One week ago, Tunisian student Seifeddine Rezgai opened fire on tourists near Sousse, Tunisia, killing 38 people. On the same day, a man was beheaded in France and a bomb detonated in a Shia mosque in Kuwait killing 27. ISIS claimed responsibility for all three.
Amidst the media coverage that follows terrorist attacks such as these, two schools of thought generally emerge: one asserts that terrorists are driven by religious ideology and the other that they are driven by political motives, principally western foreign policy. “All the evidence suggests that this is deeply political,” says Richard Jackson, Deputy Director of the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago in New Zealand. “It’s the conclusion of all the serious scholars I’m aware of that, in particular, the invasion of Iraq was the single most radicalising event for militants across the Middle East and in European and Western countries.”
“That makes complete sense,” he continues. “Because if we look at this kind of terrorism it wasn’t around in the same form and the same level or even close to the same extent 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago. Islam’s been around for hundreds of years… but this is a very modern phenomenon and it’s very, very connected to the politics of the Middle East, particularly to the invasions to Guantanamo, to Abu Ghraib torture, to drone strikes and so on.”
“What you’ve got to remember is that the west has killed 1.3 million people in Iraq. That’s likely to drive any reasonable person into a rage and cause immense grievance.”
The Tunisian government responded to last Friday’s attacks by issuing an order to close more than 80 mosques. Jackson, who is also Chief Editor of Critical Studies on Terrorism and runs a blog on the subject, explains that one of the oldest precepts of theories on terrorism states that isolated acts of violence push the state to respond by cracking down, which in turn intensifies grievances against the state and mobilises support.
The theory, he says, “is that you provoke the power to respond in a disproportionate way, which then creates grievance, which then gives terrorists more support and leads eventually to a broader, deeper movement that can perhaps consider moving to the next stage, which would be a kind of a civil war or an insurgency and then eventually overthrowing [the] regime.” […]
Last year, Jackson took a break from writing academic books to pen Confessions of a Terrorist, a fictional account of a dialogue between a wanted terrorist and a British intelligence officer. Jackson says he has always wanted a novel to give to his students but only found literature that painted terrorists out to be Hollywood-style villains.
Confessions of a Terrorist questions the taboo of talking to terrorists and the fear many have that doing so will lead to understanding and sympathising with their behaviour. “I think that it’s really important that we talk to them so we know what we really want and so that we understand what they’re trying to achieve and why they think they have to use violence… and whether if the situation was reversed we would do the same thing… [T]he reality is in many ways we go and commit a lot of violence overseas and then when people react against that and fight back we get all shocked and surprised. So we need to talk to them.”
“If you look at the academic research, you find out that actually most terrorist groups are not defeated through military means, but a much higher proportion of them stop their terrorism through political dialogue,” he continues. “So once you start talking to them and once you bring them into the political process, once you listen to what their grievances are and try and address them terrorism subsides.”
One of the consequences of not talking to terrorists, believes Jackson, is that we have dehumanised them which allows us to take away their human rights and justifies acts such as killing them with drones. “As a consequence countless innocent people have been killed… Countless innocent people have been tortured; have been kidnapped and taken to these horrible, secret prisons around the world. All kinds of human rights abuses have been carried out and as a result we in many ways have betrayed our own values and that’s because we’ve dehumanised the terrorists and that’s why I think it’s really important to re-humanise them.”
The language of terrorism is thus a way of defining the “other” and drawing a distinction between us and them, good versus evil, freedom lovers against freedom haters and soldiers and patriots against terrorists, says Jackson: “You can look through history – recent and long in the past –and realise that actually governments commit exactly the same acts as so-called terrorists. They use violence to try and terrify groups of people and intimidate groups of people. Sometimes, they plant bombs in public places or blow up or hijack planes. There are so many examples.”
A lot of terrorist scholars argue, therefore, that if the definition of terrorism is applied objectively a lot of state violence can be classified as state terrorism. “But again, that’s a very difficult narrative to make and to be accepted in public because we like to have these clear lines between our good legitimate violence which comes out of the authority of the state and illegitimate, illegal violence,” says Jackson.
“The problem is that when those two forms of violence look identical and you can’t tell the difference between them; [then] there comes to be a question over [whether] our violence [is] actually that legitimate.”
There has never been a dime’s worth of difference between the Clintons (Bill and Hillary) and Barack Obama, and less than ten cents separates the worldviews of these Democratic political twins from the Bush wing of the Republican Party.
Each has their individual quirks. Barack destroys international order and the rule of law while dabbling at song; Bill dismantled the U.S. manufacturing base and threw record numbers of Blacks in prison as he toyed with his trumpet; George W. played the fool who would Shock and Awe the world into obedience; and Hillary is the evil crone that curses the dead while screaming “We are Woman” like a banshee. But they are all the same in their corporate soullessness.
They all lie for a living, and they live to lie. Hillary Clinton commingled official and personal criminality through the medium of email. Knowing that, in a life dedicated to crime, she could never successfully sequester her private and public conspiracies, Hillary privatized all of her email correspondence during her tenure as Obama’s Secretary of State (in the perfect spirit of neoliberalism). The fate of millions of Haitians whose country’s earthquake and development “aid” are under the Clinton family thumb were doubtless bundled into the tens of thousands of messages she erased on leaving Foggy Bottom.
Republicans have harassed her ever since, seeking an electronic smoking gun to show Clinton’s cowardice or lack of resolve to “stand up for America” and “our troops” or some other nonsense. What the Benghazi affair actually proves is that the Obama administration was just as intent as the Republicans to maintain the fiction that the “rebels” put in power by seven months of NATO bombing of Libya were not various flavors of Islamic jihadists – some of whom were already turning on their erstwhile masters. The U.S.-Saudi project to create and nurture the international jihadist network is a bipartisan venture that dates back to Jimmy Carter’s presidency – and, therefore, nothing for Democrats and Republicans to fight about. However, the GOP’s churning of Clinton’s emails does provide a glimpse into her quest to run for president in 2016 as the woman who vanquished Muammar Gaddafi (“Qaddafi” or simply “Q” in Clinton’s usage).
A number of Clinton’s correspondences were with Sidney Blumenthal, a former Clinton family spin-master who wrote nasty things about Barack Obama while working for Hillary’s 2008 presidential campaign – which made it impossible for her to hire him at the State Department. Nevertheless, Clinton needed his talents for hype for the campaign ahead. Their emails in the summer of 2011 discussed how Hillary’s status as stateswoman could soar when the Libyan leader was finally eliminated. “This is a historic moment and you will be credited for realizing it,” wrote Blumenthal, feeding the crone’s huge gizzard of ego, according to an article in Monday’s New York Times. “You must go on camera,” wrote Blumenthal. “You must establish yourself in the historical record at this moment.” Hillary was anxious to seize the time to establish what Blumenthal described as “the Clinton Doctrine.”
The Times piece somehow concludes that Obama stole Clinton’s thunder with an 1,100-word speech, in late August, declaring: “The Gaddafi regime is coming to an end, and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people.” But Hillary best expressed the ghoulishness of America’s ruling duopoly two months later, in October, when Gaddafi was savagely butchered by screaming jihadists. “We came, we saw, he died,” cackled the banshee.
In the annals of global diplomacy, no more vulgar words have been spoken by a major power foreign minister or head of state. Yet, Clinton’s calculated quip perfectly encapsulates the bloodlust that is the common characteristic of both the governing duopoly of the United States and their suckling children in ISIS and the other proliferating al Qaida factions.
Thanks to Seymour Hersh, we now have a much more plausible scenario for the May 2, 2011, demise of Osama bin Laden, the “OG” of the U.S.-Saudi spawned global jihad, whose body will never be located. Virtually the entire U.S. account of his death is a lie, repeatedly contradicted on its own terms – another layer of fictional Americana in the age of empire in decline.
Clinton was hard-pressed to imagine how she might trump the president’s bin Laden death-watch extravaganza. Her opportunity came five months later, when she delivered her gruesome paraphrase of Julius Caesar on the occasion of Col. Gaddafi’s murder. In the context of Washington’s deeply racist foreign policy, Gaddafi and bin Laden were equally deserving of death, although Gaddafi was among the most fervent and effective fighters against Islamic jihadists: his government was the first in the world to request a global arrest warrant against bin Laden.
The Libyan Islamists were quickly transferred to the new U.S.-NATO-Saudi-Qatari front lines in Syria. The CIA station in Benghazi was at the center of the action – and got burned in the wild and unwieldy process of herding jihadists, who find it difficult to take orders from “infidels,” even when the “Crusaders” are paying the bills and supplying the weapons.
The U.S. consulate and CIA station in Benghazi were attacked on September 11, 2012. The next day, the Pentagon’s intelligence agency issued a report predicting that a “Salafist principality” – another term for an Islamic State – would likely arise in Syria as a result of the war, and that “Western countries, the Gulf States and Turkey are supporting these efforts.” Moreover, the establishment of such an Islamic “principality” would create “the ideal atmosphere for AQI [al Qaida in Iraq, which became ISIS, ISIL and the Islamic State] to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi” in Iraq – events that have since transpired.
The Defense Intelligence Agency report didn’t say so, but the “Western Powers” included the United States, through its CIA.
The document was declassified this year as the result of a suit by a libertarian right-wing legal outfit. The people of the world continue to be fed the fiction that the U.S. is engaged in a long, twilight struggle against al Qaida Salafists whose international network was created by, and continues to benefit from, “Western countries, the Gulf States and Turkey.”
However, the 2012 Pentagon warning about the rise of an Islamic State may have had some effect on U.S. policy in Syria. One year later, in September of 2013, President Obama backed off from his threat to bomb Syria in “retaliation” for a chemical missile attack against civilians – a crime much more likely committed by western-backed Salafists. The conventional wisdom is that the Russians tricked a hapless Secretary of State John Kerry into agreeing to the peaceful, internationally supervised destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal; or that the refusal of Britain’s Parliament to go along with an air assault on Syria made the U.S. position untenable; or that Obama feared losing a vote on the issue in the U.S. Congress. None of this rings true to me. The United States is not easily deterred by the opinions of Europeans, who in the end accept Washington’s acts as a fait accompli. And, it was not clear that Obama would have lost the vote in Congress – a vote that he requested, while at the same time declaring that he did not need the legislature’s permission to “punish” Syria for crossing his “red line.”
I think that high Pentagon officials and elements of the Obama administration – probably including the president, himself – took the Benghazi disaster and the Defense Intelligence Agency report to heart, and decided that it was better to keep bleeding the Syrians and their Russian, Lebanese and Iranian allies through a prolonged war, than to bomb al Qaida into power. For the U.S., regional chaos is preferable to the triumph of the, ultimately, unmanageable Salafists – unchained.
The thirty-plus year war against Iran would, however, be ratcheted up. The Bush administration was snatched back from the brink of a military assault against Teheran in 2007 when – to the great consternation of Vice President Dick Cheney – all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies declared, publicly and unanimously, that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program, years before.
The spooks reaffirmed their consensus in the 2010 National Intelligence Estimate – again, that there was no evidence Iran has any intention of making a bomb. The Obama administration has since avoided asking the intelligence agencies for their analysis on the issue, knowing they would get the same answer. Instead, they rely on Israeli propaganda, pick and choose various “experts” from inside and outside the arms control “community,” or simply put forward unsupported statements on Iran’s capabilities and intentions: the Big Lie. While Bush was humiliated by facts supplied by his own intelligence experts, Obama has escalated the confrontation with Iran, applying crippling sanctions and the whole range of low-level warfare, in close collaboration with Israel – proving, once again, that Obama is the “more effective evil.”
Obama has nearly completed knocking off victims on the “hit list” of countries that George Bush was working on when General Wesley Clark ran across it in 2002. Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Somalia have been invaded since then, and Sudan was stripped of a third of its territory. Only Iran and Lebanon remain intact and outside the U.S. imperial umbrella.
The Republican-Democratic duopoly plays tag-team in promoting the Project for a New American Century – a doctrine promulgated by neo-conservatives in 1997 that has served as the guiding light of both the Bush and Obama administrations. The differences between the two teams are merely rhetorical. The Bush regime is described as “unilateralist,” although it employed the same “Coalition of the Willing” approach to aggressive war as does the Obama administration. President Obama claims the right to disregard and methodically undermine international law through “humanitarian” military intervention, whereas Bush claimed to be “spreading democracy.” Same weapons systems, same mass murder, same objective: U.S. domination of the planet.
There’s nothing democratic or humanitarian about the U.S. imperial project. Therefore, its maintenance requires the deployment of 24-7 psychological operations worldwide, but directed primarily against the U.S. public.
Republican strategist Karl Rove was far more honest than his Democratic counterparts when he explained to a reporter, back in 2004:
We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors … and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.
Election seasons are reality-creation festivals, during which the two corporate parties pretend to put forward different visions of the national and global destiny – when, in fact, they answer to the same master and must pursue the same general strategy.
The continuity of GOP-Democratic rule – the near-identical depravity – is horrifically evident in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where six million people have been slaughtered by U.S. surrogates since 1996: the largest genocide since World War II. Successive U.S. administrations – Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, assisted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice, the high U.S. official most deeply implicated in the entirety of the genocide – have armed, financed, and covered up the Congolese holocaust. Each administration has collaborated with its predecessor to hide the crime and obscure the question of guilt – and then to continue the killing.
Decent people do not vote for political parties that produce such fiends, who deserve Nuremburg justice of the capital kind. Any talk of “lesser evils” is both stupid and obscene.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
The United States has admitted that it has been fully aware of Turkey’s role in the transit of terrorists into Syria, but has failed to name it as a sponsor of terrorism.
Throughout 2014, Turkey served as a source and transit country for foreign terrorists seeking to enter Syria, the United States said in its annual report on terrorism.
However, the State Department report released on Friday failed to condemn Ankara or declare it as a sponsor of terrorism.
Surprisingly enough, the report leveled accusations against Iran which has supported the fight against the ISIL terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.
Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since 2011. The United States and some of its regional allies — especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey — have been supporting the militants operating in Syria.
According to the United Nations, more than 220,000 people have been killed and millions displaced due to the turmoil that has gripped Syria for nearly four years.
The ISIL terrorists, who were initially trained by the CIA in Jordan in 2012 to destabilize the Syrian government, are engaged in crimes against humanity in the areas under their control.
They have been carrying out horrific acts of violence such as public decapitations and crucifixions against all communities, including Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, and Christians.
The cost of global war in the year 2014 reached $14.3 trillion, or 13.4 percent of the global gross domestic product, a report by the Institute for Economics and Peace says.
Last year, the cost of global conflict equaled the combined economies of Britain, Germany, France, Brazil, Canada, and Spain, according to a recent report by the Australia-based group.
The statistics mark a 15.3-percent spike in the cost of conflicts since 2008 when the financial impact was recorded as $12.4 trillion, the report notes.
“Large increases in costs are due to the increases in deaths from internal conflict, increases for IDP (internally displaced person) and refugee support, and GDP losses from conflict, with the latter accounting for 38 percent of the increase since 2008,” the report stated.
Since 2008, the cost of supporting IDPs and refugees has increased by 267 percent and the number of people forced to relocate by war has reached its highest since the Second World War, the report noted.
It also described the Middle East and North Africa as the most violent regions in the world and Europe as the most peaceful, adding that Saudi Arabia’s ongoing aggression against Yemen has dragged down the overall outlook for the Middle East.
According to the report, Syria, which has been gripped by deadly unrest since March 2011, was world’s least peaceful country, followed by Iraq, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic.
450 more US troops are currently being deployed to Iraq, while Britiain is said to be planning a deployment of an additional 125 military trainers
The Muslim Scholars Committee in Iraq condemned on Friday US and British plans to send additional military trainers to the country, stressing this is “not a useful measure”, Quds Press has reported.
On Wednesday, Reuters said that President Barack Obama has ordered the deployment of 450 more US troops to Iraq’s Sunni heartland to advise and assist fragile Iraqi forces being built up to try to retake territory lost to ISIS. Britain, it was reported, planned to deploy an additional 125 military trainers.
Several other countries, including France, Australia, Sweden and Norway have already sent advisers for the same purpose.
The scholars’ statement said that such international efforts have no beneficial effect because they “turn around the real reasons for the conflict and do not treat them.”
When Jeb Bush (Jon Ellis Bush – J.E.B.) announced that, like his dimwitted and bloodthirsty brother, he too would have invaded Iraq had he been president at the time, ire was drawn in virtually all corners of the American populace with the exception, of course, of the typical warmongering Neo-Con segments.
After all, how could anyone suggest that he would have also invaded Iraq despite the fact that there were never any weapons of mass destruction (a term that itself was created by Western governments and their media mouthpieces), that Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11 or al-Qaeda, and that the weakened country posed absolutely no threat to the US? How could anyone suggest that the Iraq invasion was legitimate 12 years on with American forces still involved and the situation on the ground millions of times worse?
The answer is simple – Jeb Bush had always wanted to invade Iraq. A staunch and longstanding member of the Neo-Con network, Jeb had taken his stand in favor of American imperialism when he signed on to the Project For A New American Century’s Statement of Principles in 1997.
Although the Statement of Principles did not specifically advocate for an attack on Iraq, it did argue against the perceived “cuts,” “inattention,” and bad “leadership” of the previous administration despite the fact that Bill Clinton acted as a complete tool of the very same network that encompasses the PNAC. This statement did, however, clearly state that America must “challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values,” a position that would become realized in an even more obvious and direct manner in the years following its publication.
Perhaps most notably, however, is the PNAC document, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” a piece published by the organization in 1999 expressing the desire to destroy regimes in the Middle East that were hostile toward America’s ambitions abroad. The document was also seen as more-than-coincidentally prophetic of 9/11, a “new Pearl Harbor” style event that was alluded to in the document.
Rebuilding America’s Defenses reads,
Any serious effort at transformation must occur within the larger framework of U.S. national security strategy, military missions and defense budgets. The United States cannot simply declare a “strategic pause” while experimenting with new technologies and operational concepts. Nor can it choose to pursue a transformation strategy that would decouple American and allied interests. A transformation strategy that solely pursued capabilities for projecting force from the United States, for example, and sacrificed forward basing and presence, would be at odds with larger American Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century 51 policy goals and would trouble American allies. Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.
Notably, in this document, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, and North Korea are listed as the most important targets of the “transformed” US military. It is no coincidence that four of these listed countries were also listed by General Wesley Clark as slated for destruction per classified information he received on a visit to the Pentagon.
In 1996, a policy document prepared for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was written by Richard Perle and entitled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” In this document Perle, a notorious Neo-Con and fellow member of PNAC with Jeb Bush, described the strategic importance of removing Saddam Hussein from power as well as the necessity to weaken Syria.
Perle wrote that “Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.”
PNAC also sent an open letter to President Bill Clinton after a Clinton administration and Western media propaganda campaign presenting Hussein as uncooperative in weapons inspections, calling for Hussein’s removal from power.
Soon after the 9/11 attacks, PNAC sent a letter to President George W. Bush demanding an immediate attack on Iraq, regardless of whether or not there was any evidence linking Hussein to the attacks or al-Qaeda. The letter stated that,
We agree with Secretary of State Powell’s recent statement that Saddam Hussein “is one of the leading terrorists on the face of the Earth….” It may be that the Iraqi government provided assistance in some form to the recent attack on the United States. But even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack, any strategy aiming at the eradication of terrorism and its sponsors must include a determined effort to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Failure to undertake such an effort will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism. The United States must therefore provide full military and financial support to the Iraqi opposition. American military force should be used to provide a “safe zone” in Iraq from which the opposition can operate. And American forces must be prepared to back up our commitment to the Iraqi opposition by all necessary means.
With Jeb Bush’s ties to PNAC and with his public signature on the organization’s “Statement of Principles,” there can be no doubt that Bush would have invaded Iraq had he been president at the time. There is also no doubt that he is part of the same Neo-Con network that brought us that war, the war in Afghanistan, 9/11, destabilizations, a crippled economy, and a shredded Constitution. A Jeb Bush presidency will no doubt bring about a continuation of those policies witnessed under his brother and those subsequently built upon by Barack Obama.
The Western media has been consumed in recent days with the news that Islamic State militants have captured the strategically critical city of Ramadi in Iraq. The narrative is one of incompetence on the part of Iraqi military forces who, the corporate media tells us, are simply either ineffectual or hopelessly corrupt. Some analysts and pundits, especially those on the right who oppose Obama for various reasons, have used the fall of Ramadi to legitimize their claims that Obama’s “weakness” on the ISIS issue brought events to this point.
While there is truth to the assertion that Iraqi military forces are riddled with severe problems, from sectarianism in the command hierarchy, to poor training and, at times, organizational disarray, none of these issues is singularly responsible for the loss of Ramadi. Nor is it entirely accurate to say that Obama’s alleged weakness is really the cause.
Rather the primary reason, the one which the media carefully avoids including in their reportage, is the political and military sabotage of Iraq perpetrated by the United States in pursuit of its long-term agenda.
Indeed, while Washington waxes poetic about the need to more forcefully confront ISIS and destroy its military and terrorist infrastructure, the actual policies it has pursued are designed to achieve just the opposite. Instead of promoting unity of command and execution within the Iraqi armed forces, the Pentagon, Congress, and the White House have done everything to fracture Iraq’s political and military structures, fomenting rather than mollifying sectarian conflicts. Then the Washington Post can publish editorials blasting Iraqi fecklessness, and calling for a more robust US military presence. In this way, the US policy of promoting division and weakness within Iraq has directly led to the dire situation in Ramadi and throughout the country.
How Washington is Destroying Iraq… Again!
The fall of Ramadi has provided ammunition to opponents of Obama whose central argument – if such insanity can be believed – remains that the US should wage further war in Iraq. Leading warmongers, Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, both claim that the failure is due to Obama’s “big mistake” in not leaving behind troops in 2011. Graham described US policy as “a failure of Obama’s military strategy,” while McCain referred to it as “one of the most disgraceful episodes in American history… [The] policy…is not enough of anything,” Aside from the obvious absurdity of their claims, McCain and Graham, and the media narrative surrounding the entire issue, are a perfect illustration of the utterly backwards narrative presented by the corporate media to the American public.
In reality, the US, with Congress very much playing a central role, has studiously worked to undermine any chances for national resistance and military victory inside Iraq by Iraqi security forces. Perhaps Graham and McCain forgot that the US has worked diligently to create divisions between Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish elements within the Iraqi military architecture.
As recently as late April 2015, Congressional Republicans were pushing for a defense authorization bill that would directly arm and fund Sunni and Kurdish militias inside Iraq, treating them as “independent countries.” An obvious means of fomenting further sectarian conflicts and fracturing the fragile and precarious unity of the government in Baghdad and its military forces, this bill is indicative of a broader policy, one aimed at de facto partition of Iraq along ethno-religious lines. Moreover, those who follow US politics and military adventurism should understand that legislation follows rather than precedes the policy. The US has likely been arming Sunni and Kurdish factions for a long time already, thereby further degrading the continuity of the military.
But aside from the political attempts to fragment the country, US military actions belie the real agenda which, rather than combating ISIS, is geared towards degradation of military capability of all sides, which is, in effect, support for ISIS.
Since the US campaign against the group in Iraq began, there have been countless media reports of US weapons and supplies falling directly into the clutches of ISIS, succoring it at precisely the time that it has suffered heavy losses at the hands of Shiite militias in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Army and Hezbollah across the border in Syria. As Naeem al-Uboudi, the spokesman for one of the main groups fighting ISIS in Tikrit told the NY Times, “We don’t trust the American-led coalition in combating ISIS… In the past, they have targeted our security forces and dropped aid to ISIS by mistake.”
This fact is critical to understanding the true motivation of Washington in this campaign, namely inflicting maximum damage on both ISIS and Shiite militias fighting it. In effect, this ‘controlled chaos’ strategy promotes and extends, rather than concludes the war. Additionally, the allegation of US-ISIS collusion is further supported by dozens of accounts of airdropped US weapons being seized by ISIS. As Iraqi MP Majid al-Ghraoui noted in January, “The information that has reached us in the security and defense committee indicates that an American aircraft dropped a load of weapons and equipment to the ISIS group militants at the area of al-Dour in the province of Salahuddin… This incident is continuously happening and has also occurred in some other regions.”
Looking at a map, one begins to see then that ISIS has received US support in each of the strategically significant areas where it has made important gains. When reports of US airdrops going to ISIS in the province of Salahuddin first emerged, it coincided with the group’s military success in Tikrit. Now we see Ramadi in the easternmost part of Anbar province has fallen within weeks of more reports emerging of US-supplied arms being destined for ISIS in the al-Baqdadi region of Anbar.
Taken in total then, it seems that US strategy has been to overtly attack ISIS while covertly supporting it. Similarly, the US has claimed to be supporting, or at least collaborating indirectly, with Shiite militias connected to Iran. At the very same time, those militias have repeatedly claimed that US has bombed them deliberately. Such seemingly contradictory military objectives lead to the inescapable conclusion that US policy has been, and continues to be, chaos and fomenting war. So for Washington to now claim that the fall of Ramadi is somehow a major tragedy, that it represents a failure of strategy, is utter disinformation. In effect, the fall of Ramadi is an orchestrated outgrowth of the “managed chaos” strategy.
The History and Politics of America’s Chaos Theory in Iraq
From a purely geopolitical perspective, the aim of the US is to foment sectarian conflict and prolong the war in Iraq as a means of checking Iranian influence in Iraq and throughout the region. The US is mostly incapable of achieving such an objective in Syria due to the continued success and cohesion of the Syrian Arab Army; in Iraq this is very much achievable. But this fragmentation and de facto partition of the country has been a long-standing policy, one that the US has pursued in myriad ways for more than a decade.
Keen political observers will recall that even before, and during the early stages, of the Iraq War in 2003, there was serious talk of dividing Iraq into religiously and ethnically homogenous territories. As influential neocon and President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations Leslie Gelb wrote in an op-ed in the NY Times in November 2003, “The only viable strategy…may be to correct the historical defect and move in stages toward a three-state solution: Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiites in the south.” While this policy was not enacted immediately, the United States has always pursued this long-term strategy to varying degrees.
The major stumbling block has been the stubborn desire of various members of Iraq’s political elite to be independent and sovereign actors, not US puppets. The primary offender from Washington’s perspective was former Prime Minister, and current Vice President, Nouri al-Maliki, who refused to bow to the diktats of Washington, and was instead portrayed as a corrupt, autocratic Iranian stooge. But what were Maliki’s real transgressions from Washington’s perspective?
First and foremost were Maliki’s attitudes and policies towards the US occupation and the presence of military and non-military personnel. In fact, it was Maliki’s refusal to grant the US request to maintain military bases in the country after the withdrawal – against Obama’s wishes – which prompted the first round of attacks on him and his government. And it was then that the image of Maliki as Iranian puppet truly became popularized, at least in Western media. Indeed, as The Guardian noted at the time, “The Pentagon had wanted the bases to help counter growing Iranian influence in the Middle East. Just a few years ago, the US had plans for leaving behind four large bases but, in the face of Iraqi resistance, this plan had to be scaled down this year to a force of 10,000. But even this proved too much for the Iraqis.”
Maliki also took the absolutely monumental step of closing down Camp Ashraf and killing or expelling its inhabitants. Far from being a camp for “Iranian political exiles” as Western media have attempted to portray, Ashraf was the base of the Iranian terrorist organization Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), an organization supported wholeheartedly by neocons (as well as most “liberals”) in its continued terror war against Iran. Of course, because Maliki dared to cleanse Iraq of these US-sponsored terrorist thugs, he was immediately convicted in the court of US public opinion which described the operation as an assault on Iranian “freedom fighters.” We know all too well what the US means when it describes terrorists as freedom fighters.
And so, by refusing basing rights, refusing to extend immunity and legal protections to US contractors operating in Iraq, and wiping out Camp Ashraf and MEK members, Maliki became a villain. More to the point, it was his refusal to allow Iraq to be used by the US and its allies as a military and political bulwark against Iran that earned him the West’s ire. Far from wanting a “sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq” as Obama eloquently proclaimed, Washington needed the country to remain a client state to be used as a weapon of US foreign policy in the region. By rejecting this, Maliki, almost overnight, became “a dictator.”
By ousting Maliki, the US once again pursued a policy of fragmentation, deliberately installing current Prime Minister Abadi who they knew would be weak, incapable of maintaining the unity of Iraq, and most importantly, amenable to US demands. As the NY Times wrote in the wake of the fall of Ramadi last week:
At the urging of American officials who sought to sideline the [Shiite] militias, Mr. Abadi… gambled that the combination of United States airstrikes and local Sunni tribal fighters would be able to drive Islamic State fighters out of [Ramadi]… But as the setback brought the Shiite militias, and their Iranian backers, back into the picture in Anbar, intensified Shiite infighting appeared to leave the prime minister more vulnerable than ever… He became prime minister last year with strong backing from the United States on the belief that he would be a more inclusive leader than his predecessor, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, and would reach out to the country’s minority Sunni Arabs and Kurds. Mr. Abadi has done so, by pushing for the arming of local Sunni tribesmen and reaching a deal with the Kurds to share oil revenue.
As the Times correctly notes, Abadi has, quite predictably, followed orders from Washington and pursued a strategy which, from the western perspective is “inclusive,” but is in reality very much sectarian. This is the inverted reality that the US and the Western media portrays; the arming and support for Sunni and Kurdish factions is “inclusive” rather than divisive, which is what it is in the real world. By forcing the Shiites, the dominant group demographically and politically in Iraq, into a secondary role, the US once again foments, rather than bridges sectarian divides. What is this called if not “divide and conquer”?
It should not be lost on anyone that this policy which, as noted above, dates back more than a decade, is all designed to curb Iranian influence in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. By forcing Shiites into the back seat politically, economically, and militarily, the US has hoped to stifle Iran’s development from isolated nation into a regional power. By doing so, the US once again acts in its own interests, as well as those, of course, of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey. Perhaps that grouping of countries rings a bell for people following the development of the war on Syria these past four years? Indeed, it is the same actors.
Seen in this way then, the US agenda and strategy in Iraq is precisely the same as that for the entire region: block Iran (and, on a grander scale, Russia and China) with regime change when and where possible. When regime change is impossible or undesirable, inflict chaos and foment conflict.
One might call such a policy cynicism of the highest order. While true, there are still other words that perhaps better reflect the true insidiousness of it all: colonialism and imperialism.
On Monday, I questioned former acting CIA director Michael Morell about the lies leading up to the Iraq War and their relation to torture. He’s been making the rounds on talk shows and started the talk by speaking about the alleged “failures” of the “pre-war Iraq intelligence,” echoing a frequent mantra. The claim is that somehow the Bush administration and others didn’t engage in propaganda and deceit to sell the Iraq War, but rather, were themselves victims of bad intelligence.
So I cited a claim by the Bush administration made during the run-up to the Iraq War that was provably false. On Sept. 7, 2002, President George W. Bush held a news conference with then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Bush claimed there was an International Atomic Energy Agency report that claimed Iraq was “six months away from developing a weapon. I don’t know what more evidence we need.”
John R. MacArthur, author of Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War, highlighted — at the time that, when questioned, “the IAEA responded that not only was there no new report, ‘there’s never been a report’ asserting that Iraq was six months away from constructing a nuclear weapon.”
When I confronted Morell — who was Bush’s briefer — about Bush’s statement he took no responsibility at all. “So, you know you have to ask him. You have to ask him,” Morell said.
I found it so laughable that he would say this instead of directly responding to the false statement that my initial reaction was not to bother following up on this. If he’s not going take any responsibility for Bush’s false public claims, what’s the point?
I’d rather expect that if I were able to corner Bush and ask him enough follow-up questions, he’d probably excuse his false statements by saying that’s what his briefers told him; so they’d hide behind each other. But Morell also said, “The only thing I can tell you is what we were telling them at the time.” It would certainly be worthwhile to ask him what he was telling Bush about this — or claims he was.
I then asked Morell about the Shaykh al-Libi case. Contrary to the depiction in movies like “Zero Dark Thirty” — which Morell had a hand in — that torture helped get the bad guys, the al-Libi case shows that torture was used to get false but useful information. That is, al-Libi was tortured him into “confessing” that Iraq was working with al-Qaeda.
Morell gave a lengthy objection to my use of the word “torture,” citing approval for “enhanced interrogation procedures” from Bush’s Justice Department lawyers. Morell said: “When the Central Intelligence Agency used enhanced interrogation techniques to get information from Al Qaeda detainees, the Justice Department of United States of America on multiple occasions said it was legal, said it wasn’t torture. Okay, so for you to call it torture is you calling my officers torturers. And the Justice Department of United States of America said they were not.”
Morell also disputed that Egypt’s torture of al-Libi was done at the U.S. government’s behest, questioning what evidence I had for that. The moderator cut off the discussion at this point.
Journalist Marcy Wheeler succinctly notes about Morell’s response here: “1) He doesn’t deal with torture that exceeded and/or preceded DOJ guidelines. 2) Which al-Libi’s torture did 3) that he doesn’t actually deny al-Libi was tortured 4) which is interesting because he got the same treatment as Abu Zubaydah.”
Al-Libi was captured by the U.S. in Afghanistan and turned over to the Egyptians by the CIA and then tortured into saying what the U.S. government wanted him to say — that Iraq was tied to al-Qaeda — his “confession” was featured in Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech to the UN just before the Iraq invasion. [See my “‘Both Sides’ Are Wrong: Torture Did Work — to Produce Lies for War.”]
But, according to Morell, it’s totally out of bounds for me to suggest that his torture was at the U.S. government’s behest. The U.S. government merely provided him to the Egyptians and benefited from his “confession” to start a gigantic war based on “evidence” that the Bush administration is merely the victim of — or so Morell would have us believe.
There’s been a fair amount said about “if we knew now what we knew then” about Iraq. I’ve tried to debunk the notion that we didn’t know that the Bush administration was falsifying, propagandizing and lying to start the Iraq war at the time. And many, including myself, did real time debunking. [See: “White House Claims: A Pattern of Deceit” “U.S. Credibility Problems” “Tough Questions for Bush on Iraq Tonight.”]
But we should consider this question in one respect: Given what we know now, why are people like Mr. Morell being taken the least bit seriously and why are they not being prosecuted?
One other line of defense by Morell bares comment — and one that few take exception to. When I questioned him about the Bush falsifications for war, part of his response was to say that such statements were made during the Clinton administration, too. Which is true. The Clinton administration did lie about Iraq, including WMDs and many politicos — not just Jeb Bush — continue to fabricate the record.
That in no way defends what the Bush administration did. It merely highlights that establishment Democrats like those in the Clinton administration and others who voted to “authorize” the Iraq invasion are also culpable. Just because both Bushes and Clintons say something doesn’t mean it’s not a lie, merely that it’s a particularly destructive one.
Transcript at 41:00 of the video:
SAM HUSSEINI: Sam Husseini with IPA. Just to sort of get a baseline here. You were a briefer for George Bush for 9/11 and after 9/11.
MICHAEL MORELL: I was President Bush’s first intelligence briefer, so I briefed him kind of the entire calendar year of 2001. Yes.
SAM HUSSEINI: You’re not acknowledging that the Bush administration falsified information on Iraqi WMDs and other aspects in the build up to the Iraq war.
MICHAEL MORELL: I’m not acknowledging it because it’s not true. It is a great myth. It is a great myth that the Bush White House or hard-liners in the Bush administration pushed the Central Intelligence Agency, pushed the U.S. intelligence community and every other intelligence service in the world that looked at this issue to believe that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. All they have to do is tell you this, that the CIA believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction programs long before George Bush ever came to office. We were telling Bill Clinton that.
SAM HUSSEINI: One would not be following Iraq to say the Clinton administration never falsified information on Iraq as well. So for example when Bush —
MICHAEL MORELL: I’m just not with you on the falsification, but go ahead.
SAM HUSSEINI: Yeah, well I’m putting evidence if I could.
MICHAEL MORELL: Okay.
SAM HUSSEINI: So in September 2002, when he was at a news conference with Tony Blair, and this is just one example. That there was an IAEA report saying that Iraq was “six months away from developing a weapon. I don’t know how much more evidence we need.” And then IAEA says there is no such report — that was just an honest mistake?
MICHAEL MORELL: So, you know you have to ask him. You have to ask him. The only thing I can tell you —
SAM HUSSEINI: — You were the briefer. —
MICHAEL MORELL: The only thing I can tell you is what we were telling them at the time. Okay? That’s the only thing I can tell you.
SAM HUSSEINI: So you, among other things, in your time of the CIA had a role in “Zero Dark Thirty,” which in effect glorifies the use of torture to gain “intelligence.” I want to ask you about a different case and that’s the case of Shaykh al-Libi, who all evidence indicates, was tortured by the Egyptian authorities at our behest.
MICHAEL MORELL: So, so —
SAM HUSSEINI: If I might — you can say whatever you want. You can say whatever you want. You’re interrupting me, I’m not interrupting you. —
MICHAEL MORELL: — But your premise is wrong.
SAM HUSSEINI: And you can say that if you like. Who was tortured in order to say that Iraq and Al Qaeda were related. This is actually in the latest Senate report on torture, among other places. Contrary to the mythology that torture breeds good intelligence — or that it’s immoral — it actually breeds intentionally useful but false information. Why not?
MICHAEL MORELL: Okay, so I’m going to go back to your first comment about CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques, which you call torture. Which I want to challenge that premise right off the bat. When the Central Intelligence Agency used enhanced interrogation techniques to get information from Al Qaeda detainees, the Justice Department of United States of America on multiple occasions said it was legal, said it wasn’t torture. Okay, so for you to call it torture is you calling my officers torturers. And the Justice Department of United States of America said they were not. So I’m going to defend my officers to my last breath in people calling them torturers. Number two, I’m going to challenge your premise that the Egyptians tortured al-Libi at our behest, at our behest. Not true. We never asked the Egyptians to torture al-Libi. What is your evidence for that?
SAM HUSSEINI: Well — HOST: Let him give you that evidence off-line. We have other people who want to ask questions.
Former CIA analyst and presidential briefer Ray McGovern wrote a pair of relevant pieces, one recently (“The Phony ‘Bad Intel’ Defense on Iraq“) and another, from 2011 (“Rise of Another CIA Yes Man“) on Morell when he was acting CIA director.
In summer 1980, Iraq’s wily president Saddam Hussein saw opportunities in the chaos sweeping the Persian Gulf. Iran’s Islamic revolution had terrified the Saudi princes and other Arab royalty who feared uprisings against their own corrupt life styles. Saddam’s help was sought, too, by CIA-backed Iranian exiles who wanted a base to challenge the fundamentalist regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. And as always, the Western powers were worried about the Middle East oil fields.
So because of geography and his formidable Soviet-supplied army, Saddam was suddenly a popular fellow.
On Aug. 5, 1980, the Saudi rulers welcomed Saddam to Riyadh for his first state visit to Saudi Arabia, the first for any Iraqi president. The Saudis, of course, wanted something. At those fateful meetings, amid the luxury of the ornate palaces, the Saudis would encourage Saddam to invade Iran. The Saudis also would claim to pass on a secret message about President Jimmy Carter’s geo-political desires.
During that summer of 1980, President Carter was facing his own crisis. His failure to free 52 American hostages held in Iran was threatening his political survival. As he wrote in his memoirs, Keeping Faith, “The election might also be riding on their freedom.” Equally alarming, President Carter had begun receiving reports that the Republicans were making back-channel contacts with Iran about the hostage crisis, as he would state in a letter to a journalist nearly a decade later.
Though it was unclear then, this multi-sided political intrigue would shape the history from 1980 to the present day. Iraq’s invasion of Iran in September 1980 would deteriorate into eight years of bloody trench warfare that did little more than kill and maim an estimated one million people. What little more the war did was to generate billions of dollars in profits for well-connected arms merchants — and spawn a series of national security scandals.
In 1986-87, the Iran-Contra Affair peeled back some of the layers of secrecy, but bipartisan investigations dumped the blame mostly on White House aide Oliver North and a few low-level “men of zeal.” Later inquiries into Iraqgate allegations of secret U.S. military support for Saddam Hussein also ended inconclusively. The missing billions from the sleazy Bank of Credit and Commerce International disappeared into the mist of complex charge and counter-charge, too. So did evidence implicating the CIA and Nicaraguan Contra rebels in cocaine trafficking.
A similar fate befell the October Surprise story and President Carter’s old suspicion of Republican interference in the 1980 hostage crisis. A special House task force concluded in 1993 that it could find “no credible evidence” to support the October Surprise charges.
Haig’s Talking Points
Still, I gained access to documents from that investigation, including papers marked “secret” and “top secret” which apparently had been left behind by accident in a remote Capitol Hill storage room. Those papers filled in a number of the era’s missing pieces and established that there was more to the reports that President Carter heard in 1980 than the task force publicly acknowledged.
But besides undermining the task force’s October Surprise debunking, the papers clarified President Reagan’s early strategy for a clandestine foreign policy hidden from Congress and the American people. One such document was a two-page “Talking Points” prepared by Secretary of State Alexander Haig for a briefing of President Reagan. Marked “top secret/sensitive,” the paper recounted Haig’s first trip to the Middle East in April 1981.
In the report, Haig wrote that he was impressed with “bits of useful intelligence” that he had learned. “Both [Egypt’s Anwar] Sadat and [Saudi Prince] Fahd [explained that] Iran is receiving military spares for U.S. equipment from Israel.” This fact might have been less surprising to President Reagan, whose intermediaries allegedly collaborated with Israeli officials in 1980 to smuggle weapons to Iran behind President Carter’s back.
But Haig followed that comment with another stunning assertion: “It was also interesting to confirm that President Carter gave the Iraqis a green light to launch the war against Iran through Fahd.” In other words, according to Haig’s information, Saudi Prince Fahd (later King Fahd) claimed that President Carter, apparently hoping to strengthen the U.S. hand in the Middle East and desperate to pressure Iran over the stalled hostage talks, gave clearance to Saddam’s invasion of Iran. If true, Jimmy Carter, the peacemaker, had encouraged a war.
Haig’s written report contained no other details about the “green light,” and Haig declined my request for an interview about the Talking Points. But the paper represented the first documented corroboration of Iran’s long-held belief that the United States backed Iraq’s 1980 invasion.
In 1980, President Carter termed Iranian charges of U.S. complicity “patently false.” He mentioned Iraq’s invasion only briefly in his memoirs, in the context of an unexpected mid-September hostage initiative from a Khomeini in-law, Sadeq Tabatabai.
“Exploratory conversations [in Germany] were quite encouraging,” President Carter wrote about that approach, but he added: “As fate would have it, the Iraqis chose the day of [Tabatabai’s] scheduled arrival in Iran, September 22, to invade Iran and to bomb the Tehran airport. Typically, the Iranians accused me of planning and supporting the invasion.”
The Iraqi invasion did make Iran more desperate to get U.S. spare parts for its air and ground forces. Yet the Carter administration continued to demand that the American hostages be freed before military shipments could resume. But according to House task force documents that I found in the storage room, the Republicans were more accommodating.
Secret FBI wiretaps revealed that an Iranian banker, the late Cyrus Hashemi, who supposedly was helping President Carter on the hostage talks, was assisting Republicans with arms shipments to Iran and peculiar money transfers in fall 1980. Hashemi’s older brother, Jamshid, testified that the Iran arms shipments, via Israel, resulted from secret meetings in Madrid between the GOP campaign director, William J. Casey, and a radical Islamic mullah named Mehdi Karrubi.
For whatever reasons, on Election Day 1980, President Carter still had failed to free the hostages and Ronald Reagan won in a landslide.
A ‘Private Channel’
Within minutes of President Reagan’s Inauguration on Jan. 20, 1981, the hostages finally were freed. In the following weeks, the new administration put in place discreet channels to Middle East powers, as Haig flew to the region for a round of high-level consultations.
The trim silver-haired former four-star general met with Iraq’s chief allies, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and with Israel, which was continuing to support Iran as a counter-weight to Iraq and the Arab states.
On April 8, 1981, Haig ended his first round of meetings in Riyadh and issued a diplomatic statement lauding Saudi Arabia’s “dedication to building a better world and the wisdom of your leaders.” More to the point, he announced that “the foundation has been laid during this trip for the strengthening of U.S.-Saudi relations.”
After Haig’s return to Washington, his top secret Talking Points fleshed out for President Reagan the actual agreements that were reached at the private sessions in Saudi Arabia, as well as at other meetings in Egypt and Israel.
“As we discussed before my Middle East trip,” Haig explained to President Reagan, “I proposed to President Sadat, [Israel’s] Prime Minister [Menachem] Begin and Crown Prince Fahd that we establish a private channel for the consideration of particularly sensitive matters of concern to you. Each of the three picked up on the proposal and asked for early meetings.”
Haig wrote that on his return, he immediately dispatched his counselor, Robert “Bud” McFarlane, to Cairo and Riyadh to formalize those channels. “He held extremely useful meetings with both Sadat and Fahd,” Haig boasted. “In fact, Sadat kept Ed Muskie [President Carter’s secretary of state] waiting for an hour and a half while he [Sadat] extended the meeting.”
These early contacts with Fahd, Sadat and Begin solidified their three countries as the cornerstones of the administration’s clandestine foreign policy of the 1980s: the Saudis as the moneymen, the Israelis as the middlemen, and the Egyptians as a ready source for Soviet-made equipment.
Although President Carter had brokered a historic peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, Sadat, Begin and Fahd had all been alarmed at signs of U.S. weakness, especially Washington’s inability to protect the Shah of Iran from ouster in 1979. Haig’s Talking Points captured that relief at President Carter’s removal from office.
“It is clear that your policies of firmness toward the Soviets has restored Saudi and Egyptian confidence in the leadership of the U.S.,” Haig wrote for the presentation to his boss. “Both [Fahd and Sadat] went much further than ever before in offering to be supportive.”
Haig said “Sadat offered to host a forward headquarters for the Rapid Deployment Force, including a full-time presence of U.S military personnel.” Sadat also outlined his strategy for invading Libya to disrupt Moammar Khadafy’s intervention in Chad. “Frankly,” observed Haig, “I believe he [Sadat] could easily get overextended in such an undertaking and [I] will try to moderate his ambitions on this score.”
‘Special Status,’ Money and Guns
Haig reported that Prince Fahd was “also very enthusiastic” about President Reagan’s foreign policy. Fahd had agreed “in principle to fund arms sales to the Pakistanis and other states in the region,” Haig wrote. The Saudi leader was promising, too, to help the U.S. economy by committing his oil-rich nation to a position of “no drop in production” of petroleum.
“These channels promise to be extremely useful in forging compatible policies with the Saudis and Egyptians,” Haig continued. “Both men value the ‘special status’ you have conferred on them and both value confidentiality. I will follow up with [Defense Secretary] Cap Weinberger and [CIA Director] Bill Casey. …The larger message emerging from these exchanges, however, is that your policies are correct and are already eliciting the enthusiastic support of important leaders abroad.”
In the following years, the Reagan administration would exploit the “special status” with all three countries to skirt Constitutional restrictions on Executive war-making powers. Secretly, the administration would tilt back and forth in the Iran-Iraq war, between aiding the Iranians with missiles and spare parts and helping the Iraqis with intelligence and indirect military shipments.
When the Soviets shot down an Israeli-leased Argentine plane carrying U.S. military supplies to Iran on July 18, 1981, the State Department showed it, too, valued confidentiality. At the time, State denied U.S. knowledge. But in a later interview, Assistant Secretary of State Nicholas Veliotes said “it was clear to me after my conversations with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment.”
According to a sworn affidavit by former Reagan national security staffer Howard Teicher, the administration enlisted the Egyptians in a secret “Bear Spares” program that gave the United States access to Soviet-designed military equipment. Teicher asserted that the Reagan administration funneled some of those weapons to Iraq and also arranged other shipments of devastating cluster bombs that Saddam’s air force dropped on Iranians troops.
In 1984, facing congressional rejection of continued CIA funding of the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, President Reagan exploited the “special status” again. He tapped into the Saudi slush funds for money to support the Nicaraguan Contra rebels in their war in Central America. The President also authorized secret weapons shipments to Iran in another arms-for-hostages scheme, with the profits going to “off-the-shelf” intelligence operations. That gambit, like the others, was protected by walls of “deniability” and outright lies.
Some of those lies collapsed in the Iran-Contra scandal, but the administration quickly constructed new stonewalls that were never breached. Republicans fiercely defended the secrets and Democrats lacked the nerve to fight for the truth. The Washington media also lost interest because the scandals were complex and official sources steered the press in other directions.
When I interviewed Haig several years ago, I asked him if he was troubled by the pattern of deceit that had become the norm among international players in the 1980s. “Oh, no, no, no, no,” he boomed, shaking his head. “On that kind of thing? No. Come on. Jesus! God! You know, you’d better get out and read Machiavelli or somebody else because I think you’re living in a dream world! People do what their national interest tells them to do and if it means lying to a friendly nation, they’re going to lie through their teeth.”
But sometimes the game-playing did have unintended consequences. In 1990, a decade after Iraq’s messy invasion of Iran, an embittered Saddam Hussein was looking for pay-back from the sheikhdoms that he felt had egged him into war. Saddam was especially furious with Kuwait for slant drilling into Iraq’s oil fields and refusing to extend more credit. Again, Saddam was looking for a signal from the U.S. president, this time George H.W. Bush.
When Saddam explained his confrontation with Kuwait to U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie, he received an ambiguous reply, a reaction he apparently perceived as another “green light.” Eight days later, Saddam unleashed his army into Kuwait, an invasion that required 500,000 U.S. troops and thousands more dead to reverse.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Before the dust has had a chance to settle on the report detailing the American Psychologists Association’s complicity in the CIA torture program, the psychologist found to have violated the ethics code now appears to be helping the FBI do the same thing.
In late April, a 60-page report entitled ‘All the President’s Psychologists’ pointed to Susan Brandon as the White House architect behind the policies regulating the legality of an interrogator’s actions – something that goes against the APA’s own rulebook, which prohibits psychologists from making such judgments.
The document alleges the APA’s close coordination with the White House, the CIA and the Department of Defense on the formulation of a legal policy that would exempt the interrogators from prosecution, following a scandal involving allegation of torture at Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison. “Susan Brandon … played a central role in the development of the 2005 [Psychological Ethics and National Security] policy,” the report alleges – the second inquiry investigating the medical role in the practice.
“What we see is associations. And the associations with the apparent supervisor of [James] Mitchell and [Bruce] Jessen at each step of the process over a period of three years,” the report said then, in reference to the two masterminds of the CIA torture program, whom Brandon was allegedly in contact with in 2003, as evident from a string of emails.
Brandon’s complete role in the program is at this point unknown, but one particular email she was included on focuses on the pair “doing special things to special people in special places.”
“The issue here is not about what she thinks about torture; the issue is about what she did in the past to knowingly or unknowingly create a legal heat shield for the president using the ethics of the APA. That’s the issue. This is not a question of torture. It’s a question of alleged corruption,” says the report’s co-author and program director at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Nathaniel Raymond, according to the Huffington Post.
Now Brandon is advising the FBI’s High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group – essentially the Obama’s administration continuation of the CIA program regarded as having crossed the line. She is tasked with research into determining whether a crime has been committed in the course of an interrogation.
The FBI has not officially commented on the claims yet. Journalists might not get a reply from Brandon anytime soon, as she’s still an HIG adviser and is not expected to break protocol – the association has a policy of operating in secrecy, according to fellow member Mark Fallon.
The initial reason for the government’s acceptance of the CIA torture program hinged, in part, on the presence of psychologists and their expertise acting as a check, as is evident from a 2005 Justice Department document.
The reason the APA had to be called in was apparently due to the CIA’s own psychologists’ refusal to sign off on the memo, claiming that the proposed assessments simply strayed outside of medical professionals’ competence.
As a result, Brandon’s Psychological Ethics and National Security policy became the document that could be “seen as opening the door for psychologists to fulfil a function that [CIA Office of Medical Services] health professionals were resisting,” according to the report.
Brandon’s own language went in a separate direction from the CIA doctors’, effectively paving the way for a psychologist’s role in judging the harm and effectiveness of an interrogation.
The APA has denied the report’s findings. Its own review of the complicity in the Bush-era program is ongoing.
Brandon’s role as one of the HIG’s top specialists is now under scrutiny, but she has defenders as well. Fallon, for one, has since said that Brandon “is a research scientist who was helping craft language, from what I can read in those emails, that might in fact be totally appropriate.”
“[Was] it a witting collaboration, or is it an unwitting person within the government who’s a research scientist looking to ensure that we’re at least learning lessons? I just could not conceive that she would ever do anything that would support degrading and inhumane treatment,” he added.
The US is boosting its military support for security forces fighting against Islamic State in Iraq. The Republicans have proposed a bill to directly fund militia groups operating in the country, such as the Kurdish Peshmerga and Sunni irregular forces. If the bill is passed, tribal groups could receive up to $429 million in aid from the US.
The US Republicans’ proposal to fund Peshmerga and Sunni militias in Iraq, if approved, would entrench the country which is already partitioned by war, defense analyst Ivan Eland told RT.
RT: Do you think America’s funding of tribal security forces such as the Peshmerga might encourage further sectarian tension in such a volatile region?
Ivan Eland: Definitely. I think that’s true. Of course the US during its occupation was helping out the Peshmerga, so they were kind of undermining a unified Iraq even back then. But now Iraq basically is partitioned by war and I don’t think we can put it back together again. And so the Republicans are actually facing reality, but certainly this effort to fund individual militias will hasten the effort and entrench already partitioned Iraq.
RT: The bill also requires these security forces to be an independent entity from Iraq, so they can receive the aid separately from Iraqi national forces. What implications could that have on the US-Iraq partnership?
IE: The Republicans are unhappy with the Iraqi government’s dependence on Iran for training its Shia militias, and the Shia militias have been accused of some atrocities against Sunnis. The US doesn’t like Iranian influence in Iraq and so this bill says it funds the Peshmerga and other militias which would be Sunnis, but it also says that [if] the government of Iraq doesn’t [dis]associate itself with the Shia militias; they’ll give even more funds to the Peshmerga and other Sunni militias. So it doesn’t totally go away from the Iraqi government, but it puts a lot of pressure on them to dissociate themselves from the Shia militias which the Iraqi government probably is not going to do.
RT: If the bill does recognize these tribal security forces, they will gain a large amount of aid assigned for Baghdad. How will that affect the ability of Iraqi forces to counter Islamic State’s offensive?
IE: I think the Iraqi forces are already sort of a shell; they cut and ran when the ISIS forces attacked. The Iraqi government is depending on the Shia militias to defend them and they had the greatest role in the campaign to recapture Tikrit. The US Congress – if they pass this bill – will be asking the Iraqi government to remove the only reliable military force it has. The Iraqi armed forces are not reliable. And the Shia militias are the only groups that can adequately, even have a priority, of taking on ISIS.
RT: There are also reports of Kurds recruiting former US military members to fight the terrorist group. Apparently, a dozen Americans have already joined their ranks. What do you think about that?
IE: This may be the US government giving a wink and a nod to this without officially sanctioning it because they want to shore up the Peshmerga against the ISIS fighters and the administration doesn’t really want to do this. Most probably – what the Republicans are suggesting – giving direct aid – because of course implications can lead to the breakup of Iraq officially. Iraq is already broken up on the ground but the administration probably doesn’t want to encourage officially supporting the Peshmerga. So this could be a way of winking and nodding to get more expertise and to help them fight ISIS.