Thursday, April 30, 2009

Listening To Ahmadinejad

The Iranian president wraps his Holocaust denial in legitimate criticisms of Israeli policy. That makes dealing with him much more difficult -- and requires a change in Israel's attitude.

By Dana Goldstein
April 28, 2009 | web only
Courtesy Of The American Prospect

At the risk of being tarred and feathered by those who prefer silence on Israel's human-rights record to open discussion, I'd like to write frankly about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Sunday interview with George Stephanopoulos. Some of the things Ahmadinejad said were, in fact, quite reasonable. If we can't recognize that and respond, then we have little hope of understanding the morass in the Middle East, or of combating Ahmadinejad's perverse anti-Semitism.

In the interview, on ABC's This Week, the Iranian president wrapped his Holocaust-denial in a series of legitimate criticisms of present-day Israeli policy, lending strength to his highly offensive worldview. Sadly, Israel's new conservative government is playing right into Ahmadinejad's hands, and not just by refusing to end settlement activity and avoiding the necessary political concessions that could hasten a two-state solution.

At last Thursday's Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony on Capitol Hill, a series of speakers shifted the focus off the victims of Nazism, admonishing President Barack Obama to take a more aggressive stance toward Iran. Referencing Tehran's quest to obtain nuclear weapons, Israeli Ambassador Sallai Merido asked, “When a regime is again ... terrorizing its neighbors, threatening to destroy the Jewish people, how will we meet this challenge before it's too late?”

When the Israeli government engages in this kind of overheated, verbal hardball -- instead of pursuing calm diplomacy -- it only lends prominence to Ahmadinejad's zealous anti-Semitism. That is a tragedy, because a founding principle of the Zionist project was to protect the Jewish people from discrimination, not to inflame it. Ahmadinejad has become a beacon for all those who deny the Holocaust. He needs to be contained, not egged on. Here is the key excerpt from his ABC interview, which encapsulates his stance toward Israel and Jews:

AHMADINEJAD: ... I have posed two questions over Holocaust. My first question was, if the Holocaust happened, where did it take place? In Europe. Why should they make amends in Palestine? The Palestinian people had no role to play in the Holocaust. They had no role, for that matter, in the Second World War. Racism happened in Europe, the amends are made in Palestine? My second question about the Holocaust, if this is indeed a historical event, why do they want to turn it into a holy thing? And nobody should be allowed to ask any questions about that? Nobody study it, research it, permit it to research it. Why?

STEPHANOPOULOS: It's the most studied historical event in history.

AHMADINEJAD: If this is a historically documented event, why do Western states show so much sensitivity towards a historical event? They do not want the lid to be taken off. I am asking them to permit studies.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about something that's happening right now. President Obama has appointed Senator George Mitchell to help negotiate a peace between Israel and Palestine. Do you support that effort?

AHMADINEJAD: Well, we are asking for the legal rights of the Palestinian people. What we are saying is that the Palestinian people, like other peoples, have the right to determine their own fate. Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike. We should -- they should allow them to engage in elections, free elections and a free referendum to determine for themselves their own fate. We must not repeat the mistakes of the past.

Let's consider what Ahmadinejad does here, rhetorically. He begins with a perfectly legitimate, though controversial point: The horror of the Nazi Holocaust convinced the world community to embrace Zionism, and Palestinians disproportionately suffered as Jews claimed the Holy Land as their own, displacing 800,000 Arab residents. This argument accepts at face value the basic historic facts of World War II. But then Ahmadinejad veers sharply, positing that perhaps what we know about the Holocaust is false, that the event may not have happened at all, or at least not in the way most educated people know it did.

You cannot oppose the existence of Israel as a Jewish state on the grounds of both point one and point two. Point one accepts the veracity of the Holocaust; point two does not. It is unclear whether Ahmadinejad is being intellectually dishonest -- pandering to the populist anti-Zionist fervor present throughout the Muslim world -- or whether his paranoid anti-Semitism is a matter of personal conviction. Jon Lee Anderson's recent New Yorker piece on the Iranian president, who is currently up for re-election, leaves little doubt that Ahmadinejad's maddening ideology is backed by savvy public relations. Either way, Ahmadinejad bookends his false assertion about the Holocaust with two facts that are, indeed, true -- that the Palestinians were victimized by the founding of the state of Israel and that they now have the right to their own self-determination. This mixing of fiction and fact is not only disturbing but politically potent in reaching out to those already primed to believe the worst about Israel and Jews.

Let me be clear: There is absolutely no excuse for anti-Semitism, or for racism of any kind. But the current Israeli government appears to oppose reasonable self-determination for Palestinians, a stance interpreted by many in the Muslim world as evidence of a racist ideology. This is a rational interpretation. Israel's foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, has said, "Minorities are the biggest problem in the world." Lieberman opposes withdrawing Israeli settlers from Palestinian territories. Under his influence, Benjamin Netanyahu's administration has indicated that it no longer considers itself bound to the peace agreement made at Annapolis in 2007, in which Israel and 40 other nations vowed to pursue a two-state solution. In an interview with a Russian newspaper last week, Lieberman went so far as to claim that President Obama "accepts all our decisions" -- despite reports that Obama is, in fact, preparing congressional Democrats for a possible showdown with Israel's reactionaries.

An Israeli government perpetuating such policies, all while claiming to speak for the world's Jewish population, does little to combat prejudice against Jews. Rather, it plays right into Ahmadinejad's hands, vastly increasing the likelihood that Jews living outside Israel will have to confront anti-Semitism. We saw this sad phenomenon in January, during Israel's brutal incursion into Gaza. Some 1,000 Palestinians, hundreds of them civilians, were killed in retaliation for Hamas rocket attacks that killed four Israelis. Simultaneously, Jews in France, Sweden, Belgium, and Denmark were victimized by anti-Semitic violence and vandalism.

That said, global anti-Semitism is not the only reason why Israel should move quickly toward a two-state solution, curb its politicians' race-baiting rhetoric toward Palestinian and Israeli Arabs, and make a broader commitment to human rights. Israel should do so because every nation should do so. These are, simply, the right things to do, and the best ways to ensure the security of Israel's own citizens. Lastly, it is in part because the Holocaust is so painfully, historically, and recently real -- so very, very true -- that Jews worldwide should be holding Israel to a much higher standard.

Obama: Change US Law On Hamas

By Agence France Presse (AFP)
Compiled by Daily Star staff
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Courtesy Of The Daily Star

US President Barack Obama's administration has asked Congress to allow continued aid to Palestinians, even if officials linked to Hamas become part of the government, The Los Angeles Times reported Monday. The move has alarmed congressional supporters of Israel, the paper reported.

Under the existing law, any US aid would require that the Palestinian government recognize Israel, renounce violence and agree to follow past Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Hamas does not meet these criteria.

The daily said the administration had requested the changes this month as part of an $83.4 billion emergency spending bill that also contains funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The bill would also provide $840 million for the Palestinian Authority as well as for rebuilding Gaza after the Israeli military assault earlier this year.

But the Obama administration is not sure how to deliver the aid to Gaza because of the restrictions on dealing with Hamas, the report said.

The Palestinians are watching for signs that the new Democratic team at the White House might be more sympathetic to Palestinians than the administration of former President George W. Bush, The Times said.

The paper quoted Republican Representative Mark Steven Kirk as saying that the proposal was like agreeing to support a government that "only has a few Nazis in it."

US officials insist that the new proposal doesn't amount to recognizing or aiding Hamas, the report said.

However, the request underscores the quandary faced by the Obama administration in its efforts to broker peace in the Middle East.

Obama has repeatedly called for a separate Palestinian state. But negotiating a peace agreement will be difficult without dealing with Hamas, which won Palestinian elections in 2006, The Times said. Hamas, despite its election victory, was prevented from governing by Israel.

Meanwhile, rival Palestinian delegations from Fatah and Hamas met in the Egyptian capital Monday, in what could be their last attempt at reconciliation.

The delegations met for three-way talks with Egypt's intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, the official MENA news agency reported.

The meetings - the fourth round since March - are expected to last at least three days, senior Fatah official Nabil Shaath told AFP.

Nabil Amr, the Palestinian ambassador to Cairo, said he hoped this round "would be the last before an agreement [is reached], because a time-limit must be set."

On Sunday, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization warned that this would be the last attempt at inter-Palestinian reconciliation if talks failed.

The Fatah team is headed by former Prime Minister Ahmad Qorei, while the Hamas delegation is led by member Moussa Abu Marzouk.

The rival factions are expected to discuss the formation of a national unity government and its program, the reform of security apparatuses and the drafting of a new electoral law.

Abbas told a political rally in the West Bank town of Ramallah on Monday that if the parties managed to form a unity government, the Cabinet would have to abide by past Israeli-Palestinian accords.

"It is the government and its members that should respect such deals and not movements," Abbas said, referring to the Hamas movement's refusal to recognize past deals.

A new cabinet must also tackle the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and prepare for presidential and parliamentary elections "before January 24, 2010," Abbas said.

Amr urged Hamas, to "look at the situation realistically and to deal more positively with the international situation."

"The lack of harmony with the international situation means we will not receive any support, on any level, and I believe we are not self-sufficient enough to rebuild Gaza," Amr said.

International donors have pledged $4.5 billion in aid to the Palestinians, much of it for the rebuilding of the Gaza Strip where over 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed in the turn-of-the-year Israeli offensive.

But the aid was promised to Abbas' government, not to Hamas, and no reconstruction aid has been allowed into the territory.

Hopes for progress appeared dim at the start of the talks, with Hamas predicting obstacles and Fatah admitting there were "still many issues to cover."

"But we insist on reaching an agreement," Shaath said.

On Sunday, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said this round of talks would be "the most difficult."

The two sides began their negotiations in Cairo on March 10, but so far the talks have made little headway in healing the deep rift between the rival movements.

Discussions were suspended for three weeks on April 2 and a few days later Egypt proposed adjourning efforts to form a unified government and instead setting up a committee to coordinate two rival cabinets.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed doubt that the rival Palestinian factions would clinch a deal on a unity government. - AFP with The Daily Star

The Photo That Exposed A Shin Bet Lie

The photo that shocked Israel in 1984 and sparked a change in self-image.

By Alex Levac
Last update - 14:32 28/04/2009
Courtesy Of Haaretz NewsPaper

I'm returning here to my infamous Bus 300 photo, in which one sees - obviously alive and well - one of two Palestinian hijackers whom the Shin Bet security service claimed had been killed during a hostage rescue. I wouldn't think of bringing the subject up again if it hadn't been for the changes in Israeli attitudes toward the Palestinians over the last 25 years. The photo shocked the country in 1984 because it was proof of the lies and criminal acts of the security apparatus.

Who would respond these days with the same powerful emotion to the murder of two Palestinian bus hijackers as we did in those innocent times when every injury to a Palestinian, not to mention a killing, led to an investigation? Since then, mutual hatred has only worsened and summary executions have become routine. We have long become insensitive to death, of Jews as well as Palestinians.

Today the military censor would not close a newspaper for three days, as it did to the now-defunct Hadashot, which published the photo. And who would set up an investigative committee, who would punish those responsible, who would change the laws governing the Shin Bet? But the thought that evokes the greatest sadness is whether we can say with certainty in 2009 that the Israeli media is the watchdog of democracy.

The Bus 300 photo has been the high point of my career as a photojournalist. It's not just that I collected a first-rate scoop; the picture sparked a change in the way Israeli society looked at itself. It confirmed the truth in the cliche that a picture is worth a thousand words.

A short philosophical remark is in order here about the essence of photographs. The power of this photo lies in what it doesn't show, the moment after, the moment when skulls were smashed, an act former Shin Bet agent Ehud Yatom later admitted to. The moment of the unbearable lightness of death.

A Palestinian Ordeal

Visiting Daddy In Prison

By Tim McGirk / Chattah-Gilboa
Tuesday, Apr. 28, 2009
Courtesy Of Time Magazine
Palestinians at an Israeli checkpoint
Palestinians wait to pass an Israeli checkpoint on their way to visiting relatives incarcerated in Israeli prison
Saif Dahlah / AFP / Getty

Spending time with her dad requires that 6-year-old Jinan undertake a bizarre and arduous odyssey. Usually she travels alone, but last Monday, the Palestinian girl with the rosebud smile and bouncing energy was accompanied by her younger sisters Dania, 4, and Noor, 2, on the journey to the Israeli prison that holds her father.

At home in the beleaguered West Bank town of Qalqilya, as her mother dresses her before dawn in an almond-green blouse and jeans, Jinan asks the same question she always does: "Mommy, why does Daddy have to sleep on the Israeli side?" And her mother Salam Nazal comforts her by saying, "Because that's where the best Palestinian men go to sleep, and your father is one of them." The town, which has elected a Hamas mayor, is known as a center of Palestinian militancy, and Israeli security forces conduct raids there on average five times a week. (See photographs of conflict in the Middle East.)

Salam cannot accompany her daughters because she is on an Israeli security watch list, although she has never learned why she's on it. Her immediate family lives in Jordan, so she must put the girls on a bus bound for Chattah-Gilboa prison inside Israel and hope that one of the many Palestinian women on board will help Jinan wrangle her sisters. "I'm so worried about having them go without me," says Salam, as she hoists her girls onto the bus, organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). "But what can I do? This is their only chance to see their father."

Ali Nazal, 35, who sold clothes from a cart in the streets, is one of more than 10,300 Palestinian detainees currently inside Israeli prisons. Although he has yet to be tried, Nazal has been behind bars for the past two years. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of possessing weapons and harboring a fugitive — charges the family insists are based on false evidence from anonymous informers working for the Israeli security services. Salam says no weapons were found in their home but says the Israeli military demolished it anyway. The Israelis maintain that Ali was an active member of a militant organization and part of a cell that had been planning a terrorist attack.

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Ali and his fellow detainees should never have been transferred to prisons outside the occupied territories. But since the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza began in June 1967, more than 650,000 Palestinians have passed through Israeli jails. Nearly every Palestinian family has someone who was locked up in Israel at some point. Prison has become a rite of passage for rebellious teens and, for families seeking to visit detained loved ones, a nightmare of permits, checkpoints and body searches. It's not an easy journey for an adult, much less three unaccompanied tots carrying their lunch in a Barbie backpack.

Israel refuses to finance or arrange transportation for Palestinians making prison visits, leaving the task to the Red Cross. Every month, says Anne-Sophie Bonefeld, an ICRC spokeswoman in Jerusalem, her organization arranges the bus rides and bureaucratic paperwork that enable more than 20,000 Palestinians to visit relatives inside Israeli prisons. The Palestinian family-visitation program, which has been going on since 1967, is "the largest of its kind anywhere in the world," she says, although the number of visits has dropped slightly since 2007, when Israel barred families from the Hamas-controlled enclave of Gaza from making the trip.

For prisoner Ali, his daughters' visit is a rare treat. He last saw his youngest, Noor, when she was six months old. Now she walks and talks, and her moon-shaped, serene eyes seem to display perpetual bemusement over the whirlwind antics of her two sisters.

Qalqilya is encircled by Israel's security barrier, and at a checkpoint, the three girls dismount with the rest of the Palestinian passengers and are herded through a labyrinth of turnstiles, flashing lights, metal detectors and an X-ray machine that swallows up the Barbie backpack. Jinan and her sisters squirm through a turnstile too soon and are stranded in a security no-man's-land and yelled at by the disembodied voices of soldiers watching through closed-circuit cameras. When the girls finally emerge dazed from the checkpoint, Jinan runs over to a field of wildflowers and plucks a stem of Queen Anne's lace for her little sister.

Then the girls clamber aboard another ICRC bus, which is escorted to the prison by Israeli police. Skipping up the aisle, Jinan touches a man's bald head and asks, "What happened to your hair? Mine's soft and pretty." She snatches my cell phone and, within five seconds, has snapped a photo of a napping Palestinian woman and turned it into my screensaver.

Two hours later, the bus arrives at the high walls of Chattah-Gilboa prison. Nearly 1,000 Palestinians have been waiting up to five hours in shrinking shade for the 45 minutes they will spend speaking with their relatives on a telephone from behind thick glass. The glass has small holes that allow the prisoners to touch fingertips with their visitors. Jinan and Dania climb the metal bars of the turnstile as if it were a piece of playground equipment. A buzzer blares, and a light over the turnstile flashes from red to green. A guard calls out a few names, and the eager crowd pushes Jinan and her sisters aside.

Another hour will pass before the girls are let in. By then, Noor is hot and cranky, in tears, crying for her distant mother. Their pretty pink and green clothes are smeared with dirt. I volunteer to escort them inside, but the prison wardens refuse. Instead, a veiled young woman with pale-gray eyes agrees to escort them into the visiting room.

That morning, their mother had shown the girls a photo of their imprisoned father so the younger ones would recognize him. It showed a solemn, heavyset man in a training suit of the Spanish soccer team Real Madrid. "He's been memorizing the Koran. That, and lifting weights," Salam told me.

Jinan assumes her responsibility and grabs the hands of her two sisters. They vanish inside the prison, scared but eager, leaving me to wonder whether Jinan will remember any of the many earnest and loving messages entrusted to her by Salam to pass on to their father.

With so many Palestinians still locked up in Israel, demands for prisoner releases remain at the center of most Israeli-Palestinian political negotiations. Those behind bars are a lost generation of Palestinians, and it's a safe bet that their children, like Jinan and her sisters, will inherit their parents' bitterness toward Israel.

Read "Israel's New Leader: Can the U.S. Work with Netanyahu?"

See pictures of Israeli soldiers sweeping into Gaza.

Egypt Helps Israel Choke Gazan's

FEATURE-Egypt Puts The Bite On Gaza Tunnel Smugglers

Source:Reuters North American News Service
Apr 28, 2009 05:09 EST
Courtesy Of Anti-War News

* Egyptian effort "more effective" than Israeli bombs

* Tunnels help Gazans circumvent Israeli restrictions

* Gaza militants maintain separate tunnel network
By Nidal al-Mughrabi

RAFAH, Gaza Strip, April 28 (Reuters) - Once a profitable business, Abu Abdallah's tunnel under the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip has been out of work for three weeks due to an Egyptian security crackdown on smuggling.

The Palestinian network of some 3,000 tunnels, created to thwart Israel's blockade of the coastal territory ruled by Hamas Islamists, was reduced to hundreds by bombing during Israel's three-week offensive in January.

Now Egyptian police efforts are also biting into Gaza's underground supply system, which supplements the tightly restricted flow of aid commodities allowed in by the Israelis.

"Tunnel business has dropped to 20 percent of what it was before the war on Gaza because of Israeli destruction and the stepped-up security campaign by Egypt," said Abu Abdallah.

The Egyptian effort was "more effective" than Israeli bombs, he said. They not only blow up the tunnels but also stop contraband goods reaching Egyptian cities near Gaza.

Accused in the past of turning a blind eye to the smuggling operations, Egypt is cooperating along with United States help in a bid to stop the contraband, which Israel says includes rockets that Gaza militants use against Israel.

Since the Islamists seized control of Gaza in 2007, ousting forces of the Fatah movement of Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas, Israel has completely blocked the entry of cement and steel, which it says Hamas will use for military purposes.

"We know the Egyptian police established checkpoints to stop shipments coming to the tunnel areas," Abu Abdallah told Reuters. "They ambushed trucks at tunnel shafts and they confiscated the goods before they bombed the tunnel."


Gaza relies on daily supplies of international aid, which is delivered via Israel and subject to Israeli approval.

The smuggled merchandise is mostly food, clothes and medicine, tunnelers said, adding that Hamas security warned them against any smuggling of weapons and drugs.

Palestinian militant groups, including Hamas, were believed to have their own tunnels, which had always been kept as secret. Israel repeatedly urged Egypt to stop militants from bringing weapons through the private tunnels network.

Gaza markets were once filled with electronic goods, water heaters and fans that are now in high demand as summer nears.

"Now all these do not enter Gaza," said Ahed Abu Ayman, who used to import the goods and sell to local merchants, sometimes at a high markup because of the added cost of smuggling them.

Supplies of fuel coming through the tunnels are down by half, according to traders. Gaza obtains hundreds of thousands of litres of fuel daily from Israel but supplements this source with smuggled petrol and diesel.

Yet the tunnel zone, on the edge of the southern Gaza city of Rafah, is still a hive of hidden activity. The hum of many generators rises from behind piles of sand, which conceal tents and shelters made of fabric and metal sheeting.

The tunnels run 7 to 15 meters (25-50 feet) below the surface and can be up to 1,000 metres (yards) in length.

Tunnelers say the Egyptians use drills and special American equipment to trace the course of the tunnels. Then they either blow them up or pump water inside to cause collapse. Tunnelers and Hamas also accuse Egypt of releasing gas inside tunnels as well to drive Palestinians out before they seal them off.

Medical workers said a Palestinian died when a tunnel collapsed on him last week. Dozens of others have been killed in the past year but tunnelers keep coming because young Palestinian men are desperate for work.

The Egyptians add to the already considerable physical risks run by Palestinians working the tunnels by sometimes filling them with gas, tunnelers said.

"I make $50 a day just to take dirt out of a tunnel and $100 when the tunnel operates and we get goods out," said Abu Ahmed, his faced masked by a black T-shirt. "Destiny is in God's hands."

"I have shares in this tunnel," said Abu Islam, a young light-bearded man. "I am saving money to get married. I think I need another five months before I can hold my wedding."

Abu Abdallah, a father of four and employer of a crew to maintain and operate his tunnel, said his business was suspended when Egyptian police discovered a shaft on their side of the border adjacent to the shaft of his line.

Now workers are making a detour and digging an additional 100 meters to open a new shaft.

"We have no choice but to continue with this work. The needs of Gaza market are greater every day," he said. (Editing by Douglas Hamilton and Samia Nakhoul)

(For blogs and links on Israeli and Palestinian news, go to

U.S. Steps Up Effort On Digital Defenses

Published: April 27, 2009
Courtesy Of The New York Times

This article was reported by David E. Sanger, John Markoff and Thom Shanker and written by Mr. Sanger.

Mario Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Melissa Hathaway, the White House cybersecurity coordinator, speaking last week in San Francisco.


The Digital Arms Race

Computers, indispensable in peace, are becoming ever more important in political conflicts and open warfare. This is the first article in a series on the growing use of computing power as a weapon.

The Washington control room for Cyber Storm I, a simulated online attack run by the government in 2006.

When American forces in Iraq wanted to lure members of Al Qaeda into a trap, they hacked into one of the group’s computers and altered information that drove them into American gun sights.

When President George W. Bush ordered new ways to slow Iran’s progress toward a nuclear bomb last year, he approved a plan for an experimental covert program — its results still unclear — to bore into their computers and undermine the project.

And the Pentagon has commissioned military contractors to develop a highly classified replica of the Internet of the future. The goal is to simulate what it would take for adversaries to shut down the country’s power stations, telecommunications and aviation systems, or freeze the financial markets — in an effort to build better defenses against such attacks, as well as a new generation of online weapons.

Just as the invention of the atomic bomb changed warfare and deterrence 64 years ago, a new international race has begun to develop cyberweapons and systems to protect against them.

Thousands of daily attacks on federal and private computer systems in the United States — many from China and Russia, some malicious and some testing chinks in the patchwork of American firewalls — have prompted the Obama administration to review American strategy.

President Obama is expected to propose a far larger defensive effort in coming days, including an expansion of the $17 billion, five-year program that Congress approved last year, the appointment of a White House official to coordinate the effort, and an end to a running bureaucratic battle over who is responsible for defending against cyberattacks.

But Mr. Obama is expected to say little or nothing about the nation’s offensive capabilities, on which the military and the nation’s intelligence agencies have been spending billions. In interviews over the past several months, a range of military and intelligence officials, as well as outside experts, have described a huge increase in the sophistication of American cyberwarfare capabilities.

Because so many aspects of the American effort to develop cyberweapons and define their proper use remain classified, many of those officials declined to speak on the record. The White House declined several requests for interviews or to say whether Mr. Obama as a matter of policy supports or opposes the use of American cyberweapons.

The most exotic innovations under consideration would enable a Pentagon programmer to surreptitiously enter a computer server in Russia or China, for example, and destroy a “botnet” — a potentially destructive program that commandeers infected machines into a vast network that can be clandestinely controlled — before it could be unleashed in the United States.

Or American intelligence agencies could activate malicious code that is secretly embedded on computer chips when they are manufactured, enabling the United States to take command of an enemy’s computers by remote control over the Internet. That, of course, is exactly the kind of attack officials fear could be launched on American targets, often through Chinese-made chips or computer servers.

So far, however, there are no broad authorizations for American forces to engage in cyberwar. The invasion of the Qaeda computer in Iraq several years ago and the covert activity in Iran were each individually authorized by Mr. Bush. When he issued a set of classified presidential orders in January 2008 to organize and improve America’s online defenses, the administration could not agree on how to write the authorization.

A principal architect of that order said the issue had been passed on to the next president, in part because of the complexities of cyberwar operations that, by necessity, would most likely be conducted on both domestic and foreign Internet sites. After the controversy surrounding domestic spying, Mr. Bush’s aides concluded, the Bush White House did not have the credibility or the political capital to deal with the subject.

Electronic Vulnerabilities

Cyberwar would not be as lethal as atomic war, of course, nor as visibly dramatic. But when Mike McConnell, the former director of national intelligence, briefed Mr. Bush on the threat in May 2007, he argued that if a single large American bank were successfully attacked “it would have an order-of-magnitude greater impact on the global economy” than the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Mr. McConnell, who left office three months ago, warned last year that “the ability to threaten the U.S. money supply is the equivalent of today’s nuclear weapon.”

The scenarios developed last year for the incoming president by Mr. McConnell and his coordinator for cybersecurity, Melissa Hathaway, went further. They described vulnerabilities including an attack on Wall Street and one intended to bring down the nation’s electric power grid. Most were extrapolations of attacks already tried.

Today, Ms. Hathaway is the primary author of White House cyberstrategy and has been traveling the country talking in vague terms about recent, increasingly bold attacks on the computer networks that keep the country running. Government officials will not discuss the details of a recent attack on the air transportation network, other than to say the attack never directly affected air traffic control systems.

Still, the specter of an attack that could blind air traffic controllers and, perhaps, the military’s aerospace defense networks haunts military and intelligence officials. (The saving grace of the air traffic control system, officials say, is that it is so old that it is not directly connected to the Internet.)

Studies, with code names like Dark Angel, have focused on whether cellphone towers, emergency-service communications and hospital systems could be brought down, to sow chaos.

But the theoretical has, at times, become real.

“We have seen Chinese network operations inside certain of our electricity grids,” said Joel F. Brenner, who oversees counterintelligence operations for Dennis Blair, Mr. McConnell’s successor as national intelligence director, speaking at the University of Texas at Austin this month. “Do I worry about those grids, and about air traffic control systems, water supply systems, and so on? You bet I do.”

But the broader question — one the administration so far declines to discuss — is whether the best defense against cyberattack is the development of a robust capability to wage cyberwar.

As Mr. Obama’s team quickly discovered, the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies both concluded in Mr. Bush’s last years in office that it would not be enough to simply build higher firewalls and better virus detectors or to restrict access to the federal government’s own computers.

“The fortress model simply will not work for cyber,” said one senior military officer who has been deeply engaged in the debate for several years. “Someone will always get in.”

That thinking has led to a debate over whether lessons learned in the nuclear age — from the days of “mutually assured destruction” — apply to cyberwar.

But in cyberwar, it is hard to know where to strike back, or even who the attacker might be. Others have argued for borrowing a page from Mr. Bush’s pre-emption doctrine by going into foreign computers to destroy malicious software before it is unleashed into the world’s digital bloodstream. But that could amount to an act of war, and many argue it is a losing game, because the United States is more dependent on a constantly running Internet system than many of its potential adversaries, and therefore could suffer more damage in a counterattack.

In a report scheduled to be released Wednesday, the National Research Council will argue that although an offensive cybercapability is an important asset for the United States, the nation is lacking a clear strategy, and secrecy surrounding preparations has hindered national debate, according to several people familiar with the report.

The advent of Internet attacks — especially those suspected of being directed by nations, not hackers — has given rise to a new term inside the Pentagon and the National Security Agency: “hybrid warfare.”

It describes a conflict in which attacks through the Internet can be launched as a warning shot — or to pave the way for a traditional attack.

Early hints of this new kind of warfare emerged in the confrontation between Russia and Estonia in April 2007. Clandestine groups — it was never determined if they had links to the Russian government — commandeered computers around the globe and directed a fire hose of data at Estonia’s banking system and its government Web sites.

The computer screens of Estonians trying to do business with the government online were frozen, if they got anything at all. It was annoying, but by the standards of cyberwar, it was child’s play.

In August 2008, when Russia invaded Georgia, the cyberattacks grew more widespread. Georgians were denied online access to news, cash and air tickets. The Georgian government had to move its Internet activity to servers in Ukraine when its own servers locked up, but the attacks did no permanent damage.

Every few months, it seems, some agency, research group or military contractor runs a war game to assess the United States’ vulnerability. Senior intelligence officials were shocked to discover how easy it was to permanently disable a large power generator. That prompted further studies to determine if attackers could take down a series of generators, bringing whole parts of the country to a halt.

Another war game that the Department of Homeland Security sponsored in March 2008, called Cyber Storm II, envisioned a far larger, coordinated attack against the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It studied a disruption of chemical plants, rail lines, oil and gas pipelines and private computer networks. That study and others like it concluded that when attacks go global, the potential economic repercussions increase exponentially.

To prove the point, Mr. McConnell, then the director of national intelligence, spent much of last summer urging senior government officials to examine the Treasury Department’s scramble to contain the effects of the collapse of Bear Stearns. Markets froze, he said, because “what backs up that money is confidence — an accounting system that is reconcilable.” He began studies of what would happen if the system that clears market trades froze.

“We were halfway through the study,” one senior intelligence official said last month, “and the markets froze of their own accord. And we looked at each other and said, ‘Our market collapse has just given every cyberwarrior out there a playbook.’ ”

Just before Mr. Obama was elected, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a policy research group in Washington, warned in a report that “America’s failure to protect cyberspace is one of the most urgent national security problems facing the new administration.”

What alarmed the panel was not the capabilities of individual hackers but of nations — China and Russia among them — that experts believe are putting huge resources into the development of cyberweapons. A research company called Team Cymru recently examined “scans” that came across the Internet seeking ways to get inside industrial control systems, and discovered more than 90 percent of them came from computers in China.

Scanning alone does no damage, but it could be the prelude to an attack that scrambles databases or seeks to control computers. But Team Cymru ran into a brick wall as soon as it tried to trace who, exactly, was probing these industrial systems. It could not determine whether military organizations, intelligence agencies, terrorist groups, criminals or inventive teenagers were behind the efforts.

The good news, some government officials argue, is that the Chinese are deterred from doing real damage: Because they hold more than a trillion dollars in United States government debt, they have little interest in freezing up a system they depend on for their own investments.

Then again, some of the scans seemed to originate from 14 other countries, including Taiwan, Russia and, of course, the United States.

Bikini Atoll for an Online Age

Because “cyberwar” contains the word “war,” the Pentagon has argued that it should be the locus of American defensive and offensive strategy — and it is creating the kind of infrastructure that was built around nuclear weapons in the 1940s and ’50s.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is considering proposals to create a Cyber Command — initially as a new headquarters within the Strategic Command, which controls the American nuclear arsenal and assets in space. Right now, the responsibility for computer network security is part of Strategic Command, and military officials there estimate that over the past six months, the government has spent $100 million responding to probes and attacks on military systems. Air Force officials confirm that a large network of computers at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama was temporarily taken off-line within the past eight months when it was put at risk of widespread infection from computer viruses.

But Mr. Gates has concluded that the military’s cyberwarfare effort requires a sharper focus — and thus a specific command. It would build the defenses for military computers and communications systems and — the part the Pentagon is reluctant to discuss — develop and deploy cyberweapons.

In fact, that effort is already under way — it is part of what the National Cyber Range is all about. The range is a replica of the Internet of the future, and it is being built to be attacked. Competing teams of contractors — including BAE Systems, the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University and Sparta Inc. — are vying to build the Pentagon a system it can use to simulate attacks. The National Security Agency already has a smaller version of a similar system, in Millersville, Md.

In short, the Cyber Range is to the digital age what the Bikini Atoll — the islands the Army vaporized in the 1950s to measure the power of the hydrogen bomb — was to the nuclear age. But once the tests at Bikini Atoll demonstrated to the world the awesome destructive power of the bomb, it became evident to the United States and the Soviet Union — and other nuclear powers — that the risks of a nuclear exchange were simply too high. In the case of cyberattacks, where the results can vary from the annoying to the devastating, there are no such rules.

The Deterrence Conundrum

During the cold war, if a strategic missile had been fired at the United States, screens deep in a mountain in Colorado would have lighted up and American commanders would have some time to decide whether to launch a counterattack. Today, when Pentagon computers are subjected to a barrage, the origin is often a mystery. Absent certainty about the source, it is almost impossible to mount a counterattack.

In the rare case where the preparations for an attack are detected in a foreign computer system, there is continuing debate about whether to embrace the concept of pre-emption, with all of its Bush-era connotations. The questions range from whether an online attack should be mounted on that system to, in an extreme case, blowing those computers up.

Some officials argue that if the United States engaged in such pre-emption — and demonstrated that it was watching the development of hostile cyberweapons — it could begin to deter some attacks. Others believe it will only justify pre-emptive attacks on the United States. “Russia and China have lots of nationalistic hackers,” one senior military officer said. “They seem very, very willing to take action on their own.”

Senior Pentagon and military officials also express deep concern that the laws and understanding of armed conflict have not kept current with the challenges of offensive cyberwarfare.

Over the decades, a number of limits on action have been accepted — if not always practiced. One is the prohibition against assassinating government leaders. Another is avoiding attacks aimed at civilians. Yet in the cyberworld, where the most vulnerable targets are civilian, there are no such rules or understandings. If a military base is attacked, would it be a proportional, legitimate response to bring down the attacker’s power grid if that would also shut down its hospital systems, its air traffic control system or its banking system?

“We don’t have that for cyber yet,” one senior Defense Department official said, “and that’s a little bit dangerous.”

The Pentagon Can't Handle The Truth

By William S. Lind,
April 29, 2009
Courtesy of Anti-War News

At the height of the Cold War, a U.S. Army corps commander in Europe asked for information on his Soviet opposite, the commander of the corps facing him across the inter-German border. All the U.S. intelligence agencies, working with classified material, came up with very little. He then took his question to Chris Donnelly, who had a small Soviet military research institute at Sandhurst. That institute worked solely from open source, i.e., unclassified, material. It sent the American general a stack of reports six inches high, with articles by his Soviet counterpart, articles about him, descriptions of exercises he had played in, etc.

What was true during the Cold War is even more true now, in the face of Fourth Generation war. As we have witnessed in the hunt for Osama, our satellite-photo-addicted intel shops can’t tell us much. But there is a vast amount of 4GW material available open-source: Web sites by and about our opponents, works by civilian academics, material from think-tanks, reports from businessmen who travel in areas we are interested in – the pile is almost bottomless. Every American soldier with access to a computer can find almost anything he needs. Much of it is both more accurate and more useful than what filters down through the military intelligence chain.

Or at least he could. In recent months, more and more American officers have told me that when they attempt to access the Web sites they need, they find access is blocked on DOD computers. Is al-Qaeda doing this in a dastardly attempt to blind American combat units?
Sadly, no. DOD is doing it. Someone in DOD is putting blinders on American troops.

I do not know who is behind this particular bit of idiocy. It may be the security trolls. They always like to restrict access to information, because doing so increases their bureaucratic power. One argument points to them, namely an assertion that the other side may obtain useful information by seeing what we are looking for. That is like arguing that our troops should be given no ammunition lest muzzle flashes give away their positions in a fire-fight.

But the fact that Web sites of American organizations whose views differ from DOD’s are also blocked points elsewhere. It suggests political involvement. Why, for example, is access to the website of the Center for Defense Information blocked? CDI is located in Washington, not the Hindu Kush. Its work includes the new book on military reform America’s Defense Meltdown, which has garnered quite a bit of attention at Quantico.

The goal of the Web site blockers, it seems, is to cut American military men off from any views except those of DOD itself. In other words, the blockaders want to create a closed system. John Boyd had quite a bit to say about closed systems, and it wasn’t favorable.

Intel officers supposedly can go all the way to the top of their chain of command with a request to view a blocked Web site; their petition may or may not be granted. But this just intensifies the problem, because it gives the intel community a monopoly on information. In 4GW, it is essential that everyone do intel, not just a few specialists. Every private has to understand the environment he is operating in. Many Web sites can help him do that. But if he tries to access them on a DOD computer, he finds them blocked. He is thrown back to pure kinetics, which leads to our defeat.

Never could it be said more truly that we have met the enemy, and he is us. People on our own side are blinding our men. One person in a senior position could put an end to this absurd practice. Secretary Gates? Gen. Petraeus? Jim Jones? Surely you all understand that putting blinders on our own side is less than helpful. Anyone listening out there?

As I said, I don’t know where this mindless action originates. Whoever is responsible for it should get the Order of the Black Turban, First Class. They are doing our opponents a great favor.

Rigid control of information through a compartmented, stovepiped process is characteristic of the Second Generation. Once again we see why Second Generation militaries cannot win Fourth Generation wars. Our defeats are less a product of what our enemy does to us than of what we do to ourselves.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

FareWell To The American Century

Whose Century Was That?

By Andrew J. Bacevich and Tom Engelhardt,
April 29, 2009
Courtesy Of Anti-War News

Imagine if, on the day in early April when Jiverly Voong walked into the American Civic Association Building in Binghamton, N.Y., and gunned down 13 people, you read this headline in the news: “Binghamton in shock as police investigate what some critics call ‘mass murder.’” If American newspapers, as well as the TV and radio news, were to adopt that as a form, we would, of course, find it absurd. Until proven guilty, a man with a gun may be called “a suspect,” but we know mass murder when we see it. And yet, in one of the Bush administration’s lingering linguistic triumphs, even as information on torture programs pours out, the word “torture” has generally suffered a similar fate.

The agents of that administration, for instance, used what, in the Middle Ages, used to be known bluntly as “the water torture” – we call it “waterboarding” – 183 times in a single month on a single prisoner, and yet the other morning I woke up to this formulation on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition: “harsh interrogations that some consider torture.” And here’s how Gwen Ifill of NewsHour put it the other night: “A tough Senate report out today raised new questions about drastic interrogations of terror suspects in the Bush years.” Or as USA Today typically had it: “Obama opened the door for possible investigation and prosecution of former Bush administration officials who authorized the ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ that critics call torture.” Or, for that matter, the New York Times: “the Bush administration’s use of waterboarding and other techniques that critiques say crossed the line into torture.”

Torture, as a word, except in documents or in the mouths of other people – those “critics” – has evidently lost its descriptive powers in our news world, where almost any other formulation is preferred. Often these days the word of choice is “harsh,” or even “brutal,” both substitutes for the anodyne “enhanced” in the Bush administration’s own description of the package of torture “techniques” it institutionalized and justified after the fact in those legal memos. The phrase was, of course, meant to be law-evading, since torture is a crime, not just in international law, but in this country. The fact is that, if you can’t call something what it is, you’re going to have a tough time facing what you’ve done, much less prosecuting crimes committed not quite in its name.

What we call things, the names we use, matters. How, for instance, we imagine our past affects how we see the present and future, as Andrew Bacevich makes clear below. It’s little wonder that Bacevich’s book, The Limits of Power, officially published in paperback today, became a bestseller. He has a way of hacking through the verbiage of our world, always heading for reality; he also has a way, as the Chinese used to put it, of “rectifying names” – that is, bringing reality and naming practices back into sync. Here, for instance, is how, at the end of Limits, he frames Washington’s consensus urge to respond to two failed wars and a failing global mission by expanding the U.S. military:

“America doesn’t need a bigger army. It needs a smaller – that is, more modest – foreign policy, one that assigns soldiers missions that are consistent with their capabilities. Modesty implies giving up on the illusions of grandeur to which the end of the Cold War and then 9/11 gave rise.”

Now, let him go to work in the same fashion on our truncated “American Century” (and catch a video of him discussing the subject as well). Tom

Rewriting The Past By Adding In What’s Been Left Out

By Andrew J. Bacevich

In a recent column, the Washington Post’s Richard Cohen wrote, “What Henry Luce called ‘the American Century’ is over.” Cohen is right. All that remains is to drive a stake through the heart of Luce’s pernicious creation, lest it come back to life. This promises to take some doing.

When the Time-Life publisher coined his famous phrase, his intent was to prod his fellow citizens into action. Appearing in the Feb. 7, 1941, issue of Life, his essay, “The American Century,” hit the newsstands at a moment when the world was in the throes of a vast crisis. A war in Europe had gone disastrously awry. A second almost equally dangerous conflict was unfolding in the Far East. Aggressors were on the march.

With the fate of democracy hanging in the balance, Americans diddled. Luce urged them to get off the dime. More than that, he summoned them to “accept wholeheartedly our duty and our opportunity as the most powerful and vital nation in the world … to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit.”

Read today, Luce’s essay, with its strange mix of chauvinism, religiosity, and bombast (”We must now undertake to be the Good Samaritan to the entire world”), does not stand up well. Yet the phrase “American Century” stuck and has enjoyed a remarkable run. It stands in relation to the contemporary era much as “Victorian Age” does to the 19th century. In one pithy phrase, it captures (or at least seems to capture) the essence of some defining truth: America as alpha and omega, source of salvation and sustenance, vanguard of history, guiding spirit and inspiration for all humankind.

In its classic formulation, the central theme of the American Century has been one of righteousness overcoming evil. The United States (above all the U.S. military) made that triumph possible. When, having been given a final nudge on Dec. 7, 1941, Americans finally accepted their duty to lead, they saved the world from successive diabolical totalitarianisms. In doing so, the U.S. not only preserved the possibility of human freedom but modeled what freedom ought to look like.

Thank You, Comrades

So goes the preferred narrative of the American Century, as recounted by its celebrants.

The problems with this account are twofold. First, it claims for the United States excessive credit. Second, it excludes, ignores, or trivializes matters at odds with the triumphal story-line.

The net effect is to perpetuate an array of illusions that, whatever their value in prior decades, have long since outlived their usefulness. In short, the persistence of this self-congratulatory account deprives Americans of self-awareness, hindering our efforts to navigate the treacherous waters in which the country finds itself at present. Bluntly, we are perpetuating a mythic version of the past that never even approximated reality and today has become downright malignant. Although Richard Cohen may be right in declaring the American Century over, the American people – and especially the American political class – still remain in its thrall.

Constructing a past usable to the present requires a willingness to include much that the American Century leaves out.

For example, to the extent that the demolition of totalitarianism deserves to be seen as a prominent theme of contemporary history (and it does), the primary credit for that achievement surely belongs to the Soviet Union. When it came to defeating the Third Reich, the Soviets bore by far the preponderant burden, sustaining 65 percent of all Allied deaths in World War II.

By comparison, the United States suffered 2 percent of those losses, for which any American whose father or grandfather served in and survived that war should be saying: Thank you, Comrade Stalin.

For the United States to claim credit for destroying the Wehrmacht is the equivalent of Toyota claiming credit for inventing the automobile. We entered the game late and then shrewdly scooped up more than our fair share of the winnings. The true “Greatest Generation” is the one that willingly expended millions of their fellow Russians while killing millions of German soldiers.

Hard on the heels of World War II came the Cold War, during which erstwhile allies became rivals. Once again, after a decades-long struggle, the United States came out on top.

Yet in determining that outcome, the brilliance of American statesmen was far less important than the ineptitude of those who presided over the Kremlin. Ham-handed Soviet leaders so mismanaged their empire that it eventually imploded, permanently discrediting Marxism-Leninism as a plausible alternative to liberal democratic capitalism. The Soviet dragon managed to slay itself. So thank you, Comrades Malenkov, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenko, and Gorbachev.

Screwing the Pooch

What flag-wavers tend to leave out of their account of the American Century is not only the contributions of others, but the various missteps perpetrated by the United States – missteps, it should be noted, that spawned many of the problems bedeviling us today.

The instances of folly and criminality bearing the label “made-in-Washington” may not rank up there with the Armenian genocide, the Bolshevik Revolution, the appeasement of Adolf Hitler, or the Holocaust, but they sure don’t qualify as small change. To give them their due is necessarily to render the standard account of the American Century untenable.

Here are several examples, each one familiar, even if its implications for the problems we face today are studiously ignored:

Cuba. In 1898, the United States went to war with Spain for the proclaimed purpose of liberating the so-called Pearl of the Antilles. When that brief war ended, Washington reneged on its promise. If there actually has been an American Century, it begins here, with the U.S. government breaking a solemn commitment, while baldly insisting otherwise. By converting Cuba into a protectorate, the United States set in motion a long train of events leading eventually to the rise of Fidel Castro, the Bay of Pigs, Operation Mongoose, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and even today’s Guantanamo Bay prison camp. The line connecting these various developments may not be a straight one, given the many twists and turns along the way, but the dots do connect.

The Bomb. Nuclear weapons imperil our existence. Used on a large scale, they could destroy civilization itself. Even now, the prospect of a lesser power like North Korea or Iran acquiring nukes sends jitters around the world. American presidents – Barack Obama is only the latest in a long line – declare the abolition of these weapons to be an imperative. What they are less inclined to acknowledge is the role the United States played in afflicting humankind with this scourge.

The United States invented the bomb. The United States – alone among members of the nuclear club – actually employed it as a weapon of war. The U.S. led the way in defining nuclear-strike capacity as the benchmark of power in the postwar world, leaving other powers like the Soviet Union, Great Britain, France, and China scrambling to catch up. Today, the U.S. still maintains an enormous nuclear arsenal at the ready and adamantly refuses to commit itself to a no-first-use policy, even as it professes its horror at the prospect of some other nation doing as the United States itself has done.

Iran. Extending his hand to Tehran, President Obama has invited those who govern the Islamic republic to “unclench their fists.” Yet to a considerable degree, those clenched fists are of our own making. For most Americans, the discovery of Iran dates from the time of the notorious hostage crisis of 1979-1981 when Iranian students occupied the U.S. embassy in Tehran, detained several dozen U.S. diplomats and military officers, and subjected the administration of Jimmy Carter to a 444-day-long lesson in abject humiliation.

For most Iranians, the story of U.S.-Iranian relations begins somewhat earlier. It starts in 1953, when CIA agents collaborated with their British counterparts to overthrow the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh and return the shah of Iran to his throne. The plot succeeded. The shah regained power. The Americans got oil, along with a lucrative market for exporting arms. The people of Iran pretty much got screwed. Freedom and democracy did not prosper. The antagonism that expressed itself in November 1979 with the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran was not entirely without cause.

Afghanistan. President Obama has wasted little time in making the Afghanistan War his own. Like his predecessor, he vows to defeat the Taliban. Also like his predecessor he has yet to confront the role played by the United States in creating the Taliban in the first place. Washington once took pride in the success it enjoyed funneling arms and assistance to fundamentalist Afghans waging jihad against foreign occupiers. During the administrations of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, this was considered to represent the very acme of clever statecraft. U.S. support for the Afghan mujahedin caused the Soviets fits. Yet it also fed a cancer that, in time, exacted a most grievous toll on Americans themselves – and has U.S. forces today bogged down in a seemingly endless war.

Act of Contrition

Had the United States acted otherwise, would Cuba have evolved into a stable and prosperous democracy, a beacon of hope for the rest of Latin America? Would the world have avoided the blight of nuclear weapons? Would Iran today be an ally of the United States, a beacon of liberalism in the Islamic world, rather than a charter member of the “axis of evil?” Would Afghanistan be a quiet, pastoral land at peace with its neighbors? No one, of course, can say what might have been. All we know for sure is that policies concocted in Washington by reputedly savvy statesmen now look exceedingly ill-advised.

What are we to make of these blunders? The temptation may be to avert our gaze, thereby preserving the reassuring tale of the American Century. We should avoid that temptation and take the opposite course, acknowledging openly, freely, and unabashedly where we have gone wrong. We should carve such acknowledgments into the face of a new monument smack in the middle of the Mall in Washington: We blew it. We screwed the pooch. We caught a case of the stupids. We got it ass-backwards.

Only through the exercise of candor might we avoid replicating such mistakes.

Indeed, we ought to apologize. When it comes to avoiding the repetition of sin, nothing works like abject contrition. We should, therefore, tell the people of Cuba that we are sorry for having made such a hash of U.S.-Cuban relations for so long. President Obama should speak on our behalf in asking the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki for forgiveness. He should express our deep collective regret to Iranians and Afghans for what past U.S. interventionism has wrought.

The United States should do these things without any expectations of reciprocity. Regardless of what U.S. officials may say or do, Castro won’t fess up to having made his own share of mistakes. The Japanese won’t liken Hiroshima to Pearl Harbor and call it a wash. Iran’s mullahs and Afghanistan’s jihadists won’t be offering to a chastened Washington to let bygones be bygones.

No, we apologize to them, but for our own good – to free ourselves from the accumulated conceits of the American Century and to acknowledge that the United States participated fully in the barbarism, folly, and tragedy that defines our time. For those sins, we must hold ourselves accountable.

To solve our problems requires that we see ourselves as we really are. And that requires shedding, once and for all, the illusions embodied in the American Century.

Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His most recent book, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism, is just out in paperback.

Copyright 2009 Andrew J. Bacevich

The Psychologists Of Torture

Medical professionals designed and helped to implement Bush administration interrogation practices.

By Frederick Clarkson
April 23, 2009
Courtesy Of In These Times

One of the key, if underreported, findings in Tuesday’s bombshell Senate committee report on the Bush-era treatment of U.S. military detainees was the role of civilian and military psychologists in devising, directing and overseeing the torture of prisoners.

While the report highlights the role of senior Bush administration officials in approving “aggressive” interrogation techniques, it also exposes how medical professionals helped to transform the Pentagon’s torture resistance program into tactics used against prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and CIA “black” sites.

Understanding the role of these professionals should be a “specific focus” of an investigation into the use of these tactics, according to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), which has condemned the tactics as illegal and medically unethical.

In a series of reports available on its Web site, PHR details the tactics, which it says include beating, sexual and cultural humiliation, forced nakedness, exposure to extreme temperatures, exploitation of phobias, sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation.

The Cambridge, Mass.-based organization, which won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1997, says psychologists “led the way” in legitimizing the Pentagon’s approval and use of the tactics. It has joined the Senate Armed Services Committee in calling on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate who should be held accountable.

From Korea To Gitmo

The carefully worded Senate report reveals how the torture tactics developed directly from the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) training program, which was designed to help downed American pilots resist torture.

The SERE program was based on interrogation methods used by the Chinese during the Korean War that aimed to elicit false confessions from American prisoners for propaganda purposes. Designed to enhance resistance to torture, the SERE program was reverse-engineered by psychologists working within a joint Army and CIA command to become the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation methods.”

Early in the Senate report, we learn that the SERE program’s adaptation began with two senior military psychologists. In December 2001, Dr. James Mitchell, the senior SERE psychologist at the Pentagon’s Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, asked his former colleague Dr. John “Bruce” Jessen to review a recently obtained al Qaeda interrogation resistance training manual.

“The two psychologists reviewed the materials and generated a paper on al Qaeda resistance capabilities and countermeasures to defeat that resistance,” according to this heavily redacted section of the Senate report. Mitchell and Jessen became CIA interrogation consultants the next year.

In April of 2002, Jessen created an “exploitation draft plan” for Guantanamo detainees. According to this plan, Jessen would direct SERE training of interrogators at the “exploitation facility,” which would be “off limits to non-essential personnel.” The Senate report makes several references to changing conditions at Guantanamo whenever the International Committee of the Red Cross came to visit.

Eventually, the Cuban military base became known as a “Battle Lab for new interrogation techniques,” which were then applied at military prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan and at CIA detention centers.

Military and law enforcement professionals repeatedly warned against the application of SERE tactics, but the Senate report shows that their use was urged by top Bush administration figures eager to find information linking Al Qaeda and Iraq. (And it concludes that their use at Guantanamo Bay, authorized by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, led to the abuse of detainees there – as well as in Afghanistan and Iraq.)

The Senate report notes that SERE-based interrogation techniques were presented to Guantanamo personnel in September of 2002, despite the objections of instructors from Fort Bragg. In an interview with the Army’s Inspector General, Army psychiatrist Major Charles Burney said “interrogation tactics that rely on physical pressures or torture…do not tend to get you accurate information or reliable information.” According to Burney, instructors repeatedly stressed that harsh interrogations don’t work and that the information gleaned “is strongly likely to be false.”

Nonetheless, the SERE techniques came to be used by members of the newly created “Behavioral Science Consultation Teams” (BSCT), a joint operation of the Army and CIA. The first of those teams worked at Guantanamo.

The Role Of ‘Safety Officers’

The Senate report confirms the intimate involvement of health professionals in designing, supervising and implementing the Army and the CIA’s “enhanced” interrogation program. (The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel memos, released April 16, revealed that medical professionals had served as “safety officers” during waterboarding and other interrogation sessions.)

Tactics used by psychologists and supervised by medical personnel clearly constituted torture and a grave breach of medical and professional ethics, according to both PHR and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

In a February 2007 report made public earlier this year, the ICRC states that health professionals who participated in the interrogation process “constituted a gross breach of medical ethics” at times amounting to “participation in torture.”

“The monitoring of vital signs and giving instructions to interrogators to start and stop are some of the most severe abuses of the Hippocratic Oath and medical ethics imaginable,” says Nathanial Raymond, of PHR. “Strangely, the memos and the statements of former senior Bush Administration officials use the presence of medical professionals in contravention of their professional ethics as a defense, when it is in fact, itself, a crime.”

Steven Reisner, PHR’s adviser on psychological ethics, believes that U.S. psychologists were busy perpetrating torture even before Justice Department lawyers wrote their opinions justifying the interrogation practices.

“These individuals must not only face prosecution for breaking the law,” Reisner says. “They must lose their licenses for shaming their profession’s ethics.”

Debate Among Psychologists

The role of psychologists in torture became a hot issue within the American Psychological Association in 2005, when the board of the organization of mental health professionals endorsed psychologists’ role in interrogations as consistent with APA ethics, for the purpose of making it safe, legal and effective.

But a 2007 resolution of the APA membership proscribed member involvement in a number of interrogation tactics. Then, in 2008, the organization passed a further resolution against members’ presence at any facility where U.S. and international law was being violated, unless they were working for the benefit of the people held.

Prior to the 2008 APA resolution, Guantanamo’s public affairs office published an article in January 2008 describing the Behavioral Science Consultation Team as “integral” to the success of Guantanamo.

In that article, Army Colonel Larry James—a licensed psychologist and the director of Guantanamo’s Behavioral Science Consultation Team—says he feels validated by the APA’s approval (at its August 2007 convention) of psychologists working in military detention facilities.

“It’s clear given the vote at the APA convention that there is overwhelming support for psychologists who wear the uniform all around the world in defense of this nation,” James says.

“During my time here, I am proud to say that I have not seen a guard or interrogator abuse anyone in any shape or form,” he continues. The article reports that James worked with another licensed psychologist, a behavioral science specialist and leaders within the Joint Detention Group and the Joint Intelligence Group.

Push For Accountability

Since 2005, PHR has been working to hold accountable health professionals it believes were complicit in torture. The APA “has never comprehensively addressed the troubling ethical entanglement of some members of its leadership in the intelligence apparatus,” PHR’s Sara Greenberg wrote Wednesday.

“In January 2005,” Greenberg writes,

the American Psychological Association issued its Report of the Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security, which seeks to legitimize the involvement of psychologists in interrogation; a role that is fundamentally inconsistent with ethical principles and both US and international law. In concluding that psychologists have a central role in interrogations, the Task Force gave short shrift to the ethical and human rights implications of coercive interrogation practices used by U.S. forces that relied on psychological expertise. Nor has the APA sanctioned its members responsible for designing and implementing torture.

PHR contrasts the APA’s flip-flopping with the unequivocal opposition to torture expressed by other leading organizations of health professionals, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association.

With the debate over how to hold Bush administration-era officials accountable for alleged torture now reaching a fever pitch, PHR spokespeople have fanned out in the media, calling for the psychologists who justified, designed and implemented the interrogation programs to lose their professional licenses and face criminal prosecution.

“The conclusion that these interrogation techniques cause no lasting harm is the equivalent of psychological malpractice,” Reisner recently told the Inter Press Service. “How can you compare U.S. soldiers who volunteered for SERE training, and could have stopped their interrogations at any time, with the effects on a prisoner who has been ‘disappeared,’ is in fear for his life, and believes he will never see his family again?”

Frederick Clarkson is a Massachusetts-based independent journalist. He is the editor, most recently, of Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America (Ig Publishing, 2008).

The CIA's Torture Prison In Poland


The current debate in the US on the "special interrogation methods" sanctioned by the Bush administration could soon reach Europe. It has long been clear that the CIA used the Szymany military airbase in Poland for extraordinary renditions. Now there is evidence of a secret prison nearby.

By John Goetz and Britta Sandberg
April 27, 2009
Courtesy Of Der Spiegel Online

Part 1: New Evidence of Torture Prison in Poland

Only a smattering of clouds dotted the sky over Szymany on March 7, 2003, and visibility was good. A light breeze blew from the southeast as a plane approached the small military airfield in northeastern Poland, and the temperature outside was 2 degrees Celsius (36 degrees Fahrenheit). At around 4:00 p.m., the Gulfstream N379P -- known among investigators as the "torture taxi" -- touched down on the landing strip.


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On board was the most important prisoner the US had been able to produce in the war on terror: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the architect of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, also known as "the brains" behind al-Qaida. This was the man who had presented Osama bin Laden with plans to attack the US with commercial jets. He personally selected the pilots and supervised preparations for the attacks. Eighteen months later, on March 1, 2003, Sheikh Mohammed was captured in Rawalpindi, Pakistan by US Special Forces and brought to Afghanistan two days later. Now the CIA was flying him to a remote area in Poland's Masuria region. The prisoner slept during the flight from Kabul to Szymany, for the first time in days, as he later recounted:

"My eyes were covered with a cloth tied around my head. A cloth bag was then pulled over my head. … I fell asleep. ... I therefore don't know how long the journey lasted."

Jerry M., age 56 at the time, probably sat at the controls of the plane chartered by the CIA. The trained airplane and helicopter pilot had been hired by Aero Contractors, a company that transferred prisoners around the world for US intelligence agencies. According to documents from Eurocontrol, the European Organization for the Safety of Air Navigation, Jerry M. had taken off from Kabul at 8:51 a.m. that morning. Only hours after landing in Poland, at 7:16 p.m., he took off again, headed for Washington.

A large number of Polish and American intelligence operatives have since gone on record that the CIA maintained a prison in northeastern Poland. Independent of these sources, Polish government officials from the Justice and Defense Ministry have also reported that the Americans had a secret base near Szymany airport. And so began on March 7, 2003 one of the darkest chapters of recent American -- and European -- history.

Obama Under Pressure

It was apparently here, just under an hour's drive from Szymany airport, that Sheikh Mohammed was tortured, exactly 183 times with waterboarding -- an interrogation technique that simulates the sensation of drowning -- in March, 2003 alone. That averages out to eight times a day. And all of this happened right here in Europe.

Over six years later, these acts of torture are putting the new US president, Barack Obama, under intense pressure. On the one hand, he released four memos in which his predecessor George W. Bush had legalized such interrogation methods. On the other hand, he decided not to prosecute the torturers. And he initially neglected to launch investigations into these "special interrogation methods."

It is the decision that has earned Obama the harshest criticism during the first 100 days of his presidency. Democrats from the Senate and the House of Representatives announced last week that they would form a truth commission, essentially putting them at odds with their own president. Obama quickly realized that he had apparently underestimated the volatile nature of the issue. So he had US Attorney General Eric Holder announce that no one stood above the law. Holder promised that an investigation would be conducted to find out who in the White House and the Justice Department had declared these methods legal.

What the CIA did back then to prisoners in the Polish military airbase of Stare Kiejkuty, north of Szymany, had been authorized by the president. According to witnesses, Stare Kiejkuty housed a secret CIA prison for "high value detainees" -- for the most prominent prisoners of the war on terror.

There is now no doubt that the Gulfstream N379P landed at least five times at Szymany between February and July, 2003. Flight routes were manipulated and falsified for this purpose and, with the knowledge of the Polish government, the European aviation safety agency Eurocontrol was deliberately deceived.

Poland's alleged secret prison.

Poland's alleged secret prison.

The public prosecutor's office in Warsaw has the statement of a witness who described how people wearing handcuffs and blindfolds were led from the aircraft at Szymany. He said that this happened far away from the control tower. According to the witness, it was always the same individuals and the same civilian vehicles that stood waiting on the landing field.

If we are to believe the statements of Sheikh Mohammed, a large number of those present at the small airfield wore ski masks. This is what he told a delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross that questioned him in the US military prison at Guantanamo, Cuba in late 2006:

"On arrival the transfer from the airport to the next place of detention took about one hour. I was transported sitting on the floor of a vehicle. I could see at one point that there was snow on the ground. Everybody was wearing black, with masks and army boots, like Planet-X people."

Just under an hour's drive corresponds roughly to the distance from Szymany to the Stare Kiejkuty military base, known as a training camp for Polish intelligence agents. The route there passes for two kilometers through a fenced-off military zone, past dense pine forests, then heads northeast for 20 minutes, and finally leads over an unpaved road alongside a lake. The entrance to the base is at the end of this road.

'I Was Never Threatened with Death'

Sheikh Mohammed said that they cut the clothes from his body, photographed him naked and threw him in a three-by-four-meter (10 x 13 ft) cell with wooden walls. That was when the hardest phase of the interrogating began, he claims. According to Sheikh Mohammed, one of his interrogators told him that they had received the green light from Washington to give him a "hard time":

"They never used the word 'torture' and never referred to 'physical pressure,' only to 'a hard time.' I was never threatened with death, in fact I was told that they would not allow me to die, but that I would be brought to the 'verge of death and back again.'"

He says he was questioned roughly eight hours a day. He spent the first month naked and standing, with his hands chained to the ceiling of the cell, even at night. They led them into another room for questioning, he says. That's where the bed stood that he says he was strapped to for waterboarding. The mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks told members of the Red Cross that he eventually realized where he was being held:

"I think the country was Poland. I think this because on one occasion a water bottle was brought to me without the label removed. It had e-mail address ending in '.pl'. The central-heating system was an old-style one that I would expect only to see in countries of the former communist system."

Thereafter, the al-Qaida operative described how he was strapped to a special bed and submitted to waterboarding:

"Cold water from a bottle that had been kept in a fridge was then poured onto the cloth by one of the guards so that I could not breathe. This obviously could only be done for one or two minutes at a time. The cloth was then removed and the bed was put into a vertical position. The whole process was then repeated during about one hour. Injuries to my ankles and wrists also occurred during the waterboarding as I struggled in the panic of not being able to breathe."

Part 2: Investigations across Europe

For more than a year now, Warsaw public prosecutor Robert Majewski has been investigating former Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller's government on allegations of abuse of office. At issue is whether sovereignty over Polish territory was relinquished, and whether former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and his left-leaning Social Democratic government gave the CIA free reign over sections of the Stare Kiejkuty military base for the agency's extraterritorial torture interrogations.

Majewski has questioned a large number of witnesses who worked in the former government, and this year his team even plans to fly to Guantanamo. "No European country is so sincerely and vigorously investigating former members of the government as is currently the case in Poland," says Wolfgang Kaleck from the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights in Berlin, which supports the investigations.

The public prosecutor's office has also launched a probe to determine whether the Polish intelligence agency made 20 of its agents available to the CIA, as was recently reported by the conservative Polish daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita. A former CIA official confirmed this information to SPIEGEL. There was reportedly a document issued by the intelligence agency that mentioned both the 20 Polish agents and the transfer of the military base to the Americans. Two members of a parliamentary investigative committee in Warsaw had an opportunity to view this document in late 2005, but it has since disappeared.

The Missing Piece of Evidence

Journalist Mariusz Kowalewski at Rzeczpospolita and two colleagues have been searching for months now for proof of the existence of a secret CIA base in Poland. The journalists have discovered flight record books from Szymany that had been declared lost, and based on refueling receipts and currency exchange rates, they have reconstructed flights and routes, and spoken with informants. Over the past few weeks, their newspaper and the television network TVP Info have revealed new details on an almost daily basis.

Kowalewski has collected a wide range of documents on his white Apple laptop. He is convinced, though, that he only knows "a fraction of what actually happened." He is certain that there was a CIA base in the Masuria region, where high-ranking al-Qaida prisoners were brought. All that is missing is the final piece of evidence. There are rumors circulating that one of the most important interrogators of Sheikh Mohammed, an American named Deuce Martinez -- the man who didn't torture him, but rather had the task of gently coaxing information out of him -- was in Poland at the time. That is the proof that's still missing.

Similar conclusions were reached by the second investigative report on CIA kidnappings in Europe, which was submitted two years ago by the special investigator of the Council of Europe, Dick Marty. (Eds: The Council of Europe is an international organization and watchdog for human rights in a total of 47 states in the European region.) According to Marty's report, members of the former Polish military intelligence and counterintelligence agency, WSI, were given positions with the border police, customs and airport administration to safeguard the activities of the CIA. "The latest revelations in Poland fully corroborate my evidence, which is based on testimony by insiders and documents that have been leaked to me," says the investigator today. Now, under the "dynamic force of the truth" that Obama has unleashed, Marty says that Europeans must finally reveal "which governments tolerated and supported the illegal practices of the CIA."

All that remains is the question of who in Poland at the time approved the collaboration with the CIA and gave the Americans unencumbered use of sections of Stare Kiejkuty.

"The order to give the CIA everything they needed came from the very top, from the president," a member of the Polish military intelligence agency told the Marty team in 2007. Kwasniewski denies this. He says that there was close intelligence corporation with the US, but no prisons on Polish soil. When asked to comment on the reports, former Prime Minister Miller said: "All of this is just another opportunity for me to say that I have nothing to say."

It's very possible that the debate on torture and responsibility which is currently being conducted in the US will soon also reach Europe. After all, Germany granted the US flyover rights and dropped its bid to extradite 13 CIA operatives in the case of Khalid el-Masri, a German citizen who claims he was abducted by the Americans. The Italian intelligence agency allegedly assisted the CIA with the kidnapping in Milan of the Islamic cleric Abu Omar. Britain's intelligence agency, MI6, reportedly delivered information directly to CIA agents who were conducting interrogations in Morocco. And there are also reports of a secret prison in Romania. Investigations have been launched into these allegations in nearly all of these countries.

Jerry M., the pilot who flew Sheikh Mohammed from Kabul to Szymany in March, 2003, now lives in Birmingham, Alabama, in a brick house with white shutters and box trees planted in front of the door. Two stone lions guard the path that leads to the entrance. For two years, Jerry M. only had a post box address, like everyone else who flew CIA prisoners around the world: P.O. Box 22 99 43, code name Jerry Allen Bostick.

It appears the 62-year-old would rather deny all knowledge of this period in his life. When the SPIEGEL asked him over the phone if he had ever been to Poland, he said, "I have no idea what you're talking about. Really no idea." When he was asked if he had ever worked for a company named Aero Contractors, the line suddenly went dead. Jerry M. had hung up.

Translated from the German by Paul Cohen