Bomber in Chief: 20,000 Airstrikes in the President’s First Term Cause Death and Destruction From Iraq to Somalia | Alternet by Nicolas J.S. Davies

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Bomber in Chief: 20,000 Airstrikes in the President’s First Term Cause Death and Destruction From Iraq to Somalia | Alternet.

Bomber in Chief: 20,000 Airstrikes in the President’s First Term Cause Death and Destruction From Iraq to Somalia

AlterNet / By Nicolas J.S. Davies

Day after day, U.S. air strikes have conclusively answered the familiar question of 9/11: “Why do they hate us?”

Photo Credit: AFP

Many people around the world are disturbed by U.S. drone attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. The illusion that American drones can strike without warning anywhere in the world without placing Americans in harm’s way makes drones dangerously attractive to U.S. officials, even as they fuel the cycle of violence that the “war on terror” falsely promised to end but has instead escalated and sought to normalize. But drone strikes are only the tip of an iceberg, making up less than 10 percent of at least 20,130 air strikes the U.S. has conducted in other countries since President Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

The U.S. dropped  17,500 bombs during its invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. It conducted  29,200 air strikes during the invasion of Iraq in 2003. U.S. air forces conducted at least another  3,900 air strikes in Iraq over the next eight years, before the Iraqi government finally negotiated the withdrawal of U.S. occupation forces. But that pales next to at least 38,100 U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan since 2002, a country already occupied by U.S. and NATO forces, with a government pledged by its U.S. overlords to bring peace and justice to its people.
The Obama administration is responsible for  at least 18,274 air strikes in Afghanistan since 2009, including at least 1,160 by pilotless drones. The U.S. conducted at least 116 air strikes in Iraq in 2009 and about  1,460 of NATO’s 7,700 strikes in Libya in 2011. While the U.S. military does not publish figures on “secret” air and drone strikes in other countries, press reports detail a five-fold increase over Bush’s second term, with at least  303 strikes in Pakistan125 in Yemen and 16 in Somalia.
Aside from the initial bombing of Afghanistan in 2001 and the “shock and awe” bombing of Iraq in March and April 2003, the Obama administration has conducted more air strikes day-in day-out than the Bush administration. Bush’s roughly 24,000 air strikes in seven years from 2002 to 2008 amounted to an air strike about every 3 hours, while Obama’s 20,130 in four years add up to one every 1-3/4 hours.
The U.S. government does not advertise these figures, and journalists have largely ignored them. But the bombs and missiles used in these air strikes are powerful weapons designed to inflict damage, death and injury over a wide radius, up to hundreds of feet from their points of impact. The effect of such bombs and shells on actual battlefields, where the victims are military personnel, has always been deadly and gruesome. Many soldiers who lived through shelling and bombing in the First and Second World Wars never recovered from “shell-shock” or what we now call PTSD.
The use of such weapons in America’s current wars, where “the battlefield” is often a euphemism for houses, villages or even urban areas densely populated by civilians, frequently violates otherwise binding rules of international humanitarian law. These include the  Fourth Geneva Convention, signed in 1949 to protect civilians from the worst effects of war and military occupation.
Beginning in 2005, the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) issued quarterly reports on human rights in Iraq. They included details of U.S. air strikes that killed civilians, and UNAMI called on U.S. authorities to fully investigate these incidents.  A UNAMI human rights report published in October 2007 demanded, “that all credible allegations of unlawful killings by MNF (multi-national force) forces be thoroughly, promptly and impartially investigated, and appropriate action taken against military personnel found to have used excessive or indiscriminate force.”
The UN human rights report included a reminder to U.S. military commanders that, “Customary international humanitarian law demands that, as much as possible, military objectives must not be located within areas densely populated by civilians. The presence of individual combatants among a great number of civilians does not alter the civilian nature of an area.”
But no Americans have been held criminally accountable for civilian casualties in air strikes, either in Iraq or in the more widespread bombing of occupied Afghanistan. U.S. officials dispute findings of fact and law in investigations by the UN and the Afghan government, but they accept no independent mechanism for resolving these disputes, effectively shielding themselves from accountability.
Besides simply not being informed of the extent of the U.S. bombing campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. public has been subject to military propaganda about the accuracy and effectiveness of “precision” weapons. When military forces detonate tens of thousands of powerful bombs and missiles in a country, even highly accurate weapons are bound to kill many innocent people. When we are talking about 33,000 bombs and missiles exploding in Iraq, 55,000 in Afghanistan and 7,700 in Libya, it is critical to understand just how accurate or inaccurate these weapons really are. If only 10 percent missed their targets, that would mean nearly 10,000 bombs and missiles blowing up something or somewhere else, killing and maiming thousands of unintended victims.
But even the latest generation of “precision” weapons is not 90 percent accurate. One of the world’s leading experts on this subject, Rob Hewson, the editor of the military journal Jane’s Air Launched Weapons, estimated that  20 to 25 percent of the 19,948 precision weapons used in the “shock and awe” attack on Iraq in 2003 completely missed their targets. The other 9,251 bombs and missiles were not classified as “precision” weapons in the first place, so that only about 56 percent of the total 29,199 “shock and awe” weapons actually performed with “precision” by the military’s own standards. And  those standards define precision for most of these weapons only as striking within a 29 foot radius of the target.
To an expert like Rob Hewson who understood the real-world effects of these weapons, “shock and awe” presented an ethical and legal problem to which American military spokespeople and journalists seemed oblivious. As he told the Associated Press, “In a war that’s being fought for the benefit of the Iraqi people, you can’t afford to kill any of them. But you can’t drop bombs and not kill people. There’s a real dichotomy in all of this.”The actual results of U.S. air strikes were better documented in Iraq than in Afghanistan. Epidemiological studies in Iraq bore out Hewson’s assessment, finding that tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of Iraqi civilians were killed by U.S. air strikes.  The first major epidemiological study conducted in Iraq after 18 months of war and occupation concluded:

Violent deaths were widespread … and were mainly attributed to coalition forces. Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children … Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths.

When the same team from Johns Hopkins and Baghdad’s Al Mustansariya University did  a more extensive study in Iraq in 2006 after three years of war and occupation, it found that, amidst the proliferation of all kinds of violence, U.S. air strikes by then accounted for a smaller share of total deaths, except in one crucial respect: they still accounted for half of all violent deaths of children in Iraq.
No such studies have been conducted in Afghanistan, but hundreds of thousands of Afghans now living in refugee camps tell of  homes and villages destroyed by U.S. air strikes and of family members killed in the bombing. There is no evidence that the pattern of bombing casualties in Afghanistan has been any kinder to children and other innocents than in Iraq. Impossibly low figures on civilian casualties published by the U.N. mission in Afghanistan are the result of small numbers of completed investigations, not comprehensive surveys. They therefore give a misleading impression, which is then amplified by wishful and uncritical Western news reports.
When the UN identified only 80 civilians killed in U.S. Special Forces night raids in 2010, Nader Nadery of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, who worked on the UN report, explained that  this was based on completed investigations of only 13 of the 73 incidents reported to the UN for the year. He estimated the number of civilians killed in all 73 incidents at 420. But most U.S. air strikes and special forces raids occur in resistance-held areas where people have no contact with the UN or the Human Rights Commission. So even thorough and complete UN investigations in the areas it has access to would only document a fraction of total Afghan civilian casualties. Western journalists who report UN civilian casualty figures from Afghanistan as if they were estimates of total casualties unwittingly contribute to a propaganda narrative that dramatically understates the scale of violence raining down from the skies on the people of Afghanistan.
President Obama and the politicians and media who keep the scale, destructiveness and indiscriminate nature of U.S. air strikes shrouded in silence understand only too well that the American public has in no way approved this shameful and endless tsunami of violence against people in other countries. Day after day for 11 years, U.S. air strikes have conclusively answered the familiar question of 9/11: “Why do they hate us?” As Congressmember Barbara Lee warned in 2001, we have “become the evil we deplore.” It is time to change course. Ending the daily routine of deadly U.S. air strikes, including but by no means limited to drone strikes, should be President Obama’s most urgent national security priority as he begins his second term in office.

Nicolas J. S. Davies is author of Blood On Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. He wrote the chapter on “Obama At War” for the just released book, Grading the 44th President: A Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.

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Aletho News

By Sara Kozameh | CEPR The Americas Blog | January 18, 2013

On January 14th, a day marking the one-year anniversary of his administration, Guatemalan president Otto Pérez Molina presented his first annual report on the state of the country. In his speech, Pérez Molina, a former general, graduate of the School of the Americas and accused of being  a war criminalimplicated in the systematic use of torture and acts of genocide, hailed a “historic 10 percent reduction in violent crime” and “an almost five point drop in the homicide rate per every 100,000 inhabitants” from the previous year. Guatemala currently has one of the highest murder rates in the world (41 murders per every 100,000 inhabitants); it had a total of 5,122 murders in 2012. Ironically, while President Pérez Molina was reporting back to the nation on crime statistics and murder rates that morning, the…

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Aletho News

By Saed Bannoura | IMEMC & Agencies | January 21, 2013

The Israeli Defense Ministry announced on Sunday that they will re-route a section of the Wall east of Jerusalem in order to close off an existing gap and fully annex the city of Jerusalem into Israel. The new route means the complete encirclement of the Palestinian village of Al-Zaim, with the Wall to the West and a security fence to the east.

IMG_0446-600x400Other Palestinian towns are also completely isolated and encircled into ghettoes, including the town of Sheikh Sa’ed and the city of Qalqilya. Israeli authorities isolated these towns in order to create Palestinian-free zones and routes throughout the West Bank to allow Israeli settlers to travel unencumbered without either having to stop at checkpoints or to drive on the same roads as Palestinians. But in order to do that, Israeli forces have had to maintain over 600 checkpoints…

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Shedding crocodile tears while collaborating with US-led sanctions

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 As with Iran, the sanctions regime against the Syrian people is beginning to show its genocidal character.
Franklin Lamb
Are the Arab League and Organization of Islamic Cooperation targeting Syria’s civilian population?Damascus– One powerful image from Damascus that has become seared into this observers mind these days is when I walk by a Western Union office. Most of them remain open despite the brutal US-led sanctions which in their pervasive effects target almost entirely the civilian population.
Obama mulling Syria

But all Western Union offices were closed last Thursday and Friday due to heavy snowfall, some say the deepest here for more than a quarter century. Still, some Syrians braved the extreme cold and could be seen huddled outside some branches, evidently in vain hope that they might open and their families might eat.

One of the few economic lifelines not yet cut by the ever strangling, profoundly immoral and illegal US-led sanctions with their throat-hold tightening around the civilian population in Syria in order to achieve regime change, “WU” as it’s known, has become, for some, literally a lifesaver. This is because its money transfer service is still allowing family and friends from abroad to send in assistance to Syria for their desperate families caught up in this regional contest between Resistance and a return to Western hegemony.

Peering in the window or stepping inside a Western Union outlet in Damascus, reminds this observer of scenes from Western Unionthe floor of the New York Stock Exchange or a European bourse wherein traders wave pieces of paper or other objects trying to get the attention of someone. But in Syria those trying to submit their ten digit Money Control Transfer Number (MTCN) numbers and ID’s in order to collect cash, are not wearing clothes from the fashion houses. Rather, given the frigid temperatures and lack of mazot(heating oil that 90% of the population here relies on for heat) they are tightly bundled. Women and kids generally wrapped tight in thick head scarves.

Last week this observer went into the Western Union office in central Damascus to collect some cash sent from Canada for a family that had managed to escape from Aleppo. The place was packed but orderly. I smiled to myself as I thought about my own country when sometimes during a Black Friday type sale, the scene of waiting in queue collapses into yelling, insults, fights, throwing objects, threats, all to save a few dollars or get one’s hands on the, soon to be trashed, “must have” sale item.

The stressed but committed staff behind the WU counter could not give assurance how long I would have to wait but graciously did agree to take my passport and I could return later. On arriving after about three hours, my MCTN # had just been processed and I was in and out fast. I can’t imagine that I will see a yellow and black Western Union sign ever again without thinking about US sanctions targeting the Syrian civilian population.Hiram Sibley

An historical irony is that it was a Syrian gentlemen, Mr. Hiram Sibley, one of the thousands of Syrians who emigrated to the United States in the mid-19th Century (the first and largest Arab migration then and since came from Syria) who in 1851 established the New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company with the goal of creating one great telegraph system with unified and efficient operations. Four years later Western Union was born and became an American icon and thirty three years on it had become one of the top ten companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange the day it opened in 1888.

The reason Western Union is able to avoid the US-led sanctions that include medicines and food (White House claims to the contrary notwithstanding), is quite simply that the US Treasury Department cannot easily face the domestic American political fallout from curtailing Western Union anywhere.

According to a July 2012 US Senate Banking Committee memo, were Treasury to be seen as tampering with Western Union’s $7 billion annual revenues, there would be a significant problem. Already there are growing complaints from US businesses flooding the White House & Congress claiming that sanctions imposed on Syria are costing American businesses hundreds of millions of dollars in lost profits — even more regarding US sanctions on Iran. So to date the Office of Financial Assets Control (OFAC) at Treasury has kept its hands off Western Union and this is good for Syrian civilians.

For these reasons a thin lifeline — a reed really — exists for many in Syria with families and friends abroad able to use WU’s “Money in Minutes” to help them. It’s a relatively small factor in the larger Syrian crisis but it does help many.

Much more significant than Western Union remaining open, and the subject of much current criticism here, is the lack of assistance to Syria’s severely sanctioned civilian population from the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, neither of which lack officials who are wringing their hands in public these days, in mock anguish it is claimed, over their brothers and co-religionists “victimization.”

Claiming solidarity with the Syrian people, on 11/12/2011 the Arab League suspended the membership of Syria (Lebanon and Yemen voted no and Iraq abstained) and cancelled its monitoring mission in Syria on 1/28/12. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation suspended Syria’s membership on 5/15/12 at a summit of Muslim leaders in Mecca. Saudi Arabia, the summit’s host, has led all Arab League and OIC calls for the Syrian rebel opposition
to be armed, which Foreign Minister Saud al-Fasial described in February and since as “an excellent idea.”

By their actions, the OIC and the Arab League are themselves sanctioning the Syrian people in brutal forms and doing nothing to object to the immoral and illegal aspects of the American sanctions. Both organizations stand accused of abandoning their charters in order to maintain profitable relations with NATO countries as they funnel large sums of money and weapons to various militias inside Syria. It is their “agents,” the jihadist groups, who have turned on the Syrian civilian population increasingly resorting to theft, kidnapping for ransom, rape, sale of children and killing hundreds according to UN agencies.

In one poignant interview near Omayyad Square the other day, a solemn, long bearded Sunni Sheik told this observer that the American sanctions are also directly targeting Islam because the sanctions constitute an attack on Islamic values. When pressed for specifics, he reluctantly replied, “Because your countries sanctions are impoverishing our people and forcing our Muslim women into prostitution. These sanctions are also flooding the streets with Muslim beggars, both adults and children. I am sure you have seen them, here in Damascus, across Syria and in bordering countries. But the claimed protectors of our holy sites are silent and shed only insincere tears in public. But if they resisted these sanctions they could defeat them. What is required in a 1970’s type Arab boycott of American and western companies until these anti-Muslim sanctions are lifted.”

The honorable gentleman has a point.

UNHCRThe Arab League’s recent ministerial-level meeting held in Cairo was called to focus on the Syrian refugees file. But the rather pathetic quick one day deliberations ignored the causes of the suffering of the civilian population as well as the fact that most of the 22 countries comprising the Arab League have been a main cause behind the displacement of the Syrian civilian population. Both the AL and the OIC stand accused here in Syria of participation in the sanctions which are decimating the Syrian people’s livelihood. Some AL and OIC officials are shedding crocodile tears about
the miserable living conditions of the Syrian refugees “in spite of spending millions on recruiting mercenaries and salifi-takfiries, training them and purchasing weapons for the terrorists,” the Sheik explained.

One frustrated American NGO director, affiliated loosely with the World Food Program, expressed her frustration: “If these organizations (AL and OIC) wanted to aid Syrian refugees they should stop supplying the gunmen with weapons and money and stop inciting sedition in Syria.”

The Arab League Secretary General, Nabil al-Arabi, still does not get it.

He used last week’s Arab League session to insist on foreign intervention and regime change, renewing the AL demand that the UN Security Council deploy international forces in Syria.

The Lebanese Foreign Minister, Adnan Mansour, offered his views of the Syrian refugee’s displacement. Notable causations, he claimed, are the flow of weapons and money into Syria, the entry of foreign gunmen and not joining a political dialogue. To his credit, Mansour called on the AL and OIC to “shoulder their responsibilities towards the refugees through ensuring their humanitarian, medical, livelihood, educational and services requirements in order to ease their daily suffering.”

As for the Kuwaiti Minister, he considered that the US-led sanctions were not a problem but rather that the suffering of the Syrian people was caused by the failure of the UN Security Council to meet the demands of the AL for immediate military intervention in Syria. He also insisted that Kuwait has mobilized all its resources to ensure that financial and relief resources alleviated the suffering of the Syrian refugees.

To date, the Syrian refugees, victims of US led and AL-OIC complicity, have not received any of the assistance Kuwait, the Arab League or the Organization of the Islamic Conference has promised. Rather, these organizations appear to be propping up the US-led sanctions.

Meanwhile, according to officials, Syria’s government has just authorized the UN World Food Program to extend its reach in the country where 2.5 million people are suffering from hunger. Ertharin Cousin, spokeswoman of the WFP, announced on Tuesday that Syria is allowing the organization to work with local aid groups to reach more of those in need. To boost the number of people receiving emergency assistance, the Syrian government last week drew up a list of 110 local NGOs authorized to participate in the aid effort.

WFP is working closely with the Syrian Arab Republic Red Crescent Society (SARCS) which, thanks to more than 9000 volunteers, are operating the following facilities to serve every Syrian and Palestinian without consideration of sect or political views: Damascus 15, Damascus countryside 68, Suwayda 2, Homs 71, Idelb 2, Aleppo 185, al-Raqqah 52, al-Hasakah 52, Dayr al-Zawr 4, and Quneitra 12.

Unlike the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, SARCS, the World Food Program, and more than 40 other NGO’s can be observed any day of the week confronting and attempting to ameliorate the profoundly immoral and illegal US-led sanctions — manifold actions, not crocodile tears — in aid of the civilian population of Syria.

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Syria and can be reached c/o fplamb@gmail.com

Source: Al-Manar Website

19-01-2013 – 09:47 Last updated 19-01-2013 – 10:41 | 1525 View

Dogma and Geopolitics

http://www.almanartv.com.lb/english/catpage.php?frid=41

Are the Arab League and Organization of Islamic Cooperation targeting Syria’s
civilian population?

Franklin Lamb

Damascus — One powerful image from Damascus that has become seared
into this observers mind these days is when I walk by a Western Union
office. Most of them remain open despite the brutal US-led sanctions which in
their pervasive effects target almost entirely the civilian population.
But all Western Union offices were closed last Thursday and Friday due to
heavy snowfall, some say the deepest here for more than a quarter century.
Still, some Syrians braved the extreme cold and could be seen huddled outside
some branches, evidently in vain hope that they might open and their
families might eat.

One of the few economic lifelines not yet cut by the ever strangling,
profoundly immoral and illegal US-led sanctions with their throat-hold
tightening around the civilian population in Syria in order…

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crimson satellite

Felicity Arbuthnot

It is the first genocide of the 21th century. Poor Iraq and Iraqis. The silence of the world pushes me to lose faith in humanity.” (Anonymous)

Incredibly it is twenty two years to the day since the telephone rang in the early hours and a friend said:

“They are bombing Baghdad.”

It was not only Baghdad, of course, Iraq was being systematically destroyed, from ancient southern Basra to haunting, historic Mosul in the north – in the West destruction was such that it was not even noticed by the outside world that about seventy miles of Iraq had been entirely illegally donated to Jordan, the border was simply “moved.” Kuwait, bordering of Iraq’s southern border benefited similarly illegally.

Then Secretary of State James Baker’s vow to: “reduce Iraq to a pre-industrial age” was being minutely executed over what was to become a forty three day blitz, which morphed…

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The Israel Lobby Thing – A New Improved Formula Commentary, Now with Hitler Jokes and 18% More Verbiage at No Extra Cost!

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For those of you who are unfamiliar with the issue, some people claim that the “Israel Lobby” shapes US foreign policy in the Middle East. I disagree, and the reasons why I disagree are explained in the following commentary. There are two accompanying written pieces which are cited. The first, here, is an orphan fragment from an abandoned draught dealing with attributes of US imperialism. Grafted on to the end is another orphan fragment about the qualities which made Iraq a natural target for US genocide in the imperial context. And here is a second piece which deals with US neocolonialism with the most relevant part (at the start) describing the reasons behind the US tendency to align with kleptocratic and violently authoritarian client regimes. A few other interesting links can be found in the transcript below.

The audio can be downloaded or streamed at A-Infos and comes in 32Kbps or 128Kbps.

UPDATE 20130116:

I have already received a comment that it seems as if I am accusing all users of terms like “Jewish Lobby” and “Jewish Money” of being hateful racists in this commentary. I don’t mean too, but I do stand by my use of the term “bigotry”. This form of usage (e.g. “Jewish Money”) marries a prejudicial negative connotation to a particular group of people – hence it is bigotry. But I don’t mean to suggest that everyone who employs such language is a bigot. They may quite innocently be partaking in a discourse of bigotry without actually thinking through the implications of what is being said or written. The hazard is in letting that sort of thing stand unchallenged, which is how deep-seated bigotry can often take root. 

What I wanted to suggest in my commentary is not that you have to hate Jews to believe the W&M thesis, but rather that people who do hate Jews find it really, really attractive. I was genuinely shaken by how quickly my online disputants back in 2006 turned to racism. I think that Israeli policy is creating a whole new generation of anti-Jewish racists in many countries around the world, and I think that in the US the Walt and Mearsheimer thesis gives them a very sharp and dangerous focus in providing a discourse of treason against the United States. Zunes is absolutely correct to point out the parallels between this and that scapegoating of Jews that has occurred historically.

Zunes articles on the Israel lobby issue can be found here and here and here.

I know that this is going to confuse people, but here is where I stand: I support a one state-solution in Palestine; I support the BDS movement; I believe that the Israel lobby has a ridiculously disproportionate influence over US domestic politics at the congressional level and, more importantly, at the street level, but I firmly believe that the idea that the Israel lobby determines in any manner or degree US foreign policy is utterly stupid. I admire Jeff Blankfort and Noam Chomsky; Stephen Zunes and Stephen Gowans, but see ways in which every single one of them is guilty of inadvertantly (though sometimes rather wilfully) becoming apologists for and ideological supporters of US imperialism. On the other hand I see nothing admirable, nor even excusable in Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer who are not only more fatuous than the aforementioned, but also, given their Professorial positions as political scientists and so-called “neo-Realists”, do not have any excuse for being such idiots.

So, how did I get to be this “neither fish nor fowl” creature? And how can I persuade you to join me in this annoying world where weighty matters are not reducible to sound bites? Firstly I can point out that there is a simple way of looking at these things. The idea that a tiny state such as Israel, a virtual dependency of the US, dictates US foreign policy is silly. It is that simple. It is the very same far-fetched excuse as those who suggest that the US was drawn into the Korean War by the machinations of Syngman Rhee, and drawn into Indochina by systemic inertia. This is blatant apologism for repeated acts of genocide whose fundamental similarities alone are enough to indicate intentionality. But I am aware they my simply stating this stuff leaves much to be desired and much to be answered, particularly “what are the drivers of US foreign policy?”, and why do I so confidently discount the role of the Israel lobby in this when it is demonstrably powerful in US politics?

05045-0419064645-AIPAC_Lobby

Before I start however, I want to have a bit of a self-pitying whinge. I’m aware that I’m probably making no friends by taking a stance which contradicts everyone else’s stance. But instead of getting angry at me for taking much the same line as Zunes and Chomsky, remember that I am also alienating those people who agree with Chomsky on the subject of Palestine (a dying breed, admittedly). Before you write to gainsay my claims I would ask that the following matters be of consideration: One, that you ask yourself, can your stance be reconciled with the pattern of historical events (including analogous situations) such that you are not claiming some peculiar exceptionalism for US society that you would find unreasonable in other societies? Two, is there a theoretical consistency to what you are claiming, or does the attempt to translate into theoretical terms expose contradictions which once again are suggestive of an insupportable claim of exceptionalism. You might ask yourself, “what theory? What is this guy on about?” The fact is, however, that each time you link a cause with an effect, you are doing so in theoretical terms. What I am concerned about is those who have a world view wherein theories contradict themselves.

On last thing remains with regard to the fact that I chose to comment on matters where I disagree with everyone. I could do otherwise, I could choose a more agreeable path of greater agreement, but the result might be a little bit like – “so I hear that the Earth actually circles the Sun, I reckon that’s probably true, so that’s maybe something we can agree on. They tell me that the majority of dogs have four legs and, well its only anecdotal, I know, but almost every single dog I’ve seen has four legs, and I’ve seen quite a few dogs. They also say that Hitler wasn’t a very nice person. I’d more or less agree with that proposition. They didn’t give him a Nobel Peace prize, which is probably a good thing I think we can agree. I mean, they must have been tempted, if they’re like they are now. You know, that whole non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union, I reckon that nowadays that’d probably have netted Hitler and Stalin a peace prize each. Hitler, instead of killing himself, could have simply pointed out that he was sincere, that he sincerely believed that Jews were a form of demographic Weapon of Mass Destruction and that Poland was in possession of millions of Weapons of Mass Destruction with the potential to reach as far as New York city, if they weren’t denied entry. He could have become a peace envoy just like Tony Blair, trying to find common ground in decolonising struggles such as in Indonesia or Indochina. Ahh, if only they were as civilised then as we are now….” Sorry, got a bit off-track there, but hopefully you get my point, which is that if I talked about what I agreed with, it would be boring and pointless and then I’d just start making stupid jokes just to relieve the tedium.

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At this point I was going to introduce matters with a brief summary of what I had written in another context about the US empire, but it is too complicated and it can’t be presented in theoretical terms because existing theory, as we shall see, is woefully inadequate. So I have created a pdf from the exerpt with a grafted on bit about why there was a strategic imperative for the US empire to commit genocide in Iraq. OK, it’s massive, but at least look through it and I will summarise the pertinent bits for you here and, hopefully, you can see that my reasoning is based on solid evidence.

The US empire is based on power structures which are now often referred to, not unreasonably, as corporatist. Corporatism is as good a word as any, but it should not be linked explicitly with Fascism per se. Structurally it is akin to feudalism in that it accords so-called “regnal rights” to entities which are not theoretically sovereign. Indeed US “corporatism” is the continuity of that form of regime which has persisted through transitions from feudal, to early modern mercantilist, to liberal. In the year 1900 its highest expression was in the liberal British Empire. There was no “revolving door” at this time, government and private interests only separated when circumstances dictated that they must. The supposedly sovereign governmental structure constituted far, far less than half of the state power wielded in the imperial polity. In 1902 John Hobson noted that the British Empire was a drain on the wealth of the majority of the people of Britain and the majority of the capitalist enterprises of Britain. He wrote: “Seeing that the Imperialism of the last three decades is clearly condemned as a business policy, in that at enormous expense it has procured a small, bad, unsafe increase of markets, and has jeopardised the entire wealth of the nation in rousing the strong resentment of other nations, we may ask, “How is the British nation induced to embark upon such unsound business”; The only possible answer is that the business interests of the nation as a whole are subordinated to those of certain sectional interests that usurp control of the national resources and use them for their private gain.”

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But the nature of these “certain sectional interests” was far from random: shipping, coal, arms, finance, and military contracting. These were the beneficiaries of empire, but they were also the tools. These are strategic industries. They were the British military-industrial complex – the empire complex if you will. None of these interests were separable from the Crown, nor, more to the point, was the reverse the case. The English had transitioned from feudalism by transforming it into mercantile terms (awarding charters and patents and so-forth) and into liberal Locke-ian terms by allowing enclosure and outright ownership to effectively deepen privilege, rather than challenge it. It is true that they instituted direct rule in India and ended private imperialism through the East India company, but this was occuring at a time of the expansion of scope, depth and complexity of state power and much of it was in non-governmental hands (The Bank of England serves as a good example here). After this British corporate rule was part of the “informal” empire which included more-or-less the entirety of South America, and semi-formal possessions like Egypt. These places were run by private British finance interests, interpenetrated with other empire complex interests which were of course interpenetrated with Her Majesty’s Government and could rely on military incursions and other interstate actions when required.

If there were strategic sectional interests making up the empire complex, there were also strategic resources. Mainly this meant coaling stations at this level, and the British were able to use their naval supremacy to ensure their naval supremacy. Gold, however, was also a form of strategic resource, and it is important to note that the British view of gold was that strategic denial was a good as possession. If they couldn’t have it then they would make sure no one else would get it, thus bolstering the value of their own reserves. Then the British discovered the potential of oil, a strategic resource like no other. While the French were bled white on the Western Front the British used the cover of the Great War to grab oil. By 1920 they had virtually cornered the entire world supply outside of the United States, but they had ceded financial hegemony to New York and Washington thanks to war costs.

An Anglo-US petroleum condominium later formed and became the basis of a shared empire complex in which the UK is the junior partner. Domination of oil meant the ability to deny all hard power (economic or military) to those reliant on those petrochemical resources. For complicated reasons (which you can read about if you want) the US also chose to tie its financial hegemony directly to its ability to militarily dominate oil resources. Nowadays the empire complex is far more expanded than that of the British empire. It includes a large array of “sectional interests” which are all of direct strategic relevance. Many are directly related to matters of life-and-death – arms and military; water; energy; pharmaceuticals and food – others are similarly fundamental to societal funtioning such as finance and media. It is not just about an “iron triangle” these are interlocking iron triangles and profit is both central and incidental at the same time. That is how it works. The “sectional interests” are the imperial state, but they cannot dominate the imperial state for some hypothetical private ends that are separate from imperial ends.

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The other thing to note is that imperial elites are not tied to the interests of the mother state, nor the people thereof, nor the people of subjugated regions. They are almost entirely independent of the welfare of nations and their peoples and almost entirely dependent on the massive unrelenting centripetal coercive power which holds empires together. That is why they kill so many people and ravage whole societies and economies. That is, in very simple terms, why empires are as inherently genocidal as settler-colonial enterprises. This is also why many empires all but destroy their home economies. The Romans did, the Spanish did, the British did and now the US does with deindustrialisation, outsourcing and so forth. (There is also the need to maintain stratification domestically, which you may also read about at some length if you wish).

In theory terms what I am proposing here is a form of Realism, in that it doesn’t have anything to do with national character or ethics or specific ideologies and so forth. The power relations determine the behaviours. Traditionally Realism is often distrusted as being inherently amoral and for being a kind of apologism because it implies that horrendous behaviour is the result of inevitable laws. There is a logical fallacy in this, however, in that Realists might recognise potential ways of diminishing the capacity to inflict mass violence and the possible advantages to be gained through mass violence. What they tend to emphasise, however, is the continuity of strategic interests that are not altered by idealism or ideology; the personality of rulers or the theology of governments. Realism is about power relations.

One result of this is that it may have a “normative” aspect, which is the term used by academics to describe their own prescriptiveness. Thus a Realist might proclaim that it was a horrible mistake by France to alienate and attack the newly formed Soviet Union when they had inevitable shared interests. It is quite a strong Realist current that includes progenitors such as Hobbes and Machiavelli, but in modern self-professed “Realists” it does tend to beg the question of why (if reality is failing to live up to allegedly “Realist” norms) the term Realism is applied to what, in the final analysis, is the promotion of an ideal of amoral power relations. The fact is that if you are going to call yourself a “Realist” then more than a tiny bit of normative content indicates a broken model. Realism, by its very nature, should be able to accommodate actuality within its analytical framework and, to be quite honest, it could only be academics that might seriously take real political actors to task for not acting “real” enough.

So proper Realism requires a model which reflects actuality. Realism evolved in a fairly empirical manner, as a counter to mythologised anthropomorphism and idealism. It was clear that changes in regime and ruler did not prevent repeated patterns of behaviour. I planned to say more on this, but I’m going to have to cut it short. Suffice it to say that Realism evolved from being centred on the nation-state to neo-realism (or structural realism) which posits constraints on nation-state behaviour through international structure, which has been built upon and challenged in various ways.

Standing apart from this are a bunch of lowercase realists – people who are basically realistic, but not aligned to a given dogma. The most obvious one of these in Noam Chomsky, who takes a clearly realist stance, but one that emphasises elite interests and elite power over the nation-state and its security. Others are similarly realistic in outlook, but unattached to a school of thought – they are agnostic realists and tend to look for confluences of imperatives and powers rather than impose a prior framework.

So here is where my stance fits in with all of that. And I apologise for any jargon and over-simplification, but this is all taking too long to explain as it is. 1) Nation-states belong in the classical Realist model to a large extent. 2) Empires do not. 3) The world and its people do not function under a paradigm of relative gains (except in some immediate circumstances), but imperial power does. 4) Nation-state elites are tied to the welfare of the nation-state and its people; imperial elites are less so, or not so, or even benefit in relative gains terms from immiseration. I’m using “nation-state” here to stand for any unitary polity which, in some degree, might even include some historical empires, but if you squint your eyes, you’ll see what I’m getting at.

You can see a good example of this in Mike Davis’s Late Victorian Holocausts wherein the British Empire destroyed communal economic resources and famine protections causing many millions to die, when neighbouring princely states, though much weaker and poorer, saw no famine despite a devastating drought.

So, I am saying in realist terms that empires are run by imperialists who cannot but serve the imperial interest, such as it is. The US empire has committed genocides in Korea, Indochina and Iraq and each time Pollyanna’ish opponents have squealed that such things are not in the “national interest”. Well, maybe not, but as the US continues its rollout of new regimes in the Middle East and bullies most of the states of the world most of the time into doing its bidding, it is very difficult to see how so much power was accrued through so many “mistakes”.

Security” is often fetish for political analysts, and not just Realists, which I believe has more to do with a desire for vicarious drama and a sense of self-importance than with actual issues of security. There is a whole bunch of academics who I tend to think of as the “security geeks”. They style themselves as latterday players of the “Great Game” on the “Grand Chessboard”, living out peurile fantasies of power and relevance. Most of them are uppercase Realists, and they tend to be in think tanks or University departments with “Strategic” in the title. These people believe that US, UK and NATO actions are undertaken for genuine security reasons. If not security reasons they are inclined to accept humanitarian intervention or reject it, but they don’t question its sincerity. In other words, these people are hopelessly naïve and easy prey for ruthless political and military leaders. What makes them more to be loathed than pitied is their unbelievable arrogance. Iraq is the perfect example – a security threat that even these idiots couldn’t believe in. When faced with the plain and very clear fact that political leaders were lying about a security threat…. No, let me be very specific – when faced with the fact that political leaders were engaged in a very complex systematic attempt to deceive not only through lying but through misrepresentation, dissimulation, and the manufacture of fraudulent evidence – when faced with that, did they say “Oh my goodness! These people are lying to us. They are making huge efforts to try and deceive us. They must be covering something up”? No. Not a chance. They smugly pronounced that they were not deceived, unlike the political leaders who were so incredibly less intelligent than clever people like them that they believed their own lies.

Well done guys. You spotted that Iraq wasn’t really a security threat (even if some of you were a bit slow on it). That’s right, not a big security threat to the United States like all of those other really threatening poor countries such as Laos, Haiti, and Panama. Let’s not forget that tropical menace to world peace known as Grenada. What about Nicaragua and Reagan’s assertion that if the Sandinistas weren’t defeated there would be Soviet tanks rolling across the Rio Grande? Do you remember Jack Nicholson in that movie saying “You can’t handle the truth!”? The “truth” referred to, and embraced by the movie, was that only savage men like Nicholson could “provide freedom”. How? By occupying Guantánamo, that well known bastion of freedom. According to the movie, lives are saved by vicious thuggish frontiersmen who have to face down the iron disciplined and robotically fanatical Cubans – yes the Cubans, all of that rum and jazz and partying is just a front – in an eyeball to eyeball macho contest. But if Cuba is such a threat, why exactly do they continue to allow the US to occupy part of their country? Surely, if they were really all that, they could chuck Jack Nicholson and any number of wannabe Davy Crocketts out.

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So, these Realists and assorted security geeks (all of whom probably love that movie and think that it raises substantive issues) get all tetchy at people like George W. Bush, because he’s so frustratingly stupid. Not smart like them. Imagine a weedy self-important accountant sneering at Tony Soprano because he had failed to claim on the hardhats in his construction business and thus had paid several hundred dollars more tax than required. The US has used international mass violence so many times since World War II that it really is impossible to quantify. It would be fairly impossible to point to any one of these and say with any sort of assurance that they made the US more secure, yet there are many instances when a fairly robust argument could be made that they made the US less secure. Hmmmm…, nearly 70 years of frequent interventions that don’t make the US more secure? Maybe, I know this is a bit of a weird thing to say, but maybe US security is not the goal. Let us not forget also, that despite 50 years of very clever people pointing out that the US empire is destroying itself with its hubris and over-reach, it is now quantifiably more strategically predominant and far more comfortable about acting outside of international law, defying the bulk of other nations, and enforcing its will on the majority, if not the entirety of the planet. Personally, I do believe that this is the high tide mark, and the beginning of the end, but I also know that others in the past have misinterpreted the active consolidation of imperial power as weakness, failure and loss, because of the naïve beliefs I have already mentioned.

There is another matter, in that, in the US it seems that some of those who would oppose imperial aggression feel that they must point out its wrongheaded counterproductive stupidity. Again, their ability to believe themselves so much more intellectually able to determine policy than those who actually do so is quite something to behold, but I feel too that there is an element of fear that accompanies this arrogance. The fear seems to be that any suggestion that there might be an ounce of rationality and purpose in US aggression would be to concede far too much in the battle for the hearts and minds of “Middle America”. It is always funny that the bourgeois fear the fascist instincts of the working class (who don’t tend to have any) while ignoring the growing tendency of their own kind to be goosestepping around the place.

This, to me, is where Walt and Mearsheimer come in. The first aspect of their appeal to anti-imperialists is that they tick this box, the box that says that the Iraq invasion was a horrible mistake from the perspective of maintaining US power in the international arena. But that is far from the end of it. There is an unreasonable and quite irrational tendency to give these guys far more credit than they deserve and the causes are actually quite broad.

Firstly there is their academic standing. On this, I would have to say that they are actually letting themselves down as much as anyone else. It is not their theoretical content that is at fault (though clearly insufficient) it is this silly, naïve understanding of US interventions, the basis of which is both the academic arrogance I have already discussed, and a chauvinist and ultimately exceptionalist reading of US interventions.

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The next reason for cleaving to Walt and Mearsheimer is the nature of their most strident critics. Who doesn’t want to believe these guys when their critics include Dershowitz, Kissinger and Albright? That is only scratching the surface of repugnant people who criticise them and the nature of these criticisms tends to be exactly the same sort of specious bullying that is systematically used to silence real criticism of Israel and Zionism.

Then there is anti-Jewish bigotry. In 2006 I debated the Walt/Mearsheimer thesis on comment sections online, and it didn’t take very long before those I was debating tended to forget that they were supposed to be referencing Israeli policy and Zionism and started referencing “The Jews”, sometimes with supplementary epithets. I was shocked. These young educated people obviously hated “The Jews” and weren’t that reticent to show it. Two things were obvious from this: one was that Israeli policy was fueling hatred of Jews (this was obvious from the context of what was written); and also that the Walt and Mearsheimer thesis is immensely appealing to people who hate Jews. But there is another aspect of anti-Jewish bigotry which is more subtle and widespread. Perhaps it is ironic in a world where one may be accused of being a Nazi just for supporting Palestinian human rights, but a sort of anti-Jewish bigotry is widely accepted. One, it seems, can talk about individual or collective US Jews with the inextricable inference that they are supporters of Zionism and Israeli aggression and oppression. The discourse of the “Israel Lobby” over and over again references “Jewish backers”; “Jewish money” and “Jewish voters”. This is a form of prejudice generally known as bigotry. The weird thing is that US Jews are increasingly cool towards Israel, while Zionists (including non-Jewish Zionists) are very keen on suggesting that to be Jewish is to support Israel and to oppose Israel is to hate Jews.

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The last thing that causes people to love Walt and Mearsheimer so much is the thing that disturbs me the most. What seems to be a desire to avoid facing up to the reality of US genocides, a need to cling on to the myths of childhood. I’m not just talking here about a need to see the US as the Good Guys, I’m talking more than that about the need to see the cartoon villain behind genocide. Genocide needs to be committed by sadistic brutal twisted Nazis; fanatically inhuman communist Asians; or brutal bestial savage Africans. I honestly think that this need to find some sort of exogenous force to explain US brutality makes people very irrational.

Let us be very clear: the Walt and Mearsheimer thesis is that the US national interest was harmed by the 2003 invasion of Iraq and that it happened because of the pernicious and powerful Israel lobby. Listen to these excerpts from the 2006 Working Paper:

Most recently, the Bush Administration’s attempt to transform the region into a community of democracies has helped produce a resilient insurgency in Iraq, a sharp rise in world oil prices, and terrorist bombings in Madrid, London, and Amman. With so much at stake for so many, all countries need to understand the forces that drive U.S. Middle East policy.

The U.S. national interest should be the primary object of American foreign policy. For the past several decades, however, and especially since the Six Day War in 1967, the centerpiece of U.S. Middle East policy has been its relationship with Israel. The combination of unwavering U.S. support for Israel and the related effort to spread democracy throughout the region has inflamed Arab and Islamic opinion and jeopardized U.S. security.

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…[T]the overall thrust of U.S. policy in the region is due almost entirely to U.S. domestic politics, and especially to the activities of the “Israel Lobby.” Other special interest groups have managed to skew U.S. foreign policy in directions they favored, but no lobby has managed to divert U.S. foreign policy as far from what the American national interest would otherwise suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are essentially identical.

So the US was trying to turn the Middle East into a “community of democracies” was it? Does that sound sensible to you guys? I don’t know whether I need to refute Walt and Mearsheimer or whether, in the cold light of day it is obvious to anyone listening or reading that they are talking utter crap. I also love the way they slipped in a racist swipe at the democracy hating Arabs and Muslims.

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The problem with the Walt/Mearsheimer paper is its depiction of the United States. Israel is described in realistic and accurately cynical terms, its myths debunked fearlessly, but the US is in no way analysed in such terms. The vision is instead of a Disney version of the US, benevolent not because it tries to be, but because it is inherently so. Doing bad things is abberrant, not natural to the US. Israeli apartheid is against US “core values” and so forth.

W&M actually use the term “tail wagging the dog” to explain US Middle East policy, but what do they think real US national interest is? In some matters, there’s room for debate that their simple-minded approach just does not acknowledge. So, for example, they decry the antagonism generated amongst the Arab populace when, in fact, an inimical “Arab street” is probably of more use to US empire than a friendly one. In other matters they just simply have it back-to-front. For example, they condemn US policies which drive up oil prices, but not only have these high oil prices brought about an extraordinary run of record profits for giant oil companies (in which Bush administration members had very strong interests) but the high prices and continued control of oil resources (including options for strategic denial) has maintained US dollar hegemony and ensured the continued interdependence of China with the US.

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So let me once more emphasise that “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy” is not serious analysis. Call it silly, call it fatuous, call it fantasy – it is junk, just like junk science or junk economics. O.K. these guys probably weren’t paid to come up with this, but junk humanities like this are often paid for at the bookstand. This stuff belongs alongside Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations; or The Tragedy of the Commons; or Niall Fergusson; or Max Boot; or Thomas Friedman.

Obviously I have a problem with the fact that W&M do not distinguish between national interest and imperial interest – which has been THE driving force in US foreign policy even before it was formalised when NSC-68 was adopted in 1950. More than that however, the problem is that they portray the Iraq invasion of 2003 as some sort of outgrowth of an aberrant Middle East policy – the result of the tail wagging the dog. But how abberant is it? Iraq is the third genocide committed by the US since World War II in which they have systematically killed civilians in the millions. Much of the death comes about through repeated systematic bevaviours extended over periods of years such that the orthodox denials of intentionality are simply ludicrous. In Korea, in Indochina and in Iraq the systematic mass murder of civilians has been a central policy of the US, and this is beyond dispute. (Iraq is problematic in that there was no self-evident systematic intense aerial bombardment specifically aimed at civilians, but along with the established fact of systematic killing though sanctions, mortality data from the occupation period indicate systematic, if atomised, killing by occupation forces induced to commit acts of murder by deliberately created situational, procedural, and psychological conditions). These are just the three most obvious and most deadly genocides by an imperial polity that is genocidal by inclination and whose interventions are usually somewhere along a genocidal spectrum even if the term “genocide” itself is reserved only for certain cases. Of its own accord, or through proxies, the US has an many occasions encompassed the deaths of thousands, tens of thousands or sometime hundreds of thousands of civilians. It is also a central actor in a global system of structural violence which has taken tens of millions of lives and which Nafeez Mossadeq Ahmed argues is a system of “structural genocide”.

So here is my synthetic bit. I propose that the dog wags the tail. Israel is a strategic asset to US empire and that is why the “Israel lobby” is allowed so much influence domestically. More than that, the “Israel lobby” is a strategic asset to the empire complex within the US itself, as a means of disciplining legislators and countering democratic forces. Suitably, since democratic forces are so seldom a major driver of legislators’ actions, there is a far more important accompanying movement to silence dissent at the community level, in the media, within universities, and so forth.

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How then is Israel a strategic asset? There is more to this than just the MENA region, but that is as good a place to start as any. When the British first decided to give support to Zionism in Palestine, there was dissent and differences of opinion, but one of the most important strains – really a deciding one even as far back as 1916 – was the belief that a Jewish state surrounded by Arabs would be an inevitable dependency and a strategic asset against those Arabs. Remember that this came when the British had decided that they wanted to control all of the world’s oil. According to W&M Israel was of limited strategic utility during the Cold War, but now only fuels Middle East instability and Islamic extremism. But the US empire relies on Middle East instability and, for similar reasons, has quite a love affair with Islamic extremism. After all, it is getting a little difficult to sustain this line of Al Qaeda as the quintessential existential enemy when the US is so often aligned with or even providing material support for them and affiliate groups. They’ve inherited this love of fundamantalist Islam from the Brits, who used it to head off secular modernism and Islamic modernism in Egypt, first in the late nineteenth century, then in the twenties and thirties where their support was crucial in the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is the same as Israel’s role in the formation of Hamas. Sure, these Islamists don’t make great clients, but they make much better enemies than secular nationalists and socialists. The US even helped steer the Iranian revolution into the hands of the theocrats, creating a fantastic enemy and one that totally hated the Soviet Union to boot. Quite a strategic coup really, and the US still reaps the benefits today.

Once again let me say that the US needs instability. It can’t intervene without instability and it can’t threaten to intervene. The US doesn’t spend loads of money “projecting power” into the region with air, naval and ground troop presences to prevent the Red Army from taking over, it does it to make sure that oil profits are spent on US military hardware or used to buy US treasury bonds or kept in Western financial institutions as US dollar reserves. Iraq, for example, is aiming to have 110 billion in US dollar reserves in 2013. Imagine that, a country torn by strife, riven by poverty and unemployment and they just put all of that money into the US treasury. Wow! I guess they learnt a lesson somewhere along the line.

US military presence is also to ensure that oil is only sold for US dollars so that an other surplus producers also maintain dollar reserves. Having Israel there, a very well-armed military dependency constantly claiming to be existentially threatened by its neighbours, is a massive strategic boon to the US. It is a classic divide-and-rule strategy in a form not dissimilar to the manner in which the US chose Christian minorities as clients in Korea and Indochina and privileged landowners as clients in Latin America. Choosing a privileged minority to form a “comprador” class is a very old imperial tactic dating back at least as far as the Han and Roman empires. I’d be very surprised not to find evidence going as far back as the Assyrians who had the first empire as we would understand it. The British practised it as a matter of course, and while their alignment with the Sunni Arab world is an exception which I am not informed enough to explain, it is both noteworthy and fateful firstly that this choice would later allow the imposition of Sunni client monarchies in areas where Shi’i happened to inhabit the oilfields; and secondly that long before any thought of Zionism in Palestine the British acted to separate Jewish populations from the other peoples of the Middle East, notably in Baghdad.

This isn’t a secret either – this is enunciated doctrine. The Nixon Doctrine, which was a doctrine of informal imperialism, was translated by Melvin Laird in its applicability to the Middle East as support for “cops on the beat” explicitly there to discipline Arab populations. But Israel’s utility is also outside of the region. Israel is the tool which the US uses for dirty tricks in many parts of the world, parts in which Israel has no discernible interest at all. These include a history of providing support for apartheid South Africa and arms and support to authoritarian Latin American regimes when the US (and other Western nations) could not allow itself to provide direct support.

Now, I would like to remind people here that what I am discussing is the Israel Lobby’s influence on US foreign policy. The influence of bullying Zionists on the political discourse within the US is not something I would seek to deny or minimise. But let me now put the decision to invade Iraq into context. Let’s start with neoconservatives. Yes, neoconservatives are vehement supporters of Israel. Yes, disproportionate numbers are Jewish. But if you actually look at the history of the neoconservative movement, it is not just about Leo Strauss and Irving Kristol. The whole public intellectual side of neoconservatism has always been married to an institutional side, which predates it, dedicated to extending US influence into global domination. Most prominently it uses organisations like the Committee for the Present Danger or the Project for a New American Century to create the illusion of threats or idealistic goals as a means of justifying brutal imperialism. Using false pretexts, such as the defence of Israel, is bread and butter for these people. Now let us look at Richard Perle. This is a guy who is a born-and-bred Usaian, who has dedicated his political career to spreading US global dominance. So what is more striking – that whilst serving in the Bush administration he is actually formally giving policy advice to Israel or that he has dual citizenship and therefore might possibly be of dubious loyalty.

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But the neocons and the Israel lobby were not alone in supporting the invasion of Iraq. In fact, despite the ostentatious enthusiasm of the neocons, it is worth considering the other interests that stood to gain from the Iraq invasion and had obvious influence. Take the oil industry. The Bush administration was so tied to the oil industry it isn’t funny. In 2005 Exxon Mobil became the largest corporation by revenues on the planet and posted world record breaking annual profits 5 times. Then there is the military-industrial complex. The arms industry not only has capacious lobbying power, it has penetrated every single congressional district as an employer. It is not hard to see what effect that has on congressional voting behaviours. But that isn’t all, because really there is an empire complex bigger than the direct military-industrial aspect. During the war in Indochina, the US government inducted certain non-armaments industries into a war economy based not on the exploitation of conquest, but solely on funneling taxpayer monies to these corporations under the guise of prosecuting war. Prominent among these were Halliburton (which owned Brown and Root); Dow chemical; Monsanto; and Bechtel. Need I belabour the interconnection here with the US government in general, or the Bush administration in particular?

And then, there is the government itself. In the lovely little fantasy land that W&M infest, the US national interest is best guarded by robust, but fundamentally honourable means. Off course, sometimes you’ve got to break eggs to make an omelet, but on the whole, despite their hard-nosed pretensions, W&M are suckers for the US pretence of fundamental righteousness. Many within the bureaucratic state apparatus share that belief, but the actual tenor of US strategic behaviour is different, and it is not hard to perceive that difference. US imperial policy has quite aptly been compared to pre-WWII Japanese imperial policy. There is a putatively defensive purpose, but translated into unlimited aggression by a belief that only unchalleged dominance provides security. Global “Full Spectrum Dominance” is an official policy aim. Obama’s rhetorical shift towards multilateralism does nothing to change that underlying fact. Believing that the US can attempt to achieve “Full Spectrum Dominance” without committing genocidal mass murder is like believing that the Third Reich could achieve its desired Lebensraum without genocidal mass murder. So it is the people who are willing to take the steps which the vast majority would reject as morally unacceptable who dictate policy despite the qualms of their colleagues, and they do so by dissimulation (as with the neocon pretence of a fanatical desire to spread democracy).

So how does the Israel lobby stack up against these forces? It doesn’t. It is puny in comparison. What makes the W&M hypothesis even sillier is that they themselves claim that Israel doesn’t benefit from the the policies dictated by the Israel lobby. I’m not kidding. For Jeff Blankfort (and I should say here that despite disagreeing vehemently on this issue, I have as much respect for Blankfort as I have disdain for Walt and Mearsheimer), for Blankfort the fact that Israel does not benefit from US foreign policy supposedly dictated by the Israel Lobby justifies the label “the Jewish Lobby”. Why is that acceptable? Because the backers and lobbyists are Jewish, so forget Jewish people because only the rich scumbags actually count? If that’s the “Jewish Lobby” imagine what the “Caucasian Lobby” must be like!

So here is my synthetic contribution: the Israel Lobby is as powerful as it is because it is a dependant subsidiary of the Empire Lobby, which is the enforcement arm of the Empire Complex, the part used to ensure that any vestigial remnants of democratic governance are fully suppressed. It is not entirely an original idea. Norman Finkelstein incidentally but unavoidably showed the historical evolution of the Israel Lobby as subservient to US imperialism. He documents this in his book The Holocaust Industry which can be downloaded for free, so I suggest actually reading it rather than dismissing Finkelstein because of his wrongheadedness over the BDS movement and the idea of a one-state solution in Palestine.

This brings me to my final point, more an addendum than a conclusion. I am taking a stance which puts me in some unfortunate company. It is not that I have anything against Norman Finkelstein as a whole, he has done some fantastic work. But his BDS stance is silly. Likewise Chomsky, who is still astute on most issues at 84, sounds like he is completely senile and out of touch every time I have heard him discuss Palestine in the last few years (not least because he devotes more attention to what activists should be doing than what Israel and the US should be doing). I think that maybe they fear that a bottom-up movement will cause a sudden collapse of the Zionist apartheid state which will cause chaos and suffering. I too fear that that might be the case, but I know that the continued push for a so-called “two-state solution” through the “peace process” is nothing but camouflage for slow cruel genocide. It is a risk, but we must bet that the better aspects of human nature will win through if we empower the people, because the institutions that are currently empowered are inhuman by nature.

Then there is my closest ally on the subject of the Israel Lobby, Stephen Zunes. OK, so I’ll begin with what I think is wrong with Zunes. I’m not sure when I read his book Tinderbox but, naturally, I didn’t have a problem with him pointing to Zionism as the driving force behind US policy in the ME as being a red herring. But he had his own red herrings. He kept on about how much of a policy mistake it was to alienate the Arab Street and how they inadvertantly or through short-sighted amoral expedience keep accidently promoting Islamist terrorists. OK, I have already mentioned this stuff, but let me be quite clear – from what I think is a more rigorous theoretical position the US empire benefits from a hostile Arab mass (preferably alienated from an elite who are dependent on US support to maintain their dominance – another common imperial practice perfected by the US which you can read about at the blog if you so desire) and the US empire gains a great deal from the existence of credible Islamist terrorist organisations whose efficacy is greatly exaggerated to justify attacks on peoples in Muslim dominated countries. You can argue that my theory reads too much into US intentions and that (and this is often reported by insiders) things are much less co-ordinated and much more myopic in the actual halls of power. I would counter this by saying that my theory actually coincides with real observed events – you cannot explain decades upon decades of consistent systematic repetition as being a series of errors.

(A quick aside here to say that theoretical approaches positing some systemic cause for a systematic but unintentional and counterproductive sequence of actions and policies are completely untenable. Without directed and knowledgeable human intent, such systems would be destroyed or derailed very quickly by changing circumstances. In my honours thesis, which you can read at the On Genocide blog, I demonstrate this with regard to such theories when applied to the US genocides in Indochina. Like a Law of Large Numbers, you can be certain that within any large polity with complex power structures, someone with influence intends that an action taken have the foreseeable outcome which follows. Thus, systemic theories should explain how structures reliably empower certain agents over others, not seek to say that structures themselves cause events. That sounds obvious when I say it, but believe me it is a point that escapes political scientists regularly, and I think that this is driven by the psychological imperative to avoid at all costs the realisation that our own peers commit the inexcusable acts that we like to ascribe only to those whom we dehumanise and demonise).

So that was my problem with Zunes’s Tinderbox. It had the same sort of built in apologism as Walt and Mearsheimer (albeit to a lesser extent) because instead of acknowledging full US culpability for its most heinous and bloody acts it is constantly portraying them as errors. This isn’t a minor point, either. The idea of blundering (whether the motive is idealism, venality, or amoral realism) is THE central prop of US public diplomacy. Look at any insider exposé that criticises US policy but which does not result in the author being hounded, prosecuted, persecuted, exiled and/or bumped off. You will not find a single one of these that does not frame everything as a series of mistakes, and in most cases (to ensure the point is taken) these books are even given titles that tells the reader that without even having to open the book.

Stephen Gowans has also levelled criticisms at Zunes with which I concur. Zunes promotes US imperial interests by critiqueing Third World enemies of Western Imperialism and supporting so-called “democracy-promotion” efforts which are aimed at destabilisation and regime change. Previously, when discussing Amensty International, I dealt with the tendency of some supposed critics of US foreign policy who so bend over backwards to demonstrate an even-handed ability to critique enemies of the US that they actually become vicious interventionists promoting war crimes. The regimes targetted are not necessarily the most pleasant, but in 1939 Poland had an oppressive authoritarian government and supporting German effort to destabilise it would not have been morally justifiable. No Third World regime is so bad that the Balkanised, destabilised, neoliberal, neocolonial fake democracy that the West seeks to impose would not be far, far worse. Look at Iraq. Saddam Hussein was one of the most horrible murderous dictators of the era, yet his crimes against Iraqis pale in comparison to those committed by the US and UK. This applies to Syria and Libya, where Western inflicted suffering has only just begun. This applies to Sudan, now split into two countries with two sets of civil wars. As Gowans points out, Zunes is involved in organisations which are controlled and funded by proven scumbag imperialists.

Where Gowans goes wrong is in overegging the case. In a 2008 article he made wildly exaggerated claims which portrayed Zunes as being “tightly connected to Western governments and ruling class activist foundations” and as a systematic promoter of Western imperialism. I would invite listeners and readers to check out Zunes’s work and see whether they think that this is feasible. Listen to the recent interview on KPFA’s Flashpoints and ask yourself – is this really an imperialist?

No. Sorry. The idea is stupid. And because of the wrongheadedness of Gowans’s over-reach, Zunes wrote a very robust rebuttal of Gowans’s 2008 article, and didn’t even have to deal with the crux issue of aiding US imperialism by supporting the destabilisation of US enemies. Now Gowans, and others of a similar inclination are convinced that Zunes is “the enemy” though his stupidity or worse, and that they can respond to his contentions with ad hominem dismissals. That’s just crap. Get a grip people, and a sense of perspective. Zunes is clearly a cogent and effective critic of US imperialism, whatever mistakes he might make. Likewise, anyone who has a profile dominated by persuasive anti-imperial influence cannot be treated as being a crypto-imperialist. We all make mistakes, and most people are actually at least a little compromised by institutional affiliation, but Gowans’s attitude towards Zunes is a bit like those who claim that Noam Chomsky is actually in the pay of the Pentagon (a rumour Chomsky inadvertantly started many years ago by highlighting the irony that he worked from a building built and furnished with Defense Department money).

So that is why I don’t accept ad hominem attacks on Zunes (because they mischaracterise him) but I should remind you that ad hominem arguments are widely considered invalid in any respect. If someone is right, they are right. Stephen Zunes writings on the Israel lobby are analytically sound and have an empirical backing (in that he actually tests W&M’s contentions by looking at campaign contributions, congressional voting records, and electoral circumstances). If anyone knows of any actual contending analysis – not gainsaying Zunes on ad hominem or baseless theoretical grounds – let me know and I will read it.

There I will have to leave it.

The Age of the Siege: Nazi Military Tactics Revisited

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The Age of the Siege: Nazi Military Tactics Revisited.

 

NATO Strategies, Economic Sanctions and the “Responsibility to Protect”

“Disengage, avoid, and withhold support from whatever abuses, degrades and humiliates humanity.” (Alice Walker, b:1944.).

[former Danish PM and Secretary General of NATO] Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Du har blod på dine hænder” ( “You have blood on your hands”), Danish protester, 2003.

The siege of Leningrad is still considered the most lethal siege in world history, a shocking “racially motivated starvation policy”, described as: “an integral part of Nazi policy in the Soviet Union during World War II.”

The 872 day siege began on 8th September 1941 and was finally broken on 27th January 1944. It is described  as: “one of the longest and most destructive sieges in history and overwhelmingly the most costly in casualties.” Some historians cite it as a genocide. Due to record keeping complexities the exact number of deaths resultant from the blockade’s deprivations are uncertain, figures range from 632,000 to 1.5 million.

Sieges now extend to entire countries, they have become the torture before the destruction. And they are not counted in long days, but in long years. Iran thirty three years, Iraq thirteen-plus years. Ironically the disparity in the deaths in Iraq resultant from that siege, mirror near exactly what was considered a “genocide” in Leningrad.

Syria has been subject to EU “restrictions” since 2011, ever more strangulating, with near every kind of financial transaction made impossible by May 2011- when “restrictions” were also placed on President Assad himself, all senior government officials, senior security and armed forces Heads. The list of that denied is dizzying (i.) By February 2012, assets of individuals were frozen, as those of the Central Bank of Syria.

Cargo flights by Syrian carriers to the EU were also barred, as was trade in gold, precious metals and diamonds – anything which might translate in to hard cash, without which neither individuals or countries can purchase the most basic essentials.

By July 2012 Syrian Arab Airlines and even Syria’s Cotton Marketing Organisation had joined the EU’s victims.

America of course, had been way ahead of the game, with the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Act (ii) signed in to law on 12th December 2003, the year of Iraq’s comprehensive US-led destruction. Thus the mighty USA’s personal siege on under twenty one million people, is now entering its tenth year.

By last August, as with Iraq before it, the inability to trade meant that, as ever, the now Nobel Peace Prize winning EU and the policies of the Nobel Peace Prize winning US President, were targeting Syria’s most vulnerable.

Many pharmaceutical companies had closed, resulting in severe shortages of medication for chronic diseases and the casualties of the insurgency, according to the World Health Organisation (iii.) Prior to the US-UK-EU-NATO supported insurgency, Syria had produced ninety percent of its drugs and medication needs.

However : “ … production has been hit by the fighting, lack of raw materials, impact of sanctions and higher fuel costs.” Further, near all pharmaceutical plants were located in areas of heaviest fighting, Aleppo, Homs and Damascus provinces and have suffered “substantial damage.” The result is: “a critical shortage of medicines”, according to WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic.

“Drugs for tuberculosis, hepatitis, hypertension, diabetes and cancer are urgently needed, as well as haemodialysis for kidney diseases.”

Health centres have closed due to violence, damage, or being taken over by the Western backed fighters. (image: Homs, 2012)

“The health facilities that have stopped functioning are located in the most affected areas where the urgent need for medical and surgical interventions is the most prominent,” Jasarevic said.

The Syrian Health Ministry reported that it “lost” – stolen or destroyed – two hundred ambulances in a few weeks through June and early August 2012.

Banks run out of cash and the 2012 wheat harvest is likely to have been wrecked because of the shortage of labour, according to U.N. agencies. In the Middle East bread is still truly the “staff of life.” The all mirrors Iraq, even down to the wheat harvest – in Iraq those bombing the country over thirteen years until the invasion, dropped flares on the harvested wheat and grains, reducing tentative bread security to ashes.

Syria struggles to meet it’s annual grain imports of around four million tons, because of a superb sleight of hand by the siege imposers. Essential foods are exempt from sanctions, but moneys are frozen, thus the wherewithal to trade. The country is ever potentially hours away from a bread crisis.

In 2011 Syria’s own harvest was hit by blight, water shortages and conflict. In December 2012 Iran sent consignments of flour to Syria, temporarily easing the bread crisis, but the siege under which Iran struggles is also of enormity – and shamefully under reported in the West.

As Iran shipped flour to Syria, Iran’s Health Ministry was approaching India for a life saving list of denied medications, for the most critical conditions in patients. Vital items denied included: “drugs to treat lung and breast cancers; brain tumours; heart ailments; infections after kidney, heart and pancreas transplants; meningitis in HIV patients; arthritis; bronchitis and respiratory distress in newborns; and epilepsy.” (iv)

And here again is that sleight of hand: “Although trade in medicine is exempt from international sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council and the unilateral sanctions announced by the US and EU, Western banks have been declining to handle transactions.” (Emphasis mine.)

Targeting the sick is the action of the criminally insane. For targeting the newborn surely no expression has been conceived, except by Madeleine Albright when referring to Iraq’s sanctions related, half million child deaths: “ … we think the price is worth it.” It was not a slip of the tongue, it was clearly to be the New World Order.

This partial list of medications unobtainable by Iran should be put on a wall of shame in Washington and all those Nobel winning EU capitol cities:

“Denied include chemotherapy; drugs used to prevent infections in kidney, heart and pancreas transplant patients and in AIDS treatment. Treatments for colon cancer; cell lung cancer; cancerous brain tumours; chemotherapy drugs for lung, ovarian and testicular cancer; treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphona.”

Also: “treatment for breast cancer therapy; a range of chemotherapy drugs; treatment for life threatening recurring heart conditions; specific meningitis treatments; drugs for respiratory distress in the new born; anti-convulsion treatments for epileptic seizures; wide spectrum treatment for heart ailments.”

Additionally:

“Nitroglycerine for angina and coronary artery disease; treatment for septicaemia and bacterial meningitis; medication to reduce risk of premature birth; treatments for acute bronchitis, pneumonia, bone infections, gynaecological infections and those of urinary tract.”

Nimidopine which reduces the risk of damage after bleeding inside the head, is also on the list. How fortunate Madam Clinton did not suffer her alleged brain-adjacent clot in Iran.

Last October Iran’s Head of The Foundation for Special Diseases, Fatemeh Hashemi, stated that six million patients were potentially at risk as a result of sanctioned medications (v.) A holocaust for-warned – and met by that murderous “international community” with near silence.

Mehrnaz Shahabi (vi) also encapsulates the captives in this Age of the Siege:

“Iran (made) ninety seven percent of its needed drugs domestically … The devalued currency means that raw materials imported for drug production are now a lot more expensive.

“In many cases, the raw material cannot even be paid for because of the banking sanctions, particularly as the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) in compliance with the EU sanctions, has stopped its electronic communication services for Iranian financial institutions and transactions from Iran.”

Thus, as Syria, domestically produced drugs are near unavailable.

Additionally: “The most advanced life-saving drugs cannot be made in generic form.These include drugs for heart disease, lung problems, kidney disease and dialysis, multiple sclerosis, thalassaemia, haemophilia and many forms of cancer.”

Cancers in Iran have soared and a “cancer tsumani” is predicted by 2015. Since Iran borders and breathes the same air as Iraq, it would not be unreasonable to assume that as Iran is punished for its nuclear industry, America and Britain’s, in the form of the depleted uranium weapons used in Iraq, bears some responsibility for another health tragedy of enormity.

“All of the surgeries for thousands of haemophilic patients have been cancelled because a shortage of coagulant drugs. A 15-year-old child died at the end of October due to the absence of coagulant medication. The head of Iran’s Hemophilia Society has said, stating: ‘This is a blatant hostage-taking of the most vulnerable people by countries which claim they care about human rights. Even a few days of delay can have serious consequences like hemorrhage and disability.’ ”

As the New Year was celebrated across Europe and the “Land of the Free”, the Syrian Upper Mesopotamia Archbishop, Jaques Behnan Hindo, was writing an urgent appeal to the Presidency of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.

In a situation which he warned: “could soon become catastrophic”, he said supply routes were halted and: “every economic activity appears paralyzed (causing) depletion of vital goods, and soaring prices.

“The lack of fuel prevents heating homes and leads to the complete closure of all agricultural activities, just as the planting season begins.

“The grain silos were looted and wheat was sold to Turkish traders who conveyed it in Turkey, under the gaze of the Turkish customs officers.”

It is impossible not to reflect that NATO ally Turkey is the equivalent of the bombing flame droppers on the Iraqi harvests.

In addition to the plundered, grain, the Archbishop denounced the gradual disappearance of other vital products including, as Iraq, baby milk.

Archbishop Hindo also sent an appeal to Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki: “Please help us as quickly as possible, by sending 600 fuel tanks, 300 tanks of gasoline and some tons of flour.

“The first victims are the children. You experience in your body, in your soul – and in the children all the injustice”, caused by draconian, life threatening, illegal, collective punishment on a nation’s people, yet again starting with the unborn, the newborn, and the barely crawling.

At the end of WWII, Leningrad (now Saint Petersberg) was awarded the status of Hero City for collective unwavering courage, resistance and inventiveness under Nazi atrocities.

The world is surely in need of the status of Hero Country for those who exhibit the same courageous qualities against those nations who emulate the same atrocities.

Notes

i. http://www.sanctionswiki.org/Syria

ii. http://www.bis.doc.gov/licensing/syriaimplementationmay14_04.htm

iii. http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/07/syria-crisis-health-idUSL6E8J74NZ20120807

iv. http://www.indianexpress.com/news/shackled-by-sanctions-iran-sends-india-sos-for-lifesaving-drugs/1054837/

v. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Middle-East/2012/Oct-21/192191-sanctions-affecting-6-million-patients-in-iran-report.ashx#axzz2HZnCUyUS

vi. http://www.deliberation.info/sanctions-aganst-iran-a-form-of-genocide