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Police Crackdowns on OWS Coordinated among Mayors, FBI, DHS November 16, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Occupy Wall Street Movement.
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Roger’s note: Crackdowns?  Police repression?  We ain’t seen nothing yet.

Published on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 by Juan Cole

  by  Juan Cole

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan let slip in an interview with the BBC that she had been on a conference call with the mayors of 18 cities about how to deal with the Occupy Wall Street movement. That is, municipal authorities appear to have been conspiring to deprive Americans of their first amendment rights to freedom of assembly and freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances.


Likewise, A Homeland Security official let it slip in a phone interview that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security had been strategizing with cities on how to shut down OWS protests. The FBI is said to have advised using zoning ordinances and curfew regulations, and to stage the crackdown with massive police force at a time when the press was not around to cover the crackdown.

Wonkette suggests that the PATRIOT Act is implicated here, but I’m not sure how that works. Actually the techniques discussed are standard for US police forces in dealing with peaceful protests (the only routine technique missing is that of putting saboteurs among the protesters who cause destruction and create an image of them as violent.

What these two reports show is a high-level conspiracy to deprive Americans of their constitutional right to protest peacefully.

When will we see Occupy Wall Street protesters hooded, dressed in orange jump suits, and sent to Guantanamo for military trials? When you let the government act without regard for the rule of law toward foreigners suspected of terrorism, you open yourself to be treated the same way if the rich decide to sic their police on you (it is mostly their police). This is why a rule of law has to be maintained. Anything less ratchets toward tyranny.

© 2011 Juan Cole



Juan Cole

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His latest book, Engaging the Muslim World, is just out in a revised paperback edition from Palgrave Macmillan. He is also the author of Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). He has appeared widely on television, radio and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. His weblog on the contemporary Middle East is Informed Comment.

The Great Pakistani Deluge Never Happened September 9, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Pakistan.
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Thursday 09 September 2010

by: Juan Cole  |  TomDispatch | Op-Ed

The Great Deluge in Pakistan passed almost unnoticed in the United States despite President Obama’s repeated assertions that the country is central to American security. Now, with new evacuations and flooding afflicting Sindh Province and the long-term crisis only beginning in Pakistan, it has washed almost completely off American television and out of popular consciousness.

Don’t think we haven’t been here before. In the late 1990s, the American mass media could seldom be bothered to report on the growing threat of al-Qaeda. In 2002, it slavishly parroted White House propaganda about Iraq, helping prepare the way for a senseless war. No one yet knows just what kind of long-term instability the Pakistani floods are likely to create, but count on one thing: the implications for the United States are likely to be significant and by the time anyone here pays much attention, it will already be too late.

Few Americans were shown — by the media conglomerates of their choice — the heartbreaking scenes of eight million Pakistanis displaced into tent cities, of the submerging of a string of mid-sized cities (each nearly the size of New Orleans), of vast areas of crops ruined, of infrastructure swept away, damaged, or devastated at an almost unimaginable level, of futures destroyed, and opportunistic Taliban bombings continuing. The boiling disgust of the Pakistani public with the incompetence, insouciance, and cupidity of their corrupt ruling class is little appreciated.

The likely tie-in of these floods (of a sort no one in Pakistan had ever experienced) with global warming was seldom mentioned. Unlike, say, BBC Radio, corporate television did not tell the small stories — of, for instance, the female sharecropper who typically has no rights to the now-flooded land on which she grew now-ruined crops thanks to a loan from an estate-owner, and who is now penniless, deeply in debt, and perhaps permanently excluded from the land. That one of the biggest stories of the past decade could have been mostly blown off by television news and studiously ignored by the American public is a further demonstration that there is something profoundly wrong with corporate news-for-profit. (The print press was better at covering with the crisis, as was publically-supported radio, including the BBC and National Public Radio.)

In his speech on the withdrawal of designated combat units from Iraq last week, Barack Obama put Pakistan front and center in American security doctrine, “But we must never lose sight of what’s at stake. As we speak, al-Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Even if Pakistan were not a major non-NATO ally of the United States, it is the world’s sixth most populous country and the 44th largest economy, according to the World Bank. The flooding witnessed in the Indus Valley is unprecedented in the country’s modern history and was caused by a combination of increasingly warm ocean water and a mysterious blockage of the jet stream, which drew warm, water-laden air north to Pakistan, over which it burst in sheets of raging liquid. If the floods that followed prove a harbinger of things to come, then they are a milestone in our experience of global warming, a big story in its own right.

News junkies who watch a lot of television broadcasts could not help but notice with puzzlement that as the cosmic catastrophe unfolded in Pakistan, it was nearly invisible on American networks. I did a LexisNexis search for the terms “Pakistan” and “flood” in broadcast transcripts (covering mostly American networks) from July 31st to September 4th, and it returned only about 1,100 hits. A search for the name of troubled actress Lindsay Lohan returned 653 search results in the same period and one for “Iraq,” more than 3,000 hits (the most the search engine will count). A search for “mosque” and “New York” yielded 1,300 hits. Put another way, the American media, whipped into an artificial frenzy by anti-Muslim bigots like New York gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio and GOP hatemonger Newt Gingrich, were far more interested in the possible construction of a Muslim-owned interfaith community center two long blocks from the old World Trade Center site than in the sight of millions of hapless Pakistani flood victims.

Of course, some television correspondents did good work trying to cover the calamity, including CNN’s Reza Sayah and Sanjay Gupta, but they generally got limited air time and poor time slots. (Gupta’s special report on the Pakistan floods aired the evening of September 5th, the Sunday before Labor Day, not exactly a time when most viewers might be expected to watch hard news.) As for the global warming angle, it was not completely ignored. On August 13th, reporter Dan Harris interviewed NASA scientist Gavin Schmidt on ABC’s “Good Morning America” show at 7:45 am. The subject was whether global warming could be the likely cause for the Pakistan floods and other extreme weather events of the summer, with Schmidt pointing out that such weather-driven cataclysms are going to become more common later in the twenty-first century. Becky Anderson at CNN did a similar segment at 4 pm on August 16th. My own search of news transcripts suggests that that was about it for commercial television.

The “Worst Disaster” TV Didn’t Cover

It’s worth reviewing the events that most Americans hardly know happened:

The deluge began on July 31st, when heavier than usual monsoon rains caused mudslides in the northwest of Pakistan. Within two days, the rapidly rising waters had already killed 800 people. On August 2nd, the United Nations announced that about a million people had been driven from their homes. Among the affected areas was the Swat Valley, already suffering from large numbers of refugees and significant damage from an army offensive against the Pakistani Taliban in the spring-summer of 2009. In the district of Dera Ismail Khan alone, hundreds of villages were destroyed by the floods, forcing shelterless villagers to sleep on nearby raised highways.

The suddenly homeless waited in vain for the government to begin to deliver aid, as public criticism of President Asaf Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani surged. President Zardari’s opulent trip to France and Britain (during which he visited his chateau in Normandy) at this moment of national crisis was pilloried. On August 8th in Birmingham, England, a furious Pakistani-British man threw both his shoes at him, repeating a famously humiliating incident in which an Iraqi journalist threw a shoe at President George W. Bush. Fearing the response in Pakistan, the president’s Pakistan People’s Party attempted to censor the video of the incident, and media offices in that country were closed down or sometimes violently attacked if they insisted on covering it. Few or no American broadcast outlets appear to have so much as mentioned the incident, though it pointed to the increasing dissatisfaction of Pakistanis with their elected government. (The army has gotten better marks for its efficient aid work, raising fears that some ambitious officers could try to parlay a newfound popularity into yet another in the country’s history of military coups.)

By August 5th, the floods had taken an estimated 1,600 lives, though some aid officials complained (and would continue to do so) that the death toll was far larger than reported. Unlike the Haitian earthquake or the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, this still building and far more expansive disaster was initially greeted by the world community with a yawn. The following day, the government evacuated another half-million people as the waters headed toward southern Punjab. At that point, some 12 million Pakistanis had been adversely affected in some way. On August 7th, as the waters advanced on the southernmost province, Sindh, through some of the country’s richest farmlands just before harvest time, another million people were evacuated. Prime Minister Gilani finally paid his first visit to some of the flood-stricken regions.

By August 9th, nearly 14 million people had been affected by the deluge, the likes of which had never been experienced in the region in modern history, and at least 20% of the country was under water. At that point, in terms of its human impact, the catastrophe had already outstripped both the 2004 tsunami and the 2010 Haiti earthquake. On August 10th, the United Nations announced that six million Pakistanis needed immediate humanitarian aid just to stay alive.

On August 14th, another half-million people were evacuated from the Sindhi city of Jacobabad. By now, conspiracy theories were swirling inside Pakistan about landlords who had deliberately cut levees to force the waters away from their estates and into peasant villages, or about the possibility that the U.S. military had diverted the waters from its base at Jacobabad. It was announced that 18 million Pakistanis had now been adversely affected by the floods, having been displaced, cut off from help by the waters, or having lost crops, farms, and other property. The next day, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, surveying the damage, pronounced it was “the worst disaster” he had ever seen.

The following week a second crest of river water hit Sindh Province. On August 30th, it submerged the city of Sujawal (population 250,000). The next day, however, there were a mere 16 mentions of Pakistan on all American television news broadcasts, mostly on CNN. On Labor Day weekend, another major dam began to fail in Sindh and, by September 6th, several hundred thousand more people had to flee from Dadu district, with all but four districts in that rich agricultural province having seen at least some flooding.

Today, almost six million Pakistanis are still homeless, and many have not so much as received tents for shelter. In large swaths of the country, roads, bridges, crops, power plants — everything that matters to the economy — were inundated and damaged or simply swept away. Even if the money proves to be available for repairs (and that remains an open question), it will take years to rebuild what was lost and, for many among those millions, the future will mean nothing but immiseration, illness, and death.

Why the Floods Weren’t News

In the United States, the contrast with the wall-to-wall cable news coverage of the Haitian earthquake in January and the consequent outpouring of public donations was palpable. Not only has the United Nations’ plea for $460 million in aid to cover the first three months of flood response still not been met, but in the past week donations seem to have dried up. The U.S. government pledged $200 million (some diverted from an already planned aid program for Pakistan) and provided helicopter gunships to rescue cut-off refugees or ferry aid to them.

What of American civil society? No rock concerts were organized to help Pakistani children sleeping on highways or in open fields infested with vermin. No sports events offered receipts to aid victims at risk from cholera and other diseases. It was as if the great Pakistani deluge were happening in another dimension, beyond the ken of Americans.

A number of explanations have been offered for the lack of empathy, or even interest, not to speak of a visible American unwillingness to help millions of Pakistanis. As a start, there were perfectly reasonable fears, even among Pakistani-Americans, that such aid money might simply be pocketed by corrupt government officials. But was the Haitian government really so much more transparent and less corrupt than the Pakistani one?

It has also been suggested that Americans suffer from donor fatigue, given the string of world disasters in recent years and the bad domestic economy. On August 16th, for instance, Glenn Beck fulminated: “We can’t keep spending. We are broke! Game over… no one is going to ride in to save you… You see the scene in Pakistan? People were waiting in line for aids [sic] from floods. And they were complaining, how come the aid is not here? Look, when America is gone, who’s going to save the people in Pakistan? See, we got to change this one, because we’re the ones that always ride in to save people.”

Still, the submerging of a fifth of a country the size of Pakistan is — or at least should be — a dramatic global event and even small sums, if aggregated, would matter. (A dollar and a half from each American would have met the U.N. appeal.) Some have suggested that the Islamophobia visible in the debate about the Park 51 Muslim-owned community center in lower Manhattan left Americans far less willing to donate to Muslim disaster victims.

And what of those national security arguments that nuclear-armed Pakistan is crucial not just to the American war in Afghanistan, but to the American way of life? Ironically, the collapse of the neoconservative narrative about what it takes to make the planet’s “sole superpower” secure appears to have fallen on President Obama’s head. One of the few themes he adopted wholeheartedly from the Bush administration has been the idea that a poor Asian country of 170 million halfway around the world, facing a challenge from a few thousand rural fundamentalists, is the key to the security of the United States.

If the Pakistani floods reveal one thing, it’s that Americans now look on such explanations through increasingly jaundiced eyes. At the moment, no matter whether it’s the Afghan War or those millions of desperate peasants and city dwellers in Pakistan, the public has largely decided to ignore the AfPak theater of operations. It’s not so surprising. Having seen the collapse of our financial system at the hands of corrupt financiers produce mass unemployment and mass mortgage foreclosures, they have evidently decided, as even Glenn Beck admits, it’s “game over” for imperial adventures abroad.

Another explanation may also bear some weight here, though you won’t normally hear much about it. Was the decision of the corporate media not to cover the Pakistan disaster intensively a major factor in the public apathy that followed, especially since so many Americans get their news from television?

The lack of coverage needs to be explained, since corporate media usually love apolitical, weather-induced disasters. But covering a flood in a distant Asian country is, for television, expensive and logistically challenging, which in these tough economic times may have influenced programming decisions. Obviously, there is as well a tendency in capitalist news to cover what will attract advertising dollars. Add to this the fact that, unlike the Iraq “withdrawal” story or the “mosque at Ground Zero” controversy, the disaster in Pakistan was not a political football between the GOP and the Democratic Party. What if, in fact, Americans missed this calamity mostly because a bad news story set in a little-known South Asian country filled with Muslim peasants is not exactly “Desperate Housewives” and couldn’t hope to sell tampons, deodorant, or Cialis, or because it did not play into domestic partisan politics?

The great Pakistani deluge did not exist, it seems, because it was not on television, would not have delivered audiences to products, and was not all about us. As we saw on September 11, 2001, and again in March 2003, however, the failure of our electronic media to inform the public about centrally important global developments is itself a security threat to the republic.

Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History and the director of the Center for South Asian Studies at the University of Michigan. His latest book, Engaging the Muslim World, is just out in a revised paperback edition from Palgrave Macmillan. He runs the Informed Comment website. You can catch him discussing flooded Pakistan on the latest TomCast audio interview by clicking here or, to download it to your iPod, here.

Copyright 2010 Juan Cole

All republished content that appears on Truthout has been obtained by permission or license.

The Unmaking of the Palestinian Nation March 16, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Published on Tuesday, March 16, 2010 by Salon.comby Juan Cole

On March 10, I posted on the humiliation heaped on Vice President Joe Biden by the Israeli government of far-right Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu. Biden went to Israel intending to help kick off indirect negotiations between Netanyahu and Palestine Authority president Mahmoud Abbas. Biden had no sooner arrived than the Israelis announced that they would build 1600 new households on Palestinian territory that they had unilaterally annexed to Jerusalem. Since expanding Israeli colonization of Palestinian land had been the sticking point causing Abbas to refuse to engage in negotiations, and, indeed, to threaten to resign, this step was sure to scuttle the very talks Biden had come to inaugurate. And it did.

The tiff between the U.S. and Israel is less important that the worrisome growth of tension between Palestinians and Israelis as the Israelis have claimed more and more sites sacred to the Palestinians as well. There is talk of a third Intifada or Palestinian uprising.

As part of my original posting, I mirrored a map of modern Palestinian history that has the virtue of showing graphically what has happened to the Palestinians politically and territorially in the past century.


Andrew Sullivan then mirrored the map from my site, which set off a lot of thunder and noise among anti-Palestinian writers like Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, but shed very little light.

The map is useful and accurate. It begins by showing the British Mandate of Palestine as of the mid-1920s. The British conquered the Ottoman districts that came to be the Mandate during World War I. (The Ottoman sultan threw in with Austria and Germany against Britain, France and Russia, mainly out of fear of Russia.)

But because of the rise of the League of Nations and the influence of President Woodrow Wilson’s ideas about self-determination, Britain and France could not decently simply make their new, previously Ottoman territories into simple colonies. The League of Nations awarded them “Mandates.” Britain got Palestine, France got Syria (which it made into Syria and Lebanon), Britain got Iraq.The League of Nations Covenant spelled out what a Class A Mandate (i.e. territory that had been Ottoman) was

Article 22. Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognised subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory [i.e., a Western power] until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory.

That is, the purpose of the later British Mandate of Palestine, of the French Mandate of Syria, of the British Mandate of Iraq, was to ‘render administrative advice and assistance” to these peoples in preparation for their becoming independent states, an achievement that they were recognized as not far from attaining. The Covenant was written before the actual Mandates were established, but Palestine was a Class A Mandate and so the language of the Covenant was applicable to it. The territory that formed the British Mandate of Iraq was the same territory that became independent Iraq, and the same could have been expected of the British Mandate of Palestine. (Even class B Mandates like Togo have become nation-states, but the poor Palestinians are just stateless prisoners in colonial cantons).

The first map thus shows what the League of Nations imagined would become the state of Palestine. The economist published an odd assertion that the Negev Desert was ’empty’ and should not have been shown in the first map. But it wasn’t and isn’t empty; Palestinian Bedouin live there, and they and the desert were recognized by the League of Nations as belonging to the Mandate of Palestine, a state-in-training. The Mandate of Palestine also had a charge to allow for the establishment of a ‘homeland’ in Palestine for Jews (because of the 1917 Balfour Declaration), but nobody among League of Nations officialdom at that time imagined it would be a whole and competing territorial state. There was no prospect of more than a few tens of thousands of Jews settling in Palestine, as of the mid-1920s. (They are shown in white on the first map, refuting those who mysteriously complained that the maps alternated between showing sovereignty and showing population.) As late as the 1939 British White Paper, British officials imagined that the Mandate would emerge as an independent Palestinian state within 10 years.

In 1851, there had been 327,000 Palestinians (yes, the word “Filistin” was current then) and other non-Jews, and only 13,000 Jews. In 1925, after decades of determined Jewish immigration, there were a little over 100,000 Jews, and there were 765,000 mostly Palestinian non-Jews in the British Mandate of Palestine. For historical demography of this area, see Justin McCarthy’s painstaking calculations; it is not true, as sometimes is claimed, that we cannot know anything about population figures in this region. See also his journal article, reprinted at this site. The Palestinian population grew because of rapid population growth, not in-migration, which was minor. The common allegation that Jerusalem had a Jewish majority at some point in the 19th century is meaningless. Jerusalem was a small town in 1851, and many pious or indigent elderly Jews from Eastern Europe and elsewhere retired there because of charities that would support them. In 1851, Jews were only about 4 percent of the population of the territory that became the British Mandate of Palestine some 70 years later. And, there had been few adherents of Judaism, just a few thousand, from the time most Jews in Palestine adopted Christianity and Islam in the first millennium CE all the way until the 20th century. In the British Mandate of Palestine, the district of Jerusalem was largely Palestinian.

The rise of the Nazis in the 1930s impelled massive Jewish emigration to Palestine, so by 1940 there were over 400,000 Jews there amid over a million Palestinians.

The second map shows the United Nations partition plan of 1947, which awarded Jews (who only then owned about 6 percent of Palestinian land) a substantial state alongside a much reduced Palestine. Although apologists for the Zionist movement say that the Zionists accepted this partition plan and the Arabs rejected it, that is not entirely true. Zionist leader David Ben Gurion noted in his diary when Israel was established that when the U.S. had been formed, no document set out its territorial extent, implying that the same was true of Israel. We know that Ben Gurion was an Israeli expansionist who fully intended to annex more land to Israel, and by 1956 he attempted to add the Sinai and would have liked southern Lebanon. So the Zionist “acceptance” of the UN partition plan did not mean very much beyond a happiness that their initial starting point was much better than their actual land ownership had given them any right to expect.

The third map shows the status quo after the Israeli-Palestinian civil war of 1947-1948. It is not true that the entire Arab League attacked the Jewish community in Palestine or later Israel on behalf of the Palestinians. As Avi Shlaim has shown, Jordan had made an understanding with the Zionist leadership that it would grab the West Bank, and its troops did not mount a campaign in the territory awarded to Israel by the UN. Egypt grabbed Gaza and then tried to grab the Negev Desert, with a few thousand badly trained and equipped troops, but was defeated by the nascent Israeli army. Few other Arab states sent any significant number of troops. The total number of troops on the Arab side actually on the ground was about equal to those of the Zionist forces, and the Zionists had more esprit de corps and better weaponry.

The final map shows the situation today, which springs from the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank in 1967 and then the decision of the Israelis to colonize the West Bank intensively (a process that is illegal in the law of war concerning occupied populations).

There is nothing inaccurate about the maps at all, historically. Goldberg maintained that the Palestinians’ “original sin” was rejecting the 1947 UN partition plan. But since Ben Gurion and other expansionists went on to grab more territory later in history, it is not clear that the Palestinians could have avoided being occupied even if they had given away willingly so much of their country in 1947. The first original sin was the contradictory and feckless pledge by the British to sponsor Jewish immigration into their Mandate in Palestine, which they wickedly and fantastically promised would never inconvenience the Palestinians in any way. It was the same kind of original sin as the French policy of sponsoring a million colons in French Algeria, or the French attempt to create a Christian-dominated Lebanon where the Christians would be privileged by French policy. The second original sin was the refusal of the United States to allow Jews to immigrate in the 1930s and early 1940s, which forced them to go to Palestine to escape the monstrous, mass-murdering Nazis.

The map attracted so much ire and controversy not because it is inaccurate but because it clearly shows what has been done to the Palestinians, which the League of Nations had recognized as not far from achieving statehood in its Covenant. Their statehood and their territory has been taken from them, and they have been left stateless, without citizenship and therefore without basic civil and human rights. The map makes it easy to see this process. The map had to be stigmatized and made taboo. But even if that marginalization of an image could be accomplished, the squalid reality of Palestinian statelessness would remain, and the children of Gaza would still be being malnourished by the deliberate Israeli policy of blockading civilians. The map just points to a powerful reality; banishing the map does not change that reality.

Goldberg, according to Spencer Ackerman, says that he will stop replying to Andrew Sullivan, for which Ackerman is grateful, since, he implies, Goldberg is a propagandistic hack who loves to promote wars on flimsy pretenses. Matthew Yglesias also has some fun at Goldberg’s expense.

People like Goldberg never tell us what they expect to happen to the Palestinians in the near and medium future. They don’t seem to understand that the status quo is untenable. They are like militant ostriches, hiding their heads in the sand while lashing out with their hind talons at anyone who stares clear-eyed at the problem, characterizing us as bigots. As if that old calumny has any purchase for anyone who knows something serious about the actual views of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu or Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, more bigoted persons than whom would be difficult to find. Indeed, some of Israel’s current problems with Brazil come out of Lieberman’s visit there last summer; I was in Rio then and remember the distaste with which the multi-cultural, multi-racial Brazilians viewed Lieberman, whom some openly called a racist.

© 2010 Salon.com

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His most recent book Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) has just been published. He has appeared widely on television, radio and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. His weblog on the contemporary Middle East is Informed Comment.

Serial Catastrophes in Afghanistan Threaten Obama Policy January 4, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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(Note: To view the videos that accompany this article, go to the following link: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/01/04-3)
Published on Monday, January 4, 2010 by Informed Commentby Juan Cole

You probably won’t see it in most US news outlets, but on Monday morning in Kabul and Jalalabad, hundreds of university students demonstrated against US strikes this weekend that allegedly killed a number of civilians. I want to underline the irony that the students in Tehran University are protesting Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while students in these two Afghan cities are calling for Yankees to go home. Nangarhar University in Jalalabad only has a student body of about 3200, so ‘hundreds’ of students protesting there would be a significant proportion of the student body.

The demonstrations could be a harbinger of things to come, but there was worse news. CIA field officers blown up, four US troops killed Sunday, and the rejection of most of the cabinet nominees by parliament, all signal rocky times ahead.

The past two weeks have seen the situation in Afghanistan deteriorate palpably, raising significant questions about the viability of the Obama-McChrysstal plan for the country. The chain of catastrophes has been reported in piecemeal fashion, but taken together these events are far more ominous than they might appear on the surface.

First, the US military launched a raid in Kunar Province two days after Christmas on a village a night, in which President Hamid Karzai alleged that 10 civilians, some 8 of them schoolchildren, had been killed (some say dragged out of their beds and executed). The NYT reported the head of a Kabul delegation to the village saying,”They gathered eight school students from two compounds and put them in one room and shot them with small arms.” (The spokesman is a former governor of Kunar and now a close adviser to President Hamid Karzai– i.e. not exactly a pro-Taliban source). The charitable theory is that in a nighttime raid, US troops got disoriented and hit the wrong group of young men.

The outraged Afghan public saw this raid as an atrocity, and on Wednesday December 30, they mounted street protests against the US in Jalalabad, an eastern Pashtun city, and Kabul. In Jalalabad, hundreds of university students blocked the main roads, and then marched in the streets, chanting “Death to Obama” and “Death to America,” and burning Obama in effigy. (If they go on like that, the anti-imperialist Pashtun college students of Jalalabad may attract the support of Fox Cable News . . .)

Even while the protests were taking place in Jalalabad and Kabul, a NATO missile strike on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province was alleged to have killed as many as 7 more civilians, some of them children. Now the Afghan public was really angry.

Then on Thursday, all hell broke loose when a high-level Pashtun asset who had been informing to the CIA on the location of important al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives detonated a vest bomb at FOB Chapman in Khost province, a CIA forward base. The attacker killed 7 field officers and one Jordanian intelligence operative detailed to the base. Those experience field officers were on the front lines in the fight against al-Qaeda and their loss is a big blow to counter-terrorism. It is true that they had been drawn in to a campaign of assassination, but it is the president who gave them that task–unwisely, in my view.

The use of a double agent not only to misinform but actually to kill the most experienced counter-terrorism officers in the region showed the sophistication of tactical thinking in the Afghan insurgency.

The CIA’s dependence on a double agent who finally openly betrayed them raises troubling questions about US strategy and tactics in the region. Such informants essentially direct CIA drone missile strikes.

You could imagine Siraj Haqqani, leader of the Haqqani Network in Khost and over the border in Pakistan’s North Waziristan, inserting such a double agent into FOB Chapman and then using the CIA. For instance, what if a middling member of the Haqqani network launched a challenge to Siraj’s leadership and that of his ailing father, Jalaluddin (an old-time ally of Reagan who was warmly greeted in the White House in the 1980s)? Wouldn’t it be easy enough just to have the double agent tell the CIA that the challenger is a really bad guy in cahoots with al-Qaeda? Boom. Drone strike kills Taliban leaders in North Waziristan. In this way, Siraj could have used the US to eliminate rivals and become more and more powerful. And how many double agents have given up a few Arab jihadis who had fallen out with the Haqqanis, but then deliberately followed this up with bad intel on some innocent village, making the name of the US mud among the Pashtuns.

The drone strikes shouldn’t be run by the CIA, and probably shouldn’t be run at all. It could well be that savvy old-time Mujahidin trained in CIA tradecraft in the 1980s are having our young wet behind the ears field officers for lunch.

In short, is the bombing at FOB Chapman the tip of an iceberg of misinformation, on which the Titanic of Obama’s AfPak policy could well founder?

Aljazeera English has video of these dramatic events leading up to the New Year, including the anti-US demonstrations, which looked big and significant to me on satellite television.

A soldier of the Afghan army shot an American soldier, further raising suspicions between the two supposed partners. Then a Canadian unit and embedded journalist were blown up.

There were more errant US strikes over the weekend, producing the demonstrations in Kabul and Jalalabad on Monday morning.

Then there were two other pieces of information coming out in the past few days that suggest all is not well.

First, a report on the Afghanistan Army threw cold water all over the idea that it could be enlarged and trained to provide security in the country any time soon. High desertion rates, illiteracy, working half days, refusal to stand and fight against the enemy, and other factors just made that prospect remote. But such training, and the substitution of the Afghan National Army for NATO and US forces is the centerpiece of the Obama-McChrystal plan.

Finally, the Afghan parliament rejected 17 of the 24 nominees to the cabinet offered by President Karzai. The speaker of the House, Yunus Qanuni, supported Karzai’s rival, Abdullah Abdullah, in August’s presidential elections– which many Afghans believe Karzai stole. This rejection was the Abdullah faction’s chance to humiliate Karzai in revenge.

Aljazeera English has video on the rejection of 70 percent of the cabinet, including the old time warlord of Herat, Ismail Khan, and a key women’s affairs minister.

But the step means that we go into the winter with 17 ministries headless. Having an increasingly competent Afghan government to partner with was another key element of the Obama plan. There is not one.

So, the US is killing schoolchildren far too often, enraging the Afghan public. It has provoked a studnet protest movement against it in Jalalabad and Kabul. Its informants are double agents. Its supposed partner, the Afghan army, mostly doesn’t actually exist and couldn’t be depended on to show up to anything important; and that is when they aren’t taking potshots at US troops; and there is no Afghan government as we go into 2010.

President Obama may have a lot on his plate, but Afghanistan could make or break his presidency. If he doesn’t view what has happened there while he was in Hawaii with alarm and begin thinking of alternative strategies, he could be in big trouble.

© 2010 Juan Cole

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His most recent book Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) has just been published. He has appeared widely on television, radio and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. His weblog on the contemporary Middle East is Informed Comment.

Muslims Wait for Obama to Deliver May 31, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Religion, War.
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(Roger’s Note: Says the otherwise  usually cogent Juan Cole: “Give Obama eight years, and things will look different.”  I presume he means different for the better.  That would be wonderful.  But is he referring to the same forked-tongued, lapdog-to-the Pentagon Obama that we recently have come to know and despair?)
Published on Sunday, May 31, 2009 by The Toronto Star/Canada

by Haroon Siddiqui

There was the American overreach under George W. Bush. Now there’s Barack Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world.

On Wednesday, he will be in Saudi Arabia to meet King Abdullah. On Thursday, he will be in Egypt to deliver his much-anticipated address to Muslims.

He has already taken four mini-jabs at the subject – in his inaugural address; his Jan. 27 interview with Al-Arabiya TV; his March 19 video address to Iran; and his April 6 speech to the Turkish parliament.

This has drawn mixed reviews:

He wouldn’t be addressing the Christian world, or the Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist worlds. Why the exception for Muslims?

By framing terrorism in religious terms, he’s treading the same turf as militant Islamists, on the one hand, and Bush, on the other.

He has no choice but to fix the shattered relationship between the U.S. and the Muslim world.

What are his challenges? Four experts I spoke to outlined them:

Where’s the beef? Juan Cole, author of Engaging the Muslim World (Palgrave Macmillan), said Obama has done well to ditch Bush’s formulation that tackling Muslim militants was “like taking on the Axis powers in World War II, and the way to do it was through conquest, occupation and a transformation of the Muslim world.

“That was a huge conceptual error, doomed to failure.”

Jihadists are not the old Soviet Union nor Nazi Germany. Non-state actors are best dealt with as the criminals they are.

However, Obama has a challenge of his own. “Beyond denying the Bush paradigm, he must develop his own positive paradigm. I haven’t heard that articulated,” said Cole, professor of history at the University of Michigan.

John Esposito, co-author of Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think (Gallup Press), also feels Obama is running out of time. “The window is beginning to close on him.”

Egypt: “There’s a real irony in the leader of the free world delivering a major speech to Muslims in one of the most repressive parts of the world,” said Nader Hashemi, author of Islam, Secularism and Liberal Democracy (Oxford).

Hosni Mubarak is an oppressive dictator, “one of the most despised, in part due to his close alliance with the U.S. and collusion with Israel in maintaining the siege on Gaza.”

A better platform would have been Indonesia, the largest Muslim nation, or Pakistan, Turkey or Bangladesh, all evolving democracies.

Israel-Palestine: It’s the No. 1 issue for Muslims, said Esposito, director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in Washington.

Hashemi, a native of Toronto now teaching Middle East and Islamic politics at the University of Denver, recalled Obama’s words in Sderot last year that if his daughters were subject to daily rocket fire, as Israelis were from Hamas, he’d do everything in his power to stop it.

“This begged the question: if the president’s daughters were refugees who could not return home, stuck in one of the most densely populated areas of the globe, and subject to an ongoing siege, would Obama also do everything in his power to alleviate their suffering?

“Failure to speak in moral terms about the plight of the Palestinians will be a massive setback for his Muslim outreach initiative.”

Iraq: If Obama’s pullout plans work out, he’ll have neutralized the second biggest source of anger.

Embracing dictators: Polls show that Muslims are as desirous of democracy as any other people. And they resent the Western hypocrisy of promoting democracy and human rights but cavorting with Arab dictators and monarchs.

“Without naming Egypt, I think Obama will say that the U.S. will no longer be supportive of autocrats, who deprive their people the right to freedom,” said Shuja Nawaz of the Atlantic Council, a Washington think-tank on international affairs.

But that’s what Condoleezza Rice said in Cairo in 2005, and nothing came of it. Nawaz: “Frankly, that’s his biggest challenge – how to deal with the Islamic autocrats.”

Iran: Cole said Obama is sending mixed signals. “He wants face-to-face talks with Iran but has named Dennis Ross as the point person. He’s a well-known hawk on Iran. The Iranians are upset and have made it clear they’re not going to sit down across the table from Ross.

“Also, Obama is using the Bush rhetoric about not allowing Iran to have a nuclear weapon. But American intelligence agencies do not see an Iranian nuclear program.”

Esposito noted that Obama is not threatening to go to war with North Korea, despite its nuclear blasts. It is, thus, important to “indicate that he is not going to be stampeded into a military action against Iran.”

Afghanistan/Pakistan: Nawaz, author of Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army, and the Wars Within (Oxford), said Obama’s economic package for Pakistan’s tribal areas has been well-received by Pakistanis. They are also behind the military initiative against the Taliban, being undertaken under U.S. pressure.

“The public is fed up with the Taliban but the anger can quite easily turn against the government and the U.S, given the dire situation of the internally displaced people.”

Is all this doable? Cole, for one, thinks so. “Give Obama eight years, and things will look different.”


© Copyright Toronto Star 1996-2009

Obama Moves To Dark Side With Choice Of Gen McChrystal May 14, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Dick Cheney, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Allen Roland

www.opednews.com, May 14, 2009

Seymour Hersh recently described the JSOC as an “executive assassination wing” controlled for many years by the office of former Vice President Dick Cheney. From Sept 2003 to August 2008 ~ Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal headed that command and now President Obama moves to the dark side by giving him command of US forces in Afghanistan: Allen L Roland

Make no mistake about it, President Obama’s selection of Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal as commander of US forces in Afghanistan is a blatant move to the dark side of our current Middle East adventure.

McChrystal is director of the Joint Chiefs staff, but from September 2003 to August 2008, he headed the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which oversees such elite units as the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy SEALs.

Muriel Kane, ICH, writes ~  Famed investigative reporter Seymour Hersh recently described the JSOC as an “executive assassination wing” controlled for many years by the office of former Vice President Dick Cheney. Speaking to a University of Minnesota audience in March, Hersh called JSOC “a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. … They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office…. Congress has no oversight of it. … It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on.”    http://informationclearinghouse.info/article22606.htm

Newsweek did run a brief article on McChrystal in June 2006 and gave evidence of America’s gradual move toward the dark side ~ Rumsfeld is especially enamored of McChrystal’s “direct action” forces or so-called SMUs ~ Special Mission Units ~ whose job is to kill or capture bad guys, say Pentagon sources who would speak about Special Ops only if they were not identified. But critics say the Pentagon is short-shrifting the “hearts and minds” side of Special Operations that is critical to counterinsurgency ~ like training foreign armies and engaging with locals.” http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13392189/site/newsweek/print/1/displaymode/1098/

And don’t forget that in April 2004, General McChrystal ( who reported directly to Dick Cheney ) approved paperwork awarding Pat Tillman a Silver Star after he was killed by enemy fire ~ even though he suspected the Ranger had died by fratricide, according to Pentagon testimony later obtained by AP. The testimony showed that McChrystal sent a memo to top generals imploring “our nation’s leaders,” specifically the president, to avoid removing the devastating enemy fire” explanation from the award citation for their speeches. In 2007, the Army overruled a Pentagon recommendation that McChrystal be held accountable for his “misleading” actions.  




Allen L Roland is a practicing psychotherapist, author and lecturer who also shares a daily political and social commentary on his weblog and website more…)
In a book published last year, Mary Tillman accused McChrystal of helping create the false story line that she said “diminished Pat’s true actions.” Follow this link for information about Mary Tillman’s book, Boots on the Ground by Dusk.
Also see my PAT TILLMAN’S MURDER BEGS FOR JUSTICE / OLBERMANN VIDEO on 4/2/2009 http://blogs.salon.com/0002255/2009/04/02.html
Juan Cole, Salon, sums up my real concerns on Obama’s slide to the dark side ~ ” Obama is preserving policies to which Cheney is deeply committed. In configuring Pushtun fundamentalists in southern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan as a mortal threat to the U.S. and potentially even a nuclear power, the Obama administration is picking up themes from Cheney’s old speeches and running with them. Cheney may or may not win his struggle for the soul of the Republican Party but if we are not careful ~ he will win the struggle for the soul of the country as a whole.”
General McCrystal, who is fully endorsed by Dick Cheney, bears very close scrutiny by Congress but his very troubling appointment by Obama strongly indicates that we are already committed to the dark side.
Allen L Roland

The Hidden Hand of Dick Cheney May 13, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Dick Cheney, Foreign Policy, Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan, Right Wing, Torture, War.
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cheney in retirement

(Roger’s note: in this excellent article I take issue with the notion that Obama has significantly reveresed the Bush presidency illegal expansion of presidential power —  “… the Obama administration has adopted large numbers of policies that directly contradict Cheney’s positions …”   I would like to know what are the policies to which he refers.  I also believe that Cole is naive in taking at face value Obama’s stated intentions about withdrawal from Iraq — “… the Obama administration is pledged to withdraw from Iraq militarily in a way that Cheney would never have contemplated.”  cf. https://rogerhollander.wordpress.com/2009/03/01/barack-obama-iraq-and-the-big-lie/.  Nevertheless, I agree that his analysis of the import of Cheney’s strategy is spot on.)

by Juan Cole, www.salon.com, May 13, 2009

Out of office, he continues to push his tortured version of reality — and his vision of an imperial presidency — and there are signs he is succeeding.

Dick Cheney is out there. He is defending torture, dissing Colin Powell, and genuflecting before radio personality Rush Limbaugh as the high priest of what’s left of conservatism. His refusal to go quietly, unlike his much-reviled boss, is risky. He was a laugh line more than once at Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

But the media’s focus on the sheer spectacle of the ex-veep’s antics, and on the Republican vs. Democrat feud he’s stoking, underestimates the way Cheney’s principles still inform many of the country’s most crucial policies. Like the creatures in the “Alien” films, Cheney has planted some vicious spores in the bellies of his successors, which threaten to tear them apart as they mature. Can the new administration truly reverse Cheney’s transformation of the United States into a 21st century empire, with the president an imperial figure above the law.

The former vice-president is now a more reliable laugh-getter than vote-getter. At the correspondents’ dinner, President Obama quipped, “Dick Cheney was supposed to be here, but he’s very busy working on his memoirs, tentatively titled ‘How to Shoot Friends and Interrogate People.'” Guest comedian Wanda Sykes went further, saying she found Cheney positively terrifying. “He scares me to death. I tell my kids, I say, ‘Look, if two cars pull up and one has a stranger and the other car has Dick Cheney, you get in the car with the stranger.'”

This week’s news is about the grand old pit bull’s struggle to continue to define his own party. Cheney emerged last Friday to warn on a North Dakota radio program that it would be a mistake for the Republican Party to moderate its message. (Does that mean it is now radical?) Then on Sunday Cheney told Bob Schieffer of “Face the Nation” that it was a mistake to stop using waterboarding and other forms of extreme interrogation, and that they did not constitute torture. He also poked fun at Colin Powell, questioning his credentials as a Republican and expressing a preference for the waspish Limbaugh as the party’s leader.

But don’t dismiss Dick Cheney as a fading punch line, or as tragedy reprised as comedy. While the Obama administration has adopted large numbers of policies that directly contradict Cheney’s positions, it would be a mistake to overlook Cheney’s continued influence on the executive branch through the precedents set by the Bush administration. Among the former vice-president’s most important legacies is increased government secrecy. Obama’s Department of Justice continues to rely on an alleged “state secrets” privilege. It has thus tried to block lawsuits by victims who alleged they were kidnapped and tortured by U.S. intelligence even though they were innocent of wrongdoing, on the grounds that such trials would reveal state secrets. The same state secrets doctrine was used by Obama’s DOJ in an attempt to block investigations of Bush-Cheney warrantless wiretaps. Likewise, the DOJ has attempted to block lawsuits seeking the release of Bush-era e-mails and to prevent prisoners held at Bagram air base in Afghanistan from appearing before a judge to challenge their imprisonment.

Although the Obama administration is pledged to withdraw from Iraq militarily in a way that Cheney would never have contemplated, it is just as committed as Bush-Cheney to spreading good cheer about the new government in Baghdad. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the bombings by Iraqi guerrillas this spring the “last gasp” of “rejectionists,” seeming to channel Cheney’s allegation in 2005 that we were seeing the “last throes” of the insurgency. Red Washington and blue Washington both want to tell us stories about how Iraq will be OK and is just bedeviled by a few unreasoning malcontents who are on their last legs.

On a trip to Afghanistan in 2004, Cheney told U.S. troops, “Your children and my grandchildren will live in freedom tomorrow because of what you’re doing today.” He warned them of continuing threats there, however, saying, “Our coalition still has important work to do.” He added, “Freedom still has enemies here in Afghanistan. And you are here to make those enemies miserable.” Obama has, likewise, tied the establishment of a stable government in Afghanistan to U.S. national security, and pledged to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaida (even though there does not appear to be any significant al-Qaida in Afghanistan anymore). Both Cheney and Obama tend to amalgamate al-Qaida (a small, mainly Arab, international terrorist organization) to the Taliban (a form of Pushtun fundamentalist nationalism with local concerns). Cheney’s war in Afghanistan envisaged no end, and neither, apparently, does Obama’s.

Many of Cheney’s harshest policies were rooted in a conviction that small terrorist groups might well get hold of nuclear weapons or other very dangerous armaments, and that all necessary steps must be taken to forestall that eventuality, even if it has only slight probability of occurring. (Journalist Ron Suskind called this notion the “one percent” doctrine.) The Obama administration just forced the Pakistani military to invade the Malakand region and to displace hundreds of thousands of civilians in the course of shelling and bombing a few thousand Taliban tribesmen. Among its rationales for this massive application of force was that the Taliban had advanced too close to Islamabad, and, apparently too close to that country’s nuclear warheads. (In fact, the idea that a small force of rural Taliban could take over the Pakistani government or get access to its closely guarded arsenal is fantastic.)

In the government’s commitment to a doctrine of “state secrets” that protect the executive from the scrutiny of other branches of government, in the continued attempt to block lawsuits and release of important documents, and in the shielding of secret programs of torture, unlawful kidnapping and warrantless wiretapping, Obama is preserving policies to which Cheney is deeply committed. In configuring Pushtun fundamentalists in southern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan as a mortal threat to the U.S. and potentially even a nuclear power, the Obama administration is picking up themes from Cheney’s old speeches and running with them. Cheney may or may not win his struggle for the soul of the Republican Party. If we are not careful, he will win the struggle for the soul of the country as a whole.

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His most recent book Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) has just been published. He has appeared widely on television, radio and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. His weblog on the contemporary Middle East is Informed Comment.

Khamenei Adopts a Wait and See Attitude to Obama March 22, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Media.
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Informed Comment

Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion

Juan Cole is President of the Global Americana Institute

www.juancole.com, March 22, 2009

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Saturday, “Of course, we have no prior experience of the new president of the American republic and of the government, and therefore we shall make our judgment based on his actions.”

The US corporate media mysteriously interpreted Khamenei’s words as a rebuff to Obama, but in light of the phrase I just quoted, I can’t understand how they reached that conclusion. Certainly, he did say repeatedly that Iran has had a pretty horrible experience with the United States, and that it would take more than some nice words to change Iranian minds about Washington. You could say that this was a grumpy old man response to Obama’s call for engagement. But you can’t call it a rebuff, since Khamenei explicitly says that he has no basis for making a judgment about the Obama administration as yet, and will respond to its actual concrete policies.

Interestingly, the French news agency, Agence France Presse, got the story right, entitling their article, “Iran ready to change if US leads way: Khamenei.”

And, the Iranian PressTV had an even more enthusiastic headline: “Iran vows response to real US change.”

He said that the Iranian public would be offended if anyone addressed it with a discourse of carrots or sticks. That was when he immediately excused Obama from any such charge, saying the latter had a clean slate.

Elsewhere in the address he pledged, in AFP’s translation, “If you change your attitude, we will change our attitude.”

Iran’s leader pointed out that the name of the US in the world at large is mud because of offensive US policies (he is probably thinking of wars of aggression, torture, etc.). He counsels that the US should change its behavior so that gradually its would gain the esteem of the world.

Khamenei did specify the practical steps the US might take to show it was in earnest.

1. He implied that the US was behind Sunni terrorism against the regime in Iranian Baluchistan near the the Pakistani border (Baluch are Sunnis and tribal and dislike the Persian, Shiite government in Tehran. Some observers have accused the US of fomenting terrorism among such minorities, and Khamenei appears to accept the theory).

2. He implicitly complained about continued US support for and use of the Iranian terrorist group, the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), whose base in Iraq (given them by Saddam to harass Iran) the US continues to maintain and guard despite the Iraqi government’s desire to close it down and expel the Mojahedin. The US State Department has declared the MEK a terrorist organization, but the Pentagon is said to still deploy its members for covert ops inside Iran. In these two points, which are allusive in the speech, he is essentially accusing the US of being a major sponsor of terrorism.

3. He complained that the US continued to accuse Iran of sponsoring terrorism.

4. He complained that the US continues to accuse Iran of trying to build a nuclear bomb. (Khamenei and all Iranian government officials strongly deny that charge, saying they only have a civilian research program for energy purposes; US intelligence assessments back Khamenei up on all this, but the Washington politicians still routinely speak of taking strong measures stopping Iran from getting the bomb. Khamenei views such talk as a threat of aggression and sees the nuclear issue as a mere pretext for US neo-imperialism. The US dominated Iran during and after WW II and made a pro-monarchy coup in 1953, saddling the country with a megalomaniac shah who was subservient to US interests, until the 1979 Islamic Revolution).

5. He complained of continued US economic sanctions and boycotts.

6. He complained of US support for Israel.

This speech laid out the initial Iranian bargaining position. It has everything but the kitchen sink, and maybe it even has the kitchen sink. It is like in a US department store when the salesman tells you the refrigerator is $1200 but in fact you can bargain him down to $1050.

Khamenei also warned Obama to listen directly to Khamenei’s own words: “Contemplate carefully my words. You must under no circumstances give them to Zionists to translate. Rather, consult with righteous persons.” Well, the crack about Zionists is unfair, but Khamenei is obviously correct that his speech will be distorted by the Neoconservatives who desperately want the US to go to war against Iran.

I hope Obama will in fact get a good translation and analysis of the speech, which is far more welcoming of a potential change in Washington, and shows far more willingness to negotiate, than the corporate media in the US are reporting.

Daniel Brumberg points to Iranian desires for a concrete set of achievable proposals and impatience with a vague “process” of open-ended talks. It should be remembered that the would be a domestic cost for hardliners to pay if they opened to the US, and the cost would be perhaps unbearable if they brought nothing back from the negotiations in the end.

Cheney’s Mission Accomplished March 17, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Juan Cole

www.juancole.com, March 17, 2009


Dick Cheney: “I guess my general sense of where we are with respect to Iraq and at the end of now, what, nearly six years, is that we’ve accomplished nearly everything we set out to do….”

What has Dick Cheney really accomplished in Iraq?

  • An estimated 4 million Iraqis, out of 27 million, have been displaced from their homes, that is, made homeless. Some 2.7 million are internally displaced inside Iraq. A couple hundred thousand are cooling their heels in Jordan. And perhaps a million are quickly running out of money and often living in squalid conditions in Syria. Cheney’s war has left about 15% of Iraqis homeless inside the country or abroad. That would be like 45 million American thrown out of their homes.

  • It is controversial how many Iraqis died as a result of the 2003 invasion and its aftermath. But it seems to me that a million extra dead, beyond what you would have expected from a year 2000 baseline, is entirely plausible. The toll is certainly in the hundreds of thousands. Cheney did not kill them all. The Lancet study suggested that the US was directly responsible for a third of all violent deaths since 2003. That would be as much as 300,000 that we killed. The rest, we only set in train their deaths by our invasion.
  • Baghdad has been turned from a mixed city, about half of its population Shiite and the other half Sunni in 2003, into a Shiite city where the Sunni population may be as little as ten to fifteen percent. From a Sunni point of view, Cheney’s war has resulted in a Shiite (and Iranian) take-over of the Iraqi capital, long a symbol of pan-Arabism and anti-imperialism.
  • In the Iraqi elections, Shiite fundamentalist parties closely allied with Iran came to power. The Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the leading party in parliament, was formed by Iraqi expatriates at the behest of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1982 in Tehran. The Islamic Mission (Da’wa) Party is the oldest ideological Shiite party working for an Islamic state. It helped form Hizbullah in Beirut in the early 1980s. It has supplied both prime ministers elected since 2005. Fundamentalist Shiites shaped the constitution, which forbids the civil legislature to pass legislation that contravenes Islamic law. Dissidents have accused the new Iraqi government of being an Iranian puppet.

    Arab-Kurdish violence is spiking in the north, endangering the Obama withdrawal plan and, indeed, the whole of Iraq, not to mention Syria, Turkey and Iran.

  • Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi women have been widowed by the war and its effects, leaving most without a means of support. Iraqi widows often lack access to clean water and electricity. Aljazeera English has video.

  • $32 billion were wasted on Iraq reconstruction, and most of it cannot even be traced. I repeat, Cheney gave away $32 bn. to anonymous cronies in such a way that we can’t even be sure who stole it, exactly. And you are angry at AIG about $400 mn. in bonuses! We are talking about $32 billion given out in brown paper bags.
  • Political power is being fragmented in Iraq with big spikes in the murder rate in some provinces that may reflect faction-fighting and vendettas in which the Iraqi military is loathe to get involved.
  • The Iraqi economy is devastated, and the new government’s bureaucracy and infighting have made it difficult to attract investors.
  • The Bush-Cheney invasion helped further destabilize the Eastern Mediterranean, setting in play Kurdish nationalism and terrifying Turkey.

    Cheney avoids mentioning all the human suffering he has caused, on a cosmic scale, and focuses on procedural matters like elections (which he confuses with democracy– given 2000 in this country, you can understand why). Or he lies, as when he says that Iran’s influence in Iraq has been blocked. Another lie is that there was that the US was fighting “al-Qaeda” in Iraq as opposed to just Iraqis. He and Bush even claim that they made Iraqi womens’ lives better.

    The real question is whether anyone will have the gumption to put Cheney on trial for treason and crimes against humanity.