The original McCarthyism of the early 1950s appeared with the consolidation of the Cold War. It was a witch hunt over supposed communist subversion of America’s democratic institutions. It was all about the Red Menace and the Russians are coming. Today’s New McCarthyism grew with the onset of a New Cold War and also has been about the Russians, especially the vilification of Vladimir Putin.
This anti-Russian hysteria reached a point of near absurdity in the last days of the Obama Administration with its trust-us allegations that the Russians defeated Hillary Clinton by releasing some emails showing how the Democratic National Committee sabotaged Bernie Sanders and other emails revealing what Clinton had told Wall Street banks but didn’t want the voters to know. If you noted that Clinton had previously blamed her defeat on FBI Director James Comey for reopening and re-closing the investigation into her use of a private email server, you risked being labeled a “Putin apologist” or a “Kremlin stooge.”
Of course, the anger toward anyone who resisted the “Russia-did-it” conformism did not come from nowhere. One can trace the current hostility to dissenters against U.S. foreign policy back to the presidency of George W. Bush when he gutted the Bill of Rights in promulgating the Patriot Act with almost no public challenge. In the post-9/11 climate – when any resistance to Bush’s edicts was regarded as close to treason – many of us became uneasy while talking politics on the phone or looking up certain topics on the Internet or taking books out of the library.
This intimidating surveillance did not go away when the Democrats retook the White House and Congress in the 2008 elections, but we stopped thinking about it because supposedly the “right people” now held the levers of power and surely wouldn’t repeat the abuses of Bush-43. However, not only did the surveillance state consolidate its powers under Barack Obama but the former constitutional lawyer sharply escalated the legal persecution of whistleblowers who dared give the American people a look behind the curtain.
Obama’s unprecedented assault on government transparency was compounded by the liberal-chic contempt meted out to anyone who questioned the wisdom of imposing “liberal values,” “human rights,” and “democracy promotion” on countries around the world. “Political correctness” dominated not only domestic U.S. debates but also the formulation of foreign policy.
Vladimir Putin was viewed as a retrograde force in the world, in part, because he aligned himself with Russia’s conservative social values and because he fell short of an ideal notion of what liberal democracy is supposed to be. The fact that the U.S. government also was falling far short of those standards – from ordering targeted assassinations with minimal due process to imprisoning patriotic whistleblowers – was largely ignored by an Obama Administration that saw itself as too wonderful to have flaws.
So, when the U.S. confrontation with Russia over Ukraine, Crimea and the Donbas began in the summer of 2013, those of us who did not accept what was becoming the Washington Consensus, which held Putin to blame for everything, began to see ourselves as dissidents in the Soviet sense or at least in the manner of the old McCarthy era. In effect, we were blacklisted, largely excluded from publication in the professional journals, not to mention mainstream print and broadcast media. On campus, we mostly kept our mouths shut fearing for our jobs.
In the narrow, but politically important field of Russian studies, just how bleak the times had become was revealed in the December 2015 “Christmas issue” of Johnson’s Russia List, an important daily digest of expert and generalist writings about Russia which contained a 40-page propaganda barrage against Putin and his ill-begotten country. But the content of that daily issue merely reflected what was entering the editor-publisher’s in-basket each day. Still, the silence of dissenters should not be confused with agreement.
For all his blustery and egotistical faults, Donald Trump has punched huge holes in the dominant neocon ideology that underlay the Washington Consensus on foreign policy during the presidencies of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Trump’s tweets and campaign messages asked, aloud and repeatedly, what could be wrong with the United States getting along with Russia and cooperating on common interests, starting with a joint campaign against ISIS.
Yet, Trump’s rejection of Washington’s foreign-policy orthodoxy went beyond relations with Russia; Trump was questioning the consensus on how America has conducted its role as global leader and he was challenging the arrogance of intervening in other nations’ affairs, whether by finger-waving lectures or various regime-change schemes.
As noisy and messy as Trump’s political approach has been – with a number of unnecessary diversions and self-inflicted wounds – there is a significant and “revolutionary” side of Trump’s approach. It represents a potential reordering of the two major political parties, a revamped struggle for power within the Right-Left dimension.
He restated this “revolutionary” aspect of his foreign policy in his Inaugural Address when he renounced the idea of endless interference in other countries’ politics and a return to the traditional role of America as an example, not an interventionist. This was an in-your-face condemnation of most of those sitting beside and behind him on the rostrum who favored a “values-based” foreign policy, globalization and American exceptionalism.
Taking on McCain
From the Oval Office, Trump has continued his frontal assault on this foreign-policy orthodoxy with his closely watched and disputed tweets. Much ridicule has been directed at Trump for ruling by tweets since they often reveal a lack of intellectual depth and his facile narcissism. But what they lack in refinement, Trump’s tweets make up for in feistiness and courage.
For instance, in a Jan. 30 tweet, Trump urged Republican neocon Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham to “focus their energies on ISIS, illegal immigration and border security instead of always looking to start World War III” [emphasis mine]. This was, in its own way, as significant as the pithy and devastating rebuke issued by attorney Joseph N. Welch to Sen. Joe McCarthy on June 9, 1954, after McCarthy attacked the patriotism of a young Army lawyer: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” Welch asked.
In a way, Trump’s reference to the behavior of McCain and Graham, running around the world advocating for one war after another, including a military confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia, was as precise and cutting as Welch’s putdown of McCarthy. In doing so, Trump broke the decades-long taboo on criticizing McCain despite his behavior as a loose cannon on the deck of foreign affairs, especially during the Obama years.
Behaving as if he had won rather than lost the 2008 election, McCain has traveled to such hot spots as Syria, Georgia and Ukraine with the goal of making U.S. foreign policy in the field, urging militants onward into violent clashes with their own governments or pushing U.S.-client states into conflicts with their neighbors.
Trump began his challenge to McCain during the campaign when he publicly questioned the “war hero” status of the Arizona senator by rhetorically asking in what way spending years in captivity as a Vietnam prisoner of war made McCain a war hero.
McCain took his revenge shortly before the inauguration when he informed the press that he had just handed over to the FBI for follow-up a dubious report generated by a former British intelligence agent accusing Trump of being vulnerable to Russian blackmail because of alleged cavorting with prostitutes during a visit to Moscow years ago.
To stymie any new détente with Russia, McCain also introduced a bill in the Senate calling for new and expanded sanctions against Russia. So, the White House tweet was a direct challenge to McCain for his actions that Trump warned were inviting World War III. In doing so, Trump is at least prying open space for a fuller debate about U.S. foreign policy and the wisdom of neocon interventionism.
So, notwithstanding all the self-righteous exclamations before media microphones by Establishment figures from both parties over the foibles of this populist president and notwithstanding the shouting in the streets by demonstrators, it appears that the President is advancing via his tactic of frontal attack.
A week ago, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Trump’s bellwether choice to oversee a new foreign policy, was confirmed by the Senate to the surprise and pleasure of those of us who had kept our fingers crossed. It is too early to say how or why Trump won this test of strength. But initial fierce opposition from ranking Republicans John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio was beaten back.
Now, the question is whether Tillerson and Trump’s other foreign policy appointees can achieve genuine change in the direction of U.S. foreign policy.
Gilbert Doctorow is the European Coordinator of The American Committee for East West Accord Ltd. His latest book, Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2015.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has confirmed that Moscow has been mediating talks between Damascus and the Syrian Kurds to help maintain Syria’s sovereignty and statehood, in an interview with Russia’s Izvestia daily.
Russia “makes efforts to establish a common understanding between the Syrian government and the Syrian Kurds for the sake of a united Syria,” the minister told Izvestia in an interview he gave ahead of Diplomat’s Day, a Russian holiday celebrated on February 10.
Lavrov went on to say that four rounds of negotiations, brokered by Russia and including direct contact between the Damascus delegation and “representatives of the political and public structures of the Syrian Kurds,” had already taken place between June and December in 2016. In addition, the gatherings also involved indirect talks between the two sides.
The Russian foreign minister also confirmed that the Syrian government had held talks with the leaders of the Syrian Kurds’ armed militia units, the YPG.
“We believe that such intra-Syrian dialog is useful,” Lavrov said, stressing that there is “significant potential for reaching agreements” between Damascus and the Kurds, as the sides have found many areas of common interest and their negotiations are developing positively.
Lavrov emphasized that “the Kurdish issue” is one of the “key” factors in maintaining Syrian statehood and contributing to the stabilization of the situation in the entire Middle East. He also drew attention to the fact that Russia is continuing its efforts to find compromises between various ethnic and religious groups in Syria, as it is interested in restoring peace and stability in the warn-torn country and defeating international terrorist organizations entrenched in some areas there.
Regarding Syria’s potential federalization, Russia’s top diplomat neither denied nor confirmed that the issue was discussed during the talks between the Syrian government and the Kurds.
The minister’s statements come as Russia also seeks to launch a peace process between the Syrian government and the armed opposition groups together with Turkey and Iran.
In December 2016, a nationwide ceasefire came into force in Syria. It was brokered by Moscow and Ankara and endorsed by the UN Security Council. While in late January, negotiations took place between official representatives from Damascus, Russia, Iran and Turkey, as well as a delegation from the Syrian opposition in the Kazakh capital, Astana. However, the Syrian Kurds were not represented at the talks.
During the gathering, Russia submitted a draft document to serve as a “guide” for the Syrian constitution. The paper stressed that Syria’s territory is “inviolable and indivisible,” suggesting that restructuring of internal borders and proclaiming autonomous regions within Syria should be done only with respect to the country’s own laws. The rights of minorities were another key element of the draft.
In his interview with Izvestia, Lavrov also discussed other pressing issues in modern international politics. He once again criticized the NATO military buildup on Russian borders but expressed hope that Western politicians would eventually understand that Russia “poses no direct threat to NATO” and is a “peaceful country.”
Russia seeks “immediate de-escalation of the military and political situation in Europe” but is ready to defend its borders, Lavrov stressed.
He also went on to express his regret over the recent escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine and urged Kiev to implement the Minsk Agreements, noting that there is no other way to resolve the crisis.
Touching upon the issue of US-Russian relations, Lavrov again confirmed that Russia is ready to work with the administration of new US President Donald Trump on a broad range of issues, yet “on the basis of mutual respect.”
We learned a few days ago that 19 rabbis were arrested in NYC during a protest at Trump International Hotel. The Rabbi operates within the T’ruah organisation, a rabbinical human rights group that was formed (in 2002) to convey an image of Judaic ethical and universal awareness.
patch.com reports that the rabbis sat down in the street in front of the Trump Hotel in an act of protest against Trump’s executive orders affecting Muslim immigrants and refugees. But T’ruah do not just oppose Trump’s policy as ordinary human beings or American patriots. They actually operate as ‘Jews.’
Chutzpah, as we know, is a Jewish invention and Rabbi Jill Jacobs, T’ruah’s executive director, has a lot of it in her disposal. “It makes a statement when we (Rabbis) are willing to put our bodies on the line.” she said. Perplexed Goyim may wonder how exactly Rabbi Jacobs puts her ‘body on the line’ (sitting down on the street in the middle of Manhattan)? The rabbi must have realised how ridiculous her statement was, as she then corrected herself. “Right now the people whose bodies are really on the line are people trying to get to America, and risking death to do so. The least that we can do is put our bodies a little bit on the line…to bring attention to the situation of refugees.”
Rabbi Kleinbaum also added a statement concerning rabbinical heroism. “I’m risking arrest today because America welcomed my own immigrant family to its shores, as it did millions of families before us who fled persecution.” But if Rabbi Kleinbaum is actually talking as an American Patriot who cares for American universal values, why is he protesting ‘as a Jew’? He should really protest as a proud American.
“As Jews, who know what it means to be targeted by discriminatory laws, we stand firmly with refugees fleeing war, persecution, and economic strife,” T’ruah Rabbis said in a statement.
Along the years I have developed an allergy to “as a” statements in general and “as a Jew” proclamations in particular. For one reason or another, rather often ‘as a Jew’ constructions happen to be grossly duplicitous. If Jews know so much about persecution how come their Jewish State is institutionally racist and discriminatory towards minorities and gentiles? If Jews are pro immigration, how come their Jewish State is vile in its attitude towards illegal immigration. If the Jews ‘stand firmly with refugees’ isn’t it about time their Jewish State invites millions of Palestinian refugees to return to the land that belongs to them and them alone? Do T’ruah rabbis openly support the Palestinian right of return? If they do, they manage to keep quiet about it.
But let’s take it further, can the T’ruah rabbis report to us how many Syrians have found a refuge in Jewish homes? How many refugees are living in rabbi Kleinbaum’s and Jacobs’ spare bedroom? Considering the war against Islam was a Zio-Con project, can the Rabbis tell us when is the last time they sat down in the street in front of Paul Wolfowitz’ or Bernard Henri Levy’s homes? After all, Henri Levy claimed that ‘as a Jew’ he ‘liberated’ Libya. Shouldn’t the T’ruah rabbis at least occupy the streets in front of the Israeli Embassy and AIPAC offices? After all, it was Israel and its lobby that pushed for war in Syria. It was Israel and its lobby that are directly involved in the creation of the refugee crisis in Syria.
I kindly advise T’ruah and other Jewish human rights groups to be slightly more economical with their duplicity. By now, the Goyim know. They see it all and their patience is about to run out.
It’s a new year and new administration, but the strong radioactive stench is the same out at Hanford in eastern Washington, home of the world’s costliest environmental cleanup. In January, a dozen workers reported smelling a toxic odor outside the site’s tank farms, where nuclear waste is stored underground. From April to December 2016, 70 people were exposed to chemical vapors emanating from the facility — and 2017 is off to the similar start.
Toxic odors at an old nuclear depot? This would be startling news anywhere else. But this is Hanford after all, where taxpayer money freely flows to contractors despite the snail-paced half-life of their work. Twenty years and $19 billion later, Hanford is still a nightmare — likely the most toxic site in the Western Hemisphere. Not one ounce of nuclear waste has ever been treated, and there are no indications Hanford will be nuke free anytime soon. To date, at least 1 million gallons of radioactive waste has leaked and is making its way to the Columbia River. It’s an environmental disaster of epic proportions — a disaster created by our government’s atomic obsession during the Cold War era.
No doubt, Hanford is a wreck in search of a remedy, yet the costs covered by American taxpayers appears to be growing exponentially. At the tail end of 2016, the estimated cost of turning the radioactive gunk into glass rods bumped up a cool $4.5 billion (adding to the ultimate price tag for the remaining Hanford cleanup, which had already reached a whopping $107.7 billion). These sorts of increases are so common they hardly make news anymore.
Donald Trump’s pick for Department of Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, who infamously stated he’d like to do away with the DoE altogether [without a DoE there would be no nuclear weapons programs or US agency promoting nuclear energy], now admits that Hanford’s one of the most dangerous facilities in the nation. But his commitment to cleaning up the fiscal and nuclear boondoggle remains to be seen. The plant that is to turn the waste into glass rods is set to open in 2023, but it’s a safe bet that won’t be happening. It’s already two decades behind schedule.
Meanwhile, workers on the front lines of the cleanup are often put in situations that are poorly monitored and exceedingly unsafe. Over the past three years KING 5 News in Seattle has tracked dozens of employees who were exposed to chemical vapors at Hanford and found their illnesses to include “toxic encephalopathy (dementia), reactive airway disease, COPD, and painful nerve damage.”
“The people running Hanford need to have a moral compass that directs them in the right way, as human beings, to do the right thing to protect these people,” retired Hanford employee Mike Geffre, who worked at Hanford for 26 years, told KING 5. “They’re trying to save money and save face. They’re standing behind their old position that there’s no problem. That’s absurd. They need to accept the fact that they made mistakes and get over it.”
Fortunately, there is a bit of good news in his heap of radioactivity. Last November, a settlement was reached between the US Department of Justice, Bechtel Corp. and AECOM (formerly URS) for a whopping $125 million. The civil lawsuit alleged taxpayer funds were mismanaged and that both companies performed shoddy work. The lawsuit also claimed that government funds were illegally used to lobby members of Congress. Brought on by whistleblowers Gary Brunson, Donna Busche, and Walter Tamosaitis (Busche and Tamosaitis’s sagas were highlighted in two Investigative Fund reports I authored for Seattle Weekly in 2011 and 2012), the settlement was one of the largest in DoE history.
No doubt it was a substantial victory for whistleblowers and government accountability, despite the fact that the defendants did not admit guilt. Now, Washington State legislators are pushing HB 1723, a bill that would protect and treat Hanford workers for certain health problems that are a result of the work they’ve done at the facility, such as respiratory problems, heart issues, certain cancers like bone, breast, lung and thyroid, as well as neurological issues.
“Currently, many Hanford workers are not receiving necessary medical care because they are put in the impossible situation of being unable to specify the chemicals to which they have been exposed, and in what concentrations, making it difficult for their doctors to connect their disease with their exposures,” Randy Walli, Business Manager for the pipefitters union, Local 598, told King 5.
Compensation for whistleblowers and employees whose health is impacted by their work are steps in the right direction. But Hanford’s contractors and the DoE that oversees them still have much to do to make the increasingly expensive nuclear cleanup at Hanford, safe, effective and transparent.
A lack of activity and upkeep is plaguing facilities including the site of swimming competitions, where craters from disassembled pools collect stagnant water.
Less than six months after Rio de Janeiro hosted the first-ever Olympics in South America, game venues sit idle and already in disrepair, raising questions about a legacy that organizers promised would benefit the Brazilian city and its residents.
A lack of activity and upkeep is plaguing facilities including the site of swimming competitions, where craters from disassembled pools collect stagnant water, and Rio’s famed Maracanã stadium, site of the opening and closing ceremonies.
The field there, one of the most iconic soccer pitches in the world, is giving way to dirt and scrub. Electricity was cut recently because of a financial spat between local officials and the contractor hired to manage the stadium.
Before the games, organizers touted the venues as facilities that could easily be repurposed in sports-crazed Rio. But little more than one beach volleyball tournament has been played at any of the venues — and even that drew criticism because it involved throwing sand on the Olympic tennis court.
Federal, state and local governments, along with private partners, paid more than US$12.8 billion to host the Olympics, about US$7 billion of which was for game venues and related facilities.
President Trump has issued an executive order suspending entry to the U.S for people from Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, and Yemen (the order is called “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States”). These same countries were the focus of the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015” under President Obama.
While reports on Trump’s ban emphasize that these are Muslim majority countries, analysts seem to have ignored another significant characteristic that these countries share.
With just a single exception, all of these countries were targeted for attack by certain top U.S. officials in 2001. In fact, that policy had roots that went back to 1996, 1991, 1980, and even the 1950s. Below, we will trace this policy back in time and examine its goals and proponents.
The fact is that Trump’s action continues policies influenced by people working on behalf of a foreign country, whose goal has been to destabilize and reshape an entire region. This kind of aggressive interventionism focused on “regime change” launches cascading effects that include escalating violence.
Already we’ve seen devastating wars, massive refugee movement that is uprooting entire peoples and reshaping parts of Europe, desperate and horrific terrorism, and now the horror that is ISIS. If this decades-long effort is not halted, it will be increasingly devastating for the region, our country, and the entire world.
2001 Policy Coup
Four-star general Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied Commander, has described what he called a 2001 “policy coup” by a small group of people intent on destabilizing and taking over the Middle East, targeting six of the seven countries mentioned by Obama and Trump.
Clark described a chance meeting in the Pentagon in 2001 ten days after 911 in which he learned about the plan to take down these countries.
After meeting with then-Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Clark went downstairs to say hello to people on the Joint Staff who had worked for him in the past. One of the generals called him in.
‘Sir, you’ve got to come in and talk to me a second.” He told Clark, “We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq.”
Clark was shocked. He said, “We’re going to war against Iraq? Why?” The officer said he didn’t know. Clark asked if they had found information connecting Saddam to Al-Qaeda. The man said, “No, no, there’s nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq.”
A few weeks later, Clark went back to the Pentagon and spoke to the general again. He asked whether the U.S. was still planning to go to war against Iraq.
The general replied: “Oh, it’s worse than that.” Clark says that the general picked up a piece of paper and said, “I just got this down from upstairs today. This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.”
Clark asked, “Is it classified?” He said, “Yes, sir.”
Clark said he was stunned: “I couldn’t believe it would really be true. But that’s actually what happened. These people took control of the policy of the United States.”
Clark says he then remembered a 1991 meeting he had with Paul Wolfowitz. In 2001 Wolfowitz was Deputy Secretary of Defense, and in 1991 he was Under Secretary of Defense of Policy, the number three position at the Pentagon.
Wolfowitz is a pro-Israel neoconservative who an associate has called “over the top when it comes to Israel.”
Clark describes going to Wolfowitz’s office in March of 1991. Clark said to Wolfowitz, “You must be pretty happy with the performance of the troops in Desert Storm.” Clark says Wolfowitz replied, “Not really, because the truth is we should have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein, and we didn’t.”
Wolfowitz declared the U.S. had an opportunity to clean up “Syria, Iran, Iraq, before the next super power came on to challenge us.”
Clark says he was shocked at Wolfowitz’s proposal that the military should initiate wars and change governments, and that Wolfowitz believed that the U.S. should invade countries whose governments it disliked. “My mind was spinning.”
Clark says Scooter Libby was at that meeting. Libby is another pro-Israel neoconservative. In 2001 He was Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, and worked closely with the Office of Special Plans, which manufactured anti-Iraq talking points.
“This country was taken over by a group of people with a policy coup,” Clark said in his 2007 lecture. “Wolfowitz, Rumsfield, Cheney, and you could name a half dozen other collaborators from the Project for a New American Century. They wanted us to destabilize the Middle East, turn it upside down, make it under our control.”
(The Project for a New American Century was a think tank that operated from 1997-2006, and was replaced by the Foreign Policy Initiative.)
Clark continued: “Did they ever tell you this? Was there a national dialogue on this? Did Senators and Congressmen stand up and denounce this plan? Was there a full-fledged American debate on it? Absolutely not. And there still isn’t.”
Clark noted that Iran and Syria know about the plan. “All you have to do is read the Weekly Standard and listen to Bill Kristol, and he blabbermouths it all over the world – Richard Perle is the same way. They could hardly wait to finish Iraq so they could move into Syria.”
Clark says that Americans did not vote George Bush into office to do this. Bush, Clark pointed out, had campaigned on “a humble foreign policy, no ‘peace keeping,’ no ‘nation building.’”
Others have described this group, their responsibility for pushing the invasion of Iraq, and their pro-Israel motivation.
Neoconservatives, Israel, and Iraq
A 2003 article in Ha’aretz, one of Israel’s main newspapers, reported bluntly: “The war in Iraq was conceived by 25 neoconservative intellectuals, most of them Jewish, who are pushing President Bush to change the course of history.” (Ha’aretz often highlights the Jewish affiliation of important players due to its role as a top newspaper of the self-declared “Jewish State.”)
It gave what it termed “a partial list” of these neoconservatives: U.S. government officials Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, and Eliot Abrams, and journalists William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer. The article described them as “mutual friends who cultivate one another.”
The article included an interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who was quoted as saying:
“It’s the war the neoconservatives wanted. It’s the war the neoconservatives marketed. Those people had an idea to sell when September 11 came, and they sold it. Oh boy, did they sell it. So this is not a war that the masses demanded. This is a war of an elite.”
The article continued:
“Friedman laughs: ‘I could give you the names of 25 people (all of whom are at this moment within a five-block radius of this office) who, if you had exiled them to a desert island a year and a half ago, the Iraq war would not have happened.’”
Another Ha’aretz article described how some of these individuals, high American officials, gave Israeli leaders tips on how to manage American actions and influence US Congressmen, concluding: “Perle, Feith, and their fellow strategists are walking a fine line between their loyalty to American governments and Israeli interests.”
Ha’aretz reported that the goal was far more than just an invasion of Iraq: “at a deeper level it is a greater war, for the shaping of a new Middle East.” The article said that the war “was being fought to consolidate a new world order.”
“The Iraq war is really the beginning of a gigantic historical experiment…”
We’re now seeing the tragic and violent result of that regime-change experiment.
American author, peace activist, and former CIA analyst Kathleen Christison discussed the neoconservatives who promoted war against Iraq in a 2002 article. She wrote: “Although much has been written about the neo-cons who dot the Bush administration, their ties to Israel have generally been treated very gingerly.”
The Bush administration, she wrote, was “peppered with people who have long records of activism on behalf of Israel in the United States, of policy advocacy in Israel, and of promoting an agenda for Israel often at odds with existing U.S. policy.”
“These people,” she wrote, “who can fairly be called Israeli loyalists, are now at all levels of government, from desk officers at the Defense Department to the deputy secretary level at both State and Defense, as well as on the National Security Council staff and in the vice president’s office.”
Author Stephen Green wrote a meticulously researched 2004 expose describing how some of these individuals, including Perle and Wolfowitz, had been investigated through the years by U.S. intelligence agencies for security “lapses” benefiting Israel.
Yet, despite a pattern of highly questionable actions suggestive of treason, they continued to procure top security clearances for themselves and cronies. The neocon agenda also became influential in Britain.
(During the recent U.S. presidential election, neoconservatives were extremely hostile to Trump, and have been perturbed to have less influence in his administration they they expected to have with Hillary Clinton. They may be relieved to see him targeting their pet punching bags in the Middle East. It’s unclear whether neoconservatives will remain outside the White House’s inner circle for long: neocon Michael Ledeen is quite close to Trump’s recently named White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. And there is talk that Trump may appoint Elliott Abrams as Deputy Secretary of State.)
1996 plan against Iraq and Syria
The neocon regime-change strategy had been laid out in a 1996 document called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” It was written for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by a study group led by Richard Perle. Although Perle and the other authors were American citizens, the “realm” in question was Israel.
Perle was chairman of the United States Defense Policy Board at that time. He had previously been U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy.
The report stated that in the past, Israel’s strategy was to get the U.S. to use its money and weaponry to “lure Arabs” to negotiate. This strategy, the plan stated, “required funneling American money to repressive and aggressive regimes.”
The report recommended, however, that Israel go beyond a strategy just focused on Israel-Palestine, and address the larger region – that it “shape its strategic environment.”
It called for “weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria” and “removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.” The paper also listed Iran and Lebanon as countries to be dealt with (and Turkey and Jordan as nations to be used in the strategy).
The plan stressed that it was necessary to obtain U.S. support for the strategy, and advised that Israel use “language familiar to the Americans by tapping into themes of American administrations during the cold war … .”
Perle, Douglas Feith (who would be Deputy Under Secretary of Defense by 2001) and the other signatories of the report framed their proposal as a new concept, but the idea for Israel to reshape the political landscape of the Middle East had been discussed for years. (Lest we be unclear, “reshape the political landscape” means to change governments, something that has never been accomplished without massive loss of life and far-reaching repercussions.)
In 1992 Israeli leaders were already working to indoctrinate the public about an alleged need to attack Iran. Israeli analyst Israel Shahak wrote in his book Open Secrets that the goal would be “to bring about Iran’s total military and political defeat.”
Shahak reported: “In one version, Israel would attack Iran alone, in another it would ‘persuade’ the West to do the job. The indoctrination campaign to this effect is gaining in intensity. It is accompanied by what could be called semi-official horror scenarios purporting to detail what Iran could do to Israel, the West and the entire world when it acquires nuclear weapons as it is expected to a few years hence.”
1982 & 1950s Israeli plans to fragment the Middle East
A document called “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties,” proposed by Israeli analyst Oded Yinon, was published by the World Zionist Organization in 1982.
The document, translated by Israel Shahak, called for the dissolution of existing Arab states into smaller states which would, in effect, become Israel’s satellites.
In an analysis of the plan, Shahak pointed out: “[W]hile lip service is paid to the idea of the ‘defense of the West’ from Soviet power, the real aim of the author, and of the present Israeli establishment is clear: To make an Imperial Israel into a world power.”
Shahak noted that Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon planned “to deceive the Americans after he has deceived all the rest.”
Shahak wrote that reshaping the Middle East on behalf of Israel had been discussed since the 1950s: “This is not a new idea, nor does it surface for the first time in Zionist strategic thinking. Indeed, fragmenting all Arab states into smaller units has been a recurrent theme.”
As Shahak pointed out, this strategy was documented in a book called Israel’s Sacred Terrorism (1980), by Livia Rokach. Drawing on the memoirs of the second Prime Minister of Israel, Rokach’s book described, among other things, a 1954 proposal to execute regime change in Lebanon.
Returning to the present, let’s examine the situation in the “countries of concern” named by President Trump last week, by President Obama in 2015, and targeted by Wolfowitz et al in 2001.
Several years ago, journalist Glenn Greenwald commented on General Clark’s statement about the 2001 policy coup: “If you go down that list of seven countries that he said the neocons had planned to basically change the governments of, you pretty much see that vision… being fulfilled.”
Greenwald noted that the governments of Iraq, Libya, and Lebanon had been changed; the U.S. had escalated its proxy fighting and drone attacks in Somalia; U.S. troops were deployed in Sudan; “and the most important countries on that list, Iran and Syria, are clearly the target of all sorts of covert regime change efforts on the part of the United States and Israel.”
Below are sketches of what’s happened:
Iraq was invaded and the country destroyed. According to a 2015 NGO report, the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq had led to the deaths of approximately 1 million Iraqis – 5 percent of the total population of the country – by 2011. More than three million Iraqis are internally displaced, and the carnage continues. The destruction of Iraq and impoverishment of its people is at the root of much of today’s extremism and it’s been demonstrated that it led to the rise of ISIS, as admitted by former British Prime Minister and Iraq war co-perpetrator Tony Blair.
Libya was invaded in 2011 and its leader violently overthrown; in the post-Gaddafi power vacuum, a 2011 UN report revealed torture, lynchings and abuse. Five years on, the country was still torn by civil war and ISIS is reportedly expanding into the chaos. A 2016 Human Rights Watch report stated: “Libya’s political and security crisis deepened … the country edged towards a humanitarian crisis, with almost 400,000 people internally displaced.” Warring forces “continued with impunity to arbitrarily detain, torture, unlawfully kill, indiscriminately attack, abduct and disappear, and forcefully displace people from their homes. The domestic criminal justice system collapsed in most parts of the country, exacerbating the human rights crisis.” [Photos here]
Sudan: The U.S. engaged in so-called “nation-building” in Sudan, advanced the claim in 2005 that the government was perpetrating a genocide, and some U.S. players ultimately organized the secession of South Sudan from Sudan in 2011. (Neocon Israel partisan Elliott Abrams was one of these players.) One journalist reported the result: “[A]n abyss of unspeakable misery and bloodshed … . Tens of thousands have been killed, 1.5 million have been displaced, and 5 million are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.”
Somalia: There have been a number of U.S. interventions in Somalia, most recently a clandestine war under Obama using Special Operations troops, airstrikes, private contractors and African allies; Somali extremists, like others, repeatedly cite Israel’s crimes against Palestinians, enabled by the U.S., as motivators of their violent extremism.
Iran: Iran has long been targeted by Israel, and Israel partisans have driven the anti-Iran campaign in the U.S. Most recently there has been a public relations effort claiming that Iran is developing nuclear weapons, despite the fact that U.S. intelligence agencies and other experts do not support these accusations. Israel and the U.S. deployed a computer virus against Iran in what has been called the world’s first digital weapon. Young Iranian nuclear physicists have been assassinated by U.S. ally Israel, and the U.S. instituted a blockade against Iran that caused food insecurity and mass suffering among the country’s civilians. (Such a blockade can be seen as an act of war.) Democratic Congressman and Israel partisan Brad Sherman admitted the objective of the Iran sanctions: “Critics of sanctions argue that these measures will hurt the Iranian people. Quite frankly, we need to do just that.”
Yemen: The US has launched drone strikes against Yemen for years, killing numerous Yemeni civilians and even some Americans. In 2010, a few weeks after Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, he had the military use cluster bombs that killed 35 Yemeni women and children. The Obama administration killed a 16-year-old American in 2011, and a few days ago U.S. forces under Trump killed the boy’s sister. In 2014 American forces attacked a wedding procession, and in 2015 the Obama administration admitted it was making war on Yemen. Today over two million Yemeni children suffer from malnutrition. The Yemeni regime that we’re attacking became politically active in 2003 as a result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
Syria: In an email revealed by Wikileaks, Hillary Clinton wrote that the “best way to help Israel” was to overthrow the Syrian regime.
Syria seems to be a poster child for the destruction recommended by Israeli strategists. As the UK Guardian reported in 2002: “Disorder and chaos sweeping through the region would not be an unfortunate side-effect of war with Iraq, but a sign that everything is going according to plan.”
Half the Syrian population is displaced – 5 million have fled the country and another 6 million are internally displaced – and over 300,000 are dead from the violence. Major cities and ancient sites are in ruins and the countryside devastated. Amnesty International calls it “the worst humanitarian crisis of our time.”
While the uprising against a ruthless dictator was no doubt begun by authentic Syrian rebels, others with questionable agendas flowed in, some supported by the U.S. and Israel. Israel’s military intelligence chief said Israel does not want ISIS defeated. Israel’s defense minister has admitted that Israel has provided aid to ISIS fighters.
A major factor in Syria’s chaos and the rise of ISIS was the destruction of Iraq, as revealed by in-depth interviews with ISIS fighters by researchers for Artis International, a consortium for scientific study in the service of conflict resolution:
“Many assume that these fighters are motivated by a belief in the Islamic State… but this just doesn’t hold for the prisoners we are interviewing. They are woefully ignorant about Islam and have difficulty answering questions about Sharia law, militant jihad, and the caliphate.”
“More pertinent than Islamic theology is that there are other, much more convincing, explanations as to why they’ve fought for the side they did.”
One interviewee said: “The Americans came. They took away Saddam, but they also took away our security. I didn’t like Saddam, we were starving then, but at least we didn’t have war. When you came here, the civil war started.”
The report noted that the fighters “came of age under the disastrous American occupation after 2003.”
“They are children of the occupation, many with missing fathers at crucial periods (through jail, death from execution, or fighting in the insurgency), filled with rage against America and their own government. They are not fueled by the idea of an Islamic caliphate without borders; rather, ISIS is the first group since the crushed Al Qaeda to offer these humiliated and enraged young men a way to defend their dignity, family, and tribe.”
The leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was imprisoned for eight months in the infamous Abu Ghraib, a U.S.-run Iraqi prison known for grotesque torture of prisoners. Photos published at that time show U.S. soldiers smiling next to piles of naked prisoners and a hooded detainee standing on a narrow box with electrical wires attached to his outstretched hands.
An Abu Ghraib interrogator later revealed that Israelis trained them in the use of techniques used against Palestinians. General Janis Karpinski (in charge of the unit that ran the prison) and others say that Israelis were involved in interrogations. It was reported that the head of the defense contracting firm implicated in the torture at Abu Ghraib prison had close ties to Israel and had visited an Israeli training camp in the West Bank.
Another major factor in the rise of anti-Western extremism is the largely unconditional support for Israel’s violent oppression of Palestinians. As a UN report documented, “The scale of human loss and destruction in Gaza during the 2014 conflict was catastrophic and has … shocked and shamed the world.”
Professor John Mearsheimer of and Professor Stephen Walt of Harvard have written that U.S. policies promoted by the Israel lobby have given “extremists a powerful recruiting tool, increases the pool of potential terrorists and sympathizers, and contributes to Islamic radicalism around the world.” Osama Bin Laden cited U.S. support for Israeli crimes against Palestinians among his reasons for fighting the U.S. The U.S. gives Israel over $10 million per day.
Reaction to the Trump executive order
Thousands of people across the U.S. have opposed Trump’s order for the extreme hardship it imposes on multitudes of refugees. The focus on Muslims (Trump has said that Christians might be exempted) has caused outrage at such religious discrimination and unfair profiling (the large majority of Muslims strongly oppose extremism).
Individuals across the political spectrum from Code Pink to the Koch brothers have decried the order. The Kochs issued a strong statement against it:
“We believe it is possible to keep Americans safe without excluding people who wish to come here to contribute and pursue a better life for their families. The travel ban is the wrong approach and will likely be counterproductive. Our country has benefited tremendously from a history of welcoming people from all cultures and backgrounds. This is a hallmark of free and open societies.”
New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, who supported the Iraq War and suggests God sent him to guard Israel, choked back tears at a press conference and called the order “mean-spirited and un-American.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), known for its fervent pro-Israel advocacy (and history of smearing criticism of Israeli policy as “anti-Semitism”), has vowed a “relentless fight” against the ban.
Some are concerned that Trump’s action will stoke terrorism, rather than defend against it. Many others support the order in the belief it makes them safer from extremist violence. (As mentioned above, the Obama administration undertook a similar, though milder, action for a similar reason.)
I suggest that everyone – both those who deplore the order for humanitarian reasons, and those who defend it out of concern for Americans’ safety – examine the historic context outlined above and the U.S. policies that led to this order.
For decades, Democratic and Republican administrations have enacted largely parallel policies regarding the Middle East and Israel-Palestine. We are seeing the results, and most of us are deeply displeased.
I would submit that both for humanitarian obligations and for security necessities, it is urgent that we find a different way forward.
Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew, president of the Council for the National Interest, and author of Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel.
“Putin’s a killer.” This was the claim made by Fox News ‘journalist’ Bill O’Reilly during his recent interview with Donald Trump. Trump’s reply came in the form of a simple question. “What, you think our country’s so innocent?” It was a reply that succeeded in puncturing the bubble of exceptionalism in which Mr O’Reilly and those like him have long chosen to cocoon themselves from reality.
It was an extraordinary exchange, one that has gone viral on social media since. For liberals in the US and beyond it is being touted as yet more evidence of the fact that Donald Trump is completely unsuited to the rigors of the office of President. Meanwhile for dyed-in-the-wool neocons it suggests a leader of the so-called free world who is yet to realize the difference between ‘us’, the good guys, and ‘them’, the bad guys.
“Putin’s a killer.” Just ponder this statement for a moment, consider the ignorance, arrogance, and delusion it describes. Consider, too, the millions of humans slaughtered by successive US presidents over the years, going back, say, to the Korean War and working your way forward. That they were killed in the name of democracy and human rights, at least according to Bill O’Reilly and the rest of the gang over at Fox News, is a boast as preposterous as it is grotesque. Firstly, justifying the wholesale slaughter of men, women, and children in the name of democracy renders the word completely meaningless. And secondly, what Mr O’Reilly describes as democracy others would describe as imperialism.
But then, you see, this is the problem when you sit at the apex of the most destructive empire the world has ever known. It distorts your sense reality to the point where you become intoxicated with the associated myths used to justify this empire and the vast destruction it has wreaked and continues to wreak across the world.
We see this distortion in the way that Barack Obama has been allowed to walk off in the sunset with the highest approval ratings of any US president in living memory, lamented as one of the most progressive leaders ever to occupy the Oval Office. It is a rendering of the legacy of the country’s first black president that fails to pass even the most tepid scrutiny.
Obama’s administration was, to be frank, a veritable killing machine, one comprising almost daily drone strikes, kill lists, and the wholesale destruction of entire countries, as in the case of Libya. In his final year in office the US dropped 27,000 bombs, up from the number dropped in 2015. Yet we are meant to regard the 44th president and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize as the modern incarnation of Dr Martin Luther King, a president who worked tirelessly for peace and justice.
Reminding Mr O’Reilly and his ilk of a few basic facts when it comes to the difference between Moscow and Washington’s actions around the world in recent years, there is a significant difference between a foreign policy driven by restoring stability and security to entire regions, in the case of Russia vis-à-vis the Middle East, and a foreign policy that has only succeeded in sowing instability and terrorism across those regions, in the case of the United States.
Bill O’Reilly’s discomfort at being corrected by the country’s President on the egregious record of his own country when it comes to body count, was redolent to that of a vampire suddenly exposed to daylight. The Fox News anchor was left floundering around in his chair, rattled by Trump’s simple yet withering words of truth in response to the kind of statement that has no place being made by any self-respecting journalist.
But then the Bill O’Reilly’s of our world are not journalists they are propagandists, engaged in spreading disinformation in the cause of the previously mentioned myths that both sustain and nourish a perverse worldview. America, the ‘land of the free’, is a force for good in the world people such as him choose to believe. When we kill people we only do so reluctantly and in service to the greater good of freedom and liberty. Thus our bombs are good bombs, a fact that should be of comfort to the families and loved ones of those we obliterate.
What needs to be explored in light of Mr O’Reilly’s interview with President Trump is not so much his journalistic credentials but the education system of which he is a product. It reveals a man who when confronted with the choice between embracing truth or ideology has chosen ideology.
While nobody should be under any illusions when it comes to Donald Trump as the reincarnation of Hugo Chavez, he has revealed a propensity for dropping the odd ‘truth bomb’ here and there, much to chagrin of conservative and liberal commentators alike. And such truth bombs are the killers that Bill O’Reilly truly fears – killing the smug complacency and hypocrisy without which life loses all meaning.
NEGEV – In the latest instance of Israel’s demolition campaign in the Negev region of southern Israel, homes were demolished in two unrecognized Bedouin villages on Wednesday, while Israeli police surrounded the village of Umm al-Hiran.
Israeli bulldozers, escorted by Israeli police, demolished a house in the village of Wadi al-Naam in the western part of the Negev in southern Israel.
Locals told Ma’an that the demolished house was owned by an elderly woman and her daughter. A member of the local committee, Yousif Ziyadin, said that an emergency session would be held to discuss the Israeli demolition.
A relative of the elderly homeowner, Ahmad Zanoun, told Ma’an that 100-year-old Ghaytha Zanoun and her 60-year-old daughter Hilala were living in the house, both of whom suffer from various health issues.
Zanoun said that both Ghaytha and Hilala were unable to walk, and noted that the family had renovated the home in accordance with their doctor’s suggestions due to their health conditions.
He added that Ghaytha and her daughter now were homeless following the demolition.
The Wadi al-Naam village was established in the 1950s soon after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that established the state of Israel. Military officials forcibly transferred the Negev Bedouins to the site during the 17-year period when Palestinians inside Israel were governed under Israeli military law, which ended shortly before Israel’s military takeover of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967.
In July, the Israeli government approved plans to build townships for Israel’s Bedouin community. The planned township is expected to be built just south of Shaqib al-Salam, another Bedouin township, and would transfer at least 7,000 Bedouins from the unrecognized village of Wadi al-Naam, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported last year.
The approved village would comprise of an area of approximately 9,000 dunams (2,224 acres), while providing housing to some 9,000 residents, The Times of Israel also reported.
The proposal to expand the area of Shaqib al-Salam was challenged in Israel’s Supreme Court in 2015, as the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), who assisted in the court proceedings, argued that any expansion of the town would be followed by the forcible removal of Bedouins from unrecognized villages, particularly from Wadi al-Naam.
Yaron Kelner, spokesperson for ACRI, confirmed to Ma’an on Wednesday that residents of Wadi al-Naam have continued to refuse the relocation deal.
Meanwhile, Israeli bulldozers also demolished a mobile home in the unrecognized village of al-Zarnouq in the Negev. However, no other details were provided about the demolition.
The Israeli government has plans to evacuate thousands of residents from al-Zarnouq to the recognized village of Rahat in order to build over the land for new housing for non-Bedouin Israeli citizens.
According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the Israeli government approved in 2011 plans to transfer tens of thousands of Bedouins in unrecognized villages, including al-Zarnouq, into officially recognized settlements.
The ongoing attempts at transferring the Bedouins originated from the Prawer Report, a document outlining expulsion plans for the unrecognized Bedouin community. It was officially adopted by the Israeli government in 2013.
According to Israeli human rights group Adalah, the plan would “result in the destruction of 35 ‘unrecognized’ Arab Bedouin villages, the forced displacement of up to 70,000 Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel, and the dispossession of their historical lands in the Negev.”
In another incident in the Negev on Wednesday, the Yoav unit of the Israeli police surrounded the village of Umm al-Hiran. According to locals, residents have expressed fear that their presence could signal another demolition, the last of which erupted into deadly violence when Israeli police raided the village prior to demolishing homes. A local Bedouin teacher and an Israeli police officer were killed at the time.
Meanwhile, the Bedouin village of al-Araqib was demolished for the 109th time on Wednesday.
Bedouin communities in the Negev have been the target of a heightened demolition campaign in recent weeks, following Israeli leaders publicly expressing their commitment to demolish Palestinian structures lacking difficult to obtain Israeli-issued building permits across Israel and occupied East Jerusalem in response to the Israeli-court sanctioned evacuation of the illegal Amona settler outpost.
In December, Netanyahu released a video to address settlers of the Amona outpost, assuring them that he would commit to “enforcing laws” on “illegal construction” in Israel, referring primarily to Palestinian communities that are often forced to build without Israeli-issued building permits, due to what rights groups have attributed to discriminatory zoning policies in Israel which have excluded many Palestinian-Israeli communities from being included in the regional and municipal development plans.
According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), more than half of the approximately 160,000 Negev Bedouins reside in unrecognized villages.
Rights groups have claimed that the demolitions in Bedouin villages is a central Israeli policy aimed at removing the indigenous Palestinian population from the Negev and transferring them to government-zoned townships to make room for the expansion of Jewish Israeli communities.