Over the last several years I have watched the rise of an important new intellect on the American scene. Ron Unz, publisher of The American Conservative, has demonstrated time and again the extraordinary ability to reexamine settled issues and show that the accepted conclusion was incorrect.
One of his early achievements was to dispose of the myth of immigrant crime by demonstrating that “Hispanics have approximately the same crime rates as whites of the same age and gender.” You can imagine the uproar, but Unz won the debate.
Unz provoked and prevailed in another controversy when he concluded that Mexican-Americans have approximately the same innate intelligence as whites, with their lower IQs being due to transitory socio-economic deprivation.
He next surprised by showing the connection between the declining real value of the minimum wage (about one-third less than in the 1960s) and immigration. Americans cannot survive on one-third less minimum income than four decades ago, and the unfilled jobs are taken by Hispanics who live many to the room. A higher minimum wage, Unz pointed out, would cure the illegal immigration problem as American citizens would fill the jobs.
I wrote about some of Unz’s remarkable findings. One of my favorites is his comparison of the responsiveness of the Chinese and US governments to their publics. I found his conclusion convincing that the authoritarian one-party Chinese government was more responsive to the Chinese people than democratic two-party Washington is to the American people.
The person is rare who can take on such controversial issues in such a professional way that he wins the admiration even of his critics. In my opinion, Ron Unz is a national resource. He has established online libraries of important periodicals and magazines from the pre-Internet era, information that otherwise essentially would be lost. I have not met him, but he donates to this site and is an independent thinker free of The Matrix.
Unz’s latest article, “Our American Pravda,” http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/our-american-pravda/ is a striking account of the failure of media, regulatory, and national security organizations and subsequent coverups that leave the public deceived. Unz uses the Iraq war as one example:
“The circumstances surrounding our Iraq War demonstrate this, certainly ranking it among the strangest military conflicts of modern times. The 2001 attacks in America were quickly ascribed to the radical Islamists of al-Qaeda, whose bitterest enemy in the Middle East had always been Saddam Hussein’s secular Baathist regime in Iraq. Yet through misleading public statements, false press leaks, and even forged evidence such as the “yellowcake” documents, the Bush administration and its neoconservative allies utilized the compliant American media to persuade our citizens that Iraq’s nonexistent WMDs posed a deadly national threat and required elimination by war and invasion. Indeed, for several years national polls showed that a large majority of conservatives and Republicans actually believed that Saddam was the mastermind behind 9/11 and the Iraq War was being fought as retribution. Consider how bizarre the history of the 1940s would seem if America had attacked China in retaliation for Pearl Harbor.
“True facts were easily available to anyone paying attention in the years after 2001, but most Americans do not bother and simply draw their understanding of the world from what they are told by the major media, which overwhelmingly—almost uniformly—backed the case for war with Iraq; the talking heads on TV created our reality. Prominent journalists across the liberal and conservative spectrum eagerly published the most ridiculous lies and distortions passed on to them by anonymous sources, and stampeded Congress down the path to war.
“The result was what my late friend Lt. Gen. Bill Odom rightly called the “greatest strategic disaster in United States history.” American forces suffered tens of thousands of needless deaths and injuries, while our country took a huge step toward national bankruptcy [and a police state]. Economics Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and others have estimated that with interest the total long-term cost of our two recent wars may reach as high as $5 or $6 trillion, or as much as $50,000 per American household, mostly still unpaid. Meanwhile, economist Edward Wolff has calculated that the Great Recession and its aftermath cut the personal net worth of the median American household to $57,000 in 2010 from a figure nearly twice as high three years earlier. Comparing these assets and liabilities, we see that the American middle class now hovers on the brink of insolvency, with the cost of our foreign wars being a leading cause.
“But no one involved in the debacle ultimately suffered any serious consequences, and most of the same prominent politicians and highly paid media figures who were responsible remain just as prominent and highly paid today. For most Americans, reality is whatever our media organs tell us, and since these have largely ignored the facts and adverse consequences of our wars in recent years, the American people have similarly forgotten. Recent polls show that only half the public today believes that the Iraq War was a mistake.”
Unz covers a number of cases of criminality, treason, and coverups at high levels of government and points out that “these dramatic, well-documented accounts have been ignored by our national media.” One reason for “this wall of uninterest” is that both parties are complicit and thus equally eager to bury the facts.
Unz is raising the question of the efficacy of democracy. Does the way democracy works in America provide any more self-rule than in undemocratic regimes? He offers this example:
“Most of the Americans who elected Barack Obama in 2008 intended their vote as a total repudiation of the policies and personnel of the preceding George W. Bush administration. Yet once in office, Obama’s crucial selections—Robert Gates at Defense, Timothy Geither at Treasury, and Ben Bernake at the Federal Reserve—were all top Bush officials, and they seamlessly continued the unpopular financial bailouts and foreign wars begun by his predecessor, producing what amounted to a third Bush term.”
In an article not long ago, I raised the issue whether Americans live in The Matrix with their perceptions and thoughts controlled by disinformation as in George Orwell’s 1984.
Unz adds to this perspective. He tells the story of Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky’s plan to transform Russia into a make-believe two-party state complete with heated battles fought on divisive and symbolic issues. Behind the scenes the political elites would orchestrate the political battles between the parties with the purpose of keeping the population divided and funneling popular dissatisfaction into meaningless dead-end issues. In such a system, self-serving power prevails. After describing Berezovsky’s plot, Unz asks if Berezovsky got his idea from observing the American political scene.
Thinking further about the propagandistic nature of the US media, Unz writes:
“Individuals from less trusting societies are often surprised at the extent to which so many educated Americans tend to believe whatever the media tells them and ignore whatever it does not, placing few constraints on even the most ridiculous propaganda. For example, a commentator on my article described the East German media propaganda he had experienced prior to Reunification as being in many respects more factual and less totally ridiculous than what he now saw on American cable news shows. One obvious difference was that Western media was so globally dominant during that era that the inhabitants of the German Democratic Republic inevitably had reasonable access to a contrasting second source of information, forcing their media to be much more cautious in its dishonesty, while today almost any nonsense uniformly supported by the MSNBC-to-FoxNews spectrum of acceptable opinion remains almost totally unquestioned by most Americans.” http://www.theamericanconservative.com/american-pravda-reality-television/
Unz’s view of the US media as propagandists for power is consistent with that of John Pilger, one of the last remaining real journalists who refuses to serve power, and with Gerald Celente, who sums up the sordid American media in one word–”presstitutes.” I know from my own media experience that an independent print and TV media no longer exists in the West. The American media is a tightly controlled disinformation ministry.
Those few Americans who are free of the constraints imposed by dogmas on their ability to think and to process information have a huge responsibility for their small number. The assault on the rule of law began in the last years of the Clinton regime, but the real destruction of the US Constitution, the basis for the United States, was achieved by the neoconservative George W. Bush and Obama regimes. Wars without declarations by Congress, torture in violation of both US and international law, war crimes in violation of the Nuremberg standard, indefinite detention and assassination of US citizens without due process of law, universal spying on US citizens without warrants, federalization of state and local police now armed with military weapons and uniforms, detention centers, “your papers, please” (without the Gestapo “please”) not only at airports but also on highways, streets, bus terminals, train stations, and at sporting events.
On May 5 Obama gave the commencement address at Ohio State University. No doubt that the graduates thought that they were being honored by being addressed by the world’s greatest tyrant.
Obama told the graduating class, to applause, that their obligation as citizens is to trust the government. Outdoing George Orwell’s Big Brother, Obama said in public to a graduating class of a great university without shame: “You have grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as . . . some sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems; some of these same voices also doing their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.”
Listen to my propaganda, not to those constitutional experts, legal authorities, and critics of me, the First Black President, who tell you to beware of unaccountable government. Due process is decided by the demands of the war on terror. If there is a war on terror, do you want a fair trial or do you want to be safe? I am going to make you safe by not giving defendants accused of terrorism, who some liberal-pinko-commie judge would set free, a fair trial.
Making you safe by enveloping you in a police state is a nonpartisan undertaking. Just listen to Lindsay Graham and Peter King and John McCain. These Republican leaders are demanding the police state that I am providing.
As my own legal department, The US Department Of Justice, decided, the Dictator, I mean, elected president, has the power to save the country from domestic and foreign terrorists by abrogating the US Constitution, an out-of-date document that binds our hands and prevents us from keeping you, our serfs and minions, I mean our cherished citizens, safe.
Trust me. That is your obligation as a US citizen. Trust me and I will make you free, happy, employed sometime later in this century when the Amerikan Empire controls the world.
The US Constitution was written by people who opposed Empire. These people were misguided, just like the Roman Republicans who did not understand the need for a Caesar. The American Empire, as the neoconservatives have made clear, is what keeps you free from terrorism. We have to kill them over there before they come over here. And those who are over here will be killed too. We tolerate no dissent. That part of the Constitution is gone, along with the rest of it.
Now give me my honorary doctorate, another sign of approval of my usurpation.
Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. His latest book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is now available.
In 2013 it is possible that Israel, backed by the United States, will launch an attack on Iran. This would be a catastrophic event, risking war, bloodshed and global economic collapse.
In this passionate, but rationally argued essay, the authors attempt to avert a potential global catastrophe by showing that the grounds for war do not exist, that there are no Iranian nuclear weapons, and that Iran would happily come to the table and strike a deal. They argue that the military threats aimed by the West against Iran contravene international law, and argue that Iran is a civilised country and a legitimate power across the Middle East.
For years Peter Oborne and David Morrison have, in their respective fields, examined the actions of our political classes and found them wanting. Now they have joined forces to make a poweful case against military action. In the wake of the Iraq war, will the politicians listen?
New York Times columnist Tom Friedman doesn’t understand how on earth the Boston bombers could rationalize their act of violence–and believes that some aspects of Muslim culture must answer for it.
According to reports of the interrogation of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the brothers were motivated in part by the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And this has the Times columnist scratching his head about the problem with Muslims:
This is a popular meme among radical Muslim groups, and, to be sure, some Muslim youths were deeply angered by the U.S. interventions in the Middle East. The brothers Tsarnaev may have been among them.
But what in God’s name does that have to do with planting a bomb at the Boston Marathon and blowing up innocent people? It is amazing to me how we’ve come to accept this non sequitur and how easily we’ve allowed radical Muslim groups and their apologists to get away with it.
A simple question: If you were upset with U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, why didn’t you go out and build a school in Afghanistan to strengthen that community or get an advanced degree to strengthen yourself or become a math teacher in the Muslim world to help its people be less vulnerable to foreign powers? Dzhokhar claims the Tsarnaev brothers were so upset by something America did in a third country that they just had to go to Boylston Street and blow up people who had nothing to do with it (some of whom could have been Muslims), and too often we just nod our heads rather than asking: What kind of sick madness is this?
Friedman goes on to claim that we “must ask a question only Muslims can answer,” which is: “What is going on in your community that a critical number of your youth believes that every American military action in the Middle East is intolerable and justifies a violent response?”
It is worth asking questions about how different communities or societies react to violence. After the 9/11 attacks, the United States bombed and occupied Afghanistan, based on the argument that the government of that country had tolerated the presence of Al-Qaeda and thus must bear the retribution. As a result, many thousands of people who had nothing to do with terrorism were killed.
Or on to the invasion of Iraq, which was sold as part of a “Global War on Terror” following the 9/11 attacks as well, even though there was never a connection between Iraq and the terrorist attacks. So why did the United States invade Iraq? Tom Friedman explained it to Charlie Rose on May 30, 2003.
To Friedman, there was a “terrorist bubble” in that part of the world, and “we needed to go over there and take out a very big stick…and there was only one way to do it.” He added:
What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house, from Basra to Baghdad, and basically saying: “Which part of this sentence don’t you understand? You don’t think, you know, we care about our open society, you think this bubble fantasy, we’re just gonna to let it grow? Well, Suck. On. This.” That, Charlie, is what this war is about. We could have hit Saudi Arabia; it was part of that bubble. Could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.
What kind of sick madness is this?
The U.S. government views itself as the global arbiter of human rights, righteously throwing stones at other nations for their misbehavior and most recently imposing sanctions on a group of Russians accused of human rights crimes. That move prompted a tit-for-tat response from Moscow, barring 18 current and former U.S. officials from entering Russia.
The predictable response from the U.S. news media to the Russian retaliation was to liken it to the Cold War days when the United States would catch a Soviet spy and Moscow would retaliate by grabbing an American and arranging a swap.
But several of the Americans targeted by Moscow this time were clearly guilty of human rights crimes. John Yoo and David Addington were former legal advisers to President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, respectively. The two lawyers were famous for inventing new excuses for torture. Two other Americans on Moscow’s list – Major General Geoffrey D. Miller and Rear Admiral Jeffrey Harbeson – commanded the extralegal detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In particular, Yoo and Addington stand out as smug apologists for torture who twisted law and logic to justify waterboarding, painful stress positions, forced nudity, sleep deprivation and other techniques that have been historically defined as torture. In a society that truly respected human rights, they would have been held accountable – along with other practitioners of the “dark side” – but instead have been allowed to walk free and carry on their professional lives almost as if nothing had happened.
The Russians were polite enough only to include on the list these mid-level torture advocates and enablers (as well as some prosecutors who have led legal cases against Russian nationals). They left off the list many culpable former senior officials, such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, CIA Director George Tenet, Cheney and Bush. Obviously, the Russian government didn’t want an escalation.
It’s also undeniably true that Moscow does not come to the human rights issue with clean hands. But neither does the United States, a country that for generations has taken pride in its role as the supposed beacon of human rights, the rule of law, and democratic principles.
Acting as a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Tribunals after World War II, Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson famously denied that punishing the Nazi leaders as war criminals was simply victor’s justice. He insisted that the same principles would apply to the nations sitting in judgment, including the United States and the Soviet Union. However, that has turned out not to be the case.
The real principles of today’s international law could be described as dragging petty warlords from Africa or Eastern Europe off to The Hague for prosecution by the International Criminal Court, while letting leaders of the Big Powers – with far more blood on their hands – off the hook. Jackson’s “universal principles” of human rights now only apply to the relatively weak.
A History of Double Standards
Of course, one could argue that double and triple standards have always been the way of the world. What often seems to really matter is who has the most powerful friends, the best P.R. team, and the greatest number of “news” organizations in their pocket. Plus, lots of cognitive dissonance helps, too.
For instance, you must forget the role of the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman, the Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt and other mainstream media stars in rallying the American people to get behind the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2002-2003 – when the same pundits now fold their arms in disgust at some other nation’s violation of international law.
It’s also handy if you can forget much of American history. You can fondly recall the stirring words about liberty from the Founding Fathers, but it’s best to forget that many owned African-Americans as slaves and that their lust for territorial expansion led them and their descendants to wage a cruel genocide against Native Americans.
There also were the repeated military interventions in Latin America and the brutal counterinsurgency campaign in the Philippines (which applied some of the same tactics that the U.S. military had perfected in crushing uprisings by Native Americans). Then, there were the militarily unnecessary atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the mass slaughters in Indochina in the 1960s and 1970s; and the “death squad” operations in South and Central America in the 1970s and 1980s.
One can trace a direct correlation from American sayings like “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” in the 19th Century to “kill them all and let God sort them out” in the 20th Century. And U.S. respect for human rights hasn’t improved much in the new century with George W. Bush’s “war on terror” and his invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and with Barack Obama’s extrajudicial killings by drone attacks.
So, when the United States strides from its glass house to hurl stones at Russians over repression in Chechnya, it’s not at all surprising that the Russians would return the volley by singling out some of the Americans clearly implicated in war crimes under George W. Bush. The only real question is why did the Russians stop with a handful of apparatchiks? Probably they didn’t want to escalate this exchange of Big Power hypocrisies.
The hard truth is that if the United States had a functioning criminal justice system for the powerful – not just for run-of-the-mill offenders – former Vice President Cheney and ex-President Bush would have convicted themselves with their own public comments defending their use of torture.
For instance, in February 2010, on ABC’s “This Week,” Cheney pronounced himself “a big supporter of waterboarding,” a near-drowning technique that has been regarded as torture back to the Spanish Inquisition and that has long been treated by U.S. authorities as a serious war crime, such as when Japanese commanders were prosecuted for using it on American prisoners during World War II.
Cheney was unrepentant about his support for the technique. He answered with an emphatic “yes” when asked if he had opposed the Bush administration’s decision to suspend the use of waterboarding. He added that waterboarding should still be “on the table” today.
Admitting the Sham
But Cheney went further. Speaking with a sense of legal impunity, he casually negated a key line of defense that senior Bush officials had hidden behind for years – that the brutal interrogations were okayed by independent Justice Department legal experts who gave the administration a legitimate reason to believe the actions were within the law.
However, in the interview, Cheney acknowledged that the White House had told the Justice Department lawyers what legal opinions to render. In other words, the opinions amounted to ordered-up lawyering to permit the administration to do whatever it wanted.
In responding to a question about why he had so harshly attacked President Obama’s counterterrorism policies, Cheney explained that he was concerned about the new administration prosecuting some CIA operatives who had handled the interrogations and “disbarring lawyers with the Justice Department who had helped us put those policies together. … I thought it was important for some senior person in the administration to stand up and defend those people who’d done what we asked them to do.”
Cheney’s comment about the Justice lawyers who had “done what we asked them to do” was an apparent reference to John Yoo and his boss, Jay Bybee, at the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), a powerful Justice Department agency that advises the President on the limits of his power.
In 2002, Yoo – while working closely with White House officials – drafted legal memos that permitted waterboarding and other brutal techniques by narrowly defining torture. He also authored legal opinions that asserted virtual dictatorial powers for a President during war, even one as vaguely defined as the “war on terror.” Yoo’s key memos were then signed by Bybee.
In 2003, after Yoo left to be a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and Bybee was elevated to a federal appeals court judgeship in San Francisco, their successors withdrew the memos because of the sloppy scholarship. However, in 2005, President George W. Bush appointed a new acting chief of the OLC, Steven Bradbury, who restored many of the Yoo-Bybee opinions.
In the years that followed, Bush administration officials repeatedly cited the Yoo-Bybee-Bradbury legal guidance when insisting that the “enhanced interrogation” of “war on terror” detainees – as well as prisoners from the Iraq and Afghan wars – did not cross the line into torture.
In essence, the Bush-Cheney defense was that the OLC lawyers offered honest opinions and that everyone from the President and Vice President, who approved use of the interrogation techniques, down to the CIA interrogators, who conducted the torture, operated in good faith.
If, however, that narrative is indeed false – if the lawyers had colluded with the policymakers to create legal excuses for criminal acts – then the Bush-Cheney defense would collapse. Rather than diligent lawyers providing professional advice, the picture would be of Mob consiglieres counseling crime bosses how to skirt the law.
Hand in Glove
Though Bush administration defenders have long denied that the legal opinions were cooked, the evidence has long supported the conspiratorial interpretation. For instance, in his 2006 book War by Other Means, Yoo himself described his involvement in frequent White House meetings regarding what “other means” should receive a legal stamp of approval. Yoo wrote:
“As the White House held its procession of Christmas parties and receptions in December 2001, senior lawyers from the Attorney General’s office, the White House counsel’s office, the Departments of State and Defense and the NSC [National Security Council] met a few floors away to discuss the work on our opinion. … This group of lawyers would meet repeatedly over the next months to develop policy on the war on terrorism.”
Yoo said meetings were usually chaired by Alberto Gonzales, who was then White House counsel and later became Bush’s second Attorney General. Yoo identified other key players as Timothy Flanigan, Gonzales’s deputy; William Howard Taft IV from State; John Bellinger from the NSC; William “Jim” Haynes from the Pentagon; and David Addington, counsel to Cheney.
In his book, Yoo described his work swatting down objections from the State Department’s lawyer and the Pentagon’s judge advocate generals – who feared that waiving the Geneva Conventions in the “war on terror” would endanger U.S. soldiers – Yoo stressed policy concerns, not legal logic.
“It was far from obvious that following the Geneva Conventions in the war against al-Qaeda would be wise,” Yoo wrote. “Our policy makers had to ask whether [compliance] would yield any benefit or act as a hindrance.”
What Yoo’s book and other evidence make clear is that the lawyers from the Justice Department’s OLC weren’t just legal scholars handing down opinions from an ivory tower; they were participants in how to make Bush’s desired actions “legal.” They were the lawyerly equivalents of those U.S. intelligence officials, who – in the words of the British “Downing Street Memo” – “fixed” the facts around Bush’s desire to invade Iraq.
In the case of waterboarding and other abusive interrogation tactics, Yoo and Bybee generated a memo, dated Aug. 1, 2002, that came up with a novel and narrow definition of torture, essentially lifting the language from an unrelated law regarding health benefits.
The Yoo-Bybee legal opinion stated that unless the amount of pain administered to a detainee led to injuries that might result in “death, organ failure, or serious impairment of body functions” then the interrogation technique could not be defined as torture. Since waterboarding is not intended to cause death or organ failure – only the panicked gag reflex associated with drowning – it was deemed not to be torture.
The “torture memo” and related legal opinions were considered so unprofessional that Bybee’s replacement to head the OLC, Jack Goldsmith, himself a conservative Republican, took the extraordinary step of withdrawing them after he was appointed in October 2003. However, Goldsmith was pushed out of his job after a confrontation with Cheney’s counsel Addington. Bradbury then enabled the Bush White House to reinstate many of the Yoo-Bybee opinions.
Cheney’s frank comments on “This Week” in 2010 – corroborating that Yoo and Bybee “had done what we asked them to do” – reflected the confidence that former Bush administration officials felt by then that they would face no accountability from the Obama administration for war crimes.
Surely, if a leader of another country had called himself “a big supporter of waterboarding,” there would have been a clamor for his immediate arrest and trial at The Hague. That Cheney felt he could speak so openly and with such impunity was a damning commentary on the rule of law in the United States, at least when it comes to the nation’s elites.
John Yoo apparently shares Cheney’s nonchalance about facing accountability. This weekend, when Yoo was asked about the Russians banning him as a human rights violator, he joked about the athletic skills of Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Darn,” Yoo wrote in an e-mail, “there goes my judo match with Putin.”
Perhaps the ultimate measure of America’s current standing as a promoter of human rights is that it’s difficult to judge which government is the bigger hypocrite: the one in Moscow or the one in Washington.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
When ranking which multi-millionaire American pundit is the most overrated, there are, without doubt, many worthy contenders, but one near the top of any list must be the New York Times’ Thomas L. Friedman – with his long record of disastrous policy pronouncements including his enthusiasm for George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
Friedman, of course, has paid no career price for his misguided judgments and simplistic nostrums. Like many other star pundits who inhabit the Op-Ed pages of the Times and the Washington Post, Friedman has ascended to a place where the normal powers of gravity don’t apply, where the cumulative weight of his errors only lifts him up.
Indeed, there is something profoundly nonsensical about Friedman’s Olympian standing, inhabiting a plane of existence governed by the crazy rules of Washington’s conventional wisdom, where – when looking down on the rest of us – Friedman feels free to cast aspersions on other people’s sanity, like the Mad Hatter calling the Church Mouse nuts.
Friedman describes every foreign adversary who reacts against U.S. dictates as suffering from various stages of insanity. He accepts no possibility that these “designated enemies” are acting out of their own sense of self-interest and even fear of what the United States might be designing.
In last Sunday’s column, for instance, Friedman airily dismissed the leaders of Iran, Syria, North Korea, China and Russia as all operating with screws loose, either totally crazy or fecklessly reckless. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un was a “boy king … who seems totally off the grid.” In Friedman’s view, China is enabling North Korea’s nuclear brinkmanship and “could end the freak show there anytime it wants.”
Russia is aiding and abetting both the violence in Syria and the supposed nuclear ambitions of Iran. Friedman asks: “Do the Russians really believe that indulging Iran’s covert nuclear program, to spite us, won’t come back to haunt them with a nuclear-armed Iran, an Islamist regime on its border?”
To Friedman, Bashar al-Assad is simply “Syria’s mad leader,” not a secular autocrat representing Alawites and other terrified minorities fearing a Sunni uprising that includes armed militants associated with al-Qaeda terrorists and promoting Islamic fundamentalism.
You see, according to Friedman and his neoconservative allies, everyone that they don’t like is simply crazy or absorbed with mindless self-interest – and it makes no sense to reason with these insane folks or to propose power-sharing compromises. Only “regime change” will do.
Who’s Detached from Reality?
But the argument could be made that Friedman and the neocons are the people most disconnected from reality – and that the New York Times editors are behaving irresponsibly in continuing to grant Friedman some of the most prestigious space in American journalism to spout his nonsensical ravings.
Looking back at Friedman’s history of recommending violence as the only remedy to a whole host of problems, including in places like Serbia and Iraq, you could reasonably conclude that he’s the real nut case. He’s the one who routinely urges the U.S. government to ignore international law in pursuit of half-baked goals that have spread misery over large swaths of the planet.
In 1999, during the U.S. bombing of Serbia, Friedman showed off his glib warmongering style: “Like it or not, we are at war with the Serbian nation (the Serbs certainly think so), and the stakes have to be very clear: Every week you ravage Kosovo is another decade we will set your country back by pulverizing you. You want 1950? We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389 too.”
Before George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, Friedman offered the witty observation that it was time to “give war a chance,” a flippant play on John Lennon’s lyrics to the song, “Give Peace a Chance.”
Yet, even amid his enthusiasm to invade Iraq, Friedman was disappointed by Bush’s clunky rhetoric. So, he hailed the smoother speechifying of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and dubbed himself “a Tony Blair Democrat.” Today, it might seem that anyone foolish enough to take that title – after Blair has gone down in history as “Bush’s poodle” and is now despised even by his own Labour Party – should slink away into obscurity or claim some sort of mental incapacity.
But that isn’t how U.S. punditry works. Once you’ve risen into the firmament of stars like Tommy Friedman, you are beyond the reach of earthly judgments and surely beyond human accountability.
When the Iraq War didn’t go as swimmingly as the neocons [purportedly] expected, Friedman became famous for his repetitious, ever-receding “six month” timeline for detecting progress. Finally, in August 2006, he concluded that the Iraq War wasn’t worth it, that “it is now obvious that we are not midwifing democracy in Iraq. We are babysitting a civil war.” [NYT, Aug. 4, 2006]
At that point, you might have expected the New York Times to drop Friedman from its roster of columnists. After all, the Iraq War’s costs in lives, money and respect for the United States had become staggering. You might even have thought that some accountability would be in order. After all, advocacy of aggressive war is a war crime as defined by the Nuremberg Tribunal after World War II.
Yet, 12 days after his admission of Iraq War failure, Friedman actually demeaned Americans who had opposed the Iraq War early on as “antiwar activists who haven’t thought a whit about the larger struggle we’re in.” [NYT, Aug. 16, 2006] In other words, according to Friedman, Americans who were right about the ill-fated invasion of Iraq were still airheads who couldn’t grasp the bigger picture that had been so obvious to himself, his fellow pundits and pro-war politicians who had tagged along with Bush and Blair.
As I noted in an article at the time, “it’s as if Official Washington has become a sinister version of Alice in Wonderland. Under the bizarre rules of Washington’s pundit society, the foreign policy ‘experts,’ who acted like Cheshire Cats pointing the United States in wrong directions, get rewarded for their judgment and Americans who opposed going down the rabbit hole in the first place earn only derision.”
Instead of a well-deserved dismissal from the Times and journalistic disgrace, Friedman has continued to rake in big bucks from his articles, his books and his speeches. Meanwhile, his record for accuracy (or even sophisticated insights) hasn’t improved. Regarding foreign policy, he still gets pretty much everything wrong.
As for the supposed madness of America’s “designated enemies,” Friedman refuses to recognize that they might see defensive belligerence as the only rational response to U.S. hostility. After all, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi both accepted U.S. demands for disarmament and both were subsequently attacked by U.S. military force, overthrown and murdered.
So, who in their right mind would accept assurances about the protections of international law when Official Washington and Tommy Friedman see nothing wrong with invading other countries and overthrowing their governments? In view of this recent history, one could argue that the leaders of Iran, Syria and even North Korea are acting rationally within their perceptions of national sovereignty – and concern for their own necks.
Similarly, Russia and China have searched for ways to resolve some of these conflicts, rather than whipping up new confrontations. On the Iranian nuclear dispute, for instance, Russia has worked behind the scenes to broker a realistic agreement that would offer Iran meaningful relief from economic sanctions in exchange for more safeguards on its nuclear program.
It has been the United States that has vacillated between an interest in a negotiated settlement with Iran and the temptation to seek “regime change.” Recently, the Obama administration spurned a Russian push for genuine negotiations with Iran, instead favoring more sanctions and demanding Iranian capitulation.
It should be noted, too, that the Iranian government has renounced any desire to build a nuclear weapon and that the U.S. intelligence community has concluded, since 2007, that Iran ceased work on a nuclear weapon in 2003, a decade ago. Friedman could be called irrational – or at least irresponsible – for not mentioning that fact. And you might wonder why his Times editors didn’t demand greater accuracy in his column. Is there no fact-checking of Friedman?
Seeking ‘Regime Change’
Of course, the Times and Friedman have a long pattern of bias on Iran, much as they had on Iraq. For instance, the newspaper and its star columnist heaped ridicule on Turkey and Brazil three years ago when those two U.S. allies achieved a breakthrough in which Iran agreed to ship about half of its low-enriched uranium out of the country in exchange for some medical isotopes. To Friedman, this deal was “as ugly as it gets,” the title of his column.
He wrote: “I confess that when I first saw the May 17  picture of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, joining his Brazilian counterpart, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with raised arms — after their signing of a putative deal to defuse the crisis over Iran’s nuclear weapons program — all I could think of was: Is there anything uglier than watching democrats sell out other democrats to a Holocaust-denying, vote-stealing Iranian thug just to tweak the U.S. and show that they, too, can play at the big power table?
“No, that’s about as ugly as it gets.”
Though Friedman did not call Lula da Silva and Erdogan crazy, he did insult them and impugned their motives. He accused them of seeking this important step toward a peaceful resolution of an international dispute “just to tweak the U.S. and show that they, too, can play at the big power table.”
In the column, Friedman also made clear that he wasn’t really interested in Iranian nuclear safeguards; instead, he wanted the United States to do whatever it could to help Iran’s internal opposition overthrow President Ahmadinejad and Iran’s Islamic Republic.
“In my view, the ‘Green Revolution’ in Iran is the most important, self-generated, democracy movement to appear in the Middle East in decades,” Friedman wrote. “It has been suppressed, but it is not going away, and, ultimately, its success — not any nuclear deal with the Iranian clerics — is the only sustainable source of security and stability. We have spent far too little time and energy nurturing that democratic trend and far too much chasing a nuclear deal.”
Just three years later, however, it’s clear how wrongheaded Friedman was. The Green Movement, which was never the mass popular movement that the U.S. media claimed, has largely disappeared.
Analyses of Iran’s 2009 election also revealed that Ahmadinejad did win a substantial majority of the vote. Ahmadinejad, with strong support from the poor especially in more conservative rural areas, defeated the “Green Revolution” candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi by roughly the 2-to-1 margin cited in the official results.
For instance, an analysis by the University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes concluded that most Iranians voted for Ahmadinejad and viewed his reelection as legitimate, contrary to claims made by much of the U.S. news media. Not a single Iranian poll analyzed by PIPA – whether before or after the election, whether conducted inside or outside Iran – showed Ahmadinejad with less than majority support. None showed Mousavi, a former prime minister, ahead or even close.
“These findings do not prove that there were no irregularities in the election process,” said Steven Kull, director of PIPA. “But they do not support the belief that a majority rejected Ahmadinejad.” [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Ahmadinejad Won, Get Over It!”]
Bias Over Journalism
During the Green Movement’s demonstrations, a few protesters threw Molotov cocktails at police (scenes carried on CNN but quickly forgotten by the U.S. news media) and security forces overreacted with repression and violence. But to pretend that an angry minority – disappointed by election results – is proof of a fraudulent election is simply an example of bias, not journalism.
One can sympathize with those who yearn for a secular democracy in Iran – as you may in other religiously structured states including Israel – but a journalist is not supposed to make up his or her own facts, which was what the Times and Friedman did in 2009 on Iran.
Friedman’s contempt for the Turkey-Brazil deal in 2010 also looks pretty stupid in retrospect. At the time, Iran only had low-enriched uranium suitable for energy production but not for building a nuclear weapon. If Iran had shipped nearly half that amount out of the country in exchange for the medical isotopes, Iran might never have upgraded its reactors to refine the uranium to about 20 percent, what was needed for the isotopes and which is much closer to the level of purity needed for a bomb.
There are other relevant facts that a serious analyst would include in the kind of column that Friedman penned last Sunday, including the fact that the United States possesses a military force unrivaled in world history and enough nuclear bombs to kill all life on the planet many times over.
Also relevant to the Iran issue, Israel possesses a rogue nuclear arsenal that is considered one of the world’s most advanced, but Israel has refused to accept any international oversight by rejecting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Iran has signed and insists it is living by.
An objective – or a rational – observer would consider the unbelievable destructiveness of the U.S. and Israeli nuclear stockpiles as a relevant factor in evaluating the sanity of the supposedly “crazy” leaders of Syria, Iran and North Korea – and their alleged accomplices in Russia and China.
But Friedman operates on a plane of impunity that the rest of us mortals can only dream about. Apparently once you have achieved his punditry status, you never have to say you’re sorry or acknowledge countervailing facts. All you have to do is say that everybody else is crazy.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
How long can media keep printing lies about the Iraq War? Today’s Washington Post (3/22/13) provides one answer, since they printed an 0p-ed by former Bush national security adviser Stephen Hadley where he argued this:
After Hussein was deposed, we did not find the stockpiles of WMDs that all the world’s major intelligence services, the Clinton and Bush administrations and most members of Congress thought that he had. It was less an intelligence failure than a failure of imagination. Before the war, no one conceived what seems to have been the case: that Hussein had destroyed his WMD stocks but wanted to hide this from his enemy Iran. The U.S. team charged with searching for WMDs concluded that Hussein had the intention and the means to return to WMD production had he not been brought down. (With Iran pursuing nuclear weapons, it is a good bet that he would have.)
This is complete, utter nonsense; a serious newspaper would be ashamed to print it.
Long before the war, the government had intelligence from the most famous defector from Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s son-in-law Hussein Kamel. The government publicly claimed that what Kamel told them confirmed their threats about Iraq’s WMDs.
So it is 100 percent false to talk about “a failure of imagination.”
It is also false to talk about how “all the world’s major intelligence services” were in agreement on Iraq intelligence. Some remained quite skeptical about the analysis being promoted by the Bush administration. As a matter of fact, the Washington Post (3/18/03) printed an article to the effect right before the before the war started:
As the Bush administration prepares to attack Iraq this week, it is doing so on the basis of a number of allegations against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that have been challenged—and in some cases disproved–by the United Nations, European governments and even U.S. intelligence reports.
So the Post is publishing something that flies in the face of what its own reporters documented at the time.
What about the idea that Iraq was hiding its absence of WMDs from Iran? If they were, they weren’t do a very good job of it. Before the war, Saddam Hussein went on CBS with Dan Rather (60 Minutes II, 2/26/03) and stated quite clearly that he had no such weapons: “I think America and the world also knows that Iraq no longer has the weapons,” he told Rather. You can watch the video here.
To top it all the off, the parenthetical at the end–which stands as a final justification for the war–is completely unsupported; there is no evidence to suggest that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon.
Does the Post factcheck op-eds? By the looks of it, they do not. But something tells me that if you submitted a column that made completely factual observations about Iraq–saying, for example, that there was clear evidence before the war that Iraq had destroyed its WMDs, and that Iraq had done its best to make clear that it didn’t possess any–you would have little chance of getting it published. And if, by some miracle, it did make through the early editing process, someone would demand that you substantiate these accurate claims.
No such burden would appear to have been placed on Stephen Hadley, who was part of the team that told the lies that took the country into war. Thanks to the Washington Post, he is still doing so.
The performance of the corporate media is one of the principal failures of the Iraq War. There are almost too many examples to name; but most critics agree that one of the most instrumental single pieces that made the false case for war was the front-page New York Times story (9/8/02) hyping the idea that Iraq was trying to procure special aluminum tubes for its nuclear weapons program.
Last night in its 10-years-later segment, the PBS NewsHour (3/19/13) made a rather stunning judgment: One of the two expert journalists was the guy who co-authored that piece.
New York Times reporter Michael Gordon was the lead author on that infamous tubes article, but his record goes deeper than that. A few days into the U.S. bombing (3/25/13), Gordon appeared on CNN to endorse the bombing of Iraqi TV’s offices, calling it “an appropriate target,” since “we’re trying to send the exact opposite message.”
When U.S. politicians began to seriously consider a withdrawal of U.S. troops, Gordon criticized that policy, especially in one article (11/15/06) headlined, “Get Out of Iraq Now? Not So Fast, Experts Say” (FAIR Media Advisory, 12/4/06). He went on the Charlie Rose show (1/18/07) to endorse a troop surge. (Even the Washington Post admits that the idea that the surge succeeded is a “myth”–3/15/13.) And in early 2007, Gordon wrote articles, relying heavily on anonymous U.S. sources, alleging that the Iranian government was sending weapons into Iraq (Action Alert, 2/16/07).
So why would Gordon be someone you’d want to listen to about the Iraq War? That’s hard to say, really. But Gordon had plenty to tell PBS viewers. He complained that the Obama White House wasn’t interested enough in Iraq–leading to “the decline of American influence.” As he put it:
I think they view Iraq as just another country. They don’t have the same emotional or psychological or even foreign policy stake in it that the previous administration had.
Gordon added that the U.S. military “see a lot of early mistakes in the first years” of the war, but that “I do think the surge, as a military operation and military strategy, was effective and was essential.”
When one of the hosts, Judy Woodruff, asked about the war’s legacy, he replied: “Well, I think the military learned how to do counterinsurgency. The public opinion may no longer support that, but forever is a long time. And I think you can’t say we won’t have to do that again at some point in the future.”
And if there is ever another moment that requires reporters to faithfully record the views of anonymous U.S. officials as they make their case for war, it’s a safe bet that Michael Gordon will be there to do that job.
10 Years on
It is sad that well-known peace campaigners should drop below the radar, not just of the politicians who hate them, but of the so-called peace campaigners who idolised them when they were still there. One such man, who dedicated the last 10 years of his life to confronting the UK Parliament with their outrageous decision to invade Iraq, was Brian Haw.
As a committed Christian and a father, and angered by the sanctions the West had imposed on Iraq that resulted in the tragic and avoidable deaths of too many Iraqi children, Brian left his home and arrived in London. More particularly, he arrived in Parliament Square, where he camped at the side of the road facing the Houses of Parliament. Always, for those of us who continued to protest about the invasion of Iraq and the awful damage our actions were doing to that nation, Brian was a figurehead, an inspiration. Few of us could claim his courage, his determination and his perseverance.
For nearly ten years he stayed – night after night of sleeping on the pavement, in all weathers and with little protection. Nothing the police or Parliament did could break him and make him move. Brian’s protest caused them no end of problems as he and his anti-war placards and banners were a constant reminder of all the lies that were told in the run up to the attack on Iraq in 2003 and continued to be told to justify the invasion. Members of Parliament had to pass his huge collection of displays and peace messages every time they went in and out of the Parliament.
In their haste to be rid of this ‘turbulent priest’ of a campaigner, who harangued MPs daily with his megaphone as they went into the august halls of Westminster, reminding them of their ghastly error in backing up Tony Blair and his eagerness to invade Iraq, the then Home Secretary David Blunkett introduced the bill SOCPA (Serious Organized Crime and Police Act 2005) which was aimed at removing Brian by banning protests within 1 km (about half a mile) of Parliament without police permission. This came into effect on 1 August 2005. But where else should we protest for peace if not outside the place that had rubber-stamped Blair’s desire to illegally attack Iraq?
Comedian Mark Thomas headed an action to keep protest going within the legal 1 km. He wanted to demonstrate how very ludicrous this ban was. To quote Mark: “The point is simply that if one person with a banner can be deemed to be a protester by the police and they need to get a licence six days in advance to enter the designated zone, then we have reached a state of absurdity.” And it is true, if hardly believable, that one woman in Parliament Square was threatened with arrest for having an iced cake with ‘Peace’ written on it. On certain days individual protestors, who had each registered their very individual protests with the police (including, for instance, the right to jump off Westminster Bridge) held their protests within the designated zone. It made the new law look very stupid indeed.
But so hasty had Parliament’s action been in creating this law that when it was challenged, they discovered that the one person they had failed to ban was Haw himself! So he stayed — and stayed. For some time he was alone, although visited (and supported) by many well-wishers. He became a tourist attraction. MPs complained that they could not properly debate in the chamber because of the noise of his megaphone protest in the Square outside – presumably the constant traffic noise complete with police and ambulance sirens is conducive to a good debate!
In May 2006 his much-photographed display of placards and banners was reduced from 40 metres to just 3 metres by a night raid of some 78 police (which cost a staggering £27,000). Not so oddly, this happened within hours of artist Mark Wallinger showing two curators from the Tate Gallery Brian’s display and announcing he wanted to recreate it for an exhibition. Never the less, Mark had his way and the exhibition, State Britain, ran at the Tate from January to August 2007.
Brian continued to protest with his truncated display despite numerous arrests and assaults. He was on crutches for his last years in the Square – the result of the not-so-gentle arrest techniques of the famed London Bobby. He died of cancer in June 2011 and the world is a poorer place.
Brian was joined in December 2005 by Melbourne-born Barbara Tucker. While Brian had some legal authority to stay there, Barbara didn’t, which has meant that she has been arrested an astonishing 47 times while in the square, usually on a charge of ‘unauthorized demonstration’. When Brian died she nobly carried on. She has served two short spells in Holloway prison as well as suffering constant harassment from police, heritage wardens and passing rowdies.
Until January 2012 she had a tent but that was confiscated under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act (PRSA). After that she sat in a chair on the pavement trying to sleep under a large green umbrella wrapped up in multiple layers of clothing. She has slept in the open for over a year now without a tent and has been treated for exposure. In the hope of getting her confiscated tent back, Barbara took the decision to go on hunger strike, starting on December 27th 2012.
While Brian managed to achieve some media recognition for his stance, Barbara has had little to none. The latest reference I can find to her hunger strike dates from January 10th. She and her colleague Neil Kerslake are no longer in the Square and have not been seen for some weeks – disappeared, tidied away perhaps, so as to make the 10th anniversary of the invasion a little less contentious.
One day maybe, when the world stops fighting needless, illegal and cruel wars, people will finally give these dedicated campaigners the recognition they deserve. I’d like to see a statue of Brian in Parliament Square, confronting Westminster and challenging its dishonesty and hypocrisy as he did for so many cold hard years. Until then, those of us who still call ourselves peace campaigners should at least make the effort to remember how much he once meant to us all. Parliament may not like dissenters – I for one do.
British anti-war activists have sealed off a weapons manufacturing company in Brighton to mark 10 years after the UK government joined the U.S.-led invasion on Iraq on March 2003.
The protesters, who had gathered in front of the EDO MBM weapons manufacturing plant from dawn, fastened themselves to the front gates with superglue and bicycle locks.
Two arrests were made by police forces during the six-hour standoff, but the whole gathering continued without violence, according to British media reports.
The anti-war activists from Smash EDO lashed out at engineers of the factory for churning out millions of pounds worth of bomb racks, arming units and parts for aircraft weapon systems every year.
EDO MBM is one of several companies supplying Paveway missiles used in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a component for U.S. planes carrying cluster bombs banned under an international treaty signed by Britain in 2008.
Smash EDO’s Chloe Marsh described the day’s protest as a memorial to Iraq’s dead as well as a direct action.
“The case for war was put to people in the UK on the basis of an immediate threat from Iraqi ‘weapons of mass destruction.’
“This turned out, as expected, to be a lie. As a result, according to the Lancet, over a million Iraqi citizens have died.”
Fellow protester Andrew Beckett said: “We are here to commemorate those who died in the aerial bombardment of Iraq and to resist EDO MBM’s continued supply of components to the US/UK military.”
- Iraq: Decade of war ‘based on lies’ (morningstaronline.co.uk)
Three years ago this month, I wrote a piece entitled “Who’s to Blame for the Iraq War?” to mark the seventh anniversary of the US invasion. My sole purpose in compiling a by-no-means-exhaustive list of 20 Israel partisans who played key roles in inducing America into making that disastrous strategic blunder was to help dispel the widespread confusion — some of it sown under the guise of “progressive investigative journalism” by likely crypto-Zionists – about why the United States made that fateful decision. As the tenth anniversary approaches, there is no excuse for anyone genuinely interested in the facts to deny the ultimate responsibility of Tel Aviv and its foreign agents for the quagmire in Iraq. Nevertheless, it’s an appropriate time to remind ourselves of some of the chief architects of the devastating Iraq War.
1. Ahmed Chalabi, the source of much of the false “intelligence” about Iraqi WMD, was introduced to his biggest boosters Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz by their mentor, a University of Chicago professor who had known the Iraqi con man since the 1960s. An influential Cold War hawk, Albert Wohlstetter fittingly has an American Enterprise Institute (AEI) conference centre named in his honor.
2. In 1982, Oded Yinon’s seminal article, “A Strategy for Israel in the 1980s” was published in Kivunim, a Hebrew-language journal affiliated with the World Zionist Organization. “Iraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other, is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel’s targets,” advised Yinon. “Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel.”
3. “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” a report prepared for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996, recommended “removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq—an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right.” Richard Perle, chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board during the initial years of the George W. Bush administration, was the study group leader.
4, 5. A November 1997 Weekly Standard editorial entitled “Saddam Must Go” opined: “We know it seems unthinkable to propose another ground attack to take Baghdad. But it’s time to start thinking the unthinkable.” The following year, the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), an influential neoconservative group, published a letter to President Clinton urging war against Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein on the pretext that he was a “hazard” to “a significant portion of the world’s supply of oil.” PNAC co-founders William Kristol and Robert Kagan also co-authored the “Saddam Must Go” editorial.
6. In Tyranny’s Ally: America’s Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein, published by AEI Press in 1999, David Wurmser argued that President Clinton’s policies in Iraq were failing to contain the country and proposed that the US use its military to redraw the map of the Middle East. He would go on to serve as Mideast adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney from 2003 to mid-2007.
7. On September 15, 2001 at Camp David, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz attempted to justify a US attack on Iraq rather than Afghanistan because it was “doable.” In the lead-up to the war, he assured Americans that it was “wildly off the mark” to think hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed to pacify a postwar Iraq; that the Iraqis “are going to welcome us as liberators”; and that “it is just wrong” to assume that the United States would have to fund the Iraq war.
8. On September 23, 2001, Senator Joe Lieberman, who had pushed for the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that there was evidence that “suggests Saddam Hussein may have had contact with bin Laden and the al-Qaeda network, perhaps [was] even involved in the September 11 attack.”
9. A November 12, 2001 New York Times editorial called an alleged meeting between Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi agent in Prague an “undisputed fact.” Celebrated for his linguistic prowess, columnist William Safire was egregiously sloppy in his use of language here.
10. A November 20, 2001 Wall Street Journal op-ed argued that the US should continue to target regimes that sponsor terrorism, claiming, “Iraq is the obvious candidate, having not only helped al Qaeda, but attacked Americans directly (including an assassination attempt against the first President Bush) and developed weapons of mass destruction.” The professor of strategic studies at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University who made these spurious claims was Eliot Cohen.
11. George W. Bush’s January 2002 State of the Union address infamously described Iraq as part of an “axis of evil.” It was David Frum, Bush’s Canadian-born speechwriter, who coined the provocative phrase.
12. In a February 2002 article entitled “How to win World War IV,” Norman Podhoretz, the longtime editor of Commentary magazine, asserted: “Yet whether or not Iraq becomes the second front in the war against terrorism, one thing is certain: there can be no victory in this war if it ends with Saddam Hussein still in power.”
13. Kenneth Adelman, Defense Policy Board member and PNAC signatory, predicted in a February 13, 2002 Washington Post op-ed: “I believe that demolishing Hussein’s military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk.”
14. On August 3, 2002, Charles Krauthammer, the psychiatrist-turned-Washington Post columnist, enticed Americans with this illusory carrot: “If we win the war, we are in control of Iraq, it is the single largest source of oil in the world…. We will have a bonanza, a financial one, at the other end, if the war is successful.”
15. In a September 20, 2002 Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled “The Case for Toppling Saddam,” current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Saddam Hussein could be hiding nuclear material “in centrifuges the size of washing machines” throughout the country.
16. “Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us? I’ll tell you what I think the real threat (is) and actually has been since 1990—it’s the threat against Israel.” Despite this candid admission to a foreign policy conference at the University of Virginia on September 10, 2002, Philip Zelikow, a member of President Bush’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, authored the National Security Strategy of September 2002 that provided the justification for a preemptive war against Iraq.
17. According to a December 7, 2002 New York Times article, the role of convicted Iran-Contra conspirator Elliott Abrams during Colin Powell’s efforts to negotiate a resolution on Iraq at the United Nations was “to make sure that Secretary Powell did not make too many concessions to the Europeans on the resolution’s wording, pressing a hard-line view.” Abrams was senior director of Near East and North African affairs at the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration.
18. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who was Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff until he was indicted for lying to federal investigators in the Valerie Plame case, helped draft Colin Powell’s fraudulent February 5, 2003 UN speech.
19. According to Julian Borger’s July 17, 2003 Guardian article entitled “The spies who pushed for war,” the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans (OSP) “forged close ties to a parallel, ad hoc intelligence operation inside Ariel Sharon’s office in Israel” to provide the Bush administration with alarmist reports on Saddam’s Iraq. Douglas Feith was the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy who headed the OSP.
20. Bernard Lewis, a British-born professor emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University whose 1990 essay “The Roots of Muslim Rage” introduced the dubious concept of a “Clash of Civilizations,” has been called “perhaps the most significant intellectual influence behind the invasion of Iraq.”
- Blair desperately tries to justify Iraq war (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Efforts to determine the health and environmental risks of depleted uranium (DU) weaponry in Iraq have been hampered by the Obama administration. DU, which makes shell and bullet casings harder and more capable of piercing armor, can contaminate the environment and contribute to health problems, including cancer and birth defects.
The Dutch peace group IKV Pax Christi complained in a new report that “Coalition Forces” (read: the United States) have refused to provide information on when and where invading forces fired DU weaponry.
Due to a “lack of transparency” by the U.S., “there is an absence of crucial information on firing coordinates, the quantities and types of DU munitions used; data gaps relating to the efforts undertaken to clean up contaminated sites and material are hindering efforts to assess risks and implement remediation work,” the report reads.
There are reportedly more than 300 sites in Iraq that were contaminated by DU weapons, many of them located in populated areas.
It is estimated that 400 tons of DU ammunition were fired in Iraq, mostly by American units, during the Gulf War and the 2003 invasion. Although the United States continues to use depleted uranium munitions, the report notes that “over the last couple of years the US Army has invested in research into replacing DU rounds in the A-10 with tungsten alloy based munitions, as well as non-DU 105 and 120mm munitions for the M1A2 Abrams tank, referring in their rationale for this move to DU’s potential environmental impact.”
To Learn More:
In a State of Uncertainty: Impact and Implications of the Use of Depleted Uranium in Iraq (IKV Pax Christi) (pdf)
Can you threaten to start a war to stop something that doesn’t exist? Open the March 11 issue of Time magazine and you’ll see the headline “The Path to War: Inside Barack Obama’s Struggle to Stop an Iranian Nuke.”
The piece is a behind-the-scenes peek at the debate inside the government about the steps the United States is willing to take to “keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.” The idea that Iran is after a weapon is repeated numerous times–”the global effort to prevent Tehran from getting a weapon,” and the United States perhaps “using military force to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.” We’re even told that Obama “offered to let Iran keep a peaceful nuclear program. But Iran’s leaders rebuffed Obama’s efforts.”
Nowhere does Time‘s Massimo Calabresi mention one rather inconvenient fact: There is no evidence that Iran is actually pursuing a nuclear weapon. Regular inspections have failed to turn up any evidence of that. Instead, we read things like this: “Iran itself has slowed down its efforts, converting some enriched uranium to a form that can be used only in research, not in weapons.” This is treated as evidence that Iran is heading towards its nuclear weapons more slowly.
This is alarming, especially since the article is about whether the U.S. will launch a military attack on Iran. Time ominously warns that soon “time will run out,” and tells us that “the Pentagon has launched the largest buildup of forces in the Gulf since the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war.” It closes by noting that “Obama will soon face the hardest decision of his presidency.”
Time faces a decision too–whether or not it wants to repeat the mistake of the Iraq War by treating allegations about another country’s weapons as if they are facts.
- Massimo Calabresi’s ‘Path To War’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Iran nuclear issue overhyped: Ex-IAEA chief Hans Blix (alethonews.wordpress.com)