Posts Tagged ‘US policies’

That Which Cannot Be Spoken

February 13, 2010

Willian Blum, Foreign Policy Journal, Feb 7, 2010

“The purpose of terrorism is to provoke an overreaction,” writes Fareed Zakaria, a leading American foreign-policy pundit, editor of Newsweek magazine’s international edition, and Washington Post columnist, referring to the “underwear bomber”, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, and his failed attempt to blow up a US airliner on Christmas day. “Its real aim is not to kill the hundreds of people directly targeted but to sow fear in the rest of the population. Terrorism is an unusual military tactic in that it depends on the response of the onlookers. If we are not terrorized, then the attack didn’t work. Alas, this one worked very well.”[1]

Is that not odd? That an individual would try to take the lives of hundreds of people, including his own, primarily to “provoke an overreaction”, or to “sow fear”? Was there not any kind of deep-seated grievance or resentment with anything or anyone American being expressed? No perceived wrong he wished to make right? Nothing he sought to obtain revenge for? Why is the United States the most common target of terrorists? Such questions were not even hinted at in Zakaria’s article.

Continues >>

Calling a Time Out

January 24, 2009

As you settle into the Oval Office, Mr. President, may I offer a suggestion? Please do not try to put Afghanistan aright with the U.S. military. To send our troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan would be a near-perfect example of going from the frying pan into the fire. There is reason to believe some of our top military commanders privately share this view. And so does a broad and growing swath of your party and your supporters.

True, the United States is the world’s greatest power — but so was the British Empire a century ago when it tried to pacify the warlords and tribes of Afghanistan, only to be forced out after excruciating losses. For that matter, the Soviet Union was also a superpower when it poured some 100,000 troops into Afghanistan in 1979. They limped home, broken and defeated, a decade later, having helped pave the way for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It is logical to conclude that our massive military dominance and supposedly good motives should let us work our will in Afghanistan. But logic does not always prevail in South Asia. With belligerent Afghan warlords sitting atop each mountain glowering at one another, the one factor that could unite them is the invasion of their country by a foreign power, whether British, Russian or American.

I have believed for some time that military power is no solution to terrorism. The hatred of U.S. policies in the Middle East — our occupation of Iraq, our backing for repressive regimes such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, our support of Israel — that drives the terrorist impulse against us would better be resolved by ending our military presence throughout the arc of conflict. This means a prudent, carefully directed withdrawal of our troops from Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and elsewhere. We also need to close down the imposing U.S. military bases in this section of the globe, which do so little to expand our security and so much to stoke local resentment.

We cannot evade this reckoning. The British thought they could extend their control over Iraq even while pulling out their ground forces by creating a string of bases in remote parts of the country, away from the observation of most Iraqis. It didn’t work. No people that desires independence and self-determination wishes to have another nation’s military bases in its country. In 1776, remember, 13 little colonies drove the mighty British Empire from American soil.

In 2003, the Bush administration ordered an invasion of Iraq, supposedly to reduce terrorism. But six years later, there is more terrorism and civil strife in Iraq, not less. The same outcome may occur in Afghanistan if we make it the next American military conflict.

Mr. President, the bright promise of your brilliant campaign for the White House and the high hopes of the millions who thronged the Mall on Tuesday to watch you be sworn in could easily be lost in the mountains and wastelands of Afghanistan.

The Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz has estimated that the war in Iraq will have a total cost of more than $3 trillion. That war has clearly weakened our economy and our armed forces even as it has made the national debt soar. The Bush administration committed itself to Iraq before the recession. Today, with our economy teetering, does the Obama administration believe that it is time for yet another costly war in yet another Muslim country?

I’m aware that some of my fellow Americans regard me as too idealistic. But sometimes idealism is the best realism. And at a minimum, realism and idealism need not be contradictory. The invasion and occupation of Iraq has not only angered Iraqis who have lost family members, neighbors or homes; it has also increased the level of anger throughout the Muslim world and thrown up obstacles to our political leadership in that deeply important part of the planet.

Like you, Mr. President, I don’t oppose all wars. I risked my life in World War II to protect our country against genuine danger. But it is the vivid memory of my fellow airmen being shot out of the sky on all sides of me in a war that I believe we had to fight that makes me cautious about sending our youth into needless conflicts that weaken us at home and abroad, and may even weaken us in the eyes of God.

As you have noted, Mr. President, we take pride in our soldiers who conduct themselves bravely. But as you have also said, some of these soldiers have served two, three and even four tours in dangerous combat. Many of them have come home with enduring brain and nerve damage and without arms and legs. These troops need rest, rehabilitation and reunions with their families.

So let me suggest a truly audacious hope for your administration: How about a five-year time-out on war — unless, of course, there is a genuine threat to the nation?

During that interval, we could work with the U.N. World Food Program, plus the overseas arms of the churches, synagogues, mosques and other volunteer agencies to provide a nutritious lunch every day for every school-age child in Afghanistan and other poor countries. Such a program is now underway in several countries approved by Congress and the United Nations, under the auspices of the George McGovern-Robert Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Act. (Forgive the self-serving title.) Although the measure remains painfully underfunded, with the help of other countries, we are reaching millions of children. We could supplement these efforts with nutritional packages for low-income pregnant and nursing mothers and their infants from birth through the age of 5, as is done here at home by WIC, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.

Is this proposal pie-in-the-sky? I don’t think so. It’s food in the stomachs of hungry kids. It would draw them to school and enable them to learn and grow into better citizens. It would cost a small fraction of warfare’s cost, but it might well be a stronger antidote to terrorism. There will always be time for another war. But hunger can’t wait.

George McGovern, a former senator from South Dakota, was the Democratic nominee for president in 1972.

The Making of Recent U.S. Middle East Policies

September 22, 2008

A New and Revealing Study of the Influence of the Neocons

By BILL and KATHLEEN CHRISTISON | Counterpunch, Sep 20 / 21, 2008

Stephen J. Sniegoski, The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel, Enigma Editions, Norfolk, Virginia, 2008

Not a few honest political analysts have long recognized the tight relationship between the Israel-U.S. partnership and the disastrous Bush administration adventures throughout the Middle East, including its backing for Israel’s systematic oppression of the Palestinians. Stephen Sniegoski has had the persistence to ferret out mountains of impossible-to-challenge evidence that this Israel-U.S. connection is the driving force behind virtually all Middle East decisionmaking over the last eight years, as well as the political courage to write a book about it.

Sniegoski’s new book demonstrates clearly how U.S. and Israeli policies and actions with respect to Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the other Gulf states, and even most recently Georgia are all tied together in a bundle of interrelated linkages, each of which affects all the others. The right wing of Israeli politics, the neoconservatives in the U.S. who strongly support Israel, and the aging Israel lobby in the United States all have worked together, and are still doing so, to bring about more wars, regime changes, and instability, specifically the fragmentation of any Middle Eastern states that might ever conceivably threaten Israel.

In addition, one purpose of such wars and other changes is explicitly to intensify the discouragement of Palestinians as the latter’s potential allies are knocked off one by one, making it easier for Israel, over time, to finish off the Palestinians. That’s the theory. Those who believe it is vital to improve the human rights situation and the political outlook for the Palestinians must not only work to reverse present Israeli policies, but it is probably more important that we in the United States work even harder to reverse U.S. policies.

This is a long but quite splendid book. After a foreword by ex-Congressman Paul Findley and an introduction by Professor of Humanities Paul Gottfried, Ph.D., the text itself has 382 pages covering the entire history of the neoconservatives from the 1960s to 2008. The author has clearly spent untold hours reading all the writings he could find by not only the top few neocons but also numerous others who are far less well known but still important figures in the movement.

The neocons, by the way, are by and large not conspiratorial. They prefer to write voluminously and act openly with respect to their philosophies and actions. The word “transparent” in the title of the book emphasizes this very point. On the other hand, the neocons are also very skilled propagandists and are more than willing to spin “facts” in many situations in ways that often do not leave readers with an honest, unvarnished version of “truth.”

Sniegoski states his own main argument as follows:

“This book has maintained that the origins of the American war on Iraq revolve around the United States’ adoption of a war agenda whose basic format was conceived in Israel to advance Israeli interests and was ardently pushed by the influential pro-Israeli American neoconservatives, both inside and outside the Bush administration. Voluminous evidence, much of it derived from a lengthy neoconservative paper trail, has been marshaled to substantiate these contentions.” [Page 351]

The author then points out that

“… what was an unnecessary, deleterious war from the standpoint of [“realists” in] the United States, did advance many Israeli interests, as those interests were envisioned by the Israeli right. America came to identify more closely with the position of Israel toward the Palestinians as it began to equate resistance to Israeli occupation with ‘terrorism.’ … Israel took advantage of the new American ‘anti-terrorist’ position. The ‘security wall’ built by the Sharon government on Palestinian land isolated the Palestinians and made their existence on the West Bank less viable than ever. For the first time, an American president put the United States on record as supporting Israel’s eventual annexation of parts of the West Bank. Obviously, Israel benefited for the very reason that the United States had become the belligerent enemy of Israel’s enemies. As such, America seriously weakened Israel’s foes at no cost to Israel. The war and occupation basically eliminated Iraq as a potential power. Instead of having a unified democratic government, as the Bush administration had predicted, Iraq was fragmenting into warring sectarian groups, in line with the original Likudnik goal.” [Pages 356-357]

And yet one more quote is in order here:

“Since one is dealing with a topic of utmost sensitivity, it should be reiterated that the reference to Israel and the neoconservatives doesn’t imply that all or even most American Jews supported the war on Iraq and the overall neocon war agenda. … A Gallup poll conducted in February 2007 found that 77 percent of [American] Jews believed that the war on Iraq had been a mistake, while only 21 percent held otherwise. This contrasted with the overall American population in which the war was viewed as a mistake by a 52 percent to 46 percent margin. … [Nevertheless,] evidence for the neoconservative and Israeli connection to the United States war is overwhelming and publicly available. There was no dark, hidden ‘conspiracy,’ a term of derision often used by detractors of the idea of a neocon connection to the war. … It should be hoped that … Americans should not fear to honestly discuss the background and motivation for the war in Iraq and the overall United States policy in the Middle East. Only by understanding the truth can the United States possibly take the proper corrective action in the Middle East; without such an understanding, catastrophe looms.” [Pages 371-372]

The reader will note that the above excerpts all come from near the end of Sniegoski’s book. Before reaching this point in the book, you will be treated to informative and well-written chapters on the origins of the neoconservative movement, the Israeli origins of the United States’ Middle East war agenda, and neocon planning against Iran, as well as chapters entitled “World War IV” (a very important chapter), and “Democracy for the Middle East.” A particularly important chapter on “Oil and Other Arguments for the War” argues that oil was not as important a reason for the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq as was Israel.

This book is a veritable bible on the neocons — and a frightening one. Anyone who thought that neocon thinking and policymaking had become passé with the political eclipse of the likes of Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and Douglas Feith will be disquieted to find that these individuals were only the tip of the iceberg and that on all issues having to do with Israel neocon thinking lives on in policymaking councils and is about to be passed on to the next administration, whether it be Democratic or Republican.

Bill Christison was a senior official of the CIA. He served as a National Intelligence officer and as director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis.

Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession. They can be reached at kb.christison@earthlink.net.


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