Friday, May 22, 2009

Cheney Breaks the Taboo By RAY McGOVERN

Support for Israel Feeds Terrorism

Cheney Breaks the Taboo


If we hear in the coming days that former Vice President Dick Cheney has fired one of his speechwriters — or perhaps grounded Lynne or Liz — it will be clear why.

Oozing out of the sleazy speech he gave Thursday at the American Enterprise Institute was an inadvertent truth regarding the Israeli albatross hanging around the neck of U.S. policy in the Middle East.

I watched the speech, but had missed the gaffe until I went carefully through the written text before a radio interview Thursday evening. It amounts to a major faux pas, though I’ll give you odds that the usual-suspect pundits of the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) will not touch it, because it raises troubling questions about the close U.S. relationship with Israel.

I wanted my 10-year-old grandson to learn a nice word to describe the arguments in the former Vice President’s speech, so he has now learned “disingenuous.” Today we’ll study “superficial,” for that is the right adjective to assign to both Cheney and President Barack Obama as they addressed the threat of “terrorism,” the threat always guaranteed to resonate among Americans — much like the threat of communism did, not too many decades back.

To burnish his anti-terrorist credentials, Obama pledged to do whatever is necessary to protect the United States and warned that al-Qaeda is "actively plotting to attack us again.”

What continues to be missing in the rhetoric of both Obama and Cheney is any discussion of al-Qaeda’s actual capability to perpetrate, in Cheney’s words, “a 9/11 with nuclear weapons” or some other scary thought designed to make Americans hand over their liberties for some dubious promise of safety. Equally important -- and equally missing -- there is never any sensible examination of the motives that might be driving what Cheney called this “same assortment of killers and would-be mass murderers [who] are still there.”

There are a number of reasons why al-Qaeda and other terrorist movements wish to attack us, but this question never gets a complete – or honest – answer, certainly not from the FCM or from the mouths of politicians like Cheney and Obama.

Why They Hate Us

Cheney’s explanation of a motive mostly reprised George W. Bush’s old “the terrorists hate our freedoms” canard. Cheney said the terrorists hate “all the things that make us a force for good in the world — for liberty, for human rights, for the rational, peaceful resolution of differences,” an odd set of qualities for Cheney to cite given his roles in violating constitutional rights, torturing captives and spreading falsehoods to justify invading Iraq.

But that’s also where Cheney slipped up. You didn’t notice? Well, Cheney couldn’t resist expanding on the complaints of the terrorists:

“They have never lacked for grievances against the United States. Our belief in freedom of speech and religion…our belief in equal rights for women…our support for Israel… — these are the true sources of resentment…”

“Our support for Israel.” Cheney got that part right.

My radio interview Thursday was with an FCM station, and I thought I would make an extra effort to be “fair and balanced.” So I noted that, to his credit, Cheney — advertently or inadvertently — did articulate one of the (usually unspoken) key reasons “why they hate us.”

I was immediately jumped on, figuratively, not only by the interviewee representing “the other side,” but also by the not-so-fair-and-balanced moderator. My interlocutors did not seem all that hospitable to facts, but I thought I owed them a try at adducing some anyway.

9/11, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed…and 9/11…

In his speech, Cheney mentioned 9/11 some 30 Times — for reasons that by this stage are obvious to all. Referring specifically to waterboarding, Cheney said that waterboardee Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, “the mastermind of 9/11 … also boasted about beheading Daniel Pearl.” (Here, I thought, is a really good example of “disingenuous” — a nice concrete example for my grandson. For the only thing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed did NOT take responsibility for, after being waterboarded 183 Times, was climate change.)

But since the name Khalid Sheikh Mohammed came up, I asked my two interlocutors if they knew how “KSM” explained why he masterminded 9/11. Apparently, neither had made it as far as page 147 of the 9/11 Commission Report, so I told them what the 9/11 Commission found on that key point:

“By his own account, KSM’s animus toward the United States stemmed not from his experience there as a student, but rather from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.”

KSM, you see, had attended North Carolina A & T in Greensboro, and apparently the first thought that came to those drafting the 9/11 report was that perhaps he had suffered some gross indignity accounting for his hatred for America. Not so.

Moreover, the footnote section (page 488 of the 9/11 Commission Report) reveals that KSM was not the only terrorist motivated by “U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel”:

“On KSM’s rationale for attacking the United States, see Intelligence report, interrogation of KSM, Sept. 5, 2003 (in this regard, KSM’s statements echo those of Yousef, who delivered an extensive polemic against U.S. foreign policy at his January 1998 sentencing).”

The reference is to Ramzi Yousef, KSM’s nephew. The 9/11 Commission Report had noted earlier (page 147) that, “Yousef’s instant notoriety as the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing inspired KSM to become involved in planning attacks against the United States.”

In the “Recommendations” section of its final report, the 9/11 Commission suggested:

“America’s policy choices have consequences. Right or wrong, it is simply a fact that American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American actions in Iraq are dominant staples of popular commentary across the Arab and Muslim world. … Neither Israel nor the new Iraq will be safer if worldwide Islamist terrorism grows stronger.” (pp 376-377)

These observations seemed to strike my radio interlocutors as unfit for the airwaves. When the shouts of protest died down, there was an opportunity to offer additional evidence, so I threw in what a prestigious board appointed by the Pentagon had to say about all this over four years ago.

Defense Science Board Report

Are you ready for a scoop that is not a scoop, but that almost no one knows about?

It has to do with an unclassified study published, not by some “liberal” think-tank, but by the Pentagon-appointed U.S. Defense Science Board just two months after the 9/11 Commission Report. That report directly contradicted what Cheney and President Bush had been saying about “why they hate us,” letting the elephant out of the bag and into the room, so to speak:

“Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf States. Thus, when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.”

You didn’t know about that report? Well, maybe this is because of the timing. The Defense Science Board final report was given to Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Sept. 23, 2004, just weeks before the presidential election.

That is a time when presidential candidates and the U.S. Establishment in general are hyper-allergic to discussing how U.S. support for Israeli policies toward the Palestinians encourages the recruitment of anti-American terrorists.

Suppressed, Then Gutted

Bending over backwards to oblige, the FCM suppressed the Defense Science Board findings until after the election. On Nov. 24, 2004, the New York Times, erstwhile “newspaper of record,” did publish a story on the board’s report — but performed some highly interesting surgery.

Thom Shanker of the Times quoted the paragraph beginning with "Muslims do not 'hate our freedom'" (see above), but he or his editors deliberately cut out the following sentence about what Muslims do object to; i.e., U.S. "one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights" and support for tyrannical regimes. The Times did include the sentence that immediately followed the omitted one. In other words, it was not simply a matter of shortening the paragraph. Rather, the offending middle sentence was surgically removed.

Similarly creative editing showed through the Times' reporting in late October 2004 on a videotaped speech by Osama bin Laden. Almost six paragraphs of the story made it onto page one, but the Times saw to it that the key point bin Laden made at the beginning of his presentation was relegated to paragraphs 23 to 25 at the very bottom of page nine.

Buried there was bin Laden's assertion that the idea for 9/11 first germinated after "we witnessed the oppression and tyranny of the American-Israeli coalition against our people in Palestine and Lebanon."

Wading through the drivel in the FCM’s Times and Washington Post on Friday morning, I am hardly surprised that they missed Cheney’s slip about U.S. policy toward Israel being one of the terrorists’ “true sources of resentment.”

Ray McGovern was an Army officer and CIA analyst for almost 30 year. He now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. He is a contributor to Imperial Crusades: Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair (Verso). He can be reached at:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Obama’s Foreign Policy Failures: Diplomacy, Militarism and Imagery

Global Research, May 21, 2009

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President Obama’s greatest foreign policy successes are found in the reports of the mass media. His greatest failures go unreported, but are of great consequence. A survey of the major foreign policy priorities of the White House reveals a continuous series of major setbacks, which call into question the principal objectives and methods pursued by the Obama regime.

These are in order of importance:

1) Washington’s attempt to push for a joint economic stimulus program among the 20 biggest economies at the G-20 meeting in April 2009;

2) Calls for a major military commitment from NATO to increase the number of combat troops in conflict zones in Afghanistan and Pakistan to complement the additional 21,000 US troop buildup (Financial Times April 12, 2009 p.7);

3) Plans to forge closer political and diplomatic relations among the countries of the Americas based on the pursuit of a common agenda, including the continued exclusion of Cuba and isolation of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador (La Jornada (Mex. D.F.) April 20, 2009);

4) Weakening, isolating and pressuring Iran through a mixture of diplomatic gestures and tightening economic sanctions to surrender its nuclear energy program (Financial Times, April 16/17, 2009 p. 7);

5) The application of pressure on North Korea to suspend its satellite and missile testing program in addition to dismantling its nuclear weapons program. (Financial Times, April 13, 2009 p.4);

6) Securing an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority for a ‘two state solution’, in which Israel agrees to end and dismantle its illegal settlements in exchange for recognition of Israel as a ‘Jewish State’ (Financial Times, April 13, 2009, p.5);

7) Pressuring the government of Pakistan to increase its military role in attacking the autonomous Northwest provinces and territories along the Pakistan-Afghan border insupport of the US war against Islamic resistance movements, especially among the Pashtun people (over 40 million strong), in both Afghanistan and Pakistan (FT April 23, 2009 p.3); and

8) Securing a stable pro-US regime in Iraq capable of remaining in power after a withdrawal of the majority of US occupation troops (FT April 8, 2009).

What is striking about Obama’s objectives is the continuities with the previous administration of GW Bush, even as the mass media proclaims ‘significant changes’. (American Conservative April 14, 2009)
Policy Continuities: Failures of Stimulus Proposals at the April 2009 G20 Summit.

Like his predecessor Bush, Obama’s first economic priority is to pour trillions of borrowed dollars into the financial system as opposed to directing state resources toward reviving popular demand, reconstructing the manufacturing sector, creating a universal health system and directly employing the 5 million workers unemployed in the last year. Obama’s economic regime is totally dominated by Wall Street bankers and completely devoid of any representatives from labor, manufacturing and the health sector (FT April 2, 2009 p11). In essence, Obama has reinforced and deepened the ‘finance-centered’ model of capitalist development, which demands that the G20 countries follow financial stimulus plans – ignoring job creation through the financing of public investments focused on manufacturing. For Obama, ‘economic stimulus’ means reconstructing the power of finance capital, even if it means running hung budget deficits, which undermine other public investments. The ‘theory’ justifying the finance-centered focus is based on the belief that the US world empire is built on the recovery of the supremacy of finance capital – to which the industrial powers should submit (FT April 15, 2009, p.9). The conflicts at the G20 summit and the ultimate failure of Obama to secure support for his so-called ‘stimulus’ proposal was that he was promoting a financial centered ‘stimulus’ while the rest of the economic powers – with the exception of the UK – were concerned with ‘stimulating’ manufacturing, employment and commodity exports (FT April 2, 2009 p.4). The pressures of labor and manufacturers in Europe – especially in Germany and France – have far more weight in shaping economic policy than in the United States (FT March 26, 2009 p. 1).

The incompatibility of the finance-dominated regime of Obama and European, Asian and Latin American regimes reflect the latter’s more economically diversified ruling class, has led to the White House failure to secure a ‘coordinated’ stimulus policy.

Summit of the Americas: Isolation and Divergences

Conflicts of interest prevented Washington from securing any favorable economic agreements at the ‘Summit of the Americas’ Conference in April. The breakdown of the US finance-centered empire and its negative impact on all of the countries of the Americas undermined Obama’s efforts for reassert US hegemonic leadership (see Economic Commission for Latin America – Report to Summit April 17-19, 2009). The White House already knew the futility of any effort to revive a regional free trade agreement. Worse still, Washington’s argument for the advantages of ‘globalization’ were seriously undermined by Obama’s promotion of ‘financial protectionism’ in which US subsidiary banks in Latin America were directed to channel their financial resources back to the home office, drying up financing and credit for Latin American exporters. In other words, under the stress of the economic depression, ‘globalization’ led to the reverse flow of financial resources out of Latin America, prejudicing US influence and leverage while increasing regional ties and economic nationalism among the Latin American countries.

The result was that the Obama regime’s financial-centered empire had nothing to offer and everything to lose in any deep diagnosis of the impact of the recession/depression. The While House had nothing to offer in the way of expanding markets, capital flows or in stimulating productive investments to create employment. In these dire circumstances, the Obama regime preferred vacuous platitudes and systematic evasions of the most pressing economic issues in order to create the illusion of ‘good feeling’ among the participants (La Jornada April 20 2009). Rather than ‘project power’ in the hemisphere, Washington was reduced to reiterating bankrupt policies justifying the Cuban embargo in splendid isolation (La Jornada April 17, 2009).

The decline of US power based on its crisis-ridden finance centered empire is evident in its inability to sustain its traditional client rulers or to destabilize adversarial presidents. Even as the Summit was transpiring, in Bolivia a group of armed mercenaries, contracted by US backed economic elites in the separatist province of Santa Cruz to overthrow the Morales regime, were captured or killed by the Bolivian military (La Jornada April 20 2009). After three years of US financing and deep involvement with regional elites engaged in political and economic warfare against Evo Morales, and after suffering several electoral defeats, Washington and its regional allies could only muster a tawdry hotel shoot-out between Eastern European contract hit-men and the Bolivian army, ending in ignominious defeat.

The political weakness of the Obama regime is even more evident in the major electoral defeats it has suffered in Ecuador, where President Correa was re-elected with over 52% of the vote – a 22% margin over the nearest pro-Washington candidate, Lucio Gutierrez (La Jornada April 27, 2009). In Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela, El Salvador and Honduras, the electorate voted decisively for left and center-left candidates, defeating right-wing US-supported candidates. The only exception was Panama where a right-wing millionaire was elected in May 2009. Though few of the center-left regimes pursue economic-nationalist policies, they do exercise a degree of independence in their foreign and domestic policies, especially with regard to relations with Venezuela and Cuba, trade, investment, state intervention and opposition to the dictates of the IMF.

Moreover the financial collapse in the US and the accompanying economic depression has led to a major crisis and conflict between North and South American with profound long-term consequences. The implosion of cross-border lending resulting in US (and European) banks returning capital to their domestic markets is depressing regional and world finance for the foreseeable future (Financial Times April 30, 2009 p. 7). Wall Streets’ financial crash has dealt a strategic blow to financial ‘globalization’ (imperialism). Between April-December 2008 US financial institutions ‘repatriated’ $750 billion dollars from their overseas subsidiaries. Foreign holdings of US banks are shrinking as a share of their total balance sheets – especially hitting Latin American regimes dependent on US capital flows. US investors in Latin America, unable to secure credit, have curtailed their overseas activity.

The process of ‘de-capitalization’ of Latin America has accelerated with US and European ‘state-intervention’ of banks, which has led to ‘financial protectionism’ where the ‘state’ banks push for domestic lending at the expense of foreign operations (Financial Times April 30, 2009 p7). This especially harms countries like Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, where repatriating US (and Spanish) financial institutions own a significant percentage of the domestic banks. The withdrawal of capital to the imperial states, financial protectionism and the decline of US official financing means that Obama’s ‘recovery plan’ is based on the de-capitalization of Latin America and the drying up of credit for exporter/importers, exacerbating the recession.

The policy implications are readily visible: Obama has few economic assets to pressure Latin America and many liabilities to address. Given the low priority assigned to Latin Americca in the current crisis, Washington must rely on local elites, which have been weakened economically by Wall Street and the IMF’s declining presence and are now more dependent on state intervention to confront the drop in export market demand. Obama’s economic priorities and financial protectionist policies go directly against any ‘harmonization of interest’ and strengthen nationalist, regionalist and statist political and economic policies and governments in Latin America. The ‘historic movements’ in opposite directions between the US and Latin America are exacerbated by Obama’s commitment to military-centered empire building.

While Latin America’s civilian regimes are desperately looking for new markets, credits and investments to buttress their declining capitalist system and forestall domestic social challenges from below, Obama projects the US empire through militarism. Obama’s failed policies in Latin America are the result of structural relations dependent on financial markets (and their breakdown) and global militarism. Over time the diverging composition of regimes and socio-economic policies will become more acute as the recession deepens into a major depression in Latin America. One consequence of this divergence can be seen in the increasing trade between Latin America and the Arab countries, which has tripled since 2005 (Al Jazeera March 31, 2009).

The most striking indicator of the United States’ declining economic presence and political influence in Latin America is found in the trade figures of Brazil, Latin America’s biggest and most industrialized country. In April 2009, total trade between Brazil amounted to $3.2 billion dollars, while its trade with the US was $2.8 billion (Telegraph (UK) May 10, 2009). This was the second straight month that China surpassed the US as Brazil’s biggest trading partner, ending 80 years of US primacy. Just as the US pours hundreds of billions of dollars into military-driven empire building, China has steadily pursued its overseas economic empire via billion dollar trade and joint investment agreements with Brazil in oil, gas, iron ore, soya and cellulose. China has already displaced the US as Chile’s primary trading partner, and is increasing its share of trade with Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Argentina – and even with staunchly US clients, like Colombia, Peru and Mexico.

As regional wars and economic depression cause the US to retreat from Latin America, the region’s ruling classes look to Asia, especially China, to meet their trade and investment requirements.
Sooner rather than later, issues of superior economic production and growth trump pure military power in shaping the hierarchy of nations in the world economy. This process of an upwardly mobile economic power displacing a crisis-ridden world military power as the chief interlocutor is now being played out in Latin America. While the transition may have begun well over a decade before his administration, the policies of President Obama are accelerating the shift in Latin America away from US dominance.

NATO Conference: Obama’s Military Escalation in Search of Allies

On April 4, 2009 Obama attended the NATO Conference in Strasbourg in order to push for allied support for expanding the war in South Asia. South Asia, and especially the Afghan-Pakistani (Af-Pak) border regions, has become the centerpiece of Obama’s foreign policy. This is the area where the US is most vulnerable to strategic military and political losses and where he has had the most difficulty winning material and man-power support from the NATO allies. From the first day in office, Obama has emphasized the ‘strategic’ importance of winning the war in Afghanistan, reversing the advances of the Taliban and other resistance fighters and establishing a stable pro-Washington client regime in Kabul. To that end, Obama has announced a massive escalation of combat troop deployment (over 21,000) to Afghanistan, an additional $80 billion dollars in funding to the already $750 billion dollars allocated for the Pentagon, and has pursued an aggressive epolicy of pressuring European and Asian allies for substantial addition of combat troops and financial aid. At the April NATO conference, Obama’s proposals were bluntly rejected (Financial Times April 2, 2009 p7). The principle allies agreed to send 5,000 additional troops in temporary and non-combat roles, including 3,000 to ‘monitor’ elections in August 2009 and then to withdraw; two thousand to act as trainers and ‘advisers’ in non-conflict-ridden surroundings (Financial Times April 8, 2009 p.2).

What Obama fails to recognize is that the NATO countries do not consider Afghanistan an area of strategic importance to European security. They do not see the forces engaged as a threat to their safety; they do not see the prospect for a quick, low-cost victory. They do not relish following Obama’s proposed to extend the war into Pakistan – thus multiplying resistance to his plans. They do not want to alienate the vast majority of their own population and destabilize their own power.

European and most Asian allies are not willing to pour scarce resources and military personnel into a losing war, in a non-strategic region at a time of deepening economic recession. Obama on the other hand, following Bush and various other predecessors, and embedded in military-driven empire building, talks diplomacy while vigorously pursuing wars of conquest. His attempts to elevate the local conflict into a threat to world security based on the presence of a tiny number of Al Queda fighters in the mountains of the Hindu Kush, is hardly convincing. Obama’s failure to recognize that the Taliban and other groups have access to vast contiguous and porous borders with ethnic, clan and religious allies capable of sustaining prolonged guerrilla warfare, leads him to extend the frontiers of warfare and escalate the number of US troops. The expansion of the war in turn multiplies enemies and armed recruits. In Pakistan, this creates a wider swath of armed political opposition, which undermines Obama’s client in Islamabad (Financial Times May 6, 2009 p.1; see also Gareth Porter, “Errant Drone Attacks Spur Militants in Pakistan IPS April 16, 2009). Under strong pressure from the White House, Pakistan launched a major military campaign in the Swat region causing the mass flight of 2 million refugees and failing to defeat the Taliban.

Pouring billions of dollars into a prolonged colonial war with little possible economic gain at a time when GDP is declining by 6% and exports by 30% demonstrates the continued centrality of military-driven empire building and Obama’s role as ‘willing executioner’ (BBC News April 2, 2009).

The divergence between Europe/NATO and the US/Obama is structurally rooted in their conflicting visions of world power: The former emphasize financing their economies to recover and expand exports versus the latter, which operates under the delusion that prolonged colonial wars in remote regions of the world are essential for the ‘stability’ of world capitalism. Obama’s failure to secure NATO support for the Af/Pak expansion underlines his complete political and military isolation in one of the primary areas of his administration’s policy goals. This means that the US will shoulder the entire cost of a war in Afghanistan, which has spilled over into Pakistan, and bear worldwide condemnation as thousands of civilian casualties mount and millions of refugees flee the air and ground wars (BBC News May 7, 2009).

Iran: The Zionist Presence and Lost Opportunities

Obama’s stated policy approach to Iran was to ‘turn a new page’, open negotiations without prior conditions in order to secure an agreement to end Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, and its alleged support for ‘terrorist’ organizations, namely Hamas and Hezbollah. In addition, Obama hopes to secure co-operation in the US war in Afghanistan as well as propping up the Maliki client regime in Iraq (Financial Times March 6, 2009 p. 5).

From the very start, Obama’s policy got off on the wrong foot. He appointed two of the most pro-Israel and virulent enemies of Iran to key posts in Treasury and the State Department. Stuart Levey was reappointed as Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence in the Treasury Department and Dennis Ross (often called ‘Israel’s Lawyer’) has been appointed the State Department’s point-man on Iran. Stuart Levey has led a world-wide crusade of intimidation and coercion against any business, bank or oil company that has any economic dealings with Iran. Ross, who left an Israeli government-funded think tank to take up his new position in the Obama Administration, endorsed a document in late 2008 supporting the ‘military option’ against Iran. Ross and Levey are hardly likely to ‘open a new page’ in US Iranian relations. More to the point, they fit in with a bellicose policy advocating greater confrontation and increasing the likelihood of a new US-Middle East war.

The appointment of Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State will not favor an opening to Iran. She is on public record as advocating the ‘obliteration’ of Iran during the Presidential campaign in 2008 and now in office backs ‘crippling sanctions’ for force Iran to dismantle its nuclear energy program. Her approach follows closely the script of the previous Bush Administration (Financial Times April 23, 2009 p.3).

The Obama regime has not pursued ‘negotiations’ – instead it has been actively engaged in securing tougher sanctions against Iran while dictating the outcomes of any meeting with Tehran.

Under the guiding hand of the Israel-First lobby AIPAC, Congressional leaders of both parties are backing new and harsher sanctions against companies, “including Lloyds of London, Total (France) and British Petroleum unless they end their involvement in the export of refined oil to Iran or the construction of refineries in that country” (Financial Times April 23, 2009 p.3). Vice President Biden, in attendance at the annual Washington DC AIPAC Conference (May 1-3, 2009) supported war-like sanctions against Iran. Clearly Obama’s conciliatory rhetoric is in direct contradiction with his hard-line appointments and the harsh sanctions his regime pursues. Obama’s appointment of hard-core Zionists linked directly to Israel to strategic positions reflects the powerful influence which the Zionist Power Configurations exercises over strategic Middle East issues. As a result, Obama’s policy toward Iran is skewed in the direction of serving Israel’s military interests rather than the broader economic and strategic interests of the US empire (Financial Times February 24, 2009 p. 13).

Obama is pursuing a policy of ‘negotiations’ on exclusively Zionist terms: By demanding Iran surrender its internationally recognized and closely regulated program of nuclear enrichment and abandon strategic allies and principles of solidarity with the rights of the Palestinian people or face a US economic blockade, the White House is rejecting any possibility of a peaceful negotiated settlement.

In pursuing an iron-fist policy toward Iran to satisfy the demands of the Zionist Power Configuration acting on behalf of Israel, Obama is missing major diplomatic, economic and political opportunities to stabilize US imperial interests in the region. Through a process of give and take, Washington could secure Iranian co-operation in stabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan. In the past Iran has demonstrated its willingness to support US puppet rulers in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the case of Afghanistan, Iran directly aided the US occupation by attacking fleeing Taliban forces in the Western frontier regions. In contrast, Washington’s close relation with Israel strengthens the Taliban in Afghanistan and Muslim resistance to its occupation of Iraq.

While opposing the Israeli government policy of dispossession of the Palestinians, Iran has declared its willingness to accept a ‘two state solution’ if “that is what the Palestinians want”. The new far-right Israeli regime of Netanyahu/Liebermann, backed by the major American Zionist organizations, openly rejected a ‘two-state solution’, in repudiation the public position of the Obama government during his May 18, 2009 Washington meeting with Obama (BBC News May 19, 2009).

The US National Intelligence Agencies published a report in November 2008, which publicly refuted Israel’s claim that Iran is engaged in weaponizing its enriched uranium. On the ground investigations by the United Nations and international inspectors from the International Atomic Envery Agency, found no evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons programs (IAEA Report On Iran February 19, 2009). By choosing to endorse Israel’s unfounded claims of an ‘existential threat’ from Iran, the Obama Administration has become an accomplice in Israel’s overt preparations for war against Iran. By refusing to use the findings of the international inspectors and its own intelligence agencies to come to terms with Iran’s nuclear-energy program, Obama runs the risk of becoming embroiled in a devastating war provoked by the government of Israel.

In a time in which the US exports have declined by over 30% in the first quarter of 2009 and the economy is mired in a prolonged deep recession, the Obama regime prioritized military relations with Israel on highly unfavorable terms. In this regard, overall economic losses from Obama’s policy of exclusive dealings with a minor economic player like Israel – has led to the losses of many billions of dollars of potential trade with Iran (BBC News April 29, 2009). Unlike the highly unfavorable US trade balance with Israel and the monstrous $30 billion-dollar ‘aid’ handout to the Jewish State, Iran offers a major investment outlet and lucrative market for US petroleum, agro-business, chemical and financial enterprises.
By following Israel’s blockade and boycott policies against duly elected Arab leaders, especially Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, Washington supports harsh corrupt dictatorships in the West Bank, Egypt and Jordan simply because they are allied to Israel. If, as the Obama regime claims, electoral processes will stabilize the region, then its commitments to Israel and its allies is destabilizing the region.

Instead of pursuing new policies toward Iran designed to secure imperial interests in the region, the Obama regime chooses confrontation which undermines its ‘conciliatory rhetoric’ and, worst, has led to increasing tensions. New sanctions against gasoline exporter could provoke a new, expanded war, which will surely sent the US into an even deeper depression.

North Korea: The Unmasking of a Policy

The Obama regime has undermined the tentative nuclear disarmament agreements reached between the Bush Administration and the North Korean Government. The original agreement was based on reciprocal concessions, in which North Korea agreed to dismantle its nuclear weapons program in exchange for economic and energy aid from the US, Japan, China, South Korea and Russia. The North Koreans complied with the agreement, but the economic aid was not forthcoming, in large part because of demands by the US to include intrusive inspections (Financial Times April 15, 2009). The incoming Obama administration did not take any initiative to move aid programs forward. On the contrary, in response to an experimental rocket launch of a satellite, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton called for and secured a condemnation of North Korea’s legal right to space technology and called for the implementation of new economic sanctions (Financial Times April 13, 2009 p. 4). These harsh reprisals caused the North Koreans to end negotiations and to re-start their nuclear weapons program, raising military tensions in the peninsula and undermining the peace process (Al Jazeera April 14, 2009). In the brief period of three months, the Obama White House has reversed almost a decade of peace negotiations adding a new arena of military confrontation.

Afghanistan-Pakistan: Extending Warfare and Destabilizing a Client

In response to the resurgence of the Afghan resistance and the expansion of its influence beyond its southern strongholds, Obama opened new fronts of conflict in Pakistan by engaging in systematic bombing of villages and communities. As a result, Pakistani fighters and their Afghan allies have drawn increasing popular support extending their influence throughout the Northwest Territories. By pressuring the weak and unpopular Zadari regime to intensify military operations against Pakistanis opposed to the US bombing raids, the Obama regime has eroded what little support it had within the state apparatus (Financial Times April 2, 2009 p. 7). Over 2 million Pakistanis in the region have been driven from their homes by the military offensive (BBC News May 19, 2009) Obama’s Pakistan policy is an extension of its failed Afghan military strategy of targeting entire civilian areas (in this case the over 40 million strong Pashtuns) influenced or controlled by the anti-US resistance in the hope of eliminating some Taliban fighters among the thousands of civilian deaths. The result is predictable: The Pakistan Army, the main prop of the weak US client President Zadari, becomes increasingly compromised as a tool for furthering US colonial war aims and surrendering sovereignty in the face of systematic US cross-border attacks. By forcing the divided and over-extended Pakistani regime to engage in large-scale warfare against its fiercely independent citizens in the Northwest Territories, Pakistani cities and towns will have to contend with the catastrophe of over 2 million internal refugees driven from their homes and communities. Obama increases the possibility of a military revolt by nationalist-islamist soldiers and officers, which would shift the entire balance of power in the region (and beyond) against Washington (BBC News May 8, 2009). Instead of ‘containing’ and limiting the area of combat in Afghanistan, Obama’s Pakistan policy has widened the front and implicated a large but fragile client state in an extended war which could bring about its downfall – not unlike the overthrow of the Shah of Iran (Financial Times April 27, 2009 p.5).

Obama’s escalation in Afghanistan precludes a negotiated national settlement with the Taliban, which confines it to Afghanistan, in exchange for limiting its role as a safe haven for Al Queda. Under increased US attack, the Taliban have internationalized their fight beyond their contiguous borders with Pakistan raising the specter of the US extending deeper into that country in support of their failed client in Islamabad.
Israel-Palestine Policy

White House policy toward the Israeli occupation of Palestine has been characterized by ritual reiteration of policy ( a ‘Two-State Solution’), indecisive and inconsequential attempts to formulate a coherent strategy and capitulation to Israel’s continued territorial expansion (BBC News April 18, 2009). Obama is faced with an openly annexationalist newly-elected far-right government, which rejects even the language of a ‘Two-State Solution’ in direct repudiation of his stated policy (BBC News April 1, 2009). Washington passively submits to Israeli rebuffs. Obama’s Middle East policy appointees from top to bottom are mostly Israel-Firsters. The Obama regime and the Democratic Party leadership in the Congress are indebted to the Zionist lobby, which rejects any attempt to even ‘pressure’ Israel – thus disarming any of the possible economic or military levers which could be used to pry concessions from the Netanyahu-Leiberman regime. Worse still, Washington supports the Israeli blockade of Gaza ruled by the democratically elected Hamas government in power, thus strengthening Israel’s iron grip on the Palestinians.

One of President Obama’s most egregious foreign policy failures took place during his May 18, 2009 meeting in Washington with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. After having made as Israeli-Palestinian ‘two-state’ settlement one of his major foreign policy goals, Obama failed to even secure a verbal commitment from the Israeli extremist leader (BBC News May 19, 2009). After 4 hours of discussion, Netanyahu rejected Obama’s offer to consider a time limit on diplomatic overtures to Iran (with the implicit threat of a military option) in exchange for the Likud Prime Minister mouthing the ‘three words’: ‘two state solution’! Worse still from the White House view, Natanyahu insisted that any negotiations with the Palestinians were conditional on their recognition of Israel as a Jewish State, thus disenfranchising the 1.5 million Palestinian Muslim and Christians who remained after the mass expulsions.

As if to flaunt his disdain for Obama’s call for a freeze on new settlements, Netanyahu’s regime accelerated plans for 20 new Jewish housing settlements in the occupied West Bank – precisely on the day of their meeting. Worst of all, Obama came out of the meeting displaying his utter impotence – he could not even make a ‘show’ of having any influence on the extremist Jewish Prime Minister. Netanyahu’s brazen and public repudiation of Obama was based on his clear understanding that the power of the US Zionist Power Configuration in Congress and in the Executive branch guaranteed that Obama would not counter Israeli extremism by threatening to decrease US financial or military aid to the Jewish state. After weeks of rumors and stories of Obama’s ‘willingness’ to confront or pressure Netanyahu to accept a two state solution, the end result was a humiliating public debacle in which Obama secured absolutely nothing.

Following his meeting with Obama, Netanyahu (the visitor) went to the US Congress with his power base among a huge majority of members of the House and Senate and top Zionist Jewish leaders, where almost the entire elected US representative body re-affirmed its unconditional support for Israeli policy – strictly on Netanyahu’s terms. The impotence and failings of President Obama in his dealing with Netanyahu was not lost on the entire world (especially the Arab world). Hamas Spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum summed up the general perception thus: “The statements (about a two-state solution) by Obama are nothing but wishes on which we do not much count” (Al Jazeera May 19, 2009).

The Obama reigme ‘immersion’ in Zionist-Israeli politics blinds it to the favorable opportunities for a grand accord in the region. Hamas leaders have shut down all rocket retaliatory attacks on Israel and called for a 10-year cease fire (The New York Times May 4, 2009). The Arab League (including the Gulf States) has reiterated its willingness to recognize Israel and open diplomatic relations in exchange for an end of the occupation of the West Bank and blockade of Gaza.

The European Union has opened dialog with Hamas and Hezbollah while postponing extending ‘special’ economic status to Israel. Even Iran has agreed to accept a Palestinian settlement based on the Two-State Solution. Faced with major shifts and concessions, the Obama regime remains impotent It is unable to put any muscle behind its proposals; it struggles even to set conditions for the resumption of peace negotiations. In the meantime, the Zionist Power Configuration inside and outside presses forward with new and more dangerous sanctions against Iran. During the AIPAC Conference in Washington (May 1-5), six thousand Israel-Firsters set their goal on securing Congressional majorities in favor of provocative blockades and sanctions against companies which export refined petroleum products into Iran (Jerusalem Post May 1, 2009). The Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (IRPSA) currently in the Congress and authored by AIPAC operatives is viewed as a weapon the crush the Iranian economy and overthrow the government. By attempting to entice AIPAC and Israel with the claim that a peace agreement with Palestine would lead to a ‘consensus’ to confront Iran, the Obama regime surrenders its diplomatic option to Iran in favor of Israel’s militarist approach – without securing any changes in its policy toward Palestine.

Conclusion: Consequences of Obama’s Failed Policies

Early on the Obama regime’s foreign policy has suffered a series of important set-backs on major policy issues.

Its G20 economic initiatives to secure or support proposals to coordinate stimulus policies based on financial bailouts and larger deficits were rejected. The re-vitalization of the IMF via an injection of $750 billion dollars was not welcomed by the ‘emerging market’ countries because of the IMF’s harsh conditions. The NATO summit spurned Washington’s demands for more combat troops to Afghanistan. Of the 5000 troops promised, three-fourths are to serve for the duration of the Afghan Presidential election (August 2009) and the rest as trainers and advisers far from the frontlines.

The Summit of the Americas was a fiasco for Washington. It was completely isolated in its defense of US policy toward Cuba, the Cuban Embargo and its designation of Cuba as a ‘state supporter of terrorism’. Obama offered nothing in the way of new policies in the face of the US-induced regional economic recession. At the same time the Latin American countries turned elsewhere – to Iran and China, as well as within the region, for opportunities to stimulate their economies. Obama’s bellicose posturing toward North Korea reversed 6 years of negotiations, resulting in the revival of tensions and the reassembly of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program. The escalation of the US/NATO war in Afghanistan and its extension into Pakistan undermines US clients in the region and makes it likely that the US military will find itself in an unending colonial war with no possibility of a victory.

Obama’s deep ties to American Zionist policies and organizations and their loyalties to the new far right wing Israeli annexationist regime precludes the pursuit of any policy which could open the way toward a ‘two-state’ resolution of the conflict. The hard-line White House position of escalating sanctions against Iran and the buildup of Israeli long-distance offensive weapons precludes any meaningful new initiatives toward Tehran (Financial Times March 23, 2009 p.3). The result of these failed policies is that Washington is increasingly politically isolated: Alone in fighting wars in Sough Asia; alone in aiding and abetting Israeli intransigence; alone among its fellow nations in the Western Hemisphere in its imposition of an embargo against Cuba. Political isolation means the political and economic costs of Obama’s military-driven empire building will be borne almost exclusively by the US Treasury and citizenry – at a time of unprecedented peacetime deficits and a deepening recession.

Obama’s focus on foreign military adventures, domestic financial bailouts and promoting the IMF has caused the countries of Latin America to turn away from their big traditional partner in Washington and sign up for major trade and investment agreements elsewhere. Brazil welcomed a hundred member delegation of business leaders form Iran, headed by its Prime Minister and composed of a wide array of business and banking leaders to seal multi-billion and co-investment deals. In late May, President Da Silva promoted a big increase in trade and investment with its biggest trading partner - China. The response by Secretary Clinton was pathetic: Instead of recognizing the economic eclipse of the US and seeking to increase the economic presence, she cited the threat of Iranian terrorism – among oil, agribusiness and banking executives ( May 2, 2009).

Obama’s continued backing for rightwing regional leaders in Bolivia and Ecuador against reformist Presidents, has contributed to the latter repeated electoral victories and the political isolation of the US. Obama’s rhetorics of ‘opening up’ to Venezuela, accompanied by harsh attacks on the dangers of ‘Chavismo’, including unfounded charges of its complicity in drug trafficking, has led to Venezuela’s growing trade and joint investment links with China, Iran and Russia..
Failed policies have consequences. The pursuit of long-term large-scale overseas military commitment in a time of economic depression is self-destructive, self-isolating and doomed to failure. Satisfying Israeli illegal colonial aspirations and military goals sacrifices hundreds of billions of dollars in trade with Iran, the Gulf States and South Asian economies.

The greater problem is not that the Obama regime is pursuing wars that will lead to defeats, but that the entire notion of pouring resources into military-driven empire building at a time of deepening recession is leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees throughout the world, while destroying the livelihoods and social safety new of millions of American citizens.

James Petras is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by James Petras

Group linked to Israeli lobby, neocons releases another Islamophobic film


Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff
Group linked to Israeli lobby, neocons releases another Islamophobic film
By Ali Gharib and Eli Clifton

WASHINGTON (IPS) – A new documentary from a shadowy non-profit, the Clarion Fund, has ties to groups widely accused of Islamophobia.

The Third Jihad purports to educate US citizens about the threat of a “cultural Jihad” by the country’s own Muslim-American population. The film goes to great lengths to define itself as an expose of radical Muslim elements, not the faith at large.

But a group called the International Free Press Society (IFPS), which attended the Washington premiere of the film and documented the screening on behalf of the production company on a social media website, has some dubious affiliations.

Two months ago, IFPS heavily promoted Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, a widely-known Islamophobe who has been tied to far-right European political parties.

An IPS investigation linked both Wilders and some of his US and international supporters, including members of IFPS, with the Vlaams Belang (VB), or Flemish Interest. Vlaams Belang is a nationalist Flemish party that has demanded amnesty for Nazi collaborators in Belgium.

Wilders is known for campaigning to ban the Quran, Islamic attire and Islamic schools from the Netherlands, and for proclaiming that “moderate Islam does not exist.” His views have even drawn fire from the strongly pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League, which described Wilders’s rhetoric as “inflammatory, divisive and antithetical to American democratic ideals.”

Wilders has been brought up on charges in the Netherlands and banned from Britain on the grounds that he incites hate.

That view doesn’t jibe with the slickly produced Third Jihad film.

The movie starts with a disclaimer that it is not an assault on all Muslims: “This is not a film about Islam. It is about the threat of radical Islam. Only a small percentage of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims are radicals. This film is about them.”

The narrative of the movie is strung together with commentary from a “moderate” Muslim, Zuhdi Jasser, a physician from Arizona who heads the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD).

AIFD, according to its website, is a non-profit which seeks to “intellectually stand against the religious fanatics who exploit the religion of Islam for a nihilistic, anti-American anti-Western war.”

Unlike most commentators who regularly use the term “Islamofascist,” Jasser is a practicing and devoted Muslim. But he thinks the faith has no role in politics or government. He derides political Islam as part of the subversive, quiet Jihad being waged within the boundaries of the West, a central tenet of the movie.

Radical Muslims, by having children, spreading their faith, and ensuring their ability to practice Islam as they see fit, are working a “demographic jihad” in which they see themselves emerging as a majority and making Islam the dominant religion of the US — eventually to take over the nation altogether — contend Jasser and the films creators.

But that prospect seems unlikely in the US, where Muslim Americans are generally regarded as well-assimilated and not radicalized.

The film itself also contains inconsistencies in terms of differentiating between Islam and radical Islam.

For example, the graphic that the film used to demonstrate the spread of an Islamic state across the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe used a tiled picture of a green crescent with a star between its points. The crescent and star are the symbol of Islam in general.

The documentary was produced by the Clarion Fund, a US-based non-profit that was embroiled in controversy last year when it distributed its last movie, Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West, to nearly 30 million homes in the “swing states” that normally decide US presidential elections.

Its 501(c)(3) status as non-profit means the group is legally exempt from paying taxes and is prohibited from involvement in electoral politics.

IPS investigations also tied the production and distribution of Obsession to right-wing Israeli groups and US-based neoconservatives.

In addition to an endorsement of Republican presidential candidate John McCain posted on Clarion’s website, questions were raised about Clarion’s ties to foreign groups, such as Aish Hatorah, an Israeli-based organization dedicated to educating young Jews about their heritage.

The Clarion Fund and Aish Hatorah are headed by Israeli-Canadian twin brothers Raphael and Ephraim Shore, respectively. The two groups appear to be connected as Clarion is incorporated in Delaware to the New York offices of Aish Hatorah.

Federal law prohibits campaigns and political candidates from taking money from foreign organizations.

Last September, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) asking that Clarion be investigated for allegedly violating their tax-exempt apolitical status and using foreign funds in an electoral push.

Last week, the FEC ruled that there was “no reason to believe Respondents [Clarion Fund] violated the Act, because the DVD failed to identify a federal candidate, lacked express advocacy, and there was no evidence the DVD was distributed in connection with a federal election.”

Still, the group strikes back at CAIR in the new film, accusing it of being part of a grand Muslim conspiracy to take over the West and the United States.

“The Third Jihad” is largely based on a document the producers say the Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered in 2003. The film’s creators purport the document is a “Grand Jihad Manifesto” authored by the Muslim Brotherhood in North America, according to the promotional materials.

“The 15-page document outlines goals and strategies for the infiltration and domination of America from within,” says the release. “Among the strategies discussed is the establishment of ‘moderate’ groups, mosques and Islamic centers across North America in an effort to strategically position Islam so that it might weaken western culture and promote the implementation of Sharia Law.”

Sharia, or Islamic law, has come into the spotlight as one of the principal goals of radical Islamists.

“Sharia is no different than Jewish law or Christian law,” said CAIR communications director Ibrahim Hooper. “When he prays, Jasser is following Sharia; when he doesn’t drink alcohol, he’s following Sharia.”

In the film, Clarion says that the Islamic Association of Palestine (IAP) was one of several Muslim organizations listed in the document as potential allies. The film claims that IAP helped form CAIR.

Despite its alleged nefarious ties, CAIR was invited to screenings of the film, insisted Clarion executive director Peter Connors. “Our invitations were declined,” he said.

In protest of a screening of The Third Jihad in Los Angeles’s Simon Wiesenthal Center on Saturday night, CAIR sent a letter to the center’s dean and founder, Rabbi Marvin Hier.

“The film disingenuously claims it is only targeting ‘radical Islam,’ yet a Twitter account of the Washington, DC, screening on Wednesday night stated: “‘The 1,400-hundred year war’ has been going on since the beginning of Islam,” CAIR wrote.

Indeed, a member of IFPS was authoring the Twitter feed, which allows someone to post short updates to the web in real time.

“Thanks to the Clarion Fund for the opportunity to twitter tonight. Be sure to visit the International Free Press Society online!” said the last post charting the press conference and screening.

“Clarion thanks the International Free Press Society … for their Twitter mastery at last night’s event,” said the next post, from the following morning, which included a shortcut link to IFPS’s website.

Both tweets, as the short messages are called, came from “No2RadicalIslam,” which is Clarion’s name on Twitter.

Some of Clarion’s supporters, including Jewish groups that have promoted its films as well as “moderate” Muslims like Jasser, appear unaware of IFPS’s association with the nationalist Flemish party Vlaams Belang, which has been deemed neo-Nazi and neo-fascist by critics.

In December 2008, senior VB leader Roeland Raes was convicted on charges of Holocaust denial.

But Jasser, who didn’t know about VB, said he wasn’t concerned about potential connections with Wilders, debating the characterization of Wilders as an Islamophobe.

“I do think the test of the West, and the test of us Muslims in the West, is whether we will defend Mr. Wilders and his right to say whatever he wants to say,” he told IPS. “At AIFP we endorse their free speech, and the aspect of free speech is important to the war of ideas. But we disagree with their view of Islam.”

“I think as a Muslim, the test of our character is how we respond to people that may not hold opinions of our faith that we agree with,” he said. “And I truly think that the cartoons … demonstrated many Muslims didn’t give groups the right to criticize our faith.”

Jasser was referring to an incendiary cartoon published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten that portrayed the Muslim prophet Mohammed’s head-covering as a bomb inscribed with the Islamic declaration of faith, which set off worldwide protests in 2005.

The IFPS website sells “exclusive cop[ies] of the famous Mohammed cartoon” for 250 dollars a piece.

CIA veteran agent reportedly said John F. Kennedy had to be removed.

WMR has learned from a source who spoke to veteran CIA agent David Atlee Phillips in 1987, the year before Phillips died, that the agent stated that President John F. Kennedy was believed by the CIA to be getting "too close to the Communists." Phillips then stated that the Kennedy operation was a classic case that should be studied by Special Operations/Low-Intensity Conflict (SOLIC) military personnel about how to successfully remove problem leaders from power.

Phillips operated under CIA cover in the early 1950s as the publisher and owner of the newspaper The South Pacific Mail that was targeted at South America and the South Pacific. Phillips was in charge of the propaganda efforts for the CIA coup operation, code named "Operation PBSUCCESS," that saw the overthrow of democraticaly-elected Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954. Phillips was the CIA's Mexico City station chief when accused Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald reportedly was there trying to obtain a visa for travel to Cuba and the USSR.

Phillips was investigated by the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in the 1970s and was thought to have been using the alias of Maurice Bishop while meeting from 1960 to 1962 with anti-Fidel Castro Cubans who were part of the terrorist group Alpha 66. The group's activities were being coordinated by the CIA's JM/WAVE station in Miami that was headed by veteran CIA agent Ted Shackley. Oswald was also reporedly in attendance at the CIA meetings in Miami with Alpha 66. Although Phillips denied he was Bishop, HSCA member Representative Richard Schweiker (R-PA) was certain that he was. Schweiker was later elected to the U.S. Senate where he served until 1981, being replaced by one-time Warren Commission deputy counsel Arlen Specter who came up with the "single bullet" theory about Oswald killing Kennedy. Schweiker decided not to run for a third term in the Senate after being chosen by failed Republican presidential primary candidate Ronald Reagan in 1976 to be his vice presidential running mate. Gerald Ford, a member of the Warren Commission, received the nomination but went on to lose the election to Jimmy Carter. Reagan named Schweiker as Secretary of Health and Human Services in 1981.

Philips, who once wrote a novel about Arab terrorists attacking landmarks in Washington, DC, also reportedly wrote his memoirs. However, the manuscript was either hidden or "procured" by the CIA to prevent publication. After he retired in 1975, Philipps became the head of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO). Phillips' last job with the CIA was as head of the Western Hemisphere Division. According to some reports, Phillips ordered his field agents to stand down from assisting in the overthrow of President Salvador Allende in the coup of 1973. Allende was assassinated in the coup. Two years earlier, Arbenz was said to have died in his bathroom in Mexico City from drowning in the bathtub.

Phillips was believed to have been Oswald's direct CIA handler. A photograph of Oswald's press conference after he was arrested for killing Dallas police officer J. D. Tippit shows a man behind him who looks like Phillips. An informed source told WMR that the man in the photograph is Phillips.

Oswald's CIA handler, David Atlee Phillips is said to be standing to Oswald's rear left, immdiately behind the reporter holding out the microphone to Oswald.

FBI "set up" four charged with planned "terrorist" attacks in New York

The FBI appears to have embarked on conducting a series of entrapment-oriented terrorist "sting operations" directed against Muslims and African Americans in the United States. Based on successful convictions of Muslim and black men in Miami and New Jersey, the "Liberty City 7" and "Fort Dix 5" plots, respectively, which saw men convicted in terrorist "stings" crafted by FBI agents, four men in New York have been charged with planning to attack targets in Riverdale in The Bronx and Newburgh, New York.

One of the alleged targets was the Riverdale Temple synagogue in Riverdale. New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the four planned to "commit jihad." The quartet was also charged with planning to shoot down National Guard planes with surface-to-air Stinger missiles. One of the men charged was of Afghan origin. The corporate media is playing the incident up as a "serious" terrorist attempt when, in fact, it was completely staged by the FBI.

WMR has learned from an FBI source that the four men were not investigated by the FBI for a plot that was already underway but were enticed by FBI agents to participate in a plot completely hatched and facilitated by the bureau. The FBI even provided phony bombs that were placed in a black SUV that was parked outside of Riverdale Temple and an adjacent Jewish community center. New York Police smashed the windows of the SUV in a staged event and handcuffed the four men.

Earlier this month, five men in Miami, including a Haitian national, were convicted of working with "Al Qaeda" to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago. The conviction followed two mis-trials. One of the "Riverdale 4" is also reportedly a Haitian national. The Fort Dix 5, who included three ethnic Albanian brothers, a Turk, and a Jordanian, were convicted last December of planning to attack with assault weapons U.S. military personnel at Fort Dix in New Jersey. The operation against the five began when the Jewish clerk of a Mount Laurel, New Jersey Circuit City store notified police that one of the Albanian brothers dropped off a videotape for conversion to a DVD. The tape showed men firing paint ball guns in the Poconos. The clerk was aspiring for a law enforcement career with the FBI.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A neo-con Yankee in Karzai's court

By M K Bhadrakumar

The neo-conservatives have all but been vanquished. But the Barack Obama administration in the United States is making a solitary exception in the case of Zalmay Khalilzad. He is back on the Washington circuit, repeating an amazing trapeze act which has few parallels in the chronicles of political opportunism.

His life and times have been exciting, on a constant upward graph ever since he migrated from the dusty ancient Silk Road town of Mazar-i-Sharif on the Amu Darya in northern Afghanistan to the United States in search of the American dream.

"Zal" (as he is popularly known) has crossed the American political divide with abandon. Branded as a neo-con who contributed to the New American Century Project under former US
defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld's watch, he was indeed destined to occupy key positions in the US establishment during the George W Bush era, which he did, steadily rising from the position of under secretary in the Pentagon, special envoy to the Iraqi Kurds and Afghans, ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, finally, to cabinet rank as Bush's representative to the United Nations.

Now he is reportedly negotiating his way back to his old hunting ground in Kabul. The New York Times newspaper's ace Washington correspondent has broken the story quoting senior American and Afghan officials that Zal could assume a "powerful, unelected position inside the Afghan government". Such a position, a senior US administration official has been quoted as saying, involves Zal serving as "a prime minister, except not prime minister because he wouldn't be responsible to a parliamentary system".

That's one hell of a cute way of putting a complicated matter in real perspective. Cooper reveals that officials in the Obama administration wouldn't admit they are behind the seamless idea, but apparently Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Af-Pak representative Richard Holbrooke are all seized of it and have been plain decent about it, leaving it to President Hamid Karzai "to decide whether to proceed".

Karzai, apparently, is mulling over what is undeniably a most dicey situation - the Obama administration wants to insert Zal into the Kabul power structure but will not be upfront about it. He must be wondering that it's a bit like what the Chicago mafia would have done to him.

Karzai can make out from a mile that the immaculate conception of Zal's return is all about Obama choreographing a design for bypassing him. Obama has made no bones about his contempt for heads of state living in "bunkers" and refusing to come out. But Obama doesn't want to get rid of Karzai outright for a variety of reasons - because he is unable to do so, because the time is not opportune to do so when the war is almost at a touch-and-go stage, and finally, because Karzai won't easily walk into the sunset.

So, the "smart" thing, which is the hallmark of the Obama administration, is to let Karzai be in his presidential robe, to pamper his vanity while neatly sidestepping him, ignore him gradually and eventually transact all real business of state through Zal. Cooper reports, "A plan that puts Khalilzad near the top of a Karzai government would provide the Obama administration with a strong conduit to push American interests in Afghanistan."

Obama, Clinton and Holbrooke - they must be holding breath and waiting and watching "whether Karzai remains willing to bring Khalilzad aboard". The problem is not only that Zal had a bumpy relationship with Karzai when he served in Kabul as the American viceroy. Times have changed.

The old Karzai is no more the current Karzai. Zal cannot ride roughshod over him and expect him to take it in his stride, as he used to. Today, Karzai truly believes he is the leader of the Afghan people. Therefore, Zal must undergo a veritable metamorphosis himself and evolve into an altogether new butterfly. Karzai would like to be certain that Zal doesn't begin to dictate once he is ensconced in power in Kabul.

Obama, on his part, cannot hold out any assurance to Karzai in this regard, either. It has to be left to Karzai and Zal to work out between then, which they are reportedly doing at the moment in Kabul. Nor can Karzai depend on the Afghan constitution to ensure that Zal will scrupulously function under his supervision.

For, the real catch is that Zal will be an extra-constitutional authority, not accountable to the Afghan constitution or parliament or people or, arguably, even to Karzai himself. Karzai would apprehend that ultimately, Zal is Zal and from the time he hit the ground, he would be sprinting and it would be impossible to match his stamina for outpacing his peer group.

To be sure, Zal will report only to Washington. All the same, Clinton, too, needs to be watchful. To quote Cooper, "While he was working for the Bush administration, Khalilzad often brushed up against other officials, including secretary of state Condoleezza Rice." Now, that's formidable dexterity - to bypass Condi and deal directly with Bush.

The million-dollar question, however, is what the Obama administration is hoping to achieve by inserting Zal into the extraordinary pack of hugely ambitious American high-fliers who are hovering around the Hindu Kush already. As things stand, Holbrooke by himself has a reputation as a "bulldozer".

Then there is the legendary commander with the Roman name, Central Command chief General David Petraeus. At the field level, Petraeus has just put one of his favorites in as the new commander of US forces in Afghanistan so that he has a total grip on what is going on - General Stanley McChrystal. The American media estimate that apart from top-notch soldierly qualities, McChrystal has a knack for maintaining excellent chemistry with politicians.

Taking all factors into account, Karzai cannot be faulted if he draws the right conclusion that the raison d'etre of Zal's insertion into the Kabul power structure is to incrementally eject him out of it. It is all a bit Kafkaesque - the Obama administration expects Karzai to cooperate to commit political suicide.

But Zal's insertion is also about geopolitics. The regional powers will take note the timing of his return to Hindu Kush when the Great Game is accelerating in the Caspian and Central Asia. Zal has it all mapped out in his brain from his Rand Corporation days - oil pipelines, containment of Russia, regime change in Iran.

But Moscow and Tehran won't be the only regional capitals to feel uneasy about the return of the thousand-pound guerilla. Islamabad too will have a vague sense of disquiet. One thing about Zal is that he never tried to hide his contempt and antipathy towards the Pakistanis, when he served in Kabul as ambassador.

Arguably, Zal had a personality problem at that time with president General Pervez Musharraf and that doesn't have to necessarily extend to General Parvez Kiani, the present chief of the army. But then, Zal's problem with Musharraf was about the shenanigans of the Inter-Services Intelligence in Afghanistan, and Kiani was the agency's chief at that time.

That brings us to the Taliban. Zal is just the right man to handle the brief when the US begins direct talks with the Taliban. Taliban leader Mullah Omar would recollect that Zal wrote a hard-hitting article in the Washington Post 10 years ago impressing on the Bill Clinton administration to grant diplomatic recognition to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Zal's thesis was, "you can deal with the Taliban if you know how to deal with them". Zal argued persuasively in his article that the Taliban were an eminently reasonable lot with which to get acquainted.

By now Karzai would have begun to sense that Zal is being dispatched by the Obama administration to Kabul primarily for dealing with Mullah Omar. As a native Afghan and Pashtun, Zal can be much more effective than any of the experts in Holbrooke's team in dealing with the Taliban.

One great quality about Zal is that he is a highly flexible diplomat. He criss-crossed the ethnic and tribal divides in Iraq with amazing skill. Nothing deterred him when a job had to be done. Obama seems to have decided that Zal could just be the right man Washington needs at this point to bring the Taliban around.

The hard core of the Af-Pak strategy is finally unfolding. The influential Washington columnist David Ignatius couldn't have put it better:
To understand Petraeus' basic approach, try to picture in your mind a horizontal line that charts the level of militancy of insurgent groups. On the left are the hard-core "irreconcilables" who could never be co-opted by the US. But as you move right along the line, the groups become more pliable and join the "reconcilable" camp. What Petraeus did in Iraq was to move groups from one category to the other - transforming hardcore insurgents into members of tribal militias on the US payroll. The remaining fanatics became targets for special forces' "capture or kill" operations, which were overseen in Iraq by McChrystal. It was a "hard-and-soft strategy" - using kinetic firepower to clear an area, and then gentler counter-insurgency tools to hold it and build through economic development.

As Petraeus envisages reconciliation with the Taliban, it will happen village by village, across Afghanistan's nearly 400 districts, rather than in a big sit-down with the group's leader, Mullah Omar ... Petraeus wants to restore tribal authority, as he did in Iraq, and meld it with the power of the central government and a US-trained army.
To be sure, there is no one in Washington today who can match Zal's impeccable credentials, having seen it all in Iraq, and knowing like the palm of his hands the ethos and traditions of the Pashtun tribes. Certainly, he will take his stance to the right of McChrystal. When the tough special forces commander hits the Taliban hard, rubbishes them and makes them "reconcilable", and when the "chameleon insurgents" - as Petraeus calls them contemptuously - begin to peel away, he will pass them on to Zal.
Zal will carefully roll up his sleeves, sit down with them over a cup of green tea, and talk some sense into their dazed minds. And then, he will make a mental note as to the fastness of the color of the "chameleons" facing him and looking at him with their watery eyes, before short-listing them for future assignments. That is, until a job falls vacant for Zal himself - in the presidential palace in Kabul.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

US: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Greatest Threat of All?

Two major events over the past week in Washington - the AIPAC conference and the visit of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari - crystallized the tug of war which is underway for predominance over the Obama Administration’s foreign policy agenda. Simply put, the "bash-Iran" faction is rivalling against the "bash-AfPak" faction ... but, either way, bashing is the name of the game! Judging from the months-long, unrelenting and indiscriminate strikes against the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region, it is not difficult to guess which of the two contenders has gained the upper hand, at least for the time being. Could it be a signal that the power of the Israel Lobby is beginning to ebb?

By Daniel Luban and Jim Lobe

A potentially major clash appears to be developing between powerful factions inside and outside the U.S. government, pitting those who see the Afghanistan/Pakistan (”AfPak”) theatre as the greatest potential threat to U.S. national security against those who believe that the danger posed by a nuclear Iran must be given priority.

The Iran hawks, concentrated within the Israeli government and its U.S. supporters in the so-called “Israel lobby” here, want to take aggressive action against Iran’s nuclear programme by moving quickly to a stepped-up sanctions regime.

Many suggest that Israel or the U.S. may ultimately have to use military force against Tehran if President Barack Obama’s diplomatic efforts at engagement do not result at least in a verifiable freeze – if not a rollback – of the programme by the end of the year.

Their opponents appear to be concentrated at the Pentagon, where top leaders are more concerned with providing a level of regional stability that will allow the U.S. to wind down its operations in Iraq, step up its counter-insurgency effort in Afghanistan, and, above all, ensure the security of the Pakistani state and its nuclear weapons.

In their view, any attack on Iran would almost certainly throw the entire region into even greater upheaval. Both Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have repeatedly and publicly warned over the past year against any moves that would further destabilise the region.

Other key administration players are believed to share this view, including senior military officers such as Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Adm. Dennis Blair and Gen. Douglas Lute, the “war czar” whose White House portfolio includes both Iraq and South Asia.

The divide between these factions was on vivid display this past week, when Washington played host to two high-profile – and dissonant – events.

First, top U.S. and Israeli leaders were out in force at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the powerful and hawkish lobby group, where attendees heard a steady drumbeat of dire warnings about the “existential threat” to Israel of an Iranian bomb and calls for increased sanctions – and occasionally even military force – against Tehran.

Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan were rarely mentioned at the conference, which instead stressed hopes for building a U.S.-led coalition against Tehran that would include both Israel and “moderate” Sunni-led Arab states.

But just as more than 6,000 AIPAC delegates fanned out Wednesday across Capitol Hill to press their lawmakers to sign on to tough anti-Iran sanctions legislation, the arrival of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari for summit talks with Obama and other top officials focused attention on the deteriorating situation in both countries.

The surface cordiality of Karzai’s and Zardari’s visits masked the fact that the U.S. has grown increasingly worried about the ability of either leader to combat their respective Taliban insurgencies.

Most indications are that the Obama administration, including Obama himself and Vice President Joe Biden, sides with the Pentagon, at least for now.

But the AIPAC conference, which was attended by more than half of the members of the U.S. Congress and featured speeches by the top Congressional leadership of both parties, served as a reminder that Iran hawks within the Israel lobby have a strong foothold in the legislative branch, and may be able to push Iran to the top of the foreign-policy agenda whether the administration likes it or not.

Obama pledged during the presidential campaign that he would give AfPak – which he then called the “central front in the war on terror” – top priority, and, since taking office, he has made good on that promise.

He appointed a powerful special envoy, Richard Holbrooke, with a broad mandate to take charge of U.S. diplomacy in the region. Holbrooke, who met briefly with a senior Iranian official during a conference at The Hague in late March, has said several times that Tehran has an important role to play in stabilising Afghanistan.

At the same time, Mullen, the U.S. military chief, has been virtually “commuting” to and from the region to meet with his Pakistani counterpart, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, Holbrooke noted in Congressional testimony this week.

Given its preoccupation with AfPak and with stabilising the region as a whole, the Pentagon has naturally been disinclined to increase tensions with Iran, which shares lengthy borders with Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and could easily make life significantly more difficult for the U.S. in each of the three countries.

But the new Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pushing the U.S. to confront Iran over its nuclear programme, and his allies in the U.S. have similarly argued that Iran should be a top priority.

For the moment, the Iran hawks have mostly expressed muted – if highly sceptical – support for Obama’s diplomatic outreach to Tehran. But they have warned that this outreach must have a “short and hard end date”, as Republican Sen. Jon Kyl put it at the AIPAC conference, at which point the U.S. must turn to harsher measures.

AIPAC’s current top legislative priority is a bill, co-sponsored by Kyl and key Democrats, that would require Obama to impose sanctions on foreign firms that export refined petroleum products to Iran.

In recent Congressional testimony, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the administration would support such “crippling” sanctions against Tehran if diplomacy did not work, but she declined to say how long the administration would permit diplomatic efforts to play out before taking stronger action.

While sanctions seem to be the topic du jour, the possibility of military action against Tehran remains on everybody’s mind, as does the question of whether Israel would be willing to strike Iranian nuclear facilities without Washington’s approval.

In March, Netanyahu told The Atlantic that “if we have to act, we will act, even if America won’t.”

Asked at the AIPAC conference whether Israel would attack Iran without a “green light” from the U.S., former Israeli deputy defence minister Ephraim Sneh joked that in Israel, stoplight signals are “just a recommendation.”

By contrast, Pentagon officials have made little secret of their opposition. In late April, Gates told the Senate Appropriations committee that a military strike would only delay Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear capability while “send[ing] the programme deeper and more covert”.

Last month, Mullen told the Wall Street Journal that an Israeli attack would pose “exceptionally high risks” to U.S. interests in the region. (Although the newspaper chose not to publish this part of the interview, Mullen’s office provided a record to IPS.)

Similarly, Biden told CNN in April that an Israeli military strike against Tehran would be “ill-advised”. And former National Security Advisor (NSA) Brent Scowcroft, who is close to both Gates and the current NSA, ret. Gen. James Jones, told a conference here late last month that such an attack would be a “disaster for everybody.”

For the moment, the top Pentagon leadership’s resistance to an attack on Iran appears to be playing a major role in shaping the debate in Washington.

Gates “is a bulwark against those who want to go to war in Iran or give the green light for Israel to go to war”, said former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski last month.

Others dispute the idea, proposed by Netanyahu in his speech to AIPAC, that the Iranian threat can unite Israel and the Arab states.

“The Israeli notion making the rounds these days that Arab fears of Iran might be the foundation for an alignment of interest is almost certainly wrong,” wrote Marc Lynch, a professor at George Washington University, on the Foreign Policy website.

“Nothing would unite Arab opinion faster than an Israeli attack on Iran. The only thing which might change that would be serious movement towards a two state solution [in Israel-Palestine].”