What would you expect from powerful people, personal courage?
The American Condoleeza Rice, 60, Iraq War architect, and the French Christine Lagarde, 58, International Monetary Fund managing director, have little in common beyond being women of power who have contributed to the misery of millions of people they never cared to meet. And now they have another quality in common, cowardice under fire, albeit only verbal fire after they were invited to speak at college commencements.
Rutgers University invited Rice to speak (for $35,000 and an honorary degree) and Smith College invited Lagarde (compensation undisclosed).
Student and faculty objections to Rice started in February and continued to grow for months. The Rutgers administration held firm, Rice kept quiet. On April 28, some 50 students staged a sit-in at the Rutgers president’s office. The president refused to talk with them and they dispersed when Rutgers threatened to arrest them.
In a letter ironically foreshadowing his bald hypocrisy on free speech and academic freedom, Rutgers president Robert Barchi had written in March:
We cannot protect free speech or academic freedom by denying others the right to an opposing view, or by excluding those with whom we may disagree. Free speech and academic freedom cannot be determined by any group. They cannot insist on consensus or popularity.
Students and faculty objected to Rice for her participation in lying her country into war in Iraq, and even more so for her defense of widespread American use of torture in the “global war on terror.” An online petition by a 1991 Rutgers grad collected 694 signatures opposed to Rice, and campus petitions gathered hundreds more. In a lucid indictment of Rice’s apparent criminality, published in The Chronicle of Higher Education the day before Rice withdrew, Rutgers history professor Jackson Lears wrote:
Rice sanctioned the use of torture and has continued to defend it even after a top aide warned that she and her colleagues were violating the law. To invite her to address the Rutgers graduating class, and then to award her a doctor-of-laws degree, is a travesty of all the ideals the university embodies. Our students deserve better. Most of all, they deserve the truth.
Officially, Rutgers showed no interest in truth, history, morality, etc.
Rice did not engage issues like war or torture in her withdrawal statement, arguing instead that the crucial issue was the party-time nature of commencements. She said she was “honored to have served my country,” without mentioning any specifics. She did not explain why her controversial performance in office wasn’t as obvious to her in February as it became in May. Bowing out of the May 18 graduation as of May 3, Rice’s statement on her Facebook page read in part:
Commencement should be a time of joyous celebration for the graduates and their families. Rutgers’ invitation to me to speak has become a distraction for the university community at this very special time…. I understand and embrace the purpose of the commencement ceremony and I am simply unwilling to detract from it in any way.
Despite Rice’s belated withdrawal, Rutgers faculty and students went ahead with a planned, six-hour teach-in on May 6 because, as three participating professors wrote, “we concluded that the need remained for a scholarly exposition of Dr. Rice’s responsibility in the lies leading to the Iraq war and the implementation of the unprecedented torture policies under the Bush administration.”
In an exercise of actual academic freedom, Rice was invited to the teach-in when it was first planned, but she did not attend. President Barchi expressed the corporate position that Rutgers stood “fully behind” inviting Rice to the commencement (where only the speaker has freedom of speech). The teach-in (on YouTube) began shortly after that official statement, and the professors wrote:
It was an event that will be remembered because there has not been one like it for a very long time. The lecture room of the Student Activities Center was packed by a crowd of more than two hundred students and faculty members, many sitting on the floor, others standing anywhere they could, all listening with the utmost attention to the poignant speech of human rights attorney Jumana Musa, then to the illuminating exposés of our panelists, to whom Rutgers University – the real Rutgers – is forever indebted.
And we all stood up to applaud the six students who represented the ‘No to Rice’ movement that organized the demonstrations of the last ten days: the enthusiastic commitment they expressed to humanistic values was a reminder that there is real hunger among our students for more knowledge of history, of foreign cultures, of the very notion of ‘culture,’ of political science, of economics, as well as a deep interest in questions related to ethics, public policy and the place of media in our culture. Students like these give a special meaning – and responsibility – to our teaching and research.
Rutgers was against students learning about unapproved reality
No free speech was harmed in the unfolding of these events, except at the Rutgers president’s office (where student speech was met with threats of arrest). By cutting and running, Condoleezza may have lost a paid venue (her net worth is about $4 million), but she has hardly been muzzled; on the contrary, her exercise of her own free speech got us into a deceitful, destructive failure of a war for which millions of Iraqis continue to pay with their own freedom and lives. The Rutgers administration lost students’ respect for promoting an apparent war criminal, but there’s no sign the administration is sensitive to any of that.
Academic freedom is a big winner at Rutgers, where faculty let some air and light into the discussion of 15 years of American crimes against humanity that are usually left to fester down the memory hole. And perhaps the biggest winners are Rutgers students, whose determined integrity allowed their voices to be heard on an issue of principle that the Rutgers administration got wrong on both substance and morality.
Like Rutgers, Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, announced its choice of commencement speaker in February and protest began soon after, but the two protests are very different responses to two very important elephants in our collective cultural-political living room. Where Rice is emblematic of the elephant of illegal war, torture, war crimes, and crimes against humanity about which we are not supposed to speak, Lagarde represents the much tidier elephant of financial plunder and economic “austerity” that probably leaves millions more innocent people to suffer and die without hope.
It’s not that Christine Lagarde sold people an illegal war as Rice did, but as head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) since 2011, she carries out a prior ordained policy that is as inhumane as it is merciless. In Ukraine now, some people are hoping that $17.1 billion from the IMF will somehow help to save a country that can hardly pay for gas these days. But that $17.1 billion is not a gift, it is a loan to a country that can’t support its current debt load, and so, thanks to the IMF, Ukraine can look forward to another decade or more of even worse debt servitude than it has suffered in the past. The IMF’s $17.1 billion is typically reported as a good deed, but there are 46 million Ukrainians (except for a small number of oligarchs and bankers) who will have no reason to be grateful for this “beneficence.” The IMF has just bought the right to be the unelected ruler of Ukraine, and the purchase is so sweet, the Ukrainians will have to pay for it – with interest.
Objections to Lagarde are institutional and philosophical
Christine Lagarde is a well-regarded attorney whose specialties were antitrust and labor issues. She has held several French government posts, including Minister of Finance. She was the first female chairman of the international law firm Baker & McKenzie. She is an undeniably accomplished woman about whom the worst, easily available personal criticism is her apparent callousness toward the Greeks in 2012. Any real skeletons she may have remain tucked away in her closet.
Opposition to Lagarde at Smith was not personal, as an online petition made clear:
By selecting Ms. Lagarde as the commencement speaker we are supporting the International Monetary Fund and thus going directly against Smith’s values to stand in unity with equality for all women, regardless of race, ethnicity or class. Although we do not wish to disregard all of Ms. Lagarde’s accomplishments as a strong female leader in the world, we also do not want to be represented by someone whose work directly contributes to many of the systems that we are taught to fight against. By having her speak at our commencement, we would be publicly supporting and acknowledging her, and thus the IMF.
Even if we give Ms. Lagarde the benefit of the doubt, and recognize that she is just a good person working in a corrupt system, we should not by any means promote or encourage the values and ideals that the IMF fosters. The IMF has been a primary culprit in the failed developmental policies implanted in some of the world’s poorest countries. This has led directly to the strengthening of imperialist and patriarchal systems that oppress and abuse women worldwide.
Smith’s trustees haven’t said why they wanted to honor the IMF
Not surprisingly, Smith’s administration stood by its invitation to Lagarde, and there is little evidence of campus ferment even at the low level on the Rutgers campus. There was one report of a quiet campus sit-in by 40 students earlier in May. But apparently Lagarde is thin-skinned as well as guarded in her public persona. According to Smith president Kathleen McCarthy in a May 12 letter to the college community, Lagarde withdrew “in the wake of anti-IMF protests from faculty and students, including a few who wrote directly to her,” which might seem pretty thin-skinned for someone with a net worth of $4 million (and annual, untaxed income of about $630,000) whom Forbes ranked as the 7th most powerful woman (35th most powerful person) in the world.
According to McCarthy, Lagarde retreated with the same lame excuse Rice used, not wanting to be a party-pooper. As quoted by McCarthy, Lagarde wrote: In the last few days, it has become evident that a number of students and faculty members would not welcome me as a commencement speaker. I respect their views, and I understand the vital importance of academic freedom. However, to preserve the celebratory spirit of commencement day, I believe it is best to withdraw my participation.
Back in February, Lagarde observed that income inequality was increasing globally, citing the United States and India in particular. Delivering a lecture in London, she said, “In India, the net worth of the billionaire community increased twelve-fold in 15 years, enough to eliminate absolute poverty in this country twice over…. [Inequality] leads to an economy of exclusion, and a wasteland of discarded potential.” She did not suggest doing anything particular about this kind of global impoverishment for the vast majority of people on the planet.
Reaction to Lagarde’s reneging on a commitment is reportedly mixed on the Smith campus. Unlike at Rutgers, there is no teach-in or other communal effort to explore the issues raised by IMF activities. The argument, as in President McCarthy’s letter, is limited to supporting or opposing the choice of a speaker, and is not about the vast damage the IMF does in the name of economic stability. And it’s also not about the startling cowardice of a powerful woman who can’t find the wee bit of courage it might take to face a bunch of 20-something, well-mannered Smith College women who might disagree with her or even, God forbid, say something rude to a global administrator of cruel and unusual policies. What is it with these people who lack the fortitude to speak to an audience not in total awe of their magnificent selves?
As Katherine Sumner, Smith ’14, wrote: “It was in a Smith classroom that I first learned about the problems that the IMF has wrought on the Global South, and how those problems have affected women’s lives for the worse. As a graduating senior, I would be disappointed, to say the least, if a representative of that institution were honored and endorsed by a community that I am a part of.”
Needless to say, that is not the perspective with which this story is covered in mainstream media, where actual issues of substance and the events are presented with a tone of supercilious trivialization, as in the Washington Post story that began: “The commencement speaker purity bug has hit Smith College.” [Emphasis added.]
Rice and Lagarde were not subjected to “commencement speaker purity” or any other form of censorship. They were faced with coherent intellectual challenges to the core value of some of their most significant activities, and they did not rise to that challenge. And they bailed. They exercised self-censorship, deploying a spurious excuse rather than even attempting to engage in a serious debate. They did not act boldly and address the legitimate concerns of students and faculty with honesty and respect. That would have been too close to actual academic freedom. Instead these women of power fled the field rather than face an audience that might show disappointment. They retreated when the game wasn’t rigged in their favor; they folded when the institution failed to guarantee them commencement audience purity.
The US Army has awarded General Dynamics a $12 million contract to deconstruct and dispose of 78,000 depleted uranium anti-tank shells. The Pentagon’s May 6 announcement calls for “demilitarization” of the aging shells, as newer depleted uranium rounds are added to the US arsenal.
In the perpetually profitable business of war production, General Dynamics originally produced and sold some of the 120-millimeter anti-tank rounds to the Army. One of the richest weapons builders on earth, General Dynamics has 95,000 employees and sells its wares in 40 countries on six continents.
The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons in Manchester, England, reports the armor-piercing shells to be disassembled are thought to be the large 105-millimeter and 120-millimeter anti-tank rounds.
Depleted uranium, or DU, weapons are made of extremely dense uranium-238. More than 700,000 tons of DU has been left as waste in the US alone from the production of nuclear weapons and nuclear reactor fuel rods. The urankum-238 is left when fissionable uranium-235 is separated for H-bombs and reactor fuel. DU is only ‘depleted’ of this U-235. It is still a radioactive and toxic heavy metal. A tax and ecological liability, DU is given away free to weapons builders.
The Pentagon is replacing older DU shells in spite of international appeals for a moratorium on their use. The military is set to buy 2,500 large anti-tank rounds just this year at a cost of $30 million or over $10,000 each from Alliant Tech Systems, formerly of Minneapolis.
In 1991, during its 40-day, 1,000-sorties-per-day bombardment, between 300 and 800 tons of DU was blasted into Iraq by US forces. Another estimated 170 tons were used in the 2003 bombing and annexation. Toxic, radioactive contamination left from the use of these weapons (the DU burns and turns to dusty aerosol on impact) has been linked to the skyrocketing incidence of birth abnormalities in southern Iraq and to the Gulf War Syndrome among tens of thousands of US combat veterans.
After the US/NATO bombardment of Kosovo in 1999, our DU weapons were discovered to be spiked with plutonium and other isotopes. This news created a political uproar in Europe and led to the admission by the US Energy Department that “the entire US stock of depleted uranium was contaminated” with plutonium, americium, neptunium and technetium. United Nations investigators in Kosovo found sites hit with DU to be poisoned with all four isotopes. The Nation magazine reported that about 150,000 tons uranium-238 was dirtied with plutonium-239 and neptunium-237 and that “some apparently found its way to the Persian Gulf and Balkans battlefields.” (Robert Alvarez, “DU at Home,” The Nation, April 9, 2001, p. 24)
European papers shouting “Plutonium!” in headlines saw US and NATO officials rushing to microphones to claim with straight faces that their shells contained “mere traces of plutonium, not enough to cause harm,” and that the highly radioactive materials “were not relevant to soldiers’ health because of their minute quantities.” But plutonium is 200,000 times more radioactive than U-238 and ingesting less than 27 micrograms of plutonium-239 a millionth of an ounce — will cause lung cancer.
(One indication of just how poisonous these weapons are is that in 30 years of resisting nuclear weapons and the war system, the only ‘not guilty of trespass’ verdict I ever won from a jury followed a protest at Alliant Tech over its DU program. The jury agreed with four of us that since poison weapons are banned by the Geneva and Hague Conventions our action was an attempt at crime prevention.)
Long-term disposal plans for the uranium from 78,000 shells were not outlined by the Army. Uranium in the shells is often alloyed with titanium or molybdenum, and if these metals are not recycled, they could become part of our vast stockpile of DU, requiring indefinite storage as intermediate-level radioactive waste. Other parts of the munitions are currently disposed of as low-level rad’ waste in spite of the plutonium content.
It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.
— Voltaire, 1694-1778
It is impossible not to gain the impression that the criteria for being awarded prestigious honors for services to “peace”, “humanity” or “distinguished public service” is a candidate who is duplicitous, vicious, stone-hearted and above all prepared to kill, plan killings or rejoice in killing on an industrial scale as brutally as can be devised.
Moments after being informed of the horrific death of Libyan Leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “Wow!” then unforgettably and chillingly laughed, telling a television crew: “We came, we saw, he died.” Asked if her recent visit to Libya might have had anything to do with his death, she “… rolled her eyes” and said “I’m sure it did.”
Six months later, in April 2012, Clinton received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service. The following month she received the Champions for Change Award for Leadership, and in May 2013, the inaugural Warren Christopher Public Service Award.
Madeleine Albright’s comment, when US Ambassador to the UN, on “60 Minutes” (12th May 1996) that the price of the lives of half a million children who had died as a result of US-driven UN sanctions on Iraq, was: “a hard choice, but the price, we think the price is worth it”, was no bar to her receiving, under two years later, the 1998 International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award: “For extraordinary contributions to the cause of … human freedom … The list of those who have received the Freedom Award reveals the remarkable ability of an individual to shape history and change for the better a world moving toward freedom for all.”
The “freedom of the grave” comes to mind.
Other recipients have been John McCain (2001) George H.W. Bush, whose regime vowed to “reduce Iraq to a pre-industrial age” – and did, in 1991 – and Bill Clinton whose Presidency (1993-2001) in addition to several massive bombings and unending daily ones (all illegal) oversaw, manipulated and pressured the UN to continue to implement the most draconian embargo in the organization’s history and ensure that children, the sick, went on dying in ever greater numbers every year of his Presidency. They were both honored in 2005.
In 2008 the Award went to Kofi Annan, during whose tenure as UN Secretary General (1997 – 2006) involved Iraq’s tragedy and “thirty four major armed conflicts.”
Annan was entrusted with oversight of international commitment to the UN’s fine founding pledge by: “We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war … to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person …” In the event he merely bleated mildly from time to time that some humanitarian holocaust was “regrettable”, “unfortunate” or that he was “concerned.”
Moreover, Kofi Annan’s son, Kojo, had profited from the pitiful UN-Iraq “Oil for Food” deal as children were dying, with former US Federal Reserve Chairman saying, on behalf of a Committee set up to investigate: “Our assignment has been to look for mis- or mal-administration in the oil-for-food programme, and for evidence of corruption within the U.N. organization and by contractors. Unhappily, we found both.”
These are minimal examples of how political pigs ears become polished silk purses. Now President Obama who, as Sherwood Ross has written, “has already bombed six countries (Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq) is risking a possible escalation of the Ukraine crisis he nurtured, into World War III against Russia”, was, on 7th May, awarded the 2014 Ambassador for Humanity Award by the Shoah Foundation.
The Shoah Foundation was established by Steven Spielberg to document the Holocaust, but has since expanded to document other modern genocides. Their new Ambassador’s actions should keep them occupied for a good while.
President Obama’s commitment to democracy and human rights has long been felt”, Spielberg said in a statement. “As a constitutional scholar and as President, his interest in expanding justice and opportunity and all is remarkably evident.”
The timing of the Award may outdo even the other more farcical honors, since, as Ross points out, according to Russian expert, Professor Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois:
Obama now has broken the promise President George H.W. Bush gave to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that if he agreed to the reunification of Germany, NATO would move no farther east, toward Russia’s boundaries. The Obama administration and NATO are maneuvering humanity into a reverse Cuban Missile Crisis right on the borders of Russia. Can World War III be far behind?
Further, NATO is planning larger number of combat forces in Eastern Europe, thus “the dreaded Cold War, with all its staggering cost, with all its immeasurable weight of fear, begins again.”
But even the first year of the Obama Presidency marked a year zero for many. In 2009 at least seven hundred Pakistani civilians were obliterated in drone strikes. Those also killed, accused of terrorism, had no trial, no lawyer, no right of reply. They were simply executed under the US Commander in Chief’s personal policy.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism to January of this year:
Since Obama’s inauguration in 2009, the CIA has launched 330 strikes on Pakistan – his predecessor, President George Bush, conducted 51 strikes in four years. And in Yemen, Obama has opened a new front in the secret drone war.
Across Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, the Obama administration has launched more than 390 drone strikes (since 23rd January 2009) eight times as many as were launched in the entire Bush presidency. These strikes have killed more than 2,400 people …
In Yemen, under US drones: “Last year saw the highest civilian casualty rate since Obama first hit the country in 2009.”
It is not drones alone. For example, a week to the day after Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize:
On December 17 2009, a US Navy submarine launched a cluster bomb-laden cruise missile at a suspected militant camp in al Majala, southern Yemen.
The missile hit a hamlet inhabited by “one of the poorest tribes in Yemen. Shrapnel and fire left at least forty one civilians dead, including at least twenty one children and twelve women – five of whom were pregnant.
In his Nobel acceptance speech he defended the use of force as “not only necessary, but morally justified.” A constitutional lawyer who has, figuratively, burned his law books.
But the President started as he continues. Three days after becoming Ambassador for Humanity, the US announced a “pilot programme” which is sending anti-tank weapons to terrorists in Syria. Lest it be forgotten, these groups have been videoing themselves crucifying, beheading, removing and eating the organs of victims, chopping off hands and dragging people behind moving vehicles. Under the Commander in Chief aka Ambassador for Humanity, the “pilot project” is an experiment trying to establish whether the weapons will “fall into the wrong hands.” Nauseatingly farcical.
Gulag Guantanamo is still open with the untried, condemned to incarceration until time unknown and legally unaccounted for, another pre-2009 election pledge condemned to the trash bin of history.
Iraq’s citizens continue to be bombed with US missiles, under the US proxy Prime Minister.
At home, under this Presidency, the US has the highest first day of life infant mortality rate in the industrialized world, a survey released this week has found.
The US is in the top five countries with the world’s highest execution rates.
In 2011 Pew Research found that “the median black household had about seven per cent of the wealth of its white counterpart, down from nine per cent in 1984, when a Census survey first began tracking this sort of data.”
Change we can believe in?
It has to be wondered whether President Obama pondered on this as he headed to California and his Award ceremony in Air Force One, costing $228,288 per hour.
The prison population of America, at 2.4 million (2013 figures) is just the tip of the iceberg, including “around three thousand children locked up for things that aren’t crimes for adults, ‘such as running away, truancy and incorrigibility.’” See woeful details here.
As this is finished, news comes in of “Obama left alone as agents moonlight”. Shock, horror. Who protects the villagers of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia from the Ambassador for Humanity’s drones?
Perhaps the Nobel Committee could lead the way in ending these outrageous Awards by starting with rescinding a few of their own. It would be a start.
The official environmental authority in the Iraqi governorate of Missan, which is located 390 kilometres away from Baghdad, has announced the discovery of dangerous radioactive contamination that is attributed to the 2003 US-led war on Iraq.
The director of the general authority for the environment in Missan, Samir Kadim, told the New Arab news website that the authority’s specialised staff found radioactive material, mainly in military equipment and the skeletons of cars, in a small village south of Missan known as Karima.
Kadim explained that the ministry’s authority is cautiously entering the three areas where radioactive material was discovered and is taking strict procedures to remove it.
The village witnessed one of the fiercest battles between the former Iraqi army and the US-led coalition forces in 2003.
“Unfortunately, we have discovered it late, after a number of the village’s residents have been diagnosed with various diseases,” Kadim said.
One of the village’s residents told the New Arab in a phone interview that: “Cancer has spread among us, in addition to birth defects among new-born babies and other diseases that doctors cannot explain.”
“But it is only now that we have discovered the cause – it is the US,” said 45-year-old Abboud Moussa.
Moussa described how a number of Karima’s villagers, including children and his own mother, died as a result of this radioactive material. Doctors diagnosed his mother with skin cancer and bone disease, and they told him that she needed to receive medical treatment abroad, but she died very quickly before she could travel.
According to Missan’s environment authority, Karima is the third place in the governorate where radioactive material has been discovered amid primitive treatment and an American refusal to take responsibility. Any US assistance in handling the radiation would be an acknowledgement of its use of internationally banned weapons in Iraq.
Abdel Khalek Mahmoud, an environmental expert, told the New Arab that “radioactive contamination in Iraq is divided into two types: The first, which is rarely found in Iraq, is high-level radioactivity that can be discovered by electronic devices. The second is low-level radioactivity, which is more difficult to discover. It was caused by the waste of depleted uranium that was used by the US in its 2003 war on Iraq. This is abundantly found and it has caused a lot of lethal damage in the country.”
“We have often said that the reason why thousands of Iraqi soldiers went missing is that their bodies burnt as a result of uranium-saturated bombs. But the country’s new leaders, who were empowered by the US, were not willing to bother the Americans,” Mahmoud added.
Abdel-Aziz Al-Taey for the New Arab
Presentation at the National Summit to Reassess the U.S.-Israel “Special Relationship” on March 7, 2014 at the National Press Club.
Karen U. Kwiatkowski retired from the U.S. Air Force with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel following service at the top echelons of the Pentagon, including the Office of Special Plans during the run-up to the war in Iraq. She served as Political-military affairs officer in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Under Secretary for Policy, in the Sub-Saharan Africa and Near East South Asia (NESA) Policy directorates; worked on the North Africa desk; served on the Air Force Staff, Operations Directorate at the Pentagon; served on the staff of the Director of the National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Meade, as well as tours of duty in Alaska, Massachusetts, Spain and Italy. Kwiatkowski is the author of two books about U.S. foreign policy towards Africa: African Crisis Response Initiative: Past Present and Future (US Army Peacekeeping Institute, 2000) and Expeditionary Air Operations in Africa: Challenges and Solutions (Air University Press, 2001). Kwiatkowski has an MA in Government from Harvard University, MS in Science Management from the University of Alaska, and completed both Air Command and Staff College and the Naval War College seminar programs. She earned her Ph.D. in World Politics from Catholic University of America in 2005. Kwiatkowski’s analysis of the U.S. invasion of Iraq has been featured in a number of documentaries, including Why We Fight in 2005. She has written for The American Conservative and for LewRockwell.com since 2003.
The American people got a nasty taste of the danger that can come with false narrative when they were suckered into the Iraq War based on bogus claims that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction that he planned to share with al-Qaeda.
Nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers died in the conflict along with hundreds thousands of Iraqis. The war’s total financial cost probably exceeded $1 trillion, a vast sum that siphoned off America’s economic vitality and forced cutbacks in everything from education to road repair. Plus, the war ended up creating an Iraqi base for al-Qaeda terrorists that had not existed before.
But perhaps an even more dangerous problem coming out of the Iraq War was that almost no one in Official Washington who pushed the false narrative – whether in politics or in the press – was held accountable in any meaningful way. Many of the same pols and pundits remain in place today, pushing similar false narratives on new crises, from Ukraine to Syria to Iran.
Those false narratives – and their cumulative effect on policy-making – now represent a clear and present danger to the Republic and, indeed, to the world. The United States, after all, is the preeminent superpower with unprecedented means for delivering death and destruction. But almost nothing is being done to address this enduring American crisis of deception.
Today, Official Washington is marching in lockstep just as it did in 2002-03 when it enforced the misguided consensus on Iraq’s WMD. The latest case is Ukraine where Russian President Vladimir Putin is accused of committing “aggression” to expand Russian territory at the expense of noble ”democratic” reformers in Kiev.
Not only is this the dominant storyline in the U.S. media; it is virtually the only narrative permitted in the mainstream press. But the real narrative is that the United States and the European Union provoked this crisis by trying to take Ukraine out of its traditional sphere of influence, Russia, and put it in to a new association with the EU.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with Ukraine joining with the EU or staying with Russia (or a combination of the two) – depending on the will of the people and their elected representatives – this latest U.S./EU plan was motivated, at least in part, by hostility toward Russia.
That attitude was expressed in a Sept. 26, 2013, op-ed in the Washington Post by Carl Gershman, the neoconservative president of the National Endowment for Democracy, which doles out more than $100 million in U.S. funds a year to help organize “activists,” support “journalists” and finance programs that can be used to destabilize targeted governments.
Gershman, whose job amounts to being a neocon paymaster, expressed antagonism toward Russia in the op-ed and identified Ukraine as “the biggest prize,” the capture of which could ultimately lead to the ouster of Putin, who “may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”
The NED, which was founded in 1983 to do in relative openness what the CIA had long done in secret, listed 65 projects that it was financing in Ukraine, using U.S. taxpayers’ money. In other words, Gershman’s op-ed reflected U.S. policy – at least inside the State Department’s still-neocon-dominated bureaucracy – which viewed the EU’s snatching of Ukraine from Russia’s embrace as a way to weaken Russia and hurt Putin.
Later, as the Ukrainian crisis unfolded, another neocon, Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, reminded Ukrainian businessmen that the United States had invested $5 billion in their “European aspirations,” implying that the U.S. expected something for all this money.
You might wonder why the American taxpayers should spend $5 billion on the “European aspirations” of Ukraine when there are so many needs at home, but a more relevant question may be: Why is the United States spending that much money to stir up trouble on Russia’s border? The Cold War is over but the hostility continues.
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates described this thinking in his memoir, Duty, explaining the view of President George H.W. Bush’s Defense Secretary Dick Cheney: “When the Soviet Union was collapsing in late 1991, Dick wanted to see the dismantlement not only of the Soviet Union and the Russian empire but of Russia itself, so it could never again be a threat to the rest of the world.”
As Vice President, Cheney and the neocons around him pursued a similar strategy during George W. Bush’s presidency, expanding NATO aggressively to the east and backing anti-Russian regimes in the region including the hardline Georgian government, which provoked a military confrontation with Moscow in 2008.
Since President Barack Obama never took full control of his foreign policy apparatus – leaving the Bush Family apparatchik Gates at Defense and naming neocon-leaning Democrat Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State – the bureaucratic momentum toward confronting Russia continued. Indeed, the elevation of operatives like Nuland, the wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan, gave new impetus to the anti-Russian strategy.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who got his “dream job” last year with the considerable help of his neocon chum Sen. John McCain, has acted as a kind of sock puppet for this neocon-dominated State Department bureaucracy.
Either because he is overly focused on his legacy-building initiative of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal or because he has long since sold out his anti-war philosophy from the Vietnam War era, Kerry has repeatedly taken the side of the hawks: on Syria, Iran and now Ukraine.
On Syria and Iran, it was largely the behind-the-scenes cooperation between Obama and Putin that tamped down those crises last year and opened a pathway for diplomacy – much to the chagrin of the neocons who favored heightened confrontations, U.S. military strikes and “regime change.” Thus, it became a neocon priority to divide Obama from Putin. Ukraine became the wedge.
The Ukrainian crisis took a decisive turn on Nov. 21, 2013, when President Viktor Yanukovych rebuffed a deal offered by the EU and the International Monetary Fund because it would have imposed harsh austerity on the already suffering Ukrainian people. Yanukovych opted instead for a more generous aid package of $15 billion from Russia, with few strings attached.
But Yanukovych’s turning away from the EU infuriated the U.S. State Department as well as pro-European demonstrators who filled the Maidan square in Kiev. The protests reflected the more anti-Russian attitudes of western Ukraine, where Kiev is located, but not the more pro-Russian feelings of eastern and southern Ukraine, Yanukovych’s strongholds that accounted for his electoral victory in 2010.
Though the Maidan protests involved hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians simply eager for a better life and a less corrupt government, some of the most militant factions came from far-right parties, like Svoboda, and even neo-Nazi militias from the Right Sektor. When protesters seized City Hall, Nazi symbols and a Confederate battle flag were put on display.
As the protests grew angrier, U.S. officials, including Assistant Secretary Nuland and Sen. McCain, openly sided with the demonstrators despite banners honoring Stepan Bandera, a World War II-era fascist whose paramilitary forces collaborated with the Nazis in the extermination of Poles and Jews. Nuland passed out cookies and McCain stood shoulder to shoulder with right-wing Ukrainian nationalists. [For more on the role of Ukrainian neo-Nazis, watch this report from the BBC.]
On Feb. 20, the violence intensified as mysterious snipers fired on both protesters and police. As police fought back, neo-Nazi militias hurled Molotov cocktails. More than 80 people were killed including more than a dozen police officers, but the U.S. press blamed the Yanukovych government for the violence, portraying the demonstrators as innocent victims.
Official Washington’s narrative was set. Yanukovych, who had been something of a hero when he was moving toward the EU agreement in the early fall, became a villain after he decided that the IMF’s demands were too severe and especially after he accepted the deal from Putin. The Russian president was undergoing his own demonization in the U.S. news media, including an extraordinary denunciation by NBC at the end of the Sochi Winter Olympics.
In the U.S. media’s black-and-white scenario, the “pro-democracy” demonstrators in the Maidan were the good guys who were fired upon by the bad-guy police. The New York Times even stopped reporting that some of those killed were police, instead presenting the more pleasing but phony narrative that “more than 80 protesters were shot to death by the police as an uprising spiraled out of control in mid-February.”
To this day, the identity of the snipers who touched off the conflagration remains in serious doubt. I was told at the time that some U.S. intelligence analysts believed the shooters were associated with the far-right opposition groups, not with the Yanukovych government.
That analysis gained support when a phone call surfaced between Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and European Union foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, Paet reported on a conversation that he had with a doctor in Kiev who said the sniper fire that killed protesters was the same that killed police officers.
As reported by the UK Guardian, “During the conversation, Paet quoted a woman named Olga – who the Russian media identified her as Olga Bogomolets, a doctor – blaming snipers from the opposition shooting the protesters.”
Paet said, “What was quite disturbing, this same Olga told that, well, all the evidence shows that people who were killed by snipers from both sides, among policemen and people from the streets, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides.
“So she also showed me some photos, she said that as medical doctor, she can say it is the same handwriting, the same type of bullets, and it’s really disturbing that now the new coalition, that they don’t want to investigate what exactly happened. … So there is a stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych, it was somebody from the new coalition.”
Ashton replied: “I think we do want to investigate. I didn’t pick that up, that’s interesting. Gosh.”
Though this exchange does not prove that the opposition used snipers to provoke the violence, it is relevant information that could have altered how Americans viewed the worsening crisis in Ukraine. However, except for an on-the-scene report from CNN with the same doctor, the Paet-Ashton phone call disappeared into the U.S. media’s black hole reserved for information that doesn’t fit with a preferred narrative.
Black Hats/White Hats
So, with giant black hats glued onto Yanukovych and Putin and white hats on the protesters, the inspiring but false U.S. narrative played out in heroic fashion, with only passing reference to the efforts by Yanukovych to make concessions and satisfy the protesters’ demands.
On Feb. 21, Yanukovych tried to defuse the violence by signing an agreement with three European countries in which he accepted reduced powers, moved up elections so he could be voted out of office, and pulled back the police. That last step, however, opened the way for the neo-Nazi militias to seize government buildings and force Yanukovych to flee for his life.
Then, on Feb. 22, under the watchful eye of these modern-day storm troopers, a rump parliament – in violation of constitutional procedures – voted to impeach Yanukovych, who reemerged in Russia to denounce the actions as a coup.
Despite this highly irregular process, the U.S. government – following the lead of the State Department bureaucracy – immediately recognized the new leadership as Ukraine’s “legitimate” government. Putin later appealed to Obama in support of the Feb. 21 agreement but was told the ouster of Yanukovych and the installation of the U.S.-backed government were a fait accompli.
The rump parliament in Kiev also accused Yanukovych of mass murder in connection with the shootings in the Maidan — an accusation that got widespread play in the U.S. media – although curiously the new regime also decided not to pursue an investigation into the identity of the mysterious snipers, a point that drew no U.S. media interest.
And, a new law was passed in line with the desires of right-wing Ukrainian nationalists to eliminate Russian as one of the country’s official languages. New government leaders also were dispatched to the Russian-ethnic regions to take charge, moves that, in turn, prompted resistance from Russian-ethnic citizens in the east and south.
It was in this context – and with appeals from Yanukovych and ethnic Russians for help – that Putin got permission from the Duma to intervene militarily if necessary. Russian troops, already stationed in bases in Crimea, moved to block the Kiev regime from asserting its authority in that strategic Black Sea peninsula.
Amidst this political chaos, the Crimean parliament voted to break away from Ukraine and join Russia, putting the question to a popular vote on March 16. Not surprisingly, given the failed Ukrainian state, its inability to pay for basic services, and Crimea’s historic ties to Russia, Crimean voters approved the switch overwhelmingly. Exit polls showed about a 93 percent majority, just three points less than the official results.
Russia then moved to formally reclaim Crimea, which had been part of Russia dating back to the 1700s, while also massing troops along the borders of eastern Ukraine, presumably as a warning to the Kiev regime not to crush popular resistance to the anti-Yanukovych coup.
A Divergent Narrative
So, the factual narrative suggests that the Ukrainian crisis was stoked by elements of the U.S. government, both in the State Department and in Congress, encouraging and exploiting popular resentments in western Ukraine. The goal was to pull Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and put it into the EU’s gravitational pull.
When Yanukovych balked at IMF’s demands, a process of “regime change” was put in motion with the U.S. and EU even turning their backs on the Feb. 21 agreement in which Yanukovych made a series of concessions negotiated by European countries. The deal was cast aside in a matter of hours with no attempt by the West to uphold its terms.
Meanwhile, Putin, who was tied up with the Sochi Olympics and obsessed over fears that it would be targeted by Islamist terrorists, appears to have been caught off-guard by the events in Ukraine. He then reacted to the alarming developments on Russia’s border, including the emergence of neo-Nazis as prominent figures in the coup regime in Kiev.
In other words, a logical – and indeed realistic – way to see the Ukraine-Crimea crisis is that Putin was largely responding to events that were outside his control. And that is important to understand, because that would mean that Putin was not the aggressor spoiling for a fight.
If there was premeditation, it was coming from the West and particularly from the neocons who remain highly influential in Official Washington. The neocons also had motive to go after Putin, since he helped Obama use diplomacy to quiet down dangerous crises with Syria and Iran while the neocons were pushing for more confrontation and U.S. military strikes.
But how did the U.S. news media present the Ukraine story to the American people?
First, there was the simplistic and misleading depiction of the pro-EU demonstrations as “democratic” when they mostly reflected the discontent of the pro-European population of western Ukraine, not the views of the more pro-Russian Ukrainians in the east and south who had pushed Yanukovych to victory in the 2010 election. Last time I checked, “democracy” referred to rule by the majority, not mob rule.
Then, despite the newsworthiness of the neo-Nazi role in the protests, the U.S. news media blacked-out these brown shirts because that ugly reality undercut the pleasing good-guys-vs.-bad-guys storyline. Then, when the snipers opened fire on protesters and policemen, the U.S. news media jumped to the conclusion that the killers were working for Yanukovych because that, too, fit with the desired narrative.
The violent overthrow of the democratically elected Yanukovych was hailed as an expression of “democracy,” again with the crucial role of the neo-Nazi militias largely airbrushed from the picture. The unanimous and near unanimous parliamentary votes that followed – as storm troopers patrolled the halls of government buildings – were further cited as evidence of “democracy” and “reform.”
The anger and fear of Ukrainians in the east and south were dismissed as Russian “propaganda” and Crimea’s move to extract itself from this political chaos was denounced as Russian “aggression.” U.S. news outlets casually denounced Putin as a “thug.” Washington Post columnist George F. Will called Putin “Stalin’s spawn.”
Former Secretary of State Clinton cited the Crimea situation to compare Putin to Hitler and to suggest that Putin was intent on recreating the old Soviet empire, though Crimea is only 10,000 square miles, about one-tenth of one percent the size of the old Soviet Union.
And, it wasn’t just that some or nearly all mainstream U.S. news organizations adopted this one-sided and misguided narrative. It was a consensus throughout all major U.S. news outlets. With a uniformity that one would normally associate with a totalitarian state, no competing narrative was permitted in the Big Media, regardless of the actual facts.
Whenever any of the more complex reality was included in a story, it was presented as Russian claims that were then followed by argumentative challenges. Yet, when U.S. officials made preposterous remarks about how uncivilized it was to violate another country’s sovereignty, the hypocrisy of their points went uncontested.
For instance, Secretary of State Kerry denounced Putin’s intervention in Crimea by declaring, “you just don’t in the 21st Century behave in 19th Century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext.” But you had to look on the Internet to find any writer who dared note Kerry’s breathtaking double standard, since he voted in 2002 to authorize the U.S. invasion of Iraq in pursuit of hidden WMD stockpiles that didn’t exist.
This cognitive dissonance pervaded the U.S. press and the political debate over Ukraine and Crimea. The long history of U.S. interventions in foreign countries – almost always in violation of international law – was forgotten, except for the rare occasion when some Russian “claim” about American hypocrisy was cited and then swatted down. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “America’s Staggering Hypocrisy.”]
Having worked many years in the mainstream U.S. news media, I fully understand how this process works and why it happens. Amid the patriotic chest-thumping that usually accompanies a U.S. military operation or American righteous outrage over some other nation’s actions, it is dangerous for your career to go against the flag-waving.
But it’s always been my view that such self-censorship is faux patriotism, as much as the happy story-lines are false narratives. Even if many Americans don’t want the truth, it is still the job of journalists to give them the truth. Otherwise, the U.S. democratic process is distorted and made dangerous.
Propaganda leads to bad policies as politicians – even when they know better – start parroting the errant conventional wisdom. We’ve seen this now with President Obama who – more than anyone – realizes the value of Putin’s cooperation on Syria and Iran but now must join in denouncing the Russian president and demanding sanctions.
Obama also surely knows that Yanukovych’s ouster violated both Ukraine’s constitution and principles of democracy, but he pretends otherwise. And, he knows that Crimea’s secession reflected the will of the people, but he must insist that their vote was illegitimate.
At a March 25 news conference in the Netherlands, Obama toed the line of the hypocritical false narrative. He declared, “we have said consistently throughout this process is that it is up to the Ukrainian people to make their own decisions about how they organize themselves and who they interact with.” He then added that the Crimean referendum was “sloppily organized over the course of two weeks” and thus a sham.
If Obama were telling the truth, he would have noted that Yanukovych – for all his faults – was democratically elected in a process that was deemed fair by international observers. Obama would have acknowledged that Yanukovych agreed on Feb. 21 to a process that would have allowed for an orderly and legal process for his replacement.
Obama would have admitted, too, that the violent coup and the actions of the rump parliament in Kiev were both illegal and, indeed, “sloppily organized” – and that the U.S. government acted hastily in recognizing this coup regime. But double standards seem to be the only standards these days in Official Washington.
What is perhaps tragic about Obama is that he does know better. He is not a stupid man. But he doesn’t dare go against the grain for fear of being denounced as “naïve” about Putin or “weak” in not facing down “Russian aggression.” So, he reads the lines that have been, in effect, dictated by neocons within his own administration.
I’m told that Obama, like Putin, was caught off-guard by the Ukraine crisis. But Obama’s unwillingness or inability to recast the false narrative left him with no political choice but to join in the Putin-bashing. That, in turn, means that Putin won’t be there to help Obama navigate around future U.S. war plans that the neocons have in mind for Syria and Iran.
Indeed, neutralizing the Obama-Putin relationship may have been the chief reason why the neocons were so eager to stoke the Ukrainian fires — and it shows how false narratives can get people killed.
Until now, Israel has been getting away with anything it likes. A series of revolutions and counter-revolutions in the Arabic world has driven it into chaos, and seems to have pushed the Palestinian issue off the international agenda for good.
And yet Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country, has now called a tribunal for war crimes and produced a genocide ruling – against whom?
Not against Assad, as one might have expected, but against Israel, the state that considers itself to be beyond the jurisdiction of any court or tribunal.
In Hamlet, the message that the king killed his brother to marry his widow and seize the throne is delivered by the murdered king’s spirit – which literally means by someone who cannot testify in court. As a result, Prince Hamlet spends a long time tormenting himself about whether he should believe the spirit and avenge his father. After that, he undertakes a smart move – asking a troupe of actors to stage a play reenacting his father’s murder, while he watches the murderer’s reaction. At the end of the play, everyone dies, but Hamlet has gotten his revenge.
That’s how people’s justice usually works – it takes a long time, it’s messy and ultimately useless from a rational viewpoint. It would have been much more rational for Prince Hamlet to pay due honor to the new king and his new wife, Hamlet’s mother, pray for his deceased father, marry Ophelia and have lots of children, then inherit the throne in due time and just keep on living…
The spectators watch how the prince’s world and values are shattered to the ground. The father’s spirit has its word. The actors have played out their play, and the murderer has been betrayed by his reaction.
For the first time, an international war crimes tribunal has charged the State of Israel of genocide, an unprecedented event, as so far no international court or tribunal has ever delivered a verdict against Israel to date.
The International Tribunal convened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Israel refused to send any representatives. The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal has no official ties to the UN and acknowledges that it has not authority to deliver punishment. Opinions differ on the subject of its jurisdiction, and the only sanction it has in its power is to enter the name and title of the party found guilty in the Tribunal’s registry and announce it publicly to the world. In 2011, the tribunal found George Bush and Tony Blair guilty of crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and genocide as a result of their roles in the Iraq War.
It seems that one could just as well ignore this tribunal; much like Israel ignores the condemning UN resolutions, protests, severed diplomatic relationships and all other kinds of protests against the military actions and acts of violence applied against the Palestinians on a daily basis. However, a detailed trial like this indicates that the mechanism has been set in motion, which will have consequences for the entire world, not just for Israel or the Middle East.
The International Tribunal is part of the Kuala Lumpur Commission on War Crimes; however, these two institutions are not part of Malaysia’s judicial system, even though they employ judges and prosecutors of Malaysian background. Israel has no agreements signed with this or any other international court. Yet the Tribunal acts on the basis of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948, which was signed and ratified by Israel. And this very signature, Israel’s membership in the UN and the fact that Israel owes its very existence to the UN and to the condemnation of genocide against Jews in the course of World War II – all this at the very least gives us the right to challenge and discuss whether Israel’s own actions could fall into the category of genocide.
Interestingly, the USA has been refusing to sign this document for 37 years, having reasonable fears that many lawyers would want to charge the USA itself with genocide of the Indians and African slaves, as well as the Japanese, the Koreans, the Vietnamese and many others. Israel, in its turn, did not foresee that the very convention it pushed the world to adopt after the war will one day be used against it. The very formation of the State of Israel was made possible by the agreement of the victorious powers to acknowledge that Jews were victims of genocide carried out by Nazi Germany and that only having a nation state of its own can guarantee them proper protection.
“The victims of genocide became themselves the source of it.” This is how Hedi Epstein sees the essence of the ruling against Israel. A German Jew who survived WWII, she lost her parents to a concentration camp. Epstein was a prosecution witness in the Nuremberg Trials. And in 1982, she learned that the Israeli Army occupied Lebanon and provoked mass executions in the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps. From that moment on, Epstein and hundreds of other Jews embarked on an anti-military and anti-Zionist campaign. However, Israel has refused to listen to their voices. They were labeled “self-hating” Jews and banned from the country which, incidentally, announced itself to be the homeland of all Jews in the world. Israel remained deaf to their warning that the Jews who survived genocide do not wish Israel to be committing genocidal crimes against the Palestinian people in their name.
Israel was convinced that the US would never cease to provide it with military and political assistance, so it had nothing to worry about. The Jewish “weirdos” are free to organize as many useless marches and “freedom flotillas” as they wish; no one will dare to find Israel guilty.
And now Israel has received its first wake-up call.
The hearings on the genocide lawsuit started in August 2013. But the news soon faded into the background as the media extensively covered the mass shooting of hundreds of Egyptians who disagreed with President Morsi’s arrest and the growing tensions around Syria due to a possible American missile strike.
On November 20-25, the final stage of the proceedings took place, initiated by a group of Palestinians, who reported a number of incidents.
The first one involved Israeli soldiers who killed 29 members of the extended Samouni family in the Zeitoun neighborhood of the Gaza Strip during the 22-day Operation Cast Lead in 2008 and 2009.
This is the most notorious crime against Palestinians over the last few years. Judge Goldstone incorporated it into his report, which he submitted to the UN after the operation was over.
The Samounis were a large family of peaceful farmers. None of them had ever participated in armed resistance. They were some of the few Palestinians who got on well with the Israeli settlers and they were frustrated by the removal of the settlements from the Gaza Strip.
In January 2009, an Israeli helicopter landed on their field. A few gunmen demanded that the Samounis turn in the Hamas militants to them. The next thing they did was bring the whole family under one roof and shoot them down dead, including the infants. Those who survived were found under the bodies of their relatives.
One of the survivors was the children’s mother. She repeatedly tried to get a criminal case started in various courts of law, but failed to get any compensation or apologies from Israel.
The second story revolved around the mass shooting of women and children in the Sabra and Shatila camps in Lebanon in 1982.
Other incidents included:
- lethal firing of teargas canisters and rubber bullets by Israeli Defense Forces that resulted in the deaths of unarmed civilians during the Intifada campaigns and subsequent protests;
- intensive, indiscriminate aerial bombing and artillery shelling of civilian quarters in the Gaza Strip in 2008;
- a university student who was shot without warning at a peaceful protest by an Israeli sniper, firing a fragmentary bullet that caused extensive and permanent damage to his internal organs;
- a Christian resident of the West Bank who was repeatedly imprisoned and tortured on grounds of subversion;
- a female resident of Nablus who suffered mental anxiety due to her imprisonment and subsequent social ostracism;
- a Palestinian physician who conducted studies on the psychological trauma inflicted, particularly on children, as result of constant intimidation, massive violence and state terror during and following the second Intifada; and
- Expert witness Paola Manduca, an Italian chemist and toxicologist, who found extreme levels of toxic contamination of the soil and water across the Gaza Strip, caused by Israeli weapons made of heavy metals and cancer-causing compounds.
The Tribunal found the State of Israel guilty of genocide of the Palestinian people in each of these cases, blaming former general Amos Yaron for the Sabra and Shatila massacre.
The Tribunal’s verdict reads as follows:
“The Tribunal is satisfied, beyond reasonable doubt, that the first defendant, [General] Amos Yaron, is guilty of crimes against humanity and genocide, and the second defendant, the State of Israel, is guilty of genocide.”
Even though the Israeli authorities ignored the summons, several highly experienced lawyers were appointed by the Tribunal to represent Israel.
So far we can only see separate elements without fully comprehending the full picture. There are several things worth noting here.
Israel’s case wasn’t brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague; in fact, it wasn’t a European court at all. In Europe, the guilt for failing to save the Jews from genocide 70 years ago is still alive and associated with Israel. Hearing this case in the Malaysian tribunal sends a message to the whole world that Israel should be treated like any other state, like Rwanda, Serbia, Libya or Cambodia.
The fact that the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal condemned Israel is hardly surprising – Malaysia actively supports the Palestinians. In early 2013 the Malaysian prime minister visited the Gaza Strip – there aren’t many political leaders who can afford to make such a provocative step.
Malaysian Islam is similar to that of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that suffered such a crushing political defeat in Egypt. Malaysia’s ex-leader, Mahathir Mohamad, is a very influential figure in the Muslim world, especially among Muslim Brotherhood supporters, specifically in the part of the Muslim establishment that’s close to Britain.
Malaysia is even more determined to get revenge for the damage the Muslim Brotherhood sustained than Turkey, so this influential political faction dealt their opponents a glancing, but painful blow. It’s the first time an international tribunal convicted not individual generals, but the State of Israel of genocide. Israel’s main weapon has been turned against it.
It’s also important to note that a year ago Henry Kissinger, a key figure in US politics and architect of the Middle East peace deal, unexpectedly said that he perused a report by 16 American intelligence agencies which arrived at the conclusion that in 10 years’ time there will be no more Israel. The report itself, as well as Kissinger’s comment, can only be viewed as proof that a certain section of the American political elite intends to finish Project Israel. Otherwise, they would’ve kept the report under wraps and started working on a plan to save Israel. And most importantly, if saving Israel was on their agenda, no tribunal would be hearing this case.
Moreover, most of the Israel’s supporters wanted to believe that almost three years of revolutions in the Arab world and two years of fighting in Syria have pushed the Palestinian issue to the sidelines. Israel rejoiced that the focus shifted from the Palestinian issue, which united everyone, to the Syrian conflict, which became a bone of contention for the entire world.
Contrary to Israel’s expectations of two months ago, the Tribunal is not trying Assad for crimes against the Syrian people. Instead, it is trying Israel for genocide of the Palestinians. All of a sudden, Israel has lost its momentum. The Palestinians are back in the political spotlight, and the trap designed to lure Assad has turned into a trap for Israel.
Last but not least, many pundits rushed to argue that both the rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood and their fall is all the doing of the US. The veteran commentators would say that those who are to blame for the toppling of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt will not go unpunished by the US and UK. The Israeli agents had put too much effort into cajoling major governments to support the Sisi-led coup to oust Mubarak and ignore the 3,000 deaths caused by the junta and the lies of the world media about the Muslim Brotherhood allegedly burning down the Coptic churches. Encouraged by the UK and Obama, full of arrogance and reluctance to reach any kind of compromise, Israel paved its own way to the genocide verdict.
Right now, Israel’s supporters are acting as though the Kuala Lumpur verdict can be neglected. But it won’t be long before they realize how dramatic the situation actually is: were the court to be situated in Europe, Israel would have lobbied its way out of the trial. But it did not reach as far as Kuala Lumpur. The precedent has been set.
Nadezhda Kevorkova is a war correspondent who has covered the events of the Arab Spring, military and religious conflicts around the world, and the anti-globalization movement.
Not since Feb. 6, 2003, the day after Secretary of State Colin Powell wowed the world with his slam-dunk speech “proving” that Iraq was hiding WMD, has the Washington Post’s editorial section shown this unity of “group think.” On Thursday, the Post presented a solid phalanx of denunciations directed at Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Across the two editorial pages, Post writers and columnists stood, shoulder to shoulder, beating their chests about Putin as evil, mad or both. “A dangerous Russian doctrine,” screamed the lead editorial. “An elemental fear” was the headline of a George F. Will column. “Making Russia pay” was the goal of Sen. Marco Rubio’s opinion article. “Putin’s fantasy world” was explored by editorialist Charles Lane.
The one slightly out-of-step pundit was E.J. Dionne Jr. whose column – ”Can Crimea bring us together?” – agreed on Putin’s dastardly behavior but added the discordant note that most Americans weren’t onboard and didn’t want their government to “get too involved” in the dispute over Ukraine and Crimea.
All the other opinion articles marched in lockstep to the theme that Putin was crazy and delusional. The Post’s lead editorial favorably quoted Secretary of State John Kerry as saying that Putin’s speech about the Ukraine crisis “just didn’t jibe with reality.”
This was the same John Kerry, who earlier in the Ukraine crisis, denounced Putin’s intervention in Crimea by declaring that “you just don’t in the 21st Century behave in 19th Century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext.” Kerry, of course, voted in 2002 to authorize the U.S. invasion of Iraq in pursuit of hidden WMD stockpiles that didn’t exist.
However, what now should be painfully clear is that since almost no one in Official Washington paid any serious price for following neocon propaganda into the Iraq War a decade ago, the same patterns continue to assert and reassert themselves in other crises a decade or more later, often executed by the same people.
The Washington Post’s editorial page is run by literally the same people who ran it when all those Post’s opinion leaders were standing with the estimable Colin Powell on Feb. 6, 2003, and asserting the existence of Iraq’s WMD as “flat fact.” Fred Hiatt is still the editorial-page editor and Jackson Diehl is still his deputy.
Putin’s Thoughtful Address
Yet, contrary to the Post’s latest “group think,” Putin delivered a rather remarkable, even insightful speech on Tuesday, explaining Russia’s not unreasonable view of recent history. Recognizing the actual U.S. approach to the world – not the fairy-tale one favored by Kerry and the Post – Putin said:
“Like a mirror, the situation in Ukraine reflects what is going on and what has been happening in the world over the past several decades. After the dissolution of bipolarity on the planet [i.e. the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991], we no longer have stability. Key international institutions are not getting any stronger; on the contrary, in many cases, they are sadly degrading.
“Our western partners, led by the United States of America, prefer not to be guided by international law in their practical policies, but by the rule of the gun. They have come to believe in their exclusivity and exceptionalism, that they can decide the destinies of the world, that only they can ever be right.
“They act as they please: here and there, they use force against sovereign states, building coalitions based on the principle ‘If you are not with us, you are against us.’ To make this aggression look legitimate, they force the necessary resolutions from international organizations, and if for some reason this does not work, they simply ignore the UN Security Council and the UN overall.”
Nothing in that key passage of Putin’s speech is crazy. He is stating the reality of the current era, though one could argue that this U.S. aggressive behavior was occurring during the Cold War as well. Really, since World War II, Washington has been in the business of routinely subverting troublesome governments (including overthrowing democratically elected leaders) and invading countries (that for some reason got in Washington’s way).
It is a challenge to list all the examples of U.S. interventions abroad, both in America’s “backyard” (Guatemala, Cuba, Chile, Nicaragua, Grenada, Haiti, Venezuela, Honduras, etc.) and in far-flung parts of the world (Iran, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Congo, Lebanon, Serbia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, etc.). These actions – usually outside international law and in violation of those nations’ sovereignty – have continued into the current century and the current administration.
It’s also true that the United States has behaved harshly toward Russia during much of the post-Cold War era, reneging on an understanding with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that his concessions to President George H.W. Bush regarding German reunification and Eastern Europe would not be exploited by the U.S. government.
Yet, the U.S. government and corporate America moved aggressively against Russia in the post-Soviet era, helping to plunder Russia’s resources and pushing the frontlines of NATO right up to Russia’s borders. For all his autocratic faults, Putin has moved to put a stop to these encroachments against Russian national interests.
Offending the Neocons
Putin also has helped President Barack Obama extricate the United States from dangerous situations in Syria and Iran – while the neocons and Washington Post’s editorialists were pounding the drums for more confrontation and war.
And, therein may lie the problem for Putin. He has become a major impediment to the grand neocon vision of “regime change” across the Middle East in any country considered hostile to Israel. That vision was disrupted by the disaster that the American people confronted in the Iraq War, but the vision remains.
Putin also is an obstacle to the even grander vision of global “full-spectrum dominance,” a concept developed by neocons in the two Bush administrations, the theory that the United States should prevent any geopolitical rival from ever emerging again. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Bush’s Grim Vision.”]
Thus, Putin must be portrayed as unstable and dangerous even though much of his account of the Ukraine crisis fits with what many on-the-ground reporters observed in real time. Indeed, many of the key facts are not in serious dispute despite the distortions and omissions that have permeated the U.S. mainstream press.
For instance, there’s no factual dispute that Viktor Yanukovych was Ukraine’s democratically elected president. Nor is there an argument about him having agreed to a European-negotiated deal on Feb. 21, which included him surrendering much of his power and moving up elections so he could be voted out of office.
After that agreement – and Yanukovych’s order to pull back the police in the face of violent street demonstrations – it was widely reported that neo-Nazi militias spearheaded the Feb. 22 coup d’etat which forced Yanukovych to flee. And no one is credibly saying Ukraine’s constitutional rules were followed when a rump parliament stripped him of the presidency.
Nor is there any serious doubt that the people of Crimea, which has historically been part of Russia, voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to separate from the coup regime now governing Ukraine. The difference between exit polls and the official results was 93 percent in the exit polls and 96 percent in the final tally.
Only in the neocon-dominated and propaganda-soaked U.S. news media is this factual narrative in dispute – and mostly by ignoring or ridiculing it.
However, when Putin politely takes note of these realities, he is deemed by the Washington Post’s editorialists to be a madman. To hammer that point, the Post turned to one of its longtime neocon writers, Charles Lane, known for his skills at bending reality into whatever shape is needed.
In his column, Lane not only denied the reality of modern American interventionism but cleverly accused Putin of doing what Lane was actually doing, twisting the truth.
“Putin presented a legal and historical argument so tendentious and so logically tangled – so unappealing to anyone but Russian nationalists such as those who packed the Kremlin to applaud him – that it seemed intended less to refute contrary arguments than to bury them under a rhetorical avalanche,” Lane wrote.
Lane then suggested that Putin must be delusional. “The biggest problem with this cover story is that Putin may actually believe it,” Lane wrote.
Lane also was offended that – when Putin later spoke to a crowd in Red Square – he concluded his remarks by saying “Long live Russia!” But why that is so objectionable coming from a Russian politician is hard to fathom. President Obama – and other U.S. politicians – routinely close their remarks with the words, “God bless the United States of America!”
But double standards have always been part of Charles Lane’s repertoire, at least since I knew him as a fellow correspondent for Newsweek in the late 1980s. Before Lane arrived at the magazine, Newsweek had distinguished itself with some quality reporting that belied the Reagan administration’s propaganda themes in Central America.
That, however, upset Newsweek’s executive editor Maynard Parker, who was a strong supporter of U.S. interventionism and sympathized with President Ronald Reagan’s aggressive policies in Central America. So, a shake-up was ordered of Newsweek’s Central America staff.
To give Parker the more supportive coverage he wanted, Lane was brought onboard and dispatched to replace experienced reporters in Central America. Lane soon began getting Newsweek’s field coverage in line with Reagan’s propaganda themes.
But I kept messing up the desired harmony by debunking these stories from Washington. This dynamic was unusual since it’s more typical for reporters in the field to challenge the U.S. government’s propaganda while journalists tied to the insular world of Washington tend to be seduced by access and to endorse the official line.
But the situation at Newsweek was reversed. Lane pushed the propaganda themes that he was fed from the U.S. embassies in Central America and I challenged them with my reporting in Washington. The situation led Lane to seek me out during one of his visits to Washington.
We had lunch at Scholl’s cafeteria near Newsweek’s Washington office on Pennsylvania Avenue. As we sat down, Lane turned to me and, rather defensively, accused me of viewing him as “an embassy boy,” i.e. someone who carried propaganda water for the U.S. embassies.
I was a bit nonplussed since I had never exactly put it that way, but it wasn’t far from what I actually thought. I responded by trying to avoid any pejorative phrasing but stressing my concern that we shouldn’t let the Reagan administration get away with misleading the American people – and Newsweek’s readers.
As it turned out, however, I was on the losing side of that debate. Lane had the support of executive editor Parker, who favored an aggressive application of U.S. power abroad and didn’t like his reporters undermining those efforts. Like some other young journalists of that era, Lane either shared that world view or knew what was needed to build his career.
Lane did succeed in making a profitable career for himself. He scored high-profile gigs as the editor of the neocon New Republic (though his tenure was tarnished by the Stephen Glass fabrication scandal) and as a regular guest on Fox News. He’s also found steady employment as an editorialist for the Washington Post.
Now, Lane and other Post columnists have made it clear who Official Washington’s new villain is and who must be loudly hissed: Vladimir Putin.
Those who claim that the United States went to war for oil seem to assume that since Iraq has huge reserves of oil, gaining control of that resource must have been the reason that the United States invaded the country. As the most prominent intellectual exponent of that view, Noam Chomsky, has put it:
Of course it was Iraq’s energy resources. It’s not even a question. Iraq’s one of the major oil producers in the world. It has the second largest reserves and it’s right in the heart of the Gulf’s oil-producing region, which U.S. intelligence predicts is going to be two thirds of world resources in coming years. 
Operating from that assumption, the proponents of the war-for-oil thesis have endeavored to produce evidence that proves it, at least in their eyes.
I have offered counter-evidence in my book, The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel, and elsewhere to show that the existing arguments in support of the oil-war thesis just do not provide anything close to compelling proof. 
The fact that Iraq has a large amount of oil does not mean that the oil companies would necessarily push for war; instead, they could seek to exploit that oil in peaceful ways.
Indeed, the companies were pushing for an end to sanctions against Iraq. A Business Week article in May 2001, for example, reported that the easing of sanctions on “rogue” states “pits powerful interests such as the pro-Israeli lobby and the U.S. oil industry against each other. And it is sure to preoccupy the Bush Administration and Congress.” 
In short, an easing of sanctions supported by the oil companies, which would enable them to have access to Iraq’s oil, would serve to strengthen Saddam and make it more difficult to overthrow his regime, which was the goal of the neocons, a leading element of the Israel lobby.
Moreover, the oil companies were quite fearful of the impact of war on oil production. According to oil analyst Anthony Sampson in December 2002, “Oil companies have had little influence on U.S. policy-making. Most big American companies, including oil companies, do not see a war as good for business, as falling share prices indicate.” 
Fareed Mohamedi of PFC Energy, a consulting firm based in Washington, D.C., that advised petroleum firms, stated that “[t]he big oil companies were not enthusiastic about the Iraqi war,” maintaining that “[c]orporations like Exxon-Mobile and Chevron-Texaco want stability, and this is not what Bush is providing in Iraq and the Gulf region.” 
Despite the lack of solid evidence, and the existence of contrary evidence, the war-for-oil argument just will not die, for various political, psychological, social, and economic reasons.
It fits the prevalent belief in the rapacious nature of capitalist companies, and it is also a safe view to hold — it is doubtful that anyone ever lost a job or a friend for blaming the oil interests, unless one were actually employed by an oil company. In contrast, the explanation involving the neoconservatives and Israel represents a dangerous taboo.
Given the strong attraction of the oil argument, therefore, it is appropriate to examine a prominent piece of purported evidence used by its adherents. Thus, this article will look at the role of the National Energy Policy Development Group, which President George W. Bush created in his second week in office. The group had as its purpose the creation of a national energy policy for the United States. Chaired by Vice President Dick Cheney — who in the war-for-oil scenario is assumed to be an archetypal oil man — it would be dubbed the Cheney Energy Task Force.
As Cheney’s biographer Barton Gellman points out, the task force became, in many respects, a “creature of Cheney’s worldview.”  De-emphasizing conservation and environmental protection, Cheney believed that the United States needed a “near-term boost in domestic energy production,” which had suffered from over-regulation.  In short, Cheney’s view on energy production coincided with that of the producers of fossil fuels. And in developing the energy policy, he would consult closely with leading figures in the fossil-fuels industry while giving short shrift to the opinions of environmentalists, with whom he rarely met.
Perhaps because of the biased nature of the sources of his information, but also in line with his expansive view of the executive branch’s prerogatives, Cheney kept the meetings secret, and only as a result of legal efforts was any information about them revealed to the public; and even then it was far from everything. It was that secrecy that the war-for-oil theorists fell upon in order to substantiate their claim that the oil interest played the leading role in bringing about the U.S. attack on Iraq.
To the adherents of the thesis, it seemed apparent that the secrecy meant that something very ominous had been discussed in those meetings that could not be made known to the public, and the most ominous development in the early Bush administration was assumed to be the planning for the attack on Iraq.
Now, there is plenty of evidence that such planning was underway, and in fact had already been made, by the neoconservatives, with whom Cheney was certainly in league and whom he had actually brought into the Bush administration. However, there is no evidence that an attack on Iraq garnered substantial support from the oil industry. Far from pushing for war, industry representatives publicly supported the elimination of sanctions on Iraq (and elsewhere) so that they could have access to oil.
Moreover, they were concerned about any form of instability in the Middle East, fearing that war would disrupt the extraction and transportation of oil. Thus, ex-President George H.W. Bush and his cronies, who according to the oil-war scenario are associated with the war on Iraq, were at least cool to the war.
Brent Scowcroft, for one, was actively opposed. Scowcroft had been the elder Bush’s national security advisor and during the run-up to the 2003 war sat on the board of Pennzoil-Quaker State. 
As an aside, let me deal with the implication that the oil companies were advocating war only in secret meetings with high Bush administration officials, with their pro-war views unknown to the media.
That invisible approach is highly unlikely. Any contention that the oil interests primarily work behind the scenes is belied by the fact that they have been quite visible indeed in their public advocacy on many issues: fracking regulations; the termination of restrictions on the export of American-produced crude oil; the Keystone XL pipeline; regulations on refineries; and opposition to limitations on the use of fossil fuels because of “climate change” (anthropogenic global warming). And as mentioned, the oil companies were visible in their public opposition to the existing oil sanctions in 2001. The oil companies have been not only quite vocal in those matters but also far from successful in getting their way.
The war-for-oil theorists’ suggestion that the oil interests could be more successful taking an invisible approach instead of a public one does not seem plausible. The neocons had developed and publicized their Middle East war agenda before 2001; once George W. Bush took office, they openly promoted an attack on Iraq, both in the media and from their key positions in the administration. All of that being so, it is reasonable to believe that it was their efforts that accounted for the U.S. attack. There is no need to posit any undocumented, invisible support from the oil lobby; by the standards of proof in argumentation, the neocon explanation fits the simplicity principle of Occam’s razor. In an example of reverse logic, proponents of the oil thesis deny, ignore, or at least downplay the role of the neocons in bringing about the war on Iraq.
Despite counter-evidence, proponents of the war-for-oil thesis claim to find solid evidence for the coming invasion in the documents produced by the Cheney Energy Task Force. Some war-for-oil proponents, for example, have cited the maps of Iraqi oil fields used by the task force as evidence of plans for how those fields would be divvied up among U.S. companies. As the result of a court order, Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group, obtained a batch of task force-related U.S. Commerce Department papers that included a detailed map of oil fields, terminals, and pipelines, as well as a list titled “Foreign Suitors of Iraqi Oilfield Contracts.” But the papers obtained also included a detailed map of oil fields and pipelines in Saudi Arabia and in the United Arab Emirates, as well as a list of oil and gas development projects in those two countries. The U.S. secretary of commerce said there were also maps of other key oil-producing regions of the world, including Russia, North America, the Middle East, and the Caspian Sea region. It seems quite reasonable that a task force on energy would seek clear knowledge about the key global locations of oil production. 
Strategic-Energy-Policy-Challenges-for-the-21st-CenturyIraq is barely mentioned in the final report from the Cheney task force, but it is given more, though still quite limited, attention in a report, “Strategic Energy Policy: Challenges for the 21st Century,” by an Independent Task Force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and the James A.Baker III Institute of Public Policy.
According to the Baker Institute, that task force was “comprised [of] 52 prominent Americans from government, industry, and academia … [and] offered 110 recommendations to the Cheney task force and U.S. Congress regarding steps to build a comprehensive energy policy and national consensus.”
The chairman of the task force was Edward L. Morse, an energy economist and at the time an advisor at Hess Energy Trading Co. During the Carter administration he served as deputy assistant secretary of state for international energy policy, from 1979 to 1981.
Adherents of the oil-war argument have connected the Baker report to the Cheney task force and have interpreted its few references to Iraq as indications of the forthcoming American invasion. 
The Baker group urged four “immediate steps”; one such step, labeled “Deter and Manage International Supply Shortfalls,” was in five parts; the Iraq issue was merely one of those five parts. The “immediate steps” were “to be considered in the very short term to assure that appropriate mechanisms are in place to deal with potential supply disruptions and to buffer the economy from adverse impacts of price volatility.” 
The recommendation pertaining to Iraq read: “Review policies toward Iraq with the aim to lowering anti-Americanism in the Middle East and elsewhere, and set the groundwork to eventually ease Iraqi oil-field investment restrictions.” The report acknowledged that “Iraq remains a destabilizing influence to U.S. allies in the Middle East, as well as to regional and global order, and to the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East. Saddam Hussein has also demonstrated a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon and to use his own export program to manipulate oil markets.” 
The report stated that “[t]he United States should conduct an immediate policy review toward Iraq, including military, energy, economic, and political/diplomatic assessments.”  The emphasis, however, was not on military action against Iraq but on a sanctions policy toward Iraq that was better-coordinated with other countries, the existing sanctions being perceived as harming the Iraqi people without effectively weakening Saddam’s power and ability to acquire weaponry.
“The United States,” the report thus maintained, “should then develop an integrated strategy with key allies in Europe and Asia and with key countries in the Middle East to restate the goals with respect to Iraqi policy and to restore a cohesive coalition of key allies…. Actions and policies to promote these goals should endeavor to enhance the well-being of the Iraqi people. Sanctions that are not effective should be phased out and replaced with highly focused and enforced sanctions that target the regime’s ability to maintain and acquire weapons of mass destruction. A new plan of action should be developed to use diplomatic and other means to support U.N. Security Council efforts to build a strong arms-control regime to stem the flow of arms and controlled substances into Iraq.” 
The Baker report continued: “Once an arms-control program is in place, the United States could consider reducing restrictions on oil investments inside Iraq. Like it or not, Iraqi reserves represent a major asset that can quickly add capacity to world oil markets and inject a more competitive tenor to oil trade.” 
The report acknowledged that if a diminution of the sanctions led to an increase in Saddam’s oil revenues, he “could be a greater security threat to U.S. allies in the region if weapons of mass destruction (WMD) sanctions, weapons regimes, and the coalition against him are not strengthened.” Nonetheless, it supported making a change since the continuation of the “oil sanctions is becoming increasingly difficult to implement” and “Saddam Hussein has many means of gaining revenues, and the sanctions regime helps perpetuate his lock on the country’s economy.”  A one-sided reading of that passage alone might seem to include war as one alternative to the existing sanctions, but, in fact, the report explicitly prescribed narrowing the scope of sanctions.
The Baker Institute report’s fundamental concern that “energy disruptions could have a potentially enormous impact on the U.S. and world economy, and … affect U.S. national security and foreign policy in dramatic ways”  would suggest that the United States not engage in military adventures that could destabilize the region. The U.S. invasion of Iraq certainly did cause such destabilization and explains why the oil interests and the traditional American foreign-policy establishment in general were cool or opposed to the attack on Iraq. 
Now, once it had become clear that the United States would attack Iraq, and certainly after it actually had invaded, one may assume that the oil companies would want to take advantage of the situation and jockey for a favored position in postwar Iraq. But that does not somehow prove by itself that the oil interests pushed the country into war. And as it happened, the U.S. government did little to guarantee a favorable position for American oil companies after the war. As I pointed out in The Transparent Cabal, the U.S. government never made plans (much less implemented such plans) to dominate Iraq, to the extent of being able to control Iraq’s oil for its own benefit and that of its oil companies at the expense of the Iraq government and people. To exercise any permanent control of Iraq’s oil reserves, Washington would have had to turn the country into a virtual colony (which would have been very difficult, if not impossible).  It was inevitable that an Iraqi government with any type of autonomy would sell oil leases to the highest bidder.
Under the oil argument, the violence and political resistance that sprang up in Iraq during the occupation thwarted the U.S. plan to control oil. The likelihood of such internal violence, however, was fully recognized in a number of pre-invasion government studies.  About the only ostensibly knowledgeable group that claimed otherwise was the neocons, and if their expressed view here is accepted as a candid account, it seems necessary to accept also their public pronouncements about establishing democracy and ridding Iraq of WMDs as reasons for the war.
When Iraq began to sell oil leases to foreign companies in 2009, only a very few went to American companies while a disproportionate number went to America’s major rivals, China and Russia. That could hardly be a goal of American foreign policy. One reason given for those countries’ success has been that their companies were government-owned or government-supported, and thus could better afford to incur risk and accept low profits than their American counterparts, which were strictly private.  Of course, if the U.S. government really fought a multi-trillion-dollar war for the purpose of gaining control of Iraqi oil for its companies, one would expect it to subsidize any oil leases in Iraq by American companies, the cost of which would pale beside the overall war costs.
In sum, there does not seem to be any real evidence that Washington went to war against Iraq to enhance the profits of the oil industry, or control oil for the United States, nor is there any logical reason to think that would be the case. Nevertheless, as I indicated at the beginning, there are strong political, psychological, social, and economic motivations for maintaining that belief, especially as opposed to the non-P.C. and rather dangerous alternative view to which I adhere — focusing on the role of the pro-Israel neocons. In most cases, those concerns are far more important in determining the prevalence of any view in modern America than logic and evidence, even for that very small minority of the population with high intellectual ability who are actually knowledgeable about the issues.
In fact, such people are often far more affected by concerns involving employment and social status than average Americans, and are thus less open-minded and less willing to alter their views in light of the facts. Whatever their actual personal views, the oil argument provides a safe position for those who want to oppose America’s war policies in the Middle East without endangering themselves by expressing a view that could bring on lethal accusations of anti-Semitism.
However, a false view of reality will not serve to effectively solve problems. If we focus on a false culprit, the neocons and the overall Israel lobby are apt to flourish, and American military adventures are apt to continue in the Middle East.
1. Noam Chomsky, interview with Dubai’s Business Channel, “‘Of course, it was all about Iraq’s resources,’” December 2, 2003.
2. Stephen J. Sniegoski, The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel (Norfolk, Va.: Enigma Editions, 2008), pp. 333-50; Sniegoski, “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel,” The Last Ditch, October 22, 2004.
3. “Rogue States: Why Washington May Ease Sanctions,” Business Week, May 6, 2001. Quoted in Transparent Cabal, p. 336; quoted in “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel.”
4. Anthony Sampson, “Oilmen don’t want another Suez,” The Observer, December 21, 2002. Sampson is author of The Seven Sisters(New York: Bantam Books, 1976), which deals with oil companies and the Middle East; quoted in Transparent Cabal, p. 336; quoted in “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel.”
5. Quoted in Roger Burbach, “The Bush Ideologues vs. Big Oil in Iraq,” CounterPunch, October 3-5, 2003.
6. Barton Gellman, Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency (New York: Penguin Press, 2008), p. 90.
7. Ibid., p. 91.
8. Transparent Cabal; “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel,” The Last Ditch, October 22, 2004; “Brent Scowcroft,” Sourcewatch.
9. “Cheney Energy Task Force Documents Detail Iraqi Oil Industry,” Fox News, July 18, 2003; “Cheney Energy Task Force Documents Feature Map of Iraqi Oil Fields,” Judicial Watch, July 17, 2003.
10. James A. Baker III Institute of Public Policy, Energy Forum Policy Research.
11. Ritt Goldstein, “‘Oil War’ Questions Surround Cheney Energy Group”; Michael T. Klare, “The Bush/Cheney Energy Strategy: Implications for U.S. Foreign and Military Policy,” a paper prepared for the second annual meeting of the Association for Study of Peak Oil, Paris, France, May 26-27, 2003; Carol Brightman, Total Insecurity: The Myth of American Omnipotence, London: Verso, 2004, p. 190; Jason Leopold, “Eager to Tap Iraq’s Vast Oil Reserves, Industry Execs Suggested Invasion,” The Public Record, July 1, 2009.
12. “Strategic Energy Policy,” p. 42.
13. Ibid., p. 46.
14. Ibid., p. 46.
15. Ibid., p. 46-47.
16. Ibid., p. 47.
17. Ibid., p. 47.
18. Ibid., p. 2.
19. The traditional foreign-policy establishment’s opposition to the neocon position is brought out throughout The Transparent Cabal, but especially see: pp. 59, 270-73, 291-297, 343-350; Sniegoski, “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel.”
20. Transparent Cabal, pp. 340-42; “War on Iraq: Not oil but Israel,” The Last Ditch, October 22, 2004.
21. Transparent Cabal, pp. 336-38.
22. Mohammed Abbas, “No boon for U.S. firms in Iraq oil deal auction,” Reuters, August 12, 2009.
Dr. Stephen J. Sniegoski, Ph.D. earned his doctorate in American history,with a focus on American foreign policy, at the University of Maryland. His focus on the neoconservative involvement in American foreign policy antedates September 11, 2001. His first major work on the subject, “The War on Iraq: Conceived in Israel” was published February 10, 2003, more than a month before the American attack. He is the author of “The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel”.
The Neocons Ride Again
An important article, entitled Russia needs to defend its interests with an iron fist, appeared in the Financial Times the other day, to wit, March 5th. It is an analysis of the blowup in Ukraine from a Russian perspective.
The writer, Dr. Sergei Karaganov, makes perfect sense. He is a distinguished academic in Moscow and a leader of Global Zero, the international movement for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. Sounds like a great idea and way overdue.
My own outlook is that the imbroglio in the Ukraine was orchestrated by Neoconservative elements in Washington. The Neoconservatives as you may know, began infiltrating the U.S. Government and the American news media in earnest during the H.W. Bush Administration. They came into glory during the co-consulship of Dick Cheney and G.W. Bush.
In the present instance, Russian President Vladimir Putin has reacted in a predictable manner to a situation which the Neocons have brought about in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, on the southern flank of Russia. Did the NSC expect Moscow to stand by while Russia’s Black Sea fleet headquartered at Sevastopol in the Crimea was put at risk? Does Washington want a new Cold War? If so, why?
Meddling by Washington in the internal affairs of other nations is certainly nothing new. Such activity must be seen in historical context. It has been the hallmark of U.S. foreign policy since the days of the Spanish-American war in 1898. The immediate consequences have rarely been salubrious for the people on the ground. Under Presidents from both political parties, America became a busybody nation, either looking for trouble or deliberately stirring it up.
Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt are the prime exemplars of outsized trouble-making. Both deliberately lied America into war, while loudly proclaiming that they were trying to keep the country out of war. It is clear in retrospect that Wilson and Roosevelt had serious psychological problems, not the least of which was grandiosity.
In April 1917 Wilson came to the rescue of the gigantic, far-flung British Empire and of its obtuse, myopic leadership in Whitehall. American intervention in the Great War collaterally paved the way for the Soviet Union and handed Palestine, thanks to the Balfour Declaration, over to the Zionists. The outcome of World War I and the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 is a Pandora’s box that does not quit. The box continues to disgorge its contents to this day.
As for Roosevelt, he was uniquely responsible for the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939. I’m referring to FDR’s rule-or-ruin, sub rosa foreign policy from 1937 onward with respect to the internal borders of Europe, which borders were none of Washington’s business. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, France and Poland became pawns of White House intrigue. The result was a trumped-up crisis involving the German port city of Danzig in the summer of 1939, and the outbreak of war in September.
It took a few more years of machinations for FDR to provoke and maneuver the hapless Japanese into attacking Pearl Harbor. Using this “back door to war” America was officially railroaded into the ongoing bloodbath in Europe.
In our own time, post Cold War, outbreaks of chaos, ruination and bedlam, in which Washington has had a hand, have been on a minor scale, when compared to the two colossal world wars of the 20th century. At least so far. For example, at the present moment both Iraq and Syria are self-destructing simultaneously, as a direct consequence of ill-advised U.S. foreign policy decisions.
For Iraq, putting aside the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, it all began with Saddam Hussein’s oil production dispute with the fake state of Kuwait in 1990. In the aftermath of crippling U.S. sanctions and a “shock and awe” invasion, the enterprise of Iraq is ending today in a gruesome, internecine war, waged by car and truck bombings. Oh, the fruits and the joys of Operation Iraqi Freedom!
As for Syria, that beautiful country has long been targeted by the Tel Aviv-Washington axis, because President Assad is an ally of Hezbollah in Lebanon and is on good terms with Iran. Assad also wants a return of the Golan Heights, which Tel Aviv annexed from Syria years ago. Assad has accordingly been placed at the top of Israel’s strategic hit list. Ironically, the project to destroy Syria has been outsourced to crazed Sunni Jihadists.
Tehran is also on the same list. The elaborate economic and financial sanctions now in place against Iran are designed to destroy the Iranian economy. The goal is regime change, pure and simple. Iran’s nuclear program is nothing more than a cover story to justify the sanctions.
There is no Persian Bomb and no Iranian nuclear weapons program. Obama knows this, but he allows the charade to go forward unabated for the simple reason that, being a front man, he has little choice. Were Obama to unmask the charade now, he would call into question U.S. foreign policy going back to 1990, not to mention exposing himself as a charlatan.
Vladimir Putin is also on the hit list, because, among other reasons, he is on good terms with Syria and Iran, and he does not play the game of geopolitics according to the same playbook as Washington and Tel Aviv. He has refused to drink their Kool-Aid.
Moreover, Putin and Russia have been on a roll recently. I am referring to the Sochi Olympics, to Russia’s second presidency of the G8 and to Putin’s pivotal role (and that of Russia’s able foreign minister Sergey Lavrov) in persuading Obama and Kerry to abandon a cruise missile attack on Syria, which was being justified by a crude false-flag operation. Such an attack would have been madness.
In truth, the know-it-all Neoconservatives and their dupes, camp followers and assorted busybodies in Washington have been stymied by Putin, and almost sidelined. They didn’t like it one bit. But now, thanks to the upheaval they have engineered in the Ukraine with U.S. taxpayers’ money, they are attempting a comeback.
They would love to slap some serious economic sanctions on Russia, just like they have done to Iran, damn the consequences to Europe, the Russian people, or anybody else. Sanctions, like Drones, are in. First destabilize, then destroy. There seems to be little downside. So far, Vladimir Putin has outsmarted the mischief-makers and warmongers, and not lost his cool. Let’s see if he can do it again.
Patrick Foy’s work can be found at www.PatrickFoyDossier.com.
I’m a huge fan of peace studies as an academic discipline that should be spread into every corner of what we call, with sometimes unclear justification, our education system. But often peace studies, like other disciplines, manages to study only those far from home, and to study them with a certain bias.
I recently read a book promoting the sophisticated skills of trained negotiators and suggesting that if such people, conversant in the ways of emotional understanding, would take over the Palestine “peace process” from the aging politicians, then … well, basically, then Palestinians would agree to surrender their land and rights without so much fuss. Great truths about negotiation skills only go so far if the goal of the negotiation is injustice based on misunderstanding of the facts on the ground.
I recently read another book discussing nonviolent resistance to injustice and brutality. It focused on a handful of stories of how peace was brought to various poor tribes and nations, usually through careful, respectful, and personal approaches, that appeased some tyrant’s ego while moving him toward empathy. These books are valuable, and it is good that they are proliferating. But they always leave me wondering whether the biggest war-maker on earth is left out because war isn’t war when Westerners do it, or is it, rather, because the military industrial complex requires a different approach. How many decades has it been since a U.S. president sat down and listened to opponents of militarism? Does the impossibility of such a thing remove it from our professors’ consideration?
Here in Virginia’s Fifth District, a bunch of us met with our then-Congressman Tom Perriello a few years back and sought respectfully and persuasively to bring him to oppose and stop funding the war on Afghanistan. Perriello was and is, in some quarters, considered some sort of “progressive” hero. I’ve never understood why. He did not listen. Why? We had majority opinion with us. Was it because we lacked the skills? Was it because of his sincere belief in so-called humanitarian wars? Or was it something else? The New York Times on Friday reported on the corruption of the organization where Perriello was hired immediately upon his electoral defeat. The Center for American Progress takes funding from weapons companies and supports greater public funding of weapons companies. The Democratic National Committee gave Perriello’s reelection campaign a bunch of money just after one of his votes for a bill containing war money and a bank bailout (he seemed to oppose the latter). White House officials and cabinet secretaries did public events with Perriello in his district just after his vote.
I know another member of Congress who wants to end wars and cut military spending, but when I ask this member’s staff to stop talking about social safety net cuts as if they only hurt veterans rather than all people I can’t even make my concern — that of glorifying veterans as more valuable — understood. It’s like talking to a brick military base.
My friend David Hartsough was one, among others, who spoke with President John Kennedy when he was President, urged him toward peace and believed he listened. That didn’t work out well for President Kennedy, or for peace. When Gorbachev was ready to move the Soviet Union toward peace, President Ronald Reagan wasn’t. Was that because of sincere, well-meaning, if misguided notions of security? Or was it senility, stupidity, and stubbornness? Or was it something else? Was it a system that wouldn’t allow it? Was something more than personal persuasion on the substance of the matter needed? Was a new way of funding elections and communicating campaign slogans required first? Would peace studies have to revise its approach if it noticed the existence of the Pentagon?
Of course, I think the answer is some of each. I think reducing military spending a little will allow us to be heard a little more clearly, which will allow us to reduce military spending a little further, and so on. And part of the reason why I think it’s both and not purely “structural” is the opposition to war that brews up within the U.S. military — as it did on missile strikes for Syria this past summer. Sometimes members of the military oppose, protest, or even resist wars.
Another type of book that has proliferated madly is the account of military veterans’ activism in the peace movement during the Bush presidency — with always a bit on what survived of that movement into the reign of the Nobel Peace Laureate Constitutional Law Professor President. I’ve just read a good one of these books called Fighting For Peace: Veterans and Military Families in the Anti-Iraq War Movement by Lisa Leitz. This book, as well as any of them, provides insights into the difficulties faced by military and veteran peace activists, and military family member peace activists, as well as the contributions they’ve made. I’ve become an associate (non-veteran) member of Veterans For Peace and worked for that group and with other groups like Iraq Veterans Against the War and Military Families Speak Out because of the tremendous job they’ve done. The non-military peace movement needs to work ever harder at welcoming and encouraging and supporting military and veteran peace activism. And vice versa.
Different risks are involved. Different emotions are involved. Would you march against a war if it might ruin your own or a loved one’s career? To stretch the definition of war-maker a little, would you take a job with Lockheed-Martin if you oppose war? What if you oppose war but your child is in the military — would you be proud of his or her success and advancement into an elite murder team? Should you not be proud of your child?
The contributions of military and former military peace activists have been tremendous: the throwing back of medals, the memorials and cemeteries erected in protest and grief, the reenactment of war scenes on the streets, the testimony confessing to crimes no one wants to prosecute. New people have been reached and opinions changed. And yet, I want to say there is a downside.
Most peace activists have never been in the military. Most books about peace activists are about the military ones. This distorts and diminishes our understanding of what we’re doing. Most victims in our wars — and I mean statistically almost all of them — are on the other side, but most writing done about victims is about the U.S. military ones (assuming aggressors are victims). The giant cemeteries representing the dead in Iraq are orders of magnitude too small to be accurate. This severely distorts our understanding of one-sided slaughters, allowing the continuation of the myth of war as a contest between two armies.
Eliminating war would logically involve eliminating the war-making machine, but veteran and military opponents of war, more often than others, want the military preserved and used for good ends. Is that because it makes sense or because of personal identification? Nationalism is driving wars, but military peace activists tend, more than others, to favor “good patriotism” or “true patriotism.” Must a peace movement that ought to celebrate international law and cooperation follow that lead?
Leitz quotes Maureen Dowd claiming that veterans have “moral authority” to oppose war, unlike — apparently — those who have opposed war for a longer period of time or more consistently. Imagine applying that logic to some other offense, such as child abuse. We don’t suggest that reformed child abusers have the greatest moral authority to oppose child abuse. What about shoplifting? Do reformed shoplifters have the greatest authority to oppose shoplifting? I think that in any such situation, the former participants have a particular type of perspective. But I think there’s another valuable perspective in those who have opposed a crime. Some veterans, of course, were in the military before I was born and have worked for the abolition of war longer than I’ve breathed. I don’t think their past diminishes them in any way. I also don’t think it does what Dowd thinks it does.
Dowd’s idea may be that some wars are good and some bad, so we should trust those who’ve taken part in wars to make the distinction. I’d disagree with the conclusion even if I agreed with the premise. I don’t think it’s a premise the peace movement should accept. Peace is as incompatible with some wars as it is with all wars.
Accounts like Fighting for Peace bring out the segregation of military from civilian culture in the United States, a product of standing armies and standing foreign bases. I once spoke on a panel with a Democratic veteran candidate for Congress who thankfully lost but who advocated for everyone joining the military so that everyone would be familiar with what the military was. I have another proposal: everyone join civilian life, close the bases, dismantle the weapons, disassemble the ships, put solar panels on the runways, and give the Pentagon a new role to play. I think it would make a fine roller skating rink.
In the meantime, we should try to understand and work with each other to reduce the military, and that requires doing so without promoting it or joining it.
By Phillip F. Tourney | January 17, 2009
I have heard it for the entirety of my 61 years of life, Israel’s ‘Right To Exist’. In fact, in recent memory I have heard this phrase more than I’ve heard ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ or ‘Merry Christmas’ or even ‘Have a Good 4th.
Israel seems to exist quite well. Her people have a very high living standard compared to the rest of the world. Israel has the most sophisticated armed forces in the Middle East, if indeed not the world. According to one of our former presidents, Israel is said to possess several hundred nuclear weapons and if we are to believe some of the things said by Israel’s leaders in recent years she is ready to destroy mankind if her leaders choose to do so.
Israeli’s live a very good life style, second to none. A swimming pool in every back yard on stolen land, plenty of food, jobs, stocks, cash, you name it. Their quality of life continues to grow and prosper every month of every year.
Now what I have a problem with is this–doesn’t the United States of America also have a ‘Right to Exist’?
Yes we do, but unfortunately that right is being taken away from us every second, every minute, every hour, every month and every year and all for the sake of Israel’s ‘Right To Exist’. What’s wrong with this story? Well, I’ll explain what’s wrong with it and believe me, its not that hard to figure out.
Israel’s ‘Right To Exist’ has virtually bankrupted the United States, and all of it off the backs of hard-working Americans for the last sixty years. We’ve given Israel untold billions of dollars NEVER TO BE REPAID, to say nothing of the military hardware in the billions we (I should say the United States) just flat-out gives them, including free training for their fighter pilots.
The United States continues to supply Israel with cash payments every day in the millions of dollars, and remember–THIS IS BORROWED MONEY. Do you understand this my fellow Americans? We borrow money for the sake of Israel but yet we do not barrow it for the sake and safety of our own citizens. This money must be paid back by us our children, their children and their children and this cycle will never be broken until the Untied States gives up its passionate attachment to the Jewish state.
Our sons and daughters are paying a very heavy price in Iraq. 4000+dead, tens of thousands wounded so badly that their lives will never be the same and who knows when it will end.
The United States is fighting this war in Iraq all for the sake of Israel. Americans getting killed, wounded and us spending billions of tax dollars we don’t have, and for what? Let me remind you, in case you have forgotten–FOR ISRAEL’S RIGHT TO EXIST.
The ugly truth is that the United States can’t take much more. It is bending to the very breaking point of no return, and now the war drums beat once again in Israel that we must attack Iran or they will. When Israel spouts this aggression the gas prices go up and up, along with the price of food and just about everything else we need so that America can exist. It is a heavy burden on the American people, Israel’s benefactors. Many in this country are losing their homes, their jobs and can’t even afford food and all because they gave everything they had for Israel’s ‘Right to Exist’.
This year the United States has gone through so many natural disasters it boggles the mind. One after the other–fire, floods, tornadoes, you name it and we’ve had it and up to our collective eyeballs. And through all of this, where has America’s greatest ally been? I haven’t seen Israel hand over a red cent to this country when it was in need. Israel could care less about us, their benefactors the USA. If we were broke and down to our last cent, you can bet the ranch that Israel would demand it go into her coffers and God help any politician who would vote against it.
But then, why do we even bother discussing such business as politicians voting in America’s best interest? It goes without saying that when Israel wants something she gets it, no strings attached from a subservient President and congress.
It’s time we cut this step child Israel loose and let her make it on their own. No more wars for Israel. No more money, no more nothing. If Israel wants money let her people earn it. If they want a war LET THEM FIGHT IT ON THEIR OWN. NO MORE AMERICAN BLOOD OR TREASURE SPENT ON ISRAEL’S ‘RIGHT TO EXIST’.
For those who think I am wet behind the ears on this one, think twice–I know all too well what Israel thinks about Americans, because 41 years ago I saw them murder my shipmates in cold blood with no remorse in their black hearts or in their vacant souls. Their entire war machine was bought and paid for– you guessed it–by you, the people of the United States and they used that to murder America’s sons.
History will repeat itself if the Government doesn’t wise up soon, and they won’t unless they hear from you, me and the rest of the American public as we demand no more free rides for any country, and especially not Israel. America has its own ‘Right to Exist’ and no one, not even the Jewish state, should come before our own family and friends.
Survivor, USS Liberty June 8 1967