jump to navigation

Putin or Kerry: Who’s Delusional? March 6, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Media, Russia, Ukraine.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Roger’s note: Sometimes (most times?) I feel that I am living in a world of surrealism.  Watching Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama standing up and accusing Putin of violation of international law, and doing this with a straight face, I get the sense that I understand how Alice must have felt once she went done the rabbit hole.  The wonderland we live in is not so wonderful.  It is a nightmare.  Not so much for the likes of me, a middle class intellectual, but for the millions around the globe — including the victims of Putin’s racist and homophobic actions, if not so much in this case the Crimean population — who suffer from the corporate militarism of the major powers and their lap dog allies.

 

 

 

Official Washington and its compliant mainstream news media operate with a convenient situational ethics when it comes to the principles of international law and non-intervention in sovereign states.

 

When Secretary of State John Kerry denounces Russia’s intervention in Crimea by declaring “It is not appropriate to invade a country and at the end of a barrel of gun dictate what you are trying to achieve. That is not Twenty-first Century, G-8, major-nation behavior,” you might expect that the next line in a serious newspaper would note Kerry’s breathtaking hypocrisy.

John Kerry visits the Shrine of the Fallen in Independence Square, Kiev, on Tuesday. (Photograph: Sipa USA/Rex)

But not if you were reading the New York Times on Wednesday, or for that matter the Washington Post or virtually any mainstream U.S. newspaper or watching a broadcast outlet.

Yet, look what happens when Russia’s President Vladimir Putin does what the U.S. news media should do, i.e. point out that “It’s necessary to recall the actions of the United States in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Libya, where they acted either without any sanction from the U.N. Security Council or distorted the content of these resolutions, as it happened in Libya. There, as you know, only the right to create a no-fly zone for government aircraft was authorized, and it all ended in the bombing and participation of special forces in group operations.”

Despite the undeniable accuracy of Putin’s observation, he was promptly deemed to have “lost touch with reality,” according to a Washington Post’s editorial, which called his press conference “rambling” and a “bizarre performance” in which his words have “become indistinguishable from the propaganda of his state television network.”

You get the point. If someone notes the disturbing U.S. history of military interventions or describes the troubling narrative behind the “democratic” coup in Ukraine – spearheaded by neo-Nazi militias who overthrew a duly elected president – you are dismissed as crazy.

Revised Narrative

Yet, it has been the Post, Times and other U.S. news outlets which have led the way in developing a propaganda narrative at odds with the known reality. For instance, the violent February clashes in Kiev are now typically described as the Ukrainian police having killed some 80 protesters, though the original reporting had that death toll including 13 policemen and the fact that neo-Nazi militias were responsible for much of the violence, from hurling firebombs to shooting firearms.

That history is already fast disappearing as we saw in a typical New York Times report on Wednesday, which reported: “More than 80 protesters were shot to death by the police as an uprising spiraled out of control in mid-February.”

Those revised “facts” better fit the preferred narrative of innocent and peaceful demonstrators being set upon by thuggish police without provocation. But that isn’t what the original reporting revealed. Either the New York Times should explain how the earlier reporting was wrong or it should respect the more nuanced reality.

To do so, however, would undercut the desired narrative. So, it’s better to simply accuse anyone with a functioning memory of being “delusional.” The same with anyone who mentions the stunning hypocrisy of the U.S. government suddenly finding international law inviolable.

The history of the United States crossing borders to overthrow governments or to seize resources is a long and sordid one. Even after World War II and the establishment of the Nuremberg principles against “aggressive war,” the U.S. government has routinely violated those rules, sometimes unilaterally and sometimes by distorting the clear meaning of U.N. resolutions, as Putin noted.

No Accountability

Those violations of international law have done nothing to diminish the official reputations of presidents who broke the rules. Despite the slaughters of millions of people from these U.S. military adventures, no U.S. president has ever been punished either by U.S. judicial authorities or by international tribunals.

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan, one of the most honored political figures in modern American history, ordered the invasion of the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada to overthrow its leftist government amid a political crisis that U.S. hostility had helped stir up. Reagan’s pretext was to protect American students at the St. George’s Medical School, though the students were not in any physical danger.

The U.S. invasion killed some 70 people on the island, including 25 Cuban construction workers. Nineteen U.S. soldiers also died. Though Reagan’s clear violation of international law was noted around the globe, he was hailed as a hero by the U.S. media at home and faced no accountability from the United Nations or anyone else.

When I went to Grenada to report on the invasion for the Associated Press, an article that I co-wrote about abuses committed by American troops, including the ransacking of the personal libraries of prominent Grenadians (in search of books such as Karl Marx’s Das Kapital), was spiked by my AP editors, presumably because it clashed with the feel-good U.S. public reaction to the invasion.

Last week, as I was reviewing documents at the Reagan Presidential Library at Simi Valley, California, I found a number of papers about how the Reagan administration used propaganda techniques to manipulate the American people regarding Grenada.

The files belonged to Walter Raymond Jr., a top CIA expert in propaganda and psychological operations who had been reassigned to Reagan’s National Security Council staff to oversee the creation of a global psy-op structure including one aimed at the U.S. public.

On Nov. 1, 1983, just a week after the invasion, White House public-relations specialist David Gergen advised Reagan’s image-molder Michael Deaver on steps to orchestrate the “follow-up on Grenada” to impress the American people,  including making sure that the phased U.S. withdrawals were “well publicized, the bigger the groups the better. When units of the fleet leave, that also ought to be done with fanfare.”

The P.R. choreography called, too, for using the “rescued” students as props. Gergen wrote: “Students Meet with Liberating Forces: Everyone sees this as a key event, and it needs to be done before RR [Reagan] leaves for the Far East. … Students Visit the Wounded: Many of the wounded would probably welcome a thank you visit from a student delegation.”

In a handwritten comment on the last suggestion, Raymond praised the idea: “Happy Grenada theme.”

More Recent Violations

Secretary Kerry might argue that Grenada was so Twentieth Century, along with such events as the Vietnam War, the invasion of Panama in 1989 and the Persian Gulf conflict of 1990-91, which involved the slaughter of Iraqi soldiers and civilians even after the Iraqi government agreed to withdraw from Kuwait in a deal negotiated by then-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

However, if one were to take up Secretary Kerry’s challenge and just look at the Twenty-first Century and “G-8, major-nation behavior,” which would include the United States and its major European allies, you’d still have a substantial list of U.S. violations: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and others. France and Great Britain, two other G-8 countries, have engaged in military interventions as well, including France in Mali and other African conflicts.

On Aug. 30, 2013, Secretary Kerry himself gave a belligerent speech justifying U.S. military action against Syria over murky accounts of a chemical weapons attack outside Damascus, a war that was only averted by Putin’s diplomatic efforts in convincing President Bashar al-Assad to agree to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons.

Plus, throughout his presidency, Barack Obama has declared, over and over, that “all options are on the table” regarding Iran’s nuclear program, a clear threat of another U.S. bombing campaign, another crisis that Putin has helped tamp down by assisting in getting Iran to the bargaining table.

Indeed, it appears that one reason why Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, a neocon holdover, has been so aggressive in trying to exacerbate the Ukraine crisis was as a form of neocon payback for Putin’s defusing the confrontations with Syria and Iran, when Official Washington’s still-influential neocons were eager for more violence and “regime change.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis.”]

In virtually all these threatened or actual U.S. military assaults on sovereign nations, the major U.S. news media has been enthusiastically onboard. Indeed, the Washington Post and the New York Times played key roles in manufacturing public consent for George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 under the false pretext of eliminating its non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

By promoting dubious and false allegations, the Post and Times also have helped lay the groundwork for potential U.S. wars against Iran and Syria, including the Times making the bogus claim that the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack east of Damascus was launched by Syrian government forces northwest of the city. Months later, the Times grudgingly admitted that its reporting, which helped bring the U.S. to the brink of another war, was contradicted by the fact that the Sarin-laden missile had a much more limited range. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mistaken Guns of Last August.”]

However, when Russia has a much more understandable case for intervention – an incipient civil war on its border that involves clear U.S. interference, the overthrow of an elected president and the participation of neo-Nazi militias – the U.S. government and its compliant mainstream media lock arms in outrage.

Robert Parry

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat. His two previous books are Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’.

What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis March 3, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Russia, Ukraine.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
2 comments

Roger’s note: This article lays out in detail the overall geopolitical strategy of the most reactionary hawkish elements within the Obama government, including Hillary Clinton; and puts the Ukraine crisis in a broader perspective.  This situation is complex and has historical roots that get ignored in the main stream media which, for analysis, substitutes cheer leading  for U.S. interests, which have absolutely nothing to do with democracy, not to mention the best interests of the Ukrainian, Russian or American people.

 

 

President Barack Obama has been trying, mostly in secret, to craft a new foreign policy that relies heavily on cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin to tamp down confrontations in hotspots such as Iran and Syria. But Obama’s timidity about publicly explaining this strategy has left it open to attack from powerful elements of Official Washington, including well-placed neocons and people in his own administration.

The gravest threat to this Obama-Putin collaboration has now emerged in Ukraine, where a coalition of U.S. neocon operatives and neocon holdovers within the State Department fanned the flames of unrest in Ukraine, contributing to the violent overthrow of democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych and now to a military intervention by Russian troops in the Crimea, a regionin southern Ukraine that historically was part of Russia.

 

President Barack Obama discusses the crisis in Ukraine for 90 minutes on March 1, 2014, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (White House photo/Pete Souza)

Though I’m told the Ukraine crisis caught Obama and Putin by surprise, the neocon determination to drive a wedge between the two leaders has been apparent for months, especially after Putin brokered a deal to head off U.S. military strikes against Syria last summer and helped get Iran to negotiate concessions on its nuclear program, both moves upsetting the neocons who had favored heightened confrontations.

Putin also is reported to have verbally dressed down Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan over what Putin considered their provocative actions regarding the Syrian civil war. So, by disrupting neocon plans and offending Netanyahu and Bandar, the Russian president found himself squarely in the crosshairs of some very powerful people.

If not for Putin, the neocons – along with Israel and Saudi Arabia – had hoped that Obama would launch military strikes on Syria and Iran that could open the door to more “regime change” across the Middle East, a dream at the center of neocon geopolitical strategy since the 1990s. This neocon strategy took shape after the display of U.S. high-tech warfare against Iraq in 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet Union later that year. U.S. neocons began believing in a new paradigm of a uni-polar world where U.S. edicts were law.

The neocons felt this paradigm shift also meant that Israel would no longer need to put up with frustrating negotiations with the Palestinians. Rather than haggling over a two-state solution, U.S. neocons simply pressed for “regime change” in hostile Muslim countries that were assisting the Palestinians or Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Iraq was first on the neocon hit list, but next came Syria and Iran. The overriding idea was that once the regimes assisting the Palestinians and Hezbollah were removed or neutralized, then Israel could dictate peace terms to the Palestinians who would have no choice but to accept what was on the table.

U.S. neocons working on Netanyahu’s campaign team in 1996, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, even formalized their bold new plan, which they outlined in a strategy paper, called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” The paper argued that only “regime change” in hostile Muslim countries could achieve the necessary “clean break” from the diplomatic standoffs that had followed inconclusive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

In 1998, the neocon Project for the New American Century called for a U.S. invasion of Iraq, but President Bill Clinton refused to go along. The situation changed, however, when President George W. Bush took office and after the 9/11 attacks. Suddenly, the neocons had a Commander in Chief who agreed with the need to eliminate Iraq’s Saddam Hussein — and a stunned and angry U.S. public could be easily persuaded. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]

So, Bush invaded Iraq, ousting Hussein but failing to subdue the country. The U.S. death toll of nearly 4,500 soldiers and the staggering costs, estimated to exceed $1 trillion, made the American people and even Bush unwilling to fulfill the full-scale neocon vision, which was expressed in one of their favorite jokes of 2003 about where to attack next, Iran or Syria, with the punch line: “Real men go to Tehran!”

Though hawks like Vice President Dick Cheney pushed the neocon/Israeli case for having the U.S. military bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities – with the hope that the attacks also might spark a “regime change” in Tehran – Bush decided that he couldn’t risk the move, especially after the U.S. intelligence community assessed in 2007 that Iran had stopped work on a bomb four years earlier.

The Rise of Obama

The neocons were dealt another setback in 2008 when Barack Obama defeated a neocon favorite, Sen. John McCain. But Obama then made one of the fateful decisions of his presidency, deciding to staff key foreign-policy positions with “a team of rivals,” i.e. keeping Republican operative Robert Gates at the Defense Department and recruiting Hillary Clinton, a neocon-lite, to head the State Department.

Obama also retained Bush’s high command, most significantly the media-darling Gen. David Petraeus. That meant that Obama didn’t take control over his own foreign policy.

Gates and Petraeus were themselves deeply influenced by the neocons, particularly Frederick Kagan, who had been a major advocate for the 2007 “surge” escalation in Iraq, which was hailed by the U.S. mainstream media as a great “success” but never achieved its principal goal of a unified Iraq. At the cost of nearly 1,000 U.S. dead, it only bought time for an orderly withdrawal that spared Bush and the neocons the embarrassment of an obvious defeat.

So, instead of a major personnel shakeup in the wake of the catastrophic Iraq War, Obama presided over what looked more like continuity with the Bush war policies, albeit with a firmer commitment to draw down troops in Iraq and eventually in Afghanistan.

From the start, however, Obama was opposed by key elements of his own administration, especially at State and Defense, and by the still-influential neocons of Official Washington. According to various accounts, including Gates’s new memoir Duty, Obama was maneuvered into supporting a troop “surge” in Afghanistan, as advocated by neocon Frederick Kagan and pushed by Gates, Petraeus and Clinton.

Gates wrote that Kagan persuaded him to recommend the Afghan “surge” and that Obama grudgingly went along although Gates concluded that Obama didn’t believe in the “mission” and wanted to reverse course more quickly than Gates, Petraeus and their side wanted.

Faced with this resistance from his own bureaucracy, Obama began to rely on a small inner circle built around Vice President Joe Biden and a few White House advisers with the analytical support of some CIA officials, including CIA Director Leon Panetta.

Obama also found a surprising ally in Putin after he regained the Russian presidency in 2012. A Putin adviser told me that the Russian president personally liked Obama and genuinely wanted to help him resolve dangerous disputes, especially crises with Iran and Syria.

In other words, what evolved out of Obama’s early “team of rivals” misjudgment was an extraordinary presidential foreign policy style, in which Obama developed and implemented much of his approach to the world outside the view of his secretaries of State and Defense (except when Panetta moved briefly to the Pentagon).

Even after the eventual departures of Gates in 2011, Petraeus as CIA director after a sex scandal in late 2012, and Clinton in early 2013, Obama’s peculiar approach didn’t particularly change. I’m told that he has a distant relationship with Secretary of State John Kerry, who never joined Obama’s inner foreign policy circle.

Though Obama’s taciturn protectiveness of his “real” foreign policy may be understandable given the continued neocon “tough-guy-ism” that dominates Official Washington, Obama’s freelancing approach gave space to hawkish elements of his own administration.

For instance, Secretary of State Kerry came close to announcing a U.S. war against Syria in a bellicose speech on Aug. 30, 2013, only to see Obama pull the rug out from under him as the President worked with Putin to defuse the crisis sparked by a disputed chemical weapons attack outside Damascus. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “How War on Syria Lost Its Way.”]

Similarly, Obama and Putin hammered out the structure for an interim deal with Iran on how to constrain its nuclear program. But when Kerry was sent to seal that agreement in Geneva, he instead inserted new demands from the French (who were carrying water for the Saudis) and nearly screwed it all up. After getting called on the carpet by the White House, Kerry returned to Geneva and finalized the arrangements.[See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Saudi-Israel Defeat on Iran Deal.”]

Unorthodox Foreign Policy

Obama’s unorthodox foreign policy – essentially working in tandem with the Russian president and sometimes at odds with his own foreign policy bureaucracy – has forced Obama into faux outrage when he’s faced with some perceived affront from Russia, such as its agreement to give temporary asylum to National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

For the record, Obama had to express strong disapproval of Snowden’s asylum, though in many ways Putin was doing Obama a favor by sparing Obama from having to prosecute Snowden with the attendant complications for U.S. national security and the damaging political repercussions from Obama’s liberal base.

Putin’s unforced errors also complicated the relationship, such as when he defended Russian hostility toward gays and cracked down on dissent before the Sochi Olympics. Putin became an easy target for U.S. commentators and comedians.

But Obama’s hesitancy to explain the degree of his strategic cooperation with Putin has enabled Official Washington’s still influential neocons, including holdovers within the State Department bureaucracy, to drive more substantive wedges between Obama and Putin. The neocons came to recognize that the Obama-Putin tandem had become a major impediment to their strategic vision.

Without doubt, the neocons’ most dramatic – and potentially most dangerous – counter-move has been Ukraine, where they have lent their political and financial support to opposition forces who sought to break Ukraine away from its Russian neighbor.

Though this crisis also stems from the historical division of Ukraine – between its more European-oriented west and the Russian-ethnic east and south – neocon operatives, with financing from the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy and other U.S. sources, played key roles in destabilizing and overthrowing the democratically elected president.

NED, a $100 million-a-year agency created by the Reagan administration in 1983 to promote political action and psychological warfare against targeted states, lists 65 projects that it supports financially inside Ukraine, including training activists, supporting “journalists” and promoting business groups, effectively creating a full-service structure primed and ready to destabilize a government in the name of promoting “democracy.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Shadow US Foreign Policy.”]

State Department neocons also put their shoulders into shoving Ukraine away from Russia. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, the wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan and the sister-in-law of the Gates-Petraeus adviser Frederick Kagan, advocated strenuously for Ukraine’s reorientation toward Europe.

Last December, Nuland reminded Ukrainian business leaders that, to help Ukraine achieve “its European aspirations, we have invested more than $5 billion.” She said the U.S. goal was to take “Ukraine into the future that it deserves,” by which she meant into the West’s orbit and away from Russia’s.

But President Yanukovych rejected a European Union plan that would have imposed harsh austerity on the already impoverished Ukraine. He accepted a more generous $15 billion loan from Russia, which also has propped up Ukraine’s economy with discounted natural gas. Yanukovych’s decision sparked anti-Russian street protests in Kiev, located in the country’s western and more pro-European region.

Nuland was soon at work planning for “regime change,” encouraging disruptive street protests by personally passing out cookies to the anti-government demonstrators. She didn’t seem to notice or mind that the protesters in Kiev’s Maidan square had hoisted a large banner honoring Stepan Bandera, a Ukrainian nationalist who collaborated with the German Nazis during World War II and whose militias participated in atrocities against Jews and Poles.

By late January, Nuland was discussing with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt who should be allowed in the new government.

“Yats is the guy,” Nuland said in a phone call to Pyatt that was intercepted and posted online. “He’s got the economic experience, the governing experience. He’s the guy you know.” By “Yats,” Nuland was referring to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who had served as head of the central bank, foreign minister and economic minister — and who was committed to harsh austerity.

As Assistant Secretary Nuland and Sen. McCain cheered the demonstrators on, the street protests turned violent. Police clashed with neo-Nazi bands, the ideological descendants of Bandera’s anti-Russian Ukrainians who collaborated with the Nazi SS during World War II.

With the crisis escalating and scores of people killed in the street fighting, Yanukovych agreed to a E.U.-brokered deal that called for moving up scheduled elections and having the police stand down. The neo-Nazi storm troopers then seized the opening to occupy government buildings and force Yanukovych and many of his aides to flee for their lives.

With these neo-Nazis providing “security,” the remaining parliamentarians agreed in a series of unanimous or near unanimous votes to establish a new government and seek Yanukovych’s arrest for mass murder. Nuland’s choice, Yatsenyuk, emerged as interim prime minister.

Yet, the violent ouster of Yanukovych provoked popular resistance to the coup from the Russian-ethnic south and east. After seeking refuge in Russia, Yanukovych appealed to Putin for help. Putin then dispatched Russian troops to secure control of the Crimea. [For more on this history, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Cheering a ‘Democratic’ Coup in Ukraine.”]

Separating Obama from Putin

The Ukraine crisis has given Official Washington’s neocons another wedge to drive between Obama and Putin. For instance, the neocon flagship Washington Post editorialized on Saturday that Obama was responding “with phone calls” when something much more threatening than “condemnation” was needed.

It’s always stunning when the Post, which so energetically lobbied for the U.S. invasion of Iraq under the false pretense of eliminating its (non-existent) weapons of mass destruction, gets its ire up about another country acting in response to a genuine security threat on its own borders, not half a world away.

But the Post’s editors have never been deterred by their own hypocrisy. They wrote, “Mr. Putin’s likely objective was not difficult to figure. He appears to be responding to Ukraine’s overthrow of a pro-Kremlin government last week with an old and ugly Russian tactic: provoking a separatist rebellion in a neighboring state, using its own troops when necessary.”

The reality, however, appears to have been that neocon elements from within the U.S. government encouraged the overthrow of the elected president of Ukraine via a coup spearheaded by neo-Nazi storm troopers who then terrorized lawmakers as the parliament passed draconian laws, including some intended to punish the Russian-oriented regions which favor Yanukovych.

Yet, besides baiting Obama over his tempered words about the crisis, the Post declared that “Mr. Obama and European leaders must act quickly to prevent Ukraine’s dismemberment. Missing from the president’s statement was a necessary first step: a demand that all Russian forces – regular and irregular – be withdrawn … and that Moscow recognize the authority of the new Kiev government. … If Mr. Putin does not comply, Western leaders should make clear that Russia will pay a heavy price.”

The Post editors are fond of calling for ultimatums against various countries, especially Syria and Iran, with the implication that if they don’t comply with some U.S. demand that harsh actions, including military reprisals, will follow.

But now the neocons, in their single-minded pursuit of endless “regime change” in countries that get in their way, have taken their ambitions to a dangerous new level, confronting nuclear-armed Russia with ultimatums.

By Sunday, the Post’s neocon editors were “spelling out the consequences” for Putin and Russia, essentially proposing a new Cold War. The Post mocked Obama for alleged softness toward Russia and suggested that the next “regime change” must come in Moscow.

“Many in the West did not believe Mr. Putin would dare attempt a military intervention in Ukraine because of the steep potential consequences,” the Post wrote. “That the Russian ruler plunged ahead shows that he doubts Western leaders will respond forcefully. If he does not quickly retreat, the United States must prove him wrong.”

The madness of the neocons has long been indicated by their extraordinary arrogance and their contempt for other nations’ interests. They assume that U.S. military might and other coercive means must be brought to bear on any nation that doesn’t bow before U.S. ultimatums or that resists U.S.-orchestrated coups.

Whenever the neocons meet resistance, they don’t rethink their strategy; they simply take it to the next level. Angered by Russia’s role in heading off U.S. military attacks against Syria and Iran, the neocons escalated their geopolitical conflict by taking it to Russia’s own border, by egging on the violent ouster of Ukraine’s elected president.

The idea was to give Putin an embarrassing black eye as punishment for his interference in the neocons’ dream of “regime change” across the Middle East. Now, with Putin’s countermove, his dispatch of Russian troops to secure control of the Crimea, the neocons want Obama to further escalate the crisis by going after Putin.

Some leading neocons even see ousting Putin as a crucial step toward reestablishing the preeminence of their agenda. NED president Carl Gershman wrote in the Washington Post, “Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents.  … Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

At minimum, the neocons hope that they can neutralize Putin as Obama’s ally in trying to tamp down tensions with Syria and Iran – and thus put American military strikes against those two countries back under active consideration.

As events spin out of control, it appears way past time for President Obama to explain to the American people why he has collaborated with President Putin in trying to resolve some of the world’s thorniest problems.

That, however, would require him to belatedly take control of his own administration, to purge the neocon holdovers who have worked to sabotage his actual foreign policy, and to put an end to neocon-controlled organizations, like the National Endowment for Democracy, that use U.S. taxpayers’ money to stir up trouble abroad. That would require real political courage.

Robert Parry

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat. His two previous books are Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’.

Two Faux Democracies Threaten Life On Earth July 26, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
Roger’s note: Somehow I missed the article by the respected scholar, Amitai Etzioni,  reproduced here below, when it was published in the Huffington Post on July 2.  If it is true that the Pentagon in fact has in place a plan for what would be in effect a preemptive nuclear attack on China, then it seems to me that that Etzioni’s “whistle-blowing” overshadows even that of Edward Snowden.  How can it be that this explosive (pun intended) item is being ignored by the Congress and the mainstream media?  Am I misunderstanding something here?
During the Korean War (excuse me, the Korean Police Action), the commander of US forces, General Douglas MacArthur, continually undermined the strategy of then President Harry S. Truman, including advocating the use of nuclear weapons against China and bringing the Nationalist Chinese in Taiwan into the conflict.  Eventually, Truman fired World War II hero MacArthur.  Since then, the effective control of military decisions by civilian authority has continued to decline and reached a low point under Barack Obama.  
OpEdNews Op Eds 7/25/2013 at 10:15:48
By (about the author)
israel-cost-us-jpg_12495_20130725-842
Amitai Etzioni has raised an important question : “Who authorized preparations for war with China?” Etzioni says that the war plan is not the sort of contingency plan that might be on hand for an improbable event. Etzioni also reports that the Pentagon’s war plan was not ordered by, and has not been reviewed by, US civilian authorities. We are confronted with a neoconized  out-of-control   US military endangering Americans and the rest of the world.

Etzioni is correct that this is a momentous decision made by a neoconized military. China is obviously aware that Washington is preparing for war with China. If the Yale Journal knows it, China knows it. If the Chinese government is realistic, the government is aware that Washington is planning a pre-emptive nuclear attack against China. No other kind of war makes any sense from Washington’s standpoint. The “superpower” was never able to occupy Baghdad, and after 11 years of war has been defeated in Afghanistan by a few thousand lightly armed Taliban. It would be curtains for Washington to get into a conventional war with China.

When China was a primitive third world country, it fought the US military to a stalemate in Korea. Today China has the world’s second largest economy and is rapidly overtaking the failing US economy destroyed by jobs offshoring, bankster fraud, and corporate and congressional treason.

The Pentagon’s war plan for China is called “AirSea Battle.” The plan describes itself as “interoperable air and naval forces that can execute networked, integrated attacks-in-depth to disrupt, destroy, and defeat enemy anti-access area denial capabilities.”

Yes, what does that mean? It means many billions of dollars of more profits for the military/security complex while the 99 percent are ground under the boot. It is also clear that this nonsensical jargon cannot defeat a Chinese army. But this kind of saber-rattling can lead to war, and if the Washington morons get a war going, the only way Washington can prevail is with nuclear weapons. The radiation, of course, will kill Americans as well.

Nuclear war is on Washington’s agenda. The rise of the Neocon Nazis has negated the nuclear disarmament agreements that Reagan and Gorbachev made. The extraordinary, mainly truthful 2012 book, The Untold History of the United States by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, describes the post-Reagan breakout of preemptive nuclear attack as Washington’s first option.

During the Cold War nuclear weapons had a defensive purpose. The purpose was to prevent nuclear war by the US and USSR each having sufficient retaliatory power to ensure “mutually assured destruction.” MAD, as it was known, meant that nuclear weapons had no offensive advantage for either side.

The Soviet collapse and China’s focus on its economy instead of its military have resulted in Washington’s advantage in nuclear weaponry that, according to two US Dr. Strangeglove characters, Keir Lieber and Daryl Press, gives Washington first-strike capability. Lieber and Press write that the “precipitous decline of Russia’s arsenal, and the glacial pace of modernization of China’s nuclear forces,” have created a situation in which neither Russia nor China could retaliate to Washington’s first strike.

The Pentagon’s “AirSea Battle” and Lieber and Press’ article in Foreign Affairs have informed China and Russia that Washington is contemplating pre-emptive nuclear attack on both countries. To ensure Russia’s inability to retaliate, Washington is placing anti-ballistic missiles on Russia’s borders in violation of the US-USSR agreement.

Because the American press is a corrupt government propaganda ministry, the American people have no idea that neoconized Washington is planning nuclear war. Americans are no more aware of this than they are of former President Jimmy Carter’s recent statement, reported only in Germany, that the United States no longer has a functioning democracy.

The possibility that the United States would initiate nuclear war was given reality 11 years ago when President George W. Bush, at the urging of Dick Cheney and the neocons that dominated his regime, signed off on the 2002 Nuclear Posture Review.

This neocon document, signed off on by America’s most moronic president, resulted in consternation and condemnation from the rest of the world and launched a new arms race. Russian President Putin immediately announced that Russia would spend all necessary sums to maintain Russia’s retaliatory nuclear capability. The Chinese displayed their prowess by knocking a satellite out of space with a missile. The mayor of Hiroshima, recipient city of a vast American war crime, stated:

“The nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the central international agreement guiding the elimination of nuclear weapons, is on the verge of collapse. The chief cause is US nuclear policy that, by openly declaring the possibility of a pre-emptive nuclear first strike and calling for resumed research into mini-nukes and other so-called ‘useable nuclear weapons,’ appears to worship nuclear weapons as God.”

Polls from all over the world consistently show that Israel and the US are regarded as the two greatest threats to peace and to life on earth. Yet, these two utterly lawless governments prance around pretending to be the “world’s greatest democracies.” Neither government accepts any accountability whatsoever to international law, to human rights, to the Geneva Conventions, or to their own statutory law. The US and Israel are rogue governments, throwbacks to the Hitler and Stalin era.

The post World War II wars originate in Washington and Israel. No other country has imperial expansionary ambitions. The Chinese government has not seized Taiwan, which China could do at will. The Russian government has not seized former constituent parts of Russia, such as Georgia, which, provoked by Washington to launch an attack, was instantly overwhelmed by the Russian Army. Putin could have hung Washington’s Georgian puppet and reincorporated Georgia into Russia, where it resided for several centuries and where many believe it belongs.

For the past 68 years, most military aggression can be sourced to the US and Israel. Yet, these two originators of wars pretend to be the victims of aggression. It is Israel that has a nuclear arsenal that is illegal, unacknowledged, and unaccountable. It is Washington that has drafted a war plan based on nuclear first strike. The rest of the world is correct to view these two rogue unaccountable governments as direct threats to life on earth.

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/

Dr. Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury for Economic Policy in the Reagan Administration. He was associate editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal, columnist for Business Week and the Scripps Howard News Service. He is a contributing editor to Gerald Celente’s Trends Journal. He has had numerous university appointments. His latest book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Failure-Capitalism-Economic-Dissolution-ebook/dp/B00BLPJNWE/ref=sr_1_17?ie=UTF8&qid=1362095594&sr=8-17&keywords=paul+craig+roberts

Preparing to Go to War With China

If you have never heard of the Air-Sea Battle (ASB) concept, you are in the good company of most Americans. Since 2009 the Pentagon has been fleshing out this operational concept, which prepares the United States, among other contingencies, for an all-out war with China. You may say, “Wait a moment; surely the military has a contingency plan for everything, even for an alien invasion” — and you would be correct. Air-Sea Battle, however, is moving beyond the contingency phase to implementation, including force restructuring and significant budget allocations, changes that are difficult to reverse once they are set in motion.

The challenges that led the Pentagon to develop Air-Sea Battle are indeed formidable. Military leaders point out that potential adversaries of the U.S. have acquired increasingly sophisticated “anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities,” which is Pentagon-speak for weapons and technologies that threaten the United States’ freedom to enter, maneuver within, and defend the global commons “of the air, sea, cyberspace, and space.” For instance, anti-ship missiles. In response, ASB calls for greater cooperation among the Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Army for the execution of “networked, integrated attacks-in-depth to disrupt, destroy, and defeat enemy anti-access area denial capabilities.”

Officials emphasize that ASB is not directed at any one nation. However, no country has invested nearly as much in A2/AD as China and few international environments are more contested — than the waters of the Asia-Pacific. Hence, while in the past the U.S. could send in a couple aircraft carriers as a credible display of force, as it did in 1996 when the Chinese conducted a series of missile tests and military exercises in the Strait of Taiwan, in the not-so-distant future Chinese anti-ship missiles could deny U.S. access to the region. Thus, it is not surprising that one senior Navy official overseeing modernization efforts stated that, “Air-Sea Battle is all about convincing the Chinese that we will win this competition.”

Although much of the ASB remains classified, in May of this year the Navy released an unclassified summary that illuminates how the concept is beginning to shape the military’s plans and acquisitions. In 2011, the Pentagon set up the Air-Sea Battle Office to coordinate investments, organize war games, and incorporate the ASB concept in training and education across all four Services. A Congressional Research Service report notes that “the Air-Sea Battle concept has prompted Navy officials to make significant shifts in the service’s FY2014-FY2018 budget plan, including new investments in ASW, electronic attack and electronic warfare, cyber warfare, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), the P-8A maritime patrol aircraft, and the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAV [Unmanned Aerial Vehicle].”

Critics of Air-Sea Battle warn that it is inherently escalatory and could even precipitate a nuclear war. Not only will the U.S.’s development of ASB likely accelerate China’s expansion of its nuclear, cyber, and space weapons programs, but according to Joshua Rovner of the U.S. Naval War College, the early and deep inland strikes on enemy territory envisioned by the concept could be mistakenly perceived by the Chinese as preemptive attempts to take out its nuclear weapons, thus cornering them into “a terrible use-it-or-lose-it dilemma.” Hence, some call for “merely” imposing a blockade on China along the first island chain (which stretches from Japan to Taiwan and through the Philippines) in order to defeat an aggressive China without risking a nuclear war.

Although Air-Sea Battle is often criticized as being a plan without a strategy, it actually reflects a major strategic shift, namely, to defeat China rather than accommodate its rise as a regional power. By seeking to guarantee the United States’ unfettered access to China’s backyard — by a preemptive mainland strike if necessary — Air-Sea Battle goes way beyond the containment strategy employed against the USSR and its allies during the Cold War. It merely sought to keep the USSR from expanding any further. Not to use military might to cow and if need be defeat the other side.

The Pentagon is doing its job. It identified a new threat and is preparing to face it in the ways it knows how. In doing so, it is propelled by a strong preference within the military — after more than a decade of being bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan — to fight conventional battles rather than dirty ‘shadow’ wars against terrorists and insurgents. And, one cannot help but assume, is egged on by defense contractors that stand to gain by producing all the new hardware.

The rub, as demonstrated by a study just published by yours truly in the Yale Journal of International Affairs, is that it seems the White House has not approved ASB — because it has not yet reviewed it or developed a coherent China policy. It is not at all clear that civilian officials have weighed the Pentagon’s assessment of the threat posed by China against input from other sources, such as the State Department, Treasury, and the intelligence community. Such a thorough review is called for, before the U.S. slips into a major military buildup without first testing the thesis that China is much too preoccupied with major domestic challenges of its own to become a global power or to consider confronting the United States.

One thing is clear though: If you are a Chinese leader and read that the U.S. military is debating whether to hit the mainland of your country or “only” deprive China of the energy and raw materials it desperately needs by imposing a blockade, you are surely going to pursue a military buildup of your own. We hence face the danger that two major powers, each best served by focusing on problems at home, will again be caught up in preparations for war that may well end up in an all out military conflagration. Surely the ASB plan deserves public debate and a careful review on the highest level.

A panel discussion of the ASB will take place at The George Washington University on Wednesday, July 10, 2013 from 4 to 6 pm. For more information, please contact icps@gwu.edu.

Amitai Etzioni is a University Professor at The George Washington University and the author of Hot Spots: American Foreign Policy in a Post-Human-Rights World.

The Iraq Disaster Looms Big: But Don’t Tell That to the Petraeus September 2, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

Consortium News / By Robert Parry

Iraq continues its drift toward a failed state, and the strategic winner from
the invasion looks to be Iran. So why is Washington celebrating Gen. Petraeus?

September 1, 2011  |

Top Iranian officials have lashed out at
US General David Petraeus, pictured, for his comments asserting the Islamic
republic is becoming a “thugocracy”, saying such terms are only used by
“thugs.”
Photo Credit: AFP/File – Ahmad
al-Rubaye
As Gen. David Petraeus retired from the Army on Wednesday, he received a
17-gun salute and was hailed across the U.S. news media as the strategic genius
who organized the “successful surge” in Iraq and similarly achieved gains
against the Taliban in Afghanistan. He is now off to run the CIA.

However, the less glorious truth about Petraeus’s much-heralded “surge” in
Iraq was that it cost the lives of almost 1,000 more U.S. soldiers, inflicted
more violence upon the people of Iraq and will likely only have achieved a delay
in a U.S. military defeat of historic proportions. Much the same could be said
for Petraeus’s “surge” in Afghanistan.

The Iraq surge’s primary accomplishment may have been to spare President
George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and their neocon advisers the
embarrassment of having invaded and occupied Iraq, only to see a bloodied U.S.
army essentially kicked out by the Iraqis. The surge put off the forced
withdrawal of the American military at least until President Barack Obama’s
watch.

Washington’s still-influential neocons are now pressing for a revised “status
of forces agreement” with Iraq that will allow some U.S. “advisers” to remain in
Iraq after the end of the year. That way, the image of the last American troops
racing to the Kuwaiti border in December 2011 – much as Soviet troops retreated
from Afghanistan in 1989 – won’t be so stark.

But even the fig leaf of several thousand left-behind U.S. trainers won’t
change the strategic reality of a major neocon-driven disaster.

Another measure of that American failure in Iraq could be found Thursday
in a
Washington Post op-ed
by former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who paints
his own bleak picture of what life is like in Iraq after the eight-year U.S
occupation.

Allawi, who also heads the largest political bloc in Iraq’s legislature,
frames his op-ed as an appeal for more economic and political support from the
United States but does so in the context of describing a devastated nation. He
writes:

“More than eight years after Saddam Hussein’s regime was overthrown, basic
services are in a woeful state: Most of the country has only a few hours of
electricity a day. Blackouts were increasingly common this summer.

“Oil exports, still Iraq’s only source of income, are barely more than they
were when Hussein was toppled. The government has squandered the boon of high
oil prices and failed to create real and sustainable job growth. Iraq’s economy
has become an ever more dysfunctional mix of cronyism and mismanagement, with
high unemployment and endemic corruption.

Transparency
International
ranks Iraq the world’s fourth-most-corrupt country and by far
the worst in the Middle East. The promise of improved security has been empty,
with sectarianism on the rise.”

False Promises

Allawi also cites the false promises of democracy:

“Despite failing to win the most seats in last year’s elections, Prime
Minister Nouri al-Maliki clung to power through a combination of Iranian support
and U.S. compliance. He now shows an alarming disregard for democratic
principles and the rule of law.

“Vital independent institutions such as the election commission, the
transparency commission and Iraq’s central bank have been ordered to report
directly to the office of the prime minister. Meanwhile, Maliki refuses to
appoint consensus candidates as defense and interior ministers, as per last
year’s power-sharing agreement.

“The government is using blatant dictatorial tactics and intimidation to
quell opposition, ignoring the most basic human rights. Human
Rights Watch
reported in February on secret
torture prisons
under Maliki’s authority.

“In June, it exposed the
government’s use of hired thugs
to beat, stab and even sexually assault
peaceful demonstrators in Baghdad who were complaining about corruption and poor
services. These horrors are reminiscent of autocratic responses to
demonstrations by failing regimes elsewhere in the region, and a far cry from
the freedom and democracy promised in the new Iraq.

“Is this really what the United States sacrificed more than 4,000 young men
and women, and hundreds of billions of dollars, to build? The trend of failure
is becoming irreversible.”

So what is going on here? How can the U.S. media hail Petraeus’s “successful
surge” and write about “victory at last” in Iraq when it appears that the
Bush-Cheney-neocon intervention has created what amounts to a failed state in
Iraq?

The answer seems to be a political one. Since nearly everyone who was in a
position of authority in Washington in 2003 supported the invasion of Iraq –
including most leading lights of the national press corps – no one wants to face
up to their responsibility for the death and defeat.

To do so would require painful self-reflection. Washington’s
best-and-brightest would have to admit that they didn’t measure up to the moral
and intellectual task of resisting the Bush-Cheney-neocon plans for aggressive
war, what the post-World War II Nuremberg Tribunals deemed the “supreme
international crime.”

In an honorable world, there would be resignations in disgrace from the
pro-war politicians and pundits. In a just world, there would be international
tribunals enforcing accountability on the perpetrators and their accomplices, as
the Nuremberg judges promised even for leaders of the victorious Allied nations
if they committed aggressive war like the fascist Axis powers did.

Since neither exists – not an honorable world nor a just one – Washington
political/media establishment simply keeps up a positive spin. Bush and Cheney
get to live out their retirements in peace and comfort, Petraeus gets a 17-gun
salute, and the neocons retain their influence and their lucrative think-tank
jobs in the nation’s capital.

There even appears to be a good chance that the neocons will ride back into
power in 2013 behind another tough-talking Texan, Gov. Rick Perry.

 

Still Preparing to Attack Iran: The Neoconservatives in the Obama Era December 3, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

by: Robert Dreyfuss, TomDispatch.com

photo
Douglas Feith. (Illustration: Paul Giambarba)

   

 

 What, exactly, does Barack Obama’s mild-mannered choice to head the Department of Health and Human Services, former Senator Tom Daschle, have to do with neocons who want to bomb Iran?

    A familiar coalition of hawks, hardliners, and neoconservatives expects Barack Obama’s proposed talks with Iran to fail – and they’re already proposing an escalating set of measures instead. Some are meant to occur alongside any future talks. These include steps to enhance coordination with Israel, tougher sanctions against Iran, and a region-wide military buildup of U.S. strike forces, including the prepositioning of military supplies within striking distance of that country.

    Once the future negotiations break down, as they are convinced will happen, they propose that Washington quickly escalate to war-like measures, including a U.S. Navy-enforced embargo on Iranian fuel imports and a blockade of that country’s oil exports. Finally, of course, comes the strategic military attack against the Islamic Republic of Iran that so many of them have wanted for so long.

    It’s tempting to dismiss the hawks now as twice-removed from power: first, figures like John Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz, and Douglas Feith were purged from top posts in the Bush administration after 2004; then the election of Barack Obama and the announcement Monday of his centrist, realist-minded team of establishment foreign policy gurus seemed to nail the doors to power shut for the neocons, who have bitterly criticized the president-elect’s plans to talk with Iran, withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, and abandon the reckless Global War on Terrorism rhetoric of the Bush era.

    “Kinetic Action” Against Iran

    When it comes to Iran, however, it’s far too early to dismiss the hawks. To be sure, they are now plying their trade from outside the corridors of power, but they have more friends inside the Obama camp than most people realize. Several top advisers to Obama – including Tony Lake, UN Ambassador-designate Susan Rice, Tom Daschle, and Dennis Ross, along with leading Democratic hawks like Richard Holbrooke, close to Vice-President-elect Joe Biden or Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton – have made common cause with war-minded think-tank hawks at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and other hardline institutes.

    Last spring, Tony Lake and Susan Rice, for example, took part in a WINEP “2008 Presidential Task Force” study which resulted in a report entitled, “Strengthening the Partnership: How to Deepen U.S.-Israel Cooperation on the Iranian Nuclear Challenge.” The Institute, part of the Washington-based Israel lobby, was founded in coordination with the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and has been vigorously supporting a confrontation with Iran. The task force report, issued in June, was overseen by four WINEP heavyweights: Robert Satloff, WINEP’s executive director, Patrick Clawson, its chief Iran analyst, David Makovsky, a senior fellow, and Dennis Ross, an adviser to Obama who is also a WINEP fellow.

    Endorsed by both Lake and Rice, the report opted for an alarmist view of Iran’s nuclear program and proposed that the next president set up a formal U.S.-Israeli mechanism for coordinating policy toward Iran (including any future need for “preventive military action”). It drew attention to Israeli fears that “the United States may be reconciling itself to the idea of ‘living with an Iranian nuclear bomb,'” and it raised the spurious fear that Iran plans to arm terrorist groups with nuclear weapons.

    There is, of course, nothing wrong with consultations between the United States and Israel. But the WINEP report is clearly predisposed to the idea that the United States ought to give undue weight to Israel’s inflated concerns about Iran. And it ignores or dismisses a number of facts: that Iran has no nuclear weapon, that Iran has not enriched uranium to weapons grade, that Iran may not have the know-how to actually construct a weapon even if, sometime in the future, it does manage to acquire bomb-grade material, and that Iran has no known mechanism for delivering such a weapon.

    WINEP is correct that the United States must communicate closely with Israel about Iran. Practically speaking, however, a U.S.-Israeli dialogue over Iran’s “nuclear challenge” will have to focus on matters entirely different from those in WINEP’s agenda. First, the United States must make it crystal clear to Israel that under no circumstances will it tolerate or support a unilateral Israeli attack against Iran. Second, Washington must make it clear that if Israel were indeed to carry out such an attack, the United States would condemn it, refuse to widen the war by coming to Israel’s aid, and suspend all military aid to the Jewish state. And third, Israel must get the message that, even given the extreme and unlikely possibility that the United States deems it necessary to go to war with Iran, there would be no role for Israel.

    Just as in the wars against Iraq in 1990-1991 and 2003-2008, the United States hardly needs Israeli aid, which would be both superfluous and inflammatory. Dennis Ross and others at WINEP, however, would strongly disagree that Israel is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    Ross, who served as Middle East envoy for George H.W. Bush and then Bill Clinton, was also a key participant in a September 2008 task force chaired by two former senators, Daniel Coats (R.-Ind.) and Chuck Robb (D.-Va.), and led by Michael Makovsky, brother of WINEP’s David Makovsky, who served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the heyday of the Pentagon neocons from 2002-2006. Robb, incidentally, had already served as the neocons’ channel into the 2006 Iraq Study Group, chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Representative Lee Hamilton. According to Bob Woodward’s latest book, The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008, it was Robb who insisted that the Baker-Hamilton task force include an option for a “surge” in Iraq.

    The report of the Coats-Robb task force – “Meeting the Challenge: U.S. Policy Toward Iranian Nuclear Development” – went far beyond the WINEP task force report that Lake and Rice signed off on. It concluded that any negotiations with Iran were unlikely to succeed and should, in any case, be short-lived. As the report put the matter, “It must be clear that any U.S.-Iranian talks will not be open-ended, but will be limited to a pre-determined time period so that Tehran does not try to ‘run out the clock.'”

    Anticipating the failure of the talks, the task force (including Ross) urged “prepositioning military assets,” coupled with a “show of force” in the region. This would be followed almost immediately by a blockade of Iranian gasoline imports and oil exports, meant to paralyze Iran’s economy, followed by what they call, vaguely, “kinetic action.”

    That “kinetic action” – a U.S. assault on Iran – should, in fact, be massive, suggested the Coats-Robb report. Besides hitting dozens of sites alleged to be part of Iran’s nuclear research program, the attacks would target Iranian air defense and missile sites, communications systems, Revolutionary Guard facilities, key parts of Iran’s military-industrial complex, munitions storage facilities, airfields, aircraft facilities, and all of Iran’s naval facilities. Eventually, they say, the United States would also have to attack Iran’s ground forces, electric power plants and electrical grids, bridges, and “manufacturing plants, including steel, autos, buses, etc.”

    This is, of course, a hair-raising scenario. Such an attack on a country that had committed no act of war against the United States or any of its allies would cause countless casualties, virtually destroy Iran’s economy and infrastructure, and wreak havoc throughout the region. That such a high-level group of luminaries should even propose steps like these – and mean it – can only be described as lunacy. That an important adviser to President-elect Obama would sign on to such a report should be shocking, though it has received next to no attention.

    Palling Around With the Neocons

    At a November 6 forum at WINEP, Patrick Clawson, the erudite, neoconservative strategist who serves as the organization’s deputy director for research, laid out the institute’s view of how to talk to Iran in the Obama era. Doing so, he said, is critically important, but only to show the rest of the world that the United States has taken the last step for peace – before, of course, attacking. Then, and only then, will the United States have the legitimacy it needs to launch military action against Iran.

    “What we’ve got to do is to show the world that we’re making a big deal of engaging the Iranians,” he said, tossing a bone to the new administration. “I’d throw everything, including the kitchen sink, into it.” He advocates this approach only because he believes it won’t work. “The principal target with these offers [to Iran] is not Iran,” he adds. “The principal target of these offers is American public opinion and world public opinion.”

    The Coats-Robb report, Meeting the Challenge,” was written by one of the hardest of Washington’s neoconservative hardliners, Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute. Rubin, who spent most of the years since 9/11 either working for AEI or, before and during the war in Iraq, for the Wolfowitz-Feith team at the Pentagon, recently penned a report for the Institute entitled: “Can A Nuclear Iran Be Deterred or Contained?” Not surprisingly, he believes the answer to be a resounding “no,” although he does suggest that any effort to contain a nuclear Iran would certainly require permanent U.S. bases spread widely in the region, including in Iraq:

“If U.S. forces are to contain the Islamic Republic, they will require basing not only in GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries, but also in Afghanistan, Iraq, Central Asia, and the Caucasus. Without a sizeable regional presence, the Pentagon will not be able to maintain the predeployed resources and equipment necessary to contain Iran, and Washington will signal its lack of commitment to every ally in the region. Because containment is as much psychological as physical, basing will be its backbone.”

    The Coats-Robb report was issued by a little-known group called the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC). That organization, too, turns out to be interwoven with WINEP, not least because its foreign policy director is Michael Makovsky. Perhaps the most troubling participant in the Bipartisan Policy Center is Barack Obama’s éminence grise and one of his most important advisers during the campaign, Tom Daschle, who is slated to be his secretary of health and human services. So far, Daschle has not repudiated BPC’s provocative report.

    Ross, along with Richard Holbrooke, recently made appearances amid another collection of superhawks who came together to found a new organization, United Against Nuclear Iran. UANI is led by Mark Wallace, the husband of Nicole Wallace, a key member of Senator John McCain’s campaign team. Among UANI’s leadership team are Ross and Holbrooke, along with such hardliners as Jim Woolsey, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and Fouad Ajami, the Arab-American scholar who is a principal theorist on Middle East policy for the neoconservative movement.

    UANI is primarily a propaganda outfit. Its mission, it says, is to “inform the public about the nature of the Iranian regime, including its desire and intent to possess nuclear weapons, as well as Iran’s role as a state sponsor of global terrorism, and a major violator of human rights at home and abroad” and to “heighten awareness nationally and internationally about the danger that a nuclear-armed Iran poses to the region and the world.”

    Barack Obama has, of course, repeatedly declared his intention to embark on a different path by opening talks with Iran. He’s insisted that diplomacy, not military action, will be at the core of his approach to Tehran. During the election campaign, however, he also stated no less repeatedly that he will not take the threat of military action “off the table.”

    Organizations like WINEP, AIPAC, AEI, BPC, and UANI see it as their mission to push the United States toward a showdown with Iran. Don’t sell them short. Those who believe that such a confrontation would be inconceivable under President Obama ought to ask Tony Lake, Susan Rice, Dennis Ross, Tom Daschle, and Richard Holbrooke whether they agree – and, if so, why they’re still palling around with neoconservative hardliners.

    ——–

    Robert Dreyfuss, an independent journalist in Alexandria, Virginia, is a contributing editor at The Nation magazine, whose website hosts his The Dreyfuss Report, and has written frequently for Rolling Stone, The American Prospect, Mother Jones, and the Washington Monthly. He is the author of “Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam.”

Goodbye and Good Riddance November 12, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in George W. Bush.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

by: Paul Waldman, The American Prospect

photo
President Bush with Cabinet members. (Photo: Ron Edmonds / AP)

  

 

  After eight years of President Bush, we almost don’t know how to function without him – almost. But before we move on, we should pause to remember just what we’re leaving behind.

    Just over two years into George W. Bush’s presidency, The American Prospect featured Bush on its cover under the headline, “The Most Dangerous President Ever.” At the time, some probably thought it a bit over the top. But nearly six years later, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on the multifaceted burden that will soon be lifted from our collective shoulders.

    Since last week, I have stopped short and shaken my head in amazement every time I have heard the words “President-elect Obama.” But it is equally extraordinary to consider that in just a few weeks, George W. Bush will no longer be our president. Let me repeat that: In just a few weeks, George W. Bush will no longer be our president. So though our long national ordeal isn’t quite over, it’s never too early to say goodbye.

    Goodbye, we can say at last, to the most powerful man in the world being such a ridiculous buffoon, incapable of stringing together two coherent sentences. Goodbye to cringing with dread every time our president steps onto the world stage, sure he’ll say or do something to embarrass us all. Goodbye to being represented by a man who embodies everything our enemies want the people of the world to believe about America – that we are ignorant, cruel, and only care about foreign countries when we decide to stomp on them. Goodbye to his giggle, and his shoulder shake, and his nicknames. Goodbye to a president who talks to us like we’re a nation of fourth-graders.

    And goodbye, of course, to Dick Cheney. Goodbye to the man whose naked contempt for democracy contorted his face to a permanent sneer, who spent his days in his undisclosed location with his man-sized safe. And while we’re at it, goodbye to Cheney’s consigliore David Addington, as malevolent a force as has ever left his trail of slime across our federal institutions.

    Goodbye, indeed, to the entire band of liars and crooks and thieves who have so sullied the federal government that belongs to us all. We can even say goodbye to those who have already gone, to Rummy and Scooter, to Fredo and Rove, tornados of misery left in their wake.

    Goodbye to the rotating cast of butchers manning the White House’s legal abattoir, where the Constitution has been sliced and bled and gutted since September 11. Goodbye to the “unitary executive” theory and its claims that the president can do whatever he wants – even snatch an American citizen off the street and lock him up for life without charge, without legal representation, and without trial. Goodbye to the promiscuous use of “signing statements” (1,100 at last count) to declare that the law is whatever the president says it is, and that he’ll enforce only those laws he likes. Goodbye to an executive branch that treats lawfully issued subpoenas like suggestions that can be ignored. Goodbye to thinking of John Ashcroft as the liberal attorney general. Goodbye to the culture of incompetence, where rebuilding a country we destroyed could be turned over to a bunch of clueless 20-somethings with no qualifications save an internship at the Heritage Foundation and an opposition to abortion. Goodbye to the “Brownie, you’re doin’ a heckuva job” philosophy, where vital agencies are turned over to incompetent boobs to rot and decay. Goodbye to handing out the Medal of Freedom as an award for engineering one of the greatest screw-ups of our time. Goodbye to an administration that welcomed gluttonous war profiteering, that was only too happy to outsource every government function it could to well-connected contractors who would do a worse job for more money.

    Goodbye to the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war. Goodbye to the lust for sending off other people’s sons and daughters to fight and kill and die just to show your daddy you’re a real man. Goodbye to playing dress-up in flight suits, goodbye to strutting and posing and desperate sexual insecurity as a driver of American foreign policy. Goodbye to the neocons, so sinister and deluded they beg us all to become fevered conspiracy theorists. Goodbye to Guantanamo and its kangaroo courts. Goodbye to the use of torture as official U.S. government policy, and goodbye to the immoral ghouls who think you can rename it “enhanced interrogation techniques” and render it any less monstrous.

    Goodbye to the accusation that if you disagree with what the president wants to do, you don’t “support the troops.”

    Goodbye to stocking government agencies with people who are opposed to the very missions those agencies are charged with carrying out. Goodbye to putting industry lobbyists in charge of the agencies that are supposed to regulate those very industries. Goodbye to madly giving away public lands to private interests. Goodbye to a Food and Drug Administration that acts like a wholly owned subsidiary of the pharmaceutical industry, except when it acts like a wholly owned subsidiary of the fundamentalist puritans who believe that sex is dirty and birth control will turn girls into sluts. Goodbye to the “global gag rule,” which prohibits any entity receiving American funds from even telling women where they can get an abortion if they need it.

    Goodbye to vetoing health insurance for poor children but rushing back to Washington to sign a bill to keep alive a woman whose cerebral cortex had liquefied. Goodbye to the ban on federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research.

    Goodbye to the philosophy that says that if we give tax cuts to the rich and keep the government from any oversight of the economy, prosperity will eventually trickle down. Goodbye to the thirst for privatizing Social Security and to the belief that the success of a social safety-net program is what makes it a threat and should mark it for destruction. Goodbye to the war on unions and to a National Labor Relations Board devoted to crushing them. Goodbye to the principle of loyalty above all else, that nominates Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court and puts Alberto Gonzales in charge of the Justice Department. And goodbye to that Justice Department, the one where U.S. attorneys keep their jobs only if they are willing to undertake bogus investigations of Democrats timed to hit the papers just before Election Day. Goodbye to a Justice Department where graduates of Pat Robertson’s law school roam the halls by the dozens, where “justice” is a joke.

    Goodbye to James Dobson and a host of radical clerics picking up the phone and hearing someone in the White House on the other end. Goodbye to the most consequential decisions being made on the basis of one man’s “gut,” a gut that proved so wrong so often. Goodbye to the contempt for evidence, to the scorn for intellect and book learnin’, to the relentless war on science itself as a means of understanding the world.

    Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye to it all.

    Though President Obama will be spending most of his time cleaning up the mess George Bush made, we probably won’t have Dubya to kick around anymore. It’s hard to imagine Bush undertaking some grand philanthropic effort on the scale of the Clinton Global Initiative, or hopping around to international trouble spots like Jimmy Carter. Republicans won’t be asking him to speak on their behalf, and publishers are reportedly uninterested in the prospect of a Bush memoir. His reign of destruction complete, Bush will return to Texas and fill his days with the mundane activities of a retiree – puttering around the yard, reading some magazines, maybe enjoying that new Xbox Jenna gave him for Christmas (“I’m the Decider, and I decide to spend this afternoon playing Call of Duty 4”).

    This presidency is finally over. We can say goodbye to an administration whose misdeeds have piled so high that the size of the mountain no longer shocks us. In our lifetimes, we will see administrations of varying degrees of competence and integrity, some we’ll agree with and some we won’t. But we will probably never see another quite like the one now finally reaching its end, so mind-boggling a parade of incompetence and malice, dishonesty, and immorality. So at last – at long, long last – we can say goodbye.

    And good riddance.

    ——–

    Paul Waldman is a senior fellow at Media Matters for America and the author of “Being Right is Not Enough: What Progressives Must Learn From Conservative Success.” The views expressed here are his own.

Neocons Plot to Co-Opt Obama November 10, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
Posted on Nov 6, 2008

By William Pfaff

Since the triumph of Barack Obama, nearly every medium of news and political comment in the United States and abroad has carried a compendium of “challenges” and dangers facing the next president. Yet when these challenges are examined, they nearly all turn out to be potential opportunities.

So far as they are obstacles, they usually involve efforts by other governments to block the United States from continuing policies of the Bush government meant to manipulate or intimidate them.

The basic Bush policies—defense spending at levels higher than all the rest of the world combined, unilateralism, hostility to the United Nations and international law, advocacy of “preventive” wars, efforts to dominate the Middle East, constant pressure on Russia and what might be called contingent hostility toward China, opposition to European Union efforts at military cooperation—all have been promoted since the 1990s by nationalist and neoconservative Republicans acting through the conservative Washington think tanks.

These reflect the long-term ambitions for economic and military hegemony that animated Bush administration foreign policy. Many of the same people and their followers will try to introduce the same ideas into the foreign policy of the new Obama government. The president-elect is a foreign policy novice and will find himself under great pressure to follow Middle Eastern and China and Russia policies inherited from George Bush, even though these are what Barack Obama was elected to change or terminate.

Take the supposed threat to an Obama government from a “resurgent Russia,” trying to change the frontiers of post-Cold War Europe by intimidating its near neighbors.

This is a challenge to the United States only as a reaction to neoconservative efforts to reshape the geopolitical configuration of the new Europe in a way that expands American power.

Under Bush, the United States renounced the ABM treaty and declared its intention to install new missile systems close to Russia. It has already recruited all of Russia’s close neighbors into an expanded NATO, and wants to bring in Georgia and Ukraine, and possibly some of the ex-Soviet Central Asian countries. It promotes the installation of pro-American governments in those countries. Who can be surprised that Russia reacts? It would be like Russia building a new missile system in Mexico, and recruiting allies in Central America. It also weakens NATO to link Poland’s legitimate and enforceable demand for security to irresponsible guarantees given to countries NATO cannot defend (as in the Georgia case).

There is a simple first step in dealing with Russian “challenges” to the West. It is to stop provoking Russia and treating it as an enemy. One may not like the new authoritarianism of the Putin-Medvedev government in Moscow, or Russia’s political manipulation of its oil exports, but the former is a Russian affair, and the latter goes on everywhere else.

Obama promised to withdraw most U.S. forces from Iraq by mid-2010. The present situation in Iraq is written about as a “threat” in that Washington has been unable to reach an agreement with the Iraq government on terms to allow American military forces to remain in Iraq after their U.N. mandate to be there expires at the end of this year.

Most Americans, by their votes in this week’s election, as in the 2006 congressional election, demonstrated that they want American forces to leave Iraq. They want those forces to leave “honorably,” and not leave chaos behind, but if the Iraq government, parliament and a large part of the Iraqi public want the American occupation to end, what is the problem in Washington’s doing as asked?

Even if Iraq should prove incapable of settling its internal problems on its own, where is the threat or challenge to the U.S.? The actual danger would be to remain against Iraq’s will, and risk being swept again into Iraq’s internal conflicts.

The Bush administration and its backers wanted to keep a privileged position in Iraq’s economy and oil industry. The Pentagon has from the start of the Iraq war wanted permanent bases there. But if Iraqi authorities and the public refuse, the only intelligent response is to agree to leave. To refuse or delay would implicitly acknowledge that the new administration wants to go on controlling Iraq as a means to controlling, or trying to control, the Middle East and to exploit its resources—which is just what America’s enemies say.

Possibly this is the course that Barack Obama will decide upon. Here and elsewhere in policy choices for the region, he will be under heavy pressure from his campaign promises to Israel to, in effect, continue Bush administration policy for the Middle East. But that is not what the people who voted for him expect.

A big struggle over control of Obama’s foreign policy has already begun with his first White House staff nominees. Many of the people currently advising him, and all of those behind past Bush policies, are going to tell him his administration must choose between “weakness,” on the one hand, and “strength” plus “global leadership,” on the other hand. The latter means a quest for American hegemony that wouldn’t be any more successful under Obama than it was under Bush, and along the way would destroy his presidency just as it destroyed George Bush’s.

Visit William Pfaff’s Web site at www.williampfaff.com.

© 2008 Tribune Media Services Inc.