Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The “War On Terror” Is A War On Societies

The “War Against Terror” Is A War Against The People

By Silvia Cattori*
6 November 2006
Courtesy Of

In this interview recorded by Swiss journalist Silvia Cattori in November 2005 - more than six months before the war launched against Lebanon by Israeli army in summer 2006 – Youssef Aschkar was warning that the destabilization of Lebanon, Syria and Iran was under way, and that Lebanon was the country most threatened and most vulnerable to the Israeli menace. In the light of the recent developments in the region, the accuracy of his analysis appears impressive and almost prophetic.

What are the source and inspirations of the “war on terror” conducted by Washington? Did they begin in 2001 after the attacks of September 11, or was it already in the making earlier than that? For Lebanese political expert Youssef Aschkar [1], the policy being pursued by the United States in the Middle East is nothing but the application on a larger scale of what Israel has been practicing in Palestine since the 1990s: a war carried out against the people, dismantling societies in order to dominate or eliminate the people. Responding to questions from Silvia Cattori, Mr. Aschkar offers us his point of view on the development of this strategy, and its immediate threat to Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.

Silvia Cattori: We would like to hear your analysis of the regional geopolitical context and its implications for Lebanon, a country which suffered enormously during the fifteen years of its military occupation by Israel. Do you consider Israel, which is carrying out a policy of aggression towards its neighbours, the principal source of the wars in the region?

Youssef Aschkar: Since its creation, Israel has not only been the source of the wars in the Middle East, but it has always acted to turn the Middle East into a catalyst of war(s) for the whole world. War has always been its leitmotif. But by itself the phenomenon of war, both as policy and as act of aggression and violence, does not suffice to explain the distinctive features of the war that Israel is waging and is seeking to propagate, indeed to spread worldwide. The warmongering of Israel does not in itself explain all of Israel’s conduct and motivations. Israel is waging a particular type of war in the Middle East, a war which has its own doctrine and which is the principal source of the evils that we are witnessing. This doctrine consists, firstly, in making war not solely upon states but also upon societies, and, secondly, in turning “terrorism” and the war against it into Israel’s main weapon.

Silvia Cattori: Could you explain what you mean by “war against society”?

Youssef Aschkar: After the victory won against the Arab countries in 1967, Israel judged that these states – beaten, humiliated, and resigned – no longer presented a danger. It was their peoples alone who still constituted an obstacle to Israel’s plans for expansion. So it was necessary to wage a direct war against these peoples. Israel has never hidden its intentions. In a document entitled, “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties”, published in February 1982 by the “World Zionist Organization” in Jerusalem, there was a detailed plan for the operations to be carried out against each of the peoples of the region.

The internal struggles and wars that the Middle East has known in recent decades fall within the context of this doctrine of warmongering. The war waged by Israel against Lebanon showed this well, but the agony of the Palestinian people remains the clearest example of this policy of constant and methodical ethnic cleansing which Israel is carrying out against peoples. The war currently being waged in Iraq by the United States is unfolding according to this same doctrine of the destruction of peoples long advocated by Israel.

As for the terrorism of which this state is perpetually claiming to be a victim, it has always been nourished, manipulated, and put into practice by all of the Israeli administrations that have succeeded each other. Terrorism has always been its principal weapon, and became its strategic weapon once the “terrorist doctrine” had been made official in 1996.

Silvia Cattori: Was this doctrine inscribed into what was called, during those years, the “peace process”?

Youssef Aschkar: Exactly. At Madrid and Oslo, there had been discussion of a “peace which would ensure security.” But at the summit of Charm el-Sheikh in 1996, they spoke of a “security that would ensure peace.” It is there that the terrorist doctrine of the “war against terrorism” was born. Since then, it is this new strategy that has imposed itself and changed the whole psychological and geopolitical climate, in the region and in the whole world. This so-called war “against terrorism” has shown itself to be much worse than a simple war of occupation.

The heads of the Arab states have found themselves forced to wage this war against liberation movements, which are labelled “terrorist organizations” in accordance with the formula adopted by Israel and the United States. What’s more, the Arab states themselves were labelled as “sources of terrorism”, and threatened with wars in the future.

Silvia Cattori: So the situation has been reversed? They are once more attacking the victims for Israel’s profit?

Youssef Aschkar: Yes, exactly. In basing itself on this doctrine of war against “terrorism”, Israel has taken up again its image as a victim of aggression. The Arab states remain on the defensive, charged with ensuring “the security of Israel” as a preliminary condition for any “peace negotiation.” It is a never-ending litany invented not just to deny them peace, but to favour terrorism in this so-called “war against terrorism.”

The gravest element in this radical change is the fact that the United States has also adopted this war doctrine of Israel’s. Once the Charm el-Sheikh summit was over, President Clinton and his advisors flew off to Israel. Israeli-American teams worked for three days to draw up plans that would put this new doctrine into practice.

A very significant sign is this: between 1996 and September 11, 2001, the culture of hate and fear was spread to the United States by the publication of thousands of books and articles on the subject of terrorism. From that time onward, “Islamic terrorism” became the new Evil Empire, the subject of all public discussion. The vision of a war against “terrorism”, which itself would inevitably spawn terrorism, had already invaded the world and raised itself to the level of a universal charter.

Silvia Cattori: So you believe that the starting point for the war against “terrorism” was not September 2001, but that it had already been built into the “peace process”, which in fact turned out to be a “war process”?

Youssef Aschkar: Precisely. The so-called “peace process”, which came out of the talks at Madrid and Oslo, was simply the putting into practice of the war doctrine formulated by Aba Eban in 1967-68 and adopted by Israel.

“Make Peace with States, Make War against the People” [2] is the title of an essay on this war doctrine that I presented at a colloquium at the University of Bordeaux. There I analyzed the principles of the foreign policy, or rather the global strategy that Aba Eban had spelt out in the 1970s. These principles were taken up again by Mr. Shimon Peres and Mr. Yitzhak Rabin in the 1990s and presented in the form of a “peace doctrine”, though the doctrine remained what it had always been, a “war doctrine” thought up to be applied against their Arab neighbours and, at the same time, to be exported. As for this alleged “terrorism”, Israel has always labelled the Palestinians as “terrorists”, even well before the doctrine of the “war against terrorism” was adopted officially in 1996. Therefore September 11, 2001, represented nothing but a success for this doctrine and a new point of departure.

Silvia Cattori: So we are not talking about a colonial war?

Youssef Aschkar: No, this is not a colonial war. It is a war for the destruction of societies, a war which destroys the life of peoples. The occupation, as such, is the least of the evils. In a colonial war, it is in the interest of the colonizer that there continues to be a people to exploit. But for the Israeli occupier, the objective is to eliminate the people. It’s completely different from a colonial war! A colonial war normally means the occupation of the land and not — as we see in Palestine — the ethnic cleansing of a people. We have to stop seeing it as a simple occupation, because in Palestine the Israeli occupier is committing ethnic cleansing. It is urgent that this is exposed, and that the murderers perpetrating this crime are forced to stop.

Silvia Cattori: During the years when the so-called “peace” process was keeping all the diplomats and summits busy, did you have a feeling that Mr. Yasser Arafat was leading his people down a dead-end, and that Israel would profit from it in order to consolidate its gains?

Youssef Aschkar: Yes, that was clear. Mr. Yasser Arafat was a traditional leader who was called upon to face an exceptional situation. Faced with a strategy which effectively undermined the foundations of life in Palestinian society, he pursued the policy of a politician, a policy more concerned with laying the foundations of the Palestinian Authority than with defending the interests of his people.

At the very moment when Mr. Yasser Arafat was negotiating with Israel the setting up of the Palestinian Authority on a small portion of Palestinian territory, this same territory was being divided up: the colonies were multiplying, and the roads for exclusive Israeli use which crisscrossed the territory were designed to render any authority powerless to ensure the survival of the Palestinians.

Silvia Cattori: How can we explain, then, the submission of many Arab leaders to the wishes of the United States, whose objective is to weaken them in order to better strengthen the position of Israel and that of America?

Youssef Aschkar: The submission of the majority of Arab leaders is nothing new. They have always counted on an external power – or on the global balance of power – to consolidate their own power, and consequently they have always been insensitive to the expectations of their peoples. Lacking popular support, they have always sought to reconcile their own interests with the interests of the influential states, considering their submission to these states as a safeguard that these states would protect them and maintain them in power.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, almost all the Arab leaders submitted to the United States. And this for two reasons: for lack of an external alternative, and because of rising internal pressures. Sort of like fleeing forward. But this flight cannot last forever, since in the present context their submission does not truly protect them any longer. That is because the role of the United States in the world, and notably in our region, has changed. Firstly, the United States no longer limits itself to ensuring the security of Israel, but now considers itself responsible for carrying out Israel’s plans. Secondly, the conventional interests of the United States no longer serve as a criterion making U.S. policy understandable. That is because the power of the neoconservatives – who constitute a state within a state – follows interests that are fundamentally divergent, if not opposed.

Silvia Cattori: Has this essential change escaped the Arab leaders allied with the United States?

Youssef Aschkar: Yes, it has escaped them. They continue to present themselves as guarantors of stability, even while the plans of Israel backed by the United States have no other aim than to destabilize the region. They feel themselves more and more disoriented. But they will never come out of it until they realize that resistance is more profitable than submission, and also that submission is costlier than resistance, whatever the sacrifices that resistance might entail.

Silvia Cattori: For the Arab leaders, isn’t it an insane policy for them to act as though they didn’t know what the whole world knows – that is, that the United States and Israel want to weaken them and keep them from living in peace – and instead go on making up with them?

Youssef Aschkar: The Arab leaders are hypocrites. They pretend not to see certain signs; they refuse to recognize that it is useless, indeed dangerous, to make up with the United States and Israel. If they had any illusions before the Madrid and Oslo conferences, the experience of the last ten years should have opened their eyes. And the war against Iraq, which laid bare the nature of the threat, should have set the alarm bells ringing. That said, I do not think that everyone knows what is truly going on in Palestine or Iraq, or what is being prepared against Lebanon, Syria, and other countries of the Middle East. The doctrine of “Israeli war” – which, I repeat, consists in destroying societies and not simply dominating them – always escapes the understanding of political leaders and political experts in general.

How many leaders in the world know, or recognize, that what Israel is doing in Palestine – under the pretext of so-called “security” operations – is systematic ethnic cleansing? Or that the war that the United States is waging in Iraq is methodically destroying the life of the Iraqi people? Or that the Middle East is presently an experimental plot for “creative chaos”, a monstrous mechanism of planetary suicide?

Silvia Cattori: For Israel and the United States, doesn’t it become easier to destroy the Palestinian and Iraqi peoples when states such as Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia compromise with them?

Youssef Aschkar: In fact, the Arab states take part in this destruction, since they accept this state of affairs, in the meantime providing the illusion that one day there will be some kind of peace, or some kind of Palestinian state. No Arab leader has ever acknowledged that there is ethnic cleansing going on in Palestine since 1948.

Silvia Cattori: So, according to you, the expansion of the war that we are seeing now was planned well in advance, and might have been exposed or opposed by these states?

Youssef Aschkar: I worked on this question from 1996 to 2001. I reached the conclusion that the authorities in the United States were waiting for some big incident. They were doing nothing to stop it, but instead were getting everything ready in order to be able to exploit it afterwards. That is the subject of my book, which was at the printers when the attacks of September 11 took place.

Silvia Cattori: In 1990 – when Bush Senior, wishing to convince the world that his Gulf War was justified, let it be understood that the war would also, once Saddam Hussein had been overthrown, permit the setting up of a “new world order” and the concluding of a peace in Palestine – did you have a foreboding that these were simply hollow words, that once this logic of war had been endorsed no one would be able to stop it, and that the Arab countries participating in it would go forward toward disaster?

Youssef Aschkar: The Arab states were forced to follow that machination. Besides, at that time the United States had not yet shown all its cards. It had talked about a war that would force Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. But the Americans had not spoken of sanctions. Now, this war was designed so that matters would not end there, but that the war would be followed by sanctions and new wars. By sanctions which, between 1990 and 2001, killed almost a million Iraqi children and caused physical and psychological after-effects in other four or five million children. An entire society was destroyed, and came out of it very badly.

Silvia Cattori: In that context, did the destabilization of Lebanon and Syria that was provoked by the assassination of Hariri serve the interests of those whose goal is to continue the war against other peoples

Youssef Aschkar: What is taking place in Syria and Lebanon is closely linked to what is going on in Iraq. There are two strategies at work in Iraq. There is the official American strategy, which is perhaps an imperial strategy for the domination and control of natural resources. And there is another strategy, which is the strategy of the gang of monsters who are called “neoconservatives”, who dictate their plans to the Pentagon and to the State Department. This “gang” (Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and Douglas J. Feith, among others) have their own plan; they are the ones who have advocated destroying not only the state of Iraq, but the whole of Iraqi society. The entire network that the neocons control circumvents the generals of the Pentagon, and circumvents American military command. It has infiltrated itself into all the high offices of the United States, and has infiltrated itself also into society, into the American media, and into religious organizations. It is a state within a state.

This was shown clearly during the scandal of the torture at Abu Ghraib prison. The General who was in command of the prisons came out of her office one day and was stunned: “But who are these people going around in the hallways?” Her bodyguard replied to her, “These are the men who carry out the interrogations.” This General, in charge of the prisons, knew nothing about any of this.

Silvia Cattori: Does that mean that whenever the neo-conservatives consider themselves to have achieved an objective, this success of theirs might in fact represent a defeat for the troops of the American army?

Youssef Aschkar: Exactly. That’s because there are two plans at work. There is the official plan of an army of occupation that might withdraw, boost its forces, or find itself cornered. And then there is the plan of the neocons, who dictate their own strategy to the American army, who have 45,000 mercenaries at their disposal, and who have more clout than even the American army. These neocons, in fact, are satisfied, and see their mission in Iraq as accomplished, since they judge that they have attained all the goals for the war that they had assigned to their forces: dragging all of Iraqi society into an impasse from which it can never escape, and replacing a centralized dictatorship with a multitude of totalitarian religious communities that will be in permanent conflict among themselves. So they feel ready to move on to the destabilization of Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.

Silvia Cattori: Yet some analysts believe that America cannot wage two wars at the same time, that the U.S. is unable to venture elsewhere while its army is tied down in Iraq.

Youssef Aschkar: The neocons don’t care about any of that: their plan was to destroy Iraqi society and nothing was able to stop them. They will take hold of some other formula in order to find fault with Syria or Iran. What is going on is extremely serious. Perhaps someone will say to me, “But that’s a nightmare! You’re just imagining these things!” I say, let us carry out an investigation to see whether what I am saying about them is true or not.

Silvia Cattori: An investigation on what, exactly?

Youssef Aschkar: On the neocons who rule the Pentagon and are the cause of so many humanitarian disasters! On what really happened on September 11, 2001! On who is really running the war in Iraq! Is it Mr. Bush, or is it these monsters at the Pentagon who use mercenaries to carry out secret operations in the Middle East?

Silvia Cattori: Do you think that the prosecutors who are holding an inquiry on the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri, for instance, will be unable to establish the truth?

Youssef Aschkar: It is the resistance that should carry out this inquest. I call for the setting up of a “resistance inquiry”. Before September 2001, it was not possible to investigate and stop the neocons because their names were not known. Now, nothing can stop them because their machine is already in motion, but at least we can hold an inquiry on their crimes and indicate them by name.

Silvia Cattori: The French government was clearly opposed to the intervention of Bush and Blair in Iraq. Does its recent realignment surprise you?

Youssef Aschkar: France’s position on Iraq raised great hopes in the Middle East, when it opposed the folly of the American neocons. By dissociating itself from the U.S., France had everything to gain on the domestic level, the European level, and the world level.

Unfortunately, its position has changed since June 2004. In that month four decisive events took place: the transatlantic summit between Europe and the U.S., the NATO summit in Istanbul, the G8 at Evian, and the famous meeting at the United Nations. At these four meetings the U.S. succeeded in imposing its logic of war. Mr. Chirac and his team did not present any vision that would be suited to the interests of France, Europe, and the world. France stood aside to give way to the mere search for a “reconciliation” with the United States.

It is France that took it upon itself to prepare Resolution 1559. France gave the illusion of having become a “partner” in the plan for the region and a major actor on the Lebanese scene. But in reality, once the resolution had been submitted, France became nothing but a pawn on the chessboard of the neocons, whose plan is clear: to exploit in order to destabilize, and not just Syria and Iran, but first of all Lebanon.

The French leaders gave way to the vision of the neocons. They committed an error of judgment. If they hadn’t lapsed into opportunism, they would have been able to stand firm and obtain more. In 2003, France was the winner in London when Mr.Dominique de Villepin , in his historic address on the world situation, presented a vision based on true political will and which resisted the monsters of the Pentagon. Whereas, now, France is losing on all levels.

In situations that are exceptional, miserly conventional calculations do not pay. Clearly Mr. Chirac agreed, on the moral level, to damage the image of France, and, on the ethical and functional level, to entrust to France the dirty role of destabilizing the region, particularly Lebanon, and of tricking the Lebanese about their future.

I would like to pose, here, some questions for Mr. Chirac. What is his plan for this region? What control is he able to exercise over the American project that is already in place? Does he think that France and Europe come out winners by associating themselves with this project of destabilization, or rather of setting the region on fire?

Silvia Cattori: So, in your view, France is now completely on board with the anti-Arab policy of Mr. Bush and Blair?

Youssef Aschkar: France abandoned its position of strength; it renounced its special role which consisted in opening up a new path with the Third World, both for France and for Europe. The Third World ought to be France’s natural partner, in the spirit of a mutually favourable and humane partnership. To be credible, that spirit would have to manifest itself not just in relations within Europe, but also with respect to the outside world, particularly the Third World. Unfortunately, France decided not simply to align itself with the United States, but also to sign on to the war doctrine of the neocons. This positioning won for France nothing but a background role and isolation. This isolation comes out on three levels: that of Jacques Chirac within France, that of France within Europe, and that of Europe in the world. A great hope has evaporated, leaving the world in the hands of the new order of fear and hatred.

Silvia Cattori: So are the people of the world in the hands of irresponsible leaders who no longer control anything?

Youssef Aschkar: It is not that simple with political leaders, even if usually they do show themselves guilty of irresponsibility, opportunism, and lying. The core of the problem lies elsewhere: finding out who holds true power. In the “new world order”, this power is in the process of shifting from the territorial authority of states to the uncontrolled authority of a line of new masters. I am not talking about the multinational corporations, the transnational financial institutions, and the process of economic privatization. The new masters are of a different kind: they are connected to the monstrous team of the neocons, who act in all four corners of the globe by means of their networks and their mercenaries. The economic sphere is in full submission to their project. Privatization is nothing more than a simple economic measure, mainly an ideology which consists in privatizing and monopolizing the public space – especially politics and security – in order to exploit the other sectors. It is nothing less than a monstrous planet-wide coup d’état.

The political leaders more and more end up overwhelmed and manipulated. They suffer less from personal incompetence and technical clumsiness than from a lack of vision or moral worth: they are as cowardly as they are ignorant, not seeing, or not wanting to see, the new reality.

Our authorities do not want to respond to this challenge, at least as long as they are not subject to public pressure which would force them to change tack. So our mission ought to be to provoke an awakening of the public which would force a change in policy. This public pressure would have to be stronger and more convincing than the pressure that our authorities currently receive from the United States.

Silvia Cattori: In Lebanon, does the public suspect that perhaps, since the assassination of Hariri, they are the target of manoeuvring not by Arabs but by Westerners?

Youssef Aschkar: The Lebanese are very troubled about their future. But the daily manipulation carried out by the networks of saboteurs acting in secret often prevents them from seeing clearly. I believe a large part of the Lebanese people is conscious of these criminal manoeuvres, but they are neither unified nor prepared to respond to these manipulations in an effective manner, whereas those doing the manoeuvring are able to exploit all the weaknesses of the partisan politics which are traditional in Lebanon, and take advantage of the confessional differences to divide the people. The fact that Lebanon is composed of different communities, which those doing the manoeuvring take advantage of, deprives the citizens of their common and rational landmarks, all the more so because the plans of those who would destabilize the society are meticulously prepared.

We have before us a great task of awareness-raising if we want to prevent the situation from worsening and becoming irreversible. Time is short.

Silvia Cattori: Is it possible that Western intelligence agencies may have financed those who carried out the assassination of Hariri? But to what end? To make Lebanese society explode?

Youssef Aschkar: Without a doubt: infiltration is not just a weapon but an entire strategy. It is the intelligence agencies’ stock in trade. These agencies have an unrivalled ability to create unlikely scenarios and exploit them to the full. Making Lebanese society explodes forms part of their principal plan. As for their timetable, that remains unclear. Our immediate task is to act in time in order to thwart their terrifying plan.

Silvia Cattori: So you are very anxious about the future?

Youssef Aschkar: If events continue along their present course, then it will be terribly serious. All the direct neighbours of Israel, and this entire region that is considered a “vital space” by Israel, are directly menaced by Israel, and are being subjected to destabilization.

In the strategic and geopolitical context of the “Greater Middle East and North Africa”, the stakes have been set by the Israelis and Americans. Pressure is being exerted on all fronts and in all directions. The pressure is being exerted very openly against Iran and Syria, but in a camouflaged fashion against Lebanon. And that leaves Lebanon hanging in suspense, divided between those who spin for themselves illusions regarding democracy, freedom, and prosperity – the poisoned bait offered by the Israelis and the Americans – and those who have no illusions about their intentions.

Lebanon is at one and the same time the country most threatened and the country most vulnerable. The Lebanese Christians, some of whom imagine themselves to represent a safeguard that shelters Lebanon from the Israeli menace, are in fact the prime target of Israel’s plans.

Silvia Cattori: Does it surprise you to see that in the West – under the influence of the propagandists of the “clash of civilizations”, who use the mainstream media as their soapbox – the public has for the most part accepted the idea that believers in Islam are “fanatics” and “terrorists”?

Youssef Aschkar: The propaganda agencies of the neocons succeed very well in manipulating the facts and the media, and by this means they are able, unfortunately, to trick most people and to disorient even progressives. They work to discredit Muslims on the one hand by manipulating and financing the mercenaries who carry out terrorist attacks, which subsequently get blamed on the resistance, and on the other hand by triggering a process of fanaticization. The latter method consists in creating situations of conflict by means of provocations of a religious character, conflicts which mix up the reference points, provoke demonstrations, and discredit Islam (This interview took place before the affair of the Danish cartoons broke out).

Led into error by these repeated provocations, the progressives end up disoriented: as humanists they cannot defend acts of violence, but as secularists they cannot tolerate fanaticism. So those progressives who are not conscious of the manipulation carried out by the neocons find themselves caught up in pointless disputes.

In fact, the attacks that generate numerous civilian victims are remote-controlled by this gang in the Pentagon, who, by means of their networks, create and finance phantom organizations that terrorize each side in the name of the other side.

I should point out here that the ideology of the neocons, such as we see it played out on the ground, is the first and only ideology in history that seeks to produce opponents rather than adherents, leaving to its opponents the job of supplying it with its adherents.

Let me explain. This ideology works to produce opponents by pushing them towards fanaticism in such a way as to stir up and nourish every fanaticism on earth, including Muslim and Arab fanaticism, and this enables Muslims to be given a very negative image, so that in the end – and this is the goal – hostile reactions are produced towards Muslims. Even staunchly secular people, on both sides, will imperceptibly find themselves led to question their own secularity, and to see in “the Other” someone who cannot be lived with. That is what is going on now, and what is in the process of destabilizing Europe, of causing a cleavage between the two shores of the Mediterranean basin, and of sabotaging and wrecking the Barcelona projects for a Mediterranean partnership.

If this cleavage worsens, voices will be heard – even in Europe – calling for people to sign on to the neocons’ doctrines of “war against terrorism” and “Muslim fanaticism”. Only at that point will the neocon ideology have accomplished its mission: having helped to provoke the growth of fanaticism among Muslims, it will also have stirred up in the West, in return, adherents to its thesis of a “clash of civilizations”. And Europe, stubborn up to that point, will finally align itself with the ideology of the neocons. Progressives and politicians in general are unaware of these manoeuvres.

Silvia Cattori: What can be done in time in order to change this tragic course of events?

Youssef Aschkar: Any effort must begin by creating an awareness of the realities carefully camouflaged by this web of lies which is working to twist the critical faculties of the entire human race. Only a “global inquiry” can respond to this global threat and lay bare the manoeuvrings that sustain it. The awareness must come about on two levels: on the level of states and on the level of individual citizens. This “global inquiry” must be started with all urgency; it ought to become both the highest priority action of the resistance and also the unifying factor of the resistance. All the resisters and militants in the world must unite, and must oppose, in advance of everything else, this global war, whatever may be the particular causes that they are defending or the particular misfortunes they are suffering from and fighting against. That is because this war aggravates all of their particular misfortunes, and renders the struggle of peoples under occupation that much more difficult. “Axis for Peace” came together with that idea in November 2005 for a conference in Brussels. The participants, who are fighting for different causes, realized how the theme of this conference unified them. We must make it our very first priority to do battle against this war that attacks societies, because that will aid the cause common to all of us and serve equally to alert governments as to the significance of this war that will certainly affect them sooner or later. To the extent that this threat is not grasped and considered the highest priority by popular forces, governments will persist in going in directions that are inappropriate for facing this exceptional threat.

Silvia Cattori: Isn’t that a profoundly depressing picture that you are painting for the peoples of the Middle East, indeed for all of us?

Youssef Aschkar: Certainly. If things do not change radically, I would be extremely pessimistic. We are talking about, in the Middle East, an existential threat of which public opinion is not fully aware, but also of a global threat about which the peoples and states of the world – especially the major powers – are not adequately alarmed. But optimism or pessimism will depend on our future action. Everything will depend on whether something gets done in time, and on whether the resistance can unite and focus its efforts on the right target. United forces, of people engaged in action, are humanly superior to the forces of the monsters of the Pentagon, no matter how huge their material and logistical means may be.

* Silvia Cattori
Swiss journalist.


[1] Formerly president of the PSNS, Lebanon’s secular social political party, Youssef Aschkar is a Lebanese historian and anthropologist.

[2] Faire la paix avec les États, faire la guerre contre les peuples. By Youssef Aschkar, Voltaire, June 19, 2003.

America's University Of Imperialism

Teaching Imperialism 101

By Chalmers Johnson and Tom Engelhardt
April 30, 2008
Courtesy Of

The RAND Corporation was the ur-think tank, the Cold War granddaddy of them all, and it's still with us. In the 1950s, nuclear war-gaming a conflagration for which the usual war games would have been ludicrous, it took the U.S. military into virtuality and science fiction long before there was an Internet to play with. (And it had a hand in creating the Internet, too!) In the 1960s, it helped several administrations plan and fight the Vietnam War, making antiseptic theory into an all-too-grim reality. And that's just the beginning of the work RAND did on a range of hot-button imperial issues.

For a brief period in the 1960s, Chalmers Johnson was a RAND consultant. Now, the author of the prophetic pre-9/11 book Blowback and, most recently, of Nemesis, The Last Days of the Republic, which every news day seems to make more relevant, turns to the think tank that did it all. Tom

A Litany Of Horrors

America's University Of Imperialism

By Chalmers Johnson

Soldiers of Reason: The RAND Corporation and the Rise of the American Empire

Alex Abella
Harcourt, 2008
400 pp.

The RAND Corporation of Santa Monica, Calif., was set up immediately after World War II by the U.S. Army Air Corps (soon to become the U.S. Air Force). The Air Force generals who had the idea were trying to perpetuate the wartime relationship that had developed between the scientific and intellectual communities and the American military, as exemplified by the Manhattan Project to develop and build the atomic bomb.

Soon enough, however, RAND became a key institutional building block of the Cold War American empire. As the premier think tank for the U.S.' role as hegemon of the Western world, RAND was instrumental in giving that empire the militaristic cast it retains to this day and in hugely enlarging official demands for atomic bombs, nuclear submarines, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and long-range bombers. Without RAND, our military-industrial complex, as well as our democracy, would look quite different.

Alex Abella, the author of Soldiers of Reason, is a Cuban-American living in Los Angeles who has written several well-received action and adventure novels set in Cuba and a less successful nonfiction account of attempted Nazi sabotage within the United States during World War II. The publisher of his latest book claims that it is "the first history of the shadowy think tank that reshaped the modern world." Such a history is long overdue. Unfortunately, this book does not exhaust the demand. We still need a less hagiographic, more critical, more penetrating analysis of RAND's peculiar contributions to the modern world.

Abella has nonetheless made a valiant, often revealing and original effort to uncover RAND's internal struggles – not least of which involved the decision of analyst Daniel Ellsberg, in 1971, to leak the Department of Defense's top secret history of the Vietnam War, known as The Pentagon Papers to Congress and the press. But Abella's book is profoundly schizophrenic. On the one hand, the author is breathlessly captivated by RAND's fast-talking economists, mathematicians, and thinkers-about-the-unthinkable; on the other hand, he agrees with Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis' assessment in his book, The Cold War: A New History, that, in promoting the interests of the Air Force, RAND concocted an "unnecessary Cold War" that gave the dying Soviet empire an extra 30 years of life.

We need a study that really lives up to Abella's subtitle and takes a more jaundiced view of RAND's geniuses, Nobel prize winners, egghead gourmands and wine connoisseurs, Laurel Canyon swimming pool parties, and self-professed saviors of the Western world. It is likely that, after the American empire has gone the way of all previous empires, the RAND Corporation will be more accurately seen as a handmaiden of the government that was always super-cautious about speaking truth to power. Meanwhile, Soldiers of Reason is a serviceable, if often overwrought, guide to how strategy has been formulated in the post-World War II American empire.

The Air Force Creates A Think Tank

RAND was the brainchild of General H. H. "Hap" Arnold, chief of staff of the Army Air Corps from 1941 until it became the Air Force in 1947, and his chief wartime scientific adviser, the aeronautical engineer Theodore von Kármán. In the beginning, RAND was a freestanding division within the Douglas Aircraft Company which, after 1967, merged with McDonnell Aviation to form the McDonnell-Douglas Aircraft Corporation and, after 1997, was absorbed by Boeing. Its first head was Franklin R. Collbohm, a Douglas engineer and test pilot.

In May 1948, RAND was incorporated as a not-for-profit entity independent of Douglas, but it continued to receive the bulk of its funding from the Air Force. The think tank did, however, begin to accept extensive support from the Ford Foundation, marking it as a quintessential member of the American establishment.

Collbohm stayed on as chief executive officer until 1966, when he was forced out in the disputes then raging within the Pentagon between the Air Force and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. McNamara's "whiz kids" were Defense intellectuals, many of whom had worked at RAND and were determined to restructure the armed forces to cut costs and curb interservice rivalries. Always loyal to the Air Force and hostile to the whiz kids, Collbohm was replaced by Henry S. Rowan, an MIT-educated engineer turned economist and strategist who was himself forced to resign during the Ellsberg-Pentagon Papers scandal.

Collbohm and other pioneer managers at Douglas gave RAND its commitment to interdisciplinary work and limited its product to written reports, avoiding applied or laboratory research, or actual manufacturing. RAND's golden age of creativity lasted from approximately 1950 to 1970. During that period its theorists worked diligently on such new analytical techniques and inventions as systems analysis, game theory, reconnaissance satellites, the Internet, advanced computers, digital communications, missile defense, and intercontinental ballistic missiles. During the 1970s, RAND began to turn to projects in the civilian world, such as health financing systems, insurance, and urban governance.

Much of RAND's work was always ideological, designed to support the American values of individualism and personal gratification as well as to counter Marxism, but its ideological bent was disguised in statistics and equations, which allegedly made its analyses "rational" and "scientific." Abella writes:

"If a subject could not be measured, ranged, or classified, it was of little consequence in systems analysis, for it was not rational. Numbers were all – the human factor was a mere adjunct to the empirical."

In my opinion, Abella here confuses numerical with empirical. Most RAND analyses were formal, deductive, and mathematical but rarely based on concrete research into actually functioning societies. RAND never devoted itself to the ethnographic and linguistic knowledge necessary to do truly empirical research on societies that its administrators and researchers, in any case, thought they already understood.

For example, RAND's research conclusions on the Third World, limited war, and counterinsurgency during the Vietnam War were notably wrong-headed. It argued that the United States should support "military modernization" in underdeveloped countries, that military takeovers and military rule were good things, that we could work with military officers in other countries, where democracy was best honored in the breach. The result was that virtually every government in East Asia during the 1960s and 1970s was a U.S.-backed military dictatorship, including South Vietnam, South Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Taiwan.

It is also important to note that RAND's analytical errors were not just those of commission – excessive mathematical reductionism – but also of omission. As Abella notes, "In spite of the collective brilliance of RAND there would be one area of science that would forever elude it, one whose absence would time and again expose the organization to peril: the knowledge of the human psyche."

Following the axioms of mathematical economics, RAND researchers tended to lump all human motives under what the Canadian political scientist C. B. Macpherson called "possessive individualism" and not to analyze them further. Therefore, they often misunderstood mass political movements, failing to appreciate the strength of organizations like the Vietcong and its resistance to the RAND-conceived Vietnam War strategy of "escalated" bombing of military and civilian targets.

Similarly, RAND researchers saw Soviet motives in the blackest, most unnuanced terms, leading them to oppose the détente that President Richard Nixon and his National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger sought and, in the 1980s, vastly to overestimate the Soviet threat. Abella observes, "For a place where thinking the unthinkable was supposed to be the common coin, strangely enough there was virtually no internal RAND debate on the nature of the Soviet Union or on the validity of existing American policies to contain it. RANDites took their cues from the military's top echelons." A typical RAND product of those years was Nathan Leites' The Operational Code of the Politburo (1951), a fairly mechanistic study of Soviet military strategy and doctrine and the organization and operation of the Soviet economy.

Collbohm and his colleagues recruited a truly glittering array of intellectuals for RAND, even if skewed toward mathematical economists rather than people with historical knowledge or extensive experience in other countries. Among the notables who worked for the think tank were the economists and mathematicians Kenneth Arrow, a pioneer of game theory; John Forbes Nash, Jr., later the subject of the Hollywood film A Beautiful Mind (2001); Herbert Simon, an authority on bureaucratic organization; Paul Samuelson, author of Foundations of Economic Analysis (1947); and Edmund Phelps, a specialist on economic growth. Each one became a Nobel Laureate in economics.

Other major figures were Bruno Augenstein, who, according to Abella, made what is "arguably RAND's greatest known – which is to say declassified – contribution to American national security: … the development of the ICBM as a weapon of war" (he invented the multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle, or MIRV); Paul Baran, who, in studying communications systems that could survive a nuclear attack, made major contributions to the development of the Internet and digital circuits; and Charles Hitch, head of RAND's Economics Division from 1948 to 1961 and president of the University of California from 1967 to 1975.

Among more ordinary mortals, workers in the vineyard, and hangers-on at RAND were Donald Rumsfeld, a trustee of the Rand Corporation from 1977 to 2001; Condoleezza Rice, a trustee from 1991 to 1997; Francis Fukuyama, a RAND researcher from 1979 to 1980 and again from 1983 to 1989, as well as the author of the thesis that history ended when the United States outlasted the Soviet Union; Zalmay Khalilzad, the second President Bush's ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Nations; and Samuel Cohen, inventor of the neutron bomb (although the French military perfected its tactical use).

Thinking The Unthinkable

The most notorious of RAND's writers and theorists were the nuclear war strategists, all of whom were often quoted in newspapers and some of whom were caricatured in Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. (One of them, Herman Kahn, demanded royalties from Kubrick, to which Kubrick responded, "That's not the way it works, Herman.") RAND's group of nuclear war strategists was dominated by Bernard Brodie, one of the earliest analysts of nuclear deterrence and author of Strategy in the Missile Age (1959); Thomas Schelling, a pioneer in the study of strategic bargaining, Nobel Laureate in economics, and author of The Strategy of Conflict (1960); James Schlesinger, secretary of defense from 1973 to 1975, who was fired by President Ford for insubordination; Kahn, author of On Thermonuclear War (1960); and last but not least, Albert Wohlstetter, easily the best known of all RAND researchers.

Abella calls Wohlstetter "the leading intellectual figure at RAND," and describes him as "self-assured to the point of arrogance." Wohlstetter, he adds, "personified the imperial ethos of the mandarins who made America the center of power and culture in the postwar Western world."

While Abella does an excellent job ferreting out details of Wohlstetter's background, his treatment comes across as a virtual paean to the man, including Wohlstetter's late-in-life turn to the political right and his support for the neoconservatives. Abella believes that Wohlstetter's "basing study," which made both RAND and him famous (and which I discuss below), "changed history."

Starting in 1967, I was, for a few years – my records are imprecise on this point – a consultant for RAND (although it did not consult me often) and became personally acquainted with Albert Wohlstetter. In 1967, he and I attended a meeting in New Delhi of the Institute of Strategic Studies to help promote the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which was being opened for signature in 1968, and would be in force from 1970. There, Wohlstetter gave a display of his well-known arrogance by announcing to the delegates that he did not believe India, as a civilization, "deserved an atom bomb." As I looked at the smoldering faces of Indian scientists and strategists around the room, I knew right then and there that India would join the nuclear club, which it did in 1974. (India remains one of four major nations that have not signed the NPT. The others are North Korea, which ratified the treaty but subsequently withdrew, Israel, and Pakistan. Some 189 nations have signed and ratified it.) My last contact with Wohlstetter was late in his life – he died in 1997 at the age of 83 – when he telephoned me to complain that I was too "soft" on the threats of communism and the former Soviet Union.

Albert Wohlstetter was born and raised in Manhattan and studied mathematics at the City College of New York and Columbia University. Like many others of that generation, he was very much on the Left and, according to research by Abella, was briefly a member of a Communist splinter group, the League for a Revolutionary Workers Party. He avoided being ruined in later years by Sen. Joseph McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover's FBI because, as Daniel Ellsberg told Abella, the evidence had disappeared. In 1934, the leader of the group was moving the Party's records to new offices and had rented a horse-drawn cart to do so. At a Manhattan intersection, the horse died, and the leader promptly fled the scene, leaving all the records to be picked up and disposed of by the New York City sanitation department.

After World War II, Wohlstetter moved to southern California, and his wife Roberta began work on her pathbreaking RAND study, Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision (1962), exploring why the U.S. had missed all the signs that a Japanese "surprise attack" was imminent. In 1951, he was recruited by Charles Hitch for RAND's Mathematics Division, where he worked on methodological studies in mathematical logic until Hitch posed a question to him: "How should you base the Strategic Air Command?"

Wohlstetter then became intrigued by the many issues involved in providing airbases for Strategic Air Command (SAC) bombers, the country's primary retaliatory force in case of nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. What he came up with was a comprehensive and theoretically sophisticated basing study. It ran directly counter to the ideas of Gen. Curtis LeMay, then the head of SAC, who, in 1945, had encouraged the creation of RAND and was often spoken of as its "Godfather."

In 1951, there were a total of 32 SAC bases in Europe and Asia, all located close to the borders of the Soviet Union. Wohlstetter's team discovered that they were, for all intents and purposes, undefended – the bombers parked out in the open, without fortified hangars – and that SAC's radar defenses could easily be circumvented by low-flying Soviet bombers. RAND calculated that the USSR would need "only" 120 tactical nuclear bombs of 40 kilotons each to destroy up to 85 percent of SAC's European-based fleet. LeMay, who had long favored a preemptive attack on the Soviet Union, claimed he did not care. He reasoned that the loss of his bombers would only mean that – even in the wake of a devastating nuclear attack – they could be replaced with newer, more modern aircraft. He also believed that the appropriate retaliatory strategy for the United States involved what he called a "Sunday punch," massive retaliation using all available American nuclear weapons. According to Abella, SAC planners proposed annihilating three-quarters of the population in each of 188 Russian cities. Total casualties would be in excess of 77 million people in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe alone.

Wohlstetter's answer to this holocaust was to start thinking about how a country might actually wage a nuclear war. He is credited with coming up with a number of concepts, all now accepted U.S. military doctrine. One is "second-strike capability," meaning a capacity to retaliate even after a nuclear attack, which is considered the ultimate deterrent against an enemy nation launching a first-strike. Another is "fail-safe procedures," or the ability to recall nuclear bombers after they have been dispatched on their missions, thereby providing some protection against accidental war. Wohlstetter also championed the idea that all retaliatory bombers should be based in the continental United States and able to carry out their missions via aerial refueling, although he did not advocate closing overseas military bases or shrinking the perimeters of the American empire. To do so, he contended, would be to abandon territory and countries to Soviet expansionism.

Wohlstetter's ideas put an end to the strategy of terror attacks on Soviet cities in favor of a "counter-force strategy" that targeted Soviet military installations. He also promoted the dispersal and "hardening" of SAC bases to make them less susceptible to preemptive attacks and strongly supported using high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft such as the U-2 and orbiting satellites to acquire accurate intelligence on Soviet bomber and missile strength.

In selling these ideas Wohlstetter had to do an end-run around SAC's LeMay and go directly to the Air Force chief of staff. In late 1952 and 1953, he and his team gave some 92 briefings to high-ranking Air Force officers in Washington, D.C. By October 1953, the Air Force had accepted most of Wohlstetter's recommendations.

Abella believes that most of us are alive today because of Wohlstetter's intellectually and politically difficult project to prevent a possible nuclear first strike by the Soviet Union. He writes:

"Wohlstetter's triumphs with the basing study and fail-safe not only earned him the respect and admiration of fellow analysts at RAND but also gained him entry to the top strata of government that very few military analysts enjoyed. His work had pointed out a fatal deficiency in the nation's war plans, and he had saved the Air Force several billion dollars in potential losses."

A few years later, Wohlstetter wrote an updated version of the basing study and personally briefed Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson on it, with Gen. Thomas D. White, the Air Force chief of staff, and Gen. Nathan Twining, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in attendance.

Despite these achievements in toning down the official Air Force doctrine of "mutually assured destruction" (MAD), few at RAND were pleased by Wohlstetter's eminence. Bernard Brodie had always resented his influence and was forever plotting to bring him down. Still, Wohlstetter was popular compared to Herman Kahn. All the nuclear strategists were irritated by Kahn, who ultimately left RAND and created his own think tank, the Hudson Institute, with a million-dollar grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.

RAND chief Frank Collbohm opposed Wohlstetter because his ideas ran counter to those of the Air Force, not to speak of the fact that he had backed John F. Kennedy instead of Richard Nixon for president in 1960 and then compounded his sin by backing Robert McNamara for secretary of defense over the objections of the high command. Worse yet, Wohlstetter had criticized the stultifying environment that had begun to envelop RAND.

In 1963, in a fit of pique and resentment fueled by Bernard Brodie, Collbohm called in Wohlstetter and asked for his resignation. When Wohlstetter refused, Collbohm fired him.

Wohlstetter went on to accept an appointment as a tenured professor of political science at the University of Chicago. From this secure position, he launched vitriolic campaigns against whatever administration was in office "for its obsession with Vietnam at the expense of the current Soviet threat." He, in turn, continued to vastly overstate the threat of Soviet power and enthusiastically backed every movement that came along calling for stepped up war preparations against the USSR – from members of the Committee on the Present Danger between 1972 to 1981 to the neoconservatives in the 1990s and 2000s.

Naturally, he supported the creation of "Team B" when George H. W. Bush was head of the CIA in 1976. Team B consisted of a group of anti-Soviet professors and polemicists who were convinced that the CIA was "far too forgiving of the Soviet Union." With that in mind, they were authorized to review all the intelligence that lay behind the CIA's National Intelligence Estimates on Soviet military strength. Actually, Team B and similar right-wing ad hoc policy committees had their evidence exactly backwards: By the late 1970s and 1980s, the fatal sclerosis of the Soviet economy was well underway. But Team B set the stage for the Reagan administration to do what it most wanted to do, expend massive sums on arms; in return, Ronald Reagan bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Wohlstetter in November 1985.

Imperial U.

Wohlstetter's activism on behalf of American imperialism and militarism lasted well into the 1990s. According to Abella, the rise to prominence of Ahmed Chalabi – the Iraqi exile and endless source of false intelligence to the Pentagon – "in Washington circles came about at the instigation of Albert Wohlstetter, who met Chalabi in Paul Wolfowitz's office." (In the incestuous world of the neocons, Wolfowitz had been Wohlstetter's student at the University of Chicago.) In short, it is not accidental that the American Enterprise Institute, the current chief institutional manifestation of neoconservative thought in Washington, named its auditorium the Wohlstetter Conference Center. Albert Wohlstetter's legacy is, to say the least, ambiguous.

Needless to say, there is much more to RAND's work than the strategic thought of Albert Wohlstetter, and Abella's book is an introduction to the broad range of ideas RAND has espoused – from "rational choice theory" (explaining all human behavior in terms of self-interest) to the systematic execution of Vietnamese in the CIA's Phoenix Program during the Vietnam War. As an institution, the RAND Corporation remains one of the most potent and complex purveyors of American imperialism. A full assessment of its influence, both positive and sinister, must await the elimination of the secrecy surrounding its activities and further historical and biographical analysis of the many people who worked there.

The RAND Corporation is surely one of the world's most unusual, Cold War-bred private organizations in the field of international relations. While it has attracted and supported some of the most distinguished analysts of war and weaponry, it has not stood for the highest standards of intellectual inquiry and debate. While RAND has an unparalleled record of providing unbiased, unblinking analyses of technical and carefully limited problems involved in waging contemporary war, its record of advice on cardinal policies involving war and peace, the protection of civilians in wartime, arms races, and decisions to resort to armed force has been abysmal.

For example, Abella credits RAND with "creating the discipline of terrorist studies," but its analysts seem never to have noticed the phenomenon of state terrorism as it was practiced in the 1970s and 1980s in Latin America by American-backed military dictatorships. Similarly, admirers of Albert Wohlstetter's reformulations of nuclear war ignore the fact that that these led to a "constant escalation of the nuclear arms race." By 1967, the U.S. possessed a stockpile of 32,500 atomic and hydrogen bombs.

In Vietnam, RAND invented the theories that led two administrations to military escalation against North Vietnam – and even after the think tank's strategy had obviously failed and the secretary of defense had disowned it, RAND never publicly acknowledged that it had been wrong. Abella comments, "RAND found itself bound by the power of the purse wielded by its patron, whether it be the Air Force or the Office of the Secretary of Defense." And it has always relied on classifying its research to protect itself, even when no military secrets were involved.

In my opinion, these issues come to a head over one of RAND's most unusual initiatives – its creation of an in-house, fully accredited graduate school of public policy that offers Ph.D. degrees to American and foreign students. Founded in 1970 as the RAND Graduate Institute and today known as the Frederick S. Pardee RAND Graduate School (PRGS), it had, by January 2006, awarded over 180 Ph.D.s in microeconomics, statistics, and econometrics, social and behavioral sciences, and operations research. Its faculty numbers 54 professors drawn principally from the staffs of RAND's research units, and it has an annual student body of approximately 900. In addition to coursework, qualifying examinations, and a dissertation, PRGS students are required to spend 400 days working on RAND projects. How RAND and the Air Force can classify the research projects of foreign and American interns is unclear; nor does it seem appropriate for an open university to allow dissertation research, which will ultimately be available to the general public, to be done in the hothouse atmosphere of a secret strategic institute.

Perhaps the greatest act of political and moral courage involving RAND was Daniel Ellsberg's release to the public of the secret record of lying by every president from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Lyndon Johnson about the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. However, RAND itself was and remains adamantly hostile to what Ellsberg did.

Abella reports that Charles Wolf Jr. the chairman of RAND's Economics Department from 1967 to 1982 and the first dean of the RAND Graduate School from 1970 to 1997, "dripped venom when interviewed about the [Ellsberg] incident more than thirty years after the fact." Such behavior suggests that secrecy and toeing the line are far more important at RAND than independent intellectual inquiry and that the products of its research should be viewed with great skepticism and care.

Chalmers Johnson's latest book is Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, now available in a Holt Paperback. It is the third volume of his Blowback Trilogy. To view a short video of Johnson discussing military Keynesianism and imperial bankruptcy, click here.

Copyright 2008 Chalmers Johnson

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hypocrisy Par Excellence

By Kam Zarrabi
Intellectual Discourse
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Courtesy Of

Israeli threats to "destroy the Iranian nation" in a retaliatory strike should Iran attack Israel seems perfectly acceptable to the US State Department. However, its spokesman, Sean McCormack, is voicing his strong condemnations against the Iranian officials when they respond in kind. How hypocritical is that?

The following is quoted from an article that appeared recently in the Israeli paper, Haaretz, which unlike its counterpart, Jerusalem Post, tends to reflect a more even handed account of the international news; it at least shows a glimpse of the other side's position!

"In a new round in the war of words between Jerusalem and Tehran, the Iranian army's deputy chief threatened Tuesday to respond to any military attack from Israel by 'eliminating' it.

The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday that the comments showed the international community was right to sanction Iran.

It is 'more unbelievable rhetoric out of the leadership of the Iranian government about attacking a fellow member of the United Nations,'

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters. 'Any civilized person finds that disturbing.'

Iran's Deputy Chief of Staff Mohammed Rada Ashtiani was quoted earlier by the semi-official Iranian news agency Mehr as saying: 'If Israel wants to take any action against the Islamic Republic, we will eliminate Israel from the scene of the universe... Our answer to any military attack against Iran will be strong.'

Ashtiani was speaking at a press conference to mark 'Army Day,' which will take place on April 17. He was referring to recent drills carried out by the Israel Defense Forces and the civilian population.

'As the President [Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] has said, we have the motivation to defend the borders of our country," he added.

According to the officer, the Iranian armed forces are in a situation which does not allow to mount an attack on Iran via land.

The Iranian officer's comments came after Minister of National Infrastructures Benjamin Ben-Eliezer last week warned Iran that 'an Iranian attack on Israel will lead to a harsh response by Israel that will cause the destruction of the Iranian nation.'

In turn, Tehran blasted Ben-Eliezer's comments as 'scandalous' and 'insulting' in a complaint to the United Nations."

Isn't that interesting?

Israeli threats to "destroy the Iranian nation" in a retaliatory strike should Iran attack Israel seems perfectly acceptable to the US State Department. However, its spokesman, Sean McCormack, is voicing his strong condemnations against the Iranian officials when they respond in kind.

How hypocritical is that?

It should also be noted that the Israeli regime has been quite blatantly threatening a preemptive strike against Iran's nuclear industries for many years now. One reason the Israelis have not carried out these threats as yet is the fear of some retaliatory response by Iran and its regional allies, as it doesn't take much to cause significant damage to Israel due to its small size and population concentrations. The other reason, possibly wishful thinking in my part, has been some backstage bargaining and arm-twisting by the US State Department to keep that unpredictable pit bull from getting America involved in yet another catastrophic quagmire in the oil rich Middle East.

Of course, we seem to be worried about the Iranians because Iran is a "rogue" country. Let's see what "rogue" means: A rogue state is one that carries out its own agenda without giving a damn about the international law or other states' welfare and interests. A rogue state violates accepted international norms, attacks, invades or occupies other peoples' territories, and considers itself above the universal codes and standards that other nations are held to. Well, hellllllo!

Now, who's calling the kettle black?

How hypocritical is that?

When the Iranians announced their successful launching of some weather satellite a year or so ago, the Israelis raised alarms that this satellite might be able to spy on the Israeli territories and regarded that as an aggressive move by Iran. Of course the older as well as the more recent Israeli satellites, openly and officially launched to spy over the Iranian territories, are not supposed to be regarded as hostile moves against Iran!

How hypocritical is that?

A recent article in Washington Post has exposed yet another behind the scenes deal between the United States, in the person of the President himself, and the former Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, in 2005.

While on the surface America is striving to broker a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians, George Bush has given the green light to the Israelis to expand their illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank.

How hypocritical is that?

The globally condemned and clearly unjustified destruction and occupation of Iraq, now the subject of criticism by the Democratic presidential candidates, was aimed at and expected to bring Iran closer to capitulation or, at the very least, a regime change suitable to the so-perceived interests of the United States. The war on Iraq, as well as the designs for Iran (and Syria), were anything but serving America's best interests; the only interests they were designed to serve were those of the regional parasite, Israel.

So, there we are, our enormous air, land and sea forces, the most formidable military machine in the world, surrounding on all sides a country we have been blatantly threatening with war, with our current and future leaders muscle flexing against it to gain favor among their constituents; and we are expecting for the Iranians to crawl on their knees and beg for mercy!

When they, instead, try to exert their influence among their sympathizers and co-religionists inside their war-torn neighboring land, their interference is somehow viewed as illogical or hard to understand: in other words, how dare they resist or oppose our mission in their neighborhood, or attempt to keep us from overthrowing their regime or devastating their socioeconomic infrastructure? One might wonder what we would do if Russia or China took over Mexico and amassed their air, land and sea forces at our southern borders, openly threatening to do some unpleasant things to our nation. Would we sit still or crawl on our knees and beg for mercy? I wouldn't!

So, what does our Secretary of Defense, Gates, mean when he "blames Iran for the killing of US troops in Iraq"? Isn't it true that what he is rightly or wrongly blaming the Iranians for doing is exactly what we would do in their position, i.e., providing support for their sympathizers in order to protect their own security and self-interests?

How hypocritical is that?

Then we hear the presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton, respond to a rather diabolically concocted question on network television, by proclaiming that as the President of the United States, "if Iran were to launch a nuclear attack on Israel", "we would be able to totally obliterate them."

That's fine; Israel is a highly "influential" friend and ally and we have obligated ourselves to rise to its defense, or else! But why ask such a hypothetical, utterly dumb and inflammatory question in the first place? And why volunteer to respond in such monstrous terms out of hand? "Obliterating" an entire nation, perhaps 75 million people, Mrs. Clinton? You must really need those special votes real bad!

The question that begs to be asked, and never is, should be, What would this presidential candidate or the other two "patriots", Obama and McCain, do if Israel were to launch a nuclear attack on Iran? Remember, this is not nearly as hypothetical a question; unlike Iran, Israel has both the means and the determination to do exactly that if or when it could get away with it. Would any of our honorable presidential candidates dare to even denounce such a proposition, let alone threaten to "obliterate" the aggressor? I don't think so.

How hypocritical is that?

Perhaps one could wonder what would happen if Israel's Dimona nuclear sites were attacked, the same way Israel attacked Syria's site by invading the air space of a sovereign nation and a member of the United Nations, in clear violation of international law. Israel did that out of mere suspicion that the Syrian nuclear plant might produce nuclear fuel that could be used someday for weapons development. The Israeli nuclear industries have already produced quite an arsenal of nuclear bombs. Shouldn't the neighboring countries be alarmed by the Jewish State's capabilities to strike at will and with total impunity anytime the Israelis perceive a threat or find any development "suspicious", when their track record indicates that they would?

Then, why didn't those regional Arab states embark on a dangerous arms race and rush to acquire their own nuclear weapons when the Israeli nuclear capabilities were so well-known by all? How come we are so concerned that the "suspected" Iranian nuclear programs might lead to a dangerous nuclear arms proliferation among the otherwise peaceful Arab countries?

How hypocritical is that?

And finally, a recent internet movie, Fitnah, by a Dutch film maker attempts to draw parallels between certain rather ambiguous Ghor'anic verses and terrorist acts by Moslem extremists. Although practically every Islamic society has denounced the film as an assault on Islam, the Dutch government has refused to criticize this production and no attempt has been made to ban its showing in the enlightened Europe.

To show how the material from any holy scripture can be taken out of context and misused for public deception, a Saudi businessman has recently produced a similar internet film. Here, he has sited numerous unambiguous Biblical Chapters and Verses, where the believers in the "Religion of Peace" were granted the right and indeed ordered to commit merciless genocide against the entire populations, men, women and children alike, and to plunder their possessions.

This production, however, was condemned as inappropriate by the same "enlightened" cultures that champion the right of free speech. Although it can still be viewed on the internet, no one knows how much longer that will last.

How hypocritical is that?


Kam Zarrabi is the author of In Zarathushtra's Shadow and Necessary Illusion. He is available to conduct lectures and seminars on international affairs, particularly in relation to Iran, with focus on US/Iran issues, at formal and informal gatherings or academic centers anywhere in the country. To make the necessary arrangements, please contact him at More information about Mr. Zarrabi and his work is available at:

Carter: Israel Rejected Hamas Truce Offer

Ex-US President Blames Israel For Denying Gazans Food, Water; Says Hamas Won Elections 'Fair and Square'

By Yitzhak Benhorin
21:34 , 04.28.08
Courtesy Of

WASHINGTON – Blaming Israel, again: Former US President Jimmy Carter says that following his meetings with Hamas leaders the group offered a truce in Gaza but Israel rejected the offer.

During an interview with NBC, Carter also blamed Israel for denying the citizens of Gaza basic supplies such as water and food.

"I think it was productive, because all the things that we asked Hamas to do, they basically agreed to do," Carter said, referring to his recent trip.

"One was to have a total ceasefire just in Gaza alone, where before they had said it must be Gaza and the West Bank as well. So they preferred to have a ceasefire, and announced it publicly after we left. Israel unfortunately rejected the ceasefire from Hamas.

"There's no way to have peace in the Middle East without bringing the Palestinians back together if Hamas represents at least half of the Palestinian people," Carter added, citing the 2006 elections the United States insisted be held.

"Hamas won the election fair and square. They got a majority of seats in the Parliament."

"But then the United States and Israel declared that there wouldn't be a Palestinian united government, so they declared that Hamas was a terrorist organization. They refused to negotiate with them. They refused to give food and water and electricity and other supplies to people under Hamas' leadership in Gaza, and that broke the whole situation down," he said.

'Assad Hopeful'

Carter also criticized the US, which he said was preventing the renewal of the peace process between Israel and Syria.

Carter said he met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the latter told him that he had been distanced from peace talks by the US Government, but was now hopeful talks would be resumed.

In an article published by the New York Times, Carter said that Hamas would accept any truce agreed upon by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, on the condition that it had been approved by the elected parliament.

Carter also said Hamas would disarm its military wing in Gaza if a non-political security force was established in the Strip.

Referring to kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, Carter said that if Israel were to agree to the list of prisoners that the Palestinians demanded be released, and freed the first batch, Shalit would be transferred to Egypt until the other prisoners were released.

US Army To Begin Launching Satellites

Army To Launch Sats After 50 Year Lull

By Colin Clark
April 28, 2005
Courtesy Of

The U.S. Army plans to build and launch into orbit a constellation of satellites for the first time in roughly 50 years. And it plans to build the cluster of eight miniature communications satellites within as little as nine months, defense officials told

The roughly $5 million effort is part of the Army's commitment to what is known as Operationally Responsive Space. The joint program, based at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., was created in May 2007 after years of vigorous prodding by Congress to get the U.S. military to change how it conceives of, builds and flies satellites.

For the Army, this is "a pathfinder project to fulfill an urgent need for beyond line of sight communications capability," said James Lee, chief of strategy and policy for Space and Missile Defense Command in Huntsville, Ala.

Lee's office set up a task force in March to decide how the Army should tackle the deployment of space assets. And the money for the service's satellite effort is coming from Army coffers, Lee added.

The requirement for the bantam-weight sats -- which measure about 30 inches square and weigh around five pounds -- was generated by a combatant commander whom Lee declined to identify. But you can get some idea who it is by the mission he described for the so-called "cubesats."

The satellites should provide communications for Army units below the brigade level operating in parts of the world where the military has no current secure satellite communications, such as Africa, Lee explained.

The only services available in those regions come from commercial vendors, he said, and they're often not American-owned.

In addition to providing needed communications links, the effort would also help build the Army's overall space capabilities, Lee said.

"We feel it's important to have experience at an engineering level to build space capabilities, even if it's a simple as a cubesat," he said. Army engineers will work alongside designers from a Huntsville-based company called MilTec, which will build the first six satellites. Space and Missile Defense Command will build the last two.

"We believe we have the expertise but many of our scientists don't have hands-on experience," Lee said.

All eight satellites will be launched together, either on a Minotaur or Falcon rocket. Minotaur, a four-stage solid fuel rocket that uses decommissioned Minuteman missile rocket motors, is built by Orbital Sciences Corp. The Falcon 1 is built by PayPal millionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX Company.

The Minotaur has flown seven times and the Falcon has launched twice but has not successfully lofted a payload into orbit.

The satellites will fly either in a swarm or will be flown in a loose formation. And Lee said the Army wants members of its space cadre to do the flying.

A senior Defense Department official who tracks space programs was supportive of the Army's plans, calling the move "great news." And in a sign of just how much the Air Force has dominated space systems and operations, the official noted that, "a little competition never hurt anyone."

And Lee was careful to avoid offense: "We don't really want to replace the Navy or the Air Force." But with today's strategic realities, and the limited resources currently available in orbit, the Army wants to make sure it plays its part.

© Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.

Monday, April 28, 2008

You Don't Have The Right To Silence

Indymedia UK
April 27th, 2008
Courtesy Of

Yes, that’s what officer 0801 from West Midlands Police told me today at Birmingham Airport when I said “No comment” to his surprising question: “Have you been involved in organising any protests in this country?” And since I was held for one and a half hours to be asked such silly questions, I thought I would waste another hour and a half writing about it.,

It is well known that the “right to silence” is a legal protection given to people undergoing police interrogation or trial. The right is recognised in many of the world’s legal systems. In the UK, it was first codified in the Judges’ Rules in 1912 (see Wikipedia’s entry).

In 1996, the European Court of Human Rights held that “the right to remain silent under police questioning and the privilege against self-incrimination are generally recognised international standards which lie at the heart of the notion of a fair procedure under Article 6 [of the European Convention on Human Rights].” (see these interesting cases 1 2 ).

Under the Terrorism Act 2000, however, this right, along with many others, was eroded.

Schedule 7 (Port and Border Controls) states that “a person who is questioned under paragraph 2 or 3 must give the examining officer any information in his possession which the officer requests.” The purpose of this is supposed to be “determining whether he appears to be a person falling within section 40(1)(b).” That is, whether he “has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.”

But Article 2.4. of the mentioned Schedule goes on to say that “an examining officer may exercise his powers under this paragraph whether or not he has grounds for suspecting that a person falls within section 40(1)(b).”

The ‘examining officer’ also has the power to “search anything which [the person] has with him, or which belongs to him”, and to hold him for up to 9 hours for the purpose of “examination”.

Should the person not comply with any of the above, including “wilfully obstructing, or seeking to frustrate, a search or examination”, then he or she is deemed to have committed an offence punishable by imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale, or both.

Of course, officer 0801 did not read me my rights or mention that, under the same law, I had the right to consult a solicitor and inform someone that I am being held for questioning. It was only after my detention exceeded an hour that a senior police officer came in and explained the procedures for me. In fact, I have been told, in previous incidents, that I could not make any phone calls when I asked to let my friend, who was waiting for me outside with his car, know that I was going to be delayed a bit.

Police State?

Now my theory is that police are using these ‘examinations’ at ports and airports to build a huge database, not only about migrants and ‘potential terrorists’ but also about dissent groups and activists. The other goal could well be to recruit spies, as I argued here. I do not have any evidence to support my allegations but, from personal experience, I can assure you that they are as interested in leftist and anarchist ‘stuff’ as they are in Muslim extremists, Islamic terrorism and all that.

In July 2006, Lib Dem MP Norman Baker (who was himself a target of MI5 surveillance in the 1980’s because of his activities as an environmental protester) accused the government of “hoarding information about people who pose no danger to this country”, after it emerged that MI5 holds secret files on 272,000 individuals – equivalent to one in 160 adults.

In a Parliamentary Answers, it was revealed that 10% of those files were active, or coded Green. 46% were coded Orange, for which inquiries are prohibited but further information may be added, while 44% were coded Red, where inquiries are prohibited and no substantial information may be added.

So, it follows that one in every 1,600 people pose a ‘real threat to the country’ – 27,200 terrorists and criminals!

Back in July 1998, the then Home Secretary Jack Straw revealed in Parliament that, in 1972, MI5 had an estimated 535,000 files on individuals and organisations. From mid 1992 to mid 1998, 110,000 were allegedly earmarked for destruction (for more details, see this Indymedia feature).

Needless to say, the Terrorism Act, particularly Section 44 (Power to stop and search), has been repeatedly abused by cops and used against protesters and activists to stop or deter them from going about their once-legal business (see here, for example).

My other theory is that the Special Branch, dubbed sometimes as the “political police” and whom I used to get at airports, are not coping with the amount of work they are being asked to do. And that’s why I got a normal cop this time (that’s what I think anyway).

In 2003, StateWatch published a special report on the role of Special Branch in conducting surveillance operations for MI5. It revealed that the number of police Special Branch officers had more than doubled, from 1,638 in 1978 to 4,247 in 2002.

In addition, it now has far more civilian staff and means for mass surveillance of telecommunications and the payment of informers, which it never had in those days.

But still, they probably need an open recruitment campaign, similar to what the MI6 did last year: a website and a P.O. Box where people can apply for jobs as.. err, Special Branch officers.

The Risk Of Attacking Iran

Running A Risk With Iran

By Jeff Huber
April 23, 2008
Courtesy Of

Predicting what might happen in a shooting match with Iran is a perilous errand. The Clausewitzean concepts of fog and friction apply to modern war every bit as much as they do to the conflicts of bygone eras. For all our fantastical weaponry and information gizmology, stuff still breaks at the worst possible time and the information is often as not wrong.

Nonetheless, we can do a back-of-the-envelope operational analysis to estimate whether any conceivable benefit of attacking Iran can justify the risks involved.

Wild Purple Yonder

I noted last week that it would be difficult to bomb Iran back to the Stone Age because so little of it has evolved even that far. That remark has nothing to do with the people or culture of Iran; Persian civilization dates back to 4000 B.C. Geographically, however, the vast majority of Iran is as it was before monkeys learned how to use sticks and bones to kill each other. Iran is slightly larger than Alaska, but less than 10 percent of it is arable. The other 90 plus percent is mountain and desert. I don’t know of a smart weapon that can turn sand back into rubble, and doubt whether they’re working to develop one. They are designing something to make molehills out of mountains, but they’re having trouble getting permission to test it on a major population center in Nevada.

Roughly a third of Iran’s population of 66 million lives in eight cities. We could put a serious dent in the Persian race by doing a Dresden number on Tehran, but Iran hasn’t done anything to warrant a measure that extreme, and regardless of what Dick Cheney’s Likudnik pals say, it isn’t likely to.

Whatever parts of Iran’s nuclear industry we can take out from the air the Russians can rebuild in a timely manner, and Iran can afford to pay them to do it because another thing we can’t bomb back to the Stone Age is Iran’s oil reserves.

Our land and carrier based air forces can rapidly establish air supremacy over Iran, but air supremacy is meaningless unless your bombers can use the freedom of action it provides to accomplish something operationally significant, and as we just discussed, our bomber crews can’t do much over Iran besides rack up Air Medal points. Plus, all the air supremacy in the world won’t keep your engines from flaming out just when you’d rather they didn’t, and bad guy’s rocks can kill you just as dead as his fighters or surface-to-air missiles can. My mission calculus says that bombing sand doesn’t justify the risk of getting a B-$2 Billion shot down by a mountain.

20,000 Pogues Under the Sea?

A matchup between the navies of America and Iran would be asymmetric warfare exemplified: a global reach power projection navy versus a sea denial force optimized to fight in its backyard pool. If you put the battle space in the middle of the North Pacific the Americans have the overwhelming advantage, in no small part because Iran’s fleet will run out of gas or sink from natural causes before it gets there. Unfortunately for the U.S. Navy, tables turn in the confined waters of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

The Navy’s tasks in an operation against Iran would include projecting air power ashore (from the carriers and cruise missile shooters), keeping the Strait open, and deterring or stopping another tanker war like the one that broke out in the 80s during the conflict between Iran and Iraq. To do all those things, the Navy pretty much has to go into the Gulf, and it has to go through the Strait to get there.

In the bathtub, defense in depth becomes nearly impossible to conduct. The state of the art anti-ship weapons Iran recently bought from the Russians—the SSN-22 Sunburn missile and the rocket torpedo—are bad news. One school of thought says the only way to defend against them is to stay tied to the pier stateside, but it’s not just the latest generation of ship-killers we need to worry about. Any time you find yourself in a point defense situation against a homing weapon designed any time after 1970 or so your whole day just became irretrievable.

I rather doubt that anything short of extra terrestrial intervention could actually sink a 100,000-ton Nimitz class carrier, but a rocket torpedo up its stern could send it out the Strait under tow. That would be an unmitigated nightmare. Even if not a single member of the ship’s crew were killed or injured, for a minor power like Iran to have knocked one of America’s preeminent instruments of military might out of action would be a strategic catastrophe for the U.S.

Committing two carrier strike groups to a combat operation in the Gulf would place about 20,000 American sailors at risk. I can’t imagine a scenario that takes the lives of every one of them, or even a large portion of them. Six or eight Sunburns in the side of an Arleigh Burke class destroyer, though, could kill almost 400 of them in the blink of an eye. Given that the air power naval forces would contribute wouldn’t accomplish much, and that the Iranians won’t have a reason to close the Strait or start a tanker war if we don’t bomb them, putting a single one of our sailors at risk in a hot war with Iran doesn’t seem to make a molecule of sense.

Hills, Dales and Halls of Montezuma

In its only armed conflict, Iran’s land force waged trench warfare along the Iran-Iraq border. It was unable to score a decisive victory against Saddam Hussein’s army, and we all saw, not once but twice, how good Hussein’s army was against a real army. Iran’s army presents no danger to U.S. ground forces in Iraq.

The threat that Iran’s ballistic missiles pose to our troops Iraq is negligible; it is even less than the threat Hussein’s missiles presented in both Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom.

The Bush administration might justify an Iran strike based on its accusations that Iran is behind Iraqi militant attacks on American troops, even though it has shown no conclusive evidence to date that verifies those accusations. On the other hand, fairly ironclad data and analysis indicate that General David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, has been directly responsible for arming and aiding both the Shiite and Sunni factions in Iraq’s Hobbesian civil war.

Our Israeli friends like to remind us of the danger Iran presents to them, but between the two nations, which one is the more dangerous? Iran is too far from Israel to bring its air, sea or land forces to bear against it. Iran might be able to lob ballistic missiles at Israeli cities, but any warhead it throws at Israel would pale in comparison to what Israel throws back (remember, Israel’s the nation with nukes, not Iran). Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said something or other in Persian about how “Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time” which some have translated as "Israel must be wiped off the face of the map." Whatever...

What he actually said was pretty stupid, but as I also observed last week, if we’re going to start blaming a whole nation for the stupid things its goofy president says, we’re drifting into pot-and-kettle territory.

From an analytic perspective, attacking Iran would be such an irrational course of action that only a hatch full of boobies would contemplate taking it.

Sadly, "a hatch full of boobies" precisely describes the people in charge of the United States just now.

"So we can play war" "Populated by outrageous characters and fueled with pompous outrage, Huber’s irreverent broadside will pummel the funny bone of anyone who’s served." — Publishers Weekly

"A remarkably accomplished book, striking just the right balance between ridicule and insight." — Booklist

View the trailer here:

Bathtub Admirals "Profane and Hilarious" Publishers Weekly

NOTE: The following videos were not part of the above article, but were independently included by me:

Possible Consequence, War With Iran:

Consequences Of A War Against Iran