Scarcely a day goes by anymore without some cocksure Israeli cabinet member or loudmouthed American “diplomat” sounding the alarm that Iran is covertly trying to develop nuclear weapons. We hear ominous warnings that the Western world will suddenly be at risk of complete annihilation by those crazy Ayatollahs, should they succeed in their quest to develop the bomb. “No one will be safe!” they cry, “Because, in addition to being hell-bent on incinerating Israel in a nuclear holocaust, those lunatic Iranians might even launch nuclear strikes against other Western countries! We have to crush and kill the Iranians right now, before they finish building their bombs – even if that means making the United States the single most despised country in the world.”
What is extremely interesting, however, is that none of the pundits, Knesset members, presidents, congressman, or foreign lobbyists ever bother to tell us how they know that Iran is trying to build a bomb in the first place. They don’t bother to do this, quite frankly, because there is absolutely no evidence that the Iranians are trying to build nuclear weapons. The International Atomic Energy Commission, which is charged with monitoring Iran’s nuclear activities (and to which the Iranians voluntarily submit, unlike the Israelis), has adduced not one shred of evidence that Iran has diverted any uranium for any non-civilian purposes. Not one of the 16 American intelligence agencies has adduced any evidence whatsoever that the Iranians have restarted their nuclear weapon program after having voluntarily halted it in 2003. Not a single person in the whole world has adduced any evidence that the Iranians have acquired the technological know-how to be able to build a nuclear weapon, and some prominent people even doubt that they could ever acquire the know-how, even if they wanted to.
In other words, the members of the political class in the United States and Israel once again feel free to make fantastic and terrifying claims about a Middle Eastern government in order to convince us of the need to invade and kill more people who have not attacked us. This time, however, the political class hasn’t even given us the courtesy of manufacturing a false trail of evidence in order to convince us of their claims. The political classes’ contempt for the American and Israeli citizenry is apparently so overweening this time around that they haven’t even deigned to cook up a few juicy lies about, say, aluminum tubes, to substantiate their allegations of Iran’s intention to develop and use nuclear weapons.
The political class in America has apparently learned its lesson from the reign of George II when it comes to fabricating evidence to induce needless wars. Serving up false evidence can get a politician into trouble if it looks like he is intentionally trying to mislead the public into dying and killing for pointless or idiotic reasons. Given this, why risk fabricating evidence if you don’t have to? If your electorate is stupid or gullible enough to believe anything you, a lying politician, say, why not simply omit evidence altogether? Far better is to simply make fantastic and unsubstantiated claims today, and, when those claims inevitably get exposed as utterly false at some point in the future, simply assert that “everyone” thought they were true. The American public is not asking for any evidence of Iranian ambitions to produce nuclear weapons, so why go out of your way to supply it to them?
Without a trail of traceable lies and false evidence there is no way to indict any specific politician. In fact, the politicians involved in this sort of underhanded manipulation can use the exposure of the truth to their advantage as well. For, once exposed, they can wring their hands and publicly lament that “everyone” was misled so badly. “Woe is us!” they will cry out, “We were all misled! This just proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that we need to spend more tax money on intelligence gathering to avoid this kind of mistake in the future” However, don’t expect them to explain how “everyone” got the erroneous idea into their heads in the first place, and don’t expect them to use the opportunity to end the pointless and murderous war they have already started. Most of all, don’t expect them to apologize for all the dead American soldiers and foreign civilians that their war will produce.
The emergence of this form of evidence-free war rationalization is an ominous sign, because politicians only pull this chicanery if they think they can get away with it. In any sane and reasonable nation, politicians know that there must be compelling and explicit reasons for people to send their children abroad in order to kill and die. Politicians in reasonable nations who are contemplating blowing up lives, fortunes and foreign people feel obligated to provide evidence to their own people that they must sacrifice and suffer for some good reason. That the current gaggle of politicians in Washington is providing no such evidence while still threatening to attack Iran, means that politicians believe that the American people are gullible, stupid or indifferent almost to the point of insanity. And it looks as though they are right. To not demand evidence of grave, imminent and real harm before going off to kill and die means that American soldiers are blindingly obedient to the point of being without conscience and without brains. To have no moral objection in invading a foreign nation that has never attacked you and has no intention of attacking you, on the basis of no evidence whatsoever, is not only morally reprehensible beyond comprehension, but a sign that the most Americans are in fact just as stupid and gullible as the politicians are hoping.
I wouldn’t hold my breath for any evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons in order to justify a new war in the Middle East. The lesson’s been learned: faked evidence will only get you into trouble, and real evidence…well, there isn’t any.
Mark R. Crovelli [send him mail] writes from Denver, Colorado.
As more people recognize that the “peace process” has come to an unbridgeable impasse, there is debate. Some, especially those who prospered from the path of failed negotiations, argue that there is no alternative to continuing with the US-brokered “peace process.” Others intimate that a third intifada might be the solution and there have even been warnings of regional war. Others still suggest the Arab states should withdraw their eight-year old Arab Peace Initiative.
Neither war, nor an intifada — in the sense of a violent Palestinian response to Israel’s unrelenting violent aggression — are the only alternatives. Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, recognized by foreign powers as the head of the Palestinian Authority, has constantly expressed strong opposition to any armed resistance against the occupier, and has frequently condemned and ridiculed resistance. And, after ignoring them for years, Abbas and his colleagues have lately started to endorse and even associate themselves with the nonviolent struggle of Palestinians in the West Bank, which are always met with Israeli aggression and brutality.
This however is not the only kind of nonviolence I see as a possible alternative: there is also a political option. It is important to recognize first that all efforts to settle the century-old conflict caused by the Zionist invasion of Palestine have failed because they were unjust, arbitrary, distant from legality, and did nothing to right fundamental wrongs.
A new political strategy would involve recognizing this basic shortcoming and demand a return to legality, in effect a return to the days before the 1991 Madrid Conference which launched the past two decades of futile “negotiations” and accelerated Israeli colonization.
The Arab States, including the Palestinians, could demand full implementation of Security Council Resolution 242 in the same manner as it was implemented on the Egyptian side leading to the total evacuation of all the Egyptian occupied territories including the removal of all illegally-built settlements on Egyptian soil. This significant precedent should apply to Syria’s occupied lands as well.
All the dubious formulas of Oslo, the Quartet, the Roadmap, Annapolis and the many other understandings should be dropped. The two-state solution should be dropped, too. Once the occupation ends and the Palestinians recover their territory they have the right then to establish their state on it independently from any Israeli or other foreign intervention. A Palestinian state on part of their historic homeland is not an Israeli gift. It is a right Palestinians alone can decide to exercise, if they so choose.
The Arab states should insist on a comprehensive deal ending the struggle along such lines in its entirety. What applied to Sinai should exactly apply to the Syrian Golan Heights the West Bank including Jerusalem as the situation exactly was before the Israeli invasion on 5 June 1967. And as all Israeli settlements were removed from Sinai and Gaza they should be removed from the West Bank and the Golan Heights if international law is to be applied.
The Arab States should not withdraw their peace offer. They should only amend it in accordance with the exact requirements of international law. They should not declare war on Israel but they should instead unite in demanding international justice in the United Nations — not the Quartet — in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions. They should not negotiate with Israel except through the United Nations apparatus. They should suspend any dealings with Israel until Israel complies with international legality and until justice is realized.
The same should apply to the issue of Palestinian refugees, whom Israel bars from returning home in defiance of international law, justice and common practice because of its totally illegal and immoral position that they are not Jews. International law does not permit such blatant racist discrimination, and Arabs are within their rights to demand it end in accordance with the law.
Under the prevailing circumstances all this may sound unrealistic. Perhaps so, but it seems that achieving Palestinian rights via the path of endless, unprincipled negotiations, or working with the occupation itself, has proven even more unrealistic and counterproductive. If the total closure of the road towards peace is not going to turn into uncontrollable violence this should be seriously considered.
Continuing to negotiate with no purpose and no hope of progress with an intransigent Israel only leads to the degradation of the Palestinian and consequently Arab standing and dignity. It also provides a convenient cover for continued Israeli colonization and judaization of Palestinian and Arab lands.
It is high time to admit that the peace process is dead; that Israel has so far manipulated it to consolidate the gains of its aggression; that exploiting Palestinian weakness and official Arab incompetence can only deepen the mistrust and the radicalization of Arab masses; and that the continued neutralization of the UN system is a recipe for growing violence and terror worldwide.
Arabs should offer Israel a choice of either becoming part of the region by respecting international law and implementing UN resolutions — which would also guarantee whatever legitimate rights and concerns Israelis have — or continuing in isolation if it chooses rejection, racism and intransigence.
Of course such Arab positions would be labeled as “radical” and “hard line.” The answer to that is simple: it is Israel’s insistence on its racist character and its defiance of the law that is radical, hardline and aggressive. Palestinian and Arab insistence on the implementation of UN resolutions that reflect a world consensus and universal rights could not be more moderate or reasonable.
Hasan Abu Nimah is the former permanent representative of Jordan at the United Nations.
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The New START Deal
When the two largest holders of nuclear weapons sign treaties reducing their lethal stockpile, the optimist might have reason to crow. Another step taken to rid the world of various, fabulously terrifying weapons. US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev have penned their signatures to yet another document in the Prague – a new START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty). According to the American president, the treaty will slash U.S. and Russian nuclear warheads by 25 to 30 percent. A limit will be placed on launchers (800), and nuclear-armed missiles and heavy bombers capped to 200 each.
There is little doubt where this is going. The Obama administration is keen to establish its disarmament, and importantly, non-proliferation credentials. In May, the government is set to argue at the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference that the NPT needs a good insertion of teeth. The US Senate will then have to be convinced that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is worth their time ratifying. But this, in the vast scheme of things, is an elaborate smokescreen.
A few cruel realities remain in this game of charades we saw unfold at Prague. Such reductions simply look like trimming and weight loss programs for ungainly military beasts. Fat is being cut from these creatures in the hope of making them leaner and fitter in the task of killing. Modern technologies are being harnessed on both sides that do little for the confidence of the jaded peace activist. Money is being channelled into laboratories to ensure the ‘efficiency’ of current and future arsenals.
Fundamental to this strategy is a re-orientation of US goals in any future use of massive conventional force termed the Prompt Global Strike program. (PGS, in military nomenclature, is the capability to strike at any point within an hour of authorised launch.) Congress was already being teased with the idea in 2006, when the Pentagon, with the blessing of STRATCOM Commander, General James Cartwright, attempted wooing politicians with the idea of a Trident missile capability based on non-nuclear warheads. But the defense establishment would have to bide their time – Congress wasn’t quite ready to fall out of love with the nuclear option.
The Pentagon’s current drive to develop ballistic weapons that will neatly fill any notable gaps left by a reduction of nuclear weaponry is very much in evidence. Sceptics within the security establishment are being converted. The cut backs on nuclear weapons will be simply replaced by an arsenal of missiles armed with conventional warheads. The Russians, on this score, are justifiably worried. In the words of a pensive Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, ‘World states will hardly accept a situation in which nuclear weapons disappear, but weapons that are no less destabilising emerge in the hands of certain members of the international community.’
Ultimately, the only way one can trash the stockpile is by trashing the very idea of deterrence. Now that is a far more formidable proposition, and something activists and policy makers should tackle. No one can prove that deterrence has worked. But nor can it be shown that it has failed. A nonsensical expression such as the ‘The Long Peace’ (a term coined for the Cold War), was premised on that very assumption. The fear now is that nuclear weapons might well be phased out (a problematic assertion in itself) in favour of a mighty conventional deterrent. And so, we come full circle, paving the way for another arms race, and yet another escalation in the name of peace and security.
Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Anat Kamm Affair
Israeli forces have extrajudicially executed hundreds of Palestinians during the past several years. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)
Next week 23-year-old Anat Kamm is due to stand trial for her life — or rather the state’s demand that she serve a life sentence for passing secret documents to an Israeli reporter, Uri Blau, of the liberal Haaretz daily. She is charged with spying.
Blau himself is in hiding in London, facing, if not a Mossad hit squad, at least the stringent efforts of Israel’s security services to get him back to Israel over the opposition of his editors, who fear he will be put away too.
This episode has been dragging on behind the scenes for months, since at least December, when Kamm was placed under house arrest pending the trial.
Not a word about the case leaked in Israel until this week when the security services, who had won from the courts a blanket gag order — a gag on the gag, so to speak — were forced to reverse course when foreign bloggers began making the restrictions futile. Hebrew pages on Facebook had already laid out the bare bones of the story.
So, now that much of the case is out in the light, what are the crimes committed by Kamm and Blau?
During her conscription, Kamm copied possibly hundreds of army documents that revealed systematic law-breaking by the Israeli high command operating in the occupied Palestinian territories, including orders to ignore court rulings. She was working at the time in the office of Brig Gen Yair Naveh, who is in charge of operations in the West Bank.
Blau’s crime is that he published a series of scoops based on her leaked information that have highly embarrassed senior Israeli officers by showing their contempt for the rule of law.
His reports included revelations that the senior command had approved targeting Palestinian bystanders during the military’s extra-judicial assassinations in the occupied territories; that, in violation of a commitment to the high court, the army had issued orders to execute wanted Palestinians even if they could be safely apprehended; and that the defence ministry had a compiled a secret report showing that the great majority of settlements in the West Bank were illegal even under Israeli law (all are illegal in international law).
In a properly democratic country, Kamm would have an honorable defence against the charges, of being a whistle-blower rather than a spy, and Blau would be winning journalism prizes not huddling away in exile.
But this is Israel. Here, despite a desperate last-stand for the principles of free speech and the rule of law in the pages of the Haaretz newspaper today, which is itself in the firing line over its role, there is almost no public sympathy for Kamm or even Blau.
The pair are already being described, both by officials and in chat forums and talkback columns, as traitors who should be jailed, disappeared or executed for the crime of endangering the state.
The telling comparison being made is to Mordechai Vanunu, the former technician at the Dimona nuclear plant who exposed Israel’s secret nuclear arsenal. Inside Israel, he is universally reviled to this day, having spent nearly two decades in harsh confinement. He is still under a loose house arrest, denied the chance to leave the country.
Blau and Kamm have every reason to be worried they may share a similar fate. Yuval Diskin, the head of the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret police, which has been leading the investigation, said yesterday that they had been too “sensitive to the media world” in pursuing the case for so long and that the Shin Bet would now “remove its gloves”.
Maybe that explains why Kamm’s home address was still visible on the charge sheet published yesterday, putting her life in danger from one of those crazed talkbackers.
It certainly echoes warnings we have had before from the Shin Bet about how it operates.
Much like Blau, Azmi Bishara, once head of a leading Arab party in Israel, is today living in exile after the Shin Bet put him in their sights. He had been campaigning for democratic reforms that would make Israel a “state of all its citizens” rather than a Jewish state.
While he was abroad in 2007, the Shin Bet announced that he would be put on trial for treason when he returned, supposedly because he had had contacts with Hizbullah during Israel’s attack on Lebanon in 2006.
Few experts believe Bishara could have had any useful information for Hizbullah, but the Shin Bet’s goals and modus operandi were revealed later by Diskin in a letter on its attitude to Bishara and his democratisation campaign. The Shin Bet was there, he said, to thwart the activities of groups or individuals who threatened the state’s Jewish character “even if such activity is sanctioned by the law”.
Diskin called this the principle of “a democracy defending itself” when it was really a case of Jewish leaders in a state based on Jewish privilege protecting those privileges. This time it is about the leaders of Israel’s massive security industry protecting their privileges in a security state by silencing witnesses to their crimes and keeping ordinary citizens in ignorance.
Justifying his decision to “take the gloves off” in the case of Kamm and Blau, Diskin said: “It is a dream of every enemy state to get its hands on these kinds of documents” — that is, documents proving that the Israeli army has repeatedly broken the country’s laws, in addition, of course, to its systematic violations of international law.
Diskin claims that national security has been put at risk, even though the reports Blau based on the documents — and even the documents themselves — were presented to, and approved by, the military censor for publication. The censor can restrict publication based only on national security concerns, unlike Diskin, the army senior command and the government, who obey other kinds of concerns.
Diskin knows there is every chance he will get away with his ploy because of a brainwashed Israeli public, a largely patriotic media and a supine judiciary.
The two judges who oversaw the months of gagging orders to silence any press discussion of this case did so on the say-so of the Shin Bet that there were vital national security issues at stake. Both judges are stalwarts of Israel’s enormous security industry.
Einat Ron was appointed a civilian judge in 2007 after working her way up the ranks of the military legal establishment, there to give a legal gloss to the occupation. Notoriously in 2003, when she was the chief military prosecutor, she secretly proposed various fabrications to the army so that it could cover up the killing of an 11-year-old Palestinian boy, Khalil al-Mughrabi, two years earlier. Her role only came to light because a secret report into the boy’s death was mistakenly attached to the army’s letter to an Israeli human rights group.
The other judge is Ze’ev Hammer, who finally overturned the gag order this week — but only after a former supreme court judge, Dalia Dorner, now the head of Israel’s Press Council, belatedly heaped scorn on it. She argued that, with so much discussion of the case outside Israel, the world was getting the impression that Israel flouted democratic norms.
Judge Hammer has his own distinguished place in Israel’s security industry, according to Israeli analyst Dimi Reider. During his eight years of legal study, Hammer worked for both the Shin Bet and Israel’s Mossad spy agency.
Judge Hammer and Judge Ron are deeply implicated in the same criminal outfit — the Israeli security establishment — that is now trying to cover up the tracks that lead directly to its door. Kamm is doubtless wondering what similar vested interests the judges who hear her case next week will not be declaring.
Writing in Haaretz today, Blau said he had been warned “that if I return to Israel I could be silenced for ever, and that I would be charged for crimes related to espionage”. He concluded that “this isn’t only a war for my personal freedom but for Israel’s image”.
He should leave worrying about Israel’s image to Netanyahu, Diskin and judges like Dorner. That was why the gag order was enforced in the first place. This is not a battle for Israel’s image; it’s a battle for what is left of its soul.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel.
Witnesses identified the two as Muhammad Abdul Raouf Al-Muhtaseb and Rushdi Al-Muhtaseb, both 19, and said soldiers looked on as settlers attacked the men and did nothing to interfere.
On 31 March a similar incident was reported, with A’teiyah Yousef Maswada, 31, transferred to hospital following an attack by some 10 settlers outside of the mosque.
Palestinian police reported the attack, and eyewitnesses including Christian Peacemaker Teams corroborated the account, with Israeli police unavailable for comment by phone.
Shopkeepers in the area said the man was en route to the Ibrahimi Mosque when he was assaulted, and was described as having a bloody face, CPT reported, noting that witnesses said the man did not go to the hospital. By the time Israeli police arrived on the scene, the CPT observer noted, shopkeepers said the settlers had fled.
Lack of Missile Defense Consensus Means Deal Could Fall Apart at Any Moment
Much has been made of the signing of the new nuclear disarmament treaty signed by Presidents Obama and Medvedev, an ambitious plan to reduce the number of nuclear warheads in the US and Russian arsenals. But the treaty seems to be on an extremely shaky foundation, and the prospect that it will survive over the long term seems uncertain at best.
Russia today reiterated their concerns over the US missile defense shield, and warned again that it could “derail” the treaty. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov insisted that they could “opt-out” of the treaty at any time if they become too uncomfortable with the US installing of defensive missiles along their border.
The final draft of the treaty contains no mention of missile defense at all, something which the Obama Administration has spun as a major victory but which may in reality be a major hole in the treaty, a lack of comprehensiveness that could make it short-lived.
Keeping the missile defense unmentioned is particularly important as the Obama Administration struggles to win ratification of the treaty in the Senate, which will require a two-thirds majority and is already seeing some vocal opposition.
Russia and the US have been clashing over America’s missile defense plans for several years now, and the finalization of the treaty, which was supposed to come last year, was delayed for many months by the inability to reach a consensus. Finally the matter was just “dropped” so a pact could be reached.
So the treaty is signed now, but the major stumbling block is still there. Barring a future understanding on the issue, something neither side appears to be working particularly hard on, missile defense will remain an issue that must inevitably render the treaty untenable.
By Alan Bock | April 09, 2010
Most of the other hypotheses don’t seem to make much sense, so I’m starting to approach the tentative conclusion that Barack Obama is just not that smart. It should hardly come as a surprise. He undoubtedly has an IQ slightly higher than normal or he wouldn’t have made it through college and law school (though it might be interesting to see his transcripts, which to my knowledge he hasn’t released yet). But in retrospect what he seems to have displayed throughout his career is cunning rather than anything resembling real learning.
This would hardly be unique among American presidents, and in fact there are some who argue that high intellect and/or book-learnin’ are not only seldom to be seen in the presidency but perhaps not especially desirable. President Clinton was obviously an engaged policy wonk with what one suspects is a pretty high IQ and a degree of intellectual curiosity. George W. Bush was not quite the dunce some made him out to be, but one would be hard pressed to find evidence of intellectual curiosity, a philosophy of governance formed by much deep thinking, a willingness to dig into policy details, or a capacity to learn much from either study or experience.
Barack Obama has obviously been extremely ambitious for a long time; perhaps he has had the presidency in mind since early college days. So he has been alert to the main chance, aware of the kinds of alliances he ought to make, aware that a sensitive autobiography would make him look special in the eyes of the easily duped intellectuals of our fading empire, aware of how to present himself as a multicultural black man. But his reputation for being really smart is belied by so many of his actions.
What has me going this time is not health care, though there’s plenty of evidence there, but Afghanistan. His recent visit there cemented this war as “his” war. But the war makes so little sense that you would think almost any reasonably intelligent person – I suspect he didn’t take any international relations classes in college, and he certainly has not shown any special interest in that field heretofore, so maybe that’s a mitigating factor – would have been able to figure it out.
The official line about keeping al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan is obviously absurd; al-Qaeda hasn’t been there since 2002. He has to know – doesn’t he? – that the Taliban is an indigenous Afghan outfit without international ambitions, so while a takeover would be sad for many Afghans, it would have few if any international repercussions. He is obviously aware enough that Karzai is a corrupt tool, and uncooperative to boot, that it annoys him. So why does he insist on maintaining a U.S. presence in the Graveyard of Empires?
What are the possibilities? Does he really want to preside over the fall of the American Empire? Is he so deluded as to think we can bring a semblance of democracy, stability, or semi-decent governance in the next 15 months or so? Is he just cunning enough to realize that historians tend to rank American presidents who have presided over wars as “greater” than those who presided over peaceful periods?
I’m coming to think that maybe he’s just not that smart… Full article
Kyrgyzstan’s new leaders have said they intend to remove a US military base, which currently serves as the premier air mobility hub for the US-led forces in Afghanistan, from their soil.
The interim government led by ex-foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva, has said it wants the US base, Manas, closed down for security reasons. The remarks came amid growing uncertainty over whether the new Kyrgyz authorities would allow the US to use the base.
Russia, which itself maintains an air base at Kant, just 20 miles from Manas, has been keen to block US military presence in the region. Moscow has been increasingly concerned about US military’s prolonged presence in the geo-strategically important Region.
This is while the opposition has taken power and dissolved the parliament. Otunbayeva has promised a new constitution and a presidential election at some point in the next six months. She says a care-taker government will serve as both presidency and parliament for now.
The ousted president Kurmanbek Bakiyev has refused oppositions demands to resign. Meanwhile, protestors in the capital Bishkek have demolished and burned the house of the toppled president.
The opposition claims to be in full control of the capital, the armed forces and the media. Earlier, the interim government allowed police to use firearms and shoot looters across the Kyrgyz capital. Wednesday’s unrest that toppled the government claimed at least 75 lives with over 1000 others injured.