Last week we saw an encouraging sign that the 50 year cold war between the US and Cuba was finally coming to an end. President Obama announced on Wednesday that the US and Cuba would restore full diplomatic relations and that embassies could be re-opened in each country by the end of the month.
For this achievement, which was resisted by vested interests in the US, Obama should be praised. However we shouldn’t be too optimistic about truly establishing normal relations until we understand how relations became so abnormal in the first place. The destruction of relations between the two countries was preceded by US intervention on behalf of a hated Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista, which had turned the Cuban people against the United States and set the stage for the emergence of Fidel Castro.
In 1944, after Batista’s first term as president of Cuba, he emigrated to the United States. When his campaign to return to office in 1952 looked lost, he led a military coup, seized power, and declared himself president. The US government quickly recognized his military junta as the legitimate government of Cuba and began propping him up. Much of the Cuban economy was in the hands of well-connected US companies, and the US government exerted its influence to their financial benefit.
The Cuban dictatorship was helped along by US assistance. The secret police was trained by the United States and was used to brutally suppress any political opposition. Almost all US aid to Cuba was in the form of military equipment used brutally against the Cuban people. The US was seen as the force behind Batista’s dictatorship.
As John F. Kennedy said while campaigning for the presidency in 1960:
Fulgencio Batista murdered 20,000 Cubans in seven years … and he turned Democratic Cuba into a complete police state — destroying every individual liberty. Yet our aid to his regime, and the ineptness of our policies, enabled Batista to invoke the name of the United States in support of his reign of terror.
US intervention in Cuban affairs really got a boost when Batista was overthrown by the young revolutionary Fidel Castro. As Stephen Kinzer writes in the excellent book, “The Brothers,” Castro’s rise to power was not immediately condemned by the US. When Castro traveled to the US shortly after taking power, he met with Vice President Richard Nixon, who found that Castro “has those indefinable qualities which make him a leader of men.” But Nixon worried that the US might not be able “to orient him in the right direction.” Nixon was concerned that Castro sounded too much like Indonesian president Sukarno, who urged countries to join a non-aligned movement to resist both superpower camps at the time. The US could not tolerate the non-aligned movement and pushed a zero-sum game in global politics.
When Washington realized it could not control Castro, it embargoed the island and began launching plots to overthrow and even kill him. US policy likely was responsible for Castro turning to the Soviet Union in the first place.
This US intervention in Cuba’s internal affairs continues to this day. Even under Obama several US plots to overthrow the regime have been exposed. So while opening an embassy in Havana is a positive step, this embassy must be used to help promote truly normal relations with Cuba. That means an end to the embargo, an end to the travel ban, and an end to US interference in Cuba’s internal affairs. A more free and prosperous Cuba will not emerge as long as US interventionism continues to turn Cubans against the United States.
“Should war break out in the Middle East again,… or should any Arab nation fire missiles against Israel, as the Iraqis did, a nuclear escalation, once unthinkable except as a last resort, would now be a strong probability.” Seymour Hersh(1)
“Arabs may have the oil, but we have the matches.” Ariel Sharon(2)
With between 200 and 500 thermonuclear weapons and a sophisticated delivery system, Israel has quietly supplanted Britain as the World’s 5th Largest nuclear power, and may currently rival France and China in the size and sophistication of its nuclear arsenal. Although dwarfed by the nuclear arsenals of the U.S. and Russia, each possessing over 10,000 nuclear weapons, Israel nonetheless is a major nuclear power, and should be publicaly recognized as such.
Since the Gulf War in 1991, while much attention has been lavished on the threat posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the major culprit in the region, Israel, has been largely ignored. Possessing chemical and biological weapons, an extremely sophisticated nuclear arsenal, and an aggressive strategy for their actual use, Israel provides the major regional impetus for the development of weapons of mass destruction and represents an acute threat to peace and stability in the Middle East. The Israeli nuclear program represents a serious impediment to nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation and, with India and Pakistan, is a potential nuclear flashpoint. (prospects of meaningful non-proliferation are a delusion so long as the nuclear weapons states insist on maintaining their arsenals,) Citizens concerned about sanctions against Iraq, peace with justice in the Middle East, and nuclear disarmament have an obligation to speak out forcefully against the Israeli nuclear program.
Birth of the Israeli Bomb
The Israeli nuclear program began in the late 1940s under the direction of Ernst David Bergmann, “the father of the Israeli bomb,” who in 1952 established the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission. It was France, however, which provided the bulk of early nuclear assistance to Israel culminating in construction of Dimona, a heavy water moderated, natural uranium reactor and plutonium reprocessing factory situated near Bersheeba in the Negev Desert. Israel had been an active participant in the French Nuclear weapons program from its inception, providing critical technical expertise, and the Israeli nuclear program can be seen as an extension of this earlier collaboration. Dimona went on line in 1964 and plutonium reprocessing began shortly thereafter. Despite various Israeli claims that Dimona was “a manganese plant, or a textile factory,” the extreme security measures employed told a far different story. In 1967, Israel shot down one of their own Mirage fighters that approached too close to Dimona and in 1973 shot down a Lybian civilian airliner which strayed off course, killing 104.(3)
There is substantial credible speculation that Israel may have exploded at least one, and perhaps several, nuclear devices in the mid 1960s in the Negev near the Israeli-Egyptian border, and that it participated actively in French nuclear tests in Algeria.(4) By the time of the “Yom Kippur War” in 1973, Israel possessed an arsenal of perhaps several dozen deliverable atomic bombs and went on full nuclear alert.(5)
Possessing advanced nuclear technology and “world class” nuclear scientists, Israel was confronted early with a major problem- how to obtain the necessary uranium. Israel’s own uranium source was the phosphate deposits in the Negev, totally inadequate to meet the need of a rapidly expanding program. The short term answer was to mount commando raids in France and Britain to successfully hijack uranium shipments and, in1968, to collaborate with West Germany in diverting 200 tons of yellowcake (uranium oxide).(6) These clandestine acquisitions of uranium for Dimona were subsequently covered up by the various countries involved. There was also an allegation that a U.S. corporation called Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC) diverted hundreds of pounds of enriched uranium to Israel from the mid-50s to the mid-60s.
Despite an FBI and CIA investigation, and Congressional hearings, no one was ever prosecuted, although most other investigators believed the diversion had occurred(7)(8). In the late 1960s, Israel solved the uranium problem by developing close ties with South Africa in a quid pro quo arrangement whereby Israel supplied the technology and expertise for the “Apartheid Bomb,” while South Africa provided the uranium.
South Africa and the United States
In 1977, the Soviet Union warned the U.S. that satellite photos indicated South Africa was planning a nuclear test in the Kalahari Desert but the Apartheid regime backed down under pressure. On September 22, 1979, a U.S. satellite detected an atmospheric test of a small thermonuclear bomb in the Indian Ocean off South Africa but, because of Israel’s apparent involvement, the report was quickly “whitewashed” by a carefully selected scientific panel kept in the dark about important details. Later it was learned through Israeli sources that there were actually three carefully guarded tests of miniaturized Israeli nuclear artillery shells. The Israeli/South African collaboration did not end with the bomb testing, but continued until the fall of Apartheid, especially with the developing and testing of medium range missiles and advanced artillery. In addition to uranium and test facilities, South Africa provided Israel with large amounts of investment capital, while Israel provided a major trade outlet to enable the Apartheid state avoid international economic sanctions.(9)
Although the French and South Africans were primarily responsible for the Israeli nuclear program, the U.S. shares and deserves a large part of the blame. Mark Gaffney wrote (the Israeli nuclear program) “was possible only because (emphasis in original) of calculated deception on the part of Israel, and willing complicity on the part of the U.S..”(10)
From the very beginning, the U.S. was heavily involved in the Israeli nuclear program, providing nuclear related technology such as a small research reactor in 1955 under the “Atoms for Peace Program.” Israeli scientists were largely trained at U.S. universities and were generally welcomed at the nuclear weapons labs. In the early 1960s, the controls for the Dimona reactor were obtained clandestinely from a company called Tracer Lab, the main supplier of U.S. military reactor control panels, purchased through a Belgian subsidiary, apparently with the acquiescence of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the CIA.(11) In 1971, the Nixon administration approved the sale of hundreds of krytons(a type of high speed switch necessary to the development of sophisticated nuclear bombs) to Israel.(12) And, in 1979, Carter provided ultra high resolution photos from a KH-11 spy satellite, used 2 years later to bomb the Iraqi Osirak Reactor.(13) Throughout the Nixon and Carter administrations, and accelerating dramatically under Reagan, U.S. advanced technology transfers to Israel have continued unabated to the present.
The Vanunu Revelations
Following the 1973 war, Israel intensified its nuclear program while continuing its policy of deliberate “nuclear opaqueness.” Until the mid-1980s, most intelligence estimates of the Israeli nuclear arsenal were on the order of two dozen but the explosive revelations of Mordechai Vanunu, a nuclear technician working in the Dimona plutonium reprocessing plant, changed everything overnight. A leftist supporter of Palestine, Vanunu believed that it was his duty to humanity to expose Israel’s nuclear program to the world. He smuggled dozens of photos and valuable scientific data out of Israel and in 1986 his story was published in the London Sunday Times. Rigorous scientific scrutiny of the Vanunu revelations led to the disclosure that Israel possessed as many as 200 highly sophisticated, miniaturized thermonuclear bombs. His information indicated that the Dimona reactor’s capacity had been expanded several fold and that Israel was producing enough plutonium to make ten to twelve bombs per year. A senior U.S. intelligence analyst said of the Vanunu data,”The scope of this is much more extensive than we thought. This is an enormous operation.”(14)
Just prior to publication of his information Vanunu was lured to Rome by a Mossad “Mata Hari,” was beaten, drugged and kidnapped to Israel and, following a campaign of disinformation and vilification in the Israeli press, convicted of “treason” by a secret security court and sentenced to 18 years in prison. He served over 11 years in solitary confinement in a 6 by 9 foot cell. After a year of modified release into the general population(he was not permitted contact with Arabs), Vanunu recently has been returned to solitary and faces more than 3 years further imprisonment. Predictably, The Vanunu revelations were largely ignored by the world press, especially in the United States, and Israel continues to enjoy a relatively free ride regarding its nuclear status. (15)
Israel’s Arsenal of Mass Destruction
Today, estimates of the Israeli nuclear arsenal range from a minimum of 200 to a maximum of about 500. Whatever the number, there is little doubt that Israeli nukes are among the world’s most sophisticated, largely designed for “war fighting” in the Middle East. A staple of the Israeli nuclear arsenal are “neutron bombs,” miniaturized thermonuclear bombs designed to maximize deadly gamma radiation while minimizing blast effects and long term radiation- in essence designed to kill people while leaving property intact.(16) Weapons include ballistic missiles and bombers capable of reaching Moscow, cruise missiles, land mines (In the 1980s Israel planted nuclear land mines along the Golan Heights(17)), and artillery shells with a range of 45 miles(18).
In June, 2000 an Israeli submarine launched a cruise missile which hit a target 950 miles away, making Israel only the third nation after the U.S. and Russia with that capability. Israel will deploy 3 of these virtually impregnable submarines, each carrying 4 cruise missiles.(19)
The bombs themselves range in size from “city busters” larger than the Hiroshima Bomb to tactical mini nukes. The Israeli arsenal of weapons of mass destruction clearly dwarfs the actual or potential arsenals of all other Middle Eastern states combined, and is vastly greater than any conceivable need for “deterrence.”
Israel also possesses a comprehensive arsenal of chemical and biological weapons. According to the Sunday Times, Israel has produced both chemical and biological weapons with a sophisticated delivery system, quoting a senior Israeli intelligence official,
“There is hardly a single known or unknown form of chemical or biological weapon . . . which is not manufactured at the Nes Tziyona Biological Institute.”)(20)
The same report described F-16 fighter jets specially designed for chemical and biological payloads, with crews trained to load the weapons on a moments notice. In 1998, the Sunday Times reported that Israel, using research obtained from South Africa, was developing an “ethno bomb; “In developing their “ethno-bomb”, Israeli scientists are trying to exploit medical advances by identifying distinctive a gene carried by some Arabs, then create a genetically modified bacterium or virus… The scientists are trying to engineer deadly micro-organisms that attack only those bearing the distinctive genes.” Dedi Zucker, a leftist Member of Knesset, the Israeli parliament, denounced the research saying, “Morally, based on our history, and our tradition and our experience, such a weapon is monstrous and should be denied.”(21)
Israeli Nuclear Strategy
In popular imagination, the Israeli bomb is a “weapon of last resort,” to be used only at the last minute to avoid annihilation, and many well intentioned but misled supporters of Israel still believe that to be the case. Whatever truth this formulation may have had in the minds of the early Israeli nuclear strategists, today the Israeli nuclear arsenal is inextricably linked to and integrated with overall Israeli military and political strategy. As Seymour Hersh says in classic understatement ; “The Samson Option is no longer the only nuclear option available to Israel.”(22) Israel has made countless veiled nuclear threats against the Arab nations and against the Soviet Union(and by extension Russia since the end of the Cold War) One chilling example comes from Ariel Sharon, the current Israeli Prime Minister,
“Arabs may have the oil, but we have the matches.”(23)
(In 1983 Sharon proposed to India that it join with Israel to attack Pakistani nuclear facilities; in the late 70s he proposed sending Israeli paratroopers to Tehran to prop up the Shah; and in 1982 he called for expanding Israel’s security influence to stretch from “Mauritania to Afghanistan.”)
In another example, Israeli nuclear expert Oded Brosh said in 1992,
“…we need not be ashamed that the nuclear option is a major instrumentality of our defense as a deterrent against those who attack us.”(24)
According to Israel Shahak,
“The wish for peace, so often assumed as the Israeli aim, is not in my view a principle of Israeli policy, while the wish to extend Israeli domination and influence is.”
“Israel is preparing for a war, nuclear if need be, for the sake of averting domestic change not to its liking, if it occurs in some or any Middle Eastern states…. Israel clearly prepares itself to seek overtly a hegemony over the entire Middle East…, without hesitating to use for the purpose all means available, including nuclear ones.”(25)
Israel uses its nuclear arsenal not just in the context of deterrence” or of direct war fighting, but in other more subtle but no less important ways. For example, the possession of weapons of mass destruction can be a powerful lever to maintain the status quo, or to influence events to Israel’s perceived advantage, such as to protect the so called moderate Arab states from internal insurrection, or to intervene in inter-Arab warfare.(26)
In Israeli strategic jargon this concept is called “nonconventional compellence” and is exemplified by a quote from Shimon Peres; “acquiring a superior weapons system(read nuclear) would mean the possibility of using it for compellent purposes- that is forcing the other side to accept Israeli political demands, which presumably include a demand that the traditional status quo be accepted and a peace treaty signed.”(27)
From a slightly different perspective, Robert Tuckerr asked in a Commentary magazine article in defense of Israeli nukes, “What would prevent Israel… from pursuing a hawkish policy employing a nuclear deterrent to freeze the status quo?”(28) Possessing an overwhelming nuclear superiority allows Israel to act with impunity even in the face world wide opposition. A case in point might be the invasion of Lebanon and destruction of Beirut in 1982, led by Ariel Sharon, which resulted in 20,000 deaths, most civilian. Despite the annihilation of a neighboring Arab state, not to mention the utter destruction of the Syrian Air Force, Israel was able to carry out the war for months at least partially due to its nuclear threat.
Another major use of the Israeli bomb is to compel the U.S. to act in Israel’s favor, even when it runs counter to its own strategic interests. As early as 1956 Francis Perrin, head of the French A-bomb project wrote “We thought the Israeli Bomb was aimed at the Americans, not to launch it at the Americans, but to say, ‘If you don’t want to help us in a critical situation we will require you to help us; otherwise we will use our nuclear bombs.’”(29) During the 1973 war, Israel used nuclear blackmail to force Kissinger and Nixon to airlift massive amounts of military hardware to Israel.
The Israeli Ambassador, Simha Dinitz, is quoted as saying, at the time,
“If a massive airlift to Israel does not start immediately, then I will know that the U.S. is reneging on its promises and…we will have to draw very serious conclusions…”(30)
Just one example of this strategy was spelled out in 1987 by Amos Rubin, economic adviser to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who said
“If left to its own Israel will have no choice but to fall back on a riskier defense which will endanger itself and the world at large… To enable Israel to abstain from dependence on nuclear arms calls for $2 to 3 billion per year in U.S. aid.”(31)
Since then Israel’s nuclear arsenal has expanded exponentially, both quantitatively and qualitatively, while the U.S. money spigots remain wide open.
Regional and International Implications
Largely unknown to the world, the Middle East nearly exploded in all out war on February 22, 2001. According to the London Sunday Times and DEBKAfile, Israel went on high missile alert after receiving news from the U.S. of movement by 6 Iraqi armored divisions stationed along the Syrian border, and of launch preparations of surface to surface missiles. DEBKAfile, an Israeli based “counter-terrorism” information service, claims that the Iraqi missiles were deliberately taken to the highest alert level in order to test the U.S. and Israeli response. Despite an immediate attack by 42 U.S. and British war planes, the Iraqis suffered little apparent damage.(32) The Israelis have warned Iraq that they are prepared to use neutron bombs in a preemptive attack against Iraqi missiles.
The Israeli nuclear arsenal has profound implications for the future of peace in the Middle East, and indeed, for the entire planet. It is clear from Israel Shahak that Israel has no interest in peace except that which is dictated on its own terms, and has absolutely no intention of negotiating in good faith to curtail its nuclear program or discuss seriously a nuclear-free Middle East,”Israel’s insistence on the independent use of its nuclear weapons can be seen as the foundation on which Israeli grand strategy rests.”(34) According to Seymour Hersh, “the size and sophistication of Israel’s nuclear arsenal allows men such as Ariel Sharon to dream of redrawing the map of the Middle East aided by the implicit threat of nuclear force.”(35) General Amnon Shahak-Lipkin, former Israeli Chief of Staff is quoted “It is never possible to talk to Iraq about no matter what; It is never possible to talk to Iran about no matter what. Certainly about nuclearization. With Syria we cannot really talk either.”(36) Ze’ev Shiff, an Israeli military expert writing in Haaretz said, “Whoever believes that Israel will ever sign the UN Convention prohibiting the proliferation of nuclear weapons… is day dreaming,”(37) and Munya Mardoch, Director of the Israeli Institute for the Development of Weaponry, said in 1994, “The moral and political meaning of nuclear weapons is that states which renounce their use are acquiescing to the status of Vassal states. All those states which feel satisfied with possessing conventional weapons alone are fated to become vassal states.”(38)
As Israeli society becomes more and more polarized, the influence of the radical right becomes stronger. According to Shahak, “The prospect of Gush Emunim, or some secular right-wing Israeli fanatics, or some some of the delerious Israeli Army generals, seizing control of Israeli nuclear weapons…cannot be precluded. … while israeli jewish society undergoes a steady polarization, the Israeli security system increasingly relies on the recruitment of cohorts from the ranks of the extreme right.”(39) The Arab states, long aware of Israel’s nuclear program, bitterly resent its coercive intent, and perceive its existence as the paramount threat to peace in the region, requiring their own weapons of mass destruction. During a future Middle Eastern war (a distinct possibility given the ascension of Ariel Sharon, an unindicted war criminal with a bloody record stretching from the massacre of Palestinian civilians at Quibya in 1953, to the massacre of Palestinian civilians at Sabra and Shatila in 1982 and beyond) the possible Israeli use of nuclear weapons should not be discounted. According to Shahak, “In Israeli terminology, the launching of missiles on to Israeli territory is regarded as ‘nonconventional’ regardless of whether they are equipped with explosives or poison gas.”(40) (Which requires a “nonconventional” response, a perhaps unique exception being the Iraqi SCUD attacks during the Gulf War.)
Meanwhile, the existence of an arsenal of mass destruction in such an unstable region in turn has serious implications for future arms control and disarmament negotiations, and even the threat of nuclear war. Seymour Hersh warns,
“Should war break out in the Middle East again,… or should any Arab nation fire missiles against Israel, as the Iraqis did, a nuclear escalation, once unthinkable except as a last resort, would now be a strong probability.”(41) and Ezar Weissman, Israel’s current President said “The nuclear issue is gaining momentum(and the) next war will not be conventional.”(42)
Russia and before it the Soviet Union has long been a major (if not the major) target of Israeli nukes. It is widely reported that the principal purpose of Jonathan Pollard’s spying for Israel was to furnish satellite images of Soviet targets and other super sensitive data relating to U.S. nuclear targeting strategy. (43) (Since launching its own satellite in 1988, Israel no longer needs U.S. spy secrets.) Israeli nukes aimed at the Russian heartland seriously complicate disarmament and arms control negotiations and, at the very least, the unilateral possession of nuclear weapons by Israel is enormously destabilizing, and dramatically lowers the threshold for their actual use, if not for all out nuclear war. In the words of Mark Gaffney, “… if the familar pattern (Israel refining its weapons of mass destruction with U.S. complicity) is not reversed soon- for whatever reason- the deepening Middle East conflict could trigger a world conflagration.” (44)
Many Middle East Peace activists have been reluctant to discuss, let alone challenge, the Israeli monopoly on nuclear weapons in the region, often leading to incomplete and uninformed analyses and flawed action strategies.
Placing the issue of Israeli weapons of mass destruction directly and honestly on the table and action agenda would have several salutary effects. First, it would expose a primary destabilizing dynamic driving the Middle East arms race and compelling the region’s states to each seek their own “deterrent.” Second, it would expose the grotesque double standard which sees the U.S. and Europe on the one hand condemning Iraq, Iran and Syria for developing weapons of mass destruction, while simultaneously protecting and enabling the principal culprit. Third, exposing Israel’s nuclear strategy would focus international public attention, resulting in increased pressure to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction and negotiate a just peace in good faith. Finally, a nuclear free Israel would make a Nuclear Free Middle East and a comprehensive regional peace agreement much more likely. Unless and until the world community confronts Israel over its covert nuclear program it is unlikely that there will be any meaningful resolution of the Israeli/Arab conflict, a fact that Israel may be counting on as the Sharon era dawns.
1. Seymour Hersh, The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy, New York,1991, Random House, p. 319 (A brilliant and prophetic work with much original research)2
2. Mark Gaffney, Dimona, The Third Temple:The Story Behind the Vanunu Revelation, Brattleboro, VT, 1989, Amana Books, p. 165 (Excellent progressive analysis of the Israeli nuclear program)
3. U.S. Army Lt. Col. Warner D. Farr, The Third Temple Holy of Holies; Israel’s Nuclear Weapons, USAF Counterproliferation Center, Air War College Sept 1999 <www.fas.org/nuke/guide/israel/nuke/farr,htm (Perhaps the best single condensed history of the Israeli nuclear program)
4. Hersch, op.cit., p. 131
5. Gaffney, op.cit., p. 63
6. Gaffney, op. cit. pp 68 – 69
7. Hersh, op.cit., pp. 242-257
8. Gaffney, op.cit., 1989, pps. 65-66 (An alternative discussion of the NUMEC affair)
9. Barbara Rogers & Zdenek Cervenka, The Nuclear Axis: The Secret Collaboration Between West Germany and South Africa, New York, 1978, Times Books, p. 325-328 (the definitive history of the Apartheid Bomb)
10. Gaffney, op. cit., 1989, p. 34
11. Peter Hounam, Woman From Mossad: The Torment of Mordechai Vanunu, London, 1999, Vision Paperbacks, pp. 155-168 (The most complete and up to date account of the Vanunu story, it includes fascenating speculation that Israel may have a second hidden Dimona type reactor)
12. Hersh, op. cit., 1989, p. 213
13. ibid, p.198-200
14. ibid, pp. 3-17
15. Hounman, op. cit. 1999, pp 189-203
16. Hersh, 1989. pp.199-200
17. ibid, p. 312
18. John Pike and Federation of American Scientists, Israel Special Weapons Guide Website, 2001, Web Address http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/israel/index.html (An invaluable internet resource)
19. Usi Mahnaimi and Peter Conradi, Fears of New Arms Race as Israel Tests Cruise Missiles, June 18, 2000, London Sunday Times
20. Usi Mahnaimi, Israeli Jets Equipped for Chemical Warfare October 4, 1998, London Sunday Times
21. Usi Mahnaimi and Marie Colvin, Israel Planning “Ethnic” bomb as Saddam Caves In, November 15, 1998, London Sunday Times
22. Hersh, op.cit., 1991, p. 319
23. Gaffney, op.cit., 1989, p. 163
24. Israel Shahak, Open Secrets: Israeli Nuclear and Foreign Policies, London, 1997,Pluto Press, p. 40 (An absolute “must read” for any Middle East or anti-nuclear activist)
25 ibid, p.2
26. ibid, p.43
27. Gaffney, op.cit., 1989, p 131
28. “Israel & the US: From Dependence to Nuclear Weapons?” Robert W. Tucker, Novenber 1975 pp41-42
29. London Sunday Times, October 12, 1986
30. Gaffney, op. cit. 1989. p. 147
31. ibid, p. 153
32. DEBKAfile, February 23, 2001 WWW.debka.com
33. Uzi Mahnaimi and Tom Walker, London Sunday Times, February 25, 2001
34. Shahak, op. cit., p150
35. Hersh, op.cit., p. 319
36. Shahak, op. cit., p34
37. ibid, p. 149
38. ibid, p. 153
39. ibid, pp. 37-38
40. ibid, pp 39-40
41. Hersh, op. cit., p. 19
42. Aronson, Geoffrey, “Hidden Agenda: US-Israeli Relations and the Nuclear Question,” Middle East Journal, (Autumn 1992), 619-630.
43 . Hersh, op. cit., pp. 285-305
44. Gaffney, op. cit., p194
- The US Ambassador to the UN, she claims she believes majority of civilian shelling casualties are victims of the separatists.
- The penalty for lying to Congress is up to 8 years of imprisonment.
Ambassador Power’s testimony was the subject of a story we ran on Monday of this week, and a helpful reader got back to us and pointed out that we had missed the most important part of it.
Apparently, Ambassador Power lied to the committee she was testifying before, thereby committing a felony.
Congressman Rohrabacher, one of the loudest critics of Obama’s Russia policy, asked her if she thought it might be possible that the majority of the civilian casualties killed in Ukraine were victims of the Ukrainian army.
It was a “gotcha” question, because this is a universally acknowledged fact.
Here is what the ambassador answered:
“I think it is highly unlikely on the basis of reports we have received from the United Nations and the OSCE.”
See 1.50 in the video:
This statement is demonstrably not true. Reports from the UN and the OSCE conlusively demonstrate what it obvious to everyone even halfway paying attention – that the victims are almost universally victims of Ukrainian army shelling.
It is starkly preposterous to suggest otherwise, because even a dimwit could grasp that the separatists are unlikely to bomb their own people.
It is simply not plausible that the ambassador beleives this, and is not aware of the facts.
Ironically, Power is the author of a book which studies US foreign policy responses to genocide, so she has more than a passing interest in these issues. The book’s title is A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide,
She has made protection of human rights a hallmark of her career, yet she is one of the most energetic and committed boosters of the aggressive Ukrainian military campaigns in the East, which have featured the most barbaric human rights violations imaginable – shelling defenseless civilians – children and elderly, with horrific, blood-curdling casualties, visible for all to see in gory detail on Youtube.
The shelling serves no military purpose and is done only to terrorize the local population in the hopes of triggering a Russian response.
Here is what the law says:
“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted in important affairs.” – Albert Einstein
Bobby Ghosh, former TIME contributor and currently managing editor at Quartz, decided on Tuesday to produce some absurd, mouth-breathing click-bait – the kind of deliberately sloppy disinformation that serves only to further chum the waters of public opinion with the false narratives and grotesque stereotypes that have long been the stock-in-trade of agenda-driven, attention-seeking commentators about Iran and its nuclear program.
There’s a quick answer to this leading – and deceiving – question: No, no he did not.
There’s a longer answer, too, which we’ll get to in a minute.
Ghosh, in his desire to expose what he thinks is a “gotcha” moment from a recent Iranian media interview with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, eagerly and disingenuously conflates uranium enrichment with nuclear weapons development. In doing so, he reveals himself to be more interested in delivering page views to his website and dishing out conventional wisdom than in reporting truthfully and critically about an important international issue.
Ghosh notes that, during a interview with Iranian media about the pending nuclear deal with six world powers, Rouhani said that “if the other side breaches the deal, we will go back to the old path, stronger than what they can imagine.” Ghosh omitted Rouhani’s initial comment, “If we reach a deal, both sides should be committed to it.”
What gets Ghosh’s goat is Rouhani’s reference to “the old path,” that is, the allusion to Iran’s previous state of nuclear development, as opposed to its current restricted program under the interim deal and what results from a potential negotiated multilateral agreement.
Conceding that Iranian officials have long “sworn, over and over again, that [Iran] has never pursued nuclear weapons,” Ghosh then gets to the crux of his claim:
If we’re to believe the regime’s claim, then Rouhani’s threat makes no sense. The “old path” would simply be more “peaceful” nuclear research, allowing the sanctions to continue devastating the Iranian economy. That’s not so much a threat as a flagellant’s cry for help: “If you go back on your word, I’ll hurt myself.”
To jump to such a conclusion requires a remarkably mistaken understanding of both the history of Iran’s nuclear program and either the ignorance or dismissal of the massive concessions it has already made during ongoing international talks. Ghosh apparently suffers from both.
In an emblematically Ghoshian column on why the Iranian government is eviler than the Cuban government, Ghosh wrote on December 18, 2014, that Iran “was caught trying to build nuclear-weapons technology as recently as 2002, when its secret facilities at Arak and Nataz [sic] were discovered. Thereafter, under pressure from the US and the international community, the Tehran regime backed down from its policy of developing dual-use nuclear technology (for energy and weapons) and promised not to build bombs.”
There’s a lot wrong here, but I’ll try to be quick (not my strong suit).
The facilities at Arak and Natanz were never “secret” nor do they “build nuclear-weapons technology.” In 2002, they were both under construction and non-operational. Iran was, at that point, not obligated to declare their existence to the IAEA. Arak was designed as a power plant, Natanz is an enrichment site. Upon declaration, both have been subject to IAEA safeguards for over a decade. Iran’s interest in developing an uranium enrichment industry has been open knowledge (and publicly acknowledged) since shortly after the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
The Iranian government never “backed down” from a “policy of developing dual-use technology” and “promised not to build bombs” as Ghosh claims. Such a claim is bizarre. Beyond the fact that, as an original signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran has in effect “promised not to build [nuclear] bombs” since 1968 and Iranian officials have – since at least the early 1990s – constantly and consistently condemned and prohibited any domestic development of nuclear weapons (not only after 2002), it is literally impossible for any nation with an ongoing enrichment program to stop the acquisition of “dual-use” nuclear infrastructure since every single enrichment program on Earth is inherently dual-use: enriched uranium can be used for both energy or weaponry.
With this false narrative, Ghosh has, however, set up a convenient straw man with which to bandy about his erroneous assumptions of Iran’s nuclear past. This brings us back to his recent article.
In trying to hash out what Rouhani’s “old path” statement means, Ghosh establishes two options – the bluff or the blackmail – one of which, he claims, must be true. The bluff is that, in Ghosh’s words, “There’s no “old path,” and Tehran is simply trying to frighten the P5+1 into relenting on the remaining sticking points at the negotiating table in Vienna.”
The blackmail, on the other hand, is a damning admission by the Iranian leader of a clandestine nuclear weapons program Iran has long denied having. “The alternative,” Ghosh writes, “is that Rouhani has unwittingly revealed that Iran was indeed pursuing nukes. That would be a real threat, especially if he is also sincere in pursuing this path ‘stronger than what they can imagine.'”
But there is a third option, unacknowledged by Ghosh, which is the most obvious and most accurate: Rouhani is not talking about a nuclear weapons program to return to, but rather the reestablishment of full-scale uranium enrichment, which has been curtailed by Iran’s obligations under the terms of its diplomatic agreements since January 2014.
Ghosh doesn’t tell his readers that, in the same interview he cites as “fascinating” and “belligerent,” Rouhani said of his international interlocutors, “If they claim that they want to prevent the development of nuclear weapons in Iran, they should know that Iran has never sought to build nuclear weapons.” Obviously, such a statement – in the very same interview – severely undermines the credibility of Ghosh’s blackmail or blunder claim that Rouhani has either purposely or accidentally revealed something alarming about its nuclear work.
Under the terms of the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action, agreed to by Iran and the six powers – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States – known as the P5+1, Iran has halted all enrichment above 5%, diluted or disposed of its entire stockpile of 19.75% low-enriched uranium (LEU), converted the vast majority of its remaining stockpile of LEU to a form incapable of being weaponized, suspended upgrades and construction on its safeguarded nuclear facilities at Natanz, Fordow, and Arak, and allowed unprecedented access to its program by IAEA inspectors.
At every single juncture, Iran has complied fully with the demands of the plan.
All Rouhani was saying, therefore, is that these commitments – which were negotiated and agreed to by Iran, not imposed forcibly by foreign countries – would no longer be binding and Iran would resume its previous course of action, or “the old path.” This previous course of action, still, was anything but a mysterious, opaque, nefarious development of dubious and deadly technology. Rather, even before current talks began, Iran’s was the most heavily-scrutinized nuclear program on the planet and had been for years.
Rouhani’s statement, therefore, was actually a fairly innocuous clarification of the fact that, if the P5+1 reneges on its own negotiated commitments, Iran will no longer abide by the deal either. That’s hardly cause for Ghosh to collapse on his fainting couch.
What Ghosh also doesn’t point out is that there is clear historical precedent for Rouhani’s statement.
A dozen years ago, Iran’s then-nascent uranium enrichment program was the subject of intensive diplomacy between Iran and the EU-3, shorthand for Britain, France and Germany. It was on Rouhani’s watch – he was secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and lead negotiator at the talks – that Iran voluntarily suspended uranium enrichment in 2003 and accepted intrusive inspections above and beyond what was legally required by its safeguards agreement as talks progressed. During this period, the IAEA affirmed the peaceful nature of the program.
In mid-2004, with Iran fully complying with its obligations under Saadabad Agreement of October 2013, the negotiations were strained by the prospect of a new European-drafted IAEA resolution against Iran. President Mohammad Khatami told the press, in terms strikingly similar to Rouhani’s recent statement, that Iran’s voluntary suspension of enrichment would thus be endangered if the resolution passed.
“If the draft resolution proposed by the European countries is approved by the IAEA, Iran will reject it,” Khatami said on June 18, 2004. “If Europe has no commitment toward Iran, then Iran will not have a commitment toward Europe.”
A month later, Khatami insisted that “nothing stands in the way” of Iran “building and assembling centrifuges designed for uranium enrichment,” reported the Associated Press.
Throughout the first half of 2005, Iranian officials were still intent on resolving the nuclear impasse through diplomacy with Europe, but explained that the resumption of “full-scale enrichment” was the ultimate goal of the talks, along with assurances that the program would remain forever peaceful.
Following the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2005, outgoing president Khatami made the Iranian position clear. “We will never overlook our legal and national right for possessing nuclear technology and fuel cycle to generate electricity. Iran will never change its national policy in this respect,” he said, adding, “We have made it clear that suspension of uranium enrichment will not be forever. We have displayed our good faith. Now, it is the turn of the European friends to do in line with the commitments they have made about the matter.”
Regardless of the offer soon to be put forward by the EU-3, Khatami reiterated that Iran would resume its conversion activities and eventually enrichment as well, in line with its inalienable rights to development domestic, civilian nuclear technology. “I hope that the Europeans’ proposals will, as agreed, allow for the resumption of [nuclear activities],” Khatami told reporters in late July 2005. “But if they do not agree, the system has already made its decision to resume [uranium conversion] at Isfahan.”
Uranium conversion restarted in early August 2005.
It was only after Iran’s European negotiating partners, at the behest of the Americans, reneged on their promise to offer substantive commitments and respect Iran’s inalienable right to a domestic nuclear infrastructure that talks dissolved and Iran resumed enrichment. The proposal eventually brought to Iran by Western negotiators on August 5, 2005 has been described as “vague on incentives and heavy on demands,” and even dismissed by one EU diplomat as “a lot of gift wrapping around an empty box.”
The resumption of full-scale enrichment by Iran had nothing to do with nuclear weapons, as the IAEA has affirmed consistently in quarterly reports over the past decade that no fissile material has ever been diverted to military purposes. Lingering questions about Iran’s past work have long been debunked as unfounded allegations for which no credible evidence actually exists.
Rouhani’s statement about “the old path” – that is, the legal and inalienable right of Iran to enrich uranium under international safeguards and supervision – therefore reveals nothing not previously known.
On the other hand, Ghosh’s reaction to Rouhani’s statement reveals the extent to which Ghosh himself will go to demonize and propagandize about Iran and its nuclear program. If he can’t get the small stuff like this right, why are we listening to him about anything at all?
Disclosure: I am an (often erstwhile) editor for the online magazine Muftah, which has recently announced a new partnership with Quartz, where Mr. Ghosh is managing editor.
It’s always interesting for me to observe the reaction of Americans and Western Europeans when they learn where I’m from. Many just don’t say anything. Many regurgitate something incoherent about Putin’s “imperial” ambitions, “the Boeing” that was shot down over Eastern Ukraine last year, and “that politician guy that got killed in Moscow.” Finally, there are those (unfortunately, a minority) who tell me that things must be more complicated than they are portrayed in the news and genuinely want to know what I think.
Things are definitely much more complicated than they’re portrayed in the news. I’ve had a chance to observe mainstream American, Canadian, and British media for quite some time now, and I’m amazed that so few people are appalled by the crudeness of propaganda that is fed to them, no matter whether the source is Fox News, CNN, or the BBC. Just like that Wal-Mart truck driver that stopped to help a stranded motorist doesn’t make Wal-Mart a great place to shop, the Pentagon Papers don’t make The New York Times a progressive newspaper. Neither does covering the Snowden case make The Guardian a source you should now trust and worship.
When I can hear explosions in the background in the middle of a phone conversation with my relatives who are hunkering down with their young children in the hallway of their apartment (“safe” because it’s away from the windows) while being shelled by Ukrainian artillery, and the “progressive” sources mentioned above pontificate about Russia’s “aggression” in Ukraine, call for more sanctions, and do not say a word about the massive devastation and suffering the US- and Europe-backed regime in Kiev has caused in just one year in one of the most urbanized parts of Europe, I feel disappointment and helplessness. Do these talking heads have no shame? Do those who listen to them have no brain? Opportunities to question, explore, and learn are all around you. Why not use them?
How many of you know that the cities of Donetsk (once home to over one million people) and Gorlovka (Horlivka; once home to more than 300 thousand people) have been shelled by the Ukrainian military pretty much daily throughout the month of May and in the first half of June – despite the so-called ceasefire?
How many of you know that American soldiers are actually in Ukraine training the Ukrainian National Guard – the troops that are then deployed to the East of the country? (Do a quick search, and even your “trustworthy” mainstream sources will confirm that – in a non-intrusive sort of way, of course.)
How many of you remember the context of Victoria Nuland’s “Fuck the EU” comment in her conversation with the US ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt?
How many of you know that John Brennan, director of the CIA, visited Ukraine in April of last year, immediately after which Ukraine’s “counter-terrorist operation” began in the rebellious East of the country? (Do another quick search, and your “trustworthy” mainstream sources will again confirm that – also in a non-intrusive sort of way.)
How many of you can imagine Russia putting its navy ships in the Gulf of Mexico, installing an anti-American regime in Canada, and holding military exercises just south of the US-Mexican border? How many of you can imagine what the American reaction to that would be? How ridiculous would the EU look if it imposed sanctions on the US? (Well, the EU looks just as ridiculous with all its current posturing and double standards.)
How many of you can imagine US and European sanctions against Saudi Arabia for its actions in Yemen? How many of your “trustworthy” sources use the word “aggression” when describing Saudi Arabia’s actions?
It took crash investigators a few days to learn what was going on in and around the cockpit of Germanwings Flight 9525, which crashed over the Alps less than three months ago. How many of you wonder what ever happened to the black boxes of the Malasia Airlines Flight 17 now that almost a year has passed since the plane was shot down over Ukraine? (It seemed so clear whom to blame back then, didn’t it?)
You most definitely heard about “that politician guy that got killed in Moscow.” How many of you know about a whole number of “politician guys” that have “committed suicide” in Ukraine? Other than stumbling on an occasional blurb, you’d really have to look to see what’s going on.
How many of you know about Oles Buzina, a pro-Russian journalist, who got murdered in Kiev just two months ago?
Finally, have you ever wondered who actually benefits from this war in Ukraine? Do you really think it’s Russia, now stuck with hundreds of thousands of refugees from Ukraine, a rabidly russophobic regime next door, and NATO bristling with all its fancy glory literally on Russia’s borders? Is it the “separatists” (or Ukrainians alike), whose most industrialized region is now in ruins? Or is there perhaps another party that’s meddling in all this? Use your imagination. May curiosity be your friend.
On June 2, the United States announced that 180 Marines would be deployed to Honduras as a preventative measure primarily concerning the upcoming hurricane season. Both the U.S. Marines and the White House affirmed that the military mobilization will be temporary and that its functions will only be used to protect the local populace in the case of a natural disaster.
Regional specialists, however, fear that the presence of sophisticated U.S. military and surveillance equipment, as well as the sheer number of Marines that the United States brought to the Soto Cano Base Area in Palmerola, signal that this mobilization is the beginning of a new round of expansion of the United States’ presence in Central America reminiscent of Washington’s pro-contras and anti-sandinistas practices during the 1980s. These assumptions are based on how the United States has favorably supported the new Honduran government, despite it being established by the illegitimate removal of former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya from office by military troops on June 28, 2009.
Countries in the Americas have been almost universally skeptical about the authenticity of the 2009 coup d’état and the statements made by President Barack Obama regarding this issue. In fact, according to the journalist Michael Parenti, certain indicators suggest that the 2009 Honduran coup was sponsored by the United States. In her book Hard Choices, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted “that she used the power of her office to make sure that Zelaya would not return to office.” It was later revealed that the cadre of influential lobbyists hired to galvanize support in Washington for the coup have strong ties to both Hillary and Bill Clinton. Additionally, many Latin Americans have made definitive links between the United States and the movement that overthrew President Zelaya in 2009, and President Obama shied away from promptly denouncing the military coup in Honduras.
On the other hand, according to a 2009 column written by Noel Brinkerhoff for AllGov, many of the accusations of past U.S. complicity with the military moves in Honduras are based on the fact that, at that moment, and still today, a large segment of the Honduran military receives U.S. training and supplies. This suggests that the military coup that overthrew President Zelaya would not have succeeded if Washington had not conferred the adequate training. However, what is most disquieting about this situation is that, despite knowing how extensively U.S. military training affects the behavior of Honduran troops, the United States agreed to continue providing strategic help to the Honduran armed forces. Washington thus continues to be targeted with accusations regarding the 2009 coup that overthrew President Zelaya. Most notably, the plane carrying Zelaya out of the country stopped and was refueled at the U.S. military base at Palmerola. U.S. authorities, however, insist that they had no knowledge of Zelaya being on the plane.
The allegations of U.S. involvement in the coup are not the only reason for the regional skepticism regarding the recent military deployment in Honduras. According to a LatinNews article on Honduras, the fact that the United States is considering a military expansion to attack regional drug cartels could not only worsen the U.S. reputation in Latin America but also at the international level, because the failure of this mission would be disconcerting for its regional efforts. 
According to Heather Gies, it is not the recent military expansion that is most concerning to Hondurans, but rather the fact that neither the United States nor Honduran police have been particularly effective in combating the high index of criminality in the region. In fact, some analysts find that the reason why the Honduran public views the recent U.S. military expansion as ominous is because they do not understand how the deployment of 180 Marines for six months will improve what thousands of police and military have failed to bring about in six years of fighting impunity and crime in the Central American country. 
Others take issue with the justification behind the military expansion, arguing that the geographic distance between Honduras and the United States is short enough that the deployment is not necessary, and that, if a natural disaster does occur, immediate collaboration and rapid deployment can be provided. Gies asserts, however, that hurricane protection is simply an excuse used by the United States to justify deploying its troops and thus expanding its military penetration through Latin America.
What is central in this debate is not whether or not the United States should collaborate with Honduras, but rather why the United States is willing to collaborate with Honduras today, despite the fact that the Honduran government’s policy fundamentally contradicts the United States’ stance, specifically in regards to human rights. This controversy, according to Gies, will only result in growing scrutiny and criticism of the hypocrisy of U.S. policy toward Honduras and elsewhere in Latin America. 
In fact, according to Gies, what is most surprising about this situation is seeing how the United States applies its international policy selectively, isolating some nations like Venezuela, while supporting other countries such as Honduras, where levels of crime are exorbitant and there is very limited freedom of expression. What is most unnerving about the situation, according to recent declarations of former Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes, is that there is no exact science determining what the United States is looking for in Honduras, nor is there a way to tell whether it is supporting the rule of law or rather the dictatorship.  The U.S. State Department’s annual Human Rights Report published this week condemns the cycle of impunity, human trafficking, and domestic violence that pervade Honduras, concluding that, “The [Honduran] government took some steps to prosecute and punish officials who committed abuses, but corruption, intimidation, and the poor functioning of the justice system were serious impediments to the protection of human rights.” Contrary to this stance, it is the government’s ardent militarization of Honduras that has proved to be a most detrimental impediment to promoting human rights.
Although it is stipulated that the U.S military expansion in Honduras will solely be allowed during the strict period corresponding to the hurricane season, there is growing uneasiness among the Honduran population. Recent political and social events in the region give credence to the idea that the U.S. troops will prolong their stay in Honduras. In fact, logic indicates that if the troops are meant to battle drug cartels in addition to possibly providing hurricane relief, then they will need much longer than six months.
Under these circumstances, it would also be important for the U.S. government to issue statements that explain its military support for the Honduran government, given the passage of the “Leahy Law” in 1997, which prohibits U.S. military support to countries with records of human rights violations and with continued impunity. It is therefore unclear as to why the United States is providing military support to Honduras. It is also not clear what characteristics a regime must have to receive such acquiescent treatment from the U.S. government.
It is also of crucial relevance to define the time frame that the U.S. troops will be deployed in order to determine their success in countering the drug cartels and other factors contributing to elevated levels of crime and violence in Honduras. Finally, it would also be interesting to know what the repercussions of the next U.S. presidential elections will have in this process due to the fact that many of the top contenders are running on interventionist ideals, and, if elected, they could cause the military expansion in Honduras to be prolonged or even intensified.
 Telesur. “280 US Marines to be Deployed to Central America”. 280 US Marines to be Deployed to Central America”. Telesur news on Latin America. May 2015. Accesed on the 4th of June 2015. http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/280-US-Marines-to-be-Deployed-to-Central-America-20150526-0030.html
 Parenti, M. “The Honduras Coup: Is Obama Innocent?”. Michael Parenti Political Archieves. May 2009. Accesed on June 24th 2015. http://www.michaelparenti.org/Honduras.html
 Brinkerhoff, N. “U.S. Still Training Honduras Military after Military Coup”. AllGov. June 2009. Accessed on June 10th 2015. http://www.allgov.com/news/us-and-the-world/us-still-training-honduras-military-after-military-coup?news=839254
 LatinNews. “Honduras-US: Special Marine task force will be based in Palermona”. June 2015. Accessed on June 11th 2015. http://www.latinnews.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=65097&period=2015&archive=798173&Itemid=6&cat_id=798173:honduras-usspecial-marine-task-force-will-be-based-in-palmerola
 Gies, H. “Dangerous Diplomacy: US Praises Mexico and Honduras, Targets Venezuela”. Telesur News Analisis. March 2015. Accessed on June 10th 2015. http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/29689-dangerous-diplomacy-us-praises-mexico-and-honduras-targets-venezuela
 LatinNews. “Honduras-US: Special Marine task force will be based in Palermona”. June 2015. Accessed on June 11th 2015. http://www.latinnews.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=65097&period=2015&archive=798173&Itemid=6&cat_id=798173:honduras-usspecial-marine-task-force-will-be-based-in-palmerola
 Gies, H. “Dangerous Diplomacy: US Praises Mexico and Honduras, Targets Venezuela”. Telesur News Analisis. March 2015. Accessed on June 10th 2015. http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/29689-dangerous-diplomacy-us-praises-mexico-and-honduras-targets-venezuela
 Funes , M (2015) cited in Telesur. “280 US Marines to be Deployed to Central America”. 280 US Marines to be Deployed to Central America”. Telesur news on Latin America. May 2015. Accesed on the 4th of June 2015. http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/280-US-Marines-to-be-Deployed-to-Central-America-20150526-0030.html
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Imagine being falsely accused of terrorism for nothing more than the books you have read. Well that’s exactly what has happened to a Florida man named Marcus Dwayne Robertson.
The U.S. government composed “snippets of information from various sources, out of context, to weave together a narrative of terrorist ideation,” according to a Florida judge.
That judge just ordered the release of Robertson, also known as “Abu Taubah,” an Orlando, Florida resident and Islamic scholar. Abu Taubah was accused of “supporting terrorism,” but the “evidence” against him amounted to nothing more than the books on his bookshelf.
Robertson, also known as “Abu Taubah,” was incarcerated from 2011. The charges he faced, however, were tax fraud and illegal gun possession. Not exactly “terrorism.”
But following his arrest and conviction stemming from these charges, prosecutors added what they termed “terrorism enhancement” to the sentence.
There seems to be no rationale for this other than ABu Taubah’s religious orientation… that and his book collection.
This sentencing guideline modification would have locked Robertson up for 20 years.
But the judge’s recent rejection of this bizarre, Orwellian sentencing “enhancement”, led to the Islamic scholar being released immediately.
Robertson’s sentence was argued as justifiable by prosecutors who said the contents of his Islamic book collection were sufficient “evidence” that he was connected to terrorism.
Approximately two dozen eBooks that Robertson downloaded were presented as “evidence” of his “terrorist connections.”
Prosecutors highlighted passage after controversial passage, as though this could serve as legitimate evidence that someone is a terrorist. They didn’t seem to understand that the contents of a book someone owns cannot be used as evidence against them.
A memorandum obtained by First Look was issued along with Judge Gregory A. Presnell decision. That memorandum strongly rejected the government’s argument that eBook passages could be used as “evidence” of “terrorism.”
“[T]here was no evidence produced that Robertson ever accessed these particular documents, much less that he took their extremism to heart,” Presnell argued.
He made it clear that even if the Islamic scholar admitted to having read the eBooks in question, this would not and could not be used as evidence of terrorism.
“The government has never disputed Robertson’s claim of being an Islamic scholar,” he added. “It is not at all remarkable for an Islamic scholar to study, among many, many others, the writings of Islamic extremists.”
He said that beyond this, the prosecutors did “not even come close to proving… Robertson’s relatively minor income tax fraud was intended to promote a federal crime of terrorism.”
The judge noted that he received “hundreds of emails” over the last few weeks that urged him to lock up the man for no reason other than because he was a Muslim. These emails amount to little more than racism and bigotry in most cases, and fear-mongering and ignorance in the rest.
“In America, everyone has a right to say and believe what they want, within the bounds of the law,” Presnell said before declaring that Robertson would have to be released immediately.
Robertson’s lawyer Daniel Broderson agreed that “at no point did the government ever have any actual evidence [Robertson] advocated terrorism, so they attempted to use his library of books as a backhanded way of branding him as a terrorist. He spent four years in prison, two years of it in isolation, over a prosecution that was both unfounded and that completely ran afoul of the first amendment.”
Speaking to The Intercept after he was released, Robertson said, “they’re trying to find an indirect way to sentence people with non-terrorism charges as though they’d committed terrorism offenses, without having to provide the preponderance of evidence that is normally required in such cases. You own a few books and some guy tells an informant you said something, and suddenly that is legal basis enough to sentence you to prison for decades.”
He added that he “lost all those years, in jail, in terrible conditions, away from my family. After all that, they couldn’t produce one single statement from me that supported terrorism.”
Protests erupted north of Kabul on Monday after U.S. forces raided a local residence in search of a weapons cache—revealing that U.S. troops might not play as “limited” a role in Afghanistan as the Pentagon claims.
It’s been months since President Obama declared an official end to the combat mission in Afghanistan. At present, the U.S. mission is ostensibly limited to advising Afghan forces and counterterrorism strikes targeting the Taliban—at least, according to the military’s stated role. However, troops descending from a helicopter in the pre-dawn hours to raid the house of a local commander who has no connection to al-Qaeda—or even the Taliban—certainly muddies the definition of “adviser.”
In fact, Jan Ahmad, who was targeted in the raid, fought against the Taliban in the past and the Soviets before that. Charikar locals, who felt the matter should not have involved foreign forces, hastily closed shops and took to the streets in outrage, shouting, “Death to America!”
“The protesters burned a lot of tires to show their rage,” said local resident Mahmood Hamidy, according to the New York Times, “and that, if the issue is not taken seriously, they are ready for violence.”
Colonel Brian Tribus, spokesperson for General John Campbell, who commands U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said the purpose of the raid was “to destroy a cache of munitions that could be used to conduct attacks against Afghans and coalition forces.” After a thorough search, the cache was blown up.
With hundreds of millions of dollars spent to disarm the numerous militias that lack ties to either al-Qaeda or the Taliban, the motivations of the U.S. military seem somewhat questionable. Elders and other former commanders suspected the raid was political retribution for Ahmad’s support of Abdullah Abdullah in the last presidential election.
A similar raid in March comprised of U.S. drones and troops cooperating with Afghan forces left three people dead—but not the person targeted, who suffered only minor injuries.
Questions further surround the U.S.’ role in Afghanistan—including yet another example in a seemingly endless supply of official statements that lack credibility.
Horace M. Kallen, the social philosopher best known in American intellectual history for his theory of cultural pluralism, adopted Zionism in 1903 as a secular mode of retaining Jewish identity, an alternative to the Jewish religious tradition which seemed to him to be incompatible with twentieth century America. He had come to Zionism primarily through the influence of two of his Harvard professors, literary historian Barrett Wendell, who interpreted the Hebraic spirit of prophetic social justice as the inspiration for the American founding fathers, and William James, whose philosophy of Pragmatism emphasized the reality of meanness.
Kallen extended Wendell’s identification of Hebraic tradition with American idealism; he defined Zionism, the movement to renationalize the Jewish people, as an opportunity to found a model democracy based on the same concepts of liberty and equality, which, for him, symbolized America. At the same time he applied James’s concept of pluralism to the ethnic group; among them the Jews, who were beginning to become prominent in the United States, and argued that preservation of differences constituted the true measure of equality the Declaration of Independence had set forth. Zionism, thus, was able to fulfill two functions for Kallen- it allowed him to retain his Jewish identity and to become, thereby, a better American.
In 1911 Kallen became an instructor of philosophy and psychology at the University of Wisconsin. When he moved to the Middle West, he left his familiar environment. Lonely, and somewhat out of place in Madison; he felt the need to assert his Jewish identity more strongly and stepped up his pace of Zionist involvement. Finding little understanding within the official Federation of American Zionists for an expression of his own, philosophically oriented, ideas on Zionism, and quite some antagonism for his demand that the Zionist organization concentrate its activities on obtaining statehood for the Jewish nation in line with the 1896 Basle Platform which had sought “a home in Palestine secured by public law,” Kallen decided to form an organizational instrument through which he could effectively channel his own Zionist activity. On August 18,1913, therefore, Kallen founded a secret Zionist society which he called The Parushim, the Hebrew word which means both “the Pharisees” and “separate”.
The Pharisees had flourished as a separate sect during the time of the second Jewish Temple, goading the Jewish Establishment into making the traditional “written law” more relevant to the times by adding to it the interpretations of the “oral law.” Kallen saw much the same role for his group of Parushim, whose purpose he defined as “advancement by deed and word of the cause of autonomous Jewish nationality in the interest of Hebraism.” As Kallen recalled, “The Parushim was a group much like the Peace Corps, young men and women who saw the Utopian opportunity that existed for the Jewish people in Palestine and who were willing to devote themselves to an ideal.”
The Parushim was a very unusual Zionist group, organized both as a secret fraternity and as a reform movement. Unlike other social groups at the time, both men and women were eligible; “there was ascertain definite interest on desegregation of the sexes.” Enrollment was by an oath of initiation, and there was a probationary period for up to three years, during which time the initiate was to give exclusive and specific service to the cause.” Kallen invited no one to become a member until the candidate had given specific assurances regarding devotion and resolution to the Zionist cause, and each initiate had to undergo a rigorous analysis of his qualifications, loyalty, and willingness to take orders from the Order’s Executive Council. The motto of the group was the response traditionally attributed to the Jewish people on receipt of the Ten Commandments-“Nasseh V’Nishmah”-“we will do and we will hear.”
A member swearing allegiance to the Parushim felt something of the spirit of commitment to a secret military fellowship. At the initiation ceremony the head of the Order informed him:
You are about to take a step which will bind you to a single cause for all your life. You will for one year be subject to an absolute duty whose call you will be impelled to heed at any time, in any place, and at any cost. And ever after, until our purpose shall be accomplished, you will be fellow of a brotherhood whose bond you will regard as greater than any other in your life-dearer than that of family, of school, of nation. By entering this brotherhood, you become a self-dedicated soldier in the army of Zion. Your obligation to Zion becomes your paramount obligation… It is the wish of your heart and of your own free will to join our fellowship, to share its duties, its tasks, and its necessary sacrifices.
The initiate responded by swearing:
Before this council, in the name of all that I hold dear and holy, I hereby vow myself, my life, my fortune, and my honor to the restoration of the Jewish nation, -to its restoration as a free and autonomous state, by its laws perfect in justice, by its life enriching and preserving the historic speech, the culture, and the ideals of the Jewish people.
To this end I dedicate myself in behalf of the Jews, my people, and in behalf of all mankind.
To this end I enroll myself in the fellowship of the Parushim. I pledge myself utterly to guard and to obey and to keep secret the laws and the labor of the fellowship, its existence and its aims. Amen.
It is clear both from the wording of these vows, which paralleled Kallen’s published phrases on Zionism, and from the handwriting on the original copy of this induction ceremony, that Kallen was its author. For him, the organization of the Parushim had many implications. It demonstrated his overriding commitment towards working for the realization of the Zionist ideal, and his need to create, if necessary, an educated militant group that would join him in the cause. It was indicative of his desire to stimulate Zionist activity beyond that of the official Zionist organization, which tended to devote its time to polemic and debate, rather than towards effecting substantial productive achievement. It showed Kallen’s trust in an elite Zionist cadre, a vanguard for the Zionist army that was to come. Most important, perhaps, it reflected his own need for a Zionist community with which he could feel comfortable, a substitute both for his own family, and for the Harvard fellowship of congenial minds that he had left behind when he moved to the Mid-West.
The kind of people Kallen considered worthy of invitation to the Parushim is indicated in a memorandum he prepared on “Signatories to the Zionist Pledge.” The list includes, among others, Alexander Dushkin, an authority on Jewish education; Dr. I. L. Kandel, an educator then with the Carnegie Foundation and Teacher’s College of Columbia University; Israel Thurman, a lawyer and “Harvard man,” who would be used to propagandize among young lawyers; and Nathan C. House, a “Columbia man” and high school teacher, who could work out plans for training Jewish high school boys “along the lines of Zionist sentiment coupled to physical development and Boy Scout discipline.”
It seems from the replies to Kallen’s invitations to join the Parushim that he had hit on the kind of organization that would meet thee needs of others besides himself. The few people he invited to join the Order, all well educated, all Zionist leaders in their own communities, answered enthusiastically. I. J. Biskind, a doctor in Cleveland, who during World War I was to go to Palestine as a medical missionary, responded:
In behalf of Zion, in behalf of Hebraism I will accept a membership of the Parushim- if elected-unconditionally and for life. I want to work, work, work and not sing ”Hatikvah.” I want to be a soldier of the ranks and do actual work. We have been sleeping too long; we have been dreaming and golden opportunities have slipped by us.
Henrietta Szold, founder of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization, was another early member of the Parushim. She wrote Kallen, “If … I may state the difficulties we [Hadassah] are encountering in our educational work, and so secure instructive advice from the hidden source, it will cause an increase not only in the results but also in the strength and zeal of the workers.” Her reference to “the hidden source” was, no doubt, tongue in cheek, for she continued, “If ever I emerge from under the … routine work in which I am now enveloped, I am going to devote myself to the reading you have prescribed for such as I am, and attempt to make myself more effective than I have been.”
In 1913 Kallen, aware of the moribund condition of the Zionist organization, felt that the way in which he and the Parushim would-be most influential was through a program of education. His focus. was on “the play of ideas-it had to be more theoretical than practical, imaging a program or an action without doing it.” One of his first requests to Henrietta Szold, for instance, was that she provide literature for Zionist courses to be given in Temples and Sunday Schools, a request to which she readily acquiesced. Within a few months, however, Kallen was looking further afield, and by April1914 was writing to Max Nordau, a political Zionist who had been Herzl’s first and most loyal colleague and closest adviser, of his desire to internationalize his secret order.
. .. [l]t happens to be my turn to head the secret organization here in America, which is aiming to turn the Zionist movement in a political direction, from within.
Our order is called Parushim. It is the outcome of the prolonged association of a number of young men in “academic” life who observing the general trend of events in the Zionist movement decided that the higher ideals would fail unless a check were set … Members must alba of distinguished character and trained minds … Our present purposes one of quiet propaganda and education in the “political idea.” We aim to make the masses consciously “political.”
… It is our desire and plan to organize brotherhoods all over the world . . .. We hope if all goes well in a few years quietly to turn the Zionist movement back into its proper channels…. 
There is no written record of Nordau’s reply to Kallen, nor of his evaluation of a world-wide Zionist brotherhood, bent on secret activity and influence. Kallen recalls that Nordau “wouldn’t cotton to it. He didn’t think … a vow would be of any use.” The matter was shortly to become moot, however, for four months later war broke out in Europe, forcing the dislocation of the World Zionist headquarters from Berlin. From 1914 until1920, European Zionists lost their influence as the center of Zionist activity shifted first to the United States, then to England. Kallen’s plan for a secret world-wide Zionist society became one of the war’s casualties. But as the United States became more prominent on the Zionist stage, Kallen and his vision of Jewish renationalization were to receive an opportunity for expression wider in scope and more vast in influence than anything he had ever imagined.
On August 30, 1914, an “Extraordinary Conference of representatives of American Zionists” met in New York and organized a “Provisional Executive Committee for General Zionist Affairs” with Louis D. Brandeis, the famous “People’s Attorney,” as its Chairman. Kallen had played an important part in persuading Brandeis to become a Zionist and to take an active role in Zionist affairs, by applying the reasoning of his cultural pluralist argument to the then prevalent contention that Zionist membership implied the unpatriotic condition of “dual loyalty.” Just prior to the August 30 conference, Kallen had presented Brandeis with his own plans for a Jewish State based on the same ideals of liberty and justice for all, which the American Declaration of Independence had enunciated.
Kallen then argued that a commitment to Zionism, instead of being detrimental to American loyalty, actually increased it, for Zionists and Americans shared the same values and traditions, and, therefore, were working towards the same ends. Brandeis, who late in life had felt a sudden emotional pull to the Jewish people, found that Kallen’s reasoning provided him with an intellectual rationale for Zionist activism. Thereafter he looked to Kallen as one of his mistrusted advisers, and used him as his right-hand man both in formulating ideas and proposals and in carrying out schemes of an intricate or delicate nature.
Soon after Brandeis assumed the active leadership of the Provisional Executive Committee Kallen invited him to become an honorary member of the Parushim. Brandeis accepted, and began to assign the Parushim to carry out special “missions” for him. In particular the Parushim were to serve as a school for leaders, and under Kallen’s direction its members initially became the leading activists of the reorganized American Zionist movement. Excerpts from several letters to and from Kallen in late 1914 show clearly that new energies were flowing through the Zionist movement; they show, also, the roles Kallen’s Parushim were assuming in leading the way.
1. To Stephen S. Wise; Prominent Reform Rabbi and leader in the Jewish Community:
September 25, 1914
Dear Mr. Wise,
. . . I hope you will bear in mind what I told you about the Order [the Parushim]. We want most of all disciplined and well-trained young men and young women who have vision as well as executive ability, and spirituality, as well as force. In New York there are a good many who might be trained for leadership under proper direction, and I feel that you could play a very powerful and ideal part in the making of such leaders .
. . . As for your feeling about the secrecy of the work, it is, after all, no more secret than any important work has to be … (A)n organization which has the aims which we have must be anonymous, must work silently, and through education and infection rather than through force and noise, and can gain results only insofar as its standards are made to live in the lives of the people to whom they’re brought. But no thing could be more suicidal than the announcement of such an object, so that the secrecy is inevitable. I hope that you will join with us and take your place in our executive committee together with Mr. Brandeis.
2. From Henry Hurwitz, President of the Intercollegiate Menorah Association:
October 5, 1914
Dear Harry [Kallen’s favorite nickname for “Horace”],
I got your letter the other day while I was in New York. I went chiefly to attend a meeting of the Provisional Committee. The meeting was rather routine. Chiefly on how to raise the fund. Coming very slow. Brandeis anxious to have done with it in order to have energies free for the bigger problems-also before general appeal for relief floods us. Brandeis put it up to [Judah] Magnes and [Stephen] Wise to raise money among their people [rich congregants].
So far, the mass meetings seem to be little successful, except the Boston meeting…. That was really an extraordinary night for Boston Jews. Surging mob at Symphony Hall when doors opened at 7.At 7:10 necessary to open Jordan Hall for overflow meeting. Still a couple of thousand turned away from both halls. … Brookline [established well-to-do Jews] came down as well as Roxbury and West End [Jewish immigrant communities], to hear and to join. Brandeis spoke over an hour, simply but with suppressed emotion; seemed to hook the subject and reluctant to leave it. Got great ovation both before and after speech. Tremendously different attitude towards Zionism in Boston now along all classes.
I saw Oscar Straus … on a Menorah matter. Incidentally, we talked Zionism. He declared himself strongly in favor of Jewish colonization in Palestine … but only under political guarantees of one or more powers…. He is greatly impressed with Brandeis as leader; expressed a desire to meet him and talk over the problems of Zionism with him…. Wise will arrange a meeting between them.
3. To Richard Gottheil, former President of the Federation of American Zionists:
Oct. 14, 1914
Dear Prof. Gottheil:
… My reports from New York are disquieting. I hear of a good deal of restlessness on the part of Federation [of American Zionist] officials, who think they are being displaced…. I hope that, insofar as possible, [Louis] Lipsky, [Shemaryahu] Levin al).d Co. will be given as much kouad [honor] as possible. I am told that they feel “snuffed out”; and I fear very much that they may develop obstructionist tactics which will disgust Mr. Brandeis, and perhaps lead him to cut himself off from the organization. I am particularly concerned about the movement of the I.A.C. [World Zionist Inner Actions Committee] toward the re-opening of offices in Berlin, and the meeting in Stockholm. The situation seems to me to be very delicate, and I hope that you, Wise, Miss Szold, Brandeis and Hurwitz can find some way of suppressing what I feel will be-knowing the character of the Federation [of American Zionists] as I do-very unwise action.
Finally, there is this matter, which seems to me now to be of prime importance. I do not find in any of the foreign periodicals any recognition of the significance of Brandeis’ leadership. I think that it is necessary to make this very clear by a statement of Brandeis’ position and importance in this country, written by a number of people, e.g., you, Wise, Oscar Straus. . and sent to such papers as the Jewish Chronicle of London, the Zionist, etc. The Chronicle is ominously silent about the activities in America, and I regard that as a dangerous thing. Will you kindly put this matter also to our group [Parushim]? We shall have to depend upon ourselves, I forsee almost exclusively, if we are to save Brandeis for the -great work of the movement, without being involved in much unnecessary quarreling and personalities.
4. From I.J. Biskind, a Cleveland surgeon:
Oct. 19, 1914
Dear Dr. Kallen,
Your letter received . . .
We have done all in our power to make the Brandeis meeting a success. Mr. Brandeis arrived here [Cleveland] at about noon. Several of our people and one of the Uptown Jews (as you call them) met him at the station. After a few introductions we turned him over to the Germans [“uptown” German Jews] who had a luncheon waiting for him. He spoke at the luncheon and made a very good impression. None of our people was present, as our uptown Jews did not want to have a Zionist luncheon. … Towards evening 30-40 of our people had Mr. Brandeis to a luncheon of our own, where he gave us a nice talk . . .
I think, that now is the time for us to start to round public opinion and influence it in our favor. People like Mr. Brandeis, youself and Dr. Gottheil should come out openly in the big newspapers and magazines and tell the world what we want and demand…
5. To Henrietta Szold: My dear Miss Szold:
October 28, 1914
I am glad to hear from you at last. I have been wondering what turn matters were taking in New York . . ..
I have been in communication with Maurice Browne of The Little Theater of Chicago. He has enthusiastically agreed to organize a company of Jewish players who will present nationalistic plays all over the country…. I have undertaken the writing of one play, but we need two more, one of which must be a comedy…. If you know of any mss. already in existence or of any persons who have real dramatic power, will you kindly put them into immediate communication with me . . ..
As for the status of the Provisional Committee, I do not despair. The chief good of its organization lies not in whether its authority is forthcoming from the [World Zionist] Central Actions Committee or not, but in the fact that it has placed Brandeis definitely at the head of the movement in this country and as a member of the movement, and that has brought out the enthusiasm and practical cooperation of the student bodies everywhere-in short, that it has injected into the movement a new spirit and a new personnel, and promises, I hope, to put an end forever to Ghetto methods and petty Ghetto ideas and personalities that has marked the history of the Federation.
6. To Stephen S. Wise:
Oct. 25, 1914
Dear Dr. Wise:
I am writing from Indianapolis. Last night I spoke in the local reformed synagogue here-naturally on Zionism. Today I am to meet a number of members of the congregation and to urge upon them a practical allegiance to the cause. I am told … that you are to occupy the same pulpit next Friday, and I am venturing to suggest that it would be very advantageous to the cause here if you also spoke on Zionism and urged practical allegiance. The community here, impressed me all in all as being unconscious Jews and rather materialistic, but they have their possibilities and if awakened, may become potent for much good….
7. To Henry Hurwitz:
Nov. 7th, 1914
Dear Henry: Madison,
… We have now the difficult problem of suggesting that the Jews as a whole are rather pro-Allies, but that there is a distinct anti-Russian feeling among them that must not be confused with a pro-German sentiment. . . It becomes necessary, therefore, to write to the daily and weekly press stating why and how it is natural for the Jews to be anti-Russian and still for the Allies. I have asked [Marvin] Lowenthal and [Alexander] Sachs [two members of the Parushim] to write to the Nation. Will you get a couple of your men to write to the Times and the Sun, and write yourself, if possible. Now that Turkey is in [World War I], it is very necessary … to consider the possible alternatives before us . . .. It is absolutely necessary that we should have a dossier containing plans for meeting each of [the]. . possible emergencies, and that practical steps be taken to safeguard our own interests as nearly as possible from all sides at once .
. .. When Brandeis will be in Chicago … we could then have a meeting of “פ” [Parushim] and consider the problems of national organization in this country and many other things. Brandeis writes that he feels this to be most important, and I am feeling pleased as Punch that he realizes its importance so soon.
8. To Alexander Sachs, a graduate student in economics at Columbia University:
Nov. 7, 1914
Dear Mr. Sachs:
I have yours of the 3rd inst. You will take note of these two things.
1. Let me know as fully as possible just what the situation is in the P.C. [Provisional Committee) office.
2. Please report on the progress you have made with the list of candidates for “פּ ” [Parushim] which you had sent for approval to the Executive Committee.
3. In order to show that the Jews are not unanimously against the allies, it has become necessary to publish letters stating the Jewish position from the Zionist point of view. This letter should cover the following points:
(a) That the Jews are engaged equally on all sides (b) That in the order of their treatment, their sympathies are as follows: England, France, Austria, Germany, Russia (c) That they have suffered terribly at the hands of Russia, and that they are naturally anti-Russian rather than pro-German (d) That their stake in the war is perhaps as great as that of Belgium, and that. . the great mass of them are suffering just as much (e) That the way out would lie in nationalization … (f) That. .. the attitude and feeling of the Jews independent entirely on the kind of treatment that.. . is being accorded to their helpless brethren in that region, so that their sympathies are divided between the love of England and France and the hatred of Russia.
You are directed to write such a letter and to submit it through me to the [Parushim] Council before offering it for publication. Many thanks for your personal appreciation, and please regard it as reciprocated.
9. To Stephen S. Wise:
November 18, 1914
.. . I have been wondering since Turkey has gone into the war whether we could not through Mr. Crane [former U.S. Senator, interested in the rights of small nations] and other Americans and Gentiles get options, or perhaps buy outright, all the… government land in Palestine. In this respect, Turkey’s need is distinctly our opportunity, and action at this moment may save us a great deal of embarrassment and difficulty later on. The thing, if it is done at all, will of course have to be done through Gentiles, and would involve a double transfer, as I am quite sure the Turks would not be willing to sell to the Jews. There are many other things that ought to be talked through; and I imagine that sooner or later our particular group [the Parushim] will need to meet and canvass the whole actual situation with its possibilities, and form plans to meet them all.
10. To Mrs. Maurice Leon, Richard Gottheil’s daughter:
Oct. 28th, 1914
Dear Miss [sic] Leon:
I have to acknowledge the receipt of the additional documents ….I shall have abstracts made of them and filed ….
. . . [D]o not despair. We have been badly off many times before, but we have always managed to come clear. What we need most is loyalty and discipline; and so long as we work together like true soldiers, I have no fear for the result-no matter what may stand in the way …
As these excerpts make clear, Kallen, though in Wisconsin, half a continent removed from New York, was, as head of the Parushim, in reality at the center of all Zionist activity. His Parushim wrote him faithfully of all that was going on; sometimes several people wrote him of the same event, giving him a unique multifaceted perspective. Kallen’s Wisconsin address was the terminal of a wide-spread communications system and, as the leader of an intimate inner circle, he sifted, channeled, and commented on his information in ways that he felt would produce the most effective results.
The image that emerges of the Parushim is that of a secret underground guerilla force determined to influence the course of events in a quiet, anonymous way. Indeed, the repetition of military terminology in these letters is striking. “We [must] work together like true soldiers,” Kallen wrote Mrs. Leon, and he deployed his Parushim like members of an army. Like any underground leader he demanded of his followers discipline, obedience, and whole-hearted devotion to the cause; the inefficient and slipshod Federation received only his scorn and approbation. Surprisingly, perhaps, the members of the Parushim, each of whom was a leader of the highest caliber in his own right, consented to Kallen’s demands. No doubt, the secret organization dramatized the potential for effective Zionist actions. Additionally, Kallen provided constant encouragement to flagging spirits, and held out the promise, through concrete action, of tangible Zionist accomplishment.
Kallen’s constant use of military terminology was no accident. Seeking, in the words of his mentor, William James, “a moral equivalent for war,” Kallen had found one in the possibilities for action within the Zionist movement, possibilities that had become viable by Brandeis’ assumption of leadership. As leader of the Parushim, Kallen was commanding his army in the ways he felt would do the most good. A good Pragmatist, he was putting his insights about Zionism to the test of experience.
The commitment to, and insistence on, a well-run organization colored all of Kallen’s directives to the Parushim. Even more important, however, were the plans he suggested and the actions he initiated. Letter writing campaigns, both here and abroad, a Zionist Theatre group, plans for purchase of land in Palestine, the insistence on political action contingency plans, schemes-for influence of foreign diplomats- Kallen was overflowing with ideas to hasten the achievement of the Zionist goal. These were not the schemes of a dreamer, however; always practical, Kallen outlined each plan in all its details, and assigned it to the most suitable person. As leader of the Parushim Kallen was the very model of the “Messianic pragmatist”; first he defined a goal in theory, and then he proceeded to suggest its means of implementation. His followers did carry out his directions-Henrietta Szold, for instance, procured the manuscript she requested-and the Zionist organization began to function more efficiently, to receive attention, and to attract more widespread support. In turn the members of the Parushim began to experience a sense of behind-the-scenes power and influence.
Kallen’s correspondents, it is clear, ascribed to him a special relationship with, and influence on, Brandeis. He had more intimate access to the new Chairman than they and, therefore, the opportunity for recognition as one of Brandeis’ principal advisers. Kallen, however, apparently did not wish to advance his own personal interests or career through Brandeis. The letters show his concern with protecting Brandeis and with providing for him an optimal climate in which to become a successful leader. Certainly Kallen wished to “instruct” Brandeis; perhaps, covertly, even to manipulate him. But Kallen’s preference was for the role of anonymous string-puller. He knew that Brandeis could accomplish for the Zionist cause things of which he and the Parushim only dreamed, and was content to channel all his insights and energies through Brandeis. This is one of the reasons that, to now, little has been known about the Parushim.
One of the more interesting projects that the Parushim considered was the establishment of a Parushim College which would give supplementary training in leadership for members of the Order, collect data and material to be used especially for propaganda, and provide for research into Zionist problems. Students would take courses in economics, psychology, philosophy, Jewish history, Zionism, Hebrew language and literature, and read certain prescribed books. Their activity would be both leadership training and a means to keep the Parushim interested and motivated towards Zionist activity.
A prototype for the Parushim College had been the School of Zionism run by Jesse Sampter, a colleague of Henrietta Szold and one of the first members of the Parushim. Various members of the Parushim taught courses in Jewish history, Zionism and Bible interpretation at the New York Young Women’s Hebrew Association and also conducted a “correspondence school” for groups and individuals unable to attend the formal classes. Miss Sampter, a writer and poetess, compiled an original syllabus (published in 1920 as Guide to Zionism) which was used extensively in education programs of groups like Hadassah.
Unlike the successful New York school, however, plans for the national college never went much beyond the outline stage. Particularly disappointed were Parushim members outside of New York, like David Shapiro, an agricultural student at the University of California, who felt isolated from mainstream Zionist activity. Shapiro’s note of regret to Kallen is of special interest, for it provides succinct description of the goals Kallen and his followers had: “If our Jewish State is to be founded on justice, elimination of crushing competition, and abolishment of human exploitation,” Shapiro wrote, “these principles should become a part and parcel of the consciousness of our men…. Discipline will work much better when the men are not only trained in the habit of obedience but also to be conscious of their work.”
Kallen’s inability to successfully organize the Parushim College is symptomatic of the problems he began to have with his organization by late 1915. Though he continued to receive reports from his followers, they were becoming less frequent and less detailed as the Zionist workers concentrated on projects of their own and scattered to other commitments. Henrietta Szold, for example, was the moving force, through the Hadassah women’s organization, which she had founded, behind a plan to send to Palestine a completely equipped medical ship and to recruit doctors and nurses for work in Palestine. Stephen Wise concentrated on developing his own “Free Synagogue,” and on cultivating a role as Jewish liaison with the Wilson administration.
Kallen’s leadership, particularly his neglect of Jewish tradition, irritated some members of the Parushim; they resented, instance, his calling meetings for the Jewish Sabbath. “Since I understand that ours is not a separatist Order in the sense that it does not exclude any Jew who has proved his complete devotion to the Zionist cause,” wrote Jesse Sampter, “it would be unkind, unfair• and unjust to call a meeting at this particular time [Friday evening].” Henrietta Szold concurred, “I entered into an engagement about thirty-five hundred years ago on Mount Sinai upon which the Jewish ages have put a certain interpretation. The rule of my life is to accept this interpretation and that prevents me from making my way [to the Parushim meeting].”
In addition, there developed a conflict between Brandeis’ moderate position in approaching non-Zionists and Kallen’s more radical stance. Brandeis, showing the same talents for organization that had earned him his reputation as a leading lawyer and reform leader, had begun by late 1915 to make contacts and judgments of his own. Interested in broadening support for the Zionist movement, Brandeis preferred to back away from confrontations, which might upset established Jewish communities and interests. Kallen, however, despite Brandeis’ disapproval, continued to define the policy of the Parushim as “militant and aggressive”; “we must constantly, with pen and tongue, attack that part of Reform Judaism which …attacks Zionism and the leaders of Zionism,” he directed new recruits.
When Kallen instructed economist Alexander Sachs, one of the original Parushim, to “counter-attack” speeches of two prominent Reform Rabbis, Sachs consulted Brandeis, who advised against it. Sachs began to feel that the separatism of the Parushim questioned the sovereignty of Brandeis, and declined to follow Kallen’s instructions. Further, he implied that his work for the New England Zionist Bureau super ceded his commitment to the Parushim, thus questioning his oath of discipline and obedience.
Brandeis confirmed his difficulty in working through the Parushim. By November 1915 he was writing to Kallen of his disappointment in the group’s performance. At the same time other Zionist factions scorned the Parushim. “I understand that [Louis]Lipsky and some others call the Group פרושי�? thinking that it is a term of opprobrium, in the sense of snobs, separatists or highbrows,” reported one of the Parushim, Alexander Dushkin, to Kallen.
Elisha Friedman, President of the Collegiate Zionist League, though loyal to Kallen’s leadership, was another member of the Parushim who began to question the group’s validity. Though acknowledging that members of his group were engaged in studying educational, industrial and economic conditions in Palestine, and that this would provide the basis for useful planning for the future, Friedman felt that the non-secret University Zionist Society (which Kallen had also helped to found) could just as effectively perform this research.
Kallen was unyielding in his demands for secrecy, and, despite these signs of unrest, stood firm. He replied to Friedman,
“The bond which unites its [Parushim] members is … of a delicate and psychological sort, very different from the kind of formal organization involved in the University Zionist Society . . . . The society naturally does not bind itself by a sort of pledge to an unquestioning leadership as the group does. In point of fact, it might become the task of the group .. . to join the society and to direct its activities. But some form of separateness it must maintain.”
And he reassured Dushkin, “I am delighted that Lipsky and others call the group ‘Parushim‘ in scorn. The thing for us to do now is to turn that scorn into astonished admiration by the highest degree possible of effectiveness.”
The correspondence with the Parushim, however, dropped off sharply after early 1916, though there are random letters dated1917 and 1918, confirming that the group continued to exist. Indeed, its greatest achievement was to come in 1918, when the Parushim helped to formulate the principles of the famous “Pittsburgh Program.” Yet there is no doubt that despite the fact that Kallen felt that the need for a close-knit “community” like the Parushim hadn’t diminished, the difficulty inherent in sustaining, long-distance, the loyalty and discipline of a group of intelligent individuals with minds and leadership qualities of their own, became too great an obstacle. As Kallen wrote shortly before his death,
It [the Parushim] never became as practical as perhaps it could have been and as I thought it might be .. : I was troubled by so much of the luftmenschlichkeit, the rhetoricism among Zionists . .. and I thought that a group organized as a “guided” democracy .. . might turn interest and action toward vital change. The expressions of this notion that I drafted were to be points of departure for rules of teaming up .. . . 
But the “teaming up” became impossible with a leader so geographically removed from the center of power, a leader so dependent upon the cooperation of his followers, both for news and for self-sustained activity.
Though Kallen felt some disappointment that his dream of a vanguard army for Zionism was not to be, he seemed never to have lost hope. In early 1918, shortly after the publication of the Balfour Declaration, Kallen called his Parushim together once again to confront the problem of how Palestine might be developed into a Jewish State, grounded on the principles of economic and social justice, which Kallen and his followers so highly valued. According to Kallen’s account in his 1921 Zionism and World Politics, the eight or nine men and women who participated in the discussion were of all shades of opinion and of all schools of economic thought. By common consent, however, “they determined to leave doctrine as nearly as possible to the doctrinaires” and to face the realistic problem of developing Palestine into a free Jewish commonwealth. On the basis of their discussions Kallen formulated “A Memorandum on the Principles of Organization of the Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine”; the core of this memorandum, somewhat refined, became the seven statements of the so-called “Pittsburgh Program.”
The Pittsburgh Program was a series of basic principles that the delegates to the 1918 Convention of the Zionist Organization of America adopted as their credo. It represented the crowning achievement by Kallen, and by the “Americanized” Zionists like Brandeis whom he had influenced, to express their faith and vision in reordering Palestine as a model democratic Jewish nationality. Like other of Kallen’s ideas, however, it was a formulation for the elite; the Zionist masses never really understood it and the American Yiddish press of the period ignored it.
Nevertheless its contents reflected well the kinds of emphases that Kallen and the Parushim envisioned for Palestine. Included in the Pittsburgh Program were provisions for political and civic equality for all of Palestine’s inhabitants, including women and Arabs; ownership and control of the land and national resources by “the whole people”; the use of “the cooperative principle” in all agricultural, industrial, commercial and financial undertakings; and a system of universal public education using Hebrew as the language of instruction.
These principles appear rather commonplace today, and, as a matter of fact, the State of Israel has incorporated most of them. In 1918, however, when the Parushim presented them, the majority of Zionists considered these proposals to be the expressions of a radical group. English Zionist theoretician Leon Simon, for example, wrote Kallen criticizing his principles for being “far off; . .. in relation to the present and the future the Program simply doesn’t face facts.”
The discrepancy lay primarily in Kallen’s assumption that the purpose of Zionism, and the goal of his Parushim, was to work for the immediate establishment of a Jewish Commonwealth rather than to concentrate efforts, as the European Zionists were doing, on the stimulation of a Diaspora Zionist consciousness. As he wrote to one of his Parushim, the General Secretary of the Associated Jewish Charities of Omaha, Nebraska, “The English declaration has made it important for us … to make every preparation to meet the responsibility of administration and development of Palestine that the end of the war will put upon us.”
The Pittsburgh Program seems to have been the last of the projects of the Parushim. By the end of World War I, its early members had scattered-several of them to Palestine-and the American Zionist organization had grown so large, mostly with the addition of the newly arrived immigrant masses, that a small elite cadre could no longer make much impact. Perhaps it was unrealistic from the start to expect a small group devoted to anonymous activity to exert much influence on a disorganized movement of many parts, movement growing rapidly, with new leaders and new problems. Certainly Kallen’s demand for separatism did not make it easy to bead member of the Parushim, once the initial drama wore off. As Kallen recalled in 1964, “The thing didn’t function very well. …What you could do with young Italy [in the days of the nationalist leader Mazzini] you couldn’t do with young Jewry, or old …. “
Yet, though the Parushim failed, its organization stands as an interesting chapter in early American Zionist history for what it attempted to do-for its ideals of disciplined leadership, for its plans for a just, perhaps Utopian state, for its implied criticism of the methods and priorities of the formal Zionist movement. Had it succeeded, the course of the development of American Zionism, and of the Palestinian Jewish community, might have been different. That it did not is a comment not only on the gap between Kallen’s ideals and those of the rest of the Zionist movement, but also on the readiness of the Zionist membership to accept the discipline implicit in assuming responsibility for nationhood. It was to take another generation, after the tragic events of the 1930’s and 1940’s in Europe, before that: American Jewish community was willing to face up to the challenge of helping to create a living embodiment of the Jewish nationality. By then Kallen and the other Parushim had long forgotten their secret organization; today the story of the Parushim remains a fascinating footnote in the annals of “what might have been.”
 Memorandum, in Kallen’s handwriting, concerning the organization of Parushim, in the Horace M. Kallen Collection at the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, Ohio (hereafter referred to as KC-AJA).
 Ibid; Kallen’s recollections are all from an interview with the author, July, 1972.
 Memorandum and Interview. Ibid.
 “Induction Ceremony into the Order of the Parushim,” with corrections and annotations in Kallen’s handwriting, and marked by him “Strictly Confidential,” KC•AJA.
 “Memorandum of Signatories to the Zionist Pledge, Sunday, April 4th, 1915,” KC-AJA.
 I. J. Biskind to Kallen, Oct. 4, 1913, KC-AJA.
 Henrietta Szold to Kallen, Nov. 9th, 1913, KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Max Nordau, April 7th, 1914, Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, File A119/50/8/8.
 H.M. Kallen, “The International Aspects of Zionism,” an unpublished memorandum with Kallen’s handwritten notation, “Copy submitted to Mr. Brandeis August 29th, 1914, KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Brandeis, September 21st, 1914; Brandeis to Kallen, March 4th, 1915; Brandeis Papers, Zionist Archives, New York.
 Kallen to Stephen S. Wise, Sept. 15th, 1914. Stephen S. Wise Collection, AJA.
 Henry Hurwitz to Kallen, Oct. 5th, 1914. KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Richard Gottheil, Oct. 14th, 1914. KC-AJA.
 This Hebrew letter was often used as a heading on the reports of Parushim members.
 Biskind to Kallen, Oct. 19th, 1914, KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Szold, Oct. 28th, 1914, KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Wise, Oct. 25th, 1914, KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Hurwitz, Nov. 7th, 1914. KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Alexander Sachs, Nov. 7th, 1914. KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Wise, Nov. 18th, 1914. Stephen S. Wise Collection, KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Mrs. Maurice Leon, Oct. 28th, 1914, KC-AJA.
 “Tentative Outline of the פּ (Parushim) College,” Dec. 25th, 1915. KC-AJA.
 Jesse Sampter, “Report פּ , Zionist Work from Nov. 1914 to Jan. 1915,” KC-AJA.
 David Shapiro to Kallen, Nov. 22nd, 1915, KC-AJA.
 Sampter to Kallen, Dec. 26th, 1915; Szold to Henry Hurwitz, (Kallen’s chief link with the Parushim in New York,) Dec. 31st 1915, KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Brandeis, Feb. 23rd, 1915, Brandeis Papers, Zionist Archives, New York; Brandeis to Kallen, Mar. 4th, 1915, KC-AJA: Report of Meeting of Parushim, Dec. 31st, 1915, KC-AJA.
 Alexander Sachs to Henry Hurwitz, Dec. 30, 1915, KC-AJA.
 Brandeis to Kallen, Nov. 29th, 1915, KC-AJA; Alexander Dushkin to Kallen, Feb. 8th, 1916, KC-AJA.
 Elisha Friedman to Kallen, Mar. 1st, 1916, KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Friedman, Mar. 6th, 1916; Kallen to Dushkin, Feb 15, 1916, KC-AJA.
 Kallen to author, June 8, 1973, commenting on some of the findings of this article.
 Kallen, Zionism and World Politics (New York: 1921), p. 300; “A Memorandum on the Principles of Organization of the Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine,” KC-AJA.
 Kallen, Zionism, cites the Pittsburgh Program in its entirety, p. 301-302.
 Leon Simon to Kallen, Aug. 3rd, 1919, KC-AJA.
 Kallen to Jacques Bieur, Nov. 20th, 1917, KC-AJA.
 Kallen, Interview with Milton Konvitz and Dorothy Oko, 1964.
Dr. Sarah Schmidt is senior lecturer in modern Jewish history and Zionist history at the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she also teaches an honors seminar, “The American Jew and the Israeli Jew: A Comparative Analysis.”
It has taken Africa just over a decade to conclude that the International Criminal Court (ICC), established in 2002 by the Rome Statute, is simply unfit for purpose. That certainly is the conclusion of the South African government following the recent African Union summit in Johannesburg. The institution African countries signed up for post 1998, a court that promised to pursue injustice without fear or favor, is not the one they see before them today. They were sold a false bill of goods. The ICC’s claims to international jurisdiction and judicial independence are institutionally flawed and the Court’s reputation has been irretrievably damaged by its racism, blatant double-standards, hypocrisy, corruption and serious judicial irregularities.
While the ICC presents itself as the world’s court this is simply not the case. Its members represent just over one quarter of the world’s population: China, Russia, the United States, India, Pakistan and Indonesia are just some of the many countries that have remained outside of the Court’s jurisdiction.
A court is also only as credible as its independence. Far from being an independent and impartial court, the ICC’s own statute grants special “prosecutorial” rights of referral and deferral to the Security Council – by default its five permanent members (three of which are not even ICC members). Political interference in the legal process was thus made part of the Court’s founding terms of reference. The Court is also inextricably tied to the European Union which provides over 60 percent of its funding. The expression “He who pays the piper calls the tune” could not be more appropriate. The fact that the big five ICC funders are Africa’s former colonial masters also sits uneasily with a continent suspicious of recolonization by questionable legal diktat. The EU is additionally guilty of blatant political and economic blackmail in tying aid for developing countries to ICC membership.
Africa is also correct when it points out that the ICC is self-evidently a racist court, in that it treats one race of people differently to all others. Instead of impartially enforcing the Rome Statute, the Europeans have chosen to focus the Court exclusively on Africa. African heads of state have spoken of “race hunting.” Despite having received almost 9,000 formal complaints about alleged war crimes in at least 139 countries, the ICC has chosen to indict 36 black Africans in eight African countries. In so doing the ICC has ignored all European or Western human rights abuses in conflicts such as those in Afghanistan and Iraq or human rights abuses by Western client states. While the ICC’s key first two cases were African “self-referrals” it is now clear that the African governments were made “an offer they could not refuse”: refer yourself and we will only indict your rebels – if not we will indict both government and rebels.
The ICC has emerged very much as a European-funded and directed instrument of European foreign policy. Broader western hypocrisy is all too evident. The United States has forcefully pointed out that the ICC is a kangaroo court, a travesty of justice open to political influence and that no American citizen will ever come before it. Washington is nonetheless very happy, for its own political reasons, to demand that black Africans appear before it.
Double standards and politics aside, the ICC has shown itself to be irretrievably dysfunctional. The court’s proceedings thus far have often been questionable where not simply farcical. Its judges – some of whom have never been lawyers, let alone judges – are the result of grubbily corrupt vote-trading amongst member states. Far from securing the best legal minds in the world this produces mediocrity. At least one elected “judge” had neither law degree nor legal experience but her country had contributed handsomely to the ICC budget. The Court has produced witnesses who recanted their testimony the moment they got into the witness box, admitting that they were coached by non-governmental organizations as to what false statements to make. Dozens of other “witnesses” have similarly disavowed their “evidence.” Most recently the ICC prosecutor had to admit that one of its own star witnesses in its case against Kenyan Vice-President Ruto was “a thoroughly unreliable and incredible” witness.
And then there has also been the ICC prosecutor who was not only seemingly unaware of the legal concept of presumption of innocence but also threatened to criminalize third-parties who might argue a presumption of innocence on the part of those indicted – and as yet unconvicted – by the Court. A clearer case of Alice in Wonderland justice, along the lines of “sentence first, verdict afterwards,” is difficult to find. There has been prosecutorial misconduct, not least of which hiding exculpatory evidence, which should have ended any fair trial because they would have compromised the integrity of any legal process. The ICC’s first trial proceeded erratically because of crass prosecutorial misbehavior and judicial decisions to add new charges half-way through proceedings, a move that was subsequently overturned. Simply put, the Court and the prosecutor have been making things up as they go along.
The ICC claims to be “economical” and to bring “swift justice,” yet it has consumed more than a billion Euros in its 13-year existence and has only secured two questionable convictions. The ICC claims to be victim-centered yet Human Rights Watch has publicly criticized the ICC’s ambivalence towards victim communities. The ICC claims to be fighting impunity, yet it has granted de jure immunity to the United States and afforded de facto immunity and impunity to NATO member states and several serial abusers of human rights who happen to be friends of the European Union and United States.
Far from bringing peace to Africa, the ICC’s double-standards and autistic legal blundering has derailed delicate peace processes across the continent – thereby prolonging devastating civil wars. The court is responsible for the death, injury and displacement of many thousands of Africans. The ICC’s involvement in Uganda, for example, destroyed peace talks in that country, intensifying the conflict which then spread into three neighboring countries.”
The reality is that the ICC is an inept, corrupt, political court that does not have Africa’s welfare at heart, only the furtherance of Western, and especially European, foreign policy and its own bureaucratic imperative – to exist, to employ more Europeans and North Americans and where possible to continue to increase its budget – all at the expense of African lives. Three cheers for South Africa pointing out that the Emperor is naked.
Dr. David Hoile is the author of Justice Denied: The Reality of the International Criminal Court, a 610-page study of the International Criminal Court published by the Africa Research Centre. The book is available to read or download at www.africaresearchcentre.org. The author can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the main goals, according to World Bulletin/Al Ray, is to counter willingness to support “Boycott Divestment and Sanctions” movement against Israel within the European Union. The legislation was made by a group of congressmen and the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
The new US-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act is specifically targeted “to discourage politically motivated actions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel by states, non-member states of the United Nations, international organisations, or affiliated agencies of international organisations that are politically motivated and are intended to penalise or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel or persons doing business in Israel or in Israeli- controlled territories.”
The new legislation was signed in spite of numerous warnings from Obama’s advisors and officials, who said that such a law can seriously harm trade relations with the European Union members that favor “Boycott Divestment and Sanctions” movement and prohibit trading with Israeli companies that operate in the occupied territories.
Recently Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg sent a letter to the UN Security Council demanding that Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria end the use of barrel bombs. The foreign ministry of a European country that still maintains a diplomatic presence in Damascus, one of the few, asked for the opinion of its embassy on the matter. The embassy recommended to sign the letter: barrel bombs are indiscriminate and kill an awful lot of civilians. But the embassy also advised its government to condemn the opposition’s use of improvised mortar bombs (known as “hell cannons”) against the neighborhoods under government control. Diplomats say that the rebels have specifically targeted Christian areas for their perceived support for the Assad regime. Back in Europe, the foreign ministry officials admitted that they “haven’t heard anything” about the “hell cannons.”
This is only one example of how dysfunctional EU policy toward Syria has become, as a European Parliament (EP) delegation that visited Lebanon in mid-June learned. An early EU decision to cut off all ties with the Assad regime has not been vindicated by the developments on the ground. Not only has the regime survived, but radical jihadist elements have increasingly dominated the opposition to Assad. The EU, however, failed to modify its strategy accordingly. As a result, regional actors with often disruptive and sectarian agendas have taken center stage. And individual EU member states have also pursued their own policies, which are not necessarily in the interests of the EU as a whole.
The latest example of the distorting influence of the regional actors is the Syrian opposition’s failure to accept the “freeze plan” in Aleppo and surrounding areas proposed by the UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan De Mistura as a first step toward a negotiated solution. In the UN assessment, the opposition´s foreign sponsors—mainly Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan—bear primary responsibility for this failure, because they have insisted on removing Assad from power as a pre-condition to any agreements.
Such a position is not new. What is new, however, is that these sponsors do not hide anymore that they work directly with Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda´s affiliate in Syria. They still pretend, however, that al-Nusra is the face of the “moderate opposition,” even though this assertion stems from a PR operation, widely believed to be Qatari-driven and carried out in Western mainstream media and think-tanks. An interview al-Nusra’s chief Al-Golani gave to the Qatar-based Al Jazeera was part of this PR campaign, but it backfired when Al-Golani made it clear that al-Nusra is al-Qaeda and expressed borderline genocidal views on Alawites.
The Dangers of Supporting Jihad
To make matters more complicated, even those rebel groups that are not part of al-Nusra, espouse deeply troubling views. According to a credible UN source in Damascus, a fighter from an obscure group Jaysh al-Ababil active in Syria´s south, has reported that “Syrian people deserve a democracy like in Saudi Arabia.” He boasted that the group “gets anything it needs” from Jordan and that a major offensive to take Damascus from the south, as well as the north, will be launched “very soon.”
If the US and EU had real strategy to end the war they would, in addition to pressuring Assad, demand that their regional allies curb the flow of weapons and recruits to terrorist groups. But they can’t credibly do that, since they are involved in this effort themselves. According to Conflicts Forum, the southern rebel front is managed from US Centcom’s Forward Command in Jordan, which is run jointly by American, Jordanian, Saudi, Qatari, and British officers. … Full article