Meet Willy Pete®: The Collected Orrmails

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On the 15 of August 2015 Dr Vacy Vlazna published an article detailing an event that had happened exactly one year earlier during a protest at the offices of the NZ Superfund (a public retirement fund):
“…[C]oncerned young protesters [had] chained themselves in the NZSF office (Auckland) demanding that the NZSF immediately divest from Israel Chemicals (ICL) – a supplier of lethal white phosphorus to the US army for the manufacture of munitions sold back to Israel to barrage fire and death on Gaza.
In response to spokesperson Nadia Abu-Shanab’s passionate urging for divestment, Adrian Orr’s smug retort was,
‘Do you brush your teeth? ( Nadia: ‘Sorry?’) ‘Do you brush your teeth? White phosphorus is used in many places.’”
The speaker, Adrian Orr, is a very well paid executive. His smarmy attitude became even more apparent later: “Nadia then goes on to say, ‘Palestinians have actually identified the company’ and Orr butts in with appalling callous flippancy, ‘I can identify lots of companies that annoy me in life.’”

The article ended with a call to action:
“Ask folk to write to NZ SuperFund CEO Adrian Orr at enquiries@nzsuperfund.co.nz and Cc john.key@national.org.nz
with just two sentences:
Adrian Orr
CEO, NZ Superfund
Brush your teeth with white phosphorus or divest from Israel Chemicals!
No war crimes investment in my name.
…and click resend every morning to maintain the rage and principle.”
Everyone who reads this wherever you are in the world should do exactly that. I set out to do exactly that, but my restless fingers decided to do something a bit more elaborate.
By the request of a reader I have decided to gather together all of my love letters to Adrian Orr. Please respect the fact that I am opening my innermost intimate naked self to your probing gaze.

Re: Humble Apologies
To Adrian Orr,
In my email yesterday I fear that I may have implied that you were a fatuous overpaid moral midget. On reflection, however, I think I see your point. You were highlighting the “dual use” of chemicals that can have beneficial effects. It has made me reassess my whole stance on the people who made Zyklon-B. People forget that although more than a million died slow agonising deaths in giant gas chambers poisoned with Zyklon-B, it was also used to delouse clothing. By ridding the clothing of these pests, many people will have be saved from irritation. That is the thing about something like white phosphorus, we get on our moral high horse about people dying in terror and agony or being maimed, yet life is never just a matter of black-and-white like that.
Thank you for opening my eyes.
Yours gratefully,
Kieran Kelly

Re: I am Hurt
To Adrian Orr,
I must say that I am a little hurt and upset that you haven’t acknowledged the sincere apology that I addressed to you yesterday. It hurts because I look up to people like you. Some might say that you are a vacuous apparatchik who will say any old moronic thing – such as implying that white phosphorous is used in toothpaste – in order to justify the unjustifiable. But I know that is not the real you at all. I mean, what sort of world would it be if we paid $800,000 per annum to an utter imbecile? That would be completely unthinkable.
Anyway, I just wanted you to know that your disregard is hurtful, but I can rise above that. I actually have some news. This news involves you, but I’m not quite ready to divulge all just yet. Hopefully I can let the cat out of the bag tomorrow, and I assure you that you will be the first to know all about it.
Yours Sadly but with a Hint of Optimistic Anticipation,
Kieran Kelly.

Re: Exciting New Project
To Adrian Orr,
I notice that you still haven’t responded to my emails. Was it something I said? I really would appreciate it if you contacted me. I have something very important to discuss and it may be to your advantage.
In fact, I am struggling to contain my excitement here, because you have given me a gift more precious than you could ever hope to understand – the gift of inspiration. You see, it is entirely thanks to you that I have nailed it. I have come up with a concept for a new product that will take the world by storm – Willy Pete Toothpaste®!!!
This product will literally set the world alight one bathroom at a time, and I owe all of the credit to you.
I think I should point out here that when I said that this news would be to your advantage I didn’t want to suggest that my gratitude would extend to sharing profits, but I thought you might get a spiritual boost from knowing how inspiring you are and that is worth more than mere money.
What I am prepared to give you, though, is a complementary sample tube. All I need to do is find a material that can contain the white phosphorous paste and still be flexible enough to squeeze. As it stands the product has a tendency to ignite and burn right through flesh and into the bone itself. It also produces a cloud of fine particles that stays in a type of dehydrated gaseous suspension that will sear people’s eyeballs and burn people from the inside out when inhaled. It’s a real bummer, actually.
Yours in Excitation,
Kieran Kelly

Re: Please Help Me
To Adrian Orr,
I wouldn’t normally dare to ask this, but I am desperate. I really really really need your help.
As you know I have begun work on my exciting new product Willy Pete Toothpaste® but I keep hitting roadblocks. I know that being an entrepreneur means that I must take the good with the bad, but I am getting near breaking point. No matter how hard I try to make a nice sanitary product out of white phosphorous it still remains a chemical that kills, maims and poisons. The fact that it also brightens and whitens just seems a little insignificant to someone dying in fear and agony.
I realise that you are not a chemist but it would be a real help to me to just know how you mentally sanitise white phosphorous. For you, it is apparently easy to ignore all of that whole killing side of things. If we could just harness that sort of attitude – if only for marketing and quality control – it might just save the enterprise.
I am desperate here. I have always thought of you as the Jedi Master, while I am your humble Padawan. In that vein I know you will not mind if I beg you: Help me Obi Wan, you’re my only hope.
Yours Anxiously,
Kieran Kelly.

Re: Responses to Mr Orr’s Questions
To Adrian Orr,
I have not yet heard back from you and I am aware that you are probably very busy. I really would appreciate your input, but I know you must have questions of your own. I cannot promise to address all of your concerns but I think that these responses might answer your most urgent needs.
1.    Yes, but not for religious reasons. At the time the procedure was often performed as a hygiene measure.
2.    No Police record – just a solo album by Sting.
3.    World peace and an end to all hunger – JK, ;-) No, really I would ensure greater stability and a single lasting final solution to the problem of overpopulation.
4.    The death penalty, with no exceptions of coming from “broken homes” or any of that boohoo poor crim nonsense.
5.    Some of my best friends are Maoris.
6.    It is a business like any other and it is not appropriate for government to interfere with the market for alleged “moral” reasons.
You can see that I really am on the same page as you. You can trust me, so please write back!
Yours Transparently,
Kieran Kelly.

Re: Some Clarifications
To Adrian Orr,
I must apologise if my last email left you somewhat perplexed. If you are wondering why I wrote JK, it was not in reference to John Key, as in “FJK”. Not that I don’t want to mention John Key. He is a wonderful role model – a humble Kiwi who made it big at Merrill Lynch but rather than just looking after himself and his money he came back to give something back to our country by being our Prime Minister. But, though John Key is seldom far from my mind, or heart, in this instance JK stands for “just kidding”. And the punctuation that followed “;-)” is meant to represent a wink – letting you know that I didn’t actually mean what I said, in fact quite the opposite.
I have also been told that my choice of words was somewhat unfortunate. Apparently suggesting that there should be a “final solution” to global overpopulation sounds potentially harsh. I know from the way you responded to protesters concerned about the issues of horrific weaponry being used on our fellow human beings that you are like me. People like us could never suggest that harsh measures will be necessary to deal with excess population ;-) I am not one of those that believes that it is inevitable that the weaker members of our species must die for the greater good of all ;-) I am sure that overpopulation on a planet of finite resources will be solved by a coming together of all peoples in multicultural harmony ;-) And I definitely don’t think that poor people, who all seem to insist on breeding like rabbits, have only themselves to blame if they end up starving to death after they have poached all the game animals ;-)
I think you can appreciate the depth of my feelings about this.
Yours Resolutely,
Kieran Kelly

Re: Bloody Hippies!
To Adrian Orr,
I know that you were once like me – burning to make the world a better place and earn lots of money doing it. And what better place to do that than in the finance sector where the most ethical and the most productive activities of the entire human species are conducted. Yet, despite the fact that banks are more beneficent than any charity, they pay extremely high salaries.
But apparently all of these ridiculous hippie do-gooders are just too stupid to know that they can do more good in the finance sector than they can do with silly sit-ins (which only stop smarter and better people from doing the real work of making the world a better place) and they could earn a bloody good living at the same time. Not that any of them could handle a real job anyway, but I think we can agree that they should just bugger off and die somewhere.
These idiots don’t understand that you do the real work of making the world a better place and, quite frankly, it makes me wild that they have the gall to imply otherwise. Who do they think they are? That is why it was such a classic moment when you shot down that stupid blathering on about white phosphorous. That protester was lucky to get away with just being made a fool of. The day will come soon when you won’t have to put up with that protest nonsense. It will be like America and you, in your position, won’t even have to say a word. You can even pretend to be all supportive and say “let them speak,” but a big guard will say “sorry sir, I have my orders”. Then the hippie will be freaking out saying “Don’t tase me bro.” And then it’s ZAP! and you can go back to work doing real good.
What amazes me is that nobody makes these people protest, and they know it doesn’t do any good. They must want to get hurt, otherwise they’d just stay home and watch X-Factor like the normal plebs.
Yours Irately,
Kieran Kelly.

Re: From Far Beneath You
To Adrian Orr
I am very hurt by your continued refusal to respond to my emails, but I admire you for it. I know that if you acknowledged the time and effort I put into writing to you it would only be doing me harm. It would make me complacent and self-satisfied and it would destroy ambition and aspiration. I understand. For someone like you to stoop down to my level would be mollycoddling condescension. That is why, despite the frustration and pain, I revel in the fact that you respect me enough to ignore me.
To you my communications must be like those of a puny ant squeaking up at you. But your neglect drives me on, and one day I will be worthy of your attention. You see, I am still working on the Willy Pete Toothpaste®. I know that when I last wrote I had struck some obstacles, but the inspiration of knowing that you yourself embrace the idea of a toothpaste made from a chemical weapon gave me the faith required to continue. I know I am close to a breakthrough. I feel it in my bones. One day I will be able to hold my head up and look you in the eye. Perhaps we could play golf together, or maybe get some cocaine and hire some prostitutes.
Yours in Happy Anticipation,
Kieran Kelly.

Re: Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling!
To Adrian Orr,
Once again I must humbly beg you forgiveness. I realise that I have been less than forthcoming recently with details of this product development phase for Willy Pete Toothpaste®. I have simply been snowed under. But the results, I hope, will speak for themselves. Sadly, those results will have to wait for another day. For now it is hush-hush.
You will recall that I was having difficulty with product development. Having taken the inspiration from your tacit suggestion that white phosphorous can be used in toothpaste, I was having real difficulties with the fact that any product that contains white phosphorous as an ingredient is toxic. Then there was the additional volatility problem, which meant we couldn’t even get the stuff in tubes without it igniting. That brings me to the third problem, the tendency for the product to sear, maim and kill consumers.
Obviously in the case of a company like Israel Chemicals they actually want the end consumer to be maimed or killed, but that is quite a different business model. At this stage we envisage that our marketing and distribution would focus on the major supermarkets rather than shooting the product at screaming fleeing consumers. I don’t think that New Zealand is quite ready for that level of guerrilla marketing. Mind you, if you hear anything from JK (as in FJK, not “just kidding”) then just give us the nod. I don’t want to say too much, but just think “dual use” and I’ll leave it at that.
Yours Ready to Face All Contingencies,
Kieran Kelly

Re: Utopia is Just Around the Corner
To Adrian Orr
You will be glad to know that I have been working hard. You fired me up. You light the way. You are the wind beneath my wings. But as they say, a project like turning a cruel and obscene weapon into a trusted household product is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration and I am dripping wet now.
I know that you’ll think I’m being a tease, but I’m going to save the best news until later. I want to see if I can’t just string you on a little longer before the big pay-off. Suffice it to say that things are now progressing nicely. What I am prepared to let you in on is our brand new slogan for Willy Pete Toothpaste®.
Are you ready?
Wait for it…
The slogan is…
Feel the Burn!
Isn’t that great? The thing I love best about that slogan is that it has that Idiocracy factor. Rather than working on different levels, it doesn’t work on any level but it doesn’t matter. You know that film Idiocracy? There’s a great scene where everyone is starving because because the crops are dying. The crops are dying because they are being watered with sports drink. They are being watered with sports drink because it has electrolytes and the people know electrolytes are good because TV tells them so. Electrolytes are a selling point so they must always be good. It is like Newspeak in George Orwell’s 1984 where words are replaced with just “good” or “bad” so you don’t need to bother with context or nuance.
I don’t mind telling you that when Idiocracy came out some of my friends in marketing said we would never end up like that. I told them at the time that they were being negative, and I think it is safe to say that I was right. Look at Donald Trump.
Idiocracy is just round the corner and that is the inspiration for Willy Pete Toothpaste® and that is the inspiration for the slogan – Feel the Burn!

Once again I have you to thank, because when I saw you trying to confuse and humiliate a protester by this left-field out-of-the-box notion that white phosphorous could be used in toothpaste I was immediately reminded of O’Brien from 1984. If you recall, there is a point where Winston Smith is struggling with the way that O’Brien combines a great facility of mind at one point and a subhuman stupidity and obtuseness at others. Of course, by the end Smith understands the truth. When you are truly powerful there is no such thing as being stupid; there is no such thing as being wrong.
Hail to Thee, Oh Mighty One,
Kieran Kelly

Re: Why Do I Love You So?
To Adrian Orr,
I think that I have made it absolutely clear how much I admire you, but if I was to be honest I also hate you. I hate the fact that you came from a humble background. I can’t help it if my parents were intelligent. I would love to have been raised by a junkie single-mum sucking at the government teat just so I could prove that I was made for better things.
What makes me most jealous, though, is the fact that you can say things that I can’t. People like you don’t have to mince words about society’s losers. You are the Novus Homo – the New Man – like the renowned Cicero. He was the greatest defender of a system that was basically a meritocracy – well, it was certainly better than letting the stinking mob spread chaos and destroy all that was great about Rome. I see you in that light, as a type of neo-Optimate, but instead of defending Patrician power you are defending something even more noble – the power of the market.
When you finally lost your cool with the pro-Palestine protesters and sneered. “I can identify lots of companies that annoy me in life”, you were actually making a very principled point. I know it came across a bit like you were just being an arrogant arsehole, but the fact is that we can’t attack successful companies just because we don’t like them. Everything that is great and good about our society comes from the success of companies whose very success comes from supplying demand. We can’t pick and choose what we personally like instead of heeding market demand because, as Friedrich Hayek points out, that is the Road to Serfdom. Some people might have some sort of political view about creating munitions that incinerate people, but if there is a market demand we can’t ignore it. If people are willing to spend real money to burn other people, then denying them would be very distorting and dangerous. In fact, Hayek says that if we do that we will all end up as slaves living in a Totalitarian nightmare eating algae and wearing unisex overalls. I can’t quite remember his exact argument, but he was a respected economist and Thatcher loved his book so it is definitely real economics and not a lunatic tract for moronic ideologues.
Peace. Out.
Kieran Kelly
P.S. Of course, our own JK is another Novus Homo, isn’t he? However, I must admit I don’t really see him as being in the mold of the great Cicero. He has the passion, but not the diction. It does make me think of another Roman orator though – Cato the Elder. He is still remembered today for earnestly crying out “Carthago delenda est!” whenever he could get away with it. I reckon that if the Right Honourable Member himself is concerned with his legacy he should take a page from Cato. Instead of fussing around with this flag nonsense he should make it his unerring habit to end his every utterance in parliament by yelling “Get some guts!” That way, he would definitely be assured of a place in the history books. He would probably get on John Oliver’s show again too, and that exposure is great for brand “New Zealand”.

Re: And another thing…
To Adrian Orr
And the other thing about you bootstrapped peasants is that you have a lot of privileges that are not available to people like me. As I said, I can’t help the fact that my parents were not stupid losers working as toilet cleaners, or stablehands, or whatever it is that feeble-minded plebs can manage without chopping their own hands off. (Incidentally why do we have to pay ACC levies to compensate those who are too stupid to do menial tasks without mutilating themselves? Why do people seem unable to grasp the fact that this creates incentives for people to maim themselves? Has this world gone completely mad?)
I give you full credit for pulling yourself from the festering swamp of drooling inbreds that we know fondly as the “Great Unwashed”. Bravo, and all that, but now that you have scaled to the heights of fully-evolved sapience (and hopefully kicked the habit of grooming your relatives looking for juicy lice to eat); now that you are arrivé, as it were, you have that great privilege that I mentioned in my earlier missive. Your lowly origins mean that you can speak your mind where I can not.
For me life is a minefield. There are so many things on which I cannot voice an honest opinion without being accused of being worse than Hitler, and that is only the half of it! I cannot even point out simple matters of fact without being accused of being a privileged rich white man. Talk about ad hominem album!
That is why I was frustrated watching you talk to those screeching busybodies that were trespassing in your office building. We both know that they don’t really give a toss about the Hamas-loving hummous-eaters they claim to care about. They are just doing this to pad their resumés with “activism” so they can get into lefty politics and then hop aboard the UN gravy train like Aunty Helen. But these Arabs, these so-called “Palestinians”, in Gaza are not like Giant Pandas or Sirocco the Kakapo. People want to save cuddly nice charismatic deserving creatures, but you could have completely queered their sales pitch by telling some home truths about the so-called human beings whom they paint as being victims.
Did you know, for example, that 40% of the Gazans who can work don’t even have a job! Even most of those who do have a job take handouts from UN and NGO “benefactors”. Imagine that: a whole cramped little territory of hundreds of thousands of bludgers sticking their hands out. (That is what we will have here in our own country if we keep rewarding people for sitting on their arses and being poor). And half of the houses in Gaza are rubble, but even though they don’t have any jobs they still don’t rebuild them! They just sit around waiting for someone else to build everything for them. And with your humble background you can say this sort of thing. You can say, and it is just a simple fact, that we cannot support these people forever. The kindest thing is to just let nature take its course, or even to act to shorten the suffering of these miserable souls. It is pure undeniable fact, but when I say it, people call me a monster. I don’t think they understand how much that hurts my feelings.
Live Long and Prosper,
Kieran Kelly.

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An Open Letter to an IDF Apologist at the BBC

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Ironic pic of Orwell at Big Brother Corp

After 10 years as a business reporter, Anthony Reuben is now the BBC News inaugural “Head of Statistics”. True to the spirit of 1984 he seems to take his role as being to remind people of such numerical truths as “2 + 2 = 5 fanatical Islamist terrorist Hamas militants”. In a report on what the statistics tell us about the recent fatalities in Gaza, he highlights the fact that a disproportionate number of young men are being killed. Another BBC report on Gaza casualties is quite shocking, but its impact is diminished by a link to Reuben’s article with the words “If the Israeli attacks have been ‘indiscriminate’, as the UN Human Rights Council says, it is hard to work out why they have killed so many more civilian men than women”

Someone else has already written an email to Reuben which is posted at the Media Lens message board. It covers some of the territory that I have, but I felt that I needed to add a few things in a missive of my own. I got a little bit carried away, but the result is heartfelt…

To Anthony Reuben,

I have to ask, just what sort of statistician are you? Surely one of the fundamental tenets in statistical thought is that correlation does not imply causation, yet without the implicit unsupported claim that a gender imbalance in fatalities indicates IDF discrimination, your article has no purpose.

When I write “no purpose” I really mean “no legitimate purpose”. It is a great propaganda point for Israel to use the deaths of “military aged males” to imply military legitimacy in their violence. Your work certainly goes a long way to helping the IDF promote its narrative. This means that you are helping them, and I hope you realise that you are therefore complicit in their actions.

Need I remind you that Srebrenica was primarily a massacre of “military-aged males” and that those who committed that genocidal act used the same excuse as the IDF? By itself that destroys the tacit premise of your article unless you also consider Srebrenica to be a legitimate military action. The fact is that it is normal that adult male civilians are targeted and murdered at far higher rates than women and children. There are a number of reasons why this is the case, including the psychology of those committing the murders. Military personnel find it easier to kill adult male civilians than others. Additionally, apologists such as yourself find it easier to muddy the waters over war crimes.

You breezily dismiss the issue of gender disparity in war casualties from other conflicts: “There has been some research suggesting that men in general are more likely to die in conflict than women, although no typical ratio is given.” With a flourish of misdirection, which seems to come naturally to the hack and the junk-merchant, you induce the reader to think that nothing of relevance is contained in the paper which you link to. You let people know that you have read it, but it really has nothing to illuminate the issue. However, the paper does establish that although there is a great deal of variation between conflicts, there is undeniable precedent for far greater numbers of male than female civilians being killed directly in conflicts. In other words, if you were half the statistician you claim, you would recognise that a disproportionate death rate amongst Gazan men is no evidence that more armed militants have been killed than Hamas claims, is not evidence that the IDF is practicing discrimination, and is not evidence that the IDF does not target civilians.

Moreover, the paper you cite is in itself too narrow in scope for the purposes of your article. There is relevant historical evidence which is denied by no one. Not one person who knows anything about the subject denies that there is a long standing practice of killing adult male civilians. It seems to be as old as human mass violence, and it is certainly as old as the phenomena we understand as war and genocide. It is a practice which falls under the category now given as “gendercide”. Like mass rape, the tactic of the mass killing of men is not merely aimed at the immediate victims, but is a genocidal tactic aimed at social cohesion. In a patriarchal society and/or one with high numbers of dependent children, the impact of killing a “military age male” – which is to say a “working age male” – is multiplied.

But perhaps the most important propaganda role you are playing is to access that moral and emotional numbness with which we have all been induced to view violence against young men. I have read many accounts of violence, and I will admit that the images that haunt me are those of violence against children. Yet I can also say that those who are close to the violent deaths of men do not view it with the equanimity that our public discourse accords the subject. These are human beings who love and are loved. They feel as much fear, pain, grief and guilt as anyone other human being in their last moments, whether they carry a gun or not. We project on to these dying men a sense that they are agents in their own deaths, as if war were some sort of shoot-out at high noon where every male carries a sixgun. The emphasis on “women and children” is an impulse of armchair humanitarianism by the insipid and the self-righteous.

Perhaps, to understand my point, you could watch and rewatch the video posted here of a young man being murdered by an Israeli sniper. Watch it and ask yourself, “what does my article say about this man’s death”? This is the death of a 20-29 year-old male, so if your article isn’t about this, then what on Earth is it about? I mean that seriously. Your holier-than-thou detached statistical conceits actually say nothing at all about the horrible death of this man except to suggest that somehow it doesn’t really count.

You are also making a big straw man out of the UN accusation of indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force. The real question is the systematic targeting of non-combatants. To date, Israel has targeted 7 UN schools being used as shelters. Fleeing civilians have also been targeted, as have rescue workers and UN personnel. This is based on 3rd party evidence and, quite frankly, only an idiot would give any credence to the IDF’s response to these accusations unless they were subject to cross-examination or were able to provide substantive evidence to back their claims.

But not only do you give unwarranted credence to IDF distortions, you are too lazy, stupid or evil to even check on the veracity of blatant lies. You quote an IDF spokesperson on the subject of Operation Cast Lead: “Hamas and Gaza-based organisations claimed that only 50 combatants were killed, admitting years later the number was between 600-700, a figure nearly identical to the figure claimed by the IDF.” This is a double lie. Firstly, I wouldn’t think it would be too much to expect a BBC reporter to look up what the BBC itself reported about claimed casualties after OCL: “Hamas has said 48 of its fighters were killed. The Popular Resistance Committee says 34 died and Islamic Jihad said it lost 38 men.” Hamas not claiming only 50 combatants killed, it is claiming that only 50 of its combatants were killed. Lie number two, just as easy to sort out by an internet search, is that Hamas or “Gaza-based organisations” have “admitted” to a figure of 600-700. No they haven’t. You are either wilfully being played for a fool, or you are deliberately deceiving your readers.

You also repeat that Israeli claim given exposure by your colleague back in 2009 – that “when militants are brought to hospitals, they are brought in civilian clothing, obscuring terrorist affiliations”. I love this one because you have to be a moron to believe it, but also at least a bit of a racist. There are really two options here, one is that when combat breaks out Gazan militants change into civvies on the rather Pythonesque logic that they will make the evil Zionists pay by seeking matyrdom in mufti [sic]. The other possibility is that these hate-filled fanatic terrorists are so rabid, so irrationally rational, so innately cunning and conniving, that when their comrades are wounded or killed their first response is to give them a change of clothing – presumably remembering to tear, incise and or burn the clothing so that it matches the flesh beneath. Hamas probably has special units of crack combat-tailors giving makeovers to the dead and dying. While they are working I imagine that the legions of Pallywood specialists are digitally altering stock footage and stills so that every rabid mass-murdering terrorist arrives at the morgue with pictures and video of their tender family life of caring for young children and sickly elders.

Your fatuous hypothesis is that the disproportionate fatalities of young males suggests that Israel is only accidentally killing civilians in the legitimate pursuit of “terrorists”, and that the IDF, in fact, is practicing discrimination. This is based on four things – ignorance, stupidity, self-satisfied arrogance and the blatant lies of an IDF spokesperson. By privileging statistical evidence as being of a higher order than mere anecdote you manage to suggest that the evidence of our eyes themselves is somehow suspect. This is vulgar scientism. The fact is that a single anecdote can sometimes destroy a statistical hypothesis. The different sorts of evidence provide different sorts of information, one is not inherently better at revealing an objective truth. Statistical methods are frequently abused to create distorted pictures. Statistics provided by belligerents about their own actions are more or less worthless anyway, but sometimes it is perfectly valid to dismiss a statistical account on the basis that it diverges far too much from the collected reliable anecdotes. For example, US figures on civilian deaths in the second assault on Fallujah are risible. Anyone who actually followed the eyewitness accounts of what was occurring at the time knows that these “statistics” are worthless. We know from accounts of US personnel that dead civilians were simply labelled “insurgents”. It is an old practice, perhaps best known from Indochina where it was referred to as the “mere gook rule”.

The “mere gook rule” was elucidated as being “if it’s Vietnamese and dead, then its VC”. The reasons for this were many and varied. People often cleave to the cliché vision of ambitious officers trying to outdo each other by claiming everything conceivable as a kill. Behind that, however, were far more important systemic causes. We do not talk about such things in polite society, but the fact is that the US war machine systematically targeted civilians on the basis that being in a certain location made you a legitimate target deserving of death. They overtly wanted to attack the civilian population in NLF controlled areas on the basis that they were VC “infrastructure”. But to do so they actually redefined them as being combatants. Hence William Westmoreland, that charming man, was able to confidently proclaim that no civilian had ever been killed in a free-fire zone, because he had defined free-fire zones as places where no people were civilians. So when William Calley described his reason for killing women as being because they had “about a thousand little VC” in them, he was actually just expressing official US doctrine.

I feel that I must point out here, in case there is any confusion, that contrary to what seems to be broadly taken as true at the BBC, powerful officials do not actually define reality. I know that this is hard for you to understand, but just because a US General says that the victims of bombing and shelling were all combatants, including the children, it does not make it true. There is a legal definition of “combatant” and international humanitarian law doesn’t actually rely on an honour system where the perpetrator owns up for any acts of naughtiness (and that includes Israel’s activities in Gaza). The Nuremburg Trials, for example, did not consist of a series of cleverly posed questions designed to trap German leaders into admitting that they had started a war and killed civilians. But while we are on that subject, it is always important to remember that every act of mass violence by the Germans was defined by them as an act of war against the “enemy” who were sometimes defined as being a “terrorist population”.

If a normal conscientious human being wrote an article about the gender and age characteristics of fatalities in Gaza, they might at least mention the very prominent fact that the US is now applying a gender and age specific version of the “mere gook rule”. Perhaps you have been sequestered under a rock for the last few years, but there has been significant mention in the news that the US automatically defines anyone killed in their targeted killings who is a military age male as being a “militant” until proven otherwise. “Militant” is such a great word as well because it gives people the impression of legitimacy, but it does not actually specify that the targets were combatants. A study of Israeli targeted killings some years ago found not only that they killed four times as many bystanders as targets, but also that 50% of the “militants” they targeted weren’t actually part of any armed activities. These militants were community organisers, political organisers and union organisers – you know, “infrastructure”.

To recap, then: a military aged male is not necessarily a combatant, but they are frequently targeted as such. This is known as gendercide. Targeting civilians in this way is often accompanied with official semantic approaches which seek to legitimate the targeting of civilians, but by nature any repudiation of legal definitions is in itself a war crime constituted necessarily of the systematic targeting of civilians.

Given everything we see of IDF personnel murdering helpless civilians, what seem to be targeted attacks on medical and aid workers – including UN personnel – and what seem to be deliberate attacks on UN facilities being used as shelters by displaced people, only an Orwellian freak could possibly go along with the idea that the UNHRC’s accusation of indiscriminate use of force is the real issue. Nor is the systematic targeting of civilians even the worst crime on evidence here. Israel is quite blatantly committing genocide as it is defined in law in the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (UNCG), and under the UN Charter it is guilty of criminal aggression. Genocide is considered an “aggravated crime against humanity” which parties to the UNCG are obliged to act to end, whilst aggression was defined at Nuremburg as the “supreme crime”.

I bet you think you know what the word “genocide” means. I bet that deep down in your guts you know that it was never meant to describe the way Israel treats Palestinians. You probably can’t exactly say what genocide means, but you understand its essence and you know that it is offensive and obscene to cheapen the memory of the dead by debasing the coinage with such politicised accusations. Save your indignant spluttering. The legal definition of genocide is quite clear and taking actions aimed at destroying “in whole or in part” the Palestinian people is genocide by definition. The expectation that genocide should always be manifested as a discreet orgy of violence is a vulgar misapprehension. Genocide is frequently a long process of sporadic, chronic violence in the midst of ongoing persecution. In fact, the slow nature of the Israeli genocide is what makes it so much less ambiguous or uncertain than most other genocides. The rhetoric, the strategic imperatives, the tactic, the doctrines and the policies in this case all align to make this an open-and-shut case with none of the usual difficult issues of intentionality. The Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal not only found Israel guilty of the crime of genocide, but also found several named living Israeli officials guilty of genocide.

I know what you are thinking – you are thinking that the KLWCT is “political” and is motivated by “politics”. Let’s deconstruct that, shall we? In your twisted little world there is nothing “political” about the ICC which is an official body that just happens to spend almost all of its time prosecuting sub-Saharan African leaders who have angered the the US. Are these the worst war criminals in the world? No. Are they the worst war criminals in sub-Saharan Africa? No, not that either, certainly not on the basis of the numbers of victims killed. Apart from one token M-23 guy thrown to the dogs for the sake of appearances, the real crime of these people was that of defying Washington. The ICC, however, is “official”. In your grubby little corner of Oceania this means that it is not “political”. In the same idiom the US is an “honest broker” and John Kerry is a “credible authority”. In the real world, however, despite the involvement of Malaysian political figures, the KLWCT is constituted of independent scholarly and legal experts whose collective interest in the matter of Palestine is purely that of human beings who seek an end to injustice and suffering.

(Have you ever wondered about that? The way in which the pompous organs of the media reverse reality to say that the people who don’t have a vested interest are the suspect “political” voices, but the people who have immense power and money riding on the outcomes of events are considered at least respectable if not authoritative?)

The law may not be perfect, but often the fact that it is a codified standard which can be applied equally to each party is highly illuminating. Admittedly, by the time it reaches a court, international law is generally a selective disproportionate application of what amounts to victor’s justice. But we can independently examine issues in a legal light to get a good view of ethical dimensions of a situation. The question is this, in this instance who is the aggressor and who has the right of self-defence?

Israel claims the right of self-defence but what does Article 51 of the UN Charter actually authorise? “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.” Well, the UNSC has indeed been apprised of this situation and has passed resolutions to restore international peace and security, but Israel will not comply with those resolutions. In order to claim the right of self-defence Israel would first have to relinquish all occupied territories, among other things. And that is a normal established understanding. An occupying force does not have a right to self-defence. Nor is it permissible to blockade a country and then “defend” against their armed resistance to that blockade. If these things were not true then you would have a situation where both sides can claim self-defence with each supposedly defending against the other’s defence.

I know that it is heretical to even think such thoughts, but what if we spent as much time talking about Palestinian rights to self-defence as we do about the non-existent Israeli right to self-defence? When you actually apply international law, Palestinians have every right to use the arms that are available to them in resistance. They are the ones subject to occupation. Israel and its allies have used the statelessness of Palestinians to obfuscate their right to self-defence, but in law you cannot deny rights to individuals on the basis of statelessness which means that they have “the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence” until such time as the UNSC restores peace.

That brings me to something that I find almost as upsetting as seeing the bodies of children killed by “the most moral army in the world”. Those who take up arms against Israel are not legally or morally deserving of death. Most of them will have lost loved ones to Israeli violence. Every one of them suffers under the illegal oppression of the occupation. Deciding to fight back with arms is not some irrational fanatical decision. Yet in our media these men are treated as violent irrational ciphers in a way which both draws on and perpetuates a racist conception of Arab men. Nobody ever puts a human face on these fighters. They are tarred with the brush of Islamism, with its heavy freight of misogynistic savagery, but many of them aren’t even Islamists and those that are have not committed the sort of atrocities which Westerners claim come naturally to Islamists. We should at least remember who is and who isn’t killing babies here – that is not too much to ask is it? It is the IDF who are committing atrocities, and those who take up arms against them have the legal right to do so. They also have the right to life. They don’t enjoy dying, as the British used to claim about Arab tribesmen. They don’t eagerly seek martyrdom. Like isn’t “cheap” to them, as Westmoreland said of “Asiatics”. Those tropes are the worst kind of vicious racism. These fighters are human beings, and their deaths are legally and morally acts of murder.

Surely this doesn’t mean that Hamas can just fire thousands of rockets into Israel killing civilians, does it? Well, actually it does. Killing civilians is illegal, but the responsibility and culpability belongs with Israel’s leadership under the current circumstances. At Nuremburg it was adjudicated that Russian partisans could not be criminally responsible for atrocities carried out because they were in turn responding to the war crimes of the aggressor. Some argue that this Nuremburg precedent seems to give carte blanche to members of any attacked group. Perhaps jus in bello law must be equally applied to all parties no matter what, as a principle of equality under the law. But even if you take that position, was Kenneth Roth of HRW right to assiduously condemn Hamas’s indiscriminate rocket fire when he recently discussed war crimes in Gaza? No. Roth is just being a scumbag. He is either acting as a propaganda agent to deliberately build a false equivalence, or he cares more about pandering and sounding “credible” than he cares for truth and justice.

Let me put this into some sort of perspective. It is, quite frankly ridiculous and wildly disproportionate to even suggest that we need to take steps over the supposed illegality of using insufficiently discriminating arms by factions in a besieged population when the harm to civilians is so much less that that caused to the civilians of the besieged population. Gaza’s rockets and mortars have killed 28 civilians in the last 13 years. [And don’t give me any crap about the wondrous “Iron Dome” – it didn’t even exist for most of that time and Theodor Postol has calculated that it does not work. It is a horrendously expensive PR ploy to maintain the deception that there is some sort of parity between Israeli and Palestinian violence.] Not only would it be a de facto abrogation of the Palestinian right to self-defence to restrict the weapons allowed to those that can only reach the enemy when the enemy chooses to come within range. Moreover, it is another point of law that you cannot accuse someone of a crime when you are also guilty of that crime. If Palestinian rockets and mortars are illegal then so are Israeli rockets and mortars – which kill more people. They share exactly the same properties of being inherently indiscriminate, as do air and ground artillery munitions. There is no qualitative difference between these inaccurate primitive rockets and any other explosives used around civilian populations except that they are a lot less deadly than most. This twisted and sick idea shared between Israel an the US that they can effectively exculpate themselves by saying – “yes, we kill more civilians, but we do it more accurately” is appalling.

The point is, though, not to say that Israel can’t accuse militants in Gaza of war crimes, but to say that none of us can. How can we, in countries that have shelled and bombed and killed so many, accuse Palestinian militants of anything? How could anyone from the US claim that Palestinian munitions are insufficiently precise and discriminating when their own government uses depleted uranium, cluster munitions, napalm, fuel-air bombs, white phosphorous, etc., etc., etc., ad nauseam. The very idea that any Westerner can level war crimes accusations at an desperately poor and ill-armed besieged people for using the only primitive weapons with which they can reach their attacker is sickening and obscene.

I don’t like the rocket attacks. I don’t think Israeli civilians deserve death. But as Osama Hamdan pointed out, when they stop firing rockets, it doesn’t stop Israel from killing and blockading their people. How long do you sit doing nothing while people are killed and while the land, the little strip of a prison, gets ever closer to becoming irreversibly uninhabitable. (There is the Zionist genocidal intent – a realist’s Eretz Israel with a non-citizen Palestinian helots living in controlled West Bank enclaves, while Gaza is a post-apocalyptic pile of polluted rubble.)

If you have actually read this far, you might be marshalling answers with your little weasel brain. Please don’t bother. To put it politely, this letter is in the spirit of a condemnatory open letter. To put it more honestly, I don’t care what a toxic freak like you has to say in his defence. For forty years the dissident voices of our society have taken on this crippling notion that we should “engage” people in “dialogue”, as if our goal is to show people like you the error of your ways. But even engaging someone like you is to give validity to your insane world-view. What sort of callous freak actually goes out of their way to throw condemnations of IDF actions in Gaza into question? Do you wake up in the morning and think, “I know what the world needs, it needs more geeky smug reasons for not having to feel compassion and the desire to end suffering”?

So, frankly, I don’t care what you have to say for yourself. I just want you to know that you are hated. A person half a world away, who is very well educated about the issues involved, hates you for the simple reason that you are the enemy of humanity and your work promotes the suffering of innocents.

All the best for you and your hack friends in your future self-congratulatory endeavours,

Kieran Kelly

 

The Numbers Game: New Research Shows that US has Saved Millions of Iraqi Lives.

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[Warning: this is satire. I apologise for any confusion. If I offend anyone I want to make absolutely certain that they are the right people.]

In 2006 The Lancet published the second of two ideologically driven mortality “surveys” which claimed that the US had caused over 600,000 deaths in Iraq. This was followed by other such “research” conducted by those who made no effort to conceal their own political bias against George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. Some of these organizations claimed to have found astronomical numbers of fatalities, even over a million. One of those who has led the fight to correct these subjective and biased studies is Jim Slobberdrib. For eight years Slobberdrib headed Applied Research Science Enterprises prestigious Iraq Death List project. More recently Slobberdrib has overseen a new study which, by applying newer and even less biased techniques and standards, has found that US actions actually saved many thousands of Iraqis who would otherwise have perished. Since the release of these explosive findings Slobberdrib has been very busy promoting the work by granting interviews to the media. Fortunately, however, he was able to take time out from all of that in order to grant me an interview:

KK: If I could turn first to your work with the respected Iraq Death List project – how exactly did you get the inspiration to start the project, and what were its aims?

JS: Well, it is funny how inspiration can strike at any moment. I was working for Blush, McLieberger and Koch, the PR firm, and, I don’t know, I… I must have been quite dissatisfied with the meaninglessness of it. So much so, I think, that my boss could actually tell even before I really knew myself. He told me that I needed something more meaningful in my life, a chance to give back. As it happened, he said, our firm had a relationship Applied Research Science Enterprises…

KK: A relationship?

JS: Yes, I think they shared office space in Kuala Lumpur or something. And they shared other things – you know, photocopying costs, long-arm staplers and so forth. They also had the same Human Resources department, funnily enough. It worked out quite well for me in the end, because it meant that I could just stay on the payroll despite suddenly and drastically and ummm…

KK: Boldly?

JS: Yes, yes, boldly. Boldly changing my career completely. Of course, there was a significant pay rise and I think that this shows that being daring and taking risks can be quite rewarding in that sense. The rewards are more than merely material, they are also monetary.

Anyway, I am getting ahead of myself. Basically, I came up with the idea of doing a truly definitive body count in Iraq which would ensure that the Bush and Blair regimes were absolutely accountable for every single death of every single innocent but only if we could truly verify their innocence and their deadness. I believed utterly, then as now, that it would be wrong to hold someone accountable for abstract statistics, it is only when we can absolutely verify absolute innocence and absolute death that we can think of holding those in power accountable.

KK: So it was a sudden inspiration born out of an urgent humanitarian impulse?

JS: Exactly. They sent me along to meet the people at Applied Research Science Enterprises. They could also tell that I was stricken with a Humanitarian Impulse. They said it made me look troubled and intriguing. They mentioned that the main humanitarian concern in the world was probably the impact of the US invasion of Iraq and that people desperately needed reliable information to make judgements on the moral dimensions of the US action. I said something like: “Hey, wait a minute. If you guys are a research company, why not do some research about the effects of the invasion?” They were really impressed with my idea.

KK: So you didn’t have any directly training or experience as a statistician or epidemiologist or researcher of any sort did you?

JS: Yes, well, I think that this was the greatest strength that I brought to the job. I was an outsider, with a fresh perspective, not some stale old bean-crunching maths person. I wasn’t like The Count from Sesame Street being all mathematical about everything but losing sight of the human picture. I was there because of my Humanitarian Impulse and I could feel it getting stronger all of the time. Some people said I was becoming quite Bohemian. I even thought about writing a poem. I was the ideas man – the humanitarian ideas man. I could do the numbers too, if I wanted. I was used to it. In PR and marketing, we live by the numbers. I was never one of those people who actually makes the numbers, but I was around lots of numbers. Some of these numbers were really big numbers. I mean really big numbers, but they didn’t scare me. I can talk about infinity without getting scared.

KK: Walk us through what Iraq Death List actually did?

JS: Well, we collated reports of fatalities, but we would only actually include a reported fatality if it was independently verified by two Western media sources who had access to eyewitnesses of unimpeachable character. After that it was necessary for us to conduct our own independent verification to absolutely ensure that the eyewitnesses could be relied on.

KK: And then the first Lancet study came out in 2004. According to one of the researchers, they had initially expected that they might see an increase in mortality due to increased rates of disease or disruption to health and sanitation services, but instead they found that tens of thousands of people had been violently killed.

JS: Well, it just goes to show how political and unscientific they were. How are you going to show that someone died of disease because of the invasion? Did George W. Bush come up to them with a syringe full of dysentery or thyphus and inject them? A disease isn’t like a bullet. No one shoots someone with a disease. They were just going to count up some dead people and use some fancy number trick to say if was America’s fault. It’s like If I said that 78 percent of people who died of cancer died because they listened to rap music.

KK: But that wasn’t their main finding.

JS: Sure, but what they did was just as bad. They went around just asking Iraqis if anyone they knew had died and they just took their word for it that. These are Iraqis. They’re the ones who, I mean they’re practically the same people as… well, you know, they hate America. Of course they’re just going to say that the Americans killed my habeebi, or whatever. Hey, that reminds me of a joke a Marine told me: What did the Haji taxi driver say when he saw his child’s severed foot in the middle of the road?

KK: Umm, maybe just tell me later.

JS: Anyway, that wasn’t even the worst of it. They took those claims and then said that if these people said that their loved ones had died it must mean lots of other people had died well. They just made up all of these fictitious dead people. Completely made up. I don’t know how they thought they’d get away with this nonsense, but luckily we had our own definitive Iraq Death List and we could categorically refute their findings.

KK: So this is when you first began to clash with people like Gilbert Burnham and Les Roberts?

JS: Yeah.

KK: So, to set the scene, by this stage it is the end of 2004. A year and a half has passed since the invasion. What confirmed mortality figures did Iraq Death List have at this stage?


JS:
That’s the amazing thing, these jokers were claiming that 100,000 people had died but our confirmed fatalities were zero.

KK: Zero?

JS: Yeah.

KK: That’s quite conservative.

JS: Thanks. Well, anyway you can imagine how ridiculous these people looked, claiming that these nameless 100,000 people had died when we could show that there were no confirmed deaths at all.

KK: But surely some people must have died by this stage.

JS: People die all the time, but none of these deaths could be properly confirmed as being the result of US actions and confirmed as being real.

KK: Being real?

JS: Yeah. I guess one of the greatest challenges we faced at that point was the security situation. Our confirmation protocol is rigorous and we often found it impossible to deploy the hologram team to the areas in which fatalities were witnessed.

KK: Hologram team?

JS: It was vital that we assured ourselves that eyewitnesses had in fact witnessed real events, in those cases where eyewitnesses were considered sufficiently credible. We had to eliminate the most obvious possibility – that eyewitnesses had in fact witnessed only a clever projection made with hologram technology. But, there were often unacceptable risks in deploying the team.

KK: You mean that these alleged fatalities tended to occur in violent hotspots, in neighborhoods that were too dangerous to send a team into?

JS: I mean in deploying the team to Iraq. It was a very violent place…

KK: Despite having no actual confirmed fatalities?

JS: I know what I’m saying. Let’s not forget that American heroes were dying there every day. If we’d actually had a hologram team, we could never have risked sending them to the country.

KK: You didn’t even have a hologram team?

JS: Apparently it is difficult to find personnel who are appropriately trained and qualified to analyze this sort of technology.

KK: Because it doesn’t exist?

JS: Well, it is definitely cutting edge technology, maybe a bit beyond cutting edge. Anyway, one of our interns proposed a workaround and the “powers that be” decided that this was the way to go. It was decided that a quick trip to the morgue would serve to confirm that the dead were not holograms but in fact corporeal. I was against the decision. You know, I could understand the public relations aspect to it. People were thinking that zero fatalities was too low a figure. Edward Bernays understood this sort of thing. He invented public relations and he knew that ordinary people were very stupid. He called the average man “Dumb Jack” and he would have understood that “Dumb Jack” would never accept that the most scientific and objective measure of fatalities in Iraq was no fatalities at all. I understood the PR aspect of it, but by this time I had my scientist hat firmly on my head and my scientist hat told me it was all wrong.

KK: This was quite a dark time for you, wasn’t it?

JS: Yes, I did suffer from this sense of being conflicted. I was haunted by a recurrent nightmare. I would see “Dumb Jack” who looked just like my dad in his work coveralls. Then “Dumb Tariq” the suicide bomber would come along and decapitate my dad while singing “I Got You Under My Skin” in Frank Sinatra’s voice. Then me and “Dumb Tariq” would kick the head around like a soccer ball. Suddenly I’d realize that all along, every time I opened my mouth a stream of foul brown liquid would gush out, as if I was literally spouting liquid diarrhea. My therapist told me that it meant that when confronting trauma I became fecund with insight.

KK: “Fecund with insight”?

JS: Yeah, full of it apparently.

KK: But eventually you adjusted?

JS: Things got worse before they got better. My proposal that we initiate a capture and release program where Arabs would be banded and, if feasible, microchipped did not go down well. Detractors said that having such a program in the continental US would be of little use in determining death levels in Iraq. I tried to point out that this very same technique had been invaluable in studying declining numbers among Whooping Cranes and that the Arabs in question must themselves be migratory, otherwise they would not be in the continental US if the first place. I was widely pilloried for these ideas. I guess, in hindsight, that I should have talked them through with someone before calling a press conference.

KK: So if we move forward to 2006, and the release of the second Lancet study, widely referred to as “L2”. They estimated a very high mortality at this stage. In fact they estimated around 650,000 excess deaths, with 600,000 due to violence. What was the death toll according to IDL at this time?

JS: In approximate terms it was roughly around 3.

KK: Could you be more precise?

JS: It was 3.

KK: So there was an even bigger difference between your figures than there had been in 2004?

JS: In absolute terms, perhaps, but in percentage terms the gap had narrowed and I…

KK: Sorry, you say the gap had narrowed? What to?

JS: Well, a little over 20 million percent. That sounds a lot, but remember that in 2004 the percentage difference between our estimates was infinity. Infinity is much much larger than 20 million. 20 million is nothing compared to infinity. It’s like comparing, say, the size of a tennis ball with, umm, I don’t know, something infinitely bigger than a tennis ball.

KK: The universe?

JS: OK, maybe not that much bigger, but you get the point. I was very alarmed by the way politics had interfered with our science as if we should just compromise our methods in order to fit in with some antiwar malcontents and their made-up death study. Still, a difference of 20 million percent was just enough to show people once again that the Lancet study was dangerous nonsense.

KK: And now the Democrats in Washington started to take notice?

JS: Yes, they realized that our confirmed and undisputed body count was an invaluable weapon against the President. Of course, Republicans were not happy with me at that point. Senator Oren Stretchy (R-KY) physically threatened me with a yoghurt at a breakfast meeting. Bill O’Reilly said he wanted to chop me to pieces with his hedge-trimmer and feed me to his neighbor’s dachshund, but I think he might have mistaken me for Bernie Sanders’ cousin.

KK: And then, of course, that all changed when Bush actually admitted that your figures were correct.

JS: It was a great moment. Not just for me. Not just for IDL. But for the entire country. The President himself came out and admitted three innocent people had been killed due to his actions. He had saved us from Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and from the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud. He had finally brought the justice that would give peace to the restless souls of those lost on 9/11, in the Maine and at the Alamo. He had saved the lives of millions of Americans and the price he paid was to carry the burden of guilt forever for those innocent lives lost because of his actions. It was a great moment from a great leader.

You know, people like to compare Bush to Reagan or to Teddy Roosevelt, but to me his greatness transcends the parochial confines of US politics. If the great Winston Churchill and the beloved Mahatma Gandhi had through some miracle conceived a love child, that love child would be George W. Bush.

KK: This was, indeed, a great moment. Bush showed a humble and saintly side to himself that clearly moved people. But there were still those who questioned the actual figure of 3 killed, suggesting that it was on the low side. Perhaps if you gave more detail about IDL‘s methods. I mean, surely there must have been a lot more than 3 people confirmed killed in nearly 4 years of occupation.

JS: More “people” maybe. If you could call them that. But “people” could mean anything. “People” could be insurgents, or terrorists, or militant Islamic extremist fundamentalist Muslim militants. If you think those people are actual “people” then you go ahead and call them that. But you’ll excuse us if we don’t take the same stance. IDL was created out of a Humanitarian Impulse to definitively document the deaths of innocents so that the powerful can be held to account. You can’t treat the good killing, where we kill the bad guys, as being like the bad killing. In fact it should really be set up so that each good killing is subtracted from the number of bad killings.

KK: That would be another reason for saying that the US has killed a negative number of people. Sorry, I guess that is getting a bit ahead of your narrative.

JS: No, you are right though. The US has probably negatively killed much higher numbers of people than we outlined in our latest study. We should maybe revise our findings to take into account the negative killing aspect of killing bad guys. Sorry, where was I?

KK: I think you were about to outline the methods you used to make sure that you only counted the bad killing and not the good killing that we want our politicians to carry out.

JS: Oh, yeah. Right, you see the way I saw it was that we needed unimpeachable character witnesses who could testify to the goodness and innocence of the stiff. You see, one of the problems America faces is that its enemies don’t fight fair. They don’t wear uniforms. They don’t carry weapons. And they aren’t all military age males. You can’t even trust the kids and the babies. These people are so fanatical and so full of hatred that they sew explosives up into their own babies and then fire them out of modified mortar tubes. It was just the same in Vietnam. As one soldier said: The old men, the women, the children – the babies – were all VC or would be VC in about three years. And inside of VC women, I guess there were about a thousand little VC now.”

KK: Who was that?

JS: That was Lieutenant William Calley. He had a breakdown, like combat fatigue, and then they just persecuted him because they needed some sort of scapegoat. Luckily President Nixon knew a thing or two about being the victim of a witch hunt, and he gave him a pardon.

Anyway, so we needed a way to tell who were the fanatic insurgent terrorist Islamists. In a real country we would ask the priest or the preacher, but obviously we couldn’t ask Muslim priests. We couldn’t say that they needed the testimony of a Christian priest either, because that might seem insensitive. I still thought that a respected religious figure was the right sort of person to give this testimony. It finally came to me that the ideal religious personage, who was not objectionable and who commanded very wide respect, was an ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk.

KK: So you would accept that someone who had been killed was, in fact, innocent if in life they had been known to an ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk who was prepared to vouch for their character?

JS: Obviously there is a fine balance that must be achieved here, but we thought that our approach was very reasonable.

KK: And do you still think it was a reasonable approach?

JS: Of course.

KK: Despite what occurred near Kut al-Farraj in mid-2008?

JS: I’m not sure what you are referring to.

KK: Perhaps I can refresh your memory. August the second? A village near Kut al-Farraj? An airstrike using multiple 500lb J-DAM against farm buildings which US personnel described as “hardened”? Surely you must remember that the official IDL mortality count jumped overnight from 4 to 179? Does it ring a bell yet? The airstrike at the village where the Venerable Abdallah al-Bakr happened to live?

JS: Yeah. I’ll never really get that. How can someone called Abdallah be ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk? Don’t you need to be Tibetan?

KK: No. Tibetan is also a type of Buddhism. Allen Ginsberg was an ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk.

JS: Wasn’t he some sort of Nazi or Communist or something?

KK: You’re thinking of someone else.

JS: Look, our results were sound and the Kut al-Farraj incident only strengthened the validity of our results. It showed that our method was flexible and responsive.

KK: “Strengthened the validity”? Are you really still defending this now? You had assured people for such a long time that the definitive and absolutely reliable death toll was 4 and suddenly almost in an instant it jumped by over 4000 per cent! How can you possibly justify that?

JS: Look, as a layman you might not understand that the best and most definitive figure isn’t some sort of happy medium that corresponds with common sense and accords with a full holistic picture of the context in which the events occur, it comes from taking the most narrow, restrictive and conservative approach possible. For a layman that might seem outwardly to throw up anomalies, like overnight jumps in the figures, but that is exactly how we ensure that our figures are utterly sound and definitive.

And anyway, a 4000 percent jump is tiny compared to a jump of infinity.

KK: This isn’t even particularly relevant because the percentage jump is actually the least of the problems with the new tally.

JS: I know where you are going with this. I just want to say that we had been using a set statistical method for years. We produced the definitive mortality data using that method and as I said before just because the method throws up results which, to a layman might seem really stupid, that does not invalidate the method.

KK: You know what I’m going to ask. The 175 killed Kut al-Farraj in 2008 – were they people?

JS: Look these were 175 certified innocent lives lost. I mean, the word “people” could, you know…

KK: Were they human?

JS: Not as such.

KK: They were…?

JS: OK, they were ducks.

KK: They were ducks. Innocent ducks maybe, but they weren’t people.

JS: Well, from the perspective of an ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk they actually are people.

KK: Alright, fine, they were innocent dead duck people. But that doesn’t alter the fact that after more than 5 years of brutal war, your official respected mortality figure was that 179 innocents had been killed of whom the vast majority, 175 out of 179, were, in fact, innocent ducks! 175 out of 179!

JS: Could you express that as a percentage?

KK: No.

JS: But you would agree that it is quite a lot less than infinity percent?

KK: If you keep this up, I am going to terminate this interview.

JS: Okay, alright. But you are really missing the most important aspect of this whole thing. The Venerable Abdallah al-Bakr had given names to every single one of the sadly departed innocent ducks, and we knew the names of the four humans. It is only because we know these names that we can honor these innocent lost lives. It is only because they are named and documented that we can give them a measure of justice. It is only because we know exactly who they are and the exact circumstances of their deaths that we can seek accountability or, at the very least, acknowledgement of wrongdoing. Those who die without us documenting and naming them died pointless deaths that made their whole lives totally futile and meaningless. They are nothings and nobodies.

KK: What about those people who have lost loved ones that you have not named? Aren’t they liable to think that you are a self-satisfied insensitive shithead who should have his face smashed in?

JS: Well, people do post that comment on my Facebook wall a lot, but really, I believe that in circumstances like these violence is not the answer.

KK: The whole “innocent ducks of Kut al-Farraj” incident caused quite a loss of confidence in IDL, didn’t it?

JS: We lost a lot of institutional support including that of some of the most prominent US lawmakers and congressional representatives.

KK: Isn’t that the same thing?

JS: No, I’m sure the lawmakers are the ones who write the laws, mostly lobbyists I think. Anyway, then they give the laws to the congress people who, I don’t know, I think they give it to the President to sign or something. Maybe they have to, you know, fight each other to get to the President with their favorite law. They must do something.

Anyway, the real loss, and it was a bitter blow, was the loss of support from some of the most respected foundations. Those guys have got real deep pockets. And do they know how to give a guy a good time? I did a dinner with Ford Foundation once – man, I was seeing double for a week afterwards. Oh God, yeah, I remember now – I had to go on a 4 week course of antibiotics and I had this discharge that I swear to God actually glowed in the dark. It really did!

KK: Right, umm, OK. I think we get the picture, although I am trying very hard not to get an actual mental picture. To get back to the loss of credibility, it must have caused a loss of confidence in the public also.

JS: I never had any confidence in the public.

KK: I mean, the other way around. The public lost confidence in you.

JS: Yeah, like we really cared. Look, I don’t think the public ever really supported our efforts. We took that as a good sign. Our work was clearly too scientifically valid for the layperson to grasp, but people in power could immediately see how useful it was. I think that this is the true test of rigor and validity. This is the way things are heading now. This is the future of science and research because it is usefulness to power that ultimately is the true measure of what is valid and true.

KK: OK. But regardless of that the “innocent ducks of Kut al-Farraj” did spell the end of the IDL project.

JS: Well, that was the foundations, like I said. Our parent company realized that the profits from IDL were on a death spiral downwards and decided to pull the plug before the rot set in. They told me that I felt like I needed a change and funnily enough they had this relationship with a publishing firm.

KK: And the resultant memoir was Slobberdrib: Saint or Savior? It did well?

JS: Yes it did extremely well. Incredibly well really. It was really really successful. Not so much in terms of sales. But it was an incredibly rewarding experience. It was really about the whole process, you know, like writing things and that sort of process stuff.

KK: There were also financial rewards. I believe that despite never having published a book before you were given a 2.8 million US dollar advance. How much of that advance have the publisher made back from sales of the book?

JS: As a percentage it would be about, umm…. Can you think of something that is 176 times as big as a tennis ball?

KK: And then things changed for you once again?

JS: Well I was in Jordan on location with the cast and crew of the new biopic Slobberdrib: Shake Hands with Satan – actually that’s coming out in the fall and it’s got George Clooney playing yours truly and that black guy from Homeland (did you know that he’s actually British?) Anyway, it’s got him playing my best buddy in military intelligence. It’s gonna be a hit movie. Anyway, so there’s me in Jordan, consulting for the film – telling Clooney how to be more, you know, like me, and I get this call…

KK: No, wait, wait, wait… I’m sorry to interrupt, but I need to clarify. You said Jordan, but you never actually went to the Middle East before?

JS: No this was my first visit. It’s pretty amazing, especially in the desert. It’s like, really sandy just like it is in the movies.

KK: The point I was trying to make, or ask maybe, is, why are they filming your life story in the Middle East when you were never in the Middle East?

JS: Oh yeah, I mean no. Yeah, no they decided that to make the story more accessible they would have my character as some sort of maverick humanitarian who struggles against the powers that be to save his buddies and to do the right thing. That’s basically me, but they gave me a slightly different back-story. In the movie I’m a bomb disposal expert who dedicates his life to protecting the innocent after the trauma of seeing a duck killed due to the callous indifference of a French rival bomb disposal guy. I kill the baddies and win the girl from the French baddy (who actually turns out to be Muqtada al-Sadr in a rubber mask – so I kill him too).

KK: So it’s more like some sort of fantasy version, not the humdrum reality of a guy working from an office in DC?

JS: I wouldn’t call it fantasy. There’s no dragons or orcs or whatever. They didn’t even use my idea about finding Aladdin’s lamp and rescuing the sexy Princess in those see-through culottes or whatever they’re called.

KK: OK, can we get back to the call you got in Jordan? Could I just guess that your employer had suddenly realized that you needed a drastic change in career?

JS: There’s no need to be facetious. It was actually the old crew from Applied Research Science Enterprises. New techniques and new approaches had been developed that virtually threw the whole issue of mortality in Iraq on its head. They needed me to come back to head a new study. This one would be far less restrictive than the last. It would be more of a totally inclusive survey of excess mortality.

KK: Like the Lancet surveys?

JS: No, not like those, obviously. They were political, we wanted to to do a survey that was purely scientific without all that politics. A recent study found that there were nearly 500,000 excess deaths in Iraq. As every reputable newspaper pointed out, this totally destroyed the findings of the Lancet studies. It absolutely blew those bastards out of the water.

KK: But surely these figures were much closer to the Lancet results than, say, your own results?

JS: Read the papers man! Don’t take my word for it. It just blew those bastards away. Totally discredited the washed up hacks. But we were still worried that there was some sort of political antiwar bias. Like I said, I don’t care if your politics are antiwar, but if you’re going to do science then, Brother, you gotta leave that shit at the door. You know what I’m saying? You can do science and say that lots of Iraqis died, but it becomes political when you say Americans killed them. That is just projecting your antiwar anti-America bias onto the figures. So even though some of the latest work to be done on Iraq suggests that lots of people died, over time we are seeing that less and less political bias is included in the figures.

KK: So it’s not political to say that Iraqis were killed by other Iraqis?

JS: No of course not. I like to explain it this way; back home we have a big problem with what we call black-on-black violence in the inner cities. Now, if you say a black man killed another black man that’s just saying something because it happened. It happens all the time. But if you say that a white cop killed a black man that’s political. You’re not describing a fact, you’re making a political statement. Now maybe if you’re wanting to run for mayor of, oh I don’t know, some black city, you might say a white cop killed a black guy. You might get lots of votes for saying that. But science isn’t about winning votes and there’s no room in science for politics like that.

KK: Reporters Without Borders put out a report about journalists killed in Iraq and it basically said that 83% of the killers of journalists were unidentified, but were enemies of the United States. Someone, someone who I actually know personally, criticized them for blithely characterizing unknown murderers this way without evidence. I think she even used the word “political”.

JS: Well, obviously that’s not political is it? Enemies of the USA hate our freedoms and hate our free press. My God, its the First Amendment – the First! Obviously our enemies kill journalists. Its dog-bites-man stuff. Perfectly non-political. Absolutely scientific. As for your friend – you know I think some people are so politicized they don’t even know what the word political actually means. Really, I could say some stuff myself about that Reporters Without Borders outfit and their so-called “report”. You know how they said that 9% of reporters were killed by US forces? Well, it turns out that two of those so-called “reporters” were insurgents on that film they put out with the helicopter shooting.

KK: You mean the Reuters employees whose deaths were shown in the Collateral Murder video?

JS: Buddy, they might have taken a paycheck from Reuters and done some journalism on the side, but those guys were fully-fledged one thousand percent insurgents. The Army even said they were insurgents. I’m pretty sure I saw that Collateral Damage thing and those guys were shooting rockets at our boys in the Apaches and then these reinforcements drive up using their own kids as human shields, and then they were just shooting off their AKs, a total killer frenzy. They were even shooting themselves just to make our boys look bad.

KK: Are you sure you actually watched Collateral Murder?

JS: I’m 98 percent certain. All I’m going to say is that if Reporters Without Borders researched those alleged Reuters employees they wouldn’t have found a single ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk who would testify that they definitely weren’t insurgents, and I bet the same is true of every one of those guys that our boys killed.

But going back to our new project, we saw our job as being to produce research a product that reflected a high mortality expectation, which we find a lot of the audience demands, but doesn’t have this distorted political component of US forces killing Iraqis. Our focus groups found that the best way to present the most credible results that the public would actually believe in (but were actually really really scientific and in no way political) was to have a very high mortality rate but to say that it was all brought about by Iraqi on Iraqi violence.

Things have changed a bit since the early days of IDL and that sort of approach wasn’t possible back then.

KK: Why is that, exactly?

JS: Well, you know, the whole invasion and occupation of Iraq was a very sensitive issue. There was a lot of misunderstanding. The President did his best to enlighten people. But even after Donald Rumsfeld explained all about “unknown unknowns”, a lot of people thought that Saddam’s WMD’s would either be found, or they didn’t exist. It’s just one of those “unknown unknowns”. He could have developed weaponized sand for all we know, and just left it in the desert to degrade into inert form. We will never ever know.

So the whole situation was very political, and I guess that is why the reporting was political too. For the first few years it was all about Coalition forces fighting against Iraqis. There was hardly anything about Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence. Maybe it’s not the journalists’ fault. They would wander along and than see a bunch of dead Iraqis and think: OK the US is fighting a war here, and war is hell, so they must have killed these guys. We now know, of course, that these Iraqis were almost certainly killed by other Iraqis. Iraqis kill each other all of the time, and the great irony of the situation was that it was only the mass-murdering genocidal maniac tyrant Saddam who, like Tito in Yugoslavia, stopped them from their traditional fratricidal violence. It’s like that British guy said a century ago, Iraqis “love fighting for fighting’s sake” and “they have no objection to being killed”.

I guess after that, you know from 2006 onwards, the news started to cover more and more Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence until that was all they covered. All of that political stuff about Americans killing Iraqis kind of faded away and we saw that it was all really about the same thing its always about – the same thing we see in movies and on TV – it was all about fanatical Islamists, terrorists, suicide bombers and cruel barbarians who chop people’s heads off.

KK: So the predictive programming of the entertainment media which unrelentingly pounds people with notions of Eastern barbarity and Western superiority made it natural for people to gravitate to this new narrative of incomprehensibly violent Iraqis who just kill each other for no reason that a civilized Westerner could ever really understand?

JS: Did you mean to say that?

KK: No, it just kind of slipped out. Do continue.

JS: Well, I guess I really have to confess now that I’d really got it all wrong earlier with the IDL. You see, you remember how I told you that there was good killing and bad killing? Well, that’s a perfectly good scientific way of understanding the difference between, well you know, the difference between good killing and bad killing. Anyway, it might be great science, but it’s not actually very mathematical. After talking it over with my people I came up with this great inspiration. Instead of good and bad killing, we should be talking about positive and negative killing in the mathematical sense. So when you positively kill someone there’s one less person in the world but when you negatively kill someone then there is one more person in the world. Now so there is no confusion let me make it absolutely clear that this is not about procreation. These are processes which we refer to as dekilling, or unkilling, or enlifing. This might be confusing initially, but when you enlife someone it means, well it doesn’t usually mean that there’s this person that you actually see that you’ve actually somehow enlifed. It’s more like say if there was a unit and at the end of a tour we calculated that they have killed negative 100 people, that means that by their actions there are 100 more people alive today than there would have been otherwise.

KK: Is that an indicative example. Would, say, a company have that sort of negative kill rate in a one year tour?

JS: Look, this is all new science and we really haven’t gone through the individual outfits completely yet, but our initial findings are phenomenal. We have some outfits that racked up huge negative kill rates. I even joked with a Sergeant from a mortar battalion that they should change their motto to “Life from Above”.

KK: Just so our audience understands, negative killing isn’t the same as killing bad guys? It’s not just another name for “good killing” is it?

JS: Oh no. Nothing could be further from the truth. No, negative killing is the sum total of all of those actions which are, in fact, life giving or life preserving. I need to emphasize again that this is not about procreation. The Pentagon would never countenance that sort of thing, not with Iraqi’s anyway. Like a lot of military outfits around the world they do have a long and proud tradition of having a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to sexual violence, but they really draw the line at fraternization. And they especially draw the line at there being a bunch of half-Iraqi half-White-Christian-American babies. I think you can see how that would not be in the interests of national security.

Negative killing is more about those things that save people from short or long term mortal threats. So, say, you might go into a house and in the confusion shoot dead one of the members of a family, but if by way of compensation you give the remaining family members a lifetime supply of chlorine tablets and that saves all eleven survivors from a deadly cholera outbreak, that means you’ve actually got a net negative kill rate of 10 people.

KK: So the negative killings come mainly from, say, civic action programs? From those outfits who build the wells and vaccinate the kids and have slogans like “we care, so you don’t have to”?

JS: Well, obviously that is a major part of the US military’s negative killing capacity. But our research has shown that often it in those activities that attract the most criticism from the bleeding-heart antiwar douchebags that actually have the greatest capacity to give life. Often people say our boys are trigger happy to the point of being a rampaging murdering horde. You have GIs just shooting up Iraqi cars just because they’re on the road, more or less, and people get wasted for almost any dumb reason. I mean, in 2005 we shot over one billion bullets during a period when our best estimates were that there were only 30,000 insurgents. That means we shot over 30,000 bullets for every insurgent in the whole country. That’s a lot of bullets, and those things are dangerous. It’s almost like you’d think that those guys who did the Lancet studies were on to something after all.

KK: Okay. I’m sure this is leading somewhere.

JS: Just hang on a sec, I’m getting there, but first you’ve got to think about the kind of firepower our grunts are packing these days. I mean a platoon of these guys could just about take out a city block as long as there weren’t any enemy soldiers or anything. Imagine you’ve got a mounted patrol. Every fourth GI has an M249 light machine gun. Every vehicle is mounted with maybe a .50 caliber machine gun or a Mk 19 grenade launcher which is like a sort of machine gun which fires 40mm grenades at a rate of about one every second. So, when this patrol hits an IED what they do is that they all just open up with all their weapons. Sounds like a recipe for a lot of dead civilians, right?

KK: If you say so.

JS: Well it’s true. Doing things like that does actually generate a positive kill rate, but have you thought about how much of a negative kill rate this could generate?

KK: Err…?

JS: Picture this: A cute little baby girl at home with mom. Mom’s proud of her beautiful first-born. Daddy’s out working his job at the office. It’s Friday, he’s planning on doing some renovations on the weekend and he’s going to drop by the Haji Home Depot after work. Mom’s feeding her beautiful baby girl from her firm young breast, little knowing that outside there creeps the dirty swarthy misshapen figure of an Islamic fundamentalist terrorist insurgent laying his filthy coward IED bomb. Mom puts baby down for an afternoon nap. Feeling good about herself she glances out through the window and waves to the friendly and handsome GI’s who wave back and make playful boyish remarks to each other about the beautiful young Haji woman. Then wham! The explosion throws mom back against the wall and she slumps unconscious. But oh no! What’s happened to baby girl? Unfortunately, Haji homes are flimsy, and Daddy hasn’t had the chance to fix up that sagging detached wall. The wall has fallen on baby’s crib! She has no air, and Mommy’s lying unconscious! Just then, like the ferocious thunder of freedom, the sound rings out of a couple of dozen really heavily armed red-blooded American boys letting loose with all they have. Just in the nick of time a .50 cal round punches a hole through the flimsy Haji wall and the baby is saved. What do ya think of that?

KK: It sounds a little umm… specific or, I don’t know, maybe a little unlikely.

LS: You might well think that. But remember just how many bullets we fired in Iraq – about a billion each year, right? Well if each bullet was the size of a tennis ball, then a billion bullets would be like infinity or even bigger.

KK: So, if you fire enough bullets at inhabited buildings you will save lots of lives by punching air holes in collapsed masonry?

LS: Well, were not completely stupid, you know. We do realize that there is a limited number of people who actually end up in the situation of being trapped under rubble without air, even during a US-led occupation. (We did actually offer an infantry regiment to China to shoot up the city where they had that last quake, but they declined due to security concerns.) Anyway, it’s not just about that, there are many other ways in which stray bullets can save lives. Picture now 36 year old Mohammed al-Derpderp. He’s just got that promotion he’s been after for years. He’s regional sales manager for the Haji vacuum-cleaner company. Finally, after all of those years of hard work he has his feet on the ladder. The only way is up. But, uh-oh! What is that on his neck? Could it be a pre-cancerous mole that is destined in ten years time to bring about poor Mohammed’s death in the most painful, degrading and lingeringly awful way possible? Why yes it is. Luckily he’s walking down the street one day and he’s coming up to where his uncouth Haji neighbours have left a pile of their shitty junk lying blocking a side road. Now, the nearby friendly US dismounted patrol heard AK’s firing earlier that day, so they know that the bad guys are around. They see the junk and they know it could have been put there by the bad guys. The leader decides that it’s time for some reconnaissance by fire. He tells his men to open up and they let loose steel hail like the volley of the titans! A round hits the wall near our friend Mohammed, it shatters and a searing fragment zips through the air slicing off the offending mole and cauterizing the wound to boot. Hey-presto and Allahu-fucking-akbar – 53 years later Mohammed al-Derpderp dies in bed surrounded by weeping relatives while from outside he can hear his great-grandkids laughing as they chase the Haji chickens around the dusty yard. Now that’s a happy ending.

KK: I see. So US forces have “enlifed” (if I have the terminology right) lots of Iraqis with stray bullets. Anything else?

JS: You bet there is. The list is as long as your arm. Airstrikes taking out dangerously substandard housing. White phosphorus sterilizing contaminated chicken. Fuel-air bombs taking out colonies of plague-bearing rats. We’ve found that people who have been exposed to toxins from our burn pits are significantly more likely to quit smoking, for example.

KK: So what does this all add up to, in terms of numbers of negative kills?

JS: Well, I haven’t even got to the best part yet. You see, we started thinking about what was the greatest threat to Iraqis, and you know what we came up with don’t you?

KK: Ummm.

JS: You’ll kick yourself. … Give up? Alright I’ll tell you – the biggest mortal threat to the life of an Iraqi is another Iraqi. You see now? That’s right, it’s just what we were talking about before. So we sat down and we calculated just how much risk Iraqis posed to other Iraqis. Are you ready for this? Yes? Alright. We calculated that over the average lifespan, taking all possible deadly acts and working out, conservatively, the likelihood that they would undertake such acts, we calculated that over the average lifespan the average Iraqi kills approximately 2.8 other Iraqis. You know what that means, don’t you?

KK: That means that every time you kill an Iraqi, you actually save Iraqi lives. Extraordinary.

JS: Well, once we realized that, it was a whole new ball game. We started looking way further back, right back to 1990. Do you know what we found? This will blow your freaking mind. We found that if you look at all the demographic data and look at the overall increased mortality form all causes there have been an excess of 4.6 million deaths. Because of our bombing and sanctions before our invasion and occupation, the good old US of A can take credit for nearly every single damn one of those Iraqi deaths! Conservatively, we can claim at least for at least 4 million of those deaths, which translates to us saving 11.2 million Iraqi lives. That means that we have saved the life of nearly half of every single Iraqi alive today by killing their neighbors and loved ones.

KK: Amazing. Well that seems as good a point as any to wrap this up. It just remains for me to thank my guest Jim Slobberdrib…

JS: My pleasure.


KK:
…and I’d also like to thank the National Security Agency for allowing us to publish their transcript of our conversation. Next week I will be discussing the issue of Palestine with a woman who sounds caring, but advocates genocide. Be sure to tune in.
Kieran Kelly blogs at On Genocide.

The Korean Genocide Part 3: June 1950 – Who Started It?

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(In Part 2 of this post I detailed the US propensity for installing and maintaining
corrupt and brutal clients as leaders, and their preference for those with a limited
popular base of support amongst their own countrymen. I showed that south of the 38th parallel on the Korean peninsula, whilst under US military occupation, this immediately unfolded as a combination economic, political and military repression. The inevitable resistance prompted massacres at the hands of US or US-led proxy forces. I now continue with the subject of the outbreak of “major hostilities” on the 23rd or 25th of June 1950. I think the thing that will interest readers most in this is the significant circumstantial evidence which indicates the real possibility of a tacit or explicit agreement to foment war by US and USSR leaders.)

http://www.mtholyoke.edu/~park25h/classweb/worldpolitics/images/KoreanWar4.jpg
We now come to the vexed issue of the events of 25 June 1950, or as the North Koreans would have it the 23rd of June when, according to them, the ROK initiated major hostilities.1 This is when “major hostilities” broke out – the start of “The Korean War”.
However, one defensible stance is that it is a nonsense to state that the war broke out on that day. Not only had guerrilla conflict and mass-murder already claimed over 100,000 lives south of the 38th parallel, but there was ongoing extensive border fighting which was particularly intense in 1949. It was mostly, but not solely by any means, the ROK which was the initiator of hostilities.2 As Stueck writes: “Who started the firing in the predawn hours of this dreary morning remains in doubt. The Ongjin region had long been the setting for border skirmishes between North and South Korean troops, and often the South had initiated the combat. The evidence for this day in June is ambiguous, even contradictory.”3 Peter Lowe concludes that it is “impossible to determine” who attacked first.4
The conundrum of the outbreak of major hostilities tends to suggest that simple
solutions of either a “South attacks North” or “North attacks South” scenario do not fit the unusual circumstances. To begin with, as Cumings points out with regard to the question of aggression this amounts to “Korea invades Korea”.5 Yes, there were two different armies with two different associated territories, but his was not anything like the German invasion of Poland. It wasn’t even like a normal civil war. The only reason that there were two armies in the first place was the US decision to unilaterally divide the country and the subsequent US and USSR actions which destroyed the normal intercourse between the two parts. There is no historical precedent to this, but as unusual a background as this provides to June 1950, it is only the tip of the iceberg. There are what Stueck terms “ambiguous, even contradictory” factors. As will be described, both sides had plans for military unification and were building forces towards that end, but neither was actually prepared for the sudden outbreak of a major war when it did happen. I would go so far as to suggest that the unusual circumstances themselves tend to necessitate a more complex answer than simply one side attacked the other.
In this work, of course, the point of interest is the US role in the outbreak major
hostilities. Those who concern themselves with this question often characterise US
actions as a “failure of deterrence” or “failing to deter” or virtually invariant phrases.6
One writer in The Journal of Conflict Resolution, (not where one would normally expect
the advocacy of more robust militarism) wrote: “By strongly implying that it would not defend Korea… the United States had invited attack”’7 It is also in the canon of failed deterrence as standing alongside the “failure to deter” Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.8 The problem with this is that it relies on an assumption which seems to be contradicted by the evidence, the assumption that an entity called the US actually did not want a war. One can compare this thesis with a counter-thesis thus: 1) the “failed deterrence” thesis in which a monolithic US undertook insufficient actions to prevent war; 2) the “successful provocation” thesis in which individuals from the US (including those in the Rhee regime) successfully caused the outbreak of major hostilities at a time which was entirely propitious for the US in strategic terms. An intriguing potential corollary to the latter is that, whether through coordinated collusion or merely coincident interests, this seems to have occurred with crucial support from the USSR.
It is interesting to note here that if the US failed to deter the DPRK, then the logical
implication is that it must have been the DPRK which attacked first on 25 June 1950.
Thus Stueck, who is unable to directly confirm DPRK initiation of hostilities, is able to write at great length about a “failure of deterrence” which constantly reinforces this nonfact as being factual in the reader’s mind. When dealing with only the “failure of deterrence” DPRK initiation is assumed9 and never is the possibility of deterring the ROK discussed, except to suggest that success in deterring the ROK was partly behind the failure to deter the DPRK.10 If evidence comes to light that the ROK did launch an offensive on 23 June then all of this “failed deterrence” discourse will be revealed as rather silly propaganda akin to the Germans suggesting that they had failed to deter Polish aggression in 1939, and since we can’t actually discount that possibility – it is silly propaganda. There are those who claim that we can in fact conclude that it was the DPRK which initiated major hostilities, and I will weigh such claims shortly. But before I do, I should emphasise that the only evidence we have is circumstantial, and
furthermore is violently contradictory.

Former secretary of state Dean Acheson in 1965. (Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum)
In 1981 and 1990 Bruce Cumings released the two seminal volumes of his work The
Origins of the Korean War. I have been unable to acquire this work, however some have
interpreted it as pointing to a US/ROK initiation or deliberate provocation of the Korean War.11 Another viewpoint is that: “In contrast to many historians… who maintained that by his remarks, Acheson unintentionally gave North Korea the green light to invade South Korea, Cumings argues that Acheson knew precisely what he was doing and that the speech had little to do with why North Korea invaded South Korea. ‘The Press Club Speech,’ he remarks, ‘was … consistent with his conception of Korean containment in 1947, and with his world view: and so was the intervention in June 1950’ (p. 423).”12
Marilyn Young writes that Cumings largely rejects the relevance of “who started it” but outlines three hypotheses in what seem to be roughly ordered as least to most likely: an unprovoked ROK attack; an unprovoked DPRK attack; or a successfully provoked
DPRK attack which young describes as “the preferred Achesonian stance: the offence demonstrably defensive.”13
I mention this work of Cumings at this point because the traction that this work might have gained was interrupted to some extent in 1993 (not long in academic terms after the publication of the more relevant second volume of The Origins of the Korean War) by the publication of a book seized on by many as the definitive proof of an unprovoked DPRK attack. Uncertain Partners: Stalin, Mao and the Korean War14 is a diplomatic history of Sino-Soviet relations and, despite its name, only the final two chapters (about 35% of the main body) deal with the Korean war directly. One deals with the DPRK build-up to military reunification, the last with China’s entry into the war.
It is difficult to decide how much space to devote to a critique of Uncertain Partners,
but I think I must confine myself to a symptomatic exemplar. For reasons which are not at all apparent to me, several pages are devoted to describing two meetings that never occurred. The reason given?

We do so partly to suggest the kinds of information that appear to have been exchanged between Moscow and Pyongyang in these months (on which the archives do have significant documents) and partly to indicate how pseudohistory can become widely implicated in efforts to explain the origins of one of history’s tragedies.15

Their actual interest in the role of “pseudohistory” ends right there never to be
mentioned again. Instead the narrative of these meetings is simply incorporated (with a couple of reminders that these were fictional meetings) into the general flow of the chapter. One might wonder why they did not instead utilise the “significant documents” as their sources, but these are neither cited here, nor are they to be found among the 82 documents appended. In fact none of these documents deals with the subject of Korea before one dated 28 June 1950.16 Indeed throughout the chapter there was only one point made which seemed at first to support the conclusion that the DPRK attacked on 25 June, mention made of the “fact” that Mao was “in no doubt” that Kim Il Sung had launched the war.17 The supporting citation, however, merely quotes a Chinese official noting the Korean Workers Party’s determination to “wage a revolutionary war of liberation”.18 Intent, however, is not the issue, as will be shown.
The gist of this chapter of Uncertain Partners (either with or without the inclusion of
clearly unreliable sources) is that Stalin, Mao and Kim Il Sung had developed a coordinated plan of attack. This proves little, however, because Rhee also planned a
military reunification, and made no secret of the fact. He seems to have originally
envisioned invading at some time early in 1950, saying on 7 October 1949 that it would be only “3 days to Pyonyang”, while defence minister Shin Sung-Mo, after 25 October meeting with MacArthur, stated that the ROKA was “ready to drive into North Korea, If we had had our own way we would have started already….”19 Dean Acheson’s Press Club speech on 12 January 1950 explicitly rejected an US force being used to protect the ROK, putting Rhee’s plans on hold, but invasion plans were revived after Rhee met with MacArthur in February.20


Truman and Acheson had both effectively stated early in 1950 that the US would not
defend Korea militarily (even MacArthur had said as much in March 1949),21 and, on 2 May 1950, Senator Tom Connally, chairman of Committee on Foreign Relations, said that a communist take-over of Korea and Taiwan was inevitable: “the US would not go to fight for Korea”.22 However, Rhee must have either been given contrary assurances in private or have correctly read between the lines of these statements which were shown by subsequent events to be complete falsehoods. On 11 January the ROK ambassador to the US sent the following to Rhee:

I give you some encouraging news which I have received confidentially from a top level, reliable source in the Pentagon. I am informed that the State Department and the Pentagon are planning a firm stand with respect to the U.S. Oriental policy. In this anti-Communist plan, Korea will occupy an important position…President Truman will sign, very soon, authorization which will grant permission for armament for Korean ships and planes.23

Around March 1950 the DPRK achieved military superiority over the ROK24 and thus
US involvement became essential. Aware that the US could not support an attack north, the focus in the ROK became an effort to “provoke an ‘unprovoked assault’”.25
In the DPRK, meanwhile, preparations for military unification had begun in earnest in late April with major arms shipments from the USSR.26 This followed Stalin’s assent to conduct an offensive.27 Here’s where things get a little contradictory, because the Soviets sent a group of advisers to Pyongyang, supposedly as a response to Kim Il Sung’s determination to conquer the whole peninsula, but it seems that it was the Soviet advisers who took the initiative in making this happen. In Uncertain Partners a lengthy testimony from KPA Operations Director Yu Sung Chul states that the Soviet advisers took an operations plan (“[e]very army, of course, has an operations plan”) and unilaterally rewrote it entirely. The Soviets considered it too “defensive”. The original
operations plan was for a counteroffensive, but the new Soviet plan was entitled the
“Preemptive Strike Operations Plan”, though the DPRK leadership insisted immediately that it only be referred to as the “counterattack” plan.28 Goncharov et al. maintain that Kim Il Sung was the driving force behind the offensive, suggesting effectively that Kim was the tail wagging the Soviet dog29 despite also claiming that the DPRK was a “wholly dependent… Soviet satellite”.30 The story of the operations plan, however, suggests instead that this was Stalin’s war, not Kim’s, just as was claimed by the US government at the time.31
Kathryn Weathersby deals with this issue and this is how she concludes:

From 1945 to early 1950, Moscow’s aim was not to gain control over the Korean peninsula. Instead, the Soviet Union sought to protect its strategic and economic interests through the traditional Tsarist approach of maintaining a balance of power in Korea. However, in the context of the postwar Soviet-American involvement on the peninsula, such a balance could only be maintained by prolonging the division of the country, retaining effective control over the northern half.
The North Korean attempt to reunify the country through a military campaign clearly represented a sharp departure from the basic Soviet policy toward Korea. The initiative for this departure came from Pyongyang, not Moscow. In the spring of 1950 Stalin approved Kim’s reunification plan and provided the necessary military support, but only after repeated appeals from Kim and only after having been persuaded that the United States would not intervene in the conflict. Conclusive evidence of Stalin’s reasons for finally supporting the North Korean reunification plan has not yet been released, but it appears that Stalin’s motive may well have been to tie the Chinese communists more firmly to the USSR, to prevent a rapprochement between the PRC and the United States. If this interpretation is correct, it means that it was Soviet weakness that drove Stalin to support the attack on South Korea, not the unrestrained expansionism imagined by the authors of NSC-68.32

Indeed, Weathersby reveals that from the latter stages of World War II the Soviet Union was utterly consistent in recognising that it was best served by a divided Korea and that unification would risk that advent of a hostile entity in a threatening position: “Given the impossibility of establishing a ‘friendly’ government for the entire country, Moscow sought to protect Soviet security by maintaining a compliant government in power in the northern half of the country and shoring up the military strength of that client state.”33
The situation was mirrored on the US side, as has been suggested.
The obvious question here is why, if the USSR considered its interests best served by a divided Korea, did it force an aggressive “preemptive strike” plan on the DPRK and
begin immediately making substantial arms shipments beyond those required for
defence? In the situation there was ample scope for temporising and prevarication. But Soviet concerns also seem to have revolved around the situation of China and Taiwan, and here too the interests coincided to a great degree with those of the US. Here, I am sad to say, the picture gets even more confused.

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I return again to the narrative of Uncertain Partners wherein the contradictions of the
circumstances are unwittingly laid bare by the authors. Their understanding is that Kim Il Sung was single-mindedly driven to unify Korea by force, and that the plan was assented to by Stalin and Mao. The Chinese were focussed on finishing their civil war by eliminating the final GMD stronghold in Taiwan, but at the same time faced an urgent need to improve the desperate domestic economic situation which they believed necessitated massive demobilisations of troops. The Chinese were convinced that a DPRK offensive would bring about the direct involvement of the US and allow the US to prevent their final offensive against the GMD, while many feared that it would allow the US to attack the PRC itself.34 According to the authors “a race had begun between Kim and Mao. Each rushed to fire the first volley, an act that could doom the other’s plans.”35 The problem here is that it is difficult to see how a PRC conquest of Taiwan would have negatively affected DPRK plans. There was no claim on any side that there was such a state as Taiwan, this was a civil conflict between two formations which each claimed to be the legitimate government of China. On 5 January 1950, Truman had acknowledged Taiwan as being part of China and pledged not to intervene in the civil war, while Acheson’s 12 January Press Club speech omitted not just Korea but Taiwan from the perimeter which the US claimed as its right to defend.36 The US people, by and large, viewed the Taiwan issue as part of a civil war, not any business of the US.37
Moreover, the PRC did not act very much like it was in a “race”. To be certain it wished to take Taiwan as soon as possible, but it had every reason to do so without any consideration of possible events in Korea. The other major offshore island, Hainan, had been taken in April 195038 and in that month PLA forces began to amass for the invasion of Taiwan, but demobilisations were also an ongoing priority. Early in June the invasion of Taiwan was postponed until the summer of 1951. On June 15 Mao ordered a previously planned demobilisation of 1,500,000 troops to commence.39 On June 23, less than 48 hours from the putative outbreak of the Korean War, orders were made out to transfer 3-4 corps out of the northeast sector.40 It is true that the Chinese had transferred 40,000 Koreans from the PLA to the KPA beginning at the end of 1949, and these battlehardened troops probably gave the KPA more of an advantage over the ROKA by June 25 than the increased arms supply from the USSR, which had commenced only two months prior.41 But, the Chinese may have expected these personnel to be used defensively or to create a deterrent, after all it makes little sense for them to have knowingly provided crucial support for an offensive which they quite correctly predicted would be a disastrous setback for themselves.
From the US and USSR perspective, however, the defeat of the GMD in Taiwan was not a pleasing prospect. Stalin appears to have firstly hoped that the US would prevent the PRC conquest of Taiwan42 and secondly he hoped that China and the US would be drawn further into enmity. Weathersby recounts: “A Russian scholar who has seen the relevant documents has recounted to me that Stalin calculated that even though the United States might not defend the ROK, once it lost South Korea it would not then allow itself to suffer the additional loss of Taiwan. The United States would move in to protect Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek), thereby preventing a rapprochement between the US and the PRC. Mao would thus be forced to continue to turn to the Soviet Union for economic and military aid.”43
So the US and USSR interests regarding the dispositions of Korea and Taiwan were identical. Additionally one might argue that it was in the US interest that China remain for the time being a comparatively weak state tied to the USSR, rather than an independent left-wing non-aligned state. What then would be the optimal outcome for both imperial powers? That somehow, against all odds, Korea would be overcome by a major war but not unified, leaving two weakened dependencies divided much as they were in 1945; that the US be given a serviceable pretext/distraction allowing it to intercede in the final stages of China’s civil war; and, perhaps more than anything else, that China, so ripe with potential, be prevented from demobilisation and an end to nearly a century of destruction and instead be drawn into even greater enfeebling conflict. No outside observer would have picked this as the likely outcome, but this is exactly what happened.

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All accounts agree that 3 a.m. 25 June 1950 Kim Il Sung announced to his cabinet that the ROKA had launched an offensive and that in 1 hour the KPA would launch its planned counterattack. Whether there was or was not an ROKA provocation, the one thing that can be said with certainty is that either Kim was fooled, or he fooled himself.
The planned campaign to unify Korea is widely understood to have been intended to have been enacted at a later date, possibly in early August when it was expected that Rhee would refuse to comply with a DPRK proposal of nationwide elections.44 Gye-Dong Kim points to the following indications of unpreparedness: 1) the mobilisation plan was not put in place, only 6 full divisions were ready when plans called for 13 to 15; 2) “the North Koreans were not sufficiently well equipped at the time” having mostly Japanese weapons of pre-1945 manufacture.45 I would add that given that the DPRK’s military build-up was proceeding faster than that of the ROK, premature action, whether offensive or counter-offensive, must have been powerfully motivated.
The explanation given by Gye-Dong Kim is that the offensive/counter-offensive was launched at this unpropitious time because Kim sought to take advantage of the unpopularity and instability of the Rhee regime.46 The Soviet, Chinese and defector sources used by the likes of Goncharov et al., are consistent in claiming that when touting his plans for a military unification Kim would evince a conviction that 200,000 guerrillas would rise up to defeat the Rhee regime.47 In the most widely known account, given by Khrushchev, Kim claimed that he wished to “touch the south with the tip of a bayonet” which would spark internal explosion.48 One way of looking at things, therefore, is that Kim, an autocrat with unquestioned authority, was possessed of a longstanding idée fixe, an obsessive and (in the circumstances) irrational belief that demonstrative military action on the part of the KPA would spark a southern revolution.
But, another way of looking at things, one which throws very serious doubts on the “tip of the bayonet” hypothesis, is that Kim was an experienced and successful guerrilla leader who was surrounded by and incredible wealth of knowledge gained by fighting the Japanese and the GMD for decades. Along with those of Moscow faction, the Yenan faction and Kim Il Sung’s faction, these included indigenous fighters such as the the southerner Pak Hon-yong,49 who was the foreign minister.50 The leaders of Cumings’s “guerrilla state” also had some experience, in China, of conventional and mixed warfare and were advised by Soviets from an army which had fought its way from Stalingrad to Berlin. These were hard-nosed experienced leaders who had won very hard fought desperate wars, and they had not done so by being prone to wishful thinking.
Guerrilla activity in the south was at this time hugely diminished. According to US intelligence “small bands of fifteen to thirty still operated in various areas but were generally quiet.”51 The political situation in the south may have provided the opportunity for reconstituting a more formidable guerrilla movement, but such things take time.52 It seems very unlikely that the DPRK leadership really believed that 200,000 guerrillas would arise spontaneously which is what a defector claimed to have been stated by Pak Hon-yong to a secret conference on 11 May 1950.53 In fact, Goncharov et al. claim that it was the failure of the guerrilla movement which prompted the DPRK to begin planning a major military effort,54 as do Stueck,55 and Kim.56 If the DPRK really was pinning its hopes on a southern uprising, it also seems rather odd that those guerrillas that remained were not informed or prepared in any way.57
A salient matter which I have not yet mentioned is an aspect of the “counterattack” plan.
This plan, which, as will be recalled, was written by Soviet advisers without consultation, stopped at Seoul. That is to say that the planning did not extend any further than the capture of Seoul which lies only about 50 kilometres from the 38th parallel.58 The war was supposed to “only last a few days” according to Yu Sung Chul and others. Continuing after the capture of Seoul required a completely new offensive plan (again authored by the Soviets) and a complete reorganisation of the KPA into two distinct corps which were lacking in communications leaving, according to one defector, “divisions, corps and armies… disconnected” to the extent that “[e]ach unit moved on its own and each had its own plan.”59 Gye-Dong Kim’s explanation is that the actual plan was to seize Seoul as a prelude to opening negotiations. He cites a 20 June 1950 decree by the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly in the DPRK which contained demands which could be read as a basis for negotiations.60 Given that the “counterattack” plan was drafted in early April, and that it replaced another that was too “defensive”, this must in fact have been the basis of planning from the beginning. This contradicts a great deal of the tenor and detail of the narrative of the planning phase constructed from various sources by Kim himself (along with Stueck, Weathersby, Goncharov et al.). The fact is that whether attack or counter-attack, there are many questions arising about the KPA’s actions on 25 June, but to even attempt answers I must first turn to the events occurring on the other side of the 38th parallel, and in Taiwan, Japan and the US.
Direct evidence is slim that the ROKA launched an attack somewhere between 10 pm on 23 June (the time claimed by the DPRK and PRC to this day)61 and 4 am on 25 June (when all parties agree the KPA guns opened fire, though not in any account along the whole front). The ROKA 17th regiment claimed to have captured Haeju by 11 am of 26 June.62 As William Blum points out, this feat would have been impossible if the KPA really were launching a co-ordinated all-out attack.63 This unit was commanded by a committed right-wing ideologue,64 and its actions may have fitted a scenario of a unilateral attack without a broader mobilisation designed to “provoke an unprovoked” response from the DPRK. This may or may not have been accompanied by over 24 hours of preliminary artillery barrage as claimed by the DPRK. There is also the possibility, however, that the capture of Haeju was simply a lie. The ROK government later retracted its claim to have captured Haeju and claimed that it was all an exaggeration by a military officer.65

Rhee, Hodge and Kim Koo
One town south of the 38th parallel was prepared for fighting to break out on the 25th.66
However, in more general terms, the ROKA was even less prepared than was the KPA for the outbreak of major hostilities. A UN inspection on 23 June found the ROKA unprepared for war and they began writing a report detailing as much on the 24th which, by the 26th, had become a report claiming an unprovoked attack by the DPRK. Of course, this is rather astonishingly suspicious timing and, as Halliday and Cumings point out, their sources were purely ROK and US officials,67 but subsequent events show that the ROKA really was unprepared for the KPA onslaught even though we can quite confidently say that the KPA itself was not bringing its full potential force to bear.
What does this all mean? Well, if the thesis tested with regard to DPRK, USSR and PRC actions was that of a co-ordinated unprovoked attack at a time of USSR and/or DPRK choosing, then the thesis I will test with regard to ROK, US and GMD actions is one of a successful provocation taking place at a time of ROK and/or US choosing. Of necessity this would mean that the Rhee regime and/or the US deliberately left their own forces unprepared for an offensive which was both expected and desired. In fact, there would have to be posited a cultivated unpreparedness, both as an alibi and as a means of luring the DPRK into attacking.
I will set the tone here with a lengthy quote, with lengthier subquotes, from Peter Dale Scott. This is what he culls from Cumings’s Origins of the Korean War:

The historian Bruce Cumings, in a volume of 957 pages, has recalled the curious behavior in previous weeks of high levels in Washington:
The CIA predicts, on June 14, a capability for invasion [of South Korea] at any time. No one disputes that. Five days later, it predicts an impending invasion. . . . Now, Corson … says that the June 14 report leaked out to “informed circles,” and thus “it was feared that administration critics in Congress might publicly raise the issue. In consequence, a White House decision of sorts was made to brief Congress that all was well in Korea.” . . . Would it not be the expectation that Congress would be told that all was not well in Korea? That is, unless a surprised and outraged Congress is one’s goal.
In his exhaustive analysis of the war’s origins, Cumings sees this U.S. deception by high level officials as a response to manipulated events, which in turn were the response to the threat of an imminent expulsion of the Chinese Nationalist KMT68 from Taiwan, together with a peaceful reunification of Korea. ….
By late June, [U.S. Secretary of State Dean] Acheson and Truman were the only high officials still balking at a defense of the ROC [the “Republic of China,” the KMT Chinese Nationalist remnant on Taiwan]….Sir John Pratt, an Englishman with four decades of experience in the China consular service and the Far Eastern Office, wrote the following in 1951: “The Peking Government planned to liberate Formosa on July 15 and, in the middle of June, news reached the State Department that the Syngman Rhee government in South Korea was disintegrating. The politicians on both sides of the thirty-eighth parallel were preparing a plan to throw Syngman Rhee out of office and set up a unified government for all Korea.”….Thus the only way out, for Chiang [Kai-shek, the KMT leader], was for Rhee to attack the North, which ultimately made Acheson yield and defend Nationalist China [on Taiwan].
Meanwhile, in South Korea,
an Australian embassy representative sent in daily reports in late June, saying that “patrols were going in from the South to the North, endeavouring to attract the North back in pursuit. Plimsoll warned that this could lead to war and it was clear that there was some degree of American involvement as well.” [According to former Australian prime minister Gough Whitlam,] “The evidence was sufficiently strong for the Australian Prime Minister to authorize a cable to Washington urging that no encouragement be given to the South Korean government.”
Cumings also notes the warning in late April from an American diplomat, Robert Strong, that “desperate measures may be attempted by [the Chinese] Nationalist Government to involve [U.S.] in [a] shooting war as [a] means of saving its own skin.” In chapters too complex to summarize here, he chronicles the intrigues of a number of Chiang’s backers, including the China Lobby in Washington, General Claire Chennault and his then nearly defunct airline CAT (later Air America), former OSS chief General William Donovan, and in Japan General MacArthur and his intelligence chief Charles Willoughby. He notes the visit of two of Chiang’s generals to Seoul, one of them on a U.S. military plane from MacArthur’s headquarters. And he concludes that “Chiang may have found …on the Korean peninsula, the provocation of a war that saved his regime [on Taiwan] for two more decades:”
Anyone who has read this text closely to this point, and does not believe that Willoughby, Chiang, [Chiang’s emissary to Seoul, General] Wu Tieh Cheng, Yi Pōm-sōk, [Syngman] Rhee, Kim Sōkwon, Tiger Kim, and their ilk were capable of a conspiracy to provoke a war, cannot be convinced by any evidence.
He adds that anti-conspiratorialist Americans “are prey to what might be called the fallacy of insufficient cynicism”69

(Yi Pom-sok, Kim Sok-won and Tiger Kim were all involved in the 17th regiment which may, or may not, have captured Haeju on or before 26 June.)70

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Police Chief Chang Taek-sang with a man who may be Tiger Kim (left)
Indeed, there was a flurry of diplomatic activity centred around the ROK which seems very suspiciously timed in retrospect. I can add one more prominent diplomatic event to those mentioned above. The event that looms (and loomed) large in DPRK propaganda was the visit of John Foster Dulles in mid-June 1950. In particular, a photograph of Dulles with the ROK defence minister and military officers peering across the 38th parallel has been used as the iconic visual signifier of aggressive intent.71 Lowe writes that the “murky” talks leave room for “legitimate speculation”,72 adding later that:
“Mystery surrounds the precise motives for Dulles’s visit to Seoul”73 On 6 April 1950, John Foster Dulles was reappointed as an adviser to the State Department. The Republican hard-liner had been chosen reluctantly by Democrat Truman administration as a salve to “the explosion of McCarthyism”. In a broadcast dated 14 May 1950 he suggested that the US needed to “develop better techniques’ because the Soviets ‘could win everything by the Cold War they could win in a hot war.’”74https://i1.wp.com/www.kingsacademy.com/mhodges/03_The-World-since-1900/09_The-Cold-War/pictures/EVN-420-1_Dulles-at-the-38th-parallel_1950.jpgJohn Foster Dulles peers across the 38th parallel.

I. F. Stone in his 1952 classic The Hidden History of the Korean War wrote:

Chiang Kai-shek and Rhee…feared that peace would be the end of them. Dulles feared that peace would fatally interfere with the plan to rebuild the old Axis powers for a new anti-Soviet crusade…the dominant trend in American political, economic and military thinking was fear of peace. General Van Fleet summed it all up in speaking to a visiting Filipino delegation in January, 1952: ‘Korea has been a blessing. There had to be a Korea either here or someplace in the world.’ In this simple-minded confession lies the key to the hidden history of the Korean War.75

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Generalissimo Jiang Jieshi (Chang Kai-Shek)

On the 18th Dulles addressed the ROK national assembly, pledging US support “both moral and material”.76 The next morning Rhee requested an unscheduled interview with Dulles. According to the official US State Department history:

Mr Dulles went to considerable lengths to explain that formal pacts, allegiences or treaties were not necessary prerequisites to common action against a common foe and that the important thing was for a government to prove by its actions that it was in fact a loyal [my emph.] member of the free world in which case it could count on the support of other members of the free world against the forces of communism.77

This is, of course, quite a testament in itself to the power that the not-as-yet fully realised Cold War paradigm, Dulles, a mere adviser to the Secretary of State, felt he could openly demand loyalty (and one may pause here to think what it could mean to be “a loyal member of the free world”) in exchange for protection.
Dulles was in Tokyo on 25 June, able to communicate directly with MacArthur as events unfolded. He was thus able to advocate an immediate aggressive response.78
What evidence, then, exists that the US actively sought to bring about war? If one hypothesises that the desirable way to bring about war would be to make the ROK an attractive target for a DPRK offensive, there are certainly considerable factors which accord with such a course of action.
To begin with, there are the “failures of deterrence” embodied in US officials’ declarations that they would not intervene militarily if either the ROK or Taiwan were attacked. On 5 January 1950, at a press conference, Truman stated: “The United States has no predatory designs on Formosa, or on any other Chinese territory. The United States has no desire to obtain special rights or privileges, or to establish military bases on Formosa at this time. Nor does it have any intention of utilizing its Armed Forces to interfere in the present situation. The United States Government will not pursue a course which will lead to involvement in the civil conflict in China.”79
On 12 January Dean Acheson gave his speech to the Press Club: “Beyond Japan, the Ryukyus, and the Philippines, the United States could not guarantee areas in the Western Pacific ‘against military attack.’ The people in such areas must rely initially on their own efforts to defend themselves, but then on ‘the United Nations which so far has not proved a weak read to lean on by . . . [those] who are determined to protect their independence against outside aggression.’”80 Mention of the United Nations is interesting because the USSR had a veto over UNSC resolutions and yet, as will be seen, failed to use it under rather strange circumstances, thus allowing the US to intervene directly but under a UN mandate.
As has already been mentioned, in May Senator Tom Connally was even more explicit that “the US would not go to fight for Korea”. Yet the US committed forces to fight in Korea and to intervene to save Taiwan with extreme alacrity. In fact, in Japan the response seems to have started some days before 25 June when “many vehicles were taken out of store facilities and… American military activities increased.”81 After less than 48 hours the US had decided on committing troops. Halliday and Cumings state that the “United Nations was used to ratify American decisions,” quoting an official JCS study: “Having resolved upon armed intervention for itself, the US government the next day sought the approval and the assistance of the United Nations.”82 On 27 June, Truman announced that the US 7th Fleet was in the Taiwan strait.83 On that same day the US began aerial and naval bombardments which included targets above the 38th parallel. On 28 June the 24th US Infantry Division had landed and took command of all ground forces in Korea.84
A threat is when party a informs party b that if b undertakes action set x then a will undertake action set y which will cause a negative impact on b. If a does not actually intend to undertake action set y then this is commonly referred to as a bluff. It is intended to deter b from doing x. If a leads b to believe that it will not undertake y and then does so this, is the opposite of a bluff. In practical terms it is a form of inducement.
Most commentators suggest that probably neither Stalin nor Kim Il Sung took US implications of non-intervention seriously, but it is absolutely clear that if the DPRK had anticipated the actual US reaction that eventuated they would not have ventured in force below the 38th parallel.
There is another manner by which the ROK was made a more tempting target than might have otherwise been the case, and that is the restrictions placed on its military build-up. The ROKA was even more poorly equipped than the KPA on 25 June 1950. The following table is taken from a Russian history of the war:85

TypeofUnit KPAForces

ROKforces

ForceRatio

Battalions

51

39

1.3:1

GunsandMortars

787

699

1.1:1

TanksandSPGuns

185

31

5.9:1

Aircraft

32

25

1.2:1

Ships

19

43

1 : 2.2

(The KPA had 172 combat aircraft, but only 32 trained pilots,86 another factor suggesting a mysteriously premature action on 25 June.)
The failure to provide tanks, aircraft and self-propelled artillery is entirely consistent with deterring any ROK offensives, but the ROKA lacked more defensive armaments also. The most noted factor is the lack of usable anti-tank weapons, something which must assuredly be of more use in deterring KPA offensive action than it would be in facilitating ROKA offensive action.87
There are hints then that the DPRK may have been deceived into thinking that the time was ripe for a push south when in fact this was most advantageous to their enemies.
I have already mentioned the ways in which the USSR, US, GMD (Guomindang) and Rhee regime benefited from an outbreak of war at this time, but it is worth elaborating further on the benefits to the US. To begin with, there is the matter of NSC-68 and the rearmament of the US. The outbreak of the Korean War is held to have been crucial in bringing about the implementation of NSC-68. The importance of this document is amply demonstrated by the fact that its fundamental structuring of the US political economy has lasted now for over 60 years, more than 2 decades longer than the
“Communist threat” it was putatively created to address. Chris Floyd describes it as “the document that more than any other engineered the militarisation of America”.88 David
Fautua writes: “Truman finally approved NSC 68 as a national security policy on 30 September 1950. By 31 May 1951, the military budget swelled to $48,000,000,000,
nearly quadrupling the prewar authorization [of $13.5 billion].”89 Winston Churchill considered that the entire importance of the Korean War was that it led to US
rearmament.90 Not only that, but the outbreak of the Korean War prompted the rearmament of NATO turning it into “an effective alliance”,91 and prompting an increase
of 3 million personnel.92 By 1953 the US had achieved and enormous “strategic asymmetry” in its favour over the Soviet Union to an extent “approaching absolute
strategic dominance”.93

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Nor was it only the Rhee regime that was looking unsustainable on 25 June. Jiang Jieshi’s grip on power had become so tenuous that the US covert officers were themselves planning a coup against him. This, however, was a move of desperation, the GMD were widely considered to be a lost cause.94 The US had led the effort to prevent the PRC from being recognised the legitimate Chinese state in the UN,95 but the sheer ridiculousness of leaving the GMD in place as “China” while the PRC constituted the entire mainland had brought about a tide of international opinion which was getting hard to resist.96 If the PRC gained UN membership there would be absolutely no way that the US could intervene in its civil war without attracting condemnation as an aggressor. It should be noted too that, unlike Korea, Taiwan was considered to have considerable military strategic significance: “’An unsinkable aircraft carrier’ positioned 100 miles off the China coast, as General MacArthur characterized it, Taiwan was regarded by military leaders as more important than South Korea.”97 Of course, it would be inconsistent of me not to point out that such strictly military strategic matters are less significant than broader economic, geographical and demographic strategic concerns of imperial hegemony, but nevertheless this sort of “power projection” asset has a key role such considerations as well as in its own right .
UNSC Resolutions 82 to 85 are all titled “Complaint of aggression upon the Republic of Korea”. UNSCR 82, which was passed on the 25 June no less, “notes with grave concern the armed attack on the Republic of Korea by forces from North Korea” and “determines that this action constitutes a breach of the peace.”98 Two days later UNSCR 83 recommended that “members of the United Nations furnish such assistance to the Republic of Korea as may be necessary to repel the armed attack….”99 UNSCR 84 (7 July) arrogated unified command of UN forces to the US.100 There was no hurry, of course, because no other troops would arrive for a month or so, and at all stages of the war US troop numbers far outnumbered the combined numbers of other UN forces.101 In all practical senses this was a unilateral US intervention, but one occurring under a UN banner, an interesting eventuality when one reflects on Acheson’s words of January the 12th.
In fact the US was only able to obtain such timely UN facilitation due to a couple of rather felicitously timed events. The aforementioned UN report revealing, largely on the say-so of US and ROK personnel, that the ROK was not engaging in offensive actions, had actually been commenced on the 24th and a draft was available by the 26th. Halliday and Cumings summarise the circumstances of the writing process:

UNCOK members woke up in Seoul on Sunday morning to a war, wrote a report based on the limited observations of two people and whatever the Koreans and Americans chose to tell them, and then were in the care of the American military for the next three days. They left all their archives behind in Seoul, making it impossible to verify the information that UNCOK had at its disposal.102

The other fortuitous circumstance is the absence of the USSR from the UNSC. “In mid-January the Soviets walked out of the UN Security Council, allegedly to protest its failure to seat Communist China but probably actually to freeze the Mao regime out of the international organization….”103 Had the USSR been sitting it would have seemed very odd had it not vetoed UNSCRs 82 to 85. As it is, the Soviet ambassador was perfectly capable of attending just the sessions in question to exercise a veto but did not do so on direct instructions from Stalin himself, against objections from Andrei Gromyko.104 Goncharov et al. speculate that allowing UN cover obviated the risk that a subsequent formal declaration of war between the US and China would draw the USSR into World War III due to its treaty obligations.105 The US did not need to start such a war, but whether Stalin feared that they wished to or not, he was once again going above-and-beyond the call of prudent enmity and providing crucial support for the US in its attacks on those who were the Soviet Union’s supposed allies by dint of ideology, and (in this case) formal ties.
The question still remains then, why did the KPA advance south of the 38th in force at a time so propitious to the US, so seemingly crucial to the survival of Rhee and Jiang, so disadvantageous to the PRC, and so premature with regard to its own preparations? The anomaly does not disappear if one assumes that there was in fact an ROKA offensive against Haeju, or anywhere else. It would seem that some unknown factor caused the DPRK to send its forces south. A logical suspicion would be that the DPRK leadership were victims of a ruse, and exploring this option may clarify matters. Imagine, for example, that the USSR had fed false intelligence to the DPRK suggesting that the ROKA was on the verge of mutiny or ready to disintegrate with only the slightest push.
This is almost exactly what the US did with its unruly quasi-client Saddam Hussein when it supplied false intelligence to his regime in 1980, as Barry Lando explains:

To encourage Saddam to attack, the United States passed on intelligence reports exaggerating the political turmoil in Iran. All Saddam had to do was to dispatch his troops across the border and the regime would collapse. According to Howard Teicher, who served on the White House National Security Council, ‘the reports passed on to Baghdad depicted Iran’s military in chaos, riven by purges and lack of replacement parts for its American-made weapons. The inference was that Iran could be speedily overcome.’
‘We were clearly stuffing his head with nonsense, to make conditions look better than they were,’ commented Richard Sale, who covered the intelligence community for United Press International at the time. ‘The information was deliberately fabricated to encourage him to go in.’106

Such a deception would resolve the enigma of the DPRK attack, and an equivalent ruse would not be beyond the capabilities of the US. Another matter that is both suggestive and offers a shard of illumination is the sudden change of plan by the KPA on reaching Seoul. Whatever they had originally planned to do on reaching Seoul, by its fall on the 28th it was apparently obsolete and, as outlined above, a new plan to take the entire peninsula had to be hastily created. This would suggest that whatever misapprehension the DPRK laboured under was belied very rapidly after the 25th. Given what we understand of the DPRK plan it seems to me most likely that it was the sudden intervention of the US which was the unwelcome surprise. The weight of evidence suggests that the DPRK sought to seize the pretext of some ROKA action to launch a quick offensive with the optimal aim of seizing Seoul. This is how Bruce Cumings describes what some documents related to such planning reveal:

Kim Il Sung’s basic conception of a Korean War, originated at least by August 1949: namely, attack the cul de sac of Ongjin (which no sane blitzkreig commander would do precisely because it is a cul de sac), move eastward and grab Kaesong, and then see what happens. At a minimum this would establish a much more secure defense of P’yôngyang, which was quite vulnerable from Ongjin and Kaesong. At maximum, it might open Seoul to his forces. That is, if the southern army collapses, move on to Seoul and occupy it in a few days.107

In other words the plan to attack Ongjin reinforces that fact that this was intended to be a short offensive leading to negotiations from a position of superiority or, at worst, consolidated territorial gains. This would explain why full preparation and mobilisation was considered less important than seizing a pretext. The DPRK, in this case, must have been very confident that the US would not intervene. The ROK, abandoned by the US and riven by internal discontent and political instability, could be forced to negotiate terms which would lead to eventual political union. If negotiations fail to bring this about, or even while they are ongoing, the DPRK would retain its territorial gains and facilitate the relaunch of a revolutionary guerrilla war in the south which would assure eventual victory. Instead, once it was clear that the US was going to bring as much force to bear as it could as quickly as it could, the DPRK had no choice but to commit the KPA to a blitzkrieg assault, a race to the tip of the peninsula before the US could commit enough forces to prevent such a conquest. This would also explain why, following the sudden change of plan, the KPA was forced, despite being well aware of the dangers posed, to stretch its improvised communications and its supply lines in an attempt to decide the issue before it was too late.
This is all somewhat speculative, but bear in mind that it is the only way of resolving the contradictions and anomalies that appear in our current understanding of these events.
The reader may wonder why I have devoted so much effort to exploring the events culminating on 25 June 1950 when I cannot provide absolute answers as to what happened. What the reader is required to understand is that the balance of probability is firmly on the side of US foreknowledge of these events and, indeed, that it acted in some manner to bring them about. There are far too many putatively coincidental circumstances which favoured the US, and they are far too closely timed to avoid serious suspicion. The means, motive and opportunity are there. The surprise evinced by the US is belied by that haste of its commitment of forces and such postures end by looking more like conscious efforts at establishing alibis. Consider this passage from Cumings:

With all this bubbling activity, the last weekend in June 1950 nonetheless dawned on a torpid, somnolent, and very empty Washington. Harry Truman was back home in Independence. Acheson was at his Sandy Spring country farm, Rusk was in New York, Kennan had disappeared to a remote summer cottage without so much as a telephone, Paul Nitze was salmon fishing, the Joint Chiefs of Staff were occupied elsewhere, and even the United Nations representative, Warren Austin, was not at his post.108

Knowing that there is a strong likelihood of a US role in instigating the “Korean War” is
important in what follows.
1 Halliday and Cumings, Korea, p 71.
2 Ibid, p 54.
3 Stueck, The Korean War, p 10.
4 Lowe, The Origins of the Korean War, p 178.
5 Cumings, The Korean War, p 22.
6 William Stueck, for example, is the leading proponent of this view. See: Stueck and Yi, ‘An Alliance Forged in
Blood….’, p 204; Stueck; The Korean War, p 29; Stueck, Rethinking The Korean War, p 78; Stueck, “The United
States and the Origins of the Korean War: The Failure of Deterrence”, in International Journal of Korean Studies,
24:2, Fall 2010, pp 1-18; for others who echo this see Kim, ‘Who Initiated…’, p 42, and below.
7 Robert Jervis, “The Impact of the Korean War on the Cold War”, The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 24:4,
December 1980, p 581.
8 Austin Long, Deterrence: From Cold War to Long War: Lessons from Six decades of Rand Deterrence Research,
Santa Monica, Arlington, Pittsburg: RAND, 2008, p 9.
9 Stueck, “The United States and the Origins of the Korean War…”, pp 1-2 et passim.
10 Kim, ‘Who Initiated…’, pp 42-3.
11 Peter Dale Scott, “9/11, Deep State Violence and the Hope of Internet Politics”, Global Research, 22 June 2008.
Retrieved 25 June 2008 from http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9289.
12 Burton I. Kaufman, “Review: Decision-Making and the Korean War”, in Reviews in American History, 20:4,
December 1992, p 564.
13 Young, “Sights of and Unseen War”, p 500.
14 Sergei Goncharov, Lewis, and Xue Litai, Uncertain Partners: Stalin, Mao, and the Korean War, Stanford: Stanford
University Press, 1993.
15 Ibid, p 137.
16 Ibid, p 270.
17 Ibid, p 159.
18 Ibid, p 334, n 140.
19 Kim, ‘Who Initiated…’, p 39.
20 Ibid, p 40.
21 Stueck, The Korean War, p 30.
22 Kim, ‘Who Initiated…’, p 42.
23 Quoted in Appendix to S. Brian Willson, “Korea, Like Viet Nam: A War Originated and Maintained by Deceit”, 1
December 1999. Retrieved 3 November 2011 from http://www.brianwillson.com/korea-like-Viet Nam-a-waroriginated-
and-maintained-by-deceit/.
24 Ibid, p 41.
25 Cumings, The Korean War, p 144.
26 Goncharov et al., Uncertain Partners, p 147.
27 Ibid, p 144.
28 Ibid, p 150.
29 Ibid, pp 132-3 et passim.
30 Ibid, p 131.
31 Kathryn Weathersby, “Soviet Aims in Korea and the Origins of the Korean War, 1945-50: New Evidence
From Russian Archives”, Cold War International History Project, Working Paper No. 8, p 7.
32 Ibid, p 36.
33 Ibid, p 27.
34 Goncharov et al., Uncertain Partners, p 154.
35 Ibid, p 147.
36 Kim, ‘Who Initiated…’, p 35.
37 Stueck, The Korean War, p 75.
38 Anthony Farrar-Hockley, “The China Factor in the Korean War”, in James Cotton and Ian Neary (eds), The Korean
War in History, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1989, p 5.
39 Goncharov et al., Uncertain Partners, p 152.
40 Ibid, p 153.
41 Farrar-Hockley, “The China Factor”, p 5.
42 Stueck, The Korean War, p 36.
43Weathersby, “Soviet Aims in Korea….”, p 35.
44 Kim, ‘Who Initiated…’, p 35.
45 Ibid, pp 37-8.
46 Ibid, p 38.
47 Goncharov et al., Uncertain Partners, p 144.
48 Ibid, p 138.
49 Lowe, The Origins of the Korean War, p 12.
50 Ibid, p 58.
51 Halliday and Cumings, Korea, p 50.
52 Mao can be used as an authority on the ‘gradual’ nature of the process in which critical developments are said to
occur ‘eventually’ (Mao Tse-tung, Guerrilla Warfare, (Brigadier General Samuel B. Griffith, trans) Fleet Marine
Force Reference Publication (FMFRP) 12-18, Washington D.C.: United States Marine Corps, Department of the
Navy, 1989, passim).
53 Kim, ‘Who Initiated…’, p 37.
54 Goncharov et al., Uncertain Partners, p 136.
55 Stueck, The Korean War, p 31.
56 Kim, ‘Who Initiated…’, p 36.
57 Goncharov et al., Uncertain Partners, p 155.
58 Kim, ‘Who Initiated…’, p 38.
59Goncharov et al., Uncertain Partners, p 155.
60 Kim, ‘Who Initiated…’, p 38.
61 Halliday and Cumings, Korea, p 71.
62 Ibid.
63 Blum, Killing Hope, p 46.
64 Korea, p 71.
65 Blum, Killing Hope, p 46.
66 Korea, p 73.
67 Ibid, p 76.
68 KMT, deriving from Kuomintang, is an alternative acronym to GMD, which derives from the differing
transliteration Guomindang.
69 Scott, “9/11 and Deep State Politics….”
70 Halliday and Cumings, Korea, pp 76-7.
71 Ibid, p 66.
72 Lowe, The Origins of the Korean War, p 174.
73 Ibid, p 183.
74 Kim, ‘Who Initiated…’, p 49, n 57.
75 Quoted in S. Brian Willson, “Korea, Like Viet Nam: A War Originated and Maintained by Deceit”.
76 Kim, ‘Who Initiated…’, p 43.
77 FRUS (1950) Vol. 7, pp 107-8.
78 Ibid, p 186.
79 Harry S. Truman, The President’s News Conference, 5 January 1950. Retrieved 6 November 2011 from
http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=13678#ixzz1csnKlJI8.
80 Stueck, The Korean War, p 30.
81 Drifte, “Japan’s Involvement in the Korean War”, p 121.
82 Halliday and Cumings, Korea, pp 74-5.
83 Farrar-Hockley, “The China Factor…”, p 6.
84 I. V. Petrova, The War in Korea 1950-1953, Saint Petersburg: Izdatel’stvo Poligon, 2000, p 65.
85 Ibid, p 59.
86 Ibid.
87 See for example Bong Lee, The Unfinished War: Korea, New York: Algora, 2003, p 67; Norman Friedman, The
Fifty-Year War: Conflict and Strategy in the Cold War, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2000, p 152; Gordon
Tullock, Open Secrets of American Foreign Policy, Singapore: World Scientific, 2007, p 30.
88 Floyd, “The Slander that Launched….”
89 David T. Fautua, “The ‘Long Pull’ Army: NSC-68, the Korean War, and the Creation of the Cold War U.S. Army,”
Journal of Military History, Vol. 61, no. 1 (January 1997).
90 M. L. Dockrill, “The Foreign Office, Anglo-American Relations and the Korean Truce Negotiations July 1951 –
July 1953”, in James Cotton and Ian Neary (eds), The Korean War in History, Manchester: Manchester University
Press, 1989, p 114.
91 Jeremy Black, War Since 1945, London: Reaktion Books, 2004, p 32.
92 Stueck, The Korean War, p 5.
93 Porter, Perils of Dominance, p 5.
94 Halliday and Cumings, Korea, p 67.
95 Stueck, The Korean War, p 45.
96 Kim, “Who Initiated…’, p 34.
97 Stueck, “The United States and the Origins…”, p 9.
98 UNSCR 82: Complaint of aggression upon the Republic of Korea, 25 June 1950. Retrieved 3 November 2011 from
http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/NR0/064/95/IMG/NR006495.pdf?OpenElement.
99 UNSCR 83: Complaint of aggression upon the Republic of Korea, 27 June 1950. Retrieved 3 November 2011 from
http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/NR0/064/95/IMG/NR006495.pdf?OpenElement.
100UNSCR 84: Complaint of aggression upon the Republic of Korea, 7 July 1950. Retrieved 3 November 2011 from
http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/RESOLUTION/GEN/NR0/064/97/IMG/NR006497.pdf?OpenElement.
101Malkasian, The Korean War, p 17.
102Halliday and Cumings, Korea, p 76.
103Stueck, The Korean War, pp 34-5.
104Goncharov et al., Uncertain Partners, p 161.
105Ibid, pp 161-2.
106Lando, Web of Deceit, pp 52-3.
107Bruce Cumings, “Cumings and Weatherby – An Exchange”, Cold War International History Bulletin, 6/7, 7 July
2011, p 121.
108Cumings, Korea’s Place in the Sun, p 260.

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?

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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.

15qKu1rvr6cco1_500

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.”

16Britishempire

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.

11petrodollar-system-101

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.

Media Lens Alert – ‘Flatten All Of Gaza’ – The ‘Benghazi Moment’ That Didn’t Matter

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The short film exposes the structure which perpetuates pro-Israel media bias in the US and then contrasts it with a more balanced reporting – ironically from the BBC which is facing serious criticism for its pro-Israel bias.

Below is a Media Lens alert. For those unfamiliar with Media Lens they, in their own words, “check the media’s version of events against credible facts and opinion provided by journalists, academics and specialist researchers. We then publish both versions, together with our commentary, in free Media Alerts and invite readers to deliver their verdict both to us and to mainstream journalists through the email addresses provided in our ’Suggested Action’ at the end of each alert. We urge correspondents to adopt a polite, rational and respectful tone at all times – we strongly oppose all abuse and personal attack.”

Media Lens are at their best when they are exposing war propaganda and in this alert they deal with an individual whom I find particularly alarming – Dr Juan Cole. I don’t know what sort of person Dr Cole is, although I could proabably hazard a few guesses as to how he comes to be the way he is. What I can say is that at crucial times he does the US government an immense service by selling war to those most likely to vociferously and actively oppose war. To prove the point I have appended clips of his debate with Vijay Prashad on Democracy Now! His efficacy as a war propagandist, even on an avowedly antiwar news outlet, is quite something to behold.

‘Flatten All Of Gaza’ – The ‘Benghazi Moment’ That Didn’t Matter

November 27, 2012 By: David Edwards

On March 30, 2011 – eleven days into Nato’s war on Libya – Professor Juan Cole wrote from his armchair at the University of Michigan:

‘The Libya intervention is legal [sic] and was necessary to prevent further massacres… and if it succeeds in getting rid of Qaddafi’s murderous regime and allowing Libyans to have a normal life, it will be worth the sacrifices in life and treasure. If NATO needs me, I’m there.’

Cole thus declared himself ready to suit up and reach for the sky with Nato’s bombers. It was an extraordinary moment.

The rationale, of course, was the alleged risk of a massacre in Benghazi by Gaddafi’s forces. Cole told Democracy Now!:

‘They mounted tanks, 30, 40, 50 tanks, sent them into the downtowns of places like Zawiyah, and they just shelled civilian crowds, protesters… And then they started rolling the tanks to the east, and they were on the verge of taking the rebel stronghold, Benghazi. And there certainly would have been a massacre there in the same way that there was in Zawiyah, if it hadn’t been stopped at the last moment by United Nations allies.’

This was mostly a product of the fevered atmosphere generated every time state-corporate propaganda targets a ‘New Hitler’ for destruction (Gaddafi, Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Assad, et al). Two or three weeks of sustained moral outrage from Washington, London and Paris, echoed across the media, are more than sufficient to generate the required hysteria. Almost anything can then be claimed, with even rational questioning denounced as ‘apologetics for tyranny’. In The Politics of Genocide, Edward Herman and David Peterson wrote:

‘The vulgar politicisation of the concept of genocide, and the “emerging international norm” of humanitarian intervention, appear to be products of the fading of the Cold War, which removed the standard pretexts for intervention while leaving intact the institutional and ideological framework for its regular practice during those years.’ (Herman and Peterson, The Politics of Genocide, Monthly Review Press, 2010, pp.10-11)

With mainstream political parties no longer exercising restraint on the war wagon, the need to ‘do something’ can be turned on and off like a tap.

By way of a rare exception, Seumas Milne noted in the Guardian of Gaddafi that ‘there is in fact no evidence – including from other rebel-held towns Gaddafi re-captured – to suggest he had either the capability or even the intention to carry out such an atrocity against an armed city of 700,000’.

But most of the press was untroubled by a lack of evidence – the West was simply right to act. A leader in The Times commented on October 21, 2011:

‘Without this early, though sensibly limited, intervention, there would have been a massacre in Benghazi on the scale of Srebrenica.’ (Leading article, ‘Death of a Dictator,’ The Times)

An Independent editorial agreed:

‘Concern was real enough that a Srebrenica-style massacre could unfold in Benghazi, and the UK Government was right to insist that we would not allow this.’ (Leading article, ‘The mission that crept,’ Independent, July 29, 2011)

‘We Must Blow Gaza Back To The Middle Ages’

With the above in mind, consider that, on November 16, on the third day of Israel’s latest assault on Gaza, with at least 18 Palestinians already killed, the BBC reported:

‘Israel’s aerial bombardment of Gaza has intensified after it authorised the call-up of 30,000 army reservists, amid reports of a possible ground offensive.’

Israel’s cabinet quickly approved the activation of 75,000 reservists, as well as hundreds of Merkava main battle tanks, armoured bulldozers and other assault vehicles, which were transported into position for attack.

Was a massacre looming? The Israeli deputy prime minister Eli Yishai appeared to promise as much on November 18:

‘We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water.’

A prominent front-page article in the Jerusalem Post by Gilad Sharon, son of the former Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, openly advocated mass killing:

‘We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.

‘There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing. Then they’d really call for a ceasefire.’

Was the call to ‘Flatten all of Gaza’ beyond the pale of respectable discourse? Apparently not for the BBC, which quoted a less frenzied comment by Sharon three days later.

Recall the human cost of Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s three-week offensive waged between December 2008 and January 2009. The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem reported:

‘The magnitude of the harm to the population was unprecedented: 1,385 Palestinians were killed, 762 of whom did not take part in the hostilities. Of these, 318 were minors under age 18. More than 5,300 Palestinians were wounded, of them over 350 seriously so.’

There is no question, then, that a ‘Benghazi moment’ had arrived for Gaza around November 16 or shortly thereafter. A Cast Lead-style massacre of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of civilians was a very real possibility. If Hamas rockets had killed more civilians, for example in Tel Aviv, it might well have happened.

Whereas Benghazi was being torn apart by a Western-fuelled insurgency, Gaza is under decades of military occupation and years of siege, greatly strengthening the moral case for external intervention. Escape from a ground assault would have been completely impossible for Gaza’s 1.6 million people, about half of them children. And whereas Benghazi was up against Gaddafi’s tin pot army, Gaza was targeted by the most advanced weaponry US taxpayers’ money can buy. Gaza, certainly, was facing a cataclysm beyond anything Gaddafi could have inflicted on his own people.

By any reasonable accounting, then, the case for a no-fly zone, indeed a no-drive zone – some kind of humanitarian intervention – was far more compelling for Gaza than it had ever been for Libya. And yet our search of the Lexis media database found no mention in any UK newspaper of even the possibility of setting up a no-fly zone over Gaza. There was no reference to Gaza’s ‘Benghazi moment’.

By contrast, many ‘Benghazi moments’ have been identified in Syria. A leader in the Independent commented in July:

‘It was the imminent threat to civilians in Libya’s second city, Benghazi, that clinched the argument at the UN for outside intervention. But with multiplying reports that the fight is on for Syria’s second city, Aleppo, the signs are that even government air strikes will not spur a similar Western and Arab alliance into action. Morally, that has to be deplored.’

We saw no commentary suggesting that Western military action might have been justified to prevent a massacre of civilians in Gaza.

Moral ME – The Armchair Warriors Doze Off

In 1999, David Aaronovitch (then of the Independent) made an announcement on Nato’s war to ‘defend’ Kosovo that equally stunned and inspired readers (Juan Cole among them, perhaps):

‘What would I myself be prepared to sacrifice in order to stop the massacres and to strike an immense blow against the politics of racial and ethnic nationalism? Would I fight, or (more realistically) would I countenance the possibility that members of my family might die?’

His answer:

‘I think so… So yes, for this cause, if the government asked me to, I’d do what was necessary without complaining a lot.’ (Aaronovitch, ‘My country needs me,’ The Independent, April 6, 1999)

Presumably, with Gaza facing another massacre this month, Aaronovitch must again have been eager to swap his armchair for a cockpit to ‘strike an immense blow’ against racial and ethnic nationalism. Not quite:

‘Thinking about how to write about Gaza without just repeating laments of last decade. Sometimes seems little that is both true and useful to say.’

No fighting to be done, it seems, and not even much to be said – it was just all very sad. As Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky commented in Manufacturing Consent of a similar case:

‘While the coverage of the worthy victim was generous with gory details and quoted expressions of outrage and demands for justice, the coverage of the unworthy victims was low-keyed, designed to keep the lid on emotions and evoking regretful and philosophical generalities on the omnipresence of violence and the inherent tragedy of human life.’ (Herman and Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent, Pantheon Books, 1988, p.39)

Leading Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland also shook his head sadly and wondered whether Israelis and Palestinians would be ‘locked in a battle that drags on and on, perhaps till the end of time?’ Freedland focused on ‘the weariness’: ‘I feel it myself, a deep fatigue with this struggle, with the actions of both sides’. ‘So yes, I’m weary’, ‘weary of it’, ‘I’m tired’, ‘I’m tired’, ‘I’m tired’, ‘I’m weary’, ‘And I’m especially tired’, ‘I feel no less exhausted. For I’m weary’, ‘I’m tired, too’, ‘And I’m weary’, ‘this wearying’… and so on.

Prior to the onset of this moral ME, Freedland had been the very picture of interventionist vim and vigour. In March 2011, he wrote an energetic piece on Libya titled, ‘Though the risks are very real, the case for intervention remains strong.’ A key obstacle was that ‘Iraq poisoned the notion of “liberal interventionism” for a generation’. No matter:

‘If those nations with the power to stop these pre-announced killings had stood aside, they would have been morally culpable. Benghazi was set to become another Srebrenica – and those that did nothing would share the same shame.’

Last February, ignoring the chaos he had helped make possible in Libya, Freedland wheeled out the same arguments in response to the Syrian crisis. The article featured a picture of Syrian children holding up a cartoon of a green-headed Assad pointing a Kalashnikov at the head of a little girl holding an olive branch. Freedland wrote:

‘The 2003 invasion of Iraq has tainted for a generation the idea once known as “liberal interventionism”.’

He added: ‘We have new problems now. Fail to see that and we make the people of Homs pay the price for the mistake we made in Baghdad.’

And Tripoli! Freedland had clearly not wearied of the price paid by the victims of ‘liberal interventionism’ in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

‘Terror Attack’ In Tel Aviv

One week into Israel’s Operation Pillar of Cloud, on a day when 13 Palestinians were killed – with more than 136 people in Gaza killed by that point in 1,500 attacks since the operation began on November 14 – 28 people were injured in a Tel Aviv bomb attack. ITV News’s international editor Bill Neely commented: ‘Tel Aviv bus bomb is first terror attack there in 6 years.’ And: ‘Israeli Police confirm terror attack.’

We wrote to Neely: ‘Bill, are the attacks on Gaza “terror attacks”? Have you described them as such?’

Neely replied: ‘Media Lens; Love what U try 2 do – keep us all honest – but pedantry & refusing 2 C balance hs always bn ure weakness.’

Neely wrote again to us and another tweeter: ‘U & Media Lens R absolutely right. Language is v. important. But a bomb on a bus, like a missile, is terror weapon.’

Neely clearly agreed that missiles were also weapons of terror. So we asked him: ‘Bill, agreed. Given that’s the case have you ever referred to Israel’s “terror attacks” in a TV news report?’

Neely responded: ‘Just to be clear, do you think British bombs on Afghanistan are terrorism? Or on Berlin in 44?’

We answered: ‘Very obviously. Winston Churchill thought so, too.’

We sent a comment written by Churchill to Arthur Harris, Commander-in-Chief of RAF’s Bomber Command in 1945:

‘It seems to me that the moment has come that the bombing of German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretexts, should be reviewed.’ (Blitz, Bombing and Total War, Channel 4, January 15, 2005)

Neely wrote back: ‘States use terror – the UK has in war, but groups do 2 & we shd say so.’

We tried again: ‘Bill, you’re not answering. You’ve described Hamas attacks as “terror” on TV. How about Israeli, US, UK attacks?’

Neely simply wouldn’t answer our question. But how could he? The truth, of course, is that ITV would never refer to these as ‘terror attacks’. Words like ‘terror’, ‘terrorism’, ‘militant’, ‘regime’, ‘secretive’, ‘hermit’ and ‘controversial’ are used to describe the governments of official enemies, not our own government and its leading allies.

‘Is This What They Mean By The Cycle Of Violence?’

The November 21 bus bombing, injuring 28 Israelis (initially reported as ten injured), was a far bigger story for the media than the killing of 13 people in Gaza that day. The bias was reflected in the tone of coverage. The BBC reported ‘Horror in Israel’ whereas they had earlier referred to a ‘difficult night for people in Gaza’ after 450 targets had been struck with scores of people killed.

Ordinarily, the BBC loves to compare the line-up of hardware available to combatants, for example here and here. But during Operation Pillar of Cloud, the broadcaster was far more interested in comparing the ranges of Hamas’ home-made rockets. In this deceptive example of BBC ‘balance’ two maps show ‘Areas hit in Gaza by Israel’ and ‘Areas hit in Israel and the West Bank by Gaza militants’ (only the Palestinians are ‘militants’). The impression given is of two roughly equal threats.

The BBC graphic also shows the exact ‘Range of Hamas rockets.’ But there was no graphic of this kind comparing Palestinian and Israeli firepower. Perhaps the juxtaposition of home-made weapons and a long list of very powerful high-tech weapons would have been too absurd, even embarrassing.

The final death toll of the latest massacre is horrifying: 103 of the 158 people killed in Gaza were civilians. Of these, 30 were children – twelve of them under ten-years-old. More than 1,000 Palestinians were injured. Six Israelis were killed, two of them soldiers. This infographic provides a shocking comparison of numbers killed on both sides since 2000. And this excellent little animation asks: ‘Is this what they mean by the cycle of violence?’

Inevitably, president Obama said: ‘we will continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself’.

Noam Chomsky has been a rare voice making the counter-argument:

‘You can’t defend yourself when you’re militarily occupying someone else’s land. That’s not defense. Call it what you like, it’s not defense.’

Obama also said: ‘There is no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.’

Try telling that to the many bereaved in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. Irony is dead, it seems – killed by drone-fire!

Suggested Action

The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone. Write to:

Jonathan Freedland at the Guardian

Email: jonathan.freedland@guardian.co.uk

Twitter: @j_freedland

Email us: editor@medialens.org

First Lecture

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So anyway, some time ago I recorded a first bumper sized audioblog/podcast/lecture thingy. I used Audacity, a free open-source audio editor. This was the first time I’d used the software, my net previous experience being a little bit of mucking around with SoundForge about 15 years ago. I recorded the lecture. It took quite a while, but I only got it into a fairly raw form. I planned to do more, but I kept having technical difficulties. Nearly 90 minutes of multi-track high bit-rate audio turned out to be a bit much for my poor wee laptop to handle. A month later I was just about to trash the whole thing, and maybe start again another time. Then I thought, bugger it, I’ve done this much, I might as well put it out there so here it is.

Yes, it is imperfect. No, I am not a fluent or eloquent lecturer, but I hope to improve. Yes, it may be difficult to understand what I’m getting at, however I’m not sure that that is even a flaw. If it was simple to follow what I was saying it would indicate that my words are already familiar in some sense, and that I was conveying nothing truly unknown to the listener. This is a long lecture, full of all sorts of stuff that may be interesting or moving. My ultimate intent is to convey an analytical idiom which will render transparent the strategies behind the most fateful and monstrous acts of our time, but it is enough at this point to understand the context of suffering, of duplicity, of callousness, of humanity, and that thing which ironically we refer to as ‘inhumanity’.

BEFORE YOU START

As yet, I don’t have a projected structure for a lecture series, however I do want these ‘podcasts’, or whatever, to have a lecturish feel and to be a way of moving towards a structured series with a central thesis. To this end I have decided to have a ‘set text’ for each lecture. I am not, of course, suggesting that you should ‘read’ a text, canonical or otherwise, and then I will explain how you should interpret it. Rather, I think that having a text which is ‘read’ in advance of a lecture immediately activates the engagement of the listener. You can’t ‘read’ a text without some implicit analysis. One makes judgements on meaning and significance. If the text is relevant to the lecture, then you enter into a heightened level of engagement wherein the lecturer’s contentions are not merely passively accepted or rejected but become subjected to the faceted multivalent impressionistic judgements which our brains are so good at, and which partially compensate the limits of language.

The text, a moving speech by S. Brian Willson, is one I chose to set a tone. It is the first 15 minutes that concern this lecture most of all – an eyewitness account of the just how bad US actions in South Vietnam could be; the consequences and the callous cruelty that lay behind them. I feel I must emphasis that there is no violent obsenity that Westerners are somehow unable or even less likely to do than other peoples. Again and again I come across instances where those who witness Western brutality, even first-hand, still must construct in their minds some sense in which the brutality is essentially un-Western. Yes we are civilised, but civilised people are just as capable of dashing a baby’s brains out against a wall as barbarians are – you may not believe that at this point, but it is true. In Vietnam a veteran of the Korean War told Philip Caputo: ‘I saw men sight their rifles in by shooting at Korean farmers. Before you leave here, sir, you’re going to learn that one of the most brutal things in the world is your average nineteen-year-old American boy.’i It is impossible to proceed properly while clinging on to old delusions. Even our treasured ‘liberal values’, on proper examination, incorporate: advocacy of mass murder; authoritarianism [yes I do mean that there is a ‘liberal authoritarianism’]; racial and ethnic hatred; and rabid fanaticism.

THE SET TEXT:  Brian Willson’s speech

THE LECTURE ITSELF: Soundcloud or A-Infos Radio Project

In this lecture I introduce mself and introduce the thesis that major US interventions in Korea, Indochina and Iraq are best considered as genocide. Leaving aside, for this lecture, a precise (or even imprecise) definition of genocide, I use, as an expedience, the deliberate systematic mass killing of civilians as being consonant with the concept of genocide. I discuss the systematic mass-killing of civilians by the US in the Phillippines; Korea; Indochina; and, perhaps most surprisingly to some, in the latter stages of World War II.

Other Links:

Brian Willson’s webpage.

Brian Willson’s autobiography: Blood on the Tracks.

Mountaineater (opening music): Soundcloud;  Facebook; MySpace.  “If you thought HDU were capable of wreaking sonic destruction, this trio will leave you gasping” Real Groove

David Rovics (“Who Would Jesus Bomb”): davidrovics.com; lastFM; MySpace; Soundcloud. “If the great Phil Ochs were to rise from the dead today, he would probably be hailed as the new David Rovics.” Andy Kershaw, BBC; “David Rovics is the musical version of Democracy Now!” Amy Goodman, Pacifica.

FEEDBACK RULES

I welcome feedback. I need feedback. But allow me to clear on thing up right now:

characterising US interventions as genocide is not a political stance and is not something I just made up on a whim.

Yes, I do have political leanings and they do influence my judgement, and I would be grateful to anyone who indicated to me any instance where my political or moral stance had caused partiality in intellectual judgement by, for instance, not giving enough credence or weight to claims made by those whose politics I dislike. Politically, morally and ethically I am opposed to imperialism and military aggression and that interest was what led me first to employ genocide as an analytical characterisation (as is explained in the introductory lecture). If, however, I was writing or speaking purely in the interests of my political beliefs I would address all sorts of things, but probably just avoid the issue of genocide the way most anti-imperialists do.

I apply the term genocide because it is the appropriate term… the appropriate term… for US interventions in Korea, Iraq, and Indochina (no doubt there are other instances, such as Afghanistan, but I cannot comment with authority). If you want to disagree you had better be prepared with a knowledge of the nature of those interventions, a knowledge of the concept of genocide, and a knowledge of other instances of genocide. If you are going to deny US genocides please do not do so in exactly the same terms which others use to deny the Holocaust or other genocides. Likewise, even if you have a PhD, even if you have tenure, do not assume that you have superior knowledge on a subject you have never studied. I realise that in some people’s worldview I must be wrong a priori because my claim is so wildly opposed to the broad accepted consensus view among the intellectual classes. It is a point which makes me somewhat bitter so I will simply confine myself to stating that a trust in orthodoxy is what transforms some of the most potentially useful and incisive intellects into the greatest pack of useless idiots on the face of the planet.

iPhilip Caputo, A Rumour of War, London: Arrow, 1978, p 137.