Rights Under Attack
. . . about Chaos,
Reason, and Hope
Annan Trounces Bush at UN
(Ian Williams, AlterNet, September 23, 2003)
In his distinctively quiet-spoken manner, Annan trounced the Bush administration's foreign policy doctrine of unilateral preemptive strikes at the United Nations General Assembly. Saying the world had "come to a fork in the road," at what "may be a moment no less decisive than 1945 itself, when the United Nations was founded," Annan spelt out explicitly and in the most public way possible the position he has until now reserved for quiet off-the-cuff sessions with the media. Drawing on the power of his office, he ripped apart the U.S. policy of hot preemption . . .
"Until now it has been understood that when states go beyond (self-defense), and decide to use force to deal with broader threats to international peace and security, they need the unique legitimacy provided by the United Nations.
"Now, some say this understanding is no longer tenable, since an 'armed attack' with weapons of mass destruction could be launched at any time, without warning, or by a clandestine group. Rather than wait for that to happen, they argue, states have the right and obligation to use force pre-emptively, even on the territory of other states, and even while weapons systems that might be used to attack them are still being developed.
"According to this argument, states are not obliged to wait until there is agreement in the Security Council. Instead, they reserve the right to act unilaterally, or in ad hoc coalitions.
"This logic represents a fundamental challenge to the principles on which, however imperfectly, world peace and stability have rested for the last fifty-eight years ... if it were to be adopted, it could set precedents that resulted in a proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force, with or without justification. . . .
By UN standards, it was an unprecedented, if justly deserved, rebuff to the United States. . . . George Bush's speech that followed displayed the usual tone-deaf rhetoric that has become a hallmark of his foreign policy. . . . Being the president of the United States means never having to say you're sorry. But even so, an occasional hands-on contact with reality would be useful. While Bush admitted last week that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and the Sept. 11 attacks, he declared once again today, "The regime of Saddam Hussein cultivated ties to terror while it built weapons of mass destruction." The phrase "ties to terror" is seemingly the ambiguous phrase of choice, carefully crafted to reinforce the mistaken beliefs of the 70 percent of Americans are convinced that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11 without having to actually say so. . . . To add to the Bush in Wonderland effect, he welcomed the delegation from the Iraqi Governing Council which was sitting in the Iraqi seat at the UN. They were, he said, "the first truly representative institution in that country." Could this be the same IGC that the administration says is not ready or fit to take over Iraqi sovereignty? The same leaders who are pushing for a greater UN role? . . . In the end, there was little that was new in Bush's speech – just the same old tired assortment of cliches about terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and Iraq. It's not an argument that won many supporters in the UN when it was new, and is unlikely to do so six months into a botched-up occupation.
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posted by Lorenzo 8:03 PM
Dialectics of Terror
(M. Shahid Alam, CommonDreams.org, September 13, 2003)
“If you kill one person, it is murder.
If you kill a hundred thousand, it is foreign policy.”
I doubt if I have come across a more pithy statement exposing the hypocrisy of America’s war against terrorism . . . States are founded on a monopoly over violence, which has nearly always included the right to kill. In fact, that is the very essence of the state. States seek to enforce this monopoly by amassing instruments of violence; but that is scarcely enough. They also use religion, ideology and laws to deligitimize and root out violence stemming from non-state agents. . . . This monopoly over violence creates its own problem. Unchallenged, the state can turn the instruments of violence against its own population. This leads to state tyranny. The state can also wage wars to enrich one or more sectional interests. This defines the dual challenge before all organized societies: restraining state tyranny and limiting its war-making powers. . . . The United States is only the most successful of the colonial creations, a fact that has left its indelible mark on American thinking. It is a country that was founded on violence against its native inhabitants; this led, over three centuries of expansion, to the near extermination of Indians, with the few survivors relocated to inhospitable reservations. Its history also includes the violence – on a nearly equal scale – perpetrated against the Africans who were torn from their continent to create wealth for the new Republic. Such a genesis, steeped in violence against others races, convinced most Americans that they had the divine right – like the ancient Israelites – to build their prosperity on the ruin of other, ‘inferior’ races. . . . Of course, few Americans understand that their country has long stood at the apex – and, therefore, is the chief beneficiary – of a global system that produces poverty for the greater part of humanity, including within the United States itself; that this system subordinates all social, cultural, environmental and human values to the imperatives of corporate capital; a system that now kills people by the millions merely by setting the rules that devastate their economies, deprive them of their livelihood, their dignity and, eventually, their lives. The corporate media, the school curricula, and the Congress ensure that most Americans never see past the web of deceit . . . The world – outside the dominant West – has watched how the Zionists, with the support of Britain and the United States, imposed a historical anachronism, a colonial-settler state in Palestine, a throw-back to a sanguinary past, when indigenous populations in the Americas could be cleansed with impunity to make room for Europe’s superior races. In horror, they watch daily how a racist Israel destroys the lives of millions of Palestinians through US-financed weaponry and fresh-contrived acts of malice; how it attacks its neighbors at will; how it has destabilized, distorted and derailed the historical process in an entire region; and how, in a final but foreordained twist, American men and women have now been drawn into this conflict, to make the Middle East safe for Israeli hegemony. . . . Under the cover of the Security Council, the United States has waged a total war against Iraq – a war that went well beyond the means that would be needed to reverse the invasion of Kuwait. . . . According to a UN study, the sanctions had killed half a million Iraqi children by 1995; the deaths were the result of a five-fold increase in child mortality rates. It would have taken five Hiroshima bombs to produce this grisly toll. . . . The terrorist attacks of 9-11 shocked, perhaps traumatized, a whole nation. Yet the same Americans expressed little concern – in fact, most could profess total ignorance – about the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians caused by daily bombings and crippling sanctions over a period of thirteen years. . . . bin Laden had the victory that he had hoped for: he had the world’s only superpower running mad after him and his cohorts. Al-Qaida had now taken the place vacated by the Soviet Union. It had to be a worthy opponent to have succeeded in monopolizing the hostile attention of United States; the actions of al-Qaida now threatened the world’s only superpower. No terrorist group could have asked for greater prestige, a distinction that was almost certain to help in its recruitment drive. Secondly, by declaring war against al-Qaida, the United States had tied its own prestige to the daily outcome of this war. Every terrorist strike – the softer the target the better – would be counted by Americans and the rest of the world as a battle lost in the war against terrorism. It should come as no surprise that the frequency of large-scale terrorist strikes has increased markedly since 9-11 – from Baghdad to Bali and Bombay. Thirdly, President Bush’s pre-emptive wars have already placed 160,000 American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, not counting additional thousands in other Islamic countries. President Bush’s wars against terrorism had made American troops the daily target of dozens of attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan. . . . More ominously, since 1917 the Arabs have faced settler-colonialism in their very heartland, an open-ended imperialist project successively supported by Britain and the United States. This Zionist insertion in the Middle East, self-consciously promoted as the outpost of the West in the Islamic world, produced its own twisted dialectics. An exclusive Jewish state founded on fundamentalist claims (and nothing gets more fundamentalist than a twentieth-century imperialism founded on ‘divine’ promises about real estate made three thousand years back) was bound to evoke its alter ego in the Islamic world. When Israel inflicted a humiliating defeat on Egypt and Syria in 1967 – two countries that were the leading embodiments of Arab nationalism – this opened up a political space in the Arab world for the insertion of Islamists into the region’s political landscape. One fundamentalism would now be pitted against another. . . . This contest may now be reaching its climax – with United States entering the war directly. . . . In part at least, it is the unfolding of the logic of the Zionist insertion in the Arab world. On the one hand, this has provoked and facilitated the growth of a broad spectrum of Islamist movements in the Islamic world, some of which were forced by US-supported repression in their home countries to target the United States directly. On the other hand, the Zionist occupation of one-time Biblical lands has given encouragement to Christian Zionism in the United States, the belief that Israel prepares the ground for the second coming of Christ. At the same time, several Zionist propagandists – based in America’s think tanks, media and academia – have worked tirelessly to arouse old Western fears about Islam, giving it new forms. They paint Islam as a violent religion, perennially at war against infidels, opposed to democracy, fearful of women’s rights, unable to modernize, and raging at the West for its freedoms and prosperity. They never tire of repeating that the Arabs ‘hate’ Israel because it is the only ‘democracy’ in the Middle East. . . . Can the situation yet be saved? In the weeks preceding the launch of the war against Iraq, when tens of millions of people – mostly in Western cities – were marching in protest against the war, it appeared that there was hope; that the ideologies of hatred and the tactics of fear-mongering would be defeated; that these massive movements would result in civil disobedience if the carnage in Iraq were launched despite these protests. But once the war began, the protesters melted away like picnicking crowds when a sunny day is marred by rains. In retrospect, the protests lacked the depth to graduate into a political movement, to work for lasting changes. America does not easily stomach anti-war protestors once it starts a war. War is serious business: and it must have the undivided support of the whole country once the killing begins. The anti-war protests may yet regroup, but that will not be before many more body bags arrive in the continental United States, before many more young Americans are mutilated for life, before many tens of thousands of Iraqis are dispatched to early deaths. Attempts are already underway to invent new lies to keep Americans deluded about the war; to tighten the noose around Iran; to hide the growing casualties of war; to lure poor Mexicans and Guatemalans to die for America; to substitute Indian and Pakistani body bags for American ones. This war-mongering by the United States cannot be stopped unless more Americans can be taught to separate their government from their country, their leaders from their national interests, their tribal affiliations from their common humanity. But that means getting past the media, the political establishment, the social scientists, the schools, and native prejudices. It is arguable that the nineteen hijackers would not have had to deliver the “monstrous calling card” if some of us had done a better job of getting past these hurdles in time. Still, the hijackers chose the wrong way to deliver their message, since it played right into the game plan of the Bush hawks. The result has been more profits for favored US corporations, greater freedom of action for Israel, and more lives and liberties lost everywhere.
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posted by Lorenzo 5:28 PM
Folly Taken To A Scale We Haven't Seen Since WWII
(Robert Fisk, The Independent, 11 September 2003)
When the attacks were launched against the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon two years ago today, who had ever heard of Fallujah or Hillah? When the Lebanese hijacker flew his plane into the ground in Pennsylvania, who would ever have believed that President George Bush would be announcing a "new front line in the war on terror" as his troops embarked on a hopeless campaign against the guerrillas of Iraq? . . . Who could ever have conceived of an American president calling the world to arms against "terrorism" in "Afghanistan, Iraq and Gaza"? Gaza? What do the miserable, crushed, cruelly imprisoned Palestinians of Gaza have to do with the international crimes against humanity in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania? . . . Nothing, of course. Neither does Iraq have anything to do with 11 September. Nor were there any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, any al-Qa'ida links with Iraq, any 45-minute timeline for the deployment of chemical weapons nor was there any "liberation". . . . No, the attacks on 11 September have nothing to do with Iraq. Neither did 11 September change the world. President Bush cruelly manipulated the grief of the American people - and the sympathy of the rest of the world - to introduce a "world order" dreamed up by a clutch of fantasists advising the Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld. . . . But even now, we are fed more fantasy. Afghanistan - its American-paid warlords raping and murdering their enemies, its women still shrouded for the most part in their burqas, its opium production now back as the world's number one export market, and its people being killed at up to a hundred a week (five American troops were shot dead two weekends ago) is a "success", something which Messrs Bush and Rumsfeld still boast about. Iraq - a midden of guerrilla hatred and popular resentment - is also a "success". . . . What's more, the world is supposed to accept the insane notion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - the planet's last colonial war, although all mention of the illegal Jewish colonies in the West Bank and Gaza have been erased from the Middle East narrative in the American press - is part of the "war on terror", the cosmic clash of religious will that President Bush invented after 11 September. Could Israel's interests be better served by so infantile a gesture from Bush? . . . And new precedents are set without discussion. Washington kills the leadership of its enemies with impunity: it tries to kill Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar and does kill Uday and Qusay Hussein and boasts of its prowess in "liquidating" the al-Qa'ida leadership from rocket-firing "drones". It tries to kill Saddam in Baghdad and slaughters 16 civilians and admits that the operation was "not risk-free". In Afghanistan, three men have now been murdered in the US interrogation centre at Bagram. We still don't know what really goes on in Guantanamo. . . . What do these precedents mean? I have a dark suspicion. From now on, our leaders, our politicians, our statesmen will be fair game too. If we go for the jugular, why shouldn't they? The killing of the UN's Sergio Vieira de Mello, was not, I think, a chance murder. Hamas's most recent statements - and since they've been added to the Bush circus of evil, we should take them seriously - are now, more than ever, personally threatening Mr Sharon. Why should we expect any other leader to be safe? If Yasser Arafat is driven into exile yet again, will there be any restraints left? . . . we have created banditry, rape, kidnapping, guerrilla war and anarchy. And all in the name of the dead of 11 September. The future of the Middle East - which is what 11 September was partly about, though we are not allowed to say so - has never looked bleaker or more bloody. The United States and Britain are trapped in a war of their own making, responsible for their own appalling predicament but responsible, too, for the lives of thousands of innocent human beings - cut to pieces by American bombs in Afghanistan and Iraq, shot down in the streets of Iraq by trigger-happy GIs. . . . As for "terror", our enemies are closing in on our armies in Iraq and our supposed allies in Baghdad and Afghanistan - even in Pakistan. We have done all this in the name of the dead of 11 September. Not since the Second World War have we seen folly on this scale. And it has scarcely begun.
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posted by Lorenzo 4:49 PM
All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror
by Stephen Kinzer
This book is first on my list of what to read next.
Here's a simple little timeline (extremely simplistic and obviously with MANY factors omitted):
- 1950s: Iran oil
- Iranians not properly compensated for their oil, poor treatment and no respect for them
- Prime Minister Mossadegh nationalized oil industry in Iran
- British imperialism and US covert actions, Shah takes power, Iranians angered
- Years and years of CIA covert actions in Middle East
- Foreign entanglements
- More covert actions, political manipulation, intervention, meddling
- Angering and harming and killing innocent people in other countries
- 1979 Iranian revolution, US hostages taken, Shah overthrown
- More foreign entanglements and regime change abroad
- More covert actions, political manipulation, intervention, meddling
- More angering and harming and killing innocent people in other countries
- US relationships with al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein, supporting bin Laden, etc....
- US provided weapons (including chem/bio) to unstable, dangerous "friends" because their enemies are our enemies du jour
- Sept. 11, 2001: Terrorism in US
- Today: Death and other messy conditions in Afghanistan and Iraq
That the past is prolog is especially true in this astonishing account of the 1953 overthrow of nationalist Iranian leader Mohammed Mossadegh, who became prime minister in 1951 and immediately nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. This act angered the British, who sought assistance from the United States in overthrowing Mossadegh's fledgling democracy. Kermit Roosevelt, Teddy's grandson, led the successful coup in August 1953, which ended in the re-establishment of the Iranian monarchy in the person of Mohammad Reza Shah. Iranian anger at this foreign intrusion smoldered until the 1979 revolution. Meanwhile, over the next decade, the United States successfully overthrew other governments, such as that of Guatemala. This book leads one to wonder how many of our contemporary problems in the Middle East may have resulted from this covert CIA adventure.
With breezy storytelling and diligent research, Kinzer has reconstructed the CIA's 1953 overthrow of the elected leader of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh, who was wildly popular at home for having nationalized his country's oil industry. The coup ushered in the long and brutal dictatorship of Mohammad Reza Shah, widely seen as a U.S. puppet and himself overthrown by the Islamic revolution of 1979. At its best this work reads like a spy novel, with code names and informants, midnight meetings with the monarch and a last-minute plot twist when the CIA's plan, called Operation Ajax, nearly goes awry.
A veteran New York Times foreign correspondent, Kinzer has combed memoirs, academic works, government documents and news stories to produce this blow-by-blow account. He shows that until early in 1953, Great Britain and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company were the imperialist baddies of this tale. Intransigent in the face of Iran's demands for a fairer share of oil profits and better conditions for workers, British Foreign Secretary Herbert Morrison exacerbated tension with his attitude that the challenge from Iran was, in Kinzer's words, "a simple matter of ignorant natives rebelling against the forces of civilization."
Before the crisis peaked, a high-ranking employee of Anglo-Iranian wrote to a superior that the company's alliance with the "corrupt ruling classes" and "leech-like bureaucracies" were "disastrous, outdated and impractical." This stands as a textbook lesson in how not to conduct foreign policy.
Half a century ago, the United States overthrew a Middle Eastern government for the first time. The victim was Mohammad Mossadegh, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran. Although the coup seemed a success at first, today it serves as a chilling lesson about the dangers of foreign intervention. Are Americans well served by such regime-change interventions abroad?
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posted by Hal 2:58 PM
Britons Want UK Forces Out Of Iraq
(Reuters, 01 September 2003)
More than 60 percent of Britons believe their government should be withdrawing its troops from Iraq, an opinion poll shows. . . . Prime Minister Tony Blair's embattled government has been put under a harsh spotlight by a judicial inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the apparent suicide of Iraq weapons expert Dr David Kelly and public displeasure at the growing number of British servicemen killed in an unstable postwar Iraq. . . . Last week gunmen killed a British soldier in southern Iraq, bringing to 11 the number of British soldiers killed since May 1, when U.S. President George W. Bush declared that major combat in the U.S.-led war which ousted Saddam Hussein was over. . . . There was more bad news for Blair in the poll, which said the greatest number of respondents held him responsible for Kelly's death compared with other people or organisations mentioned in the press.
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posted by Lorenzo 8:36 PM