Peter Oborne writes in the Telegraph about how the EU3 violated the Paris Agreement with Iran under US pressure in 2005, and thus missed a chance to make peace with Tehran:
One witness puts the problem like this: “There was not the faintest chance that President George W Bush’s Republican advisers and Israeli allies would allow him to look benignly on such a deal. On the contrary, if the Europeans were to defy American wishes, they would be letting themselves in for a transatlantic row to end all rows…
So the peace proposal from the Iranian negotiators was killed stone dead even though the European negotiating team realised that it was both very well judged and in full conformity with international law.
Of course when Iran then ended the 3 year voluntary suspension of enrichment that accompanied the talks, the EU3 accused Iran of “violating the Paris Agreement.”
Oh and incidentally, earlier in 2003 an Iranian peace offer made to the US was similarly spurned.
So what does Peter Osborn think was really going on?
The answer is that a different agenda is at work, which we believe has little or nothing to do with Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons. The US and its European clients are driven by a different compulsion: the humiliation and eventual destruction of Iran’s Islamic regime.
And this also corresponds to former IAEA head ElBaradei’s conclusions:
They weren’t interested in a compromise with the government in Tehran, but regime change – by any means necessary.
So remember that the next time the corporate media matter-of-factly declares “The goal of these sanctions is to support diplomatic efforts to peacefully resolve the disagreements with Iran without having to resort to violent means.”
It’s a sign of how well relentless propagandizing works that Joe Stiglitz has to devote a lengthy op-ed in the New York Times to debunking the idea that our income tax system, whose salient characteristic is low tax burdens for the rich, is good for anyone other than the rich. Economists have increasingly taken note of the fact that the U.S. experiment in lowering taxes produced the opposite of the outcomes that were claimed for it, namely, spurring growth and increasing incomes in all cohorts (the barmy “trickle down” theory). Cross-country comparisons show that advanced economies with higher growth rates, like Germany, typically tax their wealthy more, showing that high taxes on the rich are not a negative for growth. Instead, giving tax breaks to the rich has turbo-charged rentier capitalism:
Remember, the low tax rates at the top were supposed to spur savings and hard work, and thus economic growth. They didn’t. Indeed, the household savings rate fell to a record level of near zero after President George W. Bush’s two rounds of cuts, in 2001 and 2003, on taxes on dividends and capital gains. What low tax rates at the top did do was increase the return on rent-seeking. It flourished, which meant that growth slowed and inequality grew. This is a pattern that has now been observed across countries. Contrary to the warnings of those who want to preserve their privileges, countries that have increased their top tax bracket have not grown more slowly. Another piece of evidence is here at home: if the efforts at the top were resulting in our entire economic engine’s doing better, we would expect everyone to benefit. If they were engaged in rent-seeking, as their incomes increased, we’d expect that of others to decrease. And that’s exactly what’s been happening. Incomes in the middle, and even the bottom, have been stagnating or falling.
Stiglitz provides a compelling summary of how the rich get favored treatment:
The richest 400 individual taxpayers, with an average income of more than $200 million, pay less than 20 percent of their income in taxes – far lower than mere millionaires, who pay about 25 percent of their income in taxes, and about the same as those earning a mere $200,000 to $500,000. And in 2009, 116 of the top 400 earners – almost a third – paid less than 15 percent of their income in taxes….
With such low effective tax rates – and, importantly, the low tax rate of 20 percent on income from capital gains – it’s not a huge surprise that the share of income going to the top 1 percent has doubled since 1979, and that the share going to the top 0.1 percent has almost tripled, according to the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez. Recall that the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans own about 40 percent of the nation’s wealth, and the picture becomes even more disturbing.
Stiglitz points out that not only are our tax rates on top earners strikingly low by OECD standards, but the income level at which they kick in are also higher than in most other advanced economies. And that is before you factor in that the rich for the most part don’t make their money through income but capital gains, which are taxed at lower rates. That preferable treatment has been exploited flagrantly by the hedge fund and private equity industries, which have been able to structure their funds so that the overwhelming majority of the income they get from managing the funds, which is labor income, is taxed at capital gains rates. And the worst is that the Masters of the Universe act as if that is perfectly reasonable. Stiglitz objects:
Some Wall Street financiers are able to pay taxes at lower capital gains tax rates on income that comes from managing assets for private equity funds or hedge funds. But why should managing financial assets be treated any differently from managing people, or making discoveries? Of course, those in finance say they are essential. But so are doctors, lawyers, teachers and everyone else who contributes to making our complex society work. They say they are necessary for job creation. But in fact, many of the private equity firms that have excelled in exploiting the carried interest loophole are actually job destroyers; they excel in restructuring firms to “save” on labor costs, often by moving jobs abroad.
And then the good professor turns to corporate tax breaks, citing poster child GE, which has paid on average less than 2% of its income in taxes since 2002. The picture is likely even worse than these figures suggest since corporations and wealthy individuals can hide income tax havens. … Full article
The U.S. government views itself as the global arbiter of human rights, righteously throwing stones at other nations for their misbehavior and most recently imposing sanctions on a group of Russians accused of human rights crimes. That move prompted a tit-for-tat response from Moscow, barring 18 current and former U.S. officials from entering Russia.
The predictable response from the U.S. news media to the Russian retaliation was to liken it to the Cold War days when the United States would catch a Soviet spy and Moscow would retaliate by grabbing an American and arranging a swap.
But several of the Americans targeted by Moscow this time were clearly guilty of human rights crimes. John Yoo and David Addington were former legal advisers to President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, respectively. The two lawyers were famous for inventing new excuses for torture. Two other Americans on Moscow’s list – Major General Geoffrey D. Miller and Rear Admiral Jeffrey Harbeson – commanded the extralegal detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In particular, Yoo and Addington stand out as smug apologists for torture who twisted law and logic to justify waterboarding, painful stress positions, forced nudity, sleep deprivation and other techniques that have been historically defined as torture. In a society that truly respected human rights, they would have been held accountable – along with other practitioners of the “dark side” – but instead have been allowed to walk free and carry on their professional lives almost as if nothing had happened.
The Russians were polite enough only to include on the list these mid-level torture advocates and enablers (as well as some prosecutors who have led legal cases against Russian nationals). They left off the list many culpable former senior officials, such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, CIA Director George Tenet, Cheney and Bush. Obviously, the Russian government didn’t want an escalation.
It’s also undeniably true that Moscow does not come to the human rights issue with clean hands. But neither does the United States, a country that for generations has taken pride in its role as the supposed beacon of human rights, the rule of law, and democratic principles.
Acting as a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Tribunals after World War II, Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson famously denied that punishing the Nazi leaders as war criminals was simply victor’s justice. He insisted that the same principles would apply to the nations sitting in judgment, including the United States and the Soviet Union. However, that has turned out not to be the case.
The real principles of today’s international law could be described as dragging petty warlords from Africa or Eastern Europe off to The Hague for prosecution by the International Criminal Court, while letting leaders of the Big Powers – with far more blood on their hands – off the hook. Jackson’s “universal principles” of human rights now only apply to the relatively weak.
A History of Double Standards
Of course, one could argue that double and triple standards have always been the way of the world. What often seems to really matter is who has the most powerful friends, the best P.R. team, and the greatest number of “news” organizations in their pocket. Plus, lots of cognitive dissonance helps, too.
For instance, you must forget the role of the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman, the Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt and other mainstream media stars in rallying the American people to get behind the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2002-2003 – when the same pundits now fold their arms in disgust at some other nation’s violation of international law.
It’s also handy if you can forget much of American history. You can fondly recall the stirring words about liberty from the Founding Fathers, but it’s best to forget that many owned African-Americans as slaves and that their lust for territorial expansion led them and their descendants to wage a cruel genocide against Native Americans.
There also were the repeated military interventions in Latin America and the brutal counterinsurgency campaign in the Philippines (which applied some of the same tactics that the U.S. military had perfected in crushing uprisings by Native Americans). Then, there were the militarily unnecessary atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the mass slaughters in Indochina in the 1960s and 1970s; and the “death squad” operations in South and Central America in the 1970s and 1980s.
One can trace a direct correlation from American sayings like “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” in the 19th Century to “kill them all and let God sort them out” in the 20th Century. And U.S. respect for human rights hasn’t improved much in the new century with George W. Bush’s “war on terror” and his invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and with Barack Obama’s extrajudicial killings by drone attacks.
So, when the United States strides from its glass house to hurl stones at Russians over repression in Chechnya, it’s not at all surprising that the Russians would return the volley by singling out some of the Americans clearly implicated in war crimes under George W. Bush. The only real question is why did the Russians stop with a handful of apparatchiks? Probably they didn’t want to escalate this exchange of Big Power hypocrisies.
The hard truth is that if the United States had a functioning criminal justice system for the powerful – not just for run-of-the-mill offenders – former Vice President Cheney and ex-President Bush would have convicted themselves with their own public comments defending their use of torture.
For instance, in February 2010, on ABC’s “This Week,” Cheney pronounced himself “a big supporter of waterboarding,” a near-drowning technique that has been regarded as torture back to the Spanish Inquisition and that has long been treated by U.S. authorities as a serious war crime, such as when Japanese commanders were prosecuted for using it on American prisoners during World War II.
Cheney was unrepentant about his support for the technique. He answered with an emphatic “yes” when asked if he had opposed the Bush administration’s decision to suspend the use of waterboarding. He added that waterboarding should still be “on the table” today.
Admitting the Sham
But Cheney went further. Speaking with a sense of legal impunity, he casually negated a key line of defense that senior Bush officials had hidden behind for years – that the brutal interrogations were okayed by independent Justice Department legal experts who gave the administration a legitimate reason to believe the actions were within the law.
However, in the interview, Cheney acknowledged that the White House had told the Justice Department lawyers what legal opinions to render. In other words, the opinions amounted to ordered-up lawyering to permit the administration to do whatever it wanted.
In responding to a question about why he had so harshly attacked President Obama’s counterterrorism policies, Cheney explained that he was concerned about the new administration prosecuting some CIA operatives who had handled the interrogations and “disbarring lawyers with the Justice Department who had helped us put those policies together. … I thought it was important for some senior person in the administration to stand up and defend those people who’d done what we asked them to do.”
Cheney’s comment about the Justice lawyers who had “done what we asked them to do” was an apparent reference to John Yoo and his boss, Jay Bybee, at the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), a powerful Justice Department agency that advises the President on the limits of his power.
In 2002, Yoo – while working closely with White House officials – drafted legal memos that permitted waterboarding and other brutal techniques by narrowly defining torture. He also authored legal opinions that asserted virtual dictatorial powers for a President during war, even one as vaguely defined as the “war on terror.” Yoo’s key memos were then signed by Bybee.
In 2003, after Yoo left to be a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and Bybee was elevated to a federal appeals court judgeship in San Francisco, their successors withdrew the memos because of the sloppy scholarship. However, in 2005, President George W. Bush appointed a new acting chief of the OLC, Steven Bradbury, who restored many of the Yoo-Bybee opinions.
In the years that followed, Bush administration officials repeatedly cited the Yoo-Bybee-Bradbury legal guidance when insisting that the “enhanced interrogation” of “war on terror” detainees – as well as prisoners from the Iraq and Afghan wars – did not cross the line into torture.
In essence, the Bush-Cheney defense was that the OLC lawyers offered honest opinions and that everyone from the President and Vice President, who approved use of the interrogation techniques, down to the CIA interrogators, who conducted the torture, operated in good faith.
If, however, that narrative is indeed false – if the lawyers had colluded with the policymakers to create legal excuses for criminal acts – then the Bush-Cheney defense would collapse. Rather than diligent lawyers providing professional advice, the picture would be of Mob consiglieres counseling crime bosses how to skirt the law.
Hand in Glove
Though Bush administration defenders have long denied that the legal opinions were cooked, the evidence has long supported the conspiratorial interpretation. For instance, in his 2006 book War by Other Means, Yoo himself described his involvement in frequent White House meetings regarding what “other means” should receive a legal stamp of approval. Yoo wrote:
“As the White House held its procession of Christmas parties and receptions in December 2001, senior lawyers from the Attorney General’s office, the White House counsel’s office, the Departments of State and Defense and the NSC [National Security Council] met a few floors away to discuss the work on our opinion. … This group of lawyers would meet repeatedly over the next months to develop policy on the war on terrorism.”
Yoo said meetings were usually chaired by Alberto Gonzales, who was then White House counsel and later became Bush’s second Attorney General. Yoo identified other key players as Timothy Flanigan, Gonzales’s deputy; William Howard Taft IV from State; John Bellinger from the NSC; William “Jim” Haynes from the Pentagon; and David Addington, counsel to Cheney.
In his book, Yoo described his work swatting down objections from the State Department’s lawyer and the Pentagon’s judge advocate generals – who feared that waiving the Geneva Conventions in the “war on terror” would endanger U.S. soldiers – Yoo stressed policy concerns, not legal logic.
“It was far from obvious that following the Geneva Conventions in the war against al-Qaeda would be wise,” Yoo wrote. “Our policy makers had to ask whether [compliance] would yield any benefit or act as a hindrance.”
What Yoo’s book and other evidence make clear is that the lawyers from the Justice Department’s OLC weren’t just legal scholars handing down opinions from an ivory tower; they were participants in how to make Bush’s desired actions “legal.” They were the lawyerly equivalents of those U.S. intelligence officials, who – in the words of the British “Downing Street Memo” – “fixed” the facts around Bush’s desire to invade Iraq.
In the case of waterboarding and other abusive interrogation tactics, Yoo and Bybee generated a memo, dated Aug. 1, 2002, that came up with a novel and narrow definition of torture, essentially lifting the language from an unrelated law regarding health benefits.
The Yoo-Bybee legal opinion stated that unless the amount of pain administered to a detainee led to injuries that might result in “death, organ failure, or serious impairment of body functions” then the interrogation technique could not be defined as torture. Since waterboarding is not intended to cause death or organ failure – only the panicked gag reflex associated with drowning – it was deemed not to be torture.
The “torture memo” and related legal opinions were considered so unprofessional that Bybee’s replacement to head the OLC, Jack Goldsmith, himself a conservative Republican, took the extraordinary step of withdrawing them after he was appointed in October 2003. However, Goldsmith was pushed out of his job after a confrontation with Cheney’s counsel Addington. Bradbury then enabled the Bush White House to reinstate many of the Yoo-Bybee opinions.
Cheney’s frank comments on “This Week” in 2010 – corroborating that Yoo and Bybee “had done what we asked them to do” – reflected the confidence that former Bush administration officials felt by then that they would face no accountability from the Obama administration for war crimes.
Surely, if a leader of another country had called himself “a big supporter of waterboarding,” there would have been a clamor for his immediate arrest and trial at The Hague. That Cheney felt he could speak so openly and with such impunity was a damning commentary on the rule of law in the United States, at least when it comes to the nation’s elites.
John Yoo apparently shares Cheney’s nonchalance about facing accountability. This weekend, when Yoo was asked about the Russians banning him as a human rights violator, he joked about the athletic skills of Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Darn,” Yoo wrote in an e-mail, “there goes my judo match with Putin.”
Perhaps the ultimate measure of America’s current standing as a promoter of human rights is that it’s difficult to judge which government is the bigger hypocrite: the one in Moscow or the one in Washington.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Finally, some sanity, and from a somewhat unexpected source. The ACLU is concerned about the civil liberties implications of the new Harry Reid Senate bill to establish so-called “universal background checks” for firearms purchases. The organization has tended toward silence on gun rights, but at least now it recognizes aspects of the problem with this terrible proposal.
Ever since Sandy Hook, the Obama administration and its progressive choir have demanded a new Assault Weapons Ban (AWB). Now it looks like that plan is toast. California Senator Dianne Feinstein blames gun owners and the NRA, and in a sense we should have expected all along that this proposal would get nowhere. Such a ban would mostly target “semi-automatic” rifles—which, despite all the hysterics, simply refers to any standard rifle that fires one round each time the trigger is pulled—that happen to have esthetic elements like the pistol grip that do not in fact add to the weapons’ lethality. This is the nonsensical standard used to ban some classes of weapons instrumentally identical to the ones banned in 1994.
The first AWB devastated the Democrats politically, and probably contributed as much as anything to the Republicans’ crushing victory in the 1994 congressional elections after forty years in the legislative minority. It also hurt Al Gore in his run against George W. Bush in 2000. The ban generally prohibited ordinary but scary looking rifles, which are used in about two percent of violent crimes committed with firearms. The law did not apply to, say, most of the weapons used at the Columbine school massacre in 1999. But it did interfere with Americans’ basic right to own what we can fairly call the modern version of the musket. Millions of Americans own such weapons like the AR-15, the most popular rifle and one targeted by the Democrats’ proposal for a new, robust AWB. These weapons are used for hunting, sport, and self-defense. They are not, despite all the misinformation to the contrary, repeating, military-style rifles.
In any event, the unpopularity of an AWB always doomed this proposal, especially under a Democratic president as distrusted on the right as Obama. The Republicans have the House and too many Democrats in the Senate are loyal to their gun-owning constituents.
So this whole time, the real threat to our firearms freedom has been these less debated, peripheral proposals—proposals that strip people the state deems “mentally ill” of the right to bear arms, proposals that violate the civil rights of released convicts, proposals to increase penalties for violations of current law, and, as disturbing as anything, proposals to institute “universal background checks.”
The gun restrictionists have pointed to polls showing more than 90% approval of such background checks, including among a vast majority of conservatives, Republicans, and gunowners. Liberty is always attacked on the margins, and most Americans don’t go to gun shows and so don’t see the big deal. Surely the state should know who is armed. Surely we don’t want people buying and selling guns freely.
But, in fact, universal background checks are arguably even more tyrannical than banning whole classes of weapons. Why should the government know who is armed? Why shouldn’t people be allowed to freely buy and sell private property without government permission? Half of Americans see background checks as the first step toward full registration then confiscation. Many fear that the new law would create records of these deals that would not immediately be destroyed, which could form databases or enable government in further nefarious purposes. The progressives have tended to regard any of these worries as paranoia, but it looks like the ACLU is now among the paranoid.
There is no need to discuss pure hypotheticals. There have been gun confiscations in the United States. After the Civil War, officials conducted confiscations to disarm American Indians and blacks became the target in the Jim Crow South. Confiscations followed Hurricane Katrina, along with the rest of the government’s martial law response. Since many gun controllers openly say they want a total ban of certain kinds of firearms, or all firearms, why wouldn’t gun owners fear that registration will lead to confiscation? The U.S. president promised that he would not take away Americans’ rifles, then went ahead and proceeded to propose to do just that. Add all of this to the database growth, the warrantless wiretapping, the domestic surveillance drones, the frightening executive power grabs concerning detention, interrogation, and executions, and the overall militarization of policing that has unfolded thanks to the wars on drugs and terror, and it seems fairly appropriate that in the age of Bush and Obama, civil libertarians of all stripes would resist the drive toward universal background checks or anything with such an Orwellian name as that.
This whole matter should also remind us of the interlocking nature of personal liberties. Abolishing the Second Amendment necessarily means abolishing the Fourth as well. Just ask the millions of black and Hispanic young men stopped and frisked in New York City in the name of gun control and with the purpose, as the police commissioner reportedly put it, to “instill fear” of police in these demographic groups. It is the violations of privacy that concern the ACLU, but anyone jealous of her security in her papers, persons, and effects should recoil at the thought of the state collecting these records.
Of course, it should go without saying that when it comes to criminal enterprise, universal background checks are unenforceable. In a country with as many guns as there are people, criminals and the state will always get the weapons they want. Firearms are easier to manufacture than many illegal drugs, and we see how well the state has stamped those out. The rapid developments in 3-D printing makes it even crazier that we’d still be talking about gun control as anything but a threat to the liberty of the law abiding.
The AWB looks defeated for now, but perhaps that was always known to be inevitable by our cynical civilian disarmament fetishists in Washington, DC. Perhaps the real goal was to get what could be gotten now—the beginnings of a national database of every lawful gun owner. The so-called gun show loophole—the freedom of owners to sell firearms to one another with few encumbrances—is a pocket of liberty. Closing this loophole would be a tragedy. We can only hope that civil libertarians across the spectrum ban together to challenge this march to erode these core freedoms.
- Gun poll: Most say background checks may bring confiscation (thehill.com)
- 4 More Ways Obama’s Gun Control Speech Sows Mistrust (reason.com)
The frontier between North and South Korea is the most militarized border in the world. There is, of course, another partitioned state in Asia, India-Pakistan, where each side possesses nuclear weapons and commands hundreds of thousands of soldiers. In Korea, though, the stakes are especially high because one of the belligerents is a superpower.
On the opposite side, the world’s most likely superpower-in-the-making, China, is North Korea’s only close ally. It’s not clear that China would intervene militarily in the North’s defense, but the possibility of such action raises the stakes of confrontation even higher. The last war on the Korean peninsula, from 1950 to 1953, pitted the same two outside powers against each other. The Korean War produced well over 2 million civilian casualties.
At various times in the past 20 years, the Pentagon has estimated that one million Korean civilians, divided evenly between North and South, would die in the first days of an all-out war. More than 25 million people live in metropolitan Seoul, South Korea’s capital. The Pentagon refers to the area as the “kill box.”
US military power is overwhelming, but North Korea does possess some deterrents. That’s why there would be casualties on both sides. Chief among the North’s deterrents may be its set of more than 10,000 artillery pieces, dug into the mountains, which could bombard Seoul with explosive, incendiary or chemical weapons. There is no evidence that the North is technically capable of delivering or detonating a nuclear weapon in the South, but the regime has worked in recent years to develop suitable delivery systems and to turn their unwieldy nuclear “devices” into bombs.
In the standard media representation, the rulers of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK — North Korea’s official name) are uniquely bellicose, unpredictable and irrational. Some would say “inscrutable” if that word weren’t obviously racist. George W. Bush was an obvious racist, of course, so he was true to form when he called the regime’s then-General Secretary Kim Jong-il a “pygmy.”
Despite the media’s befuddlement over the regime’s motivations and intentions, they aren’t difficult to figure out. They come through quite clearly at the English-language site of the Korean National News Agency (KCNA) once you figure out how to read through the froth and invective. American reporters and editors are inclined to dismiss the KCNA’s reports because they’re pretty sure that the US can’t be “imperialist” or “arrogant,” as the KCNA claims, and because they treat State Department and Pentagon sources as generally honest and reliable.
These credulous attitudes may arise from complacency, unthinking patriotism, or the job pressures inside the corporate media. In any case, US news outlets consistently produce egregious distortions when they cover the DPRK’s conflicts with the United States. Sometimes the accounts of North Korean actions are accurate enough. Often what makes the picture false is the misrepresentation — or simple omission — of US actions.
As a result, the picture of US-DPRK relations is topsy-turvy. Below, I discuss three points that the media usually get backwards.
1) North Korea nuclearized the peninsula with its bomb test of 2006.
Wrong. The US threatened the use of nuclear weapons in the Korean War of 1950-1953, and President Eisenhower installed an ongoing nuclear arsenal beginning in 1958. The weapons included missiles, bombs and artillery shells. F-4 fighter planes were on constant alert — armed only with nuclear bombs.
There were also portable “atomic demolition mines” (ADMs) that weighed just 60 pounds each. With an explosive yield equivalent to 20 kilotons of TNT, the mines were more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. Korea specialist Bruce Cumings writes:
The ADMs were moved around in Jeeps and placed by special teams who carried them in backpacks; meanwhile, US helicopters routinely flew nuclear weapons near the DMZ [the Demilitarized Zone, which divides North from South Korea].… Meanwhile, forward deployment of nuclear weapons bred a mentality of “use ‘em or lose ‘em”; even a small North Korean attack might be cause enough to use them, lest they fall into enemy hands.
President George H.W. Bush withdrew nuclear weapons from the peninsula in 1991 as a cost-free way to place the burden of disarmament on North Korea. The US, of course, was not disarming at all. The Gulf War had shown that the latest generation of “conventional” weapons could inflict suitably horrific damage, and besides, nuclear weapons would be ready-at-hand on offshore ships, submarines and planes.
2) North Korea is serial violator of the Armistice of 1953.
The DPRK regime declared on March 11 of this year that it was nullifying the armistice of 1953. Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations replied that the North could not nullify the agreement unilaterally. The UN is involved because the US fought the Korean War against North Korea and mainland China in the name of the UN. At the time, the anticommunist Taiwan government represented China on the Security Council — a fact that led the USSR to boycott the council. With mainland China excluded and the USSR boycotting, the war resolution passed without a veto.
The fighting ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, so the “UN coalition” is still technically at war with North Korea. I’m not sure why nobody mentions being at war with China, too.
The South Korean defense ministry declared in 2011 that North Korea had violated the armistice 221 times since 1953. This includes 26 claims of military attacks. Some of these attacks were serious, including a 2010 torpedo attack that killed 46 South Korean sailors and an artillery bombardment later in the same year that killed two South Korean marines and two civilians. In the first case, North Korea denies making the attack. In the second, the regime claims that South Korea shot first.
In fact, the regime often disputes accusations of violating the armistice, declaring that their actions were responses to violations by the US and South Korea. Unfortunately, nobody seems interested in keeping records about those violations. (If somebody finds a decent account, please let us know.)
The important thing to know about armistice violations is the big one: The US deployment of nuclear weapons violates an explicit ban on the introduction of “qualitatively new” weapons to Korea. The ban applies to the whole Korean “theater,” so offshore weapons are included. The US has thus committed a major violation of the Armistice continuously for 55 years.
This nuclear posture was known in the Cold War as a “first-strike” policy, since it licensed the use of nuclear weapons even without a nuclear provocation. The US renounced the first-strike option in the European theater but not in Korea. “The logic,” writes Bruce Cummings, “was that we dare not use nuclear weapons in Europe because the other side has them, but we could use them in Korea because it doesn’t.”
3) North Korea has violated the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
The world’s great powers came up with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968 as a way to maintain their monopoly on nuclear weapons. In the treaty, the nuclear states of that time — the US, Britain, France, the USSR and China — made a vague promise to negotiate their own disarmament in the future.
In order to induce non-nuclear states to sign, the treaty stipulated that nuclear-armed states would help the NPT’s non-nuclear members to develop nuclear power for peaceful uses such as energy production. As a further inducement, the nuclear-weapons states offered a side agreement (not in the NPT) in which they promised not to threaten non-nuclear signatories of the NPT with nuclear attack — or to carry out such attacks.
North Korea did not sign the NPT until 1985. At the time, the DPRK had a small reactor that produced plutonium waste and very little electricity. The Reagan administration feared that the waste could be stockpiled to make a weapon. The US encouraged Konstantin Chernenko, then premier of the USSR, to offer North Korea light-water reactors (LWRs), which produce no waste that can easily be converted into weapons-grade material. The energy-strapped DPRK accepted the deal and agreed to sign the NPT. This was the kind of quid pro quo that the treaty’s authors anticipated when they wrote it.
The USSR was crisis-ridden in the 1980s and dithered over construction of the four promised LWRs, which would have cost about $1 billion apiece. When the Soviet state collapsed in late 1991, the DPRK lost one of its two patrons — the other was China — and entered a decade of natural disaster, economic regression and famine.
With US technical help, and upon US insistence, the UN’s atomic agency (IAEA) began mandatory, intrusive inspections of the DPRK’s nuclear sites in 1992. Following the Gulf War of 1991, the US and the chief inspector of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Hans Blix, improvised a new regime of mandatory inspections backed by the threat of Security Council sanctions. Iraq, Iran and North Korea were the intended target of these “special inspections.” The NPT does not authorize any of this.
IAEA inspectors did surmise in 1992-1993 that North Korea had probably stockpiled a significant amount of plutonium. US intelligence operatives looked over the IAEA data and concluded that the hypothesized amount of stockpiled plutonium would be enough to construct one or two nuclear weapons, although they believed that the DPRK was as yet technically incapable of making the plutonium into bombs. These intelligence estimates gave rise to an oft-quoted “worst-case scenario” according to which North Korea already possessed two nuclear weapons in the 1990s.
Stockpiling plutonium may constitute a violation of the NPT, but if so, then Japan is many times more guilty than North Korea. With US approval, Japan has stored up enough plutonium to construct 5,000 warheads. Nevertheless, Japan’s nuclear sites have never been subject to UN “special inspections,” although the country’s nuclear safety record suggests that it wouldn’t be a bad idea.
North Korea declared Blix to be a stooge of the United States — which, of course, he was — and threatened to pull out of the NPT. Eventually, Clinton backed away from the crisis. He offered to provide the LWRs previously promised by the USSR in return for North Korea’s acceptance of further IAEA inspections. The deal was formally written up along with some other provisions, dubbed the “Agreed Framework,” and signed by both parties.
Like the USSR, the US never delivered the LWRs — never even broke ground on them. If we’re looking for violations of the NPT, that’s a clear one, since the NPT obligates nuclear-weapons states to help non-weapons states with nonmilitary nuclear projects.
The promise of LWRs may have been the part of the Agreed Framework that the Northern regime cared most about. For the entire time of its membership in the NPT, from 1985 to 2003, North Korea waited for assistance with nuclear electricity-production that never came. In Clinton’s second term, those who wanted to ridicule the DPRK began to point to nighttime satellite photos of East Asia that showed every country but North Korea lit up. They didn’t mention that the US played a role in turning out the lights.
Meanwhile, although the US had signed every updated version of its 1968 promise not to target non-nuclear-weapons states, Bill Clinton reaffirmed the first-strike policy against North Korea in 1993. After the Soviet Union collapsed, Clinton publicly approved the retargeting of ballistic missiles from Russia to North Korea.
In January 2002, George W. Bush named North Korea, Iraq and Iran as members of an “Axis of Evil.” Then in March, a leak of Bush’s “nuclear posture review” reconfirmed the US first-strike policy. By the fall, Bush was building up troops in the Middle East to overthrow the Iraqi government. Kim Jong-il had good reason to believe that his government would be next.
In January 2003, North Korea withdrew from the NPT. The treaty itself authorizes a members’ withdrawal when its sovereignty is threatened:
“Each Party shall in exercising its national sovereignty have the right to withdraw from the Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country.”
There’s no doubt that George W. Bush’s “global war on terror” qualified as a set of extraordinary events that jeopardized the DPRK’s supreme interests.
In 2010, Barack Obama confirmed once again that the US “nuclear posture” was to keep targeting North Korea. For North Korea and Iran, said Defense Secretary Robert Gates, “All options are on the table.” It’s a phrase that Obama has used many times since, and it suits his understated style: Threaten the maximum, but make it sound moderate.
 Bruce Cumings, Parallax Visions: Making Sense of American–East Asian Relations at the End of the Century (Duke University Press Books, 1999), 127-130.
 Ibid., 130.
 Ibid., 128.
 Ibid., 132.
 Don Oberdorfer, The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History (Rev. & upd. Basic Books, 2002), 245 and 289.
 For more detail on North Korea’s crisis, and on the imperial interests at play in Korea from 1985 to 2003, see my “What’s at stake in North Korea” in the International Socialist Review, March-April 2003. A PDF is available here.
 Oberdorfer, 276.
 Cumings, 142.
Secret Pentagon studies have cast serious doubt on the effectiveness of the US-planned multi-billion-dollar missile system in Europe, congressional investigators say.
The classified studies by the Missile Defense Agency were summarized in a briefing for lawmakers by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a congressional nonpartisan investigative body.
The GAO investigators said the briefing cast serious doubt on whether the system is capable of protecting Europe and US interests against potential missile attacks.
So far, the US has signed agreements for launching the missile system in Poland, Romania and Turkey.
The GAO briefing concluded that Romania was a poor location for an interceptor to protect the US interests.
The studies also expressed other concerns about the missile system, including production glitches, cost overruns as well as problems with radars and sensors that cannot distinguish between warheads and other objects.
Although military officials say the problems of the system can be overcome with difficulty, the governmental and scientific reports have expressed doubt on whether the system would ever work as planned.
While the Pentagon has embarked on giant budget cuts, the study is expected to prompt the Congress to reconsider the continuation of the multi-billion-dollar plan.
Republican lawmaker Michael Turner, who requested the GAO study, said the missile system might be useless, adding, “This report really confirms what I have said all along: that this was a hurried proposal by the president.”
The US plan for a missile system in Europe has been a bone of contention since former President George W. Bush’s tenure.
One the one hand, American critics said the plan was rushed and based on unproven technology. Russia, on the other hand, expressed concern that the plan sought to counter Russian missiles and undermine its nuclear deterrent power.
In his latest article on non-proliferation, the Executive Director of the US Arms Control Association Daryl Kimball urged the White House to delay plans for developing its missile interceptors in Europe as they merely prompt Russia to resist further cuts in its nuclear stockpile.
The Film Hollywood Should Make is About al-Libi’s Torture Helping Lead to Iraq War Disaster
Ten years ago, Colin Powell made the case for invading Iraq before the United Nations Security Council. Many aspects of his case were clearly dubious at the time, but one notorious aspect desperately needs to be truly understood: Some of Powell’s argument for an Iraq link to al-Qaeda came from Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi who was tortured into giving such “evidence” — that is, he told the torturers what they wanted to hear so that the torture would stop.
This is particularly noteworthy as the movie Zero Dark Thirty has many liberals screaming “torture doesn’t work” — which, in a sense is totally true and at the same time exactly misses the point. Torture does work. It just doesn’t work in so far as its stated purpose (catching criminals, stopping evil plots) is concerned.
Former long-time CIA analyst Ray McGovern, has written that the al-Libi case was central to Powell keeping the alleged al-Qaeda link to Iraq in his UN speech:
Al-Libi’s stories misinformed Colin Powell’s U.N. speech, which sought to establish a “sinister nexus” between Iraq and al-Qaeda to justify invading Iraq.
Al-Libi recanted his claims in January 2004. That prompted the CIA, a month later, to recall all intelligence reports based on his statements, a fact recorded in a footnote to the report issued by the 9/11 Commission. …
The al-Libi case might help you understand why, even though information from torture is notoriously unreliable, President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the sycophants running U.S. intelligence ordered it anyway.
In short, if it is untruthful information you are after, torture can work just fine!
Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s own former chief of staff, similarly wrote:
“What I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002 — well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion — its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qaeda.
“So furious was this effort that on one particular detainee, even when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney’s office that their detainee ‘was compliant’ (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP’s office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qaeda-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, ‘revealed’ such contacts. Of course later we learned that al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop.
“There in fact were no such contacts.” [Wilkerson elaborated on this on Democracy Now Wednesday morning, should be posted here. He notes he and Powell agreed to drop the accusation of an al-Qaeda link to Iraq until they were given the "evidence" from al-Libi's interrogation.]
I asked Powell about this in 2009 and he seemed remarkably defensive and uninterested in finding out if the words he uttered on the world stage were based on misinformation from torture:
Sam Husseini: General, can you talk about the al-Libi case and the link between torture and the production of tortured evidence for war?
Colin Powell: I don’t have any details on the al-Libi case.
SH: Can you tell us when you learned that some of the evidence that you used in front of the UN was based on torture? When did you learn that?
CP: I don’t know that. I don’t know what information you’re referring to. So I can’t answer.
SH: Your chief of staff, Wilkerson, has written about this.
CP: So what? [inaudible]
SH: So you’d think you’d know about it.
CP: The information I presented to the UN was vetted by the CIA. Every word came from the CIA and they stood behind all that information. I don’t know that any of them believe that torture was involved. I don’t know that in fact. A lot of speculation, particularly by people who never attended any of these meetings, but I’m not aware of it.
But my questioning was based on statements by Wilkerson, who was in the room. Presumably Powell is waiting for the CIA to call him and tell him directly that torture was used to extract some of the information he used.
This problem of torture yielding useful but false information was not unforeseeable. Professor As’ad AbuKhalil appeared on a news release I assembled the day after Powell’s notorious UN speech: “The Arab media is reporting that the Zakawi story was provided by Jordanian intelligence, which has a record of torture and inaccuracy.”
But the al-Libi story gets even worse. First off, al-Libi had initially cooperated with FBI officials when he was first questioned by them, giving them true and useful information without being tortured. Secondly, he was tortured by chief Egyptian spymaster Omar Suleiman, widely seen and the CIA’s man in Cairo, who attempted to take over from Mubarak when the longtime dictator finally stepped down because of the uprising in 2011 (Suleiman himself died in a Cleveland hospital in 2012).
After al-Libi recanted to the CIA, he was eventually shipped off to Libya where he died in a prison cell. The newspaper of one of Qaddafi’s son’s claimed it was a suicide. As Juan Cole wrote at the time: “The best refutation of Dick Cheney’s insistence that torture was necessary and useful in dealing with threats from al-Qaeda just died in a Libyan prison.”
Before his death, Human Rights Watch “briefly met with al-Libi on April 27 during a research mission to Libya. He refused to be interviewed, and would say nothing more than: ‘Where were you when I was being tortured in American jails.’”
After al-Libi’s death Human Right Watch stated: “The death of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi means that the world will never hear his account of the brutal torture he experienced. So now it is up to Libya and the United States to reveal the full story of what they know, including its impact on his mental health.” Right after Al Capone investigates his own dealings.
Note that al-Libi died in Libyan custody when relations were quite chummy between Qaddafi and the U.S. It’s hard not to think this was part of a quid pro quo — the Qaddafi regime offs al-Libi to help the U.S. cover up the torture-war link and in exchange Qaddafi got (rather short-lived acceptance from part of the U.S. establishment.
If Hollywood — or any media for that matter — had any interest in communicating the realities of the modern Mideast and U.S. policy there, the story of al-Libi should be front and center.
- “Pregnant, Chained to a Wall and Starved”, One of 136 Terror War Stories (ipsnews.net)
- Dark side of the moon (thehindu.com)
This was August 5, 2002:
And this was November 8, 2011:
This was September 9, 2002:
And this was October 9, 2012:
This was also September 9, 2002:
This was September 17, 2002:
And this was May 9, 2006:
This was September 22, 2002:
And this was November 6, 2011:
This was September 10, 2002:
And this was November 9, 2011:
This was September 17, 2004:
And this was January 27, 2009:
This was October 6, 2004:
And this was January 25, 2010:
This was April 25, 2005:
And this was October 8, 2012:
This was September 6, 2007:
And this was February 4, 2013:
It’s not all about Iran’s civilian nuclear program. Since Iranians removed from power the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who carried the accolade of the closest ally of the White House in the Persian Gulf region, the first flames of hostility between Tehran and Washington were fanned.
It’s been more than three decades that Iran and the United States have failed to sit at a negotiation table and settle their disputes and come to a comprehensive agreement over forgetting grievances and starting a new era of reconciliation, mutual understanding and rapprochement. The Iranians every year storm into the streets to chant “Death to America,” and the United States every year intensifies the anti-Iranian sanctions, funds terrorist groups to assassinate Iranian politicians and scientists and ratifies plans to advance “pro-democracy” movements in Iran. We are not here to give a value judgment on which party is doing the right thing, but one thing is for sure, which is that the Iranian people are the only victims of this inexplicable hostility and animosity between Tehran and Washington.
It’s almost 33 years that Iran has been under the hard-hitting sanctions imposed by consecutive U.S. administrations which are renewed and built up every single year. The first set of economic sanctions against Iran were approved by President Jimmy Carter who issued the Executive Order 12170 on November 14, 1979, 10 days after a group of Iranian students captured the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in protest at the U.S. support for the deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and took a total of 52 Americans working at the embassy as hostage: “I, Jimmy Carter, President of the United States, find that the situation in Iran constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States and hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.”
“I hereby order blocked all property and interests in property of the Government of Iran, its instrumentalities and controlled entities and the Central Bank of Iran which are or become subject to the jurisdiction of the United States or which are in or come within the possession or control of persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States,” President Carter ordered.
The sanctions were not lifted after Iran released all the hostages on January 20, 1981, and following the invasion of Iran by Iraq which was spearheaded and supported by the United States and its European allies, the United States astonishingly tightened the grip of sanctions on Iran, exacerbating the life of innocent civilians at a critical time when Saddam Hussein, armed to the teeth, was pounding and bombing Iranian cities on a daily basis. In 1984, a new set of sanctions were adopted which prohibited the sales of arms and provision of military or financial assistance to Iran during the war with Iraq, and on October 29, 1987, President Ronald Reagan issued the Executive Order 12613 by which all kinds of financial transactions with Iran were declared illegal and forbidden.
The tensions between the two arch-foes continued until a time when a remarkable event transformed the political atmosphere of Iran. When Iranians elected Seyed Mohammad Khatami in 1997 as the president, everybody expected that Washington may alter its attitude toward Iran, because President Khatami was a pro-reform figure whose foreign policy was based on détente and reconciliation with the West and the United States. However, Bill Clinton didn’t ease the sanctions and hostilities continued, even though President Khatami used every opportunity to reach out to the United States despite the pressure he was facing from the conservatives in Iran who didn’t favor dialogue with the U.S.
With George W. Bush’s coming to power in 2001, Iran’s nuclear program became a central theme in the U.S. foreign policy, and Iran was branded as a part of the so-called Axis of Evil. The sanctions were toughened and an international campaign for isolating Iran gradually began to take shape under the leadership of the Bush administration. Bush penalized many of his fellow citizens for doing business with Iran, and blocked the properties of hundreds of Iranian companies and individuals. He threatened Iran with the use of force and warned it repeatedly against a possible military strike on its nuclear facilities and even a regime change in Tehran, which he was not ashamed of openly bragging about. In 2007, ABC news reported that President Bush had authorized a $400 million bill for covert operations to create unrest in Iran. It was during his tenure that the Congress passed a law and allocated $120 million for anti-Iranian media propaganda. Oddly enough, the sanctions even encompassed scientific cooperation between the Iranian academicians and American universities and scientific institutions. For instance, in 2002 the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) deprived its Iranian members of different advantages and benefits, including the use of IEEE logo for promotional activities, electronic access to publications and access to job listings. In 2004, the U.S. Department of the Treasury ruled that editing or publishing scientific manuscripts from Iran violates the trade embargo on the country and thus several U.S. scientific publications started to refuse articles and research papers by Iranian academicians.
The legacy of confrontation with Iran as a “rogue state” was inherited by President Obama who came to the Oval Office with a shining motto of “change.” Many Iranians had expected that he would practically realize the changes he had promised, and especially revise the course of Bush’s adventurous foreign policy. But after a while, it transpired that he is not that much different from his predecessor as he renewed the U.S. economic sanctions against Iran only one year after he came to office.
“The actions and policies of the government of Iran are contrary to the interests of the United States in the region and pose a continuing and unusual and extraordinary threat,” said Obama in a message to the U.S. Congress after renewing the annual sanctions against Iran in March 2009. In 2012 and with the escalation of conflicts with Iran over its nuclear program, the United States hardened the sanctions and somewhat forced Iran’s major trade partners in the European Union, Asia and Africa to stop doing business with and buying oil from Iran. As a result of the U.S. pressures, the EU imposed an oil embargo against Iran and stopped buying its crude since July 1, 2012. Subsequently, Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea and Switzerland also adopted unilateral sanctions against Iran and the oil-rich country was literally targeted with all-out economic warfare launched by the United States and its allies. As a result of these backbreaking sanctions, Iran’s currency, rial, dropped to its lowest value against dollar in the late 2012 and according to economists, lost almost 70% of its value. The country also began to experience a staggering hyperinflation with the price of consumer goods increasing twofold and threefold every single day.
Now, aside from the oil embargo, a variety foodstuff, agricultural corps, medicines and medical equipment, computer devices, gold, clothes and humanitarian goods are considered banned goods for Iran and this is what makes daily life more difficult every day. To add insult to the injury, consider the number of civilians killed every year in Iran in deadly air crashes, a direct result of the U.S. embargo that makes it impossible for Iran to buy new and modern aircraft and refresh its aging, outdated fleet.
But is Iran capable of maintaining its economy in the face of these overwhelming sanctions? What will happen to the lives of the Iranian people? Won’t these sanctions decimate the chances of a possible reconciliation between Iran and the United States? Aren’t these sanctions some kind of violation of human rights? In order to find compelling answers for these questions, I contacted some renowned Iranian experts whom I knew had interesting things to say about the sanctions.
Richard Javad Heydarian, a foreign affairs analyst and Asia Times contributor says, “Although touted as ‘targeted’ measures against Iran’s nuclear and ballistic programs, the transatlantic sanctions, beginning in late-2011 and coming into full force on July 2012, are ruthlessly eroding the very foundations of Iran’s entire civilian economy, upon which almost 75 million Iranians depend for daily survival.”
“In the language of international law, we are arguably speaking of ‘collective punishment,’ because they directly hit Iran’s main exports, namely oil and gas, and shut out Iran’s major financial institutions, including the Iranian Central Bank from mainstream global financial channels, so it comes as no surprise that they are affecting Iranians of all walks of life, especially the poor and the majority lower-middle class population,” he added.
Analyzing the economic impacts of the sanctions, Heydarian notes, “Oil revenues are down by almost 50 percent, the fiscal deficit is widening to a decade-high, inflation has passed the 25% threshold, and the currency has lost almost 70% of its value… With a 40% merchandise-to-GDP ratio (the total value of merchandize trade in dollar terms), Iran is indeed vulnerable to the massive currency fluctuations. The IMF and IIF are estimating about 3 percent GDP contraction this year, so the sanctions are disruptive and hurting the whole country.”
According to Richard Javad Heydarian, the sanctions have deprived Iran of the opportunity to meet its most rudimentary needs: “due to the sanctions, Iran is finding it increasingly difficult to access international markets for purchase of even the most basic commodities, from food to clothing and medicine, as it struggles to process multi-billion oil deals in foreign currencies. It is already forced to engage in barter deals with countries such as India and China, which are crowding out Iran’s large domestic industrial base.”
This political analyst believes that Iran is losing its trade partners as a result of the sanctions: “Due to financial sanctions and growing American pressure, even regional trading partners such as the UAE and Oman have increasingly denied Iranian traders short-term loans, credit financing, and banking access, while more liquid traders are forced to rely on unscrupulous financial intermediaries and/or highly expensive payment schemes to conduct trade transactions.”
So, what will happen in the future? Where is the current standoff over Iran’s nuclear program headed? Are the sanctions going to remain in place and make daily life painful for Iranians? Heydarian responds:
“Not only has the West refused to show significant flexibility in three consecutive high-level talks, namely the Istanbul, Baghdad, and Moscow negotiations this [last] year, between Iran and the world powers, the so-called P5+1, but its incessant push on the sanctions regime is undercutting negotiations – given the dearth of an atmosphere of mutual-compromise and trust. In absence of West’s flexibility on the sanctions, I do not think that Iran will consider unilateral concessions.”
Abolghasem Bayyenat, an independent political analyst and a Ph.D. candidate at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University also believes that the sanctions are not “targeted” and “smart” as claimed by the West, and only serve to punish and penalize the ordinary citizens:
“It should be evident that the Western-imposed sanctions on Iran lack any sound moral and legal justifications and are contrary to international human rights standards as well as what has publicly been advertised by Western politicians themselves. The sanctions are not targeted and ‘smart’, as initially claimed by Western politicians, but are indiscriminate and ‘dumb’ in nature, in that they hurt the whole civilian population of Iran and impose collective punishment on them.”
“Funding nuclear activities constitute a tiny fraction of Iran’s public budget and, as such, trying to deprive a nation of its entire public revenues to only deny it funding sources for its IAEA-monitored nuclear program is not only absurd and illogical but is also hypocritical,” he added.
This political commentator believes that the sanctions will increase the government’s legitimacy and create solidarity among the people instead of pushing them to revolt. He also says that the sanctions undermine the spirit of cooperation and constructive dialogue between Iran and the world powers: “The current Western strategy to impose crippling economic sanctions on Iran is detrimental to the prospects of peacefully resolving Iran’s nuclear issue and is not likely to meet its stated goal of bringing drastic change in Iran’s nuclear position.”
“Economic hardships do not automatically and mechanically produce public revolt against the government in Iran. What is more important than the scope of objective economic hardships is how they are perceived by the general public in Iran. The general public in Iran tend to sympathize with the official narrative that economic hardships are the price that they need to pay for safeguarding their political independence,” he said. Bayyenat says that the impact of the West’s sanctions on Iran can be felt in two ways: “The first impact is effected through fueling rampant inflation in Iran. The sharp rise in the price of commodities and other consumer goods aggravated by the partly sanctions-induced currency depreciation has eroded the general welfare of ordinary Iranians and is likely to create further economic hardships for them, if not mitigated.” “Second, the Western-imposed sanctions on Iran gradually undermine the capacity of the government of Iran to provide public welfare programs and other social services to its people by cutting its revenues and hindering its capacity to engage in financial transactions with foreign countries to import necessary foodstuffs and medicine. The sick, the elderly, children and the working class in general suffer the most as a result of the Western-imposed sanctions on Iran,” he adds.
Dr. Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, a Reader in Comparative Politics and International Relations and Chair of the Centre for Iranian Studies at SOAS, University of London opines that domestic mismanagement coupled with the economic sanctions of the United States and its European allies have made daily life in Iran increasingly breathtaking:
“The sanctions hit Iran’s embattled civil society which is caught between a largely incompetent state and a predatory international community that is taking every advantage out of the domestic situation in the country and the crisis of politics that ensued in the last couple of years.”
“The sanctions have made it harder for Iranian families to access drugs and medication including for cancer and blood disorders such as hemophilia. The negative impact on Iran’s aging civilian planes is well known. The sanctions have also made it gruelingly difficult to transfer money into and from Iran, and so many students studying abroad are short of funds from their family members. None of this really has a political dividend or bothers the Iranian state. It is Iranian society that is bearing the brunt of an intolerable situation,” Adib-Moghaddam noted.
This university professor admits that the sanctions are inhumane and unjustifiable, but he also argues that the government has played its own role in the emergence of the current crisis: “There is no doubt that these kinds of sanctions are a war by other means. The hypocrisy is obvious to anyone with a hint of political intelligence. But here as well, Iranians are targeted from two sides: the sanctions regime enforced by the United States and the systematic violation of human dignity by influential sections of the Iranian state. The inability of the current government of President Ahmadinejad to navigate the nation out of either crisis is testimony to its political failure.”
Canadian-Iranian freelance political analyst, Shahir Shahid Saless, whose writings have appeared in the Guardian, Al-Monitor and Asia Times traces the roots of current tensions between Iran and the United States in a historical mistrust that started when Iranians toppled the U.S.-backed Shah in a popular revolution in 1979:
“Iran and the U.S. are locked in a cold war relationship which, while not unprecedented, is almost unique for its pattern of non-communication (or inconsistent and failing communications) and non-compromise. This state of relations has lasted three decades. Even during the Cold War the U.S. not only would negotiate with its adversaries but also had diplomatic and economic relations with them. [The] U.S.-Iran relationship is an abnormality where the two governments simply cannot talk to each other in a meaningful way. Accumulation of decades of perceived betrayals, which has resulted in the formation of profound mutual mistrust, is largely responsible for the failure of the formation of a negotiation process between the two states.”
“It is a sound contention that when the Islamic Republic came to exist, seeds of mistrust between the two states had already been planted. The admitted role of the U.S. in the 1953 coup d’état and the overthrow of Mossadegh, Iran’s popular and democratically-elected Prime Minister, is central to and the beginning of the debate of mistrust between Iran and the U.S. The seizure of the American embassy in 1979 and the disclosure of espionage documents taken from the embassy escalated the Iranian regime’s mistrust of the U.S. in an already unsteady relationship. Since then the fear of regime change has acted as a barrier to the restoration of the relations. The hostage crisis created a cycle of mistrust that has not been addressed, let alone broken to this date,” he stressed.
Shahid Saless believes that Iran’s nuclear program further heightened the wall of mistrust and with the imposition of sanctions on Iran by the United States, the two countries are now literally entangled in a diplomatic stalemate:
“Sanctions, ostensibly, heightens mistrust. Interestingly, this is acknowledged by experts such as Ray Takeyh and Kenneth Pollack, who are consulted by the U.S. government and are advocates of draconian sanctions. You don’t need to be a genius to understand that extreme mistrust will continue to block the formation of negotiation process let alone a negotiated solution.”
There are few wise and decent people in the world who endorse the U.S. sanctions regime against Iran. First of all, there’s no convincing evidence that Iran’s nuclear program has a military dimension and so there’s no reason to punish Iran with such unbridled sanctions, and most importantly, these sanctions are paralyzing the daily life of the Iranian citizens who want to live a peaceful and untroubled life aside from the political differences and conflicts their government has had with the Western states.
The United States has regularly chastised Iran for its alleged violations of human rights, but it seems that it’s taking the lead in violating the most fundamental rights of the Iranian people, equally human beings, in an atrocious manner by imposing these stringent sanctions with their huge humanitarian impact.
Although some progress was made in last year’s dialogues between Iran and the six world powers over Tehran’s nuclear program, it seems that the only key to resolving the erosive conflict over Iran’s nuclear program is lasting bilateral talks between Iran and the United States; the two adversaries which can bring peace and stability to the Middle East by putting aside the acrimony and moving toward reconciliation which will be an all-out diplomatic breakthrough for the whole international community.
Kourosh Ziabari is an award-winning Iranian journalist, media correspondent and peace activist. He was born on April 27, 1990, in the northern Iranian city of Rasht.Articles and interviews by Kourosh Ziabari have been published in a variety of international newspapers, magazines, journals and news websites including Press TV, Tehran Times, Counter Punch, Fars News Agency, The Nation (Pakistan), Rebelion, Middle East Online, Intrepid Report, Dissident Voice, Mehr News Agency, Info Palestine, and many others. Visit his website www.kouroshziabari.com
- US renews war on Iranian media (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- US imposes fresh sanctions on Tehran, including ban on Iranian media (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The Clinton Bush Fund, which former presidents Bill Clinton (1993-2001) and George W. Bush (2001-2009) established shortly after Haiti’s January 2010 earthquake, is closing down on Dec. 31, the group’s vice president for marketing and communications said on Dec. 7. The fund will have disbursed all of the $54.4 million it raised, she indicated. The organization says on its website that its goal was “to assist the Haitian people in building their own country back better.” The group says it has “[d]irectly created or sustained 7,350 jobs and counting” and “[d]irectly trained 20,050 people and counting.” (New York Times 12/7/12 from AP)
One of the fund’s projects—the Oasis Hotel in Pétionville, a suburb southeast of Port-au-Prince—opened on Dec. 12 with a soiree and 800 invitation-only guests. Munching hors-d’oeuvres and sipping “free-flowing wine,” the Miami Herald’s Jacqueline Charles wrote, the participants observed “the bamboo, locally grown orchids and sexy white furniture that lined the expansive courtyard.” The 128-room hotel cost $35 million to build; $2 million was provided by the Clinton Bush Fund [see Update #1080]. President Michel Martelly (“Sweet Micky”) called the hotel “a symbol of the new Haiti.”
According to Tourism Minister Stephanie Balmir Villedrouin, Martelly’s government has approved a $161 million hotel project that will bring a total of 1,200 new hotel rooms to the country next year. A 106-room Best Western and an El Rancho with 72 rooms and 13 apartments are set to open in the coming months; Comfort Suites and Marriott are also planning hotels in Port-au-Prince. (Miami Herald 12/13/12)
On Dec. 10, two days before the Oasis opening, the Force for Reflection and Action on Housing (FRAKKA), a grassroots housing coalition, issued a press release charging that Port-au-Prince area mayors, police agents, justices of the peace and property owners—some with questionable land titles—were continuing forcible evictions of people left homeless by the 2010 earthquake. Some 150 families were threatened, according to the group, which said the displaced persons camps at risk were Vilambeta at Caradeux in the northeastern suburb of Tabarre; Camp Gaston Margron, in the Mariani Zone of Carrefour, southwest of the capital; Fortuna Guery in Port-au-Prince; and Camp Cr3, at Delmas 60, a neighborhood in the Delmas commune east of downtown Port-au-Prince. (AlterPresse (Haiti) 12/10/12)
Some 360,000 people are still living in the camps or other temporary shelters almost three years after the earthquake—4% of Haiti’s population, according to Johan Peleman, head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Haiti.
By Delisting the MEK, the Obama Administration is Taking the Moral and Strategic Bankruptcy of America’s Iran Policy to a New Low
The U.S. Department of State took the moral and strategic bankruptcy of America’s Iran policy to a new low today, by notifying Congress that the Obama administration intends to remove the mojahedin-e khalq (MEK) from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs).
At a macro level, we are disdainful—even scornful—of the U.S. government’s lists of both FTOs and state sponsors of terrorism. We have seen too many times over the years just how cynically American administrations have manipulated these designations, adding and removing organizations and countries for reasons that have little or nothing to do with designees’ actual involvement in terrorist activity. So, for example, after Saddam Husayn invaded the fledgling Islamic Republic in 1980—on September 22, no less—and starting killing large numbers of innocent Iranians, the Reagan administration (which came to office in January 1981) found a way to remove Iraq from the state sponsors list, in order to remove legal restrictions prohibiting the U.S. government from helping Saddam prosecute his war of aggression as robustly as the administration wanted. (During that war, the MEK—after having tried but failed to bring down the Islamic Republic through a bloody campaign of terrorist bombings and assassinations conducted against the new Iranian government’s upper echelons—ended up collaborating with an Iraqi government regularly carrying out chemical weapons attacks against targets, civilian as well as military, inside Iran.) But, when the same Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990, the George H.W. Bush administration couldn’t get Iraq back on the state sponsors list fast enough. We are very skeptical that Saddam’s ties to groups that the United States considers terrorist organizations changed all that much during this period.
Yet, precisely because we know how thoroughly corrupt and politicized these designations really are, we recognize their significance as statements of U.S. policy. Today, the Obama administration made a truly horrible statement about U.S. policy toward Iran.
The statement is horrible even if one wants to believe that FTO designations have some kind of procedural and evidentiary integrity about them. (We don’t, but we also recognize that letting go of illusions is often not easy.) Just this year, U.S. intelligence officials told high-profile media outlets that the MEK is actively collaborating with Israeli intelligence to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists, see here; Iranian officials have made the same charge. Since when did murdering unarmed civilians (and, in some instances, members of their families as well) on public streets in the middle of a heavily populated urban area (Tehran) not meet even the U.S. government’s own professed standard for terrorism? Of course, one might rightly point out that the United States is responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent civilians across the Middle East. But Washington generally strives to maintain the fiction that it did not intend for those innocents to die as a (direct and foreseeable) consequence of U.S. military operations and sanctions policies. (You know, the United States didn’t really mean for those people to die, but, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once said, “Stuff happens.”) Here, the Obama administration is taking an organization that the U.S. government knows is directly involved in the murder of innocent people and giving this group Washington’s “good housekeeping seal of approval.”
But, to invoke Talleyrand’s classic observation that a certain action was “worse than a crime—it was a mistake,” delisting the MEK is not just a moral abomination; it is a huge strategic and policy blunder. It is hard to imagine how the Obama administration could signal more clearly that, even after the President’s presumptive reelection, it has no intention of seeking a fundamentally different sort of relationship with the Islamic Republic—which would of course require the United States to accept the Islamic Republic as a legitimate political entity representing legitimate national interests.
Count on this: once the MEK is formally off the FTO list—a legally defined process that will take a few months to play out—Congress will be appropriating money to support the monafeqin as the vanguard of a new American strategy for regime change in Iran. In the 1990s, similar enthusiasm for Ahmad Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress—who were about as unpopular among Iraqis as the MEK is among Iranians—led to President Clinton’s signing of the Iraq Liberation Act, which paved the way for George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003. The chances for such a scenario to play out with regard to Iran over the next few years—with even more disastrous consequences for America’s strategic and moral standing—got a lot higher today.
- U.S. to Take Iran Anti-Regime Group Off Terrorism List (ipsnews.net)