Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Ethnic Cleansing Secrets in Israel’s Archives

by Jonathan Cook,

History may be written by the victors, as Winston Churchill is said to have observed, but the opening up of archives can threaten a nation every bit as much as the unearthing of mass graves.

That danger explains a decision quietly taken last month by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, to extend by an additional 20 years the country’s 50-year rule for the release of sensitive documents.

The new 70-year disclosure rule is the government’s response to Israeli journalists who have been seeking through Israel’s courts to gain access to documents that should already be declassified, especially those concerning the 1948 war, which established Israel, and the 1956 Suez crisis.

The state’s chief archivist says many of the documents "are not fit for public viewing" and raise doubts about Israel’s "adherence to international law," while the government warns that greater transparency will "damage foreign relations."

Quite what such phrases mean was illustrated by the findings of a recent investigation by an Israeli newspaper. Haaretz revisited the Six Day War of 1967, in which Israel seized not only the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza, but also a significant corner of Syria known as the Golan Heights, which Israel still refuses to relinquish.

The consensus in Israel is that the country’s right to hold on to the Golan is even stronger than its right to the West Bank. According to polls, an overwhelming majority of Israelis refuse to concede their little bit of annexed Syria, even if doing so would secure peace with Damascus.

This intransigence is not surprising. For decades, Israelis have been taught a grand narrative in which, having repelled an attack by Syrian forces, Israel then magnanimously allowed the civilian population of the Golan to live under its rule. That, say Israelis, is why the inhabitants of four Druze villages are still present there. The rest chose to leave on the instructions of Damascus.

One influential journalist writing at the time even insinuated anti-Semitism on the part of the civilians who departed: "Everyone fled, to the last man, before the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] arrived, out of fear of the ‘savage conqueror’ … Fools, why did they have to flee?"

However, a very different picture emerges from Haaretz‘s interviews with the participants. These insiders say that all but 6,000 of the Golan’s 130,000 civilians were either terrorized or physically forced out, some of them long after the fighting finished. An army document reveals a plan to clear the area of the Syrian population, with only the exception of the Golan Druze, so as not to upset relations with the loyal Druze community inside Israel.

The army’s post-war tasks included flushing out thousands of farmers hiding in caves and woods to send them over the new border. Homes were looted before the army set about destroying all traces of 200 villages so that there would be nowhere left for the former inhabitants to return to. The first Jewish settlers sent to till the fields recalled seeing the dispossessed owners watching from afar.

The Haaretz investigation offers an account of methodical and wholesale ethnic cleansing that sits uncomfortably not only with the traditional Israeli story of 1967 but with the Israeli public’s idea that their army is the "most moral in the world." That may explain why several prominent, though unnamed, Israeli historians admitted to Haaretz that they had learnt of this "alternative narrative" but did nothing to investigate or publicize it.

What is so intriguing about the newspaper’s version of the Golan’s capture is the degree to which it echoes the revised accounts of the 1948 war that have been written by later generations of Israeli historians. Three decades ago – in a more complacent era – Israel made available less sensitive documents from that period.

The new material was explosive enough. It undermined Israel’s traditional narrative of 1948, in which the Palestinians were said to have left voluntarily on the orders of the Arab leaders and in the expectation that the combined Arab armies would snuff out the fledging Jewish state in a bloodbath.

Instead, the documents suggested that heavily armed Jewish forces had expelled and dispossessed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians before the Jewish state had even been declared and a single Arab soldier had entered Palestine.

One document in particular, Plan Dalet, demonstrated the army’s intention to expel the Palestinians from their homeland. Its existence explains the ethnic cleansing of more than 80 percent of Palestinians in the war, followed by a military campaign to destroy hundreds of villages to ensure the refugees never returned.

Ethnic cleansing is the common theme of both these Israeli conquests. A deeper probe of the archives will almost certainly reveal in greater detail how and why these "cleansing" campaigns were carried out – which is precisely why Netanyahu and others want the archives to remain locked.

But full disclosure of these myth-shattering documents may be the precondition for peace. Certainly, more of these revelations offer the best hope of shocking Israeli public opinion out of its self-righteous opposition to meaningful concessions, either to Syria or the Palestinians.

It is also a necessary first step in challenging Israel’s continuing attempts to ethnically cleanse Palestinians, as has occurred in the last few weeks against the Bedouin in both the Jordan Valley and the Negev, where villages are being razed and families forced to leave again.

Genuine peacemakers should be demanding that the doors to the archives be thrown open immediately. The motives of those who wish to keep them locked should be clear to all.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

U.S.-China Conflict: From War Of Words To Talk Of War Part I

U.S.-China Conflict: From War Of Words To Talk Of War
Part I

Global Research, August 15, 2010

Relations between the U.S. and China have been steadily deteriorating since the beginning of the year when Washington confirmed the completion of a $6.4 billion arms deal with Taiwan and China suspended military-to-military ties with the U.S. in response.

In January the Chinese Defense Ministry announced the cessation of military exchanges between the two countries and the Foreign Ministry warned of enforcing sanctions against American companies involved with weapons sales to Taiwan.

The Washington Post reported afterward that during a two-day Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing this May attended by approximately 65 U.S. officials, Rear Admiral Guan Youfei of the People's Liberation Army accused Washington of "plotting to encircle China with strategic alliances" and said arms deals with Taiwan "prove that the United States views China as an enemy." [1]

During the 9th Asia Security Summit (Shangri-La Dialogue conference) in Singapore in early June a rancorous exchange occurred between U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Major General Zhu Chenghu, director of China's National Defense University. The Chinese official lambasted the U.S. over more than $12 billion in proposed arms transactions with Taiwan in the past two years, stating they were designed to prevent the reunification of China.

The preceding week China had rebuffed Gates' request to visit Beijing after the Singapore summit.

At that conference Gates spoke of "our collective responsibility to protect the peace and reinforce stability in Asia" in reference to the sinking of the South Korean corvette the Cheonan in late March.

Major General Zhu reacted by casting doubts on the U.S. account of the ship's sinking and indicated that "America’s stance over the Cheonan was hypocritical given its failure to condemn the Israeli commando raid on a flotilla of ships carrying supplies to Gaza on May 31, which resulted in the death of nine activists." He also warned that the latest Taiwan arms package threatened China's “core interests.” [2]

At the same event, General Ma Xiaotian, deputy head of the People's Liberation Army General Staff Department, itemized obstacles to the resumption of U.S.-China military relations, including Washington providing weapons to Taiwan and "frequent espionage activities by US ships and aircraft in the waters and airspace of China's exclusive economic zones." [3]

Matters went from bad to worse after Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited South Korea in late July, accompanied by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen and Admiral Robert Willard, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, and on July 20 Gates, Mullen and Willard announced the U.S. would conduct a series of war games with South Korea in the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan.

The first such exercise, the four-day Invincible Spirit naval maneuvers, started on July 25 and was led by the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group, named after the 97,000-ton nuclear-powered supercarrier at its core, and involved 8,000 military personnel, 20 warships and 200 warplanes, including F-22 Raptor fifth generation stealth fighters, deployed to the region for the first time. Shifted from the Yellow Sea, which borders the Chinese mainland, to the Sea of Japan (on which Russia has a coastline) at the last moment, the drills nevertheless antagonized China and were transparently intended to produce that effect.

While in South Korea five days before the naval exercises began, Admiral Willard - head of the largest U.S. overseas military command, Pacific Command - announced that future war games of comparable scope would be held in the Yellow Sea, where China has an extensive coastline and claims a 200-mile exclusive economic zone. (For a map of the Yellow Sea, see: )

Joining a chorus of major U.S. military and civilian officials making statements that could only be intended to taunt China, "Willard said he is not concerned about China’s feeling about U.S.-South Korean naval exercises in that area."

In his own words, "If I have a concern vis-a-vis China it’s that China exert itself to influence Pyongyang to see that incidents like Cheonan don’t occur in the future.” [4]

His comment is entirely in line with others issued before and afterward.

During the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Toronto on June 27 U.S. President Barack Obama held a "blunt" conversation with Chinese President Hu Jintao and accused him of “willful blindness” in relation to the Cheonan incident. [5]

In mid-July Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell dismissed and belittled China's concerns over not only large-scale but ongoing U.S. naval exercises on both sides of the Korean Peninsula by stating, “Those determinations are made by us, and us alone....Where we exercise, when we exercise, with whom and how, using what assets and so forth, are determinations that are made by the United States Navy, by the Department of Defense, by the United States government.” [6] On August 6 Morrell confirmed that U.S. warships will lead exercises in the Yellow Sea in the near future.

Shortly afterward, while preparing to leave for South Korea, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mullen said, "the Yellow Sea specifically is an international body of water and the United States, you know, always reserves the right to operate in those international waters. That’s what those are. Certainly, you know, I hear what the Chinese are saying with respect to that, but in fact we’ve exercised in the Yellow Sea for a long time and I fully expect that we’ll do so in the future." [7]

On July 21 Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, who had recently returned from visits to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Japan, spoke at the Nixon Center in Washington, D.C., and in addition to speaking of "our traditional alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines," stated:

"I think the most important [problem with bilateral relations] is the continued unwillingness of China to deepen the mil-to-mil engagement between the United States and China.

"At the same time, so that there is no mistake about our intentions, we made clear that we will exercise when and where we want to when we need to consistent with international law. And that, as I’ve said, we’ve clearly indicated in the past. We’ve exercised in the Yellow Sea. We will exercise in the Yellow Sea again."

To rub the salt deeper into the wound, he added: "We do not consult with China on Taiwan arms sales. We make a judgment based on what we believe are the legitimate defensive needs of Taiwan for arms sales." [8]

While in South Korea last month for the first "two plus two" meetings between the U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense and South Korean counterparts "to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Korean War," [9] Hillary Clinton and Pentagon chief Robert Gates visited the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea, still technically at war, to "show solidarity with their allies in Seoul." [10]

The following day Clinton arrived in the capital of Vietnam for the 17th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum and a U.S.-ASEAN post-ministerial meeting on July 23 and 22, respectively. While in Hanoi she spoke of territorial disputes over the Spratly and Paracel island chains between China on one hand and Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines (the last four members of ASEAN) on the other.

On July 23, in a blunt reference to China, she said that the U.S. “has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia’s maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea,” where the islands are located, and that “We oppose the use or threat of force by any claimant,” as "America’s future is intimately tied to that of the Asia-Pacific.” [11]

Clinton formally initiated a campaign to recruit the ten members of ASEAN - Vietnam, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand - into a rapidly evolving Asian NATO aimed against China.

After seven months of unrelenting challenges to China, when it appeared that enough gratuitous insults and mounting threats had already been issued, the USS George Washington aircraft carrier arrived in the Sea of Japan on July 25.

Three years before, the U.S. Defense Department released a report on China which claimed it was "pursuing long-term, comprehensive transformation of its military forces to enable it to project power and deny other countries the ability to threaten it." [12]

Proceeding from that perspective, Washington is ensuring that China will be so thoroughly boxed in by U.S. warships, submarines, interceptor missile systems and advanced deep penetrating stealth bombers - and a ring of U.S. military client states ready to host American ships, planes, troops, missile shield installations and bases - that it indeed will not be able to protect itself from the threat of attack.

Eleven days after the completion of the U.S.-South Korean naval exercises in the Sea of Japan, the U.S. Seventh Fleet began a weeklong series of naval maneuvers with Vietnam, the first-ever such joint exercises.

USS George Washington, fresh from the recently concluded naval war games with South Korea, arrived in the South China Sea for the occasion.

"The formidable USS George Washington is a permanent presence in the Pacific, based in Japan. As one of the world's biggest warships, it is a floating city that can carry up to 70 aircraft, more than 5,000 sailors and aviators and about 4 million pounds (1.8 million kilograms) of bombs. It lurked Sunday [August 8] about 200 miles (320 kilometers) off the central coast of Danang, Vietnam's jumping-off point for the disputed [Spratly and Paracel] islands."

Captain Ross Myers, commander of the George Washington's air wing, was quoted echoing Clinton's earlier assertion that "The strategic implications and importance of the waters of the South China Sea and the freedom of navigation is vital to both Vietnam and the United States." He was interviewed "as fighter jets thundered off the flight deck above." [13]

Several high-ranking Vietnamese military and civilian officials as well as the U.S. ambassador to the country were flown onto the supercarrier "to observe the strike group as it operates in the South China Sea," [14] near the contested Spratly islands.

With senior Vietnamese government and military officials aboard, USS George Washington "cruised near the Paracel Islands - another chain claimed by both China and Vietnam." [15]

On August 10 the guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain docked at Da Nang in central Vietnam, in its first visit to the country, to join the joint naval maneuvers in the South China Sea.

Rear Admiral Ron Horton, commander of Task Force 73 of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, said, "This is indicative of the increasingly closer ties between the U.S. and Vietnam. Exchanges like this are vital for our navies to gain a greater understanding of one another, and build important relationships for the future." [16]

The U.S. Seventh Fleet is "the largest of the forward-deployed U.S. fleets, with 50–60 ships, 350 aircraft and 60,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel." [17] That is, the mightiest seaborne military machine in the world.

As the U.S.-Vietnamese naval exercises were underway in the South China Sea, an article by a former commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet (assigned to U.S. Pacific Command), Retired Admiral James Lyons, appeared in the editorial pages of the Washington Times which advocated that "The United States should consider leasing big-ticket military hardware to the Philippines to give it the capability to defend its sovereign territory against Chinese expansionism in the South China Sea...."

In particular, he said "the US should consider leasing a squadron of F-16 along with T-38 supersonic trainers, an aircraft for maritime patrol, and two FFG-7 guided-missile frigates to provide a recognized capability to enforce the Philippines’ offshore territorial claims."

He also wrote that "now that President Barack Obama’s administration has directly challenged China, the US should expand its relations with ASEAN 'by building on our Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines.'

"The US should negotiate a commercial agreement for access to logistic support facilities in Subic Bay," [18] where the U.S. maintained a naval base until the Philippine Senate ordered it closed in 1991.

Washington's project for an Asian NATO designed to surround and neutralize China is not limited to Southeast Asia and ASEAN.

The U.S. is currently leading this year's Khaan Quest (pronounced like conquest) military exercises in Mongolia on China's northern border with troops from military partners Canada, France, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea and Singapore. Previous Khaan Quest exercises going back to 2003 trained Mongolian troops for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan. [19]

On August 16 U.S. and British troops will begin ten days of military drills in Kazakhstan, on China's northwest border, in the 2010 Steppe Eagle "multinational exercise, part of NATO's Partnership for Peace programme...."

"The exercise is intended to assist Kazakhstan's Ministry of Defence in its stated aim to generate a NATO inter-operable peace support operational capability," according to British military attache Simon Fitzgibbon. [20] Kazakhstan deployed a "peacekeeping" contingent to Iraq in 2003 and may be tapped for one to serve under NATO in Afghanistan.

To China's south, a senior Indian Air Force official recently disclosed that his government is upgrading another air base near the Chinese border to accommodate warplanes. According to the U.S. Defense News website, "The moves are part of the effort to strengthen India's defenses against China."

In June India approved a $3.3 billion deal to purchase 42 more Su-30 air-to-air and air-to-surface jet fighters, bringing the planned total to 272 by 2018.

Regarding a joint Russian-Indian long-range multirole jet fighter/strike fighter adaptation of the Su-30, the same Indian official said "a nuclear-armed Su-30MKI could fly deep inside China with midair refueling." [21]

On China's Western flank where a narrow strip of land connects the two countries, the U.S. Defense Department announced on August 11 that, in addition to 30,000 U.S. forces not so assigned, "The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan now has almost 120,000 troops from 47 different countries assigned to it," [22] including forces from Asia-Pacific nations South Korea, Mongolia, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand.

The noose is tightening around China and the nation's military knows it.


1) Washington Post, June 8, 2010
2) Jamestown Foundation, June 24, 2010
3) China Daily, June 7, 2010
4) United States Department of Defense, July 20, 2010
5) U.S. Risks Military Clash With China In Yellow Sea
Stop NATO, July 16, 2010
6) Agence France-Presse, July 14, 2010
7) Joint Chiefs of Staff, July 19, 2010
8) United States Department of State, July 27, 2010
9) U.S. Department of State, July 21, 2010
10) BBC News, July 21, 2010
11) Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State
July 23, 2010
12) Voice of America News, May 26, 2007
13) Associated Press, August 8, 2010
14) Navy NewsStand, August 9, 2010
15) Voice of America News, August 10, 2010
16) Navy NewsStand, August 9, 2010
17) Wikipedia
18) Philippine Star, August 10, 2010
19) Mongolia: Pentagon Trojan Horse Wedged Between China And Russia
Stop NATO, March 31, 2010
20) Reuters, August 13, 2010
Kazakhstan: U.S., NATO Seek Military Outpost Between Russia And China
Stop NATO, April 14, 2010
21) Defense News, August 12, 2010
22) United States Department of Defense, American Forces Press Service,
August 11, 2010


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Monday, August 16, 2010

The UN, Impunity and War

Reflections of Fidel
The UN, Impunity and War

RESOLUTION 1929 of the United Nations Security Council on June 9, 2010 sealed the fate of imperialism.

I don’t know how many people noticed that, among other absurdities, the secretary general of that institution, Ban Ki-moon, fulfilling orders from above, made the blunder of appointing Alvaro Uribe – when the latter was on the verge of concluding his mandate –vice president of the commission responsible for investigating the Israeli attack on the humanitarian flotilla that was transporting essential foodstuffs to the besieged population in the Gaza Strip. The attack occurred in international waters at some considerable distance from the coast.

That decision gave Uribe – accused of war crimes – total impunity, as if a country full of mass graves containing the corpses of murdered people, some with as many as 2,000 victims, and seven yanki military bases, plus the rest of the Colombian military bases at its service, had nothing to do with terrorism and genocide.

On the other hand, on June 10, 2010, Cuban journalist Randy Alonso, who hosts the "Roundtable" national television program, wrote an article for the CubaDebate website, entitled: "The so-called World Government meets in Barcelona." The article states:

"They arrived at the pleasant Dolce Hotel in luxury cars with darkened windows or by helicopter."

"They were the 100-plus economic, financial, political and media leaders from North America and Europe who came to this place for the annual meeting of the Bilderberg Club, a sort of shadow world government."

Other honest writers like him were likewise following the news that somehow was leaked from that strange meeting. Somebody much more informed than them has been on the trail of these events for many years.

"The exclusive Club, which met in Sitges, was founded in 1954. It was the idea of Joseph Retinger, a political advisor and analyst. Its original promoters were U.S. tycoon David Rockefeller, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands and Belgian Prime Minister Paul Van Zeeland. Its founding purpose was to combat the growing "anti-Americanism" existing in Europe at that time and to confront the Soviet Union and communism that was gaining in strength on the European continent."

"The first meeting took place at the Bilderberg Hotel in Osterbeck, Holland, on May 29 and 30, 1954, hence the name of the group which, with the exception of 1976, has since met on an annual basis.

"There is a core group of permanent members who are the 39 members of the steering committee, the rest are guests.

"…the organization insists that no one ‘gives interviews’ or reveals anything that ‘any individual participant has said.’ The essential requisite is an excellent command of the English language […] there are no translators present."

"Nobody knows for sure the current reaches of the group. Those who have studied the body say that it is not by chance that it always meets shortly before the G-8 (previously, the G-7) and that it seeks a new world order with one sole government, military, economy and ideology."

David Rockefeller said, in a Newsweek magazine article: "Somebody has to take governments’ place, and business seems to me to be a logical entity to do it.

"…banker James P. Warburg confirmed: ‘we shall have a world government whether or not we like it. The only question is whether world government will be achieved by consent or by conquest."

"Ten months beforehand, they knew the exact date of the invasion of Iraq; they also knew what was going to happen with the real estate bubble. With information like that, you can make a lot of money in all kinds of markets. What we are talking about are clubs of power and information.’

"According to analysts, one of the issues that most concerns the Club is ‘economic threat’ represented by China and its repercussions on North American and European societies.

"Some people have demonstrated the Club’s influence on the elite with the fact that Margaret Thatcher, William Clinton, Anthony Blair and Barack Obama were among those invited to the Club before being elected to the highest position of government in Britain and the United States. In June 2008 Obama attended the meeting in Virginia, U.S.A, five months before his electoral victory and that victory had already been predicted at the 2007 meeting."

"Amid such secrecy, the press has revealed certain names here and there. Among those who attended the meeting in Sitges were important businesspeople such as the presidents of FIAT, Coca Cola, France Telecom, Telefónica de España, Suez, Siemens, Shell, Novartis and Airbus.

"Financial and economic gurus have also attended meetings, such as the famous speculator George Soros; Paul Volcker and Larry Summers, economic advisors to Obama; George Osborne, the new British chancellor of the exchequer; Peter Shilton, former president of Goldman Sachs and British Petroleum, […]; World Bank President Robert Zoellic; IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn; Pascal Lamy, director general of the World Trade Organization; Jean Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank; and Philippe Maystad, president of the European Investment Bank."

Did our readers know that? Has any major organ of the spoken or written media mentioned it? Is this the freedom of the press that they extol so much in the West? Can any one of them deny that that these systematic meetings of the world’s most powerful financiers take place every year, with the exception of the year mentioned?

"The military power sent some of their hawks," Randy continues. "Donald Rumsfeld, former defense secretary to Bush; his subordinate, Paul Wolfowitz; NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and his predecessor Jaap de Hoop Scheffer."

"Bill Gates, magnate of the digital age, was the only attendee who spoke to the press before the meeting. ‘I am one of those who will be present,’ he said and announced, ‘There will be a lot of financial debates on the table.’

"News speculators are saying that the shadow powers analyzed the future of the euro and strategies to save it, the current state of the European economy, and the trajectory of the crisis. Using the religion of the market and with the aid of drastic social cuts, they are hoping to prolong the patient’s life.

"Cayo Lara, coordinator of United Left, clearly defined the world imposed on us by the Bilderberg Club: ‘We are in an upside down world; democracies are controlled, guided and pressured by the dictatorships of financial powers.’"

"The most dangerous thing to have come to light in the Spanish daily Público is the consensus on the part of Club members in favor of a U.S. attack on Iran […] Remember that members of the Club knew the exact date of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, 10 months before it happened."

When added to all the evidence presented in my latest Reflections, is the idea such a capricious one? The war on Iran has already been decided in the upper echelons of the empire and only an extraordinary effort on the part of world opinion could prevent it breaking out in the near future. Who is concealing the truth? Who is being deceptive? Who is telling lies? Can anything affirmed her be refuted?

Fidel Castro Ruz

August 15, 2010

8:25 a.m.

Translated by Granma International

How Truth Can Save Lives By Ray McGovern

Can WikiLeaks Help Save Lives?

If independent-minded Web sites, like WikiLeaks or, say,, existed 43 years ago, I might have risen to the occasion and helped save the lives of some 25,000 U.S. soldiers, and a million Vietnamese, by exposing the lies contained in just one SECRET/EYES ONLY cable from Saigon.

I need to speak out now because I have been sickened watching the herculean effort by Official Washington and our Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) to divert attention from the violence and deceit in Afghanistan, reflected in thousands of U.S. Army documents, by shooting the messenger(s) — WikiLeaks and Pvt. Bradley Manning.

After all the indiscriminate death and destruction from nearly nine years of war, the hypocrisy is all too transparent when WikiLeaks and suspected leaker Manning are accused of risking lives by exposing too much truth.

Besides, I still have a guilty conscience for what I chose NOT to do in exposing facts about the Vietnam War that might have saved lives.

The sad-but-true story recounted below is offered in the hope that those in similar circumstances today might show more courage than I was able to muster in 1967, and take full advantage of the incredible advancements in technology since then.

Many of my Junior Officer Trainee Program colleagues at CIA came to Washington in the early Sixties inspired by President John Kennedy’s Inaugural speech in which he asked us to ask ourselves what we might do for our country.

(Sounds corny nowadays, I suppose; I guess I’ll just have to ask you to take it on faith. It may not have been Camelot exactly, but the spirit and ambience were fresh — and good.)

Among those who found Kennedy’s summons compelling was Sam Adams, a young former naval officer out of Harvard College. After the Navy, Sam tried Harvard Law School, but found it boring.

Instead, he decided to go to Washington, join the CIA as an officer trainee, and do something more adventurous. He got more than his share of adventure.

Sam was one of the brightest and most dedicated among us. Quite early in his career, he acquired a very lively and important account — that of assessing Vietnamese Communist strength early in the war. He took to the task with uncommon resourcefulness and quickly proved himself the consummate analyst.

Relying largely on captured documents, buttressed by reporting from all manner of other sources, Adams concluded in 1967 that there were twice as many Communists (about 600,000) under arms in South Vietnam as the U.S. military there would admit.

Dissembling in Saigon

Visiting Saigon during 1967, Adams learned from Army analysts that their commanding general, William Westmoreland, had placed an artificial cap on the official Army count rather than risk questions regarding “progress” in the war (sound familiar?).

It was a clash of cultures; with Army intelligence analysts saluting generals following politically dictated orders, and Sam Adams aghast at the dishonesty — consequential dishonesty.

From time to time I would have lunch with Sam and learn of the formidable opposition he encountered in trying to get out the truth.

Commiserating with Sam over lunch one day in late August 1967, I asked what could possibly be Gen. Westmoreland’s incentive to make the enemy strength appear to be half what it actually was. Sam gave me the answer he had from the horse’s mouth in Saigon.

Adams told me that in a cable dated Aug. 20, 1967, Westmoreland's deputy, Gen. Creighton Abrams, set forth the rationale for the deception.

Abrams wrote that the new, higher numbers (reflecting Sam’s count, which was supported by all intelligence agencies except Army intelligence, which reflected the “command position”) "were in sharp contrast to the current overall strength figure of about 299,000 given to the press.”

Abrams emphasized, "We have been projecting an image of success over recent months" and cautioned that if the higher figures became public, "all available caveats and explanations will not prevent the press from drawing an erroneous and gloomy conclusion."

No further proof was needed that the most senior U.S. Army commanders were lying, so that they could continue to feign “progress” in the war.

Equally unfortunate, the crassness and callousness of Abrams’s cable notwithstanding, it had become increasingly clear that rather than stand up for Sam, his superiors would probably acquiesce in the Army's bogus figures. Sadly, that’s what they did.

CIA Director Richard Helms, who saw his primary duty quite narrowly as “protecting” the agency, set the tone. He told subordinates that he could not discharge that duty if he let the agency get involved in a heated argument with the U.S. Army on such a key issue in wartime.

This cut across the grain of what we had been led to believe was the prime duty of CIA analysts — to speak truth to power without fear or favor. And our experience thus far had shown both of us that this ethos amounted to much more than just slogans. We had, so far, been able to “tell it like it is.”

After lunch with Sam, for the first time ever, I had no appetite for dessert. Sam and I had not come to Washington to “protect the agency.”

And, having served in Vietnam, Sam knew first hand that thousands upon thousands were being killed in a feckless war.

What to Do?

I have an all-too-distinct memory of a long silence over coffee, as each of us ruminated on what might be done. I recall thinking to myself; someone should take the Abrams cable down to the New York Times (at the time an independent-minded newspaper).

Clearly, the only reason for the cable's SECRET/EYES ONLY classification was to hide deliberate deception of our most senior generals regarding “progress” in the war and deprive the American people of the chance to know the truth.

Going to the press was, of course, antithetical to the culture of secrecy in which we had been trained. Besides, you would likely be caught at your next polygraph examination. Better not to stick your neck out.

I pondered all this in the days after that lunch with Adams. And I succeeded in coming up with a slew of reasons why I ought to keep silent: a mortgage; a plum overseas assignment for which I was in the final stages of language training; and, not least, the analytic work — important, exciting work on which Sam and I thrived.

Better to keep quiet for now, grow in gravitas, and live on to slay other dragons. Right?

One can, I suppose, always find excuses for not sticking one's neck out. The neck, after all, is a convenient connection between head and torso, albeit the “neck” that was the focus of my concern was a figurative one, suggesting possible loss of career, money and status – not the literal “necks” of both Americans and Vietnamese that were on the line daily in the war.

But if there is nothing for which you would risk your career “neck” – like, say, saving the lives of soldiers and civilians in a war zone – your "neck" has become your idol, and your career is not worthy of that. I now regret giving such worship to my own neck.

Not only did I fail the neck test. I had not thought things through very rigorously from a moral point of view.

Promises to Keep?

As a condition of employment, I had signed a promise not to divulge classified information so as not to endanger sources, methods or national security. Promises are important, and one should not lightly violate them. Plus, there are legitimate reasons for protecting some secrets.

But were any of those legitimate concerns the real reasons why Abrams’s cable was stamped SECRET/EYES ONLY? I think not.

It is not good to operate in a moral vacuum, oblivious to the reality that there exists a hierarchy of values and that circumstances often determine the morality of a course of action.

How does a written promise to keep secret everything with a classified stamp on it square with one’s moral responsibility to stop a war based on lies? Does stopping a misbegotten war not supersede a secrecy promise?

Ethicists use the words “supervening value” for this; the concept makes sense to me.

And is there yet another value? As an Army officer, I had taken a solemn oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

How did the lying by the Army command in Saigon fit in with that? Were/are generals exempt? Should we not call them out when we learn of deliberate deception that subverts the democratic process? Can the American people make good decisions if they are lied to?

Would I have helped stop unnecessary killing by giving the New York Times the not-really-secret, SECRET/EYES ONLY cable from Gen. Abrams? We’ll never know, will we? And I live with that.

I could not take the easy way out, saying Let Sam Do It. Because I knew he wouldn’t.

Sam chose to go through the established grievance channels and got the royal run-around, even after the Communist countrywide offensive at Tet in January-February 1968 proved beyond any doubt that his count of Communist forces was correct.

When the Tet offensive began, as a way of keeping his sanity, Adams drafted a caustic cable to Saigon saying, "It is something of an anomaly to be taking so much punishment from Communist soldiers whose existence is not officially acknowledged." But he did not think the situation at all funny.

Dan Ellsberg Steps In

Sam kept playing by the rules, but it happened that – unbeknown to Sam – Dan Ellsberg gave Sam's figures on enemy strength to the New York Times, which published them on March 19, 1968.

Dan had learned that President Lyndon Johnson was about to bow to Pentagon pressure to widen the war into Cambodia, Laos and up to the Chinese border – perhaps even beyond.

Later, it became clear that his timely leak – together with another unauthorized disclosure to the Times that the Pentagon had requested 206,000 more troops – prevented a wider war.

On March 25, Johnson complained to a small gathering, "The leaks to the New York Times hurt us. … We have no support for the war. … I would have given Westy the 206,000 men."

Ellsberg also copied the Pentagon Papers – the 7,000-page top-secret history of U.S. decision-making on Vietnam from 1945 to 1967 – and, in 1971, he gave copies to the New York Times, Washington Post and other news organizations.

In the years since, Ellsberg has had difficulty shaking off the thought that, had he released the Pentagon Papers sooner, the war might have ended years earlier with untold lives saved. Ellsberg has put it this way:

“Like so many others, I put personal loyalty to the president above all else – above loyalty to the Constitution and above obligation to the law, to truth, to Americans, and to humankind. I was wrong.”

And so was I wrong in not asking Sam for a copy of that cable from Gen. Abrams. Sam, too, eventually had strong regrets.

Sam had continued to pursue the matter within CIA, until he learned that Dan Ellsberg was on trial in 1973 for releasing the Pentagon Papers and was being accused of endangering national security by revealing figures on enemy strength.

Which figures? The same old faked numbers from 1967! "Imagine," said Adams, "hanging a man for leaking faked numbers," as he hustled off to testify on Dan's behalf. (The case against Ellsberg was ultimately thrown out of court because of prosecutorial abuses committed by the Nixon adminitration.)

After the war drew down, Adams was tormented by the thought that, had he not let himself be diddled by the system, the entire left half of the Vietnam Memorial wall would not be there. There would have been no new names to chisel into such a wall.

Sam Adams died prematurely at age 55 with nagging remorse that he had not done enough.

In a letter appearing in the (then independent-minded) New York Times on Oct. 18, 1975, John T. Moore, a CIA analyst who worked in Saigon and the Pentagon from 1965 to 1970, confirmed Adams's story after Sam told it in detail in the May 1975 issue of Harper's magazine. Moore wrote:

"My only regret is that I did not have Sam's courage. … The record is clear. It speaks of misfeasance, nonfeasance and malfeasance, of outright dishonesty and professional cowardice.

“It reflects an intelligence community captured by an aging bureaucracy, which too often placed institutional self-interest or personal advancement before the national interest. It is a page of shame in the history of American intelligence."

Tanks But No Thanks, Abrams

What about Gen. Creighton Abrams? Not every general gets the Army’s main battle tank named after him. The honor, though, came not from his service in Vietnam, but rather from his courage in the early day of his military career, leading his tanks through German lines to relieve Bastogne during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge.

Gen. George Patton praised Abrams as the only tank commander he considered his equal.

As things turned out, sadly, 23 years later Abrams became a poster child for old soldiers who, as Gen. Douglas McArthur suggested, should “just fade away,” rather than hang on too long after their great military accomplishments.

In May 1967, Abrams was picked to be Westmoreland’s deputy in Vietnam and succeeded him a year later. But Abrams could not succeed in the war, no matter how effectively “an image of success” his subordinates projected for the media.

The “erroneous and gloomy conclusions of the press” that Abrams had tried so hard to head off proved all too accurate.

Ironically, when reality hit home, it fell to Abrams to cut back U.S. forces in Vietnam from a peak of 543,000 in early 1969 to 49,000 in June 1972 — almost five years after Abrams’s progress-defending cable from Saigon. By 1972, some 58,000 U.S. troops, not to mention two to three million Vietnamese, had been killed.

Both Westmoreland and Abrams had reasonably good reputations when they started out, but not so much when they finished.

And Petraeus?

Comparisons can be invidious, but Gen. David Petraeus is another Army commander who has wowed Congress with his ribbons, medals and merit badges. A pity he was not born early enough to have served in Vietnam where he might have learned some real-life hard lessons about the limitations of counterinsurgency theories.

Moreover, it appears that no one took the trouble to tell him that in the early Sixties we young infantry officers already had plenty of counterinsurgency manuals to study at Fort Bragg and Fort Benning.

There are many things one cannot learn from reading or writing manuals — as many of my Army colleagues learned too late in the jungles and mountains of South Vietnam.

Unless one is to believe, contrary to all indications, that Petraeus is not all that bright, one has to assume he knows that the Afghanistan expedition is a folly beyond repair.

So far, though, he has chosen the approach taken by Gen. Abrams in his August 1967 cable from Saigon. That is precisely why the ground-truth of the documents released by WikiLeaks is so important.

Whistleblowers Galore

And it’s not just the WikiLeaks documents that have caused consternation inside the U.S. government. Investigators reportedly are rigorously pursuing the source that provided the New York Times with the texts of two cables (of 6 and 9 November 2009) from Ambassador Eikenberry in Kabul. [See’s “Obama Ignores Key Afghan Warning.”]

To its credit, even today’s far-less independent New York Times published a major story based on the information in those cables, while President Barack Obama was still trying to figure out what to do about Afghanistan.

Later the Times posted the entire texts of the cables, which were classified Top Secret and NODIS (meaning “no dissemination” to anyone but the most senior officials to whom the documents were addressed).

The cables conveyed Eikenberry’s experienced, cogent views on the foolishness of the policy in place and, implicitly, of any eventual decision to double down on the Afghan War. (That, of course, is pretty much what the President ended up doing.)

Eikenberry provided chapter and verse to explain why, as he put it, “I cannot support [the Defense Department’s] recommendation for an immediate Presidential decision to deploy another 40,000 here.”

Such frank disclosures are anathema to self-serving bureaucrats and ideologues who would much prefer depriving the American people of information that might lead them to question the government’s benighted policy toward Afghanistan, for example.

As the New York Times/Eikenberry cables show, even today’s FCM may sometimes display the old spunk of American journalism and refuse to hide or fudge the truth, even if the facts might cause the people to draw “an erroneous and gloomy conclusion,” to borrow Gen. Abrams’s words of 43 years ago.

Polished Pentagon Spokesman

Remember “Baghdad Bob,” the irrepressible and unreliable Iraqi Information Minister at the time of the U.S.-led invasion? He came to mind as I watched Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell’s chaotic, quixotic press briefing on Aug. 5 regarding the WikiLeaks exposures.

The briefing was revealing in several respects. Clear from his prepared statement was what is bothering the Pentagon the most. Here’s Morrell:

“WikiLeaks’s webpage constitutes a brazen solicitation to U.S. government officials, including our military, to break the law. WikiLeaks’s public assertion that submitting confidential material to WikiLeaks is safe, easy and protected by law is materially false and misleading. The Department of Defense therefore also demands that WikiLeaks discontinue any solicitation of this type.”

Rest assured that the Defense Department will do all it can to make it unsafe for any government official to provide WikiLeaks with sensitive material. But it is contending with a clever group of hi-tech experts who have built in precautions to allow information to be submitted anonymously.

That the Pentagon will prevail anytime soon is far from certain.

Also, in a ludicrous attempt to close the barn door after tens of thousands of classified documents had already escaped, Morrell insisted that WikiLeaks give back all the documents and electronic media in its possession.

Even the normally docile Pentagon press corps could not suppress a collective laugh, irritating the Pentagon spokesman no end. The impression gained was one of a Pentagon Gulliver tied down by terabytes of Lilliputians.

Morrell’s self-righteous appeal to the leaders of WikiLeaks to “do the right thing” was accompanied by an explicit threat that, otherwise, “We shall have to compel them to do the right thing.” His attempt to assert Pentagon power in this regard fell flat, given the realities.

Morrell also chose the occasion to remind the Pentagon press corps to behave themselves or face rejection when applying to be embedded in units of U.S. armed forces. The correspondents were shown nodding docilely as Morrell reminded them that permission for embedding “is by no means a right. It is a privilege.” The generals giveth and the generals taketh away.

It was a moment of arrogance — and press subservience — that would have sickened Thomas Jefferson or James Madison, not to mention the courageous war correspondents who did their duty in Vietnam.

Morrell and the generals can control the “embeds”; they cannot control the ether. Not yet, anyway.

And that was all too apparent beneath the strutting, preening, and finger waving by the Pentagon’s fancy silk necktie to the world. Actually, the opportunities afforded by WikiLeaks and other Internet Web sites can serve to diminish what few advantages there are to being in bed with the Army.

What Would I Have Done

Would I have had the courage to whisk Gen. Abrams’s cable into the ether in 1967, if WikiLeaks or other Web sites had been available to provide a major opportunity to expose the deceit of the top Army command in Saigon?

The Pentagon can argue that using the Internet this way is not “safe, easy, and protected by law.” We shall see.

Meanwhile, this way of exposing information that people in a democracy should know will continue to be sorely tempting — and a lot easier than taking the risk of being photographed lunching with someone from the New York Times.

From what I have learned over these past 43 years, supervening moral values can, and should, trump lesser promises. Today, I would be determined to “do the right thing,” if I had access to an Abrams-like cable from Petraeus in Kabul.

And I believe that Sam Adams, if he were alive today, would enthusiastically agree that this would be the morally correct decision.

Footnote: In the Tradition of Sam Adams

Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII) is a group of former CIA colleagues and other associates of former intelligence analyst Sam Adams, who hold up his example as a model for those in intelligence who would aspire to the courage to speak truth to power.

Sam did precisely that, and in honoring his memory, SAAII confers an award each year to a lamp lighter exemplifying Sam Adam’s courage, persistence, and devotion to truth — no matter the consequences. The Washington, DC, presentations are held in the fall, usually before a large university audience; Dan Ellsberg, a charter member, is usually with us.

Sam Adams Annual Award recipients:
-Coleen Rowley of the FBI, in Washington, DC
-Katharine Gun of British Intelligence; in Copenhagen, Denmark
-Sibel Edmonds of the FBI; in Washington, DC
-Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan; in NY City
-Sam Provance, former Sgt, US Army, truth teller about Abu Ghraib; in Washington, DC
-Frank Grevil, Maj., Danish Army Intelligence, imprisoned for giving the Danish press documents showing that Denmark’s Prime Minister (now NATO Secretary General) disregarded warnings that there was no authentic evidence of WMD in Iraq; in Copenhagen, Denmark
-Larry Wilkerson, Col., US Army (ret.), former chief of staff to Secretary Colin Powell at the State Department, who has exposed what he called the “Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal;" in Washington, DC

In April, the SAAII nominating committee decided unanimously to give this year’s award to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. Stay tuned for information on the time and place of the presentation.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. After two years as an Army infantry/intelligence officer, he served as a CIA analyst for 27 years. He also serves on the SAAII nominating committee and the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What If Washington…? Five Absurd Things That Simply Can’t Happen in Wartime Washington

What If Washington…?
Five Absurd Things That Simply Can’t Happen in Wartime Washington
By Tom Engelhardt

The other day I visited a website I check regularly for all things military, Noah Shachtman’s Danger Room blog at Wired magazine. One of its correspondents, Spencer Ackerman, was just then at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, the sort of place that -- with its multiple bus routes, more than 30,000 inhabitants, PXes, Internet cafés, fast-food restaurants, barracks, and all the sinews of war -- we like to call military bases, but that are unique in the history of this planet.

Here’s how Ackerman began his report: “Anyone who thinks the United States is really going to withdraw from Afghanistan in July 2011 needs to come to this giant air base an hour away from Kabul. There’s construction everywhere. It’s exactly what you wouldn’t expect from a transient presence.” The old Russian base, long a hub for U.S. military (and imprisonment) activities in that country is now, as he describes it, a giant construction site and its main drag, Disney Drive, a massive traffic pile-up. (“If the Navy could figure out a way to bring a littoral-combat ship to a landlocked country, it would idle on Disney.”) Its flight line is packed with planes -- “C-17s, Predators, F-16s, F-15s, MC-12 passenger planes” -- and Bagram, he concludes, “is starting to feel like a dynamic exurb before the housing bubble burst.”

I won’t lie. As I read that post, my heart sank and I found myself imagining Spencer Ackerman writing this passage: “Anyone who thinks the United States is really going to stay in Afghanistan after July 2011 needs to come to this giant air base an hour away from Kabul where buildings are being dismantled, military equipment packed up, and everywhere you look you see evidence of a transient presence.” To pen that, unfortunately, he would have to be a novelist or a fabulist.

For almost nine years, the U.S. military has been building up Bagram. Now, the Obama administration’s response to the Afghan disaster on its hands is -- and who, at this late date, could be surprised? -- a further build-up. In my childhood, I remember ads for... well, I’m not quite sure what... but they showed scenes of multiple error, including, if I remember rightly, five-legged cows floating through clouds. They were always tagged with a question that went something like: What’s wrong with this picture?

As with so much that involves the American way of war, the U.S. national security state, and the vast military and intelligence bureaucracies that go with them, an outsider might well be tempted to ask just that question. As much as Washington insiders may periodically decry or bemoan the results of our war policies and security-state procedures, however, they never ask what's wrong. Not really.

In fact, basic alternatives to our present way of going about things are regularly dismissed out of hand, while ways to use force and massive preparations for the future use of more force are endlessly refined.

As a boy, I loved reading books of what-if history and science fiction, rare moments when what might have happened or what might someday happen outweighed what everyone was convinced must happen. Only there did it seem possible to imagine the unimaginable and the alternatives that might go with it. When it comes to novels, counterfactuality is still a winner. What if the Nazis had won in Europe, as Robert Harris suggested in Fatherland, or a strip of the Alaskan panhandle had become a temporary homeland for Jewish refugees from the Holocaust, as Michael Chabon suggested in The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, or our machines could indeed think like us, as Philip Dick wondered in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Such novels allow our brain to venture down strange new pathways normally forbidden to us.

Here, then, are five possibilities, five pathways, that -- given our world -- verge on the fictional. Consider them not “what-if history,” but “what if Washington...?”

1. What if Washington declared a ceasefire in Afghanistan, expressed a desire to withdraw all its troops from the country in good order and at a reasonable pace, and then just left? What would happen? The answer is: as with the four questions below, we simply don’t -- and won’t -- know; in part because few of the 854,000 people with “top-secret” security clearances, and so perhaps capable of accessing Washington's war planning, are likely to think seriously about what this might mean. (It would be hell on a career, and there’s no money in it anyway.)

On the other hand, after nine years of grim experimentation, we do know what has happened and is happening in the world’s second most corrupt, fifth poorest country. If you’ve been following the Afghan War story, even in the most cursory manner, you could already write the next news report on Afghanistan’s hapless American-trained police and its no less hapless American-trained army, the next set of civilian casualties, the next poppy harvest, the fate of the next round of counterinsurgency plans, and so on. These are, as our previous Secretary of Defense used to say, the “known knowns” of the situation and, unfortunately, the only subjects Washington is comfortable exploring further. No matter that the known road, the well-worn one, is the assured road to nowhere.

No serious thought, money, or effort goes into imagining how to unbuild the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan or how to voluntarily leave that country. In a terrible moment in the Vietnam War, Vermont Senator George Aiken suggested that the U.S. just declare victory and get out. But that sort of thing was, and remains, beyond Washington’s normal imagination; and what Washington can’t imagine, it assumes no one else should.

The American peace movement, such as it is, shouldn’t wait for President Obama. It should convene its own blue-ribbon commission and put some effort into planning how to get out of Afghanistan voluntarily -- and, having already done much harm, how to leave in the least harmful and quickest way possible. It’s true that we don’t know what would happen afterwards: Would the Taliban (or its various groupings) take over part or all of the country, or would they leap for each others’ throats once a unifying opposition to foreign invaders disappeared (as happened in Afghanistan in the early 1990s)? Or, for that matter, might something quite unexpected and unpredictable happen ?

The future is, by definition, an unknown unknown, and Washington, whatever its pretenses to control that future, has a terrible record when it comes to predicting it. Who knows how long it would take the Afghan people to deal with the Taliban without us, given the woeful inability of such a crew -- second only to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's -- to govern the country effectively (or less than brutally).

2. What if a blue-ribbon commission appointed by the president surveyed the 17 intelligence agencies and organizations that make up the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), the 263 intelligence task forces and other new intelligence groupings that have come into being since September 11, 2001, alone, the labyrinthine “community” that is drowning in 50,000 or more “intelligence” reports a year, and decided that we had 16 too many of them? The last time such a commission met, after the 9/11 attacks, the result was that the seventeenth member of the IC was added to the roster, the office of the Director of National Intelligence, which, while proving remarkably ineffective by all accounts, has become a little bureaucracy of its own with about 1,500 employees.

What if such a panel were then to consider the obvious: that 17 competing intelligence agencies are a sign of madness when it comes to producing usable “intelligence”; that, while capable of being intrusive and oppressive, eating up more than $75 billion annually, contributing to a national atmosphere of fear, and throwing a penumbra of secrecy over the nation, they are incapable of doing their job. What if it were to suggest that we need only one, or for competitive purposes, at most two such agencies, and that they should be geared to assessing the world and providing actual “intelligence” to the president and Congress, not to changing it by subverting foreign governments, assassinating foreign leaders or assorted terrorists, kidnapping citizens from the streets of global cities, and the like? What if Congress agreed? Would we be better off? Is there really safety in a bloated intelligence bureaucracy and the dollars it eats, in all those satellites and all that surveillance, in a maturing culture of all-enveloping secrecy that is now a signature aspect of our way of life?

3. What if the president and Congress agreed to get rid of all secret armies, including the CIA, which Chalmers Johnson once dubbed the president’s “private army,” and the military’s secret military, its special operations forces, 13,000 of whom are now on duty in 75 countries? What if, in addition, we were to demobilize the tens of thousands of armed private contractors and assorted rent-a-guns the Pentagon and the State Department have taken on to supplement their strength?

4. What if the president and Congress really went after the Pentagon budget, projected to top $700 billion next year, including war-fighting costs (and that’s without all the long-term costs of our military even added in)? Right now, proposed Pentagon budget “cuts” fill the headlines and yet represent nothing more than a reshuffling of military money in the midst of ongoing increases in defense spending. What if, instead, we actually cut that budget not by 25%, but in half or more, and used that money to promote our long-term safety through the creation of new jobs to work on the country’s aging infrastructure? That would still leave us putting more money into our military than any other nation on Earth.

What if, in addition, we stopped pouring money into planning breakthrough generations of weapons for 2025 and beyond? What if, while we’re at it, we decided to toss out the post-World War II definition of our mission as “national security,” a phrase which helped pave the way for the full-scale garrisoning of the globe and the repeated dispatching of U.S. forces to the far reaches of the planet, and went back to the idea of “national defense.” What if, in the same spirit, the Pentagon once again became an actual department of defense?

5. What if the Department of Homeland Security were abolished (and along with it, that un-American post-9/11 word “homeland” were banished from the language)? What if its pre-2002 constituent parts were reassigned to non-national security duties and the rest of it to the trashbin of history, ensuring that we no longer had two defense departments?

In Washington’s world, each of these what-ifs is, by definition, an absurdity, the sort of thing that only a utopian peacenik with his head in the sand could conjure up. And however badly our world seems to go, however misplaced our priorities and our moneys seem to be, Washington looks like it has all the facts and those who might raise such questions none, because no one ever seriously explores such ideas, no less tests them out (even in more modest ways).

As a result, they exist not in the realm of policy, but in the realm of fiction, and comments on the strangeness of those five-legged cows floating through distant clouds near Hellfire-armed Predator drones are left to marginal characters like me. What, after all, would we do without our national security wars, our ever-burgeoning intelligence bureaucracy, our secret armies, our advanced weaponry, a Pentagon the size of James’s giant peach, and a special department to protect our “homeland” security (accompanied by its own mini-homeland-security-industrial complex and attendant lobbyists)? How would we know what was coming at us next? How could we be safe?

Right now, as a nation, we find it remarkably difficult to imagine ourselves as anything but what we now believe ourselves to be -- and Washington counts on that. We find it almost impossible to imagine ourselves as just another nation (even perhaps, a more modest and better one), making our way on this disturbed planet of ours as best we can. We can’t imagine ourselves “safe” without being dominant, or being dominant without killing others in distant lands in significant numbers to ensure that safety; nor can we imagine ourselves dominant without that full panoply of secret armies, global garrisons, overlapping spy agencies, fear manias, and all the money that goes with them, despite the abundant evidence that this can’t be safety, either for us or for the planet.

We no longer know what a policy of cautious peace might look like, not having put a cent into envisioning such a project. War and an aggressive global national security state (and the language that goes with it) are all Washington knows and all it cares to know. It is completely invested in the world it now so shakily oversees, and cares for no other.

Worlds end, of course, and they regularly end so much uglier when no one plans for the unexpected. Maybe one of these days, what-if fever will spread in this country and, miraculously, we’ll actually get change we can finally believe in.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's His latest book, The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s (Haymarket Books), has just been published. You can catch him discussing it on a TomCast video by clicking here.

Copyright 2010 Tom Engelhardt

GOLDSTONE FACTS: The Real Story behind Israel's Invasion of Gaza

Chapter 13 of the Goldstone Report

Attacks on the Foundations of Civilian Life in Gaza
Destruction of Civilian Infrastructure, Food Production
Factual Findings narrated by Ross Vachon
Legal findings narrated by Noam Chomsky
The Destruction of Sawafeary Chicken Farm and al Bader Flour Mill
(Highlights include Mr Sawafeary's appeal to Ban Ki-moon)

It is instructive to juxtapose the 'findings' of the just released Israeli document Gaza Operation Investigations: Second update with what actually transpired. Observe how this farcical report tries to justify the destruction of the chicken farms.

The Sawafeary chicken coops were located only a few meters away from one of the key IDF positions. The IDF position was, itself, dictated by the lay of the terrain in the area. As the command investigation determined, this IDF position
could not be adequately secured if the chicken coop structures were left intact. The demolition of these structures was needed to allow a clean line of sight for protection of IDF forces.

Following this logic, the IDF would have been quite justified in flattening the whole of Gaza strip in order to allow a 'clean line of sight for protection of IDF forces'.

Relevant Excerpts from the Report

The Sawafeary Chicken Coops
122. According to allegations included in the HRCFF Report,58 in January 2009 IDF forces bulldozed several chicken coops owned by the Sawafeary family in Zeytoun, purportedly as part of a deliberate strategy of destroying civilian

123. The command investigations conducted with regard to this incident reveal that the Sawafeary chicken coops were destroyed for reasons of military necessity.

124. Specifically, the investigations revealed that the area around the Sawafeary chicken coops was occupied by an IDF ground force beginning on 4 January 2009, as part of the ground maneuver, with the intention to take control of rockets and mortar launching sites and reducing the number of terror attacks on Israeli territory. The force took positions in several houses, including one house that was adjacent to the chicken coops. This positioning was necessary to secure the area for military operations against Hamas and to protect the IDF troops in those operations. The IDF’s defense plan for this area needed to meet three serious threats to the safety and security of the IDF troops: the firing of anti-tank and RPG missiles on IDF positions; sniper fire; and infiltration of terrorist operatives into the immediate vicinity of the forces in order to plant and detonate explosive devices, including by suicide bombers.

125. The terrain in the area made this location more dangerous for IDF forces. The area was agricultural in its original use and thus included many orchards, groves, and greenhouses, located between and around the houses occupied by the IDF. This made it harder for the IDF to identify Hamas positions and fighters. The threat was not theoretical—on 5 January 2009, an RPG missile was launched at one of the IDF positions in that area. In addition, several shooting incidents occurred originating from the orchards located to the south of the chicken coops.

126. In order to overcome these threats, the IDF decided to create a security zone around each of the IDF positions with a perimeter of 20–50 meters around each post, which would allow uninterrupted observation and firing capabilities for the
force in each position, as well as joint protection among the different IDF outposts. These security zones allowed IDF forces to anticipate at an earlier stage the approach of terrorist operatives.

127. The Sawafeary chicken coops were located only a few meters away from one of the key IDF positions. The IDF position was, itself, dictated by the lay of the terrain in the area. As the command investigation determined, this IDF position could not be adequately secured if the chicken coop structures were left intact. The demolition of these structures was needed to allow a clean line of sight for protection of IDF forces. The investigation also determined that the decision to destroy the coops was consistent with the demands of the principle of proportionality: there was a compelling military need for the area to be cleared for the safety of the IDF forces and for the success of IDF operations against the Hamas forces operating in the area. The local commanders determined that these advantages outweighed the damage to private property that would result from the demolition. The commanders avoided the destruction of residential buildings or other facilities in the area, when such destruction was not required by military necessity or appeared to be disproportional.

128. The MAG reviewed the findings of the command investigation and concluded that the destruction of the chicken coops was lawful, as it was necessary to protect IDF forces operating in the area. It did not violate the limitation on destruction of private property because it was justified by military necessity. The MAG also found that the destruction of the chicken coops did not violate the ban on destroying any object that is indispensable to the survival of the civilian
population. It was dictated by the location of specific operations against Hamas, and not part of a campaign to interfere with the production of food supplies in Gaza. It was not intended to deny the civilian population in Gaza access to
essential commodities.59 As a result of these findings, the MAG determined that no further proceedings were necessary.

129. Although the MAG found no violation of the Law of Armed Conflict in this incident, he recommended several changes to IDF procedures in cases involving destruction of private property, which are detailed below in Section IV of this
Paper. In particular, the MAG found that the decision to destroy the chicken coops was made by a relatively junior IDF officer, and that such decisions were more appropriately and typically made at more senior levels. While the MAG found that the particular rank of the officer making the decision did not indicate wrongful or criminal conduct (as neither the Law of Armed Conflict nor IDF procedures at the time required that such decisions be taken by an officer of any particular rank), he has recommended that the IDF’s procedures for destruction of civilian property be reviewed in several respects, as detailed in Section IV below.

Chapter 11 of the Goldstone Report
Deliberate Attacks against the Civilian Population

Factual Findings narrated by Ross Vachon
Factual and Legal findings narrated by Noam Chomsky
Live Testimonies of Khalid, Kawthar and Samar Abd Rabbo, relevant to the Goldstone Report's Findings


" could you possibly improve it? It is an excellent piece. Congratulations & thank you. I hope it will find wide distribution." -- Hedy Epstein

"A faithful and compelling dramatization of a historic document" -- Norman G Finkelstein

"I found the documentary to be very moving indeed, choosing as it did material that could engage one's interest within a time frame that seems to suit attention spans of our time. I found your selection of the incident to be exactly right: it is the one that has troubled me most." -- Colonel Desmond Travers

Future chapters will be available shortly with legal findings narrated by other prominent personalities.

The just-released Israeli document Gaza Operation Investigations: Second update (July 2010) exonerated the IDF war criminals who, as our Chapter 11 video shows, deliberately shot four members of the Abd Rabbo family, in the process killing three, and rendering the fourth Samar Abd Rabbo a paraplegic for the rest of her life. The relevant excerpts from the document are quoted here to reinforce the point that only an international investigation into the crimes committed by Israel could bring justice to its victims.

Amal, Souad, Samar, and Hajja Souad Abd Rabbo & Adham Kamiz Nasir

108. This incident involved the alleged shooting of four Palestinian civilians on 7 January 2009 in the neighborhood of Izbat Abd Rabbo, and was reported to Israeli authorities by several human rights organizations.51 The MAG referred the
complaint to a direct criminal investigation which was recently concluded. In the course of this comprehensive investigation, the MPCID collected testimony from eleven Palestinians who witnessed the events. Some of them were unable or unwilling to testify before MPCID investigators, but provided detailed affidavits. In addition, the investigators reviewed medical reports and death certificates, as well as aerial photographs provided by an Israeli NGO, which helped identify the different units involved in the incident. More than fifty commanders and soldiers from these units were also questioned by the MPCID. Some were questioned multiple times in order to clarify the circumstances of the case.

109. The evidence collected in the course of the investigation could not confirm the description of the incident by the complainants, who claimed that a soldier standing on a tank had opened fire at a group of civilians. The substantial
discrepancies between the complaint and the findings of the investigation—in particular, the identity of the force and the sequence of events—led the MAG to conclude that the evidence was insufficient to initiate criminal proceedings.

110. A second part of the complaint alleged that the IDF fired at a horse-driven carriage attempting to evacuate the civilians injured in the first shooting incident and subsequently killed the carriage’s driver.

111. The investigation confirmed that the carriage was fired upon by an IDF unit operating in the Izbat Abd Rabbo neighborhood. The unit had received a concrete warning that Hamas planned to send such a carriage loaded with explosives to detonate near an IDF position. The soldiers fired warning shots at the approaching
carriage, which was loaded with bags that the soldiers thought contained explosives. When the carriage did not respond to the warning shots and continued its approach, the unit fired in its direction.

112. Under these circumstances, the MAG determined that the soldiers who fired at the carriage were not criminally liable. The MAG found that the soldiers’ decision to fire was made in light of their belief, at the time, that the carriage posed an immediate threat to the force. (The investigation revealed that the bags did not contain explosives.) Thus, despite the unfortunate results of the incident, the MAG decided to close the case.