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An Interventionist Foreign Policy Blurs the Line of Demarcation Between Neoconservatives and Neoliberals
Law Enforcement Misrepresentation of Orlando Killer’s 911 Call Ignores U.S. Foreign Policy Motivation
By Susan Duclos - Cross posted at Before It's News
The situation in Ukraine and the rhetoric from the US government on the authority of Barack Obama has shown the world how unrealistically Obama sees the world, specifically his foreign policy decisions, to which the Washington Post editorial board says, as is quoted in the video below from Mox News, "Obama has a foreign policy based more on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality."
That is it in a nutshell as the panel discussion provides evidence of. Russia and Vladimir Putin has clearly shown publicly how weak and ineffective the Obama administration truly is. While Obama's vision of Utopia is to downsize the US military, other countries are expanding theirs. Obama's threats of sanctions and chest puffing is having no effect on Russia who understands there is nothing Obama can doabout Russia taking back the Crimea region of the Ukraine.
The US warships sent to the region is all show, and that show is having no effect, proven by the latest developments where Russia just took over a Ukrainian military base, without a shot fired.
Obama backed the wrong horse in Egypt by backing the terror group Muslim Brotherhood. They were removed, so Obama failed. Obama backed the wrong horse in Syria by backing al-Qaeda linked rebels to remove Bashar Assad, Obama failed, Assad is still the Syrian president.
What Obama has done is weaken the US to the point where CHina, Russia and others have absolutely no respect for him, the power of the US and laugh off Obama's "red lines" as the continue to cross them even as he or his administration is issuing them.
What Obama has done though is created an atmosphere where other growing countries now have the ability to strike a devastating blow against the US, not with bombs or warships, but economically by dropping the dollar and creating currency and trade wars where the US dollar will be replaced as the world reserve currency which causes the much talked about global economic reset.
Obamas fantasy land has just become America's nightmare and his head is so far up.......in the clouds, he doesn't even understand the damage he caused OR like many believe, he has deliberately worked to bring America down from within.
Let's go back to Obama's support of the Muslim Brotherhood for a second..... their stated goal is to bring America down from within.
Written sometime in 1987 but not formally published until May 22, 1991, Akram's 18-page document listed the Brotherhood’s 29 likeminded "organizations of our friends" that shared the common goal of dismantling American institutions and turning the U.S. into a Muslim nation. These "friends" were identified by Akram and the Brotherhood as groups that could help convince Muslims "that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and 'sabotaging' its miserable house by their hands ... so that ... God's religion [Islam] is made victorious over all other religions."
Look at the image below very carefully, note the names and look each one up.
Pretty much says it all, doesn't it?
Ask yourself if any leader would bring the enemy into their administration, an enemy who has stated their goal was to bring down a country from within, unless that leader was part of the plan?
Just something to think about.
Is U.S. foreign policy based on myths?
Public pressure has helped push back against a bill in Congress that would have torn up the negotiated agreement with Iran by imposing yet more sanctions on the people of that country. The people of this country are not eager for another war, and have not accepted that sanctions lead away from war rather than into it.
But supporters and opponents of that bill tend to agree that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, and that this program must be stopped by one means or another. This underlying assumption is not supported by any evidence and never has been. We've heard it propounded for over thirty years, and the repetition has had its intended effect, but any evidence at all has always been lacking. A belief without evidence is a myth.
Iran has a nuclear energy program because the U.S. and European governments wanted Iran to have a nuclear energy program. The U.S. nuclear industry took out full-page ads in U.S. publications bragging about Iran's support for such an enlightened and progressive energy source. The U.S. was pushing for major expansion of Iran's nuclear program just before the Iranian revolution of 1979.
Since the Iranian revolution, the U.S. government has opposed Iran's nuclear energy program and misled the public about the existence of a nuclear weapons program in Iran. This story is well-told in Gareth Porter's new book, Manufactured Crisis, and by Porter is his upcoming interview this week on Talk Nation Radio.
The U.S. assisted Saddam Hussein's Iraq in a war against Iran in the 1980s, in which Iraq attacked Iran with chemical weapons. Iran's religious leaders had declared that chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons must not be used, even in retaliation. And they were not. Iran could have responded to Iraqi chemical attacks with chemical attacks of its own and chose not to.
Iran is committed to not using or possessing weapons of mass destruction. The results of inspections bear that out. Iran's willingness to put restrictions on its legal nuclear energy program -- a willingness present both before and after sanctions -- bears that out. Inspections should continue. All steps should be taken to move the world toward safe and sustainable energy sources. But can we drop the idea that Iran wants to nuke us?
Selective Skepticism / Naiveté as National Duty
It's odd how quick we are to spot government deception or ill will when it comes to new health insurance programs, taxes, environmental regulations, or any domestic policy, and how trusting and naive we are when it comes to war. One would think we'd have learned our lessons. Eisenhower warned us that preparing for war would bring war. When the Soviet enemy disappeared, new ones were quickly found. According to both former NATO commander Wesley Clark and former UK prime minister Tony Blair, the Pentagon has a list of several nations' governments to be overthrown.
The vast stockpiles of weapons in Iraq weren't there. The claims about chemical weapons attacks in Syria have fallen apart. The evidence that the Libyan government was planning to slaughter civilians has not held up -- although plenty of civilians died under NATO's bombing and are dying now in the chaos left behind. Increased U.S. militarism in Asia is being followed by increased military spending by Asia (although we tend to reverse the chronology and the cause-and-effect in our minds).
We are supposed to learn from experience. It should matter to us that there was never any evidence that Mexico attacked the United States, that Spain blew up the Maine, that the Vietnamese fired in the Gulf of Tonkin, or that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program. When you hear advocates for war and peace alike refer to "the Iranian nuclear weapons program," ask them for some evidence.
Myth is the Foundation of War
War gains support and acceptance from widespread belief in false information, and the accumulation of false information into generally false concepts or myths about war. This is good news, because it means we are not intractably divided by ideology or worldview. Rather, we will find more widespread agreement about war if we can just achieve more widespread awareness of accurate information.
WorldBeyondWar.org has grouped myths about war into the following categories:
WorldBeyondWar.org has also created a Prezi (kind of a cooler PowerPoint) to allow people to present to real-world groups the information that has been collected on the WorldBeyondWar website.
Use this tool to present at a public event:
Here's the same presentation as a PDF.
"History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake."
Amy Goodman: March 19th marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. According to a new report by Brown University, a decade of war led to the deaths of roughly 134,000 Iraqi civilians and potentially contributed to the deaths of many hundreds of thousands more. According to the report, the Iraq War has cost the U.S. more than $2 trillion, including half-a-trillion dollars in benefits owed to veterans. The report says the war has devastated rather than helped Iraq, spurring militant violence, setting back women’s rights and hurting the healthcare system. Most of the more than $200 billion supposedly set aside for reconstruction in Iraq was actually used for security or lost amid rampant fraud and waste. Many in Iraq continue to suffer the consequences of the invasion. This is Basma Najem, whose husband was shot dead by U.S. forces in Basra in 2011.
Basma Najem: [translated] We expected that we would live in a better situation when the occupation forces, the U.S. forces, came to Iraq. We expected that the situation would be improved. But contrary to our expectation, the situation deteriorated. And at the end, I lost my husband. I have no breadwinner in this world now, and I have six kids. I could not imagine my life would be changed like this. I do not know how it happened.
Amy Goodman: The consequences of the war are still visible here in the United States, as well. Military veterans continue to face extremely high levels of unemployment, traumatic brain injury, PTSDand homelessness. Almost a quarter of recent veterans come home injured either physically or emotionally, and an estimated 18 veterans commit suicide every day. This is Ed Colley, whose son, Army Private Stephen Colley, took his own life in 2007.
Edward Colley: We lost our son shortly after he returned from Iraq. He had asked for help, but he didn’t get the help that he needed. And clearly, he was trying to do what he could for himself and could think of no other cure, obviously, than to take his own life.
Amy Goodman: To talk more about this 10th anniversary, we’re joined by the award-winning writer and activist Arundhati Roy, one of the most vocal critics of the Iraq War. In a moment, she’ll join us from Chicago. But first let’s go back to 2003 to a speech she gave at Riverside Church here in New York.
Arundhati Roy: When the United States invaded Iraq, a New York Times/CBS News survey estimated that 42 percent of the American public believed that Saddam Hussein was directly responsible for the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And an ABC News poll said that 55 percent of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein directly supported al-Qaeda. None of this opinion is based on evidence, because there isn’t any. All of it is based on insinuation or to suggestion and outright lies circulated by the U.S. corporate media, otherwise known as the "free press," that hollow pillar on which contemporary American democracy rests. Public support in the U.S. for the war against Iraq was founded on a multitiered edifice of falsehood and deceit, coordinated by the U.S. government and faithfully amplified by the corporate media.
Apart from the invented links between Iraq and al-Qaeda, we had the manufactured frenzy about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. George Bush the Lesser went to the extent—went to the extent of saying it would be suicidal for Iraq—for the U.S. not to attack Iraq. We once again witnessed the paranoia that a starved, bombed, besieged country was about to annihilate almighty America. Iraq was only the latest in a succession of countries. Earlier, there was Cuba, Nicaragua, Libya, Granada, Panama. But this time it wasn’t just your ordinary brand of friendly neighborhood frenzy. It was frenzy with a purpose. It ushered in an old doctrine in a new bottle: the doctrine of preemptive strike, also known as the United States can do whatever the hell it wants, and that’s official. The war against Iraq has been fought and won, and no weapons of mass destruction have been found, not even a little one.
Amy Goodman: Arundhati Roy, speaking in October of 2003 at Riverside Church here in New York, seven months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Arundhati has written many books, including The God of Small Things, which won the Booker Prize. Her other books include Walking with the Comrades and Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers, among others. She now joins us from Chicago.
Arundhati Roy, welcome to Democracy Now! As you watch yourself 10 years ago and reflect back 10 years ago to this week when the U.S. invaded Iraq, your thoughts today?
Arundhati Roy: Well, Amy, before that, we remember how—I think it was 50 million people across the world who marched against the war in Iraq. It was perhaps the biggest display of public morality in the world—you know, I mean, before the war happened. Before the war happened, everybody knew that they were being fed lies. I remember saying, you know, it’s just the quality of the lies that is so insulting, because we are being—used to being lied to.
But, unfortunately, now, all these years later, we have to ask ourselves two questions. One is: Who benefited from this war? You know, we know who paid the price. I heard—I heard you talking about that, so I won’t get into that again. But who benefited from this war? Did the U.S. government? Did the U.S. people benefit? Did they get the oil contracts that they wanted, in the way that they wanted? The answer is no. And yet, today you hear Dick Cheney saying he would do it all over again in a second.
So, unfortunately, we are dealing with psychosis. We are dealing with a psychopathic situation. And all of us, including myself, we can’t do anything but keep being reasonable, keep saying what needs to be said. But that doesn’t seem to help the situation, because, of course, as we know, after Iraq, there’s been Libya, there’s Syria, and the rhetoric of, you know, democracy versus radical Islam. When you look at the countries that were attacked, none of them were Wahhabi Islamic fundamentalist countries. Those ones are supported, financed by the U.S., so there is a real collusion between radical Islam and capitalism. What is going on is really a different kind of battle.
And, you know, most people are led up a path which keeps them busy. And in a way, all of us are being kept busy, while the real business at the heart of it—I mean, apart from the people who suffered during the war. Let’s not forget the sanctions. Let’s not forget Madeleine Albright saying that a million children dying in Iraq because of the sanctions was a hard price but worth it. I mean, she was the victim, it seems, of the sanctions; you know, her softness was called upon, and she had to brazen herself to do it. And today, you have the Democrats bombing Pakistan, destroying that country, too. So, just in this last decade, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria—all these countries have been—have been shattered.
You know, we heard a lot about why—you know, the war in Afghanistan was fought for feminist reasons, and the Marines were really on this feminist mission. But today, all the women in all these countries have been driven back into medieval situations. Women who were liberated, women who were doctors and lawyers and poets and writers and—you know, pushed back into this Shia set against Sunnis. The U.S. is supporting al-Qaeda militias all over this region and pretending that it’s fighting Islam. So we are in a situation of—it is psychopathic.
And while anyone who resisted is being given moral lessons about armed struggle or violence or whatever it is, at the heart of this operation is an immorality and a violence and a—as I keep using this word—psychopathic violence, which even the people in the United States are now suffering for. You know, there is a connection, after all, between all these wars and people being thrown out of their homes in this country. And yet, of course we know who benefits from these wars. May not be the oil contracts, but certainly the weapons industry on which this economy depends for—you know, for a great part. So, all over, even between India and Pakistan now, people are advocating war. And the weapons industry is in with the corporations in India.
So, we are really being made fools of. You know, this is what is so insulting. We are being, you know, given lessons in morality while tens of thousands are being killed, while whole countries are shattered, while whole civilizations are driven back decades, if not centuries. And everything continues as normal. And you have—you have people, like criminals, really, like Cheney, saying, "I’ll do it again. I’ll do it again. I won’t think about it. I’ll do it again." And so that’s the situation we are in now.
Amy Goodman: Arundhati, a decade after the invasion of Iraq, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair stood by his decision to go to war, saying it saved Iraq from a fate worse than Syria’s at the moment.
Tony Blair: I think if we’d—if we’d backed off and we’d left him in power, you just imagine, with what is happening in Syria now, if you’d left Saddam in charge of Iraq, you would have had carnage on an even worse scale in Syria and with no end in sight. So, you know, this was the most difficult decision I ever took and the most balanced decision. But I still—personally, I still believe we were better to remove him than leave him.
Amy Goodman: That was British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former prime minister. Arundhati Roy, your response?
Arundhati Roy: Well, you know, I don’t know. Maybe they need to be put into a padded cell and given some real news to read, you know? I mean, how can you say this, after creating a situation in Iraq where no—I mean, every day people are being blown up? There are—you know, mosques are being attacked. Thousands are being killed. People have been made to hate each other. In Iraq, women were amongst the most liberated women in the world, and they have been driven back into having to wear burqas and be safe, because of the situation. And this man is saying, "Oh, we did such a wonderful thing. We saved these people." Now, isn’t that like—isn’t it insane? I mean, I don’t know how to respond to something like that, because it’s like somebody looking at somebody being slaughtered and saying, "Oh, he must be enjoying it. We are really helping him," you know? So, how do you argue rationally against these people?
Amy Goodman: Can you—
Arundhati Roy: We just have to think about what we need to do, you know? But we can’t have a conversation with them in this—at this point.
Amy Goodman: Do you see President Obama going in a different direction?
Arundhati Roy: Of course not. I don’t see him going in a different direction at all. I mean, the real question to ask is: When was the last time the United States won a war? You know, it lost in Vietnam. It’s lost in Afghanistan. It’s lost in Iraq. And it will not be able to contain the situation. It is hemorrhaging. It is now—you know, of course you can continue with drone attacks, and you can continue these targeted killings, but on the ground, a situation is being created which no army—not America, not anybody—can control. And it’s just, you know, a combination of such foolishness, such a lack of understanding of culture in the world.
And Obama just goes on, you know, coming out with these smooth, mercurial sentences that are completely meaningless. I was—I remember when he was sworn in for the second time, and he came on stage with his daughters and his wife, and it was all really nice, and he said, you know, "Should my daughters have another dog, or should they not?" And a man who had lost his entire family in the drone attacks just a couple of weeks ago said, "What am I supposed to think? What am I supposed to think of this exhibition of love and family values and good fatherhood and good husbandhood?" I mean, we’re not morons, you know? It’s about time that we stopped acting so reasonable. I just don’t feel reasonable about this anymore.
Amy Goodman: We’re going to break and then come back and talk about what’s happening in Kashmir, a place you’ve been focusing on recently, Arundhati. Arundhati Roy is the award-winning writer, renowned global justice activist. Among her books, The God of Small Things, her most recent book, Walking with the Comrades, and Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.
I was there. And “there” was nowhere. And nowhere was the place to be if you wanted to see the signs of end times for the American Empire up close. It was the place to be if you wanted to see the madness -- and oh yes, it was madness -- not filtered through a complacent and sleepy media that made Washington’s war policy seem, if not sensible, at least sane and serious enough. I stood at Ground Zero of what was intended to be the new centerpiece for a Pax Americana in the Greater Middle East.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the invasion of Iraq turned out to be a joke. Not for the Iraqis, of course, and not for American soldiers, and not the ha-ha sort of joke either. And here’s the saddest truth of all: on March 20th as we mark the 10th anniversary of the invasion from hell, we still don’t get it. In case you want to jump to the punch line, though, it’s this: by invading Iraq, the U.S. did more to destabilize the Middle East than we could possibly have imagined at the time. And we -- and so many others -- will pay the price for it for a long, long time.
The Madness of King George
It’s easy to forget just how normal the madness looked back then. By 2009, when I arrived in Iraq, we were already at the last-gasp moment when it came to salvaging something from what may yet be seen as the single worst foreign policy decision in American history. It was then that, as a State Department officer assigned to lead two provincial reconstruction teams in eastern Iraq, I first walked into the chicken processing plant in the middle of nowhere.
"By invading Iraq, the U.S. did more to destabilize the Middle East than we could possibly have imagined at the time. And we -- and so many others -- will pay the price for it for a long, long time."
By then, the U.S. “reconstruction” plan for that country was drowning in rivers of money foolishly spent. As the centerpiece for those American efforts -- at least after Plan A, that our invading troops would be greeted with flowers and sweets as liberators, crashed and burned -- we had managed to reconstruct nothing of significance. First conceived as a Marshall Plan for the New American Century, six long years later it had devolved into farce.
In my act of the play, the U.S. spent some $2.2 million dollars to build a huge facility in the boondocks. Ignoring the stark reality that Iraqis had raised and sold chickens locally for some 2,000 years, the U.S. decided to finance the construction of a central processing facility, have the Iraqis running the plant purchase local chickens, pluck them and slice them up with complex machinery brought in from Chicago, package the breasts and wings in plastic wrap, and then truck it all to local grocery stores. Perhaps it was the desert heat, but this made sense at the time, and the plan was supported by the Army, the State Department, and the White House.
Elegant in conception, at least to us, it failed to account for a few simple things, like a lack of regular electricity, or logistics systems to bring the chickens to and from the plant, or working capital, or... um... grocery stores. As a result, the gleaming $2.2 million plant processed no chickens. To use a few of the catchwords of that moment, it transformed nothing, empowered no one, stabilized and economically uplifted not a single Iraqi. It just sat there empty, dark, and unused in the middle of the desert. Like the chickens, we were plucked.
In keeping with the madness of the times, however, the simple fact that the plant failed to meet any of its real-world goals did not mean the project wasn't a success. In fact, the factory was a hit with the U.S. media. After all, for every propaganda-driven visit to the plant, my group stocked the place with hastily purchased chickens, geared up the machinery, and put on a dog-and-pony, er, chicken-and-rooster, show.
In the dark humor of that moment, we christened the place the Potemkin Chicken Factory. In between media and VIP visits, it sat in the dark, only to rise with the rooster’s cry each morning some camera crew came out for a visit. Our factory was thus considered a great success. Robert Ford, then at the Baghdad Embassy and now America's rugged shadow ambassador to Syria, said his visit was the best day out he enjoyed in Iraq. General Ray Odierno, then commanding all U.S. forces in Iraq, sent bloggers and camp followers to view the victory project. Some of the propaganda, which proclaimed that “teaching Iraqis methods to flourish on their own gives them the ability to provide their own stability without needing to rely on Americans,” is still online (including this charming image of American-Iraqi mentorship, a particular favorite of mine).
We weren’t stupid, mind you. In fact, we all felt smart and clever enough to learn to look the other way. The chicken plant was a funny story at first, a kind of insider’s joke you all think you know the punch line to. Hey, we wasted some money, but $2.2 million was a small amount in a war whose costs will someday be toted up in the trillions. Really, at the end of the day, what was the harm?
The harm was this: we wanted to leave Iraq (and Afghanistan) stable to advance American goals. We did so by spending our time and money on obviously pointless things, while most Iraqis lacked access to clean water, regular electricity, and medical or hospital care. Another State Department official in Iraq wrote in his weekly summary to me, “At our project ribbon-cuttings we are typically greeted now with a cursory ‘thank you,’ followed by a long list of crushing needs for essential services such as water and power.” How could we help stabilize Iraq when we acted like buffoons? As one Iraqi told me, “It is like I am standing naked in a room with a big hat on my head. Everyone comes in and helps put flowers and ribbons on my hat, but no one seems to notice that I am naked.”
By 2009, of course, it should all have been so obvious. We were no longer inside the neocon dream of unrivaled global superpowerdom, just mired in what happened to it. We were a chicken factory in the desert that no one wanted.
Time Travel to 2003
Anniversaries are times for reflection, in part because it’s often only with hindsight that we recognize the most significant moments in our lives. On the other hand, on anniversaries it’s often hard to remember what it was really like back when it all began. Amid the chaos of the Middle East today, it’s easy, for instance, to forget what things looked like as 2003 began. Afghanistan, it appeared, had been invaded and occupied quickly and cleanly, in a way the Soviets (the British, the ancient Greeks…) could never have dreamed of. Iran was frightened, seeing the mighty American military on its eastern border and soon to be on the western one as well, and was ready to deal. Syria was controlled by the stable thuggery of Bashar al-Assad and relations were so good that the U.S. was rendering terror suspects to his secret prisons for torture.
For decades to come, the U.S. will have a big enough military to ensure that our decline is slow, bloody, ugly, and reluctant, if inevitable. One day, however, even the drones will have to land.
Most of the rest of the Middle East was tucked in for a long sleep with dictators reliable enough to maintain stability. Libya was an exception, though predictions were that before too long Muammar Qaddafi would make some sort of deal. (He did.) All that was needed was a quick slash into Iraq to establish a permanent American military presence in the heart of Mesopotamia. Our future garrisons there could obviously oversee things, providing the necessary muscle to swat down any future destabilizing elements. It all made so much sense to the neocon visionaries of the early Bush years. The only thing that Washington couldn’t imagine was this: that the primary destabilizing element would be us.
Indeed, its mighty plan was disintegrating even as it was being dreamed up. In their lust for everything on no terms but their own, the Bush team missed a diplomatic opportunity with Iran that might have rendered today’s saber rattling unnecessary, even as Afghanistan fell apart and Iraq imploded. As part of the breakdown, desperate men, blindsided by history, turned up the volume on desperate measures: torture, secret gulags, rendition, drone killings, extra-constitutional actions at home. The sleaziest of deals were cut to try to salvage something, including ignoring the A.Q. Khan network of Pakistani nuclear proliferation in return for a cheesy Condi Rice-Qaddafi photo-op rapprochement in Libya.
Inside Iraq, the forces of Sunni-Shia sectarian conflict had been unleashed by the U.S. invasion. That, in turn, was creating the conditions for a proxy war between the U.S. and Iran, similar to the growing proxy war between Israel and Iran inside Lebanon (where another destabilizing event, the U.S.-sanctioned Israeli invasion of 2006, followed in hand). None of this has ever ended. Today, in fact, that proxy war has simply found a fresh host, Syria, with multiple powers using “humanitarian aid” to push and shove their Sunni and Shia avatars around.
Staggering neocon expectations, Iran emerged from the U.S. decade in Iraq economically more powerful, with sanctions-busting trade between the two neighbors now valued at some $5 billion a year and still growing. In that decade, the U.S. also managed to remove one of Iran’s strategic counterbalances, Saddam Hussein, replacing him with a government run by Nouri al-Malaki, who had once found asylum in Tehran.
Meanwhile, Turkey is now engaged in an open war with the Kurds of northern Iraq. Turkey is, of course, part of NATO, so imagine the U.S. government sitting by silently while Germany bombed Poland. To complete the circle, Iraq’s prime minister recently warned that a victory for Syria's rebels will spark sectarian wars in his own country and will create a new haven for al-Qaeda which would further destabilize the region.
Meanwhile, militarily burnt out, economically reeling from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and lacking any moral standing in the Middle East post-Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, the U.S. sat on its hands as the regional spark that came to be called the Arab Spring flickered out, to be replaced by yet more destabilization across the region. And even that hasn’t stopped Washington from pursuing the latest version of the (now-nameless) global war on terror into ever-newer regions in need of destabilization.
Having noted the ease with which a numbed American public patriotically looked the other way while our wars followed their particular paths to hell, our leaders no longer blink at the thought of sending American drones and special operations forces ever farther afield, most notably ever deeper into Africa, creating from the ashes of Iraq a frontier version of the state of perpetual war George Orwell once imagined for his dystopian novel 1984. And don’t doubt for a second that there is a direct path from the invasion of 2003 and that chicken plant to the dangerous and chaotic place that today passes for our American world.
On this 10th anniversary of the Iraq War, Iraq itself remains, by any measure, a dangerous and unstable place. Even the usually sunny Department of State advises American travelers to Iraq that U.S. citizens “remain at risk for kidnapping... [as] numerous insurgent groups, including Al Qaida, remain active...” and notes that “State Department guidance to U.S. businesses in Iraq advises the use of Protective Security Details.”
In the bigger picture, the world is also a far more dangerous place than it was in 2003. Indeed, for the State Department, which sent me to Iraq to witness the follies of empire, the world has become ever more daunting. In 2003, at that infamous “mission accomplished” moment, only Afghanistan was on the list of overseas embassies that were considered “extreme danger posts.” Soon enough, however, Iraq and Pakistan were added. Today, Yemen and Libya, once boring but secure outposts for State’s officials, now fall into the same category.
Other places once considered safe for diplomats and their families such as Syria and Mali have been evacuated and have no American diplomatic presence at all. Even sleepy Tunisia, once calm enough that the State Department had its Arabic language school there, is now on reduced staff with no diplomatic family members resident. Egypt teeters.
The Iranian leadership watched carefully as the American imperial version of Iraq collapsed, concluded that Washington was a paper tiger, backed away from initial offers to talk over contested issues, and instead (at least for a while) doubled-down on achieving nuclear breakout capacity, aided by the past work of that same A.Q. Khan network. North Korea, another A.Q. Khan beneficiary, followed the same pivot ever farther from Washington, while it became a genuine nuclear power. Its neighbor China pursued its own path of economic dominance, while helping to “pay” for the Iraq War by becoming the number-one holder of U.S. debt among foreign governments. It now owns more than 21% of the U.S. debt held overseas.
And don’t put away the joke book just yet. Subbing as apologist-in-chief for an absent George W. Bush and the top officials of his administration on this 10th anniversary, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently reminded us that there is more on the horizon. Conceding that he had “long since given up trying to persuade people Iraq was the right decision,” Blair added that new crises are looming. “You’ve got one in Syria right now, you’ve got one in Iran to come,” he said. “We are in the middle of this struggle, it is going to take a generation, it is going to be very arduous and difficult. But I think we are making a mistake, a profound error, if we think we can stay out of that struggle.”
Think of his comment as a warning. Having somehow turned much of Islam into a foe, Washington has essentially assured itself of never-ending crises that it stands no chance whatsoever of winning. In this sense, Iraq was not an aberration, but the historic zenith and nadir for a way of thinking that is only now slowing waning. For decades to come, the U.S. will have a big enough military to ensure that our decline is slow, bloody, ugly, and reluctant, if inevitable. One day, however, even the drones will have to land.
And so, happy 10th anniversary, Iraq War! A decade after the invasion, a chaotic and unstable Middle East is the unfinished legacy of our invasion. I guess the joke is on us after all, though no one is laughing.
© 2013 Peter Van Buren
Peter Van Buren spent a year in Iraq as a State Department Foreign Service Officer serving as Team Leader for two Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). Now in Washington, he writes about Iraq and the Middle East at his blog, We Meant Well. His new book is We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People (The American Empire Project, Metropolitan Books).
Over the past four decades, of all the reasons people over a certain age have given for their becoming radicalized against US foreign policy, the Vietnam War has easily been the one most often cited. And I myself am the best example of this that you could find. I sometimes think that if the war lovers who run the United States had known of this in advance they might have had serious second thoughts about starting that great historical folly and war crime.
At other times, however, I have the thought that our dear war lovers have had 40 years to take this lesson to heart, and during this time what did they do? They did Salvador and Nicaragua, and Angola and Grenada. They did Panama and Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan and Iraq. And in 2012 American President Barack Obama saw fit to declare that the Vietnam War was “one of the most extraordinary stories of bravery and integrity in the annals of military history”. 1
So, have they learned nothing? When it comes to following international law, is the United States like a failed state? The Somalia of international law? Well, if they were perfectly frank, the war lovers would insist that the purpose of all these interventions, and many others like them, was to keep the atheists out of power – the non-believers in America’s god-given right to rule the world – or to at least make life as difficult as possible for them. And thus the interventions were successful; nothing to apologize for; even the Vietnam War achieved its purpose of preventing that country from becoming a good development option for Asia, a socialist alternative to the capitalist model; precisely the same reason for Washington’s endless hostility toward Cuba in Latin America; and Cuba has indeed inspired numerous atheists and their alternatives for a better world.
If they were even more honest, the war lovers might quote George Kennan, the legendary State Department strategist, who wrote prophetically during the Cold War: “Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial establishment would have to go on, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy.” 2
But after all these years, after decades of American militarism – though not a day passes without some government official or media acolyte expressing his admiration and gratitude for “our brave boys” – cracks in the American edifice can be seen. Some of the war lovers, and their TV groupies would have us believe that they have actually learned something. One of the first was Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in February 2011: “In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined.”
And here’s former Secretary of State George Shultz speaking before the prestigious Council of Foreign Relations last month (January 29): “Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be the template for how we go about” dealing with threats of terrorism.
A few days earlier the very establishment and conservative Economist magazine declared: “The best-intentioned foreign intervention is bound to bog its armies down in endless wars fighting invisible enemies to help ungrateful locals.”
However, none of these people are in power. And does history offer any example of a highly militaristic power – without extreme coercion – seeing the error of its ways? One of my readers, who prefers to remain anonymous, wrote to me recently:
It is my opinion that the German and Japanese people only relinquished their imperial culture and mindset when they were bombed back to the stone age at the end of WWII. Something similar is the only cure for the same pathology that now is embedded into the very social fabric of the USA. The USA is a full-blown pathological society now. There is no other cure. No amount of articles on the Internet pointing out the hypocrisies or war crimes will do it.
So, while the United States is busy building bases and anti-missile sites in Europe, Asia and Africa, deploying space-based and other hi-tech weapons systems, trying to surround Russia, China, Iran and any other atheist that threatens American world hegemony, and firing drone missiles all over the Middle East I’m busy playing games on the Internet. What can I say? In theory at least, there is another force besides the terrible bombing mentioned above that can stop the American empire, and that is the American people. I’ll continue trying to educate them. Too bad I won’t live long enough to see the glorious transformation.
Afghanistan: Manufacturing the American Legacy
“A decade ago, playing music could get you maimed in Afghanistan. Today, a youth ensemble is traveling to the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. And it even includes girls.”
Thus reads the sub-heading of a Washington Post story of February 3 about an orchestra of 48 Afghan young people who attended music school in a country where the Taliban have tried to silence both women and music. “The Afghan Youth Orchestra is more than a development project,” the article informs us. For “the school’s many international donors, it serves as a powerful symbol of successful reconstruction in Afghanistan. And by performing in Washington and New York, the seats of U.S. political and financial power, the orchestra hopes to showcase what a decade of investment has achieved.”
“The U.S. State Department, the World Bank, the Carnegie Corporation and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education have invested heavily in the tour. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul awarded nearly $350,000 footing most of the estimated $500,000 cost. For international donors, the tour symbolizes progress in a country crippled by war.”
The State Department’s director of communications and public diplomacy for Afghanistan and Pakistan declares: “We wanted Americans to understand the difference their tax dollars have made in building a better future for young people, which translates into reduced threats from extremists in the region.”
“There’s a lot of weariness in the U.S. and cynicism about Afghanistan,” said William Harvey, an American violinist who teaches at the school, where 35 of 141 students are girls. “What are we doing there? What can be achieved? These concerts answer those questions in the strongest way possible: Cooperation between Afghanistan and the international community has made it safe for young girls and boys to learn music.”
There can be no question that for the sad country of Afghanistan all this is welcome news. There can also be little doubt that a beleaguered and defensive US foreign policy establishment will seek to squeeze out as much favorable publicity as possible from these events. On the issue of the severe oppression of women and girls in Afghanistan, defenders of the US occupation of that desperate land would have you believe that the United States is the last great hope of those poor females. However, you will not be reminded that in the 1980s the United States played an indispensable role in the overthrow of a secular and relatively progressive Afghan government, one which endeavored to grant women much more freedom than they’ll ever have under the current Karzai-US government, more probably than ever again. Here are some excerpts from a 1986 US Army manual on Afghanistan discussing the policies of this government concerning women:
“provisions of complete freedom of choice of marriage partner, and fixation of the minimum age at marriage at 16 for women and 18 for men”
“abolished forced marriages”
“bring [women] out of seclusion, and initiate social programs”
“extensive literacy programs, especially for women”
“putting girls and boys in the same classroom”;
“concerned with changing gender roles and giving women a more active role in politics”. 3
The US-led overthrow of this government paved the way for the coming to power of Islamic fundamentalist forces, which led directly to the awful Taliban. And why did the United States in its infinite wisdom choose to do such a thing? Because the Afghan government was allied with the Soviet Union and Washington wanted to draw the Russians into a hopeless military quagmire – “We now have the opportunity of giving to the Soviet Union its Vietnam War”, said Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s National Security Adviser. 4
The women of Afghanistan will never know how the campaign to raise them to the status of full human beings would have turned out, but this, some might argue, is but a small price to pay for a marvelous Cold War victory.
People on the left never tire of calling for the closing of the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The fact that President Obama made the closing a promise of his 2008 campaign and repeated it again in the White House, while the prison still remains in operation, is seen as a serious betrayal. But each time I read about this I’m struck by the same thought: The horror of Guantánamo is not its being open, not its mere existence. Its horror lies in its being the site of more than 10 years of terrible abuse of human beings. If the prison is closed and all its inmates are moved to another prison, and the abuses continue, what would have been accomplished? How would the cause of human rights be benefitted? I think that activists should focus on the abuses, regardless of the location.
The War on Terror – They’re really getting serious about it now
For disseminating classified materials that exposed war crimes, Julian Assange is now honored as an official terrorist as only America can honor. We Shall Never Forget 9/11, Vol. II: The True Faces of Evil – Terror, a graphic coloring novel for children, which comes with several pages of perforated, detachable “terrorist trading cards”. Published by Really Big Coloring Books Inc. in St. Louis, the cards include Assange, Timothy McVeigh, Jared Lee Loughner, Ted Kaczynski, Maj. Nidal Hasan, Bill Ayers, and others. 5
Superpower – the film
Starring Noam Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson, Michel Chossudovksy, Karen Kwiatowski (Pentagon “defector”), William Blum, Sergei Khrushchev (son of Nikita), Kathy Kelly, and many others: https://vimeo.com/55141496 (enter password when prompted: barbarasteegmuller) – 2 hours long.
New Book and talk
The eagerly awaited (I can name at least three people) new book by William Blum is here at last. “America’s Deadliest Export – Democracy: The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else” is made up of essays which are a combination of new and old; combined, updated, expanded; many first appeared in one form or another in the Anti-Empire Report, or on my website, at various times during the past ten years or so.
As mentioned in the book, activists like myself are sometimes scoffed at for saying the same old things to the same old people; just spinning our wheels, we’re told, “preaching to the choir” or “preaching to the converted”. But long experience as speaker, writer and activist in the area of foreign policy tells me it just ain’t so. From the questions and comments I regularly get from my audiences, via email and in person, I can plainly see that there are numerous significant information gaps and misconceptions in the choir’s thinking, often leaving them unable to see through the newest government lie or propaganda trick; they’re unknowing or forgetful of what happened in the past that illuminates the present; or knowing the facts but unable to apply them at the appropriate moment; vulnerable to being led astray by the next person who offers a specious argument that opposes what they currently believe, or think they believe; and, perhaps worst of all, many of them suffer pathetically from an over-abundance of conspiracy thinking, often carrying a justified suspicion or idea to a ridiculous level; virtually nothing is taken at face value.
The choir needs to be frequently reminded and enlightened to be better able to influence others, to be better activists.
To order a signed copy directly from me you can go to my website: http://killinghope.org.
I’ll be speaking about the new book at Politics and Prose bookstore, 5015 Connecticut Ave., NW, in Washington, DC, Saturday, March 2 at 1 pm.
May 28, 2012, speaking at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington ↩
George Kennan, Wikipedia entry ↩
US Department of the Army, Afghanistan, A Country Study (1986), pp.121, 128, 130, 223, 232 (Library of Congress Call Number DS351.5 .A34 1986) ↩
Zbigniew Brzezinski, Wikipedia entry ↩
View the press release; see the cards ↩
GOP’s Foreign Policy Unfit for a World Power
Posted on Feb 6, 2013
Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearings to become secretary of defense have raised questions about the Republican Party’s ability to conduct U.S. foreign policy worthy of a major international player; Hillary Clinton may be responsible for the decline in the use of “Hillary” as a baby name; meanwhile, although President Obama is quite adept at Internet use, his tendency toward waging a “cyber war” is a deficient approach to online security.These discoveries and more below.
On a regular basis, Truthdig brings you the news items and odds and ends that have found their way to Larry Gross, director of the USC Annenberg School for Communication. A specialist in media and culture, art and communication, visual communication and media portrayals of minorities, Gross helped found the field of gay and lesbian studies.
The Republican Obsession
If last week’s hearing for Chuck Hagel raised questions about his capacity to be secretary of defense, the show trial conducted by his inquisitors on the tribunal raised questions about the GOP.
‘Ex-Gay’ Blogger for the ‘Christian Post’ Caught on Grindr, Admits His ‘Disobedience to Christ’
Activist Zinnia Jones, via one of her readers, revealed a Grindr profile yesterday belonging to someone who appeared to be Matt Moore, an “ex-gay” blogger for the Christian Post, who has written much about his departure from the “gay lifestyle”.
NYC Officials Threaten Funding of Brooklyn College Over Israel Event
In defense of Israel, liberal officials are copying Giuliani’s 1999 termination of funding for a museum exhibiting “offensive” art.
Watching Fish Thoughts Form
Scientists record the neuronal activity of a fish brain as the animal watches its prey.
Russian Government Now Views Internet as Main Threat to Its Position
The growth in Internet use in the Russian Federation over the last year has meant that “for the first time, the Internet began to be considered by the Russian government as the main source of threat to its well-being and stability,” according to the annual report of the Agora Inter-Regional Human Rights Organization.
Hilary: The Most Poisoned Baby Name in US History
The root word for Hilary is the Latin word “hilarius” meaning cheerful and merry, which is the same root word for “hilarious” and “exhilarating.” It’s a great name.
Why We Took Cocaine Out of Soda
When cocaine and alcohol meet inside a person, they create a third unique drug called cocaethylene.
The Problem with Tweeting a Revolution
During the most heated days of the Tahrir Square protests, Andy Carvin sent more than 1,000 tweets per day.
Six Israeli Security Chiefs Stun World
Six former heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s secretive internal security service, have spoken out as a group for the first time and are making stunning revelations.
Geeks are the New Guardians of Our Civil Liberties
Recent events have highlighted the fact that hackers, coders, and geeks are behind a vibrant political culture.
Israeli and Palestinian Researchers Reveal that Both Sides Need to Take a Closer Look at the Books They Teach
In the Israeli-Palestinian public relations wars, it’s conventional wisdom that the textbooks used in schools in the West Bank and Gaza breed hatred for Israel.
The Pernicious Persistence of the ‘Language Shapes Thought’ Theory
Did you know that thinking in Korean makes you process life differently than thinking in English?
The Obama Administration’s Lousy Record on Cyber Security
Barack Obama is probably America’s most web-savvy president ever.
GOP to Reid: Thanks for Caving on Filibuster Reform
It was very fitting that pretty much immediately after Harry Reid ended the possibility of filibuster reform in the more-sclerotic-than-ever U.S. Senate, a Republican appointee-run court effectively killed the recess appointment.
Maybe it was inevitable that one of the new massive open online courses would crash.
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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. And we're continuing our series of interviews with Yves Engler, author of the book The Ugly Canadian, all about Stephen Harper's foreign policy. And Yves now joins us from Ottawa. Thanks for joining us, Yves.YVES ENGLER, AUTHOR AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Thanks for having me.JAY: When you look at Stephen Harper's foreign policy in sort of big-picture terms, in terms of the political centers in the United States, the sort of neocons around the Republican Party, the sort of center, center-right neoliberals, if you want to call them, in the Democratic Party, I mean, both see America as—needs to be the dominant power. Both want to project American strength and so on and shape events in the globe as best they can through military strength. But there is a difference between that neocon strategy that led to the Iraq War and the sort of, you could say, more—some people call more rational or more pragmatic strategy, empire strategy of Obama. During the time of the Iraq War, Stephen Harper was against Jean Chrétien, the prime minister of Canada. Chrétien was—mostly kept Canada out of the Iraq War. But Stephen Harper was gung ho. He wanted Canada to join in with Iraq. ~~~STEPHEN HARPER, MEMBER, CANADIAN HOUSE OF COMMONS: Mr. Speaker, the situation in Iraq is moving towards imminent crisis and military action. Canadian forces have been on the ground there for some time. In fact, 150 military personnel are involved in joint command arrangements with British and American troops on the ground. Is this deployment continuing? Will these personnel remain in the event of war with Iraq?~~~JAY: Does Harper come down more on the side of the neocons? And is he part of that both mindset and alliances?ENGLER: Yeah, I think so. I mean, he called for Canada to join the Iraq War. I think it's, like, 45 times in the House of Commons he criticized the Liberal government for not explicitly joining or demanding to join. So, yeah, I think he comes down more on the neocon side. I think part of what—and there is a sense of the Conservatives' party, I think, wants—to a certain extent want to kind of replicate what the hard right of the Republican Party has created, in terms of a political party based upon, you know, big-business interests and a sort of base of the party that is very socially conservative kind of Christian fundamentalist. And I think that the Harper government wants to—would like to replicate that and sees that very positively.And a lot of the Harper government foreign policy, you know, one element of understanding this is that foreign policy is the place where he really plays to the most right-wing sectors of the party—the Christian fundamentalists, the right-wing Jewish organizations, the Islamophobes, the mining sector, this military, mining and oil executives, military types. And foreign policy's the place where Harper gets to be as right-wing as he would want to be. On a lot of—on domestic issues he hasn't been as right-wing as a lot of the base would want him to be. And so he—foreign policy sort of—that's how it fits with his sort of electoral strategy. At the more kind of structural level, this rightward shift on Canadian foreign policy, I think, is largely explained by the incredible rise of Canadian mining investment abroad, going from $30 billion in 2002 to $210 billion today; in the case of Africa, going from about $250 million of Canadian investment in—mining investment in Africa in 1989 to $29 billion today. Canadian companies over the past 20, 25 years have just become huge players in international mining. And that's very much tied into the rise of structural adjustment programs that the International Monetary Fund pushed in Latin America and Africa. This sort of opening up of a country's national resource sector to foreign ownership has been very beneficial to Canadian companies. So I think that and the rise of Canadian mining investment's a big explanation for the more rightward shift in Canadian foreign policy. Another explanation is the rise of the tar sands and the oil there, the very highly—very dirty oil, heavy carbon emitting fuel that comes out of the tar sands. And basically, if you're going to expand the tar sands like the Conservative government, like the oil companies would like to see, you're basically telling the rest of the world to screw off when it comes to international climate negotiations. So they've sort of developed a sort of hostility towards the UN because of those oil interests in Latin America. So I think at a structural level the explanation for the more rightward shift in Harper's foreign policy is the rise in mining investment abroad and the rise of the tar sands over the past ten, 20 years.JAY: And in terms of Canadian public opinion, in the last federal election, foreign policy wasn't that big an issue, and he doesn't seem to be suffering consequences from a rightward shift in foreign policy. And even though, I guess, people can argue that the Harper government would not have been elected if there hadn't been sort of a split between the Liberals and NDP of some of the vote, they still didn't do very bad; they did pretty well, and many ridings won outright, in spite of the—they would have won anyway, even if there wasn't a split vote. Has something shifted in terms of Canadians, more broadly speaking, about foreign policy?ENGLER: No, I don't think the public attitude has shifted in—very minimally. I think that the reality is foreign policy is very rarely a major issue when it comes to elections. And most of the time, the dominant media and the opposition parties just go along with whatever the foreign-policy establishment puts forward. That's the general tendency. And so foreign policy's—because there's so little opposition, it is the place to really please the base of his party, right, because there's so little opposition being put up among the official sort of, you know, established political parties and media institutions.So there hasn't—I don't think that—if anything, in fact, Canadians are more internationalist today than they've ever been, I think, much more multicultural, people from many different countries around the world, you know, living in Canada and the population being more aware of global affairs. It's just that foreign-policy issues don't tend to be that high on people's lists of concerns.JAY: Let me ask you a question about Canadian media. What do you make of Canadian media coverage of foreign policy, and then particularly CBC, which one could say at least in the past was more willing to be critical of Canadian foreign policy, but I'm not so sure about these days?ENGLER: Yeah. I mean, the Canadian media is—it's owned by—vast majority of it's owned by a handful of companies. It's much more concentrated than U.S. media is, even. So, you know, it's—the coverage is absolutely terrible from the standpoint of an internationalist, humanist perspective. It's terrible coverage.And the CBC is very much unwilling to forthrightly criticize the Conservative government. Just a couple of nights ago, there was a four-person panel on The National, 15, 20 minutes where they dealt with Canadian foreign policy. And there's—you know, none of the four panelists are willing to—The National being the most important news show that is on the CBC, the nightly news, and there's almost no—the four panelists, basically no substantive criticism, or, you know, very soft criticism of the Conservative government.And, you know, there's—the media's not willing to stand up and say that, you know, Palestinians have been dispossessed for 100 years by Zionism in Israel and it's, you know, morally indefensible to support Israel's ongoing dispossession. You know, media's not willing to say, you know, climate change is already causing hundreds of thousands of people's deaths around the world, and, you know, it's a crime against humanity to try to block all international climate negotiation meetings like the Conservative government has done. Like, the media's not—you know, I had a producer at The Current, one of the big radio programs on the CBC, where he told me about how he'd bring to higher-up producers a story of a Canadian mining company involved with a local community in sort of devastating the local community. And the producer was [incompr.] didn't we cover that story last week? Well, yeah, you did, you covered that story last week from Guatemala. This story's about a Canadian mining company in Mexico, and the story is precisely the fact that this is happening all over the world, that Canadian mining companies are involved in these abuses all over the world, and that there needs to be, you know, public policy change in Canada to rein in some of these practices. But, you know, the media, the producer, higher-up producers, you know, didn't see it that way.JAY: Don't forget Canada's involved in a war. You wouldn't know it. Canada's still fighting in Afghanistan, and next to no debate about why Canada's there. I mean, I used to do a show on CBC called CounterSpin, and we had lots of debates, but we got canceled, and I don't think there's—even at that time, other than our show, there was debates about do Canadian jeeps have enough armor on them. There weren't a heck of a lot of debate on CBC other than CounterSpin—and since, not much—about why Canada's there anyway.ENGLER: Exactly. The media, that's one of the recent times they've just basically taken the government's talking points that the 950 Canadian troops that are still in Afghanistan, that's just training; we don't need to discuss that anymore; that's just training. Well, if you want to train Afghan troops, there's a very easy way of doing it: bring Afghan troops to Canada and train them here. It would be cheaper to do it than to maintain 950 Canadian troops there. It's about supporting the ongoing U.S.-led military mission in Afghanistan. That's the point. It's—you know, we—very clearly. But the media just basically, you know, does the government's talking points. And that's—unfortunately, that's been mostly the nature of the dominant media. They basically follow the government's perspective.JAY: I should throw in there are exceptions that are notable. And on CBC you do find, you know, on certain shows, certain radio shows, you find individuals in some of the shows, like Fifth Estate, and on The Current, like you mentioned, you can find exceptions where there really is a critique, there's a guest. But they really are the exceptions.ENGLER: Of course. And I think those exceptions are becoming less and less. One of the things in the case of the CBC is the government has cut the CBC's budget back and has made it very clear that, you know, it's prepared to do, you know, further cutbacks if it is not pleased by what's on the CBC. But the CBC's just one example. For myself personally, I've now written five books about Canadian foreign policy. I can submit op-eds to from The National Post to The Toronto Star, the most left-wing newspaper in the country, and none of papers in the country will publish the op-eds, right, on Canadian foreign policy. On domestic issues, I've been able to submit some op-eds and get those pieces in. When it comes to foreign policy, the room for debate, the narrowness of the spectrum is very tight.JAY: Any mainstream media, CBC or otherwise, paying attention to your recent book about the ugly Canadian?ENGLER: I got a nice review in The Halifax Chronicle Herald, which is the daily in Halifax—you know, smaller marketplace; a small mention in The Toronto Star by a columnist, paragraph mentioned in a larger column; and, you know, a few very community—during the tour, a few sort of community or smaller-center newspapers, a little bit of coverage. But no one at the CBC, both at TV or radio—are completely unwilling to cover it. You know, a producer—I've been in communication with a producer at The Current. You know, she says, oh, yeah, I got your book, but, you know, can't do a story on this; maybe I'll keep you in mind for the future.JAY: It's kind of outrageous.ENGLER: I mean, the book is incredibly topical, right? There's all these stories about what the Conservatives are doing in terms of foreign policy. But their willingness to go to the point of saying things, making criticisms of the Conservative policy to say, you know, these are tantamount to crimes against humanity or that, you know, the fundamental moral criticisms of what's taking place, there's very little room for that. You can say, yes, these are mistakes they're making, these are—you know, this is weakening Canada's influence in the world. Those types of criticisms are sort of acceptable. If you start talking about these being fundamentally immoral policies, there's very little room for making those types of criticisms.JAY: Well, Yves's going to be a regular commentator on The Real News. So, Canadians, you'll have to stick with us if you want to see more of Yves Engler. Thanks for joining us, Yves.ENGLER: Thanks for having me.JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
EndDISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
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On January 23, 2013, The Jerusalem Post reported on a meeting held by Chuck Hagel, President Barak Obama’s defense secretary nominee, in which Hagel stated his strong commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and to maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge. In addition, Hagel’s office stated, “Hagel appreciated the opportunity to have a constructive, informed and wide-ranging discussion.” What is wrong with this picture?Chuck Hagel shakes hands with t Leon Panetta, at a convention in Washington on May 9, 2012. (Photo: Glenn Fawcett)
At the meeting were present US Vice President Joe Biden, and leaders of the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). This meeting followed a previous one held by Hagel with top Jewish Democrats in which he apologized for a 2006 comment in which he described the “Jewish lobby” as intimidating”. During the meeting, he reassured them that despite his past critical stance on war with Iran to prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon, he was now on board with President Obama’s stand on this issue.
And the inevitable question is why does a nominee for defense secretary of an independent country have to explain his intentions to anybody, least of all to people who advocate an aggressive policy against another independent country? And why does the United States Vice President have to be present to give additional authority to his statements?
And the obvious answer seems to be that these organizations, widely known as the pro-Israel lobby, are the ones that through their influence could derail Hagel’s confirmation as secretary of defense. What is the meaning of all of this? Let me bring the voice of Uri Avnery, one of the most honest, lucid and courageous observers of the US and Israel political scene, a former member of the Knesset and a staunch peace activist.
“Americans must be race of angels,” he writes, “how else to explain the incredible patience with which they suffer the fact that in a vital sphere of US interests, American foreign policy is dictated by a foreign country? For five decades, at least, US Middle East policy has been decided in Jerusalem. Almost all American officials dealing with this area are, well, Jewish. The Hebrew-speaking American ambassador in Tel Aviv could easily be the Israeli ambassador in Washington. Sometimes I wonder if in meetings of American and Israeli diplomats, they don’t sometimes drop into Yiddish.”
If anyone doubts the accuracy of Avnery’s characterization, it would be a good memory exercise to remember Netanyahu’s last address to the US congress, where practically all senators and congressmen wildly applauded Netanyahu’s every single sentence, while at the same time jumping up and down like children at a “piñata” party. Is this the behavior one should expect from representatives of an independent country? Why are they so subservient to the interests of a foreign country?
Lawrence Davidson, a professor of history at West Chester University in West Chester, Pennsylvania, offers an explanation through a process that he calls “lobbification.” According to him, at some point in time every single Congressman or Senator has been approached by a lobbyist—in the case of the Middle East, by one representing AIPAC.
The lobbyist offers the representatives financial campaign assistance, good media coverage, briefings on the Middle East and even trips to Israel. All that he is asked in return is that they consistently vote in a pro-Israel way. Should they refuse this offer the lobbyist group will probably support the opponent party, making sure that those who refuse the offer are defeated in the next election.
As a result, Davidson points out, “…the national interest is replaced by the parochial interests of lobbies that are successful at suborning Congress and the White House
-Zionists pushing support for a racist and expansionist foreign power, Cuban-Americans carrying on a 53 year old vendetta against the government in Havana, the NRA striving to protect the right of every American to own a submachine gun, and the like.” Is this the kind of foreign policy we want our country to have? Is this how we want our democracy to work?
César Chelala, MD, PhD, is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award. He is also the foreign correspondent for Middle East Times International (Australia).