Your War Channel-all war-all the time-24/7-25/8-round the clock-breaking only for commercials for Halliburton and Bechtel
The recent paper by two prominent academics, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, on "The Israel Lobby", has spurred considerable discussion both in the mainstream media and on the Internet about the significance of the role played by this lobby in instigating the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. The answer to this question may reside ultimately, and solely, in the minds of the neo-conservatives, in or close to official government positions, who lobbied for years to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein; an early instance of this being their now-famous letter to President Clinton in January 1998, which, in no uncertain terms, called for an American strategy that "should aim, above all, at the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power". Warning of Saddam's potential for acquiring weapons of mass destruction, the neo-cons, in language at times sounding frenzied, insisted that his removal was absolutely vital to "the security of the world in the first part of the 21st century" and for "the safety of American troops in the region, of our friends and allies like Israel and the moderate Arab states, and a significant portion of the world's supply of oil."
This of course was a gross exaggeration. In 1998, after seven years of relentless US bombing and draconian sanctions, Iraq was but a pitiful shell of its former self and no longer a threat even to its neighbors, much less "the world". There were those who hated Saddam, but the only country that had any good reason to fear Iraq, then or later, was Israel, as retaliation for Israel's unprovoked bombing of Iraq in 1981. The letter to Clinton was signed by Elliott Abrams, Richard L. Armitage, William J. Bennett, Jeffrey Bergner, John Bolton, Paula Dobriansky, Francis Fukuyama, Robert Kagan, Zalmay Khalilzad, William Kristol, Richard Perle, Peter W. Rodman, Donald Rumsfeld, William Schneider, Jr., Vin Weber, Paul Wolfowitz, R. James Woolsey, and Robert B. Zoellick(1), most of whom, if not all, could be categorized as allies of Israel; most of whom were soon to join the Busheviks. What could have prompted these individuals to write such a letter to the president other than a desire to eliminate a threat to the safety of Israel? And when they came into power some began immediately to campaign for regime change in Iraq.
There are those who argue that the United States has invaded numerous countries without requiring instigation by Israel. This is of course true, it's what the empire does for a living. But to say that the Israel lobby played a vital role in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 is not to suggest an explanation for the whole history of US foreign interventions.
To the role of the Israel lobby we must add two other factors carrying unknown degrees of weight in the decision to invade Iraq: controlling vast amounts of oil, and saving the dollar from the euro by reversing Saddam Hussein's decision to use the latter in Iraq's oil transactions (and this reversal was one of the first edicts of the occupation).
Whatever ambiguity may remain about the role of the Israel lobby in the invasion of Iraq, it's clear that if and when the sociopaths who call themselves our leaders attack Iran, Israeli security will be the main reason, with the euro in second place because Iran has been taking -- or at least threatening to take -- serious steps to replace the dollar with the euro in oil transactions. Iran of course also has lots of oil, but unless the United States aims at conquest and occupation of the country -- and where will Los Socios find a few hundred thousand more clueless American bodies -- access to and control of the oil would not be very feasible. The Israel lobby appears to be the only major organized force that is actively pushing the United States toward crisis in Iran. Along with the lobby's leading member, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), there's the American Jewish Committee (AJC), which has taken out full-page ads in major US newspapers with the less-than-subtle heading: "A Nuclear Iran Threatens All", depicting radiating circles on an Iran-centered map to show where its missiles could strike.
"The threat from Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally Israel," declared George W. last month. "That's a threat, a serious threat. It's a threat to world peace. I made it clear, and I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally Israel."(2)
Chutzpah of an imperial size
Do you remember the classic example of "chutzpah"? It's the young man who kills his parents and then asks the court for mercy on the grounds that he's an orphan.
The Bush administration's updated version of that is starting a wholly illegal, immoral, and devastating war and then dismissing all kinds of criticism of its action on the grounds that "We're at war."
They use this excuse to defend warrantless spying, to defend the imprisonment of people for years without charging them with a crime, to abuse and torture them, to ignore the Geneva Convention and other international treaties; they use it against Democrats, accusing them of partisanship during "a time of war"; they use it to justify the expansion of presidential powers and the weakening of checks and balances. In short, they claim "We can do whatever we want about anything at all related to this war, because we're at war."
"War is war," says Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, "and it has never been the case that when you captured a combatant you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts. Give me a break."(3) Scalia, in his public talks, implies that prisoners held in the far-flung American gulag were all "captured on the battlefield".(4) But this is simply false. Very few of the poor souls were captured on any kind of battlefield, few had even a gun in their hand; most were just in the wrong place at the wrong time or were turned in by an informer for an American bounty or a personal grudge.
The American public, like all publics, requires only sufficient repetition from "respectable" sources to learn how to play the game: Earlier this month many cities of Wisconsin held referendums on bringing the troops home from Iraq. Here's Jim Martin, 48, a handyman in Evansville. He thinks that his city shouldn't waste taxpayers' money running a referendum that means nothing. "The fact of the matter remains, we're at war," he said as he ate his lunch at the Night Owl bar.(5)
And here now is Chris Simcox a leader in the Minuteman movement that patrols the Mexican border: "If I catch you breaking into my country in the middle of the night and we're at war ... you're a potential enemy. I don't care if you're a busboy coming to wash dishes."(6)
One observer has summed up the legal arguments put forth by the Bush administration thusly: "The existing laws do not apply because this is a different kind of war. It's a different kind of war because the president says so. The president gets to say so because he is president. ... We follow the laws of war except to the extent that they do not apply to us. These prisoners have all the rights to which they are entitled by law, except to the extent that we have changed the law to limit their rights."(7)
Yet, George W. has cut taxes tremendously, something probably unprecedented while at war.
Facing calls for impeachment, plummeting popularity, a looming Republican electoral disaster, and massive failure in Mesopotamia, Georgie looks toward Persia. He and the other gang members will be able to get away with almost anything they can think of if they can say "We're in two wars!"
A tale of two terrorists
Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person charged to date in the United States in connection with the September 11, 2001 attacks, testifying at his trial in Alexandria, Virginia:
The sobbing September 11 survivors and family members who testified against him were "disgusting" ... He and other Muslims want to "exterminate" American Jews ... executed Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was "the greatest American"(8) He expressed his willingness to kill Americans "any time, anywhere" ... "I wish it had happened not only on the 11th, but the 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th."(9)
Orlando Bosch, one of the masterminds behind the October 6, 1976 bombing of a Cuban passenger plane, blown out of the sky with 73 people on board, including the entire young Cuban fencing team, interviewed April 8 by Juan Manuel Cao of Channel 41 in Miami:
Cao: Did you down that plane in 1976?
Bosch: If I tell you that I was involved, I will be inculpating myself ... and if I tell you that I did not participate in that action, you would say that I am lying. I am therefore not going to answer one thing or the other.
Cao: In that action 73 persons were killed ...
Bosch: No chico, in a war such as us Cubans who love liberty wage against the tyrant [Fidel Castro], you have to down planes, you have to sink ships, you have to be prepared to attack anything that is within your reach.
Cao: But don't you feel a little bit for those who were killed there, for their families?
Bosch: Who was on board that plane? Four members of the Communist Party, five north Koreans, five Guyanese ... Who was there? Our enemies. Cao: And the fencers? The young people on board?
Bosch: I saw the young girls on television. There were six of them. After the end of the competition, the leader of the six dedicated their triumph to the tyrant. She gave a speech filled with praise for the tyrant. We had already agreed in Santo Domingo, that everyone who comes from Cuba to glorify the tyrant had to run the same risks as those men and women that fight alongside the tyranny.
Cao: If you ran into the family members who were killed in that plane, wouldn't you think it difficult ... ?
Bosch: No, because in the end those who were there had to know that they were cooperating with the tyranny in Cuba.
The main difference between Zacarias Moussaoui and Orlando Bosch is that one of them is on trial for his life while the other walks around Miami a free man, free enough to be interviewed on television.
Bosch had a partner in plotting the bombing of the Cuban airliner, Luis Posada, a Cuban-born citizen of Venezuela. He's being held in custody in the United States on a minor immigration charge. His extradition has been requested by Venezuela for several crimes including the downing of the airliner, part of the plotting having taken place in Venezuela. But the Bush administration refuses to send him to Venezuela because they don't like the Venezuelan government, nor will they try him in the United States for the crime. However, the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Civil Aviation (1973), of which the United States is a signatory, gives Washington no discretion. Article 7 says that the state in which "the alleged offender is found shall, if it does not extradite him, be obliged, without exception whatsoever and whether or not the offence was committed in its territory, to submit the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution."(10) Extradite or prosecute. The United States does neither.
This is your mind on anti-communism
Earlier this month, in Miami-Dade County, Florida (where else?) it was reported that the parent of a schoolchild asked the school board to ban a book called "Vamos a Cuba" ("Let's go to Cuba"), a travel book that has smiling kids on the cover and inside depicts happy scenes from a festival held in Cuba. "As a former political prisoner from Cuba, I find the material to be untruthful," Juan Amador, wrote to the school board. "It portrays a life in Cuba that does not exist. I believe it aims to create an illusion and distort reality." Mr. Amador is presumably claiming that no one in Cuba is ever happy or even smiles. The book is currently being reviewed by a school committee.(11)
During his recent election campaign, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi declared that communists in Mao's China boiled babies to make fertilizer.(12) He defended his remark by citing: "The Black Book of Communism", a "history" of communism published in 1997, a book that is to the study of communism as "The Protocols of the Elders of Zionism" is to Judaism or the collected statements of George W. Bush are to understanding why we are fighting in Iraq. Berlusconi's remark may actually be regarded as progress in the wonderful world of anti-communism, for following the Russian Revolution of 1917 it was widely and long proclaimed that the Bolsheviks killed and ate babies (as the early pagans believed the Christians guilty of devouring their children; the same was believed of Jews in the Middle Ages). It's interesting to note (Well, to me at least) that in 2003, when my book Killing Hope was published in Italy, the publisher gave it the title "Il Libro Nero Degli Stati Uniti" ("The Black Book of The United States").(13)
Charles Taylor and that fake opposition party known as the Democrats
Some things I have to repeat, because the news makes them relevant once again, and because the media ignores them once again. Charles Taylor, former president of Liberia, has been captured and is being held for trial in a UN-sponsored war-crimes court in neighboring Sierra Leone. In 2003 Taylor was indicted by this court for "bearing the greatest responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity and serious violations of international humanitarian law" during Sierra Leone's civil war. The United States, along with the rest of the world, condemns Taylor, applauds his capture, and calls for his punishment. What we're not reminded of is this:
In 1998, President Clinton sent Rev. Jesse Jackson as his special envoy to Liberia and Sierra Leone, the latter being in the midst of one of the great horrors of the 20th century -- You may remember the army of mostly young boys, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), who went around raping and chopping off people's arms and legs. African and world opinion was enraged against the RUF, which was committed to protecting the diamond mines they controlled. Taylor was an indispensable ally and supporter of the RUF and Jackson was an old friend of his. Jesse was not sent to the region to try to curtail the RUF's atrocities, nor to hound Taylor about his widespread human rights violations, but instead, in June 1999, Jackson and other American officials drafted entire sections of an accord that made RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, Sierra Leone's vice president, and gave him official control over the diamond mines, the country's major source of wealth.(14)
And what was the Clinton administration's interest in all this? It's been speculated that the answer lies with certain individuals with ties to the diamond industry and to Clinton, while he was president or while governor of Arkansas; for example, Maurice Tempelsman, generous contributor to the Democratic Party and escort of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright around this time, whose Antwerp, Amsterdam and Tel Aviv diamond marts arranged for Sierra Leone diamond sales to Tiffany and Cartier.(15)
Good ol' Bill? Good ol' Jess? I know, I know, I keep tearing down your heroes. Who will you have left? But remember the words of the two characters in Bertolt Brecht's "Galileo":
"Unhappy the land that has no heroes," says the first.
"No," says the other, "Unhappy the land that needs heroes."
Or as Abbie Hoffman said: "Sacred cows make the best hamburger."
After the war-crimes trial we'll need a second tribunal for shameless lying, gross insults to our intelligence, and just plain weird stupidity and stupid weirdness.
George W. Bush, speaking March 29, 2006 to the Freedom House organization in Washington: "We're a country of deep compassion. We care. One of the great things about America, one of the beauties of our country, is that when we see a young, innocent child blown up by an IED [improvised explosive device], we cry. We don't care what the child's religion may be, or where that child may live, we cry. It upsets us. The enemy knows that, and they're willing to -- they're willing to kill to shake our confidence. That's what they're trying to do."(16)
"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." Voltaire
Is this any way to organize a society of human beings?
April 18 was the 100th anniversary of the historic, catastrophic San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Studies predict that the next big quake in the city will take a much greater human toll because so many of the residents live in apartments and houses built before building codes were tightened in 1970. And because many units are rent-controlled apartments, we are told, landlords have few incentives to seismic retrofit.(17) There are those who would use this as an argument against rent control. There are others who would use it as an argument against free enterprise or private ownership of housing. Think of it. Over the years, California has learned very well how to modernize buildings to prepare them to withstand earthquakes much better than in the past. That this works has been proven again and again, even dramatically, such as in Los Angeles, hit by a 7.4 quake in 1994, with relatively little damage. (I was asleep in my bed in Hollywood when it hit in the early morning of January 17 and was rudely and frighteningly awakened, but the apartment building was fine.) Yet large numbers of people in California are still living in dwellings very vulnerable to a quake because to correct the situation would adversely affect the profit and loss statements of the owners of those dwellings.
(13) For many other examples of the mind on anti-communism, see William Blum, "Freeing the World to Death", chapter 12 ("Before there were terrorists there were communists and the wonderful world of anti-communism")
(14) Ryan Lizza, "Where angels fear to tread", New Republic, July 24, 2000
(15) The Washington Post, August 2, 1997, p.A1 and February 6, 1998, p.B1 re Tempelsman. Other speculation in various places has concerned diamond investors Jean Raymond Boulle and Robert Friedland, each with alleged ties to Clinton.
(16) Federal Information and News Dispatch, Inc., State Department Documents and Publications, March 29, 2006
“After the explosion itself, anyone on the edge of the explosion (who were lucky enough to survive) would have melted flesh and severe burns, the skin would literally fall off the bone. Anyone who had seen the blast from such a distance would have permanent loss of vision.” (http://www.armageddononline.org/nuke.php)
A little perspective, please After years of living under the perpetual risk of the ultimate terrorist attack, most people have become acclimated to the distinct possibility of imminent extinction of life on Earth. Fortunately, humans tend to be highly adaptable beings, and most are able to go on with their daily tasks without dwelling on potential doomsday scenarios.
In fact, people have become so desensitized to the threat of nuclear holocaust that those who still believe American propaganda are more terrified of religious fanatics wielding box cutters than they are of an ICBM capable of annihilating millions.
According to the FBI, domestic terrorism is:
“the unlawful use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States or its territories without foreign direction committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”
Given the knowledge that it is the United States which created and primarily wields the power to extinguish life on Earth, it is not a tremendous intellectual leap to classify the American government as the world’s most dangerous and most powerful terrorist.
America’s own domestic law enforcement entity has defined terrorism as “threatened use of force or violence”, intimidation, and coercion against governments or civilian populations for the “furtherance of political or social objectives”.
What could be more threatening or violent than a nuclear attack? What could be more coercive than the US imposition of its will, culture, and ruthless economic agenda on a global populace like a domineering father abusing his cowed children? Employing terrorist tools of intimidation, coercion and threats of violence, the United States consistently sets the political and social objectives for the rest of the world.
Remember, Iran, “All options are on the table.”
America is the Don Corleone of the world community. They make offers you can’t refuse. “Fat Man” and “Little Boy” delivered the Sicilian message that nations defying the United States would find many of their innocent civilians “sleeping with the fishes”. 200,000 dead Japanese showed the skeptics that the Godfather meant business.
Bearing in mind that the atomic bombs deployed in Japan were mere firecrackers relative to today’s nukes, the following puts a grim perspective on the situation:
“A single Hiroshima-size blast in downtown Los Angeles, according to a computer projection done several years ago by Physicians for Social Responsibility, would kill about 150,000 people immediately and 100,000 more from neutron and gamma radiation. An additional 800,000 people would be exposed to high-level radiation.” (Seattle Times)
Evil begets evil
Not only did the United States let the nuclear genie out of the bottle and unleash it on humanity, through Operation Paperclip, it provided safe haven for Nazi war criminals. During and after World War II, the CIA altered the records of Nazi scientists so they could enter the United States and contribute to the evolution of America’s nuclear weapons program.
Needing an “enemy” for its indoctrinated citizens to fear, the United States began demonizing Communism in the 1950’s. As they created their “bogeyman” so they could manipulate the masses with psychological terror, America’s leaders pushed a nation with a much weaker economy into an insane scenario of Mutually Assured Destruction and an arms race. By 2004, Russia’s stockpile of warheads had the combined power of 120,000 of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima.
The combined nuclear capacity of the United States and Russia at the height of the nuclear arms race was enough to eradicate the Earth of life 1,500 times over. When is enough, enough?
According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in 2004 the United States had 10,000 nuclear warheads, 7,000 of which were operational. Yet existing in a realm of thought where logic ceases to exist, America's leaders are obsessed with “national security”. The United States accounts for half of the world’s military expenditures to protect 350 million of the 6.5 billion people on Earth.
With over 500 land-based ICBMs, the United States can incinerate any region of a 4.5 billion year old planet within a mere 35 minutes. The Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles are only one leg of America’s triad of doom. Submarine-based Trident nuclear missiles have the capacity to unleash Armageddon from the depths of the Earth’s tranquil oceans. Maintaining a fleet of B-1, B-2, and B-52 long-range bombers, the USAF can also rain nuclear hell upon millions of unsuspecting “units of collateral damage”.
Desperation and treachery are the parents of US nuclear invention
Realizing that the “Nuclear Club” is rapidly expanding, the United States is desperately seeking ways to circumvent treaties in which they have pledged to work toward the elimination of nuclear weapons. As they down-sized their nuclear stock-pile in the 1990’s by retiring ICBM’s like the Peacekeeper, America’s leadership found ways to avoid truly surrendering its tools of terror.
The United States began diverting substantial portions of its obscene defense budget to its Stockpile Stewardship Program to perpetuate and expand its nuclear capacities. Consider this 1996 statement by the Department of Energy:
"[n]ational security policies in the post-Cold War era require that all historical capabilities of the weapons laboratories, industrial plants, and NTS [the Nevada Test Site] be maintained," and that "denuclearisation... is not feasible based on current national security policy."
With the ethereal nuclear genie slipping further from its grasp, the United States is now focusing its resources and determined efforts toward ensuring nuclear proliferation to those it deems deserving. Israel, the US satellite in the Middle East, and India, a nation Uncle Sam is determined to lure into his bed, both qualify. Iran and North Korea are obviously not welcome at the nuclear party, whether they apply the technology for military purposes or not.
On the domestic front, America’s bellicose government is emphasizing the enhancement of existing nuclear weapons to give the appearance that it is not developing new ones. For example, the B61-11 is a modification of the B61, a “tactical nuke” which “only” has 2/3 the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. To neutralize nations which have developed weapons facilities deep underground, America created the B61-11 to burrow into rock before discharging its nuclear payload. America’s Neocons are itching to play with their new toys in Iran.
The Pentagon claims that these “bunker busters” would pose no threat to life outside of the underground targets. However, Dr. Robert Nelson of Princeton University offers a significantly differing opinion:
"No earth-burrowing missile can penetrate deep enough into the earth to contain an explosion with a nuclear yield even as small as 1 percent of the 15 kiloton Hiroshima weapon. "The explosion simply blows out a massive crater of radioactive dirt, which rains down on the local region with an especially intense and deadly fallout."
Dr. Nelson’s analysis is substantially more seaworthy than the stone the Pentagon tried to float when they proclaimed earth-burrowing “mini-nukes” to be “safe”.
A Messiah complex, severely stunted emotional intelligence and profound ignorance are the defining characteristics of the man capable of making nuclear holocaust a reality within minutes. In light of this, Osama bin Laden, box-cutters, and suicide bombers don’t seem quite so formidable or worrisome.
Jason Miller is a 39 year old sociopolitical essayist with a degree in liberal arts and an extensive self-education (derived from an insatiable appetite for reading). He is a member of Amnesty International and an avid supporter of Oxfam International and Human Rights Watch. He welcomes responses at firstname.lastname@example.org or comments on his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/.
Last December, the United Iraq Alliance of seven Shia organizations won 132 of the 275 parliamentary seats in what everyone regarded as a free and fair election with a surprisingly high turn-out, and nominated Ibrahim al Jaafari of the Islamic Daawa Party for a second term as prime minister. This, too, was a democratic choice. The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, also a UIA member, supported Adil Abdullah Mahdi, Iraq’s vice-president, who narrowly failed to win the nomination.
Al Jaafari should be eminently acceptable to the US since he fought Saddam Hussein and spent many years in exile. But there lies the rub. His exile was in Iran, and Americans suspect him of pushing Iranian interests. What compounds his offence in their eyes are his “socialist tendencies” and admiration for Noam Chomsky, whom he wishes to invite to Baghdad. Mahdi, his opponent and the US favourite, might call Iraq’s prime minister “courageous” and “wonderful” but with such credentials, he is fated to join Saddam Hussein, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Syria’s Bashir Assad in America’s west Asian rogues’ gallery.
Ignoring the order of the World Court in the Hague to stop the “unlawful use of force” — international terrorism — against Nicaragua and pay substantial reparations, the US instead vetoed two security council resolutions upholding the directive and urging states to respect international law. Abraham Sofaer, the state department’s legal adviser, explained that since most of the world could not be “counted on to share (Washington’s) view”, the administration alone would decide how it would act and which matters fell “essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of the US, as determined by the US”. Incidentally, Honduras withdrew its small contingent of forces from Iraq only a few days after Negroponte’s appointment, perhaps fearing the repetition of a familiar sequence.
There may be many sound reasons why, despite the UIA nomination, al Jaafari may not be suitable for the job. Though the 32-seat Fadilah (Virtue) Party of Moqtada al Sadr, the influential Shia cleric who is also close to Sunni groups, and Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq’s top Shia spiritual leader, want him to stay on, four UIA groups do not. Nobody, either in Iraq or elsewhere in west Asia, which has lately begun to respond sensitively to what is happening in Iraq, can object if the prime minister’s constituents turn against him. But American dislike cannot be the reason for him to quit. Yet, according to most accounts, the Rice-Straw mission was to nudge al Jaafari into stepping down while encouraging his local adversaries to step up their campaign against him.
Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and undisclosed detention centres in eastern Europe are part of the ugly legacy of a power that could give the world so much and lead it to secure prosperity. Yet, precedents from South Korea, South Vietnam, the Philippines, Pakistan and sundry Islamic autocracies highlight the irony of the world’s oldest democracy counting only monarchs and dictators without a popular mandate as its staunchest supporters in Asia. The treatment meted out to Hamas confirms how little Bush and his neo-conservative cronies value any popular verdict.
The dangerous feature of the al Jaafari controversy is the overlap of politics and religion, with the threat of repercussions throughout the region. Amidst all manner of plausible and implausible conspiracy theories, Shias in Iran, Lebanon and Bahrain link the mosque attacks in Iraq with the Danish cartoon controversy, further fuelling anti-Western passion. There are fears that Sunni-Shia tension might impact on Saudi Arabia’s oil production. Warning a senate committee that religious conflict “would seriously jeopardise the democratic political process”, Negroponte agreed that, despite initial reluctance, neighbouring countries would be tempted to become involved. As the world’s principal Shia power, Iran may feel — and Iraqi Shias may reciprocate the sentiment — that it has a more legitimate interest in adjoining Shia-majority Iraq than the US.
It is a measure of its inability to appreciate the force of Asian nationalism that the US cannot grasp that anything that looks like coercion can only aggravate the situation. Washington is probably still surprised that it was not hailed as the liberator from Saddam’s oppression. It still mistakes national resistance — what Napoleon called a “running sore” in conquered Spain — for terrorism. Such obtuseness arises from what J. William Fulbright called “the arrogance of power” in his eponymous 1966 classic which continues to provide insights into current American policy.
“America is now at that historical point at which a great nation is in danger of losing its perspective on what exactly is within the realm of its power and what is beyond it,” Fulbright wrote. “Other great nations, reaching this crucial juncture, have aspired to too much and, by overextension of effort, have declined and then fallen. Gradually but unmistakably, America is showing signs of that arrogance of power which has afflicted, weakened, and in some cases destroyed great nations in the past. In so doing, we are not living up to our capacity and promise as a civilised example for the world; the measure of our falling short is the measure of the patriot’s duty of dissent.”
The US had its way in Nicaragua, but as Carothers wrote, the death toll was “significantly higher than the number of US persons killed in the US Civil War and all the wars of the 20th century combined”. Today, Nicaragua is the second-poorest country in the hemisphere, just above Haiti, another target of US intervention. About 60 per cent of Nicaraguan children under two are afflicted with anaemia from severe malnutrition.
Unlike in Nicaragua, there is no systemic conflict in Iraq. Nor any threat to American security. But that’s not enough. As in Palestine, Bush’s mission civilisatrice demands that the voters’ choice must be handpicked by the US. It’s a definition of democracy that befits Stalin’s Russia, not the land of the free from which the world expects moral and material succour.
America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between. - Oscar Wilde
“Why are we over there in Iraq?”
“To protect our freedoms.”
“How are the Iraqis threatening our freedoms?”
“They attacked us on 9/11.”
“If that is true, why are so many Americans against the war?”
“I don’t know, but I think Cindy Sheehan and all the other war protestors should be rounded up and shot.”
04/10/06 "ICH" -- -- I was involved in this exchange with a co-worker about two months ago. I was utterly perplexed at how this individual managed the obvious cognitive dissonance created by thinking that we are fighting to protect our “freedoms” while simultaneously holding the notion that non-violent dissidents “should be rounded up and shot”.
In retrospect, why was I so surprised? As a vehement critic of the United States government’s foreign and domestic policies, I have received numerous death threats from &ldquoatriotic” loyalists to the American Empire over the last year. Recently, a severely brain-washed US resident who maintains a site called American Jihad issued a “Farwa” (his spelling) against the editors of Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, and Uruknet and against dissident writers Mike Whitney and Kurt Nimmo. Many of my essays have appeared on Dissident Voice and Uruknet, so I suppose I am a target of the “Farwa” too.
Violent Extremists Abound
While many death threats issued by American hate-mongers may be hollow, the nations of the Middle East do not have the market cornered on fanatical ideologues who commit acts of terror. Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph, Michael Griffin, Paul Hill, Ted Kaczynski, Baruch Goldstein, David Lane, Donald DeFreeze, Clayton Waagner and Earl Krugel are but a few of America’s home-grown violent extremists. America, and often components of its government, have a history of assassinating dissidents who become too powerful as they pursue equality and human rights. Fred Hampton, Malcolm X, RFK, MLK, and Paul Wellstone each met a premature demise which ended their efforts to introduce real social justice into the Empire.
Your Mind is our Vessel
Actually, I suspect many of the ardent supporters of the American Empire truly believe that they are preserving and spreading noble principles like freedom, democracy, equality, and human rights. There is no shortage of propaganda to convince them of this “fact”. Delusions and illusions “generously” provided by the corporate-controlled mainstream media afford Empire loyalists with the opportunity to avoid the burden of independent thinking. Sound-bites, canards, propaganda, stereo-types, and white-washed versions of the truth supply their programmed minds with a virtually endless loop of rationalizations to justify their approbation of a morally reprehensible entity.
People who continue to nurse at the bosom of Lady Liberty, the noble symbol of an imaginary land which has never existed, rail against those who seek peace, social and economic justice, and human rights. In their perverse worldview, health care, safety, ample nourishment, and adequate shelter are reserved for a select segment of the population in the Empire’s homeland. Those of us who believe in a more just and equitable world are indeed a threat to the oppressive capitalist imperialism of the United States. To perpetuate the Empire’s military dominance and parasitic exploitation of humanity, our attempts to awaken and rally the masses must be stopped by any means necessary.
Often accusing proponents of a more just and humane world of seeking “entitlements” for the poor and oppressed, the foot soldiers of the Empire are actually struggling with virtually every fiber of their being to preserve what they believe to be their own entitlements. Since the concept of “might making right” reinforces their belief that their “special rights” supersede the Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is time to identify and enumerate these exclusive privileges:
Inalienable Rights of Select Citizens of the American Empire
1. We have the right to pre-emptively attack the nation or region of our choice simply based on our belief that they may be a threat to the Empire. No evidence necessary.
2. We have established and will maintain the right to murder an unlimited number of innocent civilians so long as our military machine does the killing and we label the victims as “collateral damage”.
3. We have the right to label whomever we choose as “terrorists” or “enemy combatants” and to hold them indefinitely without a trial.
4. We are exempt from the Geneva Conventions and have the right to commit acts of torture or to rendition our unconvicted prisoners to other countries which will torture them.
5. We have the right to continue glorifying and justifying the land theft and genocide we committed against Native Americans.
6. We have the right to continue to claiming we are the “leader of the free world” when slavery was a legal institution in our nation until the Civil War, women were not able to vote until the Twentieth Century, institutionalized segregation existed until the 1960’s, and we deny 5% of our population (Gays and Lesbians) equal rights and protection under the Constitution.
7. We have the right to sell ourselves as a “democracy” despite the fact that we are a constitutional republic, and despite the fact that corporate interests, lobbyists, wealthy campaign donors, and Israel shape most of our foreign and domestic policy.
8. We have the right to bill ourselves as a “bastion of human rights” (and thus justify our imperial interventions) despite the fact that we have the highest prison population in the world, we have a government which tortures on a wide scale, and we are one of the few “developed” nations which metes out the death penalty.
9. We have the right to hoard the largest stockpile of weapons of mass destruction in the history of humankind while prohibiting other nations from possessing such weapons. We also are the only nation with the right to employ WMD’s on a wide scale, as evidenced by our annihilation of over 100,000 Japanese civilians.
10. We have the right to plunder 25% of the world’s resources to provide for a scant 5% of the world’s population, while blustering that if the rest of the world embraced laissez-faire capitalism, they could reap the same bountiful harvest. (Forget the mathematical impossibilities involved. Those just get in the way of the propaganda!)
11. We have the right to continue to empower multi-national corporations with the rights of person-hood, limit their exposure to criminal prosecution and civil suits, and to enable them to exploit human beings in other nations. As long as our corporate friends are showing a profit, they can operate sweat-shops, facilitate the murder of labor agitators, maintain monopolies, off-shore American jobs while exploiting the foreign workers who take them, avoid paying taxes by setting up “shell headquarters” in places like Bermuda, destroy the environment, and continue the race to the bottom in wages and benefits, here and abroad.
12. We have the right to maintain and enhance a socio-economic system that places a significant portion of the world’s wealth in the hands of about 3 million people (approximately one percent of the US population). Tax cuts and an end to estate taxes will ensure that the Empire’s plutocracy perpetuates its reign. We have the right to foster a malevolent world economic order which results in 3 billion human beings living on less than $2 per day.
13. We have the right to account for half of the world’s military expenditures to &ldquorovide for the common defense” of 5% of the world’s population while 46 million of our people have no health insurance, 13% of the overall American population lives in poverty, over a million are homeless, an alarmingly high percentage of Black America suffers poverty and receives a pathetic education, and crises like New Orleans result in passive mass murder and diasporas of “undesirables”.
14. We have the right to send military recruiters into public schools. Our recruiters have access to student addresses and phone numbers and we pay them to use propaganda and financial incentives to entice our youth into sacrificing themselves for the latest imperial crusade.
15. We have the right to accrue as much public and personal debt as we deem “necessary” to perpetuate the American Dream for our nation and to satiate our personal obsessions with acquiring material possessions.
16. We have the right to impose our hollow, shallow, and violent cultural values on a world cowed into acceptance by the raw military and economic power of the American Empire.
17. We have the right to spy on our citizens, eliminate habeas corpus, and contract private companies like Blackwater to avoid the constraints of posse comitatus. It is of no concern to us that our actions seriously conflict with the US Constitution.
18. We have the right to produce 25% of greenhouse gasses, ignore and discount mounting evidence of global warming, and refuse to sign the Kyoto Treaty.
19. We have the right to malign, threaten, intimidate, or kill those within the Empire who have the audacity to question or oppose our agenda.
20. We have the right to maintain a corrupt Duopoly consisting of the Republican and Democratic Parties, which consistently present American voters with candidates whose goals are to perpetuate the Empire and the agendas of its corporate and plutocratic leaders.
21. We have the right to use the IMF and World Bank to impose our economic will on “developing” nations which we “help” by burdening them with crushing debt.
22. We have the right to ignore and violate international law while demanding that the rest of the world (excepting Great Britain and Israel) adhere to it stringently.
23. We have the right to subsidize and support Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.
24. We have the right to concentrate the power of the United States government in the hands of the Executive Branch under the pretext that it is necessitated by the “War on Terror”.
25. We have the right to label those who dare to oppose our invasions or genocides as savages or terrorists and strip them of their human rights.
There you have it. Now the American Empire’s principal supporters and beneficiaries have their own “Bill of Rights”. Ironically, it has more than twice the number of rights guaranteed to all Americans under the original Constitutional Amendments. Since the true Bill of Rights is anathema to their cause, it is essential that the Empire loyalists’ “special rights” outnumber the rights protected by our Constitution.
A Severe Spiritual Malady
Certainly believing in America’s and its supporters’ entitlement to these “special rights” would qualify one as a sociopath (one with minimal concern for the welfare and feelings of others) within the world community. However, in the American Empire, those subscribing to such depraved and self-centered “rights” receive affirmation and acceptance.
Obviously this Bill of Rights II is my construct and does not formally exist. However, each of the entitlements I enumerated is necessary to enable the United States to exist in its current perverse form. If you truly support and pledge allegiance to the American Empire, this Bill of Rights II represents the core of your sociopolitical beliefs.
For those of you who embrace the notion that Divine Providence bestowed these “inalienable rights” upon you and your nation, I call upon you to search your souls. I challenge you to do a long and fearless moral inventory. If you do, and the maleficent elements of the United States of America have not managed to burn your conscience out of your psyche, I predict you will begin the journey to rejoin the brotherhood of humanity by renouncing your support of the American Empire.
If you are so narcissistic (or perhaps morally bereft) that you have no problem with the means by which the American Empire sustains its unregenerate existence, at least consider a pragmatic angle. The United States is pursuing a ruthless course which will eventually lead to a fierce and violent backlash, which will probably affect you. The 6.2 billion other members of the human race are only going to accept so much abuse before they strike back in a powerful way.
Jason Miller is a 39 year old sociopolitical essayist with a degree in liberal arts and an extensive self-education. When he is not spending time with his wife and three sons, researching, or writing, he is working as a loan counselor. He is a member of Amnesty International and an avid supporter of Oxfam International and Human Rights Watch. He welcomes responses at email@example.com or comments on his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/.
I have warned for a long time that the Federal Reserve is planning to destroy the U.S. economy by: printing the U.S. dollar in exponentially riskier quantities until it blows off the charts and crashes, and by easing credit and rates until the average individual and corporate debt loads are so enormous that the resulting massive distortions in the economy suddenly bring on an economic heart attack, leaving no possibility of a short or even medium-term recovery. That day is here!
There is nothing more important in your life right now than the exceedingly dire economic crisis unfolding as I write, and the state of your soul! In other words, if your spiritual house is not in order, the building financial collapse will be so horrible that you will not be able to emotionally or mentally endure it, and I am addressing the healthy and strong here. This collapse will knock you out cold, flat on your back, with violence, and most of mankind will never get back up. While the elite are sending signals to their friends that the switch has been thrown, that final preparations for safety are now in order, they are not saying how bad it will be. That is why I began this site, because I could not find anyone, even doomsayers, who spelled out clearly what is at stake here. I believe that even the elite, such as Sir Templeton (more below) do not fully understand the implications of this crash - that this is the end of America as we know it. That great criminal enterprise - the Federal Reserve - has accomplished step #1, trashing and ending the dollar system, culminating a multi-year, massive, insane inflation of money supply and credit. The Illuminati corporations such as Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Farmer Mac, FHA, GM, Ford, and GE (which are actually banks), worked hand-in-hand with the Bank Cartel on this sickening, twisted game, switching from pumping credit cards and cars (which have gone to zero percent financing 12 months ago) to a last-ditch horrendous push into mortgage lending. This insane lending will destroy the lending institutions themselves, as Ford and GM are well aware, but the elite do not care, as after this collapse, there will only be one corporation in the world, and they are all pulling together to put everyone as deep into debt as possible, to assure than no American state or corporation or region will survive when the debt mountain suffocates all life. This is why so many CEOs are bailing out with insane profits from questionable practices which would normally ruin their career for life, as they have raped their corporation (the latest is Grasso of the New York Stock Exchange); but they know the game is over, and it is now or never - this is their last chance to make millions and move to an island, for insiders are able to see that the economy is literally going to hell, and it will not climb out of hell in their lifetimes. (Some of these characters believe they have a room reserved underground to protect them from what is coming. Some are correct in thinking this, some are not. But many of those underground cities will be death traps, so you had better think twice before paying millions for your reservation. There are earth changes coming that will fundamentally rearrange the crust of the earth, most likely including your future bedroom.) The U.S. growth rate (GDP) in quarter 3 will probably be artificially doubled, as is the U.S. government custom of late, but it will be such a ridiculously high number, that it should be obvious to all that the massive inflation from the Federal Reserve (and mortgage friends) has led to a final blowoff from the massive liquidity and credit push over the past 9 months. But the housing market is so overpriced and overbought that mortgages are plunging despite the cartel's best effort to postpone the long-planned crash with dangerously wild lending (why they are postponing is not yet clear to me, everything appears ready). The two great props of the deathly-sick US economy - housing and cars - are gone forever, and can no longer be used to cover up the rapidly worsening fundamentals. Indeed, many are recognizing that these two alone - especially artificially low mortgage rates - have postponed a deep crash which should have occurred 2 or 3 years ago. Sadly, this extension has not been helpful, but has served a very useful purpose for the money elite, namely, greatly deepening private and corporate debt loads, exploding red ink in state and local budgets to dangerous levels, emptying pensions, creating a fatally large and exploding US budget and trade deficit, moving millions of jobs thousands of miles away, and expanding the dollar and derivatives mountain to ensure a global panic. This has been carefully coordinated worldwide from the headquarters of all world central banks, in Basel, Switzerland. You just don't have a clue how dead serious this news is!! My guess (and experience) is that less than 1 person in 100,000 understands how horrible and total the economic devastation will be in America. Personally, I have met only one person (a broker in Los Angeles) who understood what was coming. I met him in 1999, shortly before Sir Templeton said to get out of stocks. I considered this broker in LA to be a maverick, but expected more and more people to see the danger as the months went by. I was wrong. Literally, no one gets it. People all around me and around the world are saying the bottom has been reached, that the light at the end of the tunnel is growing. They live like everything is normal, going to the opera and movies, vacationing like life is normal, as if there was a future of freedom and opportunity awaiting us in the years ahead, as in the past. But someone who understands that life on this earth as we know it will end, lives a radically different lifestyle. When you see what is coming, and more importantly, why, and from whom, then movies, weddings, opera and building for the future suddenly lose all value. I recently wondered aloud to my wife at the dinner table, "how can the world laugh so heartily, when their lives are so empty and lonely, and when such tragedy and horror approaches the earth?" Her reply was classic. "I have always wondered the same thing." I have married well. If the Bankers are coordinating the financial destruction of the US, it follows that a time will one day arrive when they are suddenly given a secret signal to coordinate a "take down" of the U.S., after debt loads and dollar weakness is established. That time has arrived. Evidence Indicates The USA's Plug Has Been Recently Been Pulled Suddenly, in only the last two weeks, the warnings are flooding out of high finance like a burst dam. The message is clear for those who have ears to hear, for these warnings are all from the same inner circle: it can only mean someone has given the order to release the hordes of hell and go in for the kill. Some of these items listed below are reactions from the elite to save themselves and warn their friends. Other items are legal and political actions to remove any hindrance or safeguard which heretofore inhibited a sudden and massive implosion. Keeping in mind that this overwhelming avalanche of dire events occurred over mere days, here is the list: Russia announces anti-dollar war. Last week Russia announced it is now anti-dollar, Russia & socialist partner Germany discussed switching out of dollars and into euros for financing and, more importantly, conduct their huge oil transactions in euros, not dollars. No less than Duisenberg, head of the socialist European Central Bank (partner of the anti-American Federal Reserve) agreed, as did Communist Russia's partner, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, in a recent meeting.  Japan is unloading massive amounts of dollars, stocks, and US gov debt, as mentioned recently on this site's "Just The Facts" section.  Elitist Belkin: prepare for sickening plunge. As the elite analyst Belkin (newsletter costs $35,000 per year) stated over the last 2 weeks, (quotes are in Just The Facts), even private American banks are bailing out of US government debt, while Skull-n-Bones Trillionaire Bush explodes US debt into the outer reaches of never-never land, which means the US must find 300% more buyers to finance its failing socialist economy than just 2 years ago, (not including burgeoning state and local debt). This simply isn't possible. Belkin says "it's time to prepare for a sickening plunge into December and beyond." Bush is deliberately bankrupting the US for The Bank, while Americans wave their masonic little flags. We have a new champion in the long history of astonishingly dumb nations: the Americans under Bush and Clinton are clearly number one, replacing the Germans under Hitler (the Germans were never shown how a free-market economy works, and their history is one of dictatorial kings, and ice-cold and corrupt bishops. What are Americans' excuses?) Bush/Asia coordinated a sharp dollar fall two weeks ago at an Asian bloc summit. It is at all-time lows against the euro as I write, and falling. Last night the Japanese Nikkei stock market crashed over 5% in one session, on banking collapse fears, and the simultaneous dollar plunge. ECB, bank ruling Europe: "bail out of USA." Two weeks ago the top NWO bank of Europe, the ECB, openly warned Europeans to get out of the U.S. dollar-based economy, including supposedly "safe haven" US gov treasury bonds. This was printed openly in European financial papers and television. It is important to realize that the ECB and the non-American Federal Reserve are two branches of the same cartel. They are not enemies, although the Fed and the ECB as a team are definitely enemies of the United States. SEC to remove crash protection. After months of giving lip-service to addressing derivatives, short-selling, and hedge-fund risks, reversed itself and plans to ease the rule banning short-selling when stocks are falling. In other words, the SEC wants to suddenly remove all the stops which have prevented many sell-offs from became a multi-day panic. This is a huge warning. Without these stops, and without derivatives regulation, the US markets could in theory plunge 95% in one day. They will be closed before it goes that far (which is worse than a crash), but I expect this scenario to now come to pass. No one is talking about what the unfathomable derivatives bubble will do on a volatile day. I tell you, it will mean the end of the modern United States. It will become a banana republic, the mockery of the world, just on this point. Yet everyone is silent! Am I the only human being amidst a world of robots? What is going on here?!! The SEC is pushing a panic, but the authorities are silent! Is every last member of Congress in on this plot against America? GSE's wobbling, staff bailing out. After 5 years of steady, steller growth, the shady mortgage bubble machines - Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Federal Home Loan, i.e. the so-called Government Sponsored Enterprise (GSE) - started violently wobbling and now desperately need attention... yet suddenly a headline comes out this week saying, "Bush Admin Open To Ending GSE Govt Credit Line." Anyone who knows what a GSE is, how large these behemoths are, and how bloated and sick they are, knows this headline means Bush & The Bank are pushing the crash button! The GSEs are the world's biggest debtors, and Bush announces publicly he will now let them die. Wow. I wonder how many realize that Freddie & Fannie alone will collapse the US economy? Insiders quit Wall Street. Suddenly, the value of a prestigious seat on the NYSE has plunged 27% in just the last 3-4 weeks.  Yet during this same time period, the markets were reaching new highs, investment banking was promising great earnings gains, investment on margin and day-trading were again exploding, and the media was expounding on the amazing rebound. A 27 percent plunge in mere days, in the face of a Wall Street boom... what does elite Wall Street know that you don't know? Sir John Templeton (knighted for service to the globalists). In a rare interview last week, Sarasota investor Gary Moore met the legendary (and elderly) Sir John Templeton, in the Bahamas. Read this slowly: Sir Templeton "has never been more bearish" on the U.S. markets and economy. He is 92 years old. That means he is older than the Federal Reserve, i.e. he wasn't even this bearish during the Great Depression. He is an insider to The Plan, and has been knighted into the Illuminati for service to the dark forces of the throne of England. You need to listen to this man; he founded the legendary Templeton Fund, and is a spokesman for The Bank. He is warning investors to get out of U.S. stocks and real estate, and says to buy bonds, but not U.S. bonds. He "believes the dollar will lose 40 percent of its value against foreign currencies in the coming months" and "will cause the Chinese and Japanese, who own 36 percent of all U.S. foreign debt, to sell their bonds and mortgage obligations and take their money out of the country." Usury, Inc. warned 9 months ago that real estate was peaking (price rises slowing; repossessions soaring, and mortgage apps plunging), and that the stage was being set for a catastrophic real estate collapse... so bad that homes and commercial property couldn't be sold at ANY price. Several months later in July, Sir Templeton made a seemingly outrageous statement (which is posted in "Just The Facts" archives on this website) that real estate would plunge 90%. Gold extremely volatile This week, gold suddenly surged $5 per day. On Monday, it started at $371 / oz. This afternoon it broke $392. This has not happened in recent history. Are insiders loading up because the "signal" has been given regarding the U.S.? If the U.S. economy is surging and 2 million jobs will be created within 12 months (as Illuminatus Treasurer Snow said yesterday), then why is gold suddenly surging faster than any time in recent memory, in concert with the above disturbing information? Could it be a catastrophic event is underway and you are intentionally left in the dark? Adam Hamilton, CPA, publisher of the acclaimed Zeal Intelligence newsletter, says: "Extreme greed which spawns extremely low volatility was never sustainable in the past... The bottom line is that the [extremely low] S&P 500 volatility that we are witnessing these days [is] heralding a big move coming in the US stock markets. Contrary to all the widespread euphoria and predictions of a new secular bull market, the volatility is desperately trying to signal that this next major move will be down, quite probably hard." Robert Prechter, the famous financial guru and author warns, "Understand that I am not nervously bearish or on the fence. I am all-out, no-holds-barred, shout-from-the-rooftops, yet-another-opportunity-of-a-lifetime bearish. BEARS lay there waiting for SPRING. Bears stuff in times of plenty and fast in times of barren cold. DO NOT buy property now. DO not buy stock now. Wait for the crash. It started early MAY when interest rates were hiked 1 1/4 % a big leap, as I warned they would be, at this time, using the Mars/ Saturn conjunction in MOONCHILD, on BUSH and on USA chart. bursting the inflationary housing bubble! SELL HOUSE NOW. Buy in 9 mos. mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org E-Mail Senator Tim Ferguson Related Links: http://fergusonreport.myonlinepublication.com/ Source: Ferguson Report http://www.surfingtheapocalypse.net/
IRAN had shot down an unmanned surveillance plane in the south amid reports that the United States is planning military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities, a press report said today.
"This plane had taken off from Iraq and was filming border areas," a report in the hardline Jumhuri Eslami newspaper said.
It added the Islamic Republic "officials have obtained information from the plane system and recordings", without giving any further details.
US publications reported over the weekend that the White House was studying options for military strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities to pressure Tehran to abandon its controversial nuclear program.
The US media has reported that the US military has been secretly flying surveillance drones over Iran since 2004 using radar, video, still photography and air filters to detect traces of nuclear activity not accessible to satellites.
Would President Bush go to war to stop Tehran from getting the bomb?
The Bush Administration, while publicly advocating diplomacy in order to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon, has increased clandestine activities inside Iran and intensified planning for a possible major air attack. Current and former American military and intelligence officials said that Air Force planning groups are drawing up lists of targets, and teams of American combat troops have been ordered into Iran, under cover, to collect targeting data and to establish contact with anti-government ethnic-minority groups. The officials say that President Bush is determined to deny the Iranian regime the opportunity to begin a pilot program, planned for this spring, to enrich uranium.
American and European intelligence agencies, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.), agree that Iran is intent on developing the capability to produce nuclear weapons. But there are widely differing estimates of how long that will take, and whether diplomacy, sanctions, or military action is the best way to prevent it. Iran insists that its research is for peaceful use only, in keeping with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and that it will not be delayed or deterred.
There is a growing conviction among members of the United States military, and in the international community, that President Bush's ultimate goal in the nuclear confrontation with Iran is regime change. Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has challenged the reality of the Holocaust and said that Israel must be "wiped off the map." Bush and others in the White House view him as a potential Adolf Hitler, a former senior intelligence official said. "That's the name they're using. They say, 'Will Iran get a strategic weapon and threaten another world war?' "
A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was "absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb" if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do "what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do," and "that saving Iran is going to be his legacy."
One former defense official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the Bush Administration, told me that the military planning was premised on a belief that "a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government." He added, "I was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, 'What are they smoking?' "
The rationale for regime change was articulated in early March by Patrick Clawson, an Iran expert who is the deputy director for research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and who has been a supporter of President Bush. "So long as Iran has an Islamic republic, it will have a nuclear-weapons program, at least clandestinely," Clawson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 2nd. "The key issue, therefore, is: How long will the present Iranian regime last?"
When I spoke to Clawson, he emphasized that "this Administration is putting a lot of effort into diplomacy." However, he added, Iran had no choice other than to accede to America's demands or face a military attack. Clawson said that he fears that Ahmadinejad "sees the West as wimps and thinks we will eventually cave in. We have to be ready to deal with Iran if the crisis escalates." Clawson said that he would prefer to rely on sabotage and other clandestine activities, such as "industrial accidents." But, he said, it would be prudent to prepare for a wider war, "given the way the Iranians are acting. This is not like planning to invade Quebec."
One military planner told me that White House criticisms of Iran and the high tempo of planning and clandestine activities amount to a campaign of "coercion" aimed at Iran. "You have to be ready to go, and we'll see how they respond," the officer said. "You have to really show a threat in order to get Ahmadinejad to back down." He added, "People think Bush has been focussed on Saddam Hussein since 9/11," but, "in my view, if you had to name one nation that was his focus all the way along, it was Iran." (In response to detailed requests for comment, the White House said that it would not comment on military planning but added, "As the President has indicated, we are pursuing a diplomatic solution"; the Defense Department also said that Iran was being dealt with through "diplomatic channels" but wouldn't elaborate on that; the CIA said that there were "inaccuracies" in this account but would not specify them.)
"This is much more than a nuclear issue," one high-ranking diplomat told me in Vienna. "That's just a rallying point, and there is still time to fix it. But the Administration believes it cannot be fixed unless they control the hearts and minds of Iran. The real issue is who is going to control the Middle East and its oil in the next ten years."
A senior Pentagon adviser on the war on terror expressed a similar view. "This White House believes that the only way to solve the problem is to change the power structure in Iran, and that means war," he said. The danger, he said, was that "it also reinforces the belief inside Iran that the only way to defend the country is to have a nuclear capability." A military conflict that destabilized the region could also increase the risk of terror: "Hezbollah comes into play," the adviser said, referring to the terror group that is considered one of the world's most successful, and which is now a Lebanese political party with strong ties to Iran. "And here comes Al Qaeda."
In recent weeks, the President has quietly initiated a series of talks on plans for Iran with a few key senators and members of Congress, including at least one Democrat. A senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, who did not take part in the meetings but has discussed their content with his colleagues, told me that there had been "no formal briefings," because "they're reluctant to brief the minority. They're doing the Senate, somewhat selectively."
The House member said that no one in the meetings "is really objecting" to the talk of war. "The people they're briefing are the same ones who led the charge on Iraq. At most, questions are raised: How are you going to hit all the sites at once? How are you going to get deep enough?" (Iran is building facilities underground.) "There's no pressure from Congress" not to take military action, the House member added. "The only political pressure is from the guys who want to do it." Speaking of President Bush, the House member said, "The most worrisome thing is that this guy has a messianic vision."
Some operations, apparently aimed in part at intimidating Iran, are already under way. American Naval tactical aircraft, operating from carriers in the Arabian Sea, have been flying simulated nuclear-weapons delivery missions - rapid ascending maneuvers known as "over the shoulder" bombing - since last summer, the former official said, within range of Iranian coastal radars.
Last month, in a paper given at a conference on Middle East security in Berlin, Colonel Sam Gardiner, a military analyst who taught at the National War College before retiring from the Air Force, in 1987, provided an estimate of what would be needed to destroy Iran's nuclear program. Working from satellite photographs of the known facilities, Gardiner estimated that at least four hundred targets would have to be hit. He added:
I don't think a US military planner would want to stop there. Iran probably has two chemical-production plants. We would hit those. We would want to hit the medium-range ballistic missiles that have just recently been moved closer to Iraq. There are fourteen airfields with sheltered aircraft. . . . We'd want to get rid of that threat. We would want to hit the assets that could be used to threaten Gulf shipping. That means targeting the cruise-missile sites and the Iranian diesel submarines. . . . Some of the facilities may be too difficult to target even with penetrating weapons. The US will have to use Special Operations units.
One of the military's initial option plans, as presented to the White House by the Pentagon this winter, calls for the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against underground nuclear sites. One target is Iran's main centrifuge plant, at Natanz, nearly two hundred miles south of Tehran. Natanz, which is no longer under I.A.E.A. safeguards, reportedly has underground floor space to hold fifty thousand centrifuges, and laboratories and workspaces buried approximately seventy-five feet beneath the surface. That number of centrifuges could provide enough enriched uranium for about twenty nuclear warheads a year. (Iran has acknowledged that it initially kept the existence of its enrichment program hidden from I.A.E.A. inspectors, but claims that none of its current activity is barred by the Non-Proliferation Treaty.) The elimination of Natanz would be a major setback for Iran's nuclear ambitions, but the conventional weapons in the American arsenal could not insure the destruction of facilities under seventy-five feet of earth and rock, especially if they are reinforced with concrete.
There is a Cold War precedent for targeting deep underground bunkers with nuclear weapons. In the early nineteen-eighties, the American intelligence community watched as the Soviet government began digging a huge underground complex outside Moscow. Analysts concluded that the underground facility was designed for "continuity of government" - for the political and military leadership to survive a nuclear war. (There are similar facilities, in Virginia and Pennsylvania, for the American leadership.) The Soviet facility still exists, and much of what the US knows about it remains classified. "The 'tell' " - the giveaway - "was the ventilator shafts, some of which were disguised," the former senior intelligence official told me. At the time, he said, it was determined that "only nukes" could destroy the bunker. He added that some American intelligence analysts believe that the Russians helped the Iranians design their underground facility. "We see a similarity of design," specifically in the ventilator shafts, he said.
A former high-level Defense Department official told me that, in his view, even limited bombing would allow the US to "go in there and do enough damage to slow down the nuclear infrastructure - it's feasible." The former defense official said, "The Iranians don't have friends, and we can tell them that, if necessary, we'll keep knocking back their infrastructure. The United States should act like we're ready to go." He added, "We don't have to knock down all of their air defenses. Our stealth bombers and standoff missiles really work, and we can blow fixed things up. We can do things on the ground, too, but it's difficult and very dangerous - put bad stuff in ventilator shafts and put them to sleep."
But those who are familiar with the Soviet bunker, according to the former senior intelligence official, "say 'No way.' You've got to know what's underneath - to know which ventilator feeds people, or diesel generators, or which are false. And there's a lot that we don't know." The lack of reliable intelligence leaves military planners, given the goal of totally destroying the sites, little choice but to consider the use of tactical nuclear weapons. "Every other option, in the view of the nuclear weaponeers, would leave a gap," the former senior intelligence official said. " 'Decisive' is the key word of the Air Force's planning. It's a tough decision. But we made it in Japan."
He went on, "Nuclear planners go through extensive training and learn the technical details of damage and fallout - we're talking about mushroom clouds, radiation, mass casualties, and contamination over years. This is not an underground nuclear test, where all you see is the earth raised a little bit. These politicians don't have a clue, and whenever anybody tries to get it out" - remove the nuclear option - "they're shouted down."
The attention given to the nuclear option has created serious misgivings inside the offices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he added, and some officers have talked about resigning. Late this winter, the Joint Chiefs of Staff sought to remove the nuclear option from the evolving war plans for Iran - without success, the former intelligence official said. "The White House said, 'Why are you challenging this? The option came from you.' "
The Pentagon adviser on the war on terror confirmed that some in the Administration were looking seriously at this option, which he linked to a resurgence of interest in tactical nuclear weapons among Pentagon civilians and in policy circles. He called it "a juggernaut that has to be stopped." He also confirmed that some senior officers and officials were considering resigning over the issue. "There are very strong sentiments within the military against brandishing nuclear weapons against other countries," the adviser told me. "This goes to high levels." The matter may soon reach a decisive point, he said, because the Joint Chiefs had agreed to give President Bush a formal recommendation stating that they are strongly opposed to considering the nuclear option for Iran. "The internal debate on this has hardened in recent weeks," the adviser said. "And, if senior Pentagon officers express their opposition to the use of offensive nuclear weapons, then it will never happen."
The adviser added, however, that the idea of using tactical nuclear weapons in such situations has gained support from the Defense Science Board, an advisory panel whose members are selected by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. "They're telling the Pentagon that we can build the B61 with more blast and less radiation," he said.
The chairman of the Defense Science Board is William Schneider, Jr., an Under-Secretary of State in the Reagan Administration. In January, 2001, as President Bush prepared to take office, Schneider served on an ad-hoc panel on nuclear forces sponsored by the National Institute for Public Policy, a conservative think tank. The panel's report recommended treating tactical nuclear weapons as an essential part of the US arsenal and noted their suitability "for those occasions when the certain and prompt destruction of high priority targets is essential and beyond the promise of conventional weapons." Several signers of the report are now prominent members of the Bush Administration, including Stephen Hadley, the national-security adviser; Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; and Robert Joseph, the Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.
The Pentagon adviser questioned the value of air strikes. "The Iranians have distributed their nuclear activity very well, and we have no clue where some of the key stuff is. It could even be out of the country," he said. He warned, as did many others, that bombing Iran could provoke "a chain reaction" of attacks on American facilities and citizens throughout the world: "What will 1.2 billion Muslims think the day we attack Iran?"
With or without the nuclear option, the list of targets may inevitably expand. One recently retired high-level Bush Administration official, who is also an expert on war planning, told me that he would have vigorously argued against an air attack on Iran, because "Iran is a much tougher target" than Iraq. But, he added, "If you're going to do any bombing to stop the nukes, you might as well improve your lie across the board. Maybe hit some training camps, and clear up a lot of other problems."
The Pentagon adviser said that, in the event of an attack, the Air Force intended to strike many hundreds of targets in Iran but that "ninety-nine per cent of them have nothing to do with proliferation. There are people who believe it's the way to operate" - that the Administration can achieve its policy goals in Iran with a bombing campaign, an idea that has been supported by neoconservatives.
If the order were to be given for an attack, the American combat troops now operating in Iran would be in position to mark the critical targets with laser beams, to insure bombing accuracy and to minimize civilian casualties. As of early winter, I was told by the government consultant with close ties to civilians in the Pentagon, the units were also working with minority groups in Iran, including the Azeris, in the north, the Baluchis, in the southeast, and the Kurds, in the northeast. The troops "are studying the terrain, and giving away walking-around money to ethnic tribes, and recruiting scouts from local tribes and shepherds," the consultant said. One goal is to get "eyes on the ground" - quoting a line from "Othello," he said, "Give me the ocular proof." The broader aim, the consultant said, is to "encourage ethnic tensions" and undermine the regime.
The new mission for the combat troops is a product of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's long-standing interest in expanding the role of the military in covert operations, which was made official policy in the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review, published in February. Such activities, if conducted by CIA operatives, would need a Presidential Finding and would have to be reported to key members of Congress.
" 'Force protection' is the new buzzword," the former senior intelligence official told me. He was referring to the Pentagon's position that clandestine activities that can be broadly classified as preparing the battlefield or protecting troops are military, not intelligence, operations, and are therefore not subject to congressional oversight. "The guys in the Joint Chiefs of Staff say there are a lot of uncertainties in Iran," he said. "We need to have more than what we had in Iraq. Now we have the green light to do everything we want."
The President's deep distrust of Ahmadinejad has strengthened his determination to confront Iran. This view has been reinforced by allegations that Ahmadinejad, who joined a special-forces brigade of the Revolutionary Guards in 1986, may have been involved in terrorist activities in the late eighties. (There are gaps in Ahmadinejad's official biography in this period.) Ahmadinejad has reportedly been connected to Imad Mughniyeh, a terrorist who has been implicated in the deadly bombings of the US Embassy and the US Marine barracks in Beirut, in 1983. Mughniyeh was then the security chief of Hezbollah; he remains on the FBI's list of most-wanted terrorists.
Robert Baer, who was a CIA officer in the Middle East and elsewhere for two decades, told me that Ahmadinejad and his Revolutionary Guard colleagues in the Iranian government "are capable of making a bomb, hiding it, and launching it at Israel. They're apocalyptic Shiites. If you're sitting in Tel Aviv and you believe they've got nukes and missiles - you've got to take them out. These guys are nuts, and there's no reason to back off."
Under Ahmadinejad, the Revolutionary Guards have expanded their power base throughout the Iranian bureaucracy; by the end of January, they had replaced thousands of civil servants with their own members. One former senior United Nations official, who has extensive experience with Iran, depicted the turnover as "a white coup," with ominous implications for the West. "Professionals in the Foreign Ministry are out; others are waiting to be kicked out," he said. "We may be too late. These guys now believe that they are stronger than ever since the revolution." He said that, particularly in consideration of China's emergence as a superpower, Iran's attitude was "To hell with the West. You can do as much as you like."
Iran's supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, is considered by many experts to be in a stronger position than Ahmadinejad. "Ahmadinejad is not in control," one European diplomat told me. "Power is diffuse in Iran. The Revolutionary Guards are among the key backers of the nuclear program, but, ultimately, I don't think they are in charge of it. The Supreme Leader has the casting vote on the nuclear program, and the Guards will not take action without his approval."
The Pentagon adviser on the war on terror said that "allowing Iran to have the bomb is not on the table. We cannot have nukes being sent downstream to a terror network. It's just too dangerous." He added, "The whole internal debate is on which way to go" - in terms of stopping the Iranian program. It is possible, the adviser said, that Iran will unilaterally renounce its nuclear plans - and forestall the American action. "God may smile on us, but I don't think so. The bottom line is that Iran cannot become a nuclear-weapons state. The problem is that the Iranians realize that only by becoming a nuclear state can they defend themselves against the US Something bad is going to happen."
While almost no one disputes Iran's nuclear ambitions, there is intense debate over how soon it could get the bomb, and what to do about that. Robert Gallucci, a former government expert on nonproliferation who is now the dean of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown, told me, "Based on what I know, Iran could be eight to ten years away" from developing a deliverable nuclear weapon. Gallucci added, "If they had a covert nuclear program and we could prove it, and we could not stop it by negotiation, diplomacy, or the threat of sanctions, I'd be in favor of taking it out. But if you do it" - bomb Iran - "without being able to show there's a secret program, you're in trouble."
Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, told the Knesset last December that "Iran is one to two years away, at the latest, from having enriched uranium. From that point, the completion of their nuclear weapon is simply a technical matter." In a conversation with me, a senior Israeli intelligence official talked about what he said was Iran's duplicity: "There are two parallel nuclear programs" inside Iran - the program declared to the I.A.E.A. and a separate operation, run by the military and the Revolutionary Guards. Israeli officials have repeatedly made this argument, but Israel has not produced public evidence to support it. Richard Armitage, the Deputy Secretary of State in Bush's first term, told me, "I think Iran has a secret nuclear-weapons program - I believe it, but I don't know it."
In recent months, the Pakistani government has given the US new access to A. Q. Khan, the so-called father of the Pakistani atomic bomb. Khan, who is now living under house arrest in Islamabad, is accused of setting up a black market in nuclear materials; he made at least one clandestine visit to Tehran in the late nineteen-eighties. In the most recent interrogations, Khan has provided information on Iran's weapons design and its time line for building a bomb. "The picture is of 'unquestionable danger,' " the former senior intelligence official said. (The Pentagon adviser also confirmed that Khan has been "singing like a canary.") The concern, the former senior official said, is that "Khan has credibility problems. He is suggestible, and he's telling the neoconservatives what they want to hear" - or what might be useful to Pakistan's President, Pervez Musharraf, who is under pressure to assist Washington in the war on terror.
"I think Khan's leading us on," the former intelligence official said. "I don't know anybody who says, 'Here's the smoking gun.' But lights are beginning to blink. He's feeding us information on the time line, and targeting information is coming in from our own sources - sensors and the covert teams. The CIA, which was so burned by Iraqi W.M.D., is going to the Pentagon and the Vice-President's office saying, 'It's all new stuff.' People in the Administration are saying, 'We've got enough.' "
The Administration's case against Iran is compromised by its history of promoting false intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. In a recent essay on the Foreign Policy Web site, entitled "Fool Me Twice," Joseph Cirincione, the director for nonproliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote, "The unfolding administration strategy appears to be an effort to repeat its successful campaign for the Iraq war." He noted several parallels:
The vice president of the United States gives a major speech focused on the threat from an oil-rich nation in the Middle East. The US Secretary of State tells Congress that the same nation is our most serious global challenge. The Secretary of Defense calls that nation the leading supporter of global terrorism.
Cirincione called some of the Administration's claims about Iran "questionable" or lacking in evidence. When I spoke to him, he asked, "What do we know? What is the threat? The question is: How urgent is all this?" The answer, he said, "is in the intelligence community and the I.A.E.A." (In August, the Washington Post reported that the most recent comprehensive National Intelligence Estimate predicted that Iran was a decade away from being a nuclear power.)
Last year, the Bush Administration briefed I.A.E.A. officials on what it said was new and alarming information about Iran's weapons program which had been retrieved from an Iranian's laptop. The new data included more than a thousand pages of technical drawings of weapons systems. The Washington Post reported that there were also designs for a small facility that could be used in the uranium-enrichment process. Leaks about the laptop became the focal point of stories in the Times and elsewhere. The stories were generally careful to note that the materials could have been fabricated, but also quoted senior American officials as saying that they appeared to be legitimate. The headline in the Times' account read, "RELYING ON COMPUTER, US SEEKS TO PROVE IRAN'S NUCLEAR AIMS."
I was told in interviews with American and European intelligence officials, however, that the laptop was more suspect and less revelatory than it had been depicted. The Iranian who owned the laptop had initially been recruited by German and American intelligence operatives, working together. The Americans eventually lost interest in him. The Germans kept on, but the Iranian was seized by the Iranian counter-intelligence force. It is not known where he is today. Some family members managed to leave Iran with his laptop and handed it over at a US embassy, apparently in Europe. It was a classic "walk-in."
A European intelligence official said, "There was some hesitation on our side" about what the materials really proved, "and we are still not convinced." The drawings were not meticulous, as newspaper accounts suggested, "but had the character of sketches," the European official said. "It was not a slam-dunk smoking gun."
The threat of American military action has created dismay at the headquarters of the I.A.E.A., in Vienna. The agency's officials believe that Iran wants to be able to make a nuclear weapon, but "nobody has presented an inch of evidence of a parallel nuclear-weapons program in Iran," the high-ranking diplomat told me. The I.A.E.A.'s best estimate is that the Iranians are five years away from building a nuclear bomb. "But, if the United States does anything militarily, they will make the development of a bomb a matter of Iranian national pride," the diplomat said. "The whole issue is America's risk assessment of Iran's future intentions, and they don't trust the regime. Iran is a menace to American policy."
In Vienna, I was told of an exceedingly testy meeting earlier this year between Mohamed ElBaradei, the I.A.E.A.'s director-general, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, and Robert Joseph, the Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control. Joseph's message was blunt, one diplomat recalled: "We cannot have a single centrifuge spinning in Iran. Iran is a direct threat to the national security of the United States and our allies, and we will not tolerate it. We want you to give us an understanding that you will not say anything publicly that will undermine us. "
Joseph's heavy-handedness was unnecessary, the diplomat said, since the I.A.E.A. already had been inclined to take a hard stand against Iran. "All of the inspectors are angry at being misled by the Iranians, and some think the Iranian leadership are nutcases - one hundred per cent totally certified nuts," the diplomat said. He added that ElBaradei's overriding concern is that the Iranian leaders "want confrontation, just like the neocons on the other side" - in Washington. "At the end of the day, it will work only if the United States agrees to talk to the Iranians."
The central question - whether Iran will be able to proceed with its plans to enrich uranium - is now before the United Nations, with the Russians and the Chinese reluctant to impose sanctions on Tehran. A discouraged former I.A.E.A. official told me in late March that, at this point, "there's nothing the Iranians could do that would result in a positive outcome. American diplomacy does not allow for it. Even if they announce a stoppage of enrichment, nobody will believe them. It's a dead end."
Another diplomat in Vienna asked me, "Why would the West take the risk of going to war against that kind of target without giving it to the I.A.E.A. to verify? We're low-cost, and we can create a program that will force Iran to put its cards on the table." A Western Ambassador in Vienna expressed similar distress at the White House's dismissal of the I.A.E.A. He said, "If you don't believe that the I.A.E.A. can establish an inspection system - if you don't trust them - you can only bomb."
There is little sympathy for the I.A.E.A. in the Bush Administration or among its European allies. "We're quite frustrated with the director-general," the European diplomat told me. "His basic approach has been to describe this as a dispute between two sides with equal weight. It's not. We're the good guys! ElBaradei has been pushing the idea of letting Iran have a small nuclear-enrichment program, which is ludicrous. It's not his job to push ideas that pose a serious proliferation risk."
The Europeans are rattled, however, by their growing perception that President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney believe a bombing campaign will be needed, and that their real goal is regime change. "Everyone is on the same page about the Iranian bomb, but the United States wants regime change," a European diplomatic adviser told me. He added, "The Europeans have a role to play as long as they don't have to choose between going along with the Russians and the Chinese or going along with Washington on something they don't want. Their policy is to keep the Americans engaged in something the Europeans can live with. It may be untenable."
"The Brits think this is a very bad idea," Flynt Leverett, a former National Security Council staff member who is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Saban Center, told me, "but they're really worried we're going to do it." The European diplomatic adviser acknowledged that the British Foreign Office was aware of war planning in Washington but that, "short of a smoking gun, it's going to be very difficult to line up the Europeans on Iran." He said that the British "are jumpy about the Americans going full bore on the Iranians, with no compromise."
The European diplomat said that he was skeptical that Iran, given its record, had admitted to everything it was doing, but "to the best of our knowledge the Iranian capability is not at the point where they could successfully run centrifuges" to enrich uranium in quantity. One reason for pursuing diplomacy was, he said, Iran's essential pragmatism. "The regime acts in its best interests," he said. Iran's leaders "take a hard-line approach on the nuclear issue and they want to call the American bluff," believing that "the tougher they are the more likely the West will fold." But, he said, "From what we've seen with Iran, they will appear superconfident until the moment they back off."
The diplomat went on, "You never reward bad behavior, and this is not the time to offer concessions. We need to find ways to impose sufficient costs to bring the regime to its senses. It's going to be a close call, but I think if there is unity in opposition and the price imposed" - in sanctions - "is sufficient, they may back down. It's too early to give up on the U.N. route." He added, "If the diplomatic process doesn't work, there is no military 'solution.' There may be a military option, but the impact could be catastrophic."
Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, was George Bush's most dependable ally in the year leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But he and his party have been racked by a series of financial scandals, and his popularity is at a low point. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said last year that military action against Iran was "inconceivable." Blair has been more circumspect, saying publicly that one should never take options off the table.
Other European officials expressed similar skepticism about the value of an American bombing campaign. "The Iranian economy is in bad shape, and Ahmadinejad is in bad shape politically," the European intelligence official told me. "He will benefit politically from American bombing. You can do it, but the results will be worse." An American attack, he said, would alienate ordinary Iranians, including those who might be sympathetic to the US "Iran is no longer living in the Stone Age, and the young people there have access to US movies and books, and they love it," he said. "If there was a charm offensive with Iran, the mullahs would be in trouble in the long run."
Another European official told me that he was aware that many in Washington wanted action. "It's always the same guys," he said, with a resigned shrug. "There is a belief that diplomacy is doomed to fail. The timetable is short."
A key ally with an important voice in the debate is Israel, whose leadership has warned for years that it viewed any attempt by Iran to begin enriching uranium as a point of no return. I was told by several officials that the White House's interest in preventing an Israeli attack on a Muslim country, which would provoke a backlash across the region, was a factor in its decision to begin the current operational planning. In a speech in Cleveland on March 20th, President Bush depicted Ahmadinejad's hostility toward Israel as a "serious threat. It's a threat to world peace." He added, "I made it clear, I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally Israel."
Any American bombing attack, Richard Armitage told me, would have to consider the following questions: "What will happen in the other Islamic countries? What ability does Iran have to reach us and touch us globally - that is, terrorism? Will Syria and Lebanon up the pressure on Israel? What does the attack do to our already diminished international standing? And what does this mean for Russia, China, and the U.N. Security Council?"
Iran, which now produces nearly four million barrels of oil a day, would not have to cut off production to disrupt the world's oil markets. It could blockade or mine the Strait of Hormuz, the thirty-four-mile-wide passage through which Middle Eastern oil reaches the Indian Ocean. Nonetheless, the recently retired defense official dismissed the strategic consequences of such actions. He told me that the US Navy could keep shipping open by conducting salvage missions and putting mine- sweepers to work. "It's impossible to block passage," he said. The government consultant with ties to the Pentagon also said he believed that the oil problem could be managed, pointing out that the US has enough in its strategic reserves to keep America running for sixty days. However, those in the oil business I spoke to were less optimistic; one industry expert estimated that the price per barrel would immediately spike, to anywhere from ninety to a hundred dollars per barrel, and could go higher, depending on the duration and scope of the conflict.
Michel Samaha, a veteran Lebanese Christian politician and former cabinet minister in Beirut, told me that the Iranian retaliation might be focussed on exposed oil and gas fields in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. "They would be at risk," he said, "and this could begin the real jihad of Iran versus the West. You will have a messy world."
Iran could also initiate a wave of terror attacks in Iraq and elsewhere, with the help of Hezbollah. On April 2nd, the Washington Post reported that the planning to counter such attacks "is consuming a lot of time" at US intelligence agencies. "The best terror network in the world has remained neutral in the terror war for the past several years," the Pentagon adviser on the war on terror said of Hezbollah. "This will mobilize them and put us up against the group that drove Israel out of southern Lebanon. If we move against Iran, Hezbollah will not sit on the sidelines. Unless the Israelis take them out, they will mobilize against us." (When I asked the government consultant about that possibility, he said that, if Hezbollah fired rockets into northern Israel, "Israel and the new Lebanese government will finish them off.")
The adviser went on, "If we go, the southern half of Iraq will light up like a candle." The American, British, and other coalition forces in Iraq would be at greater risk of attack from Iranian troops or from Shiite militias operating on instructions from Iran. (Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, has close ties to the leading Shiite parties in Iraq.) A retired four-star general told me that, despite the eight thousand British troops in the region, "the Iranians could take Basra with ten mullahs and one sound truck."
"If you attack," the high-ranking diplomat told me in Vienna, "Ahmadinejad will be the new Saddam Hussein of the Arab world, but with more credibility and more power. You must bite the bullet and sit down with the Iranians."
The diplomat went on, "There are people in Washington who would be unhappy if we found a solution. They are still banking on isolation and regime change. This is wishful thinking." He added, "The window of opportunity is now."
US Is Studying Military Strike Options on Iran By Peter Baker, Dafna Linzer and Thomas E. Ricks The Washington Post
Sunday 09 April 2006
Any mix of tact, threats alarms critics.
The Bush administration is studying options for military strikes against Iran as part of a broader strategy of coercive diplomacy to pressure Tehran to abandon its alleged nuclear development program, according to US officials and independent analysts.
No attack appears likely in the short term, and many specialists inside and outside the US government harbor serious doubts about whether an armed response would be effective. But administration officials are preparing for it as a possible option and using the threat "to convince them this is more and more serious," as a senior official put it.
According to current and former officials, Pentagon and CIA planners have been exploring possible targets, such as the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz and the uranium conversion facility at Isfahan. Although a land invasion is not contemplated, military officers are weighing alternatives ranging from a limited airstrike aimed at key nuclear sites, to a more extensive bombing campaign designed to destroy an array of military and political targets.
Preparations for confrontation with Iran underscore how the issue has vaulted to the front of President Bush's agenda even as he struggles with a relentless war in next-door Iraq. Bush views Tehran as a serious menace that must be dealt with before his presidency ends, aides said, and the White House, in its new National Security Strategy, last month labeled Iran the most serious challenge to the United States posed by any country.
Many military officers and specialists, however, view the saber rattling with alarm. A strike at Iran, they warn, would at best just delay its nuclear program by a few years but could inflame international opinion against the United States, particularly in the Muslim world and especially within Iran, while making US troops in Iraq targets for retaliation.
"My sense is that any talk of a strike is the diplomatic gambit to keep pressure on others that if they don't help solve the problem, we will have to," said Kori Schake, who worked on Bush's National Security Council staff and teaches at the US Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
Others believe it is more than bluster. "The Bush team is looking at the viability of airstrikes simply because many think airstrikes are the only real option ahead," said Kurt Campbell, a former Pentagon policy official.
The intensified discussion of military scenarios comes as the United States is working with European allies on a diplomatic solution. After tough negotiations, the U.N. Security Council issued a statement last month urging Iran to re-suspend its uranium enrichment program. But Russia and China, both veto-wielding council members, forced out any mention of consequences and are strongly resisting any sanctions.
US officials continue to pursue the diplomatic course but privately seem increasingly skeptical that it will succeed. The administration is also coming under pressure from Israel, which has warned the Bush team that Iran is closer to developing a nuclear bomb than Washington thinks and that a moment of decision is fast approaching.
Bush and his team have calibrated their rhetoric to give the impression that the United States may yet resort to force. In January, the president termed a nuclear-armed Iran "a grave threat to the security of the world," words that echoed language he used before the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Vice President Cheney vowed "meaningful consequences" if Iran does not give up any nuclear aspirations, and U.N. Ambassador John R. Bolton refined the formula to "tangible and painful consequences."
Although Bush insists he is focused on diplomacy for now, he volunteered at a public forum in Cleveland last month his readiness to use force if Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tries to follow through on his statement that Israel should be "wiped off the map."
"The threat from Iran is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally, Israel," Bush said. "That's a threat, a serious threat. . . . I'll make it clear again that we will use military might to protect our ally Israel."
Bush has also been privately consulting with key senators about options on Iran as part of a broader goal of regime change, according to an account by Seymour M. Hersh in the New Yorker magazine.
The US government has taken some preliminary steps that go beyond planning. The Washington Post has reported that the military has been secretly flying surveillance drones over Iran since 2004 using radar, video, still photography and air filters to detect traces of nuclear activity not accessible to satellites. Hersh reported that US combat troops have been ordered to enter Iran covertly to collect targeting data, but sources have not confirmed that to The Post.
The British government has launched its own planning for a potential US strike, studying security arrangements for its embassy and consular offices, for British citizens and corporate interests in Iran and for ships in the region and British troops in Iraq. British officials indicate their government is unlikely to participate directly in any attacks.
Israel is preparing, as well. The government recently leaked a contingency plan for attacking on its own if the United States does not, a plan involving airstrikes, commando teams, possibly missiles and even explosives-carrying dogs. Israel, which bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear plant in 1981 to prevent it from being used to develop weapons, has built a replica of Natanz, according to Israeli media, but US strategists do not believe Israel has the capacity to accomplish the mission without nuclear weapons.
Iran appears to be taking the threat seriously. The government, which maintains its nuclear activity is only for peaceful, civilian uses, has launched a program to reinforce key sites, such as Natanz and Isfahan, by building concrete ceilings, tunneling into mountains and camouflaging facilities. Iran lately has tested several missiles in a show of strength.
Israel points to those missiles to press their case in Washington. Israeli officials traveled here recently to convey more urgency about Iran. Although US intelligence agencies estimate Iran is about a decade away from having a nuclear bomb, Israelis believe a critical breakthrough could occur within months. They told US officials that Iran is beginning to test a more elaborate cascade of centrifuges, indicating that it is further along than previously believed.
"What the Israelis are saying is this year -- unless they are pressured into abandoning the program -- would be the year they will master the engineering problem," a US official said. "That would be a turning point, but it wouldn't mean they would have a bomb."
But various specialists and some military officials are resisting strikes.
"The Pentagon is arguing forcefully against it because it is so constrained" in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA Middle East specialist. A former defense official who stays in touch with colleagues added, "I don't think anybody's prepared to use the military option at this point."
As the administration weighs these issues, two main options are under consideration, according to one person with contacts among Air Force planners. The first would be a quick and limited strike against nuclear-related facilities accompanied by a threat to resume bombing if Iran responds with terrorist attacks in Iraq or elsewhere. The second calls for a more ambitious campaign of bombing and cruise missiles leveling targets well beyond nuclear facilities, such as Iranian intelligence headquarters, the Revolutionary Guard and some in the government.
Any extended attack would require US forces to cripple Iran's air defense system and air force, prepare defenses for US ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and move Navy ships to the Persian Gulf to protect shipping. US forces could launch warplanes from aircraft carriers, from the Diego Garcia island base in the Indian Ocean and, in the case of stealth bombers, from the United States. But if generals want land-based aircraft in the region, they face the uphill task of trying to persuade Turkey to allow use of the US air base at Incirlik.
Planners also are debating whether launching attacks from Iraq or using Iraqi airspace would exacerbate the political cost in the Muslim world, which would see it as proof that the United States invaded Iraq to make it a base for military conquest of the region.
Unlike the Israeli air attack on Osirak, a strike on Iran would prove more complex because Iran has spread its facilities across the country, guarded some of them with sophisticated antiaircraft batteries and shielded them underground.
Pentagon planners are studying how to penetrate eight-foot-deep targets and are contemplating tactical nuclear devices. The Natanz facility consists of more than two dozen buildings, including two huge underground halls built with six-foot walls and supposedly protected by two concrete roofs with sand and rocks in between, according to Edward N. Luttwak, a specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"The targeteers honestly keep coming back and saying it will require nuclear penetrator munitions to take out those tunnels," said Kenneth M. Pollack, a former CIA analyst. "Could we do it with conventional munitions? Possibly. But it's going to be very difficult to do."
Retired Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner, an expert in targeting and war games who teaches at the National Defense University, recently gamed an Iran attack and identified 24 potential nuclear-related facilities, some below 50 feet of reinforced concrete and soil.
At a conference in Berlin, Gardiner outlined a five-day operation that would require 400 "aim points," or targets for individual weapons, at nuclear facilities, at least 75 of which would require penetrating weapons. He also presumed the Pentagon would hit two chemical production plants, medium-range ballistic missile launchers and 14 airfields with sheltered aircraft. Special Operations forces would be required, he said.
Gardiner concluded that a military attack would not work, but said he believes the United States seems to be moving inexorably toward it. "The Bush administration is very close to being left with only the military option," he said.
Others forecast a more surgical strike aimed at knocking out a single "choke point" that would disrupt the Iranian nuclear program. "The process can be broken at any point," a senior administration official said. "But part of the risk is: We don't know if Natanz is the only enrichment facility. We could bomb it, take the political cost and still not set them back."
Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said a more likely target might be Isfahan, which he visited last year and which appeared lightly defended and above-ground. But he argued that any attack would only firm up Iranian resolve to develop weapons. "Whatever you do," he said, "is almost certain to accelerate a nuclear bomb program rather than destroy it."
“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” So says a popular bumper sticker. Indeed, those of us who have been paying attention to the political scene for years have often found ourselves outraged. The president’s approval rating has gone up and down, but throughout his five years in office never has public outrage been quite commensurate with the levels of incompetence, deception, and criminality coming from Washington. The same was true under Clinton. People are simply not paying attention.
There are few writers who pay more attention to the political follies of our time and who provide their readers with more meticulously documented reasons to be outraged than James Bovard, whose new book, Attention Deficit Democracy, presents his diagnosis of what is so terribly wrong with modern American democracy.
Whether we see it as a fundamental ailment or mere symptom, the American people are largely ignorant of political reality — deeply ignorant. This has been true for some time, and Bovard cites numerous polls from the last several election cycles that all indicate a staggering lack of simple understanding. In 2000, the University of Michigan “conducted a comprehensive survey of Americans’ political knowledge” and discovered that “only 15 percent knew the name of any candidate for the House of Representatives from their congressional district; only 11 percent could identify William Rehnquist as the chief justice of the Supreme Court, and only 9 percent knew that Trent Lott was the Senate majority leader.”
Debunking new and old notions about the fail-safe virtues of democracy, advanced by authorities ranging from philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau to today’s social theorists of the political science establishment, Bovard questions the premise defended by modern academics that “voter ignorance is no threat to popular government.” In fact, even when it comes to exceedingly important issues and elections, “ignorance and delusions have become the dominant factors in presidential approval — and thus in setting the nation’s direction.”
To demonstrate the apparent inverse relationship between public understanding of the government and the severity of the issues at hand, Bovard takes on a number of sacred cows in the war on terror. He reminds us that 9/11 perversely produced in most Americans far more trust in the government that had just failed to protect their compatriots in the greatest intelligence debacle in U.S. history. And “nowhere was Americans’ ignorance more profitable for Bush than on the war with Iraq,” says Bovard, an issue on which, the author reminds us, Americans, and especially Bush voters, displayed unbelievable ignorance and complacency, falling for the administration line that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and operational ties to al-Qaeda. Shortly before the 2004 election, a Newsweek poll found that 42 percent of Americans believed Saddam was directly behind 9/11.
Fear of foreign enemies, but also of domestic hardships, seemed the prime motivation for voters in November 2004: “Voters could choose whether they would be killed by terrorists if they voted for Kerry or whether they would be left destitute and tossed out in the street if they voted for Bush.” Nearly everyone has come to see the government as the source of their “freedom from fear.”
But ignorance and fear do not a prudent democracy make. Instead, they help foster what Bovard perceptively calls “Battered Citizen Syndrome”: “In the same way that some battered wives cling to their abusive husbands, the more debacles the government causes, the more some voters cling to rulers.” And “the more fears government fans, the fewer people will recall the danger of government itself. The more frightened people become, the more prone they will be to see their rulers as saviors rather than as potential oppressors.”
Independent Institute senior fellow Robert Higgs argues that all governments rest on fear. The trouble with democracy is that it provides the illusion that the government is the people, and so all that is needed is an election to guarantee the government will have good intentions and benevolent policy. In assessing our modern democracy, Bovard bursts the bubble and takes on the illusions.
Deception and war
People tolerate excesses of all types from their government in the name of democracy. Most relevant today, and most notable throughout American history, is the issue of war. Regarding foreign policy, of which Americans tend to be more ignorant than they are of domestic policy, the U.S. government brags of its efforts abroad, excusing its acts of aggression as necessary tools of liberation, and claiming the right to wage virtually any war, tell any lie, and even torture people — all to make the world safe for democracy. The extent to which the American people go along with it all concerns Bovard, for he sees that such capitulation is what allows the abuses to continue.
Attention Deficit Democracy presents a nice little summary of the U.S. government’s questionable military and diplomatic legacy in the name of democracy — touching on the contradictions in the Spanish-American War, World War I, and various Progressive-Era interventions in Latin America; the excessive friendliness towards Stalin’s regime in World War II (during which “Harold Ickes, one of FDR’s top aides, proclaimed that communism was ‘the antithesis of Nazism’ because it was based on ‘belief in the control of the government, including the economic system, by the people themselves’” the Alliance for Progress; the horrific Vietnam war; numerous CIA coups; and Reagan’s National Endowment for Democracy.
Bovard’s treatment of covert operations and overt foreign aid programs in his chapter “Messianic Democracy” is one of the premier treats of the book, as the author documents case after case of folly, foolishness, and fraud in the U.S. government’s attempts to meddle in foreign elections, assassinate and oust foreign leaders, and secretly fund revolutionary groups and candidates — all in the name of “democracy” but, more often than not, yielding incredibly perverse results. From Reagan’s secret funding of the Nicaraguan Contras to Clinton’s deployment of military forces to protect Aristide’s regime in Haiti, the reader sees one example after another of how the &ldquoro-democracy” impetus behind U.S. foreign policy typically has the real-world consequence of supporting one homicidal tyrant or gang of thugs over another.
The first casualty in war is the truth, and to defend the perennially belligerent foreign policies of Washington, American politicians lie. In the name of democracy, wars are waged, and in the name of those wars, deception becomes just another policy tool. Unfortunately, the American people seem to swallow the lies happily as if it’s their duty as citizens.
American wartime presidents, from Polk to Truman and from Wilson to Johnson, have told the bloodiest, most important lies in U.S. history. In more recent years, as Bovard compellingly shows, presidents have relied on a barrage of brazen lies to prop up their case for war.
A partisan of neither major party, only of liberty, Bovard sums up the lies surrounding Clinton’s Kosovo war of the late 1990s. Clinton and his cabal called the terroristic Kosovo Liberation Army “freedom fighters”; distorted the history of the region and exaggerated the Balkans’ threat to the world; cried “genocide” when in fact the killings were far fewer in number than what was suggested; lied about the precision of the NATO bombing campaign; and disingenuously told the Serbian people that they would be protected by the United States when peace broke out. Bovard also takes issue with what Clinton’s “aides labeled the Clinton doctrine” — which the author says boils down to the principle “that the U.S. government is allowed to attack foreign nations on false charges.”
As a helpful reminder that today’s Republican administration is guilty of repeated deception, Bovard lays out the case plainly, citing the shameless lies of such officials as Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney. The book’s focus on Clinton and Bush alike reminds us that wartime deception cannot be addressed by simply switching the party that occupies the White House.
We have come to the point where Americans, confident that their democratic rulers will behave virtuously, have empowered Leviathan and granted their rulers a de facto “right to lie for 72 hours.” “As long as the lies are not exposed in the same news cycle,” Bovard explains, “the refutations may as well be done in a different century.” The political establishment tells as many lies as it wants because the people have come down with a bad case of attention deficit democracy; they forget what it was that got them riled up and so supportive of the president’s new power grab or military invasion only days after it happened and the lies have been refuted.
Tolerance for torture
Nowhere is the public acquiescence to political criminality uglier, and nowhere is the author more compelling and damning in his case against modern American democracy, than in the new tolerance people have towards torture as acceptable policy. In perhaps his most powerful chapter, Bovard takes on the torture state, setting to rest once and for all the absurd defenses and denials of U.S. torture in the war on terror.
A review of this length cannot possibly do justice to this chapter, but suffice it to say that Bovard has done his research and nailed the case against the administration, whose officials, all the way to the top, clearly authorized interrogation procedures that can be defined only as torture — although, as Bovard notes, a leaked Justice Department memo, prepared at the request of then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, “began by largely redefining torture out of existence. It then explained why even if someone died during torture, the torturer might not be guilty if he felt the torture was necessary to prevent some worse evil.” In the memo’s own words,
Because Section 2340 requires that a defendant act with the specific intent to inflict severe pain, the infliction of such pain must be the precise objective.... Even if the defendant knows that severe pain will result from his actions, if causing such harm is not his objective, he lacks the requisite specific intent even though the defendant did not act in good faith.”
In other words, torture is not torture unless the person doing it is doing it only to bring about pain.
A Pentagon report of 3,000 pages (only 177 of which were released publicly) investigating the Abu Ghraib scandal and announced by Maj. Gen. George Fay in August 2004 found numerous cases of alleged serious abuse, including the “highly probable” allegation, in its words, that a detainee “was left naked in his cell for extended periods, cuffed in his cell in stressful positions ... made to ‘bark like a dog, being forced to crawl on his stomach while MPs spit and urinated on him, and being struck causing unconsciousness’ ... [and] beaten with a broom.... [A] chemical light was broken and poured over his body.... During this abuse a police stick was used to sodomize” the prisoner.
The torture allegations go far beyond what was seen in the Abu Ghraib prison photos leaked in 2004. The scandal reaches many other prisons in Iraq as well as Afghanistan and Guantanamo. Bovard presents a disgusting picture of the repulsive systematic abuse that prisoners, including many innocent people rounded up for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, have endured, as well as some particularly horrifying stories of rape, sex abuse, extreme torture, and murder.
The American people have come to tolerate, even embrace, the barbaric policy of torture, and Bovard has been paying attention and is outraged. It is a sign of a truly dysfunctional political system and troubling political culture. The images at Abu Ghraib released to the public, which show much less gruesome abuse than the photos seen by senators and stories reported elsewhere in credible sources, should have alone caused a revolt against the fundamental mechanisms of today’s government. To convey the severity of the situation, and its implications for the foreign policy-goal of winning Muslim hearts and minds, Bovard forcefully writes,
Many Americans have remained oblivious to the impact that the Abu Ghraib photos and other torture reports have on foreigners. How would Americans have responded if the roles had been reversed? Consider the case of Jessica Lynch, the 20-year-old blond, blued-eyed, attractive West Virginian Army supply clerk captured after her supply convoy was attacked during the invasion of Iraq.... What if Americans had seen photos of Lynch with blood running from cuts on her thighs, cowering before attack dogs lurching at her? What if Americans saw photos of a hooded Lynch with wires attached to her body, looking like she was awaiting electrocution? What if Americans saw videos of Lynch screaming as she was being assaulted by Iraqi captors? Such evidence would likely have swayed millions of Americans to support dropping nuclear bombs on Iraq. And yet many Americans refuse to recognize how similar evidence inflames Arabs’ attitudes toward the United States.
Blind trust in government
After reviewing sociological literature about why people trust or distrust the state — often written by proponents of greater trust in government — the author presents the discomforting reality: people are inclined to trust the government more than it deserves. And although “blind trust in government is often portrayed as a harmless error — as if it were of no more account than saying pagan prayers to a pagan deity that didn’t exist” — Bovard insists that “the notion that rulers are entitled to trust is the most expansive entitlement program of them all.” Indeed,
Blind trust in government has resulted in far more carnage than distrust of government.... It was people who believed and who followed orders who carried out the Nazi Holocaust, the Ukrainian terror-famine, the Khmer Rouge blood bath, and the war crimes that characterize conflicts around the globe.
Post–9/11 America “vivifies the danger of excessive trust in government” but is only the latest example of the modern political climate that Bovard says is burdened by “intellectual passive obedience” — &ldquoreemptively quieting one’s doubts about the statements of one’s rulers” and “viewing political (and all other) reality through a moral lens supplied by one’s rulers.”
It has now gotten to the point that elections are no more than “reverse slave auctions,” where the people every two and four years vote for their masters, who then obtain near absolute power. This is largely because of a feeling of dependency people have, so that “instead of seeking representatives to safeguard their rights, people now seek strong leaders or saviors to redeem their lives and protect them from all harm, 24/7.”
“Absolute power” is not much of an exaggeration. Bovard reminds us of the ever-increasing power of the administration to designate people as “enemy combatants” and thus strip them of all procedural rights.
Even if a person has no affiliation with terrorist organizations, they can still be classified as an enemy combatant.... Bush has repeatedly referred to people locked up at Guantanamo as “illegal non-combatants.” But the presidential label “enemy combatant” is still sacrosanct even when the president effectively admits it makes no sense. They are “illegal” simply because the president says so.
And yet, Americans still believe they are free because they can vote. There is a bipartisan illusion that democracy is liberty itself and that state power is non-aggressive if checked every few years by a majority vote. These delusions achieve their most absurd levels under the guise of the so-called Democratic Peace Theory, which Bovard gracefully unravels. He gives us several counterexamples to the idea that democracies never fight each other, and takes on the methodology used by democratic peace theorists, which appears to involve the redefining of the concepts to fit their tautological conclusions: Democracies don’t fight each other, and when they seem to, one of them is therefore not a democracy.
Some advocates of democratic peace talk as if democratic governments are pacifist entities, almost incapable of militarism. Bush declared at a 2005 press conference that “a democracy reflects the will of the people, and people don’t like war. They don’t like conflict.” Yet during the 2004 presidential campaign, Bush constantly portrayed himself as a war president.
Bovard convincingly argues that the Democratic Peace Theory as a prescription for U.S. foreign policy is actually a recipe for perpetual aggressive war and imperialism. And war, as Bovard reminds the reader, is devastating to the liberties that democracy is supposed to protect.
Bovard argues that, in mistaking democracy for liberty and the interests of their rulers for those of their own, the American people have come to suffer a “Big Picture myopia,” whereby no number of specific political atrocities or disasters can knock them out of their stupor of believing that their democratic government, overall, is good and free. In a stark example of the disparity between myopic optimism and political reality, Bovard chronicles the brutal sanctions imposed by the United States through the United Nations on Iraq throughout the 1990s, which caused hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children to die. After destroying the sewage treatment infrastructure of Iraq, the U.S. government forbade the importation of needed foods and medicines by prohibiting oil exports — leading to “epidemics of gastroenteritis, cholera, and typhoid,” as a 1995 article in an Air Force publication reported.
But instead of the proper outrage over this war crime, more Americans were stirred up by the oil-for-food scandal.
The selective indignation over the oil-for-food bribes exemplified Big Picture myopia. There was no sense that any U.S. government official should be held responsible — or even obliged to answer questions — on the carnage the sanctions inflicted on the Iraqi people.... There was probably a hundred times more coverage in the U.S. media in late 2004 and early 2005 of the oil-for-food corruption scandal than of the catastrophic loss of life that resulted from the blockade.
And it is all because the media, like most Americans, have come to equate democracy and freedom and regard an occasional national vote as the only necessary check on political power. Americans assume their nation to be essentially free and peace-loving. They do not properly fear their rulers or even know what is being done to them in their own name.
Bovard says, “The notion that democracy automatically produces liberty hinges on the delusion that &lsquoeople are obeying themselves.’” But,
if the citizen is the government, why are there far harsher penalties for any private citizen who pushes, threatens, or injures a federal employee than the punishment for similar actions against private citizens? Why are governments allowed to claim sovereign immunity when their employees injure or kill private citizens?
Attention Deficit Democracy is an indictment of the modern American democratic state. It is an indictment of the American people, who have lost interest in the sweeping and dangerous powers their rulers have grabbed and abused in recent history, especially since 9/11 but also going back many years before that. Following in the tradition of his other books, Bovard carefully documents hundreds of instances of government wrongdoing and deceit in domestic and foreign policy. But more than in his other recent works, he draws on history and on sociological insights to form his diagnosis of the general affliction in modern America. The book shows that the problem is nonpartisan and deeply seated in American culture and will not be likely to reverse simply when another man moves into the Oval Office. Things must considerably change for our democratic government to stop ravaging the freedoms it is supposed to guard. The American people must reclaim their libertarian heritage, and understand liberty and the limits and dangers of government power, even when brandished by a popularly elected power elite. They must start paying attention, and thus start being more outraged. Reading Attention Deficit Democracy is a perfect place to start.
Let's Save Our Democracy by Getting Money Out of Politics
By Bill Moyers 04/06/08 "Washington Spectator " -- -- Money is choking our democracy to death. Our elections are bought out from under us and our public officials are doing the bidding of mercenaries. So powerful is the hold of wealth on politics that we cannot say America is working for all Americans. The majority may support such broad social goals as affordable medical coverage for all, decent wages for working people, safe working conditions, a secure retirement, and clean air and water, but there is no government "of, by, and for the people" to deliver on those aspirations.
Our system of privately financed campaigns has shut regular people out of any meaningful participation in democracy. Less than one-half of one percent of all Americans made a political contribution of $200 or more to a federal candidate in 2004. When the average cost of winning a seat in the House of Representatives has topped $1 million, we can no longer refer to that chamber as "The People's House." Congress belongs to the highest bidder.
At the same time that the cost of getting elected is exploding beyond the reach of ordinary people, the business of influencing our elected representatives has become a growth industry. Since President Bush was elected the number of registered lobbyists in Washington has more than doubled. That's 16,342 lobbyists in 2000 and 34,785 last year: 65 lobbyists for every member of Congress. The total spent per month by special interests wining, dining, and seducing federal officials is now nearly $200 million. Per month.
Numbers don't tell the whole story. With pro-corporate officials running both the executive and legislative branches, lobbying that was once reactive has sallied forth to buy huge chunks of public policy. One example: In 2004 the computer maker Hewlett-Packard sought Republican-backed legislation that would enable it to bring back to the United States, at a dramatically lowered tax rate, as much as $14.5 billion in profits from foreign subsidiaries. The company nearly doubled its budget for contract lobbyists and took on an elite lobbying firm as its Washington arm. Presto! The legislation passed. The company's director of government affairs was quite candid: "We're trying to take advantage of the fact that Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the White House."
GREED WITHOUT APOLOGIES—I am an equal opportunity muckraker. Anyone who saw the documentary my team and I produced on the illegal fund-raising for Bill Clinton's re-election knows I am no fan of the Democratic money-machine that helped tear away the party from whatever roots it had in the struggles of working people. But today the Republicans own the government lock, stock, and barrel. And they have turned their self-proclaimed revolution into a cash cow.
Look back at the bulk of legislation passed by Congress in the past decade: an energy bill that gives oil companies huge tax breaks at the same time that ExxonMobil has just posted $36.13 billion in profits and our gasoline and home heating bills are at an all-time high; a bankruptcy "reform" bill written by credit card companies to make it harder for poor debtors to escape the burdens of divorce or medical catastrophe; the deregulation of the banking, securities and insurance sectors, which brought on rampant corporate malfeasance and greed and the destruction of the retirement plans of millions of small investors; the deregulation of the telecommunications sector, which led to cable industry price-gouging and an undermining of news coverage; protection for rampant overpricing of pharmaceutical drugs; and the blocking of even the mildest attempt to prevent American corporations from dodging an estimated $50 billion in annual taxes by opening a P.O. box in an off-shore tax haven like the Cayman Islands.
In every case the results were produced by rivers of cash flowing to favored politicians from interests whose return on their investment put Wall Street equities to shame. This happens because our public representatives need huge sums to finance their campaigns, especially to pay for television advertising. The masters of the money game have taken advantage of that weakness in our democracy to turn our elections into auctions.
A WALK DOWN K STREET—It's the Wall Street of lobbying, the address of many of Washington's biggest lobbying firms. The "K Street Project"—the most successful shakedown operation since the first Gilded Age—was the brainchild of Representative Tom DeLay and Grover Norquist, the right-wing strategist who famously said that his goal is to shrink government so that it can be "drowned in a bathtub" (when, finally, it will be too impotent to protect democracy from plunder and powerless citizens from the rapacity of corporate power). For his part, Tom DeLay ran a pest exterminating business in Sugar Land, Texas, where he hated government regulators who dared to tell him that some of the pesticides he used were dangerous. He got himself elected to the Texas legislature at a time when the Republicans were becoming the majority in the once-solid Democratic South, and early in his new career "Hot Tub Tom," as he was known in Austin, became a born-again Christian.
In addition to finding Jesus, Tom DeLay discovered the power of money to drive his career. By raising more than $2 million from lobbyists and business groups and distributing it to dozens of Republican candidates in 1994, the year of the Republican breakthrough in the House, DeLay bought the loyalty of many freshmen legislators who helped elect him Majority Whip, the House's number three man.
He wasted no time in inviting lobbyists to write the Republican agenda. Their first priority was "Project Relief"—"relief" from labor standards that protected workers from the physical injuries of repetitive work, "relief" from tougher rules on meat inspection, "relief" from effective monitoring of hazardous air pollutants. Scores of companies were soon adding one juicy and expensive tidbit after another. On the eve of the debate, according to Michael Weisskopf and David Maraniss of the Washington Post, 20 major corporate groups advised lawmakers that "this was a key vote, one that would be considered in future campaign contributions."
The Machine was off and running. As then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich famously told the lobbyists: "If you are going to play in our revolution, you have to live by our rules." The rules were simple enough. Contribute to Republicans only. Hire only Republicans as lobbyists (priority preference: DeLay's own staff). Centralize the power to write legislation in the hands of the party bosses (assisted by hovering lobbyists). Allow no amendments. Produce bills in secret. Permit members no time to read them. Pass important bills late at night. Avoid compromise by banning Democrats from conference committees. Give lobbyists and campaign contributors what they want.
While examples abound of how the rules stacked the deck, consider one: the Medicare prescription coverage bill. Enacted after midnight, its hundreds and hundreds of pages unintelligible to anyone but lobbyists, the legislation enriched the pharmaceutical and insurance companies while giving senior citizens and taxpayers the shaft.
THE MONEY MAN—DeLay, who had announced that God had chosen him to return American to a "biblical worldview," needed help to sustain the cash flow necessary for spreading the Gospel of Greed. He found it in a fellow right-wing ideologue named Jack Abramoff, who personified the K-Street money-machine of which DeLay, with the blessing of his party's leaders, was the major-domo. It was Abramoff who helped DeLay raise those millions of dollars from campaign donors to create the base for an empire of corruption.
Abramoff has now pleaded guilty to fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy to bribe public officials. It's a spectacular fall for a man whose rise to power began in his school days with his election as chairman of the College Republicans. Despite its innocuous name, the organization became a political attack machine for the far right and a launching pad for younger conservatives on the make.
"Our job," Abramoff, then 22 years old, wrote after his first visit to the Reagan White House, "is to remove liberals from power permanently. . . ." (He would later acknowledge that his agenda also included moving K Street closer to the Republican Party.) Karl Rove had once held the same job as chairman. So did Grover Norquist, who ran Abramoff's campaign. A youthful $200-a-month intern named Ralph Reed was at their side. These were the rising young stars of the conservative movement who came to town to lead a revolution and stayed to run a racket.
CASINO ROYALE—Abramoff made his name, so to speak, representing Indian tribes and their gambling interests. As his partner he hired a DeLay crony named Michael Scanlon. Together they would bilk half a dozen tribes who hired them to protect their gambling interests from competition. What the two men had to offer, of course, was their connections to the Republican power structure, including members of Congress, friends at the White House (Abramoff's personal assistant became the personal assistant of Karl Rove), Christian Right activists like Reed, and right-wing ideologues like Norquist. The network hummed smoothly for its inside traders—as, for example, when two lobbying clients of Abramoff paid $25,000 to Norquist's organization, Americans for Tax Reform, for lunch at the White House and a meeting with President Bush in May 2001, according to the Texas Observer.
In a scheme they called "Gimme Five." Abramoff would refer tribes to Scanlon for grassroots public-relations work, and Scanlon would then kick back about 50 percent to Abramoff, all without the tribes' knowledge. Before it was over, the tribes had paid the two lobbyists $82 million, much of it going directly into Abramoff's and Scanlon's pockets. And that doesn't count the thousands more that Abramoff directed the tribes to pay out in campaign contributions.
Some of the money found its way into an outfit called the Council of Republicans for Environment Advocacy, founded by Gale Norton before she was appointed to run the Department of the Interior, which—surprise! surprise!—is the agency most responsible for Indian gaming rights. Some went to so-called charities, set up by Abramoff and DeLay, that filtered money for lavish trips for members of Congress and their staffs, as well as salaries for Congressional family members and DeLay's pet projects.
And some of the money found its way to the Holy High Rollers of the Christian Right. Ralph Reed, for one, had his hand out. Reed had become the religious right's poster boy against gambling ("We believe gambling is a cancer on the American body politic," he had said). Now Abramoff and Scanlon would pay Reed some $4 million to help them protect their own gaming interests. His assignment was to whip up Christian opposition to gambling initiatives that could cut into the profits of Abramoff's clients.
Reed enlisted some of the brightest stars in the Christian firmament in a ruse conducted on Abramoff's behalf: they would oppose gambling on religious and moral grounds in strategic places at decisive moments when competition threatened Abramoff's clients. Bogus Christian groups were part of the strategy. A gaggle of influential Baptist preachers in Texas danced to Reed's fiddling. Folks in Louisiana heard the voice of God on the radio&mdasherformed by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson—thundering against a riverboat gambling scheme that Abramoff feared would jeopardize the profits of a client. Reed even got James Dobson, whose nationwide radio "ministry" reaches millions of people (and whose videos helped Tom DeLay find Jesus) to deluge the Interior Department and White House with telephone calls from indignant Christians.
Abramoff arranged for the Mississippi Choctaws, who were trying to stave off competition from other tribes, to contribute over $1 million to Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, which then passed the money along to the Alabama Christian Coalition and to another anti-gambling group Reed had duped into aiding the cause. It is unclear how much these Christian soldiers knew about the true purpose of their crusade, but Reed knew all along that his money was coming from Abramoff. The e-mails between the two men read like a modern version of Elmer Gantry.
As reported by the Washington Post and National Journal, some of Abramoff's money from lobbying went to start a non-profit organization called the U.S. Family Network, founded with the help of a top aide to Tom DeLay while he was still in DeLay's employ (his salary at the time paid by—you guessed it—taxpayers). DeLay even wrote a fundraising letter in its behalf. The group announced that its purpose was to promote policies favorable for "families, the economic prosperity, social improvement, moral fitness, and general well being of the United States," and its fund-raising screeds warned that the American family "is being attacked from all sides: crime, drugs, pornography . . . and gambling." But its first donation came from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, followed by other Abramoff clients who couldn't care less about the professed moral agenda.
The U.S. Family Network turns out to be another scam in the Abramoff-DeLay money laundering machine. Its money paid for attack ads on Democrats, bought a townhouse three blocks from DeLay's Congressional quarters, providing him with free office space where he could go to raise funds for the Machine, and awarded DeLay's wife a sizable salary.
But that's the least of it. Working with Abramoff through a now defunct law firm in London and an obscure offshore company in the Bahamas, oil and gas executives from Russia used the U.S. Family Network to funnel money to influence Tom DeLay, then-majority leader of the House of Representatives. A Christian pastor recruited to serve as the titular president of the organization was told by DeLay's sidekick that $1 million was passed through from sources in Russia who wanted DeLay's support for legislation enabling the International Monetary Fund to bail out the faltering Russian economy without demanding new taxes on the country's energy industry. Lo and behold, there was Tom Delay, appearing on an obliging Fox News television show, arguing the Russian position. The rueful pastor who was the organization's nominal head said he was told, "This is the way things work in Washington."
"REFORM" TALK FIZZLES—The Republican leaders would have us believe this is just a "lobbying scandal." They assume that if they pass a few minor reforms to put a little distance between the politician and the lobbyist, we will think everything is okay and they can go back to business as usual. Just look at Congressman John Boehner, elected to replace Tom DeLay as House Majority Leader. He's been a full player in the K Street Project and DeLay's money machine. The top lobbyists in town frequent his office. He thinks nothing of cruising with them in the Caribbean or of hopping on corporate jets arranged by them. This is the man who ten years ago moved around the floor of the House—the "People's House"—handing out checks from tobacco executives.
As for Tom Delay? He is under indictment in Texas for money laundering and had to resign as Majority Leader. But just the other day the party bosses gave him a seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, where big contributors get their rewards. And—are you ready for this?—they put him on the subcommittee overseeing the budget of the Justice Department, which is investigating the Abramoff scandal, including Abramoff's connections to DeLay. I'm not making this up. It's business as usual. Rotten business as usual.
I have touched on only a few of the astonishing details pouring out about the sacking of Washington. The corrupting power of money in politics is an old story. This time is different, because in a one-party government the opposition is impotent and the corporate media, with a few notable exceptions, have bought into the notion that this is "just the way Washington works." Already the calls for reform are fading away.
CLEAN ELECTIONS—You may say, "What can we do about it? These forces are too rich, too powerful, too entrenched to be defeated." Maybe. But if others had given up before us, blacks would still be three-fifths of a person, women wouldn't have the vote, workers couldn't organize, and children would still be working in the mines. It's time to fight again. These people in Washington have no right to be doing what they are doing. It's not their government, it's your government. They work for you, and if they let you down and sell you out, they should be fired. That goes for everyone, from the lowliest bureaucrat in town to the senior leaders of Congress on up to the president of the United States. The stakes are too high for us to give up.
Fortunately, there is something we can do. A movement is gathering across the country that could restore democracy to a country run by money. It's the "clean money" campaign for the public funding of our elections. Maine led the way in 2000. Arizona followed suit. So have several municipalities, including Portland, Oregon, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Races are more competitive and attract a more diverse group of candidates.
No sooner had Janet Napolitano been elected governor of Arizona under the state's public financing program than she instituted reforms establishing low-cost prescription drug subsidies for seniors. There have also been advances in Maine in providing low-cost prescription drugs for residents. Why? Because the politicians write the legislation, not the lobbyists.
Look what happened in Connecticut last year, a state rocked by multiple political scandals. People decided to break the link between big donors and public officials. By December the legislature had passed clean-money reform, banning campaign contributions from lobbyists and state contractors. Connecticut is the first state where the legislature and governor have approved full public funding for their own races. In thirty other states clean-money campaigns are also forming. (You can find out more about the movement at the website of Public Campaign.)
While public funding won't solve all the problems—the Abramoffs and DeLays of the world will always find ways to abuse the public trust—it would go a long way toward restoring the hope of government "of, by, and for the people." Even some business lobbyists are having second thoughts. Business Week recently quoted one of them as saying: "As a conservative, I've always opposed government involvement. But it seems to me the real answer is federal financing of Congressional elections."
Just think: For about $10 per taxpayer, per year, we, the people, could buy back our politicians in Congress and the White House with full public funding. But time is running out. Unless we offer qualified candidates a different source of campaign funding with clean, disinterested and accountable public money, the selling of America will go on, and we will wake up one day in a country we no longer recognize.
Bill Moyers is a broadcast journalist and former host the PBS program NOW With Bill Moyers. Moyers also serves as president of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy.
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