iran News.

An Anglo-American Conspiracy Theory: The Wahhabis are Coming, the Wahhabis are Coming!

An Anglo-American Conspiracy Theory
The Wahhabis are Coming, the Wahhabis are Coming!


From January 1857 to September 2007, the New York Times published eighty-six items that mention 'Wahhabism'--a 'puritanical' (salafi) Islamic creed named after its 18th century Arabian founder, Abd al-Wahhab. Six appeared before the attacks of September 2001, while eighty have appeared since. Although the frequency of references has tapered of late, giving way to more generic terms like 'Islamo-fascism,' Wahhabism continues to be stridently linked to Al-Qaeda; the Taliban Movement; the madrasas of Pakistan; the Sunni resistance in Iraq; the war in Chechnya; unrest in Dagestan; anti-government activism in Uzbekistan; multifarious attempted and successful bombings in Europe and elsewhere; the need for change in US foreign policy toward Saudi Arabia; the security threat posed by mosques in the US; and, review of the US armed forces' chaplaincy policy.

The same links are often echoed in other dailies as well as such current affairs magazines as Newsweek, and are by no means restricted to the US media, as attested by contributors to Canada's Globe and Mail, Britain's London Times, France's Le Monde diplomatique and Russia's Pravda. Many works of non-fiction also follow suit, including Charles Allen's God's Terrorists: The Wahhabi Cult and the Hidden Roots of Modern Jihad, Thomas Hammes' The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century, and Stephen Schwartz's, The Two Faces of Islam: The House of Saud from Tradition to Terror. Nor are late works of fiction exempted, as illustrated by Richard A. Clark's novel of international political intrigue, The Scorpion's Gate (2005). Given that Clark was associated with the US State Department, Pentagon and White House for three decades, not to mention the 'lapdog' stance assumed by mainstream media outlets since '9/11,' the US government is clearly on, if not behind the reins of this bandwagon--a point amply illustrated by the alarmed tone of a recently published hearing by the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security, titled 'Terrorism: Growing Wahhabi Influence in the US' (2004), as well as the '9/11 Commission Report' (2004), by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the US, which concludes that Al-Qaeda belongs to the 'stream' of Islam commonly termed Wahhabism.

Although I will not suggest that this rhetoric is hegemonic, there can be no doubt that the idea of a 'Wahhabi Conspiracy' against the 'West' has, since 9/11, become lodged in the colloquial psyche of many in the US and beyond. The collective argument, however, can be reduced to three pieces of 'evidence':

1) Usama bin Laden and fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 highjackers were Saudi Arabians;

2) Saudi Arabia funds Wahhabi madrasas (schools), masjids (mosques) and imams (preachers) from South East Asia to Europe and North America, creating an ideologically and operationally coherent 'network' in which Al-Qaeda plays a leadership role; and,

3) Wahhabism is not only 'puritanical,' it is 'militantly anti-Western.' In short, Wahhabism is identified as the theology behind 'Islamo-fascism.'

Yet, there are a number of glaring omissions in this perspective, beginning with the fact that the Wahhabi clerics of Saudi Arabia--the sole state sponsor of Wahhabism--routinely issue decrees condemning jihad against the European and North American states, while Usama bin Laden has vociferously castigated renowned clerics (including Wahhabis) as 'slaves of apostate regimes' like Saudi Arabia.

As well, although Saudi Arabian funds have been used to establish various religious institutions across the globe, not only are they in the minority from state to state, but the most militant madrasas, etc., are not Saudi funded or Wahhabi in intellectual orientation. For example, in Pakistan (noted by the above governmental, media and pseudo-academic sources as a breeding ground for militant Wahhabism), an International Crisis Group study conducted in 2002, found that ninety percent of the madrasas catering to one and half million students, were proponents of South Asian 'Deobandi' or 'Barelvi' thought, while the remaining ten percent could be shared between 'Jama'at-i Islami' (Maududian), 'Shi'a' and Wahhabi organizations. The handful of madrasas promoting militancy (including the Taliban Movement) are not Wahhabi, but Deobandi, and their initial funding came from the US during the Afghan-Soviet war (1979-1989), extending to textbooks produced by USAID and Ronald Reagan's reference to their students as 'the moral equivalent of the founding fathers [of America].' Even a recent USAID report (2003) acknowledges that the link between madrasas and violence is 'rare,' and the same perspective has been forwarded to the US Congress in at least two Congress Research Services reports updated in 2004 and 2005, respectively.

The most damning indictment of the non-scholarly perspective, however, is the fact that Al-Qaeda's leadership is well known in scholarly circles to have been largely inspired by the ideology of Sayyid Qutb (d.1966), a late leader of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, while within the 'Salafi' fold, the Brotherhood, Wahhabism, Qutbism, Deobandism and Maududism, differ on issues as fundamental as the defensive or offensive nature of jihad, the legitimacy of 'suicide bombings' and civilian targets, the status of women, the legitimacy of electoral politics, nationalism, Pan-Islamism, Shi'ism and Sufism in Muslim society.

Demarcating the gaping chasm between scholarly and governmental/media/pseudo-academic perspectives should not be read as apologia for Wahhabism, let alone the Saudi Arabian regime that promotes it. As outlined by the eminent historian, Wilfred Cantwell Smith, many decades ago, Wahhabism rejects the "introvert warmth and other-worldly piety" of Islam's "mystical way," the rationalism of "philosophy" and "theology" and the sectarianism of the "Shi'a." In fact, Wahhabism rejects the very "interpretation of Islamwhich had become dominant" by the 18th century. As for the Saudi Arabian regime, there is little need for scholarly citations to contend that it is despotic, employing the Wahhabi creed to legitimate kingship and allow no forms of dissent within its borders.

The import of the distinction between representations of Wahhabism lies in the number of questions non-scholarly rhetoric raises about its origins and purpose in Europe and North America. To be sure, incompetence in government and elsewhere can not be discounted in explaining the distance between what is known and what is believed. However, the history of the idea of a 'Wahhabi Conspiracy' against 'Western' interests makes it plain that more directed concerns are also involved. Consider the following quote. "[D]uring many years past the Wahhabis have pursued a system in raising supplies for the support of the fanatics living beyond the North-West Frontier, who are waging war against the Government." No, these are not the words of a Whitehouse spokesperson commenting on the current debacle in 'North-West Frontier Province' of Pakistan that borders Afghanistan. These are the words of a colonial officer, uttered in 1868 and referencing the forces ranged against British rule in that same area. They were spoken in the context of a series of prosecutions called the 'Wahhabi Trials,' in which Muslims suspected of involvement in 30 years of anti-colonial activity, culminating in the 'Great Indian Mutiny' of 1857, were heard, convicted and executed or transported.

As the London Times had already published letters making the case that among these 'fanatics' were a number of Muslim 'philosophers and historians' (that is, clerics), the trials that followed the 1857 Uprising were quite explicitly directed against clerical groups, with particular emphasis placed on the prosecution of Muslim 'chaplains' in the British Indian Army. Furthermore, as it had been reported from the field that in 'every station, in every citythe movers of the present rising have agents sowing discontent and circulating intelligence,' vast swaths of the general Muslim population were identified with Wahhabism and placed under suspicion.

Indeed, even before the 1857 Uprising began, reporters of the colonial Allen's India Mail, had tied earlier, more local insurrections to an 'extraordinary system of network[that] unites together every town, village and hamlet' in South Asia. Never mind that the fragmented nature of the 1857 Uprising and those that preceded it was well known to colonial officials and other segments of the press even commented on the local, socio-economic determinants of discontent. Never mind that it was also widely known and reported that Muslims and Hindus of various sects and classes had participated in these anti-colonial actions, while even more, including Wahhabis, had not. Never mind that even those deposed and convicted in the 'Wahhabi Trials' testified that they were not Wahhabis, a significant section of the colonial establishment and the press remained adamant that the activities of 'seditious Wahhabis,' driven solely by their 'militantly anti-Western' creed, were the root cause of all the British government's failures in spreading Western 'liberalism' and 'democracy' as part of its colonial 'Civilizing Mission.' As the Bishop of London put it in 1857, the 'heathen' must be 'smote,' before the 'destinies of our race' and the 'progress of Christ and civilization' can be extended from Britain.

If the longevity of the rhetoric of a 'Wahhabi Conspiracy' against the 'West' is to be chalked up to the incompetence of its propagators, then it is ineptitude on a monumentally historic scale. Furthermore, it would also be necessary for the historian to attribute a century of cordial Anglo-American relations with actual Wahhabis to colossal oversight. After all, the Wahhabi Trials were no more than a few decades in the past when the British government, represented by 'Lawrence of Arabia,' instigated the Wahhabi House of Saud's revolt against the Ottoman Empire in World War I, then followed up by supporting the same supposedly 'anti-Western' force against local rivals to form the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932.

As well, the historian would have to explain US involvement in the extraction of Saudi Arabian oil reserves from 1938 to the present as a further act of ignorance, given that the first mention of Wahhabism in the New York Times appears in a 1931 editorial that describes it as 'traditional' (itself a misnomer given the anti-traditionalist stance of 'Abd al-Wahhab), but by no means 'militantly anti-Western.' Indeed, it was not until the 1990's that Wahhabism made a limited comeback as a militant, though even then not necessarily anti-Western creed in US media and official circles. For example, in the New York Times, the US' Afghan allies against the Soviets were identified as Wahhabis by August 1989, Chechen separatists as the same by August 1999, the Taliban and Pakistani madrasas as such by June 2000 and anti-government Uzbek forces in a letter dated August 2001. Still, there was no need for alarm.

The 'problem' of Wahhabism (outside of intra-Muslim sectarian strife) was only identified in October 2001, after the '9/11' attacks on New York and Washington. Only after this event did a full-blown 'Wahhabi Conspiracy' became standard fare, with Wahhabism reprising its 19th century role as the 'fanatical' and 'despotic' antithesis of a 'Civilized World' defined by Western 'liberalism' and 'democracy.'

If not incompetence, then what explains the fact that historians of Islam and the Muslim World have long provided an alternative perspective to the theory of a 'Wahhabi Conspiracy,' while the same governmental and media outlets that tout this theory have had close relations with actual Wahhabis? I submit there is a conspiracy of sorts at play--one of willful over-simplification - but it is not a 'Wahhabi,' or even more broadly 'Islamist,' conspiracy direct against the 'West.' Rather, it is an official Anglo-American and, perhaps, more thoroughly 'Western' ruling-class propensity to obfuscate the political and socio-economic disenfranchisement that drives militancy in the Muslim World.

The prime victims of this 'conspiracy' are these governments' constituents themselves. Considering that the rhetoric of a Wahhabi Conspiracy was contrived and employed by Britain against anti-colonial movements in the 19th century, while evidence to the contrary was present and the actual Wahhabis of Arabia came to enjoy close relations with Britain, confirms that it served to cynically conceal the political and socio-economic underpinnings of those very movements from their own citizens. The sudden resurrection of this discourse now, despite a greater body of scholarly evidence to the contrary, closer ties between Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi regime and the US, as well as historical 'alliances' with the very groups today being prosecuted, makes the strongest suggestion that the contemporary rhetoric of a Wahhabi Conspiracy also serves as a mask for imperialist agendas and a carpet under which to sweep the protests and concerns of the Muslim classes disenfranchised as a result.

Now as then, Wahhabism's use as a catch-all term erases the motives of broad and disparate groups seeking redress for local discontentment caused by the colonial/imperialist activities of the powers-that-be, in favour of an official perspective, eagerly lapped up by invested media and pseudo-academic supporters, that conveniently presents a coherent, coordinated and globally conspiratorial network of ideologically driven violence and hate. 'The Wahhabis are coming,' just as the 'Commies' once were.

M. Reza Pirbhai is an assistant professor of history at Louisiana State University.