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By Sam Provance


By Rebecca Solnit


By Robert Fisk


By Chris Hedges


ISSUE 13 | APRIL 2007 By Yonatan Mendel


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By William Blum


By Felicity Arbuthnot


By Tony Karon


By Amy Goodman


By Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity


By Bill Van Auken

2 TheREADER | March 2007



Former Army Sgt. Sam Provance was a or those of you who have not I had the
hero of the Abu Ghraib scandal, the only heard of me, I am Sam Prov- misfortune
uniformed military intelligence officer ance. My career as an Army ser- of being on
at the Iraqi prison to testify about abuses geant came to a premature end the night shift,
during the internal Army investigation. at age 32 after eight years of decorated saw detainees
When he recognized that the Pentagon service, because I refused to remain dragged in for
was scapegoating low-level personnel, silent about Abu Ghraib, where I served interrogation,
he also gave an interview to ABC News. for five months in 2004 at the height of heard the
For refusing to play along with the the abuses. screams,
cover-up, Provance was punished and A noncommissioned officer specializ- and saw
pushed out of the U.S. military. The ing in intelligence analysis, my job at many of them
Pentagon went forward with its plan to Abu Ghraib was systems administrator dragged out
pin the blame for the sadistic treatment (“the computer guy”). But I had the
of Iraqi detainees on a handful of poorly misfortune of being on the night shift,
trained MPs, not on the higher-ups who saw detainees dragged in for interroga-
brought the lessons of “alternative tion, heard the screams, and saw many
interrogation techniques” from the of them dragged out. I was sent back to
Guatanamo Bay prison to Abu Ghraib. my parent unit in Germany shortly af-
The Congress, then controlled by the ter the Army began the first of its many
Republicans, promised a fuller self-investigations.
investigation. Provance submitted a In Germany, I had the surreal expe-
sworn statement. But Congress never rience of being interrogated by one of
followed through, leaving Provance the Army-General-Grand-Inquisitors,
hanging out to dry. Then, in February Major General George Fay, who
2007, he went to a special screening of showed himself singularly uninterested
the documentary, “Ghosts of Abu in what went on at Abu Ghraib.
Ghraib,” and learned more than he I had to insist that he listen to my
expected about why the scandal died eyewitness account, whereupon he

April 2007 | TheREADER 3


I made it threatened punitive actions against me then-Defense Secretary Donald Rums-

through the for not coming forward sooner and even feld to produce the requested docu-
next two and tried to hold me personally responsible ments by July 14. I heard nothing fur-
a half years of for the scandal itself. ther. I guess he forgot. I guess Congress
professional The Army then demoted me, sus- forgot, too.
limbo, applying pended my Top Secret clearance, and Thanks largely to a keen sense of
my computer threatened me with ten years in a mil- justice and a good dose of courage on
skills to picking itary prison if I asked for a court mar- the part of pro bono lawyers and con-
up trash and tial. I was even given a gag order, the gressional aides, I made it through the
performing only one I know to have been issued to next two and a half years of profes-
guard duty those whom Gen. Fay interviewed. sional limbo, applying my computer
But the fact that most Americans skills to picking up trash and perform-
know nothing of what I saw at Abu ing guard duty. Instead of a prison sen-
Ghraib, and that my career became col- tence, I was honorably discharged on
lateral damage, so to speak, has nothing Oct. 13, 2006 and began my still-contin-
to do with the gag order, which turned uing search for a place back in the civil-
out to be the straw that broke this ian world.
sergeant’s back. Producers for Rory Kennedy’s docu-
After seeing first-hand that the in- mentary Ghosts of Abu Ghraib were
vestigation wasn’t going to go any- among the journalists who interviewed
where and that no one else I knew from me – discreetly – in Germany. On Feb.
the intelligence community was being 12, 2007 I attended a screening of that
candid, I allowed myself to be inter- documentary. What happened there
viewed by American and German jour- bears telling.
nalists. Sadly, you would have had to
know German to learn the details of Surreal Event
what I had to say at that time about the Walking into the fancy government
abuses at Abu Ghraib. building to see the documentary proved
Later, Republican Congressman to be a bizarre experience. Hardly in
Christopher Shays, who was then chair the door, I saw a one of the guests shak-
of the House Subcommittee on Na- ing his head, saying in some wonder-
tional Security, Emerging Threats, and ment, “The young woman at the front
International Relations, invited me to desk greeted me with a cheerful smile;
testify on Feb. 14, 2006, so my sworn tes- Abu Ghraib? she said. Right this way,
timony is on the public record. [See: please.” The atmosphere did seem more ap-
usls-provance-statment.pdf] propriate for an art show than a docu-
On June 30, 2006, dissatisfied with mentary on torture. People were dres-
the Pentagon’s non-responsiveness to sed to the nines, heartily laughing, and
requests for information on my situa- servers with white gloves were walking
tion, the Committee on Government about with wine and hors d’oeuvres.
Reform issued a subpoena requiring I managed to find one other person

4 TheREADER | April 2007


who was also in the film, former Gen. worried I might not make it through the Sen. Graham
Janis Karpinski, with whom I shared screening, that I would break down began saying
the distinction of having been reduced right there. things that
in rank because we refused to “go along Ironically, it was my anger at their I couldn’t believe
to get along.” plight that kept me composed. Every- I was hearing.
I had wanted to talk to her ever since thing in the film was all too familiar to He made a
the abuses at Abu Ghraib came to light. me. The soldiers explaining they were complete
We’ve been on the same page from the just following the orders of their super- 180-degree turn
beginning. She seemed happy to meet visors; the higher-ups vigorously shift- on the issue
me as well, but so many others wanted ing blame from themselves onto sol- of torture from
her attention that serious conversation diers of lesser rank – the whole nine when I had
was difficult. yards. spoken to him
Everyone shuffled into the theater And to see those Iraqi faces again – on the phone
and Gen. Karpinski’s and my presence the broken hearts and ruined lives of in- not long after
there was announced briefly during the nocent Iraqi citizens detained, abused, the Abu Ghraib
introductions. I was pleasantly sur- tortured. And the systematic cover-up, scandal was
prised to hear that the showing was to with the Army investigating itself over exposed
be followed by a discussion led by Sen. and over again, giving the appearance of
Edward Kennedy (who was there from a “thorough” investigation.
the start) and Sen. Lindsey Graham After the film, Senators Kennedy and
(who arrived only after the introduc- Graham took seats on the stage to be-
tions). gin their discussion. I was shocked to
It was largely because of the interest see it descend into heated debate.
that Sen. Kennedy took in the Army’s Sen. Graham began saying things
retaliation against me that I escaped that I couldn’t believe I was hearing.
the Army’s full wrath for truth telling. He made a complete 180-degree turn on
And Sen. Graham initially had ap- the issue of torture from when I had
proached me when he heard of my sit- spoken to him on the phone not long
uation, not even realizing at the time after the Abu Ghraib scandal was ex-
that I was from South Carolina. So I posed.
was looking forward to what I expected Now he was portraying Abu Ghraib
would be an unusual bipartisan chal- as a place where only a handful of sol-
lenge to the practice of torture. diers resided (you’ve heard of them, the
so-called “rotten apples).” I felt be-
Flashback trayed.
When the lights dimmed and the doc- Worse still, the only officer Graham
umentary started, I began to be affected saw fit to criticize (he assumed in ab-
more emotionally than I had expected. sentia) was Gen. Karpinski. And he laid
It was the words of the other soldiers it on thick, asserting forcefully that she
that touched me most deeply, because should have been court-martialed be-
I could relate to them; I knew those cause she was the reason things went
soldiers on one level or another. I got awry.

April 2007 | TheREADER 5


He dropped The senator argued that Karpinski professionally tortures somebody, and
a bombshell (who was responsible for overseeing 17 what kind of mentality would approve
when he began prisons with military police, most of of it? (I found myself almost wishing
defending whom had not been trained in deten- such people could hear the screams –
the practice tion operations) should have driven almost, because I would not wish that
of torture itself, from her headquarters to Abu Ghraib on my worst enemy.)
using the torture for random middle-of-the-night checks. The obvious answer is: Sadists.
of Khalid Sheikh He then saw fit to contrast her behav- Which is what the administration
Mohammed ior with what Graham described the called the military police in the infa-
as an example due diligence he exercised nightly as an mous photographs. And what was seen
Army lawyer in checking the “dormi- in them was small stuff compared to
tory.” (sic) what else happened – and continued to
Anyone who knows much about happen even after the abuses at Abu
Abu Ghraib knows that all kinds of Ghraib were exposed.
Army brass lived and worked there, and Benjamin Thompson, a former U.S.
that it was host to visits by former De- Army specialist at Abu Ghraib, has told
fense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, his Reuters that exposure of the scandal
deputy Paul Wolfowitz, U.S. pro-consul “basically diverted everyone’s attention
Paul Bremer, Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, away from anything that was not in
Gen. Geoffrey Miller (in charge of the photographs... as long as we didn’t
“Gitmo-izing Abu Ghraib), Gen. Bar- stack people and make pyramids, we
bara Fast, and even National Security were doing a great job.”
Council functionary Frances Townsend. This reminds me of my wonderment
They were all there. I don’t know at President George W. Bush’s public
how many, if any, saw fit to check the advocacy last fall of the “alternative” in-
“dormitory.” terrogation procedures in what clearly
is one of his favorite CIA programs. Per-
Torture works? haps better than others I can imagine
During the discussion/debate, Sen. what has been tucked under the rubric
Graham seemed to be speaking in sup- of “alternative” techniques, the alleged
port of virtually everything that we op- success of which the President has ad-
posed – and that had been exposed in vertised and has been picked up in the
the documentary – throwing all rea- captive corporate media.
son out the window. He dropped a At one point Sen. Graham asked the
bombshell when he began defending audience who among us considered
the practice of torture itself, using the Army specialist Joe Darby a hero. Darby
torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as was the one who initially gave the Abu
an example. He cited the “good stuff” Ghraib photos to Army investigators.
gleaned from treating him that way, as Pausing a few seconds, Graham used
if to say, “it works!” the momentary silence as a cue to con-
This raised again the question in my tinue talking about how the American
mind about just what kind of person people really don’t care about torture.

6 TheREADER | April 2007


For me, the worst part is that I have able as most of the rest of us at what we I was sickened
found this to be generally true. It is had just witnessed, and he spoke in a to watch a
more convenient for people not to care. straightforward way against what is senior senator
By and large, they are far more pre- just plain wrong. and lawyer
pared to accept official explanations For me, his comments came in the flippantly
than to take the trouble to find out nick of time. I was beginning to feel not dismiss what
what is really going on. For, if they only betrayed, but a little crazy. Was happened at Abu
found out, their consciences might re- this really happening? Later, I was Ghraib, and act
quire them to do something about it. happy to be able to shake Sen. as though he
Sen. Graham’s demeanor was down- Kennedy’s hand as he left the theater. knew more
right eerie in the way he chose to relate At the end, producer Rory Kennedy about the
to the crowd…beaming with a kind of brought a portable microphone to Gen. abuses than the
delight and mocking the outrage that Karpinski where she sat in the audience people, like me,
he must have seen building. and, directing her attention back to the who were there
This reminded me of my experience stage, explained to Sen. Graham that
in Iraq, where I would hear soldiers dis- Karpinski was present and that it
cussing their abuse of detainees. It was seemed only fair to give her a chance to
always cast as a humorous thing, and comment on his remarks about her.
each recounting won the expected – She rose and, in quiet but no uncer-
sometimes forced – laugh. tain terms, accused Graham and the
But now I am in Washington, I general officers involved in Abu Ghraib
thought: Has everyone been bitten by of “cowardice.” Then she noted that as
the torture bug? I was sickened to a South Carolinian she intended to
watch a senior senator and lawyer flip- work very hard to ensure that he would
pantly dismiss what happened at Abu not be the senior senator beyond Janu-
Ghraib, and act as though he knew ary 2009.
more about the abuses than the people, As to the merits of his charges
like me, who were there. against her, Gen. Karpinski revealed
Sadly, Graham is not the first elected that she had actually pressed hard to be
official who has become part of the court-martialed and to appear before a
problem rather than the solution. jury of her peers, to get the whole truth
up and out. She explained that the
Audience unrest Army refused her request, presumably
Unrest was spreading in the audience to because a court martial might jeopard-
the point where some were threatened ize the Pentagon’s attempt to restrict
with ejection. People were yelling at blame to the “few bad apples.”
Sen. Graham from all over the theater Graham was initially taken some-
and for a moment I thought a riot what aback, but he recovered quickly.
might ensue. He offered no apology. Rather, he at-
But Sen. Kennedy’s response pierced tempted to trivialize what had just hap-
the darkness with the white-hot light of pened with the jovial remark, “Well, I
truth. Clearly, he was just as uncomfort- guess I lost your vote!” Smirk. Smirk.

April 2007 | TheREADER 7


Now the dust Make that two votes. I ended up hanging out with Janis
had settled for a Afterwards, it was back to high-soci- Karpinski and later walking her to the
moment; it was ety small talk and wine, while I looked Metro station. I gave her a big hug and
encouraging to for someone to really talk to. A reporter told her I’d always be her soldier. Then,
know the truth who has been covering the issue from as she went down the escalator I
can still stand the start sought me out and told me saluted her, and she returned my salute.
tall something that made me want to cry. “Thank you,” she said. “Anytime,
“You know we’ve talked over the General!” I replied. “Anytime.” CT
years and I have followed your case,
but I just want to tell you that I have Former Army Sgt. Sam Provance was a
found everything you’ve said to me all hero of the Abu Ghraib scandal, the only
along to be true.” uniformed military intelligence officer
For so long people have tried so hard at the Iraqi prison to testify about abuses
to discredit either me or my testimony. during the internal Army investigation
Now the dust had settled for a mo-
ment; it was encouraging to know the Originally published at
truth can still stand tall.

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FREE copy of Danny Schechter’s
book, “Embedded: Weapons of
Mass Deception”
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8 TheREADER | April 2007



n March 5, Hillary Clinton plies and rescuers kept out of the city, The spectacle of
and Barack Obama went but many who could have rescued the suffering
south to compete for the themselves or reached outside rescue ef- and squalor of
limelight on the 42nd an- forts were forcibly kept in. The spectacle crowds trapped
niversary of “Bloody Sunday,” the day in of the suffering and squalor of crowds without food,
March 1965 when Alabama law enforce- trapped without food, water, or sanita- water, or
ment drove Civil Rights demonstrators tion in sweltering heat that so transfixed sanitation
off the Edmund Pettus Bridge and back the nation was not just the result of in- in sweltering
into Selma. Somehow, the far larger and competence, but of malice. While the heat that so
more desperate attempt of a largely media often tended to portray the vic- transfixed the
African-American population to march tims as largely criminals, government of- nation was
across a bridge less than two years ago, ficials shifted the focus from rescue to not just the
during the days after Hurricane Katrina, the protection of property and the polic- result of
and the even more vicious response, has ing of the public. There’s no way to count incompetence,
never quite entered the mainstream how many died as a result of all this. but of malice
imagination. Few outside New Orleans, The Mississippi-straddling Crescent
therefore, understand that the city be- City Connection Bridge was closed to
came a prison in the days after 80% of it pedestrians by law enforcement from
was flooded (nor has it fully sunk in that Gretna, the mostly white community
the city was flooded not by a hurricane across the river. They fired their guns
but by the failure of levees inadequately over the heads of women and children
built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engi- seeking to flee the dire conditions of the
neers). Superdome and Convention Center, as
According to a little-noted Los Ange- well as the heat and thirst of the devas-
les Times report from that moment, “Au- tated city, driving back thousands at-
thorities in St. Bernard Parish, to the tempting to escape their captivity in
east, stacked cars to seal roads from the squalor. There have been no conse-
Crescent City.” Not only were relief sup- quences from any of these acts, though

April 2007 | TheREADER 9


Ex-Black Panther Congressional Representatives Cynthia as well that many racial divides were
Malik Rahim McKinney and John Conyers have de- crossed that week and after – by people
says that he nounced them as hate crimes and called who found common cause inside the
witnessed a for investigations, and the Reverend city – by, for instance, the “Cajun Navy”
race war Lennox Yearwood said, “Can you imag- of white boat-owners who got into
beginning in ine during 9/11, the thousands who fled flooded areas to rescue scores of people.
Algiers (next on foot to the Brooklyn Bridge, not be- Ex-Black Panther Malik Rahim says
to Gretna) cause they wanted to go to Brooklyn, that he witnessed a race war beginning
where he lived but because it was their only option? in Algiers (next to Gretna) where he
and that it was What if they had been met by six or lived and that it was defused by the
defused by the eight police cars blocking the bridge, and young, white bicycle medics who came
young, white cops fired warning shots to turn them to minister to both communities; since
bicycle medics back?” then the organization Rahim co-
who came to During my trips to the still half-ruined founded, Common Ground Collective,
minister to both city, some inhabitants have told me that has funneled more than 11,000 volun-
communities they, in turn, were told by white vigi- teers, mostly white, into New Orleans.
lantes of widespread murders of black
men in the chaos of the storm and flood. Parades and patrols
One local journalist assured me that he New Orleans may have always been full
tried to investigate the story, but found of contradictions, but post-Katrina they
it impossible to crack. Reporters, he said, stand in high relief. For weeks in Febru-
were not allowed to inspect recovered ary, parades wound past rowdy crowds
bodies before they were disposed of. in the uptown area as part of the long
These accounts suggest that, someday, carnival season that leads up to Mardi
an intrepid investigative journalist may Gras. Since June, camouflage-clad, heav-
stand on its head the media hysteria of ily armed National Guardsmen have
the time (later quietly recanted) about been patrolling other parts of the flood-
African-American violence and menace ravaged city in military vehicles, making
in flooded New Orleans. Certainly, the the place feel as much like a war zone as
most brutal response to the catastrophe a disaster zone – and perhaps it is. (On
was on the part of institutional author- March 8, for instance, a Guardsman re-
ity at almost every level down to the peatedly shot in the chest a 53-year-old
most local. African-American with mental prob-
These stories are important, if only to lems. He had brandished a BB gun at a
understand what New Orleans is recov- patrol near his home, in which he had
ering from – not just physical devasta- ridden out Katrina, in the Upper Ninth
tion, but social fissures and racial Ward.) New Orleans’ poverty was, and
wounds in a situation that started as a is, constantly referenced in the national
somewhat natural disaster and became media; and the city did, and does, have a
a socially constructed catastrophe. lot of people without a lot of money, re-
Nothing quite like it has happened in sources, health care, education, and op-
American history. It’s important to note portunity. But its people are peculiarly

10 TheREADER | April 2007


rich in networks, roots, traditions, music, in the floods. A few have been occupied The levees and
festive ritual, public life, and love of place, by former residents demanding the right floodwalls are
an anomaly in an America where, gen- of return. It’s little noted that not all being rebuilt,
erations ago, most of us lost what the de- those who are still in exile from the city but not to
pleted population of New Orleans is are there by choice. And while, once Category 5
trying to reclaim and rebuild. again, the mainstream media story of hurricane levels,
I’ve long been interested in ruins, in exile has been grim – that evacuees from and the fate of
cities and civil society in the wake of dis- New Orleans have brought a crime wave the Mississippi
aster, and so I’ve been to New Orleans to Texas, for instance – one longtime River Gulf Outlet,
twice since Katrina hit and I’ve tried to Austin resident assures me that they’ve the shipping
follow its post-catastrophe course from also brought a lot of music, public life, shortcut that
afar the rest of the time. On this carni- and good food. funneled the
val-season visit, even my own response I visited New Orleans 11 months ago, storm’s surge
was contrary: I wanted to move there during Easter Week 2006, and it was right into New
and yet was appalled, even horrified, by then a ghost town, spookily unpopu- Orleans, is still
tales of institutional violence that people lated, with few children among the re- being debated
passed on to me as the unremarkable turnees; 10 months later, after more than
lore of everyday life. 50 of its schools had reopened, there
If New Orleans is coming back, it’s be- were dozens of high-school marching
cause a lot of its citizens love it passion- bands in the pre-carnival parades. But
ately, from the affluent uptowners who the bands were mostly monochromatic
formed Women of the Storm to massage – all white or all nonwhite – and 30 of
funding channels to the radical groups the reopened schools are charter schools.
such as the People’s Hurricane Relief Of course, in the slogan “Bring Back
Fund dealing with the most devastated New Orleans” lurks the question of how
zones. Nationally, there have been many far back to bring it. Once the wealthy
stories about people giving up and leav- banking powerhouse of the South, New
ing again because the reopened schools Orleans had been losing economic clout
are still lousy and crime is soaring; the and population for decades before Kat-
way people are trickling back in has been rina hit and already seemed doomed to
far less covered. a slow decline.
Of a pre-storm white population of With Katrina, no one can say what
124,000 more than 80,000 were back by the future holds. Many fear the city will
last fall, while about the same number of become just a tourist attraction or that
African-Americans had returned – from it will simply go under in the next major
a pre-storm population of 300,000. hurricane. The levees and floodwalls are
Though some have chosen not to return, being rebuilt, but not to Category 5 hur-
many are simply unable to, or are still or- ricane levels, and the fate of the Missis-
ganizing the means to do so. Other road- sippi River Gulf Outlet, the shipping
blocks include the shuttering of all the shortcut that funneled the storm’s surge
housing projects in the city, including right into New Orleans, is still being de-
some that sustained little or no damage bated. The Associated Press just re-

April 2007 | TheREADER 11


Sunken pleasure ported that more than thirty of the the neighborhood itself with every home
boats are still pumps installed last year by the U.S. being rebuilt marked with a green push-
in the Army Corps of Engineers to drain flood- pin. They are lightly scattered over the
surrounding water are defective. (The manufacturer map, but there are green dots on nearly
waters and is a crony of Jeb Bush’s and, like so many every block and clusters of them in
one wrecked looters of the rebuilding funds, a large- places, about 150 in this small neighbor-
boat remained scale donor to the Republican Party.) hood that looked as dead as anyplace
on the street The city’s major paper, the Times- imaginable not so very long ago.
in a devastated Picayune, recently revealed that the When I visited the Lower Ninth six
middle-class maps people have been using to repre- months after Katrina, the gaping hole
neighborhood sent the amount of wetlands buffer where a barge had disastrously bashed
nearby south of the city are 75 years out of date through the levee above the Industrial
and there are only 10 years left to save Canal was still there, as were the cars
anything of this crucially protective that had been tossed like toys through
marsh-scape, which erodes at the rate of the neighborhood when the water
32 football fields a day. rushed in so violently that it tore houses
into splinters and shoved them from
Signs of life in the Lower Ninth their foundations. The Lower Ninth was
That doesn’t mean people aren’t trying a spooky place – with no services, no
all over the city. It’s easier, however, to get streetlights, no inhabitants.
out the power tools than to untangle the That nothing had been done for six
red tape surrounding all the programs months was appalling, but so was the
that are supposed to fund rebuilding or scale of reconstruction required to bring
get governmental agencies at any level the place back to life. Throughout New
to act like they care or are capable of ac- Orleans, even homes that have no struc-
complishing a thing. tural damage but were in the heavily
“Are you trying to rebuild?” I asked flooded lowlands have severe water and
the woman who’d come into NENA, the mold damage. Along with the Ninth
Lower Ninth Ward Neighborhood Em- Ward, many more middle-class neigh-
powerment Network Association in the borhoods near Lake Pontchartrain also
part of New Orleans most soaked by the took several feet of water and they too
floods Katrina caused. She politely but are now but sketchily inhabited. Even
firmly corrected me, “I am going to re- the tacky row of condos alongside the
build.” Southern Yacht Club on Lake Pontchar-
I ran into this kind of steely will all train are still mostly wrecked, though
through my eight days exploring the city. some are being rebuilt. Sunken pleasure
NENA’s office in a small stucco church boats are still in the surrounding waters
building in the heart of the Lower Ninth, and one wrecked boat remained on the
the neighborhood of black homeowners street in a devastated middle-class
that sustained several feet of water for neighborhood nearby.
weeks after the storm, is full of maps and Across from NENA’s headquarters
charts. The most remarkable is a map of was a FEMA trailer with a wheelchair

12 TheREADER | April 2007


ramp in front of one house. In front of sheet-rocking and plumbing are far eas- Failed by every
another, right next door, a sign spray- ier to master than the intricate bureau- level of
painted on plywood read, “NO TRES- cracies applicants must fight their way government
PASSING NO DEMOLITION. WE ARE through to get the funds that are sup- from the Bush
COMING BACK.” And printed signs, posed to be available to them. Even administration
scattered among those for demolition those who are not among New Orleans’ and its still
and building services, bore this message large population of functional illiterates, barely functional
in red, “Come hell and high water! or whose lack of electricity and money FEMA to the
Restoration, revitalization, preservation means that sending off the sequences of Louisiana
of the Ninth Ward! Now and forever!” faxes required to set things in motion is bureaucracy
These signs mean something in a neigh- arduous, or who lack the phones and with its
borhood so gutted and abandoned that money to make the endless long-dis- red-tape-
many of the street signs disappeared, tance calls to faceless strangers shuffling strangled Road
some of which have since been replaced or losing their information have prob- Home program
by hand-painted versions. lems getting anything done – other than to the city
That people are even making their by themselves. Louisiana’s Road Home government,
own street signs is one sign of a city that program, for instance, is such an impen- people are doing
has gotten to its feet. Or of citizens who etrable labyrinth that the Times- it for themselves
have anyway. Failed by every level of Picayune recently reported, “Of 108,751
government from the Bush administra- applications received by the Road Home
tion and its still barely functional FEMA contractor, ICF International, only 782
to the Louisiana bureaucracy with its homeowners have received final pay-
red-tape-strangled Road Home program ments.” Rents have risen since the storm
to the city government, people are doing and home insurance is beyond reach for
it for themselves. NENA was founded by many of the working-class homeowners
Patricia Jones, an accountant and Lower who are rebuilding. Others can’t get the
Ninth homeowner spurred into action homeowner’s insurance they need to get
by the dire situation, and it’s co-directed the mortgages to rebuild. In February,
by Linda Jackson, a former laundromat State Farm Insurance simply stopped is-
owner from the neighborhood. People suing new policies altogether in neigh-
are doing things they might never oth- boring and no less devastated Missis-
erwise have done, including organizing sippi.
their communities. Civic involvement is
intense – but individual volunteers, no The Great Flood and
matter how many, from outside and the Great Divide
local passion can’t do it all. It’s been said The disaster that was Katrina is often re-
before that New Orleans represents garded as a storm, or a storm and a
what the Republicans long promised us flood, but in New Orelans it was a storm,
when they spoke of shrinking govern- a flood, and an urban crisis that has
ment down. stalled the lives of many to this day. Ka-
The returnees, Jackson told me, are trina is not even half over.
mostly doing their own rebuilding – but Volunteers have been flooding into

April 2007 | TheREADER 13


Will the New Orleans since shortly after the hur- you need a city. For a viable city, you
solidarity of ricane, and they continue to come. need some degree of a safe environment.
many anti-racist Church youth groups arriving to do For a safe environment, you need re-
whites across demolition work were a staple for a sponsibility on the scale of the nation; so,
the country while. This time around, I ran across a every house in New Orleans, ruined or
outweigh big group of Mennonite carpenters, some rebuilding, poses a question about the
the racism from Canada, doing rebuilding gratis. state of the nation. So many pieces need
that surfaced Many young people – often just out to be put in place:
in Katrina and of college and more excited, as several of What will climate change – both in-
still lurks them said to me, by “making a differ- creasingly intense hurricanes and rising
not far from ence” than by looking for an entry-level seas – do to New Orleans?
the surface job – have come to the city and many of Will its economy continue to fade
them appear to be staying. Some have away?
compared the thousands of volunteers Will the individuals who are bravely
to Freedom Summer, the 1964 African- rebuilding in the most devastated areas
American voter-registration drive in the have enough neighbors join them to
South staffed in part by college students make viable neighborhoods again? Will
from the North. the city government improve itself
Most of the volunteers in New Or- enough to make a better place or will in-
leans are white, and one concern I heard competence continue to waltz with cor-
repeatedly is that they may inadver- ruption through the years?
tently contribute to the gentrification of Will the nation revise its sense of
traditionally black neighborhoods such what we owe our most significant cities
as the Upper Ninth Ward. Others see the (before my own city, San Francisco, un-
outreach of white activists as balm on dergoes the big one) or recognize what
the wounds inflicted by the racism ap- they give us?
parent in the media coverage of, and the Will the solidarity of many anti-racist
militarized response to, Katrina. whites across the country outweigh the
The Ninth Ward symbolizes the racism that surfaced in Katrina and still
abandonment of African-Americans by lurks not far from the surface?
the government in a time of dire need, Despite its decline, New Orleans re-
and bringing it back is a way of redress- mains a port city and a major tourist
ing that national shame and the racial destination. But it also matters because
divide that went with it. But if it does it’s beautiful, with its houses – from
come back, it will be residents and out- shacks to mansions – adorned with fem-
side volunteers who do it. The govern- inine, lacy-black ironwork or white, gin-
ment is still largely missing in action – gerbread wood trim, with its colossal,
except for the heavily armed soldiers on spreading oaks and the most poetic
patrol and the labyrinthine bureaucra- street names imaginable; because the
cies few can navigate. city and the surrounding delta are the
To rebuild your home, you need a great font from which so much of our
neighborhood. To have a neighborhood, popular music flows; because people

14 TheREADER | April 2007


there still have a deep sense of connec- ibly stupid, soulless, and selfish response The recovery
tion and memory largely wiped away in of the federal government brought an of the city
so many other places; because it is a cap- end to the unquestionable dominance of from this one
ital city for black culture, including tra- the Bush administration in the nearly mega-disaster
ditions that flowed straight from Africa; four years between New York’s great dis- could do much
because, in some strange way, it holds aster and this catastrophe. for the longer
the memory of what life was like before In China, great earthquakes were disaster that
capitalism and may yet be able to teach once thought to be signs that the man- has so long now
the rest of us something about what life date of heaven has been withdrawn been part of
could be like after capitalism. from the ruling dynasty. Similarly, the our national
One of my friends in New Orleans deluges of Katrina washed away the lives – the social
was telling me recently about the gen- mandate of the administration and Darwinism,
erosity of the city; the ways that made it possible, even necessary, for social
churches and charities kept the poor those who had been blind or fearful be- atomization,
going so that poverty wasn’t quite the fore to criticize and oppose afterwards. the shrinking
abandoned thing it too often is else- One hundred and one years after my of the New Deal
where; the way that people will cook up city was nearly destroyed by the incom- and the Great
a feast for a whole neighborhood; the petent response of the authorities to a Society and the
ways the city never fully embraced the major earthquake, we are still sifting out attacks on the
holy trinity of the convenient, efficient, what really happened. very principle
and profitable that produce such dimin- In a hundred years, we may see Kat- that we are all
ished versions of what life can hold. rina as a crisis for the belief that the civil woven together
The throws – glittery beads, cups, rights movement had moved us past the in the fabric
toys – from the carnival floats are a little debacle on the Edmund Pettus Bridge – we call society
piece of this. Life in New Orleans is grim and as a crisis of legitimacy for a federal
in so many ways now, and all the beauty government that had done nothing but
with which I end this letter coexists with destroy for five years. CT
the viciousness I began with.
But the recovery of the city from this Rebecca Solnit’s essay for Harper’s
one mega-disaster could do much for the magazine on disaster and civil society
longer disaster that has so long now went to press the day Katrina struck New
been part of our national lives – the so- Orleans. She recently trained to join San
cial Darwinism, social atomization, the Francisco’s Neighborhood Emergency
shrinking of the New Deal and the Great Response Teams in the next big
Society and the attacks on the very prin- earthquake and hopes to return to New
ciple that we are all woven together in Orleans for a more extended stay in a few
the fabric we call society. If New Orleans months. She is the author of Hope in the
doesn’t recover, we aren’t likely to either. Dark, among other books.
We all owe New Orleans and those
who suffered most in Katrina a huge Originally published
debt. Their visible suffering and the vis- at

April 2007 | TheREADER 15



Already, the ut of the frying pan, into the year – it was missed by all the defence
British had historical fire. If only our correspondents – when it announced
cruelly leaders read history. In 1915, that British troops in Helmand had
suppressed a the British swept up from been involved in the heaviest combat
dissident Basra, believing that the Iraqis would fighting “since the Korean War”. The
Afghan army reward them with flowers and love, Afghans talk of one British unit which
– again, sound only to find themselves surrounded at last year had to call in air strikes, de-
familiar? Kut al-Amara, cut down by Turkish stroying almost the entire village in
– after the shellfire and cholera. Now we are rein- which they were holding out. Other-
British residency forcing Nato in that tomb of the British wise, they would have been overrun.
had been Army, Afghanistan. General Burrows had no close air
sacked and Hands up any soldiers who know support on 27 July, 1880, when he found
its occupants that another of Britain’s great military himself confronting up to 15,000 Afghan
murdered defeats took place in the very sands in fighters at Maiwand, but he had large
which your colleagues are now fighting numbers of Egyptian troops with him
the Taliban. Yes, the Battle of Maiwand and a British force in the city of Kanda-
– on 27 July, 1880 – destroyed an entire har. Already, the British had cruelly
British brigade, overrun by thousands suppressed a dissident Afghan army –
of armed Afghan tribesmen, some of again, sound familiar? – after the
whom the official enquiry into the dis- British residency had been sacked and
aster would later describe as “Talibs”. its occupants murdered. Britain’s reac-
The Brits had been trying to secure tion at the time was somewhat differ-
Helmand province. Sound familiar? ent from that followed today. Britain’s
Several times already in Helmand, army was run from imperial India
the British have almost been over- where Lord Lytton, the Viceroy, urged
whelmed. This has not been officially his man in Kabul – General Roberts,
admitted, but the Ministry of Defence later Lord Roberts of Kandahar – to
did make a devious allusion to this last crush the uprising with the utmost bru-

16 TheREADER | April 2007


tality. “Every Afghan brought to death, self, whose famous march of 10,000 Who would
I shall regard as one scoundrel the less troops from Kandahar – a distance of have believed
in a nest of scoundrelism.” Roberts em- 300 miles covered in just 20 days – is that after the
barked on a reign of terror in Kabul, now military legend. British reached
hanging almost a hundred Afghans. History, it seems, haunts all our ad- Baghdad
The commander of the rebellious ventures in the Middle East. Who in a 1917
Afghans was Ayub Khan, whose would have believed that after the invasion, they
brother was forced to abdicate as king British reached Baghdad in a 1917 inva- would face an
after the Kabul uprising. When Ayub sion, they would face an insurgency insurgency
Khan re-emerged from the deserts of which, in speed and ruthlessness, was which, in
the west – he marched down from that an almost exact predecessor to the re- speed and
old warlord territory of Herat towards bellion which the British and Ameri- ruthlessness,
Kandahar – the luckless General Bur- cans would confront from 2003? Lloyd was an almost
rows was sent to confront him. Almost George, then Prime Minister, stood up exact
a thousand British and Indian troops in the House of Commons to insist that predecessor
were to be slaughtered in the coming the British occupation force had to stay to the rebellion
hours as Ayub Khan’s army fired shells in Iraq. Otherwise, he warned, the which the British
from at least 30 artillery pieces and country would be plunged into civil and Americans
then charged at them across the fields war. Sound familiar? would confront
and dried-up river at Maiwand. One of the greatest defeats of British from 2003?
The official British inquiry – it was forces anywhere in the world had oc-
covered in red cloth and ran to 734 curred more than four decades before
pages – contains many photographs of Maiwand, on the Kabul Gorge in 1842,
the landscape over which the battle when an entire British army was wiped
was fought. The hills and distant out by Afghan fighters in the snow. The
mountains, of course, are identical to sole survivor, the famous Doctor Bry-
those that are now videotaped by “em- don, managed to out-horse two armed
bedded” reporters in the British Army. Afghans and ride into the British com-
Outgunned and outmanoeuvred, pound in Jalalabad.
the British found themselves facing a So now the British are to reinforce
ruthless enemy. Colonel Mainwaring of Afghanistan yet again. Flying by Chi-
the 30th Bombay Infantry wrote a chill- nook to Kandahar will not take as long
ing report for the authorities in Delhi. as General Roberts’s 20 days. British
“The whole of the ground... was cov- soldiers are unlikely even to enter Kan-
ered with swarms of ‘ghazis’ and ban- dahar’s central square. But if they do,
ner-men. The ‘ghazis’ were actually in they might care to look at the few an-
the ranks of the Grenadiers, pulling the cient cannon on the main roundabout:
men out and hacking them down with all that is left of General Roberts’s ar-
their swords.”The wreckage of the tillery. CT
British Army retreated all the way to
Kandahar where they were besieged, Originally published in the London
until rescued by General Roberts him- newspaper, The Independent

April 2007 | TheREADER 17



Before Adam “Before they seize power and establish a Tyrannosaurus Rex models that can
and Eve were world according to their doctrines, move and roar. The museum, which
expelled from totalitarian movements conjure up a cost $25 million to build and has a sea
paradise, lying world of consistency which is more of black asphalt parking lots for school
museum visitors adequate to the needs of the human buses, has a scale model of Noah’s ark
are told, all of mind than reality itself; in which, that shows how Noah solved the prob-
the dinosaurs through sheer imagination, uprooted lem of fitting dinosaurs into the three
were peaceable masses can feel at home and are spared levels of the vessel – he loaded only
plant-eaters the never-ending shocks which real life baby dinosaurs. And on the wooden
and real experiences deal to human model, infant dinosaurs cavort with
beings and their expectations. The force horses, giraffes, hippopotamuses, pen-
possessed by totalitarian propaganda – guins and bears. There is an elaborate
before the movements have the power to display of the Garden of Eden, where
drop iron curtains to prevent anyone’s Adam and Eve, naked but strategically
disturbing, by the slightest reality, the positioned so as not to display breasts
gruesome quiet of an entirely imaginary or genitals, swim in a river as giant di-
world – lies in its ability to shut the nosaurs and lizards roam the banks.
masses off from the real world.” Before Adam and Eve were expelled
– Hannah Arendt, “The Origins from paradise, museum visitors are
of Totalitarianism” told, all of the dinosaurs were peace-
able plant-eaters. The evidence is

n the middle of the lobby of the found in Genesis 1:30, where God gives
50,000-square-foot Creation Mu- “green herb” to every creature to eat.
seum in Petersburg, Ky., a 20-foot There were no predators. T-Rex had
waterfall tumbles. Two life-size fig- such big teeth, the museum explains, so
ures of children with long black hair it could open coconuts. Only after
and in buckskin clothes play in the Adam and Eve sinned and were cast
stream a few feet from two towering out of paradise did the dinosaurs start

18 TheREADER | April 2007


to eat flesh. And Adam’s sin is a key understand the world. Random facts The danger
component of the belief system, for in and data are collected and made to fit of creationism
the eyes of many creationists, in order into this belief system or discarded. is that, like the
for Jesus’ death to be meaningful it had When facts are treated as if they were pseudo-science
to atone for Adam’s first sin. opinions, when there is no universal of Nazi
The museum has a theater equipped standard to determine truth, in law, in eugenics,
with seats that shake and gadgets that science, in scholarship, or in the report- it allows facts
spray mist at the audience as the story ing of the events of the day, the world to be accepted
of God’s six-day creation of the world becomes a place where people can be- or discarded
unfolds on the screen and the sound lieve what they want to believe, where according
system rocks the auditorium. There are there is no possibility of reaching any to the dictates
30-foot-high walls that represent the conclusion not predetermined by those of a preordained
cliffs of the Grand Canyon, floors that who interpret the official, divinely in- ideology
resemble rocks embedded with fossils, spired text. This is the goal of creation-
and rooms where a “Christian” paleon- ists.
tologist counters the claims of an “evo- Other creationist museums are go-
lutionist” paleontologist. ing up in Arkansas, Texas, California,
It has the appearance of a real sci- Tennessee and Florida. Museums are
ence museum, complete with a plane- part of a massive push to teach cre-
tarium, a gift shop and plaques on the ationism in schools, part of a vast
wall with quotes from creationist “sci- Christian publishing and filmmaking
entists” who have the title doctor con- industry that seeks to rewrite the past
spicuously before their names. It has and make it conform to the Bible. The
charts, timelines and graphs with facts front lines of the culture wars are the
and figures. It is meant to be interac- classrooms.
tive, to create, like Universal Studios, a The battle is one we are slowly los-
contrived reality with an array of costly ing. Twenty states are considering
animatronic men and women as well as changing the way evolution is taught in
moving dinosaurs. order to include creationism or intelli-
gent design.1 Only 13 percent of Ameri-
Ideological facts cans in a 2004 Gallup poll, when asked
The danger of creationism is that, like for their views on human origins, said
the pseudo-science of Nazi eugenics, it life arose from the strictly natural
allows facts to be accepted or discarded process of evolution. More than 38 per-
according to the dictates of a preor- cent said they believed God guided
dained ideology. evolution, and 45 percent said the Gen-
Creationism removes the follower esis account of creation was a true
from the rational, reality-based world. story.2
Signs, miracles and wonders occur not Courses on intelligent design have
only in the daily life of Christians but been taught at Minnesota, Georgia,
in history, science, medicine and logic. New Mexico and Iowa State universi-
The belief system becomes the basis to ties, along with Wake Forest, not to

April 2007 | TheREADER 19


The use of mention Christian universities that dependent conclusions, to express dis-
mass-marketing teach all science through the prism of sent when judgment and common
techniques the Bible. sense tell you something is wrong, to be
to persuade and The museum is an illustration of the self-critical, to challenge authority, to
convince, rather movement’s marriage of primitive and advocate for change and to accept that
than brainwash, intolerant beliefs with the modern tools there are other views, different ways of
has led tens of technology, mass communication, being, that are morally and socially ac-
of millions sophisticated fundraising and political ceptable. We are beginning to see the
of followers organization. Totalitarian systems usu- growing intolerance that comes with
to accept the ally start as propagandistic movements the empowerment of these ideologues.
toxic totalitarian that ostensibly teach people to “believe There is a bill in the Texas Legislature
line by tricking what they want.” to strip all mention of evolution from
them into This is a ruse. This primacy of per- Texas school textbooks and institute
believing sonal opinion, regardless of facts, desta- mandatory Bible classes for all stu-
it’s their own bilizes and destroys the primacy of all dents. This is just the start.
facts. This process leads inevitably to And yet, coming from the modern
the big lie. Facts are useful only if they age, these Christo-fascists cannot dis-
bolster the message. The use of mass- count science. They employ jargon,
marketing techniques to persuade and methods and data that appear to be
convince, rather than brainwash, has science, to make an argument for cre-
led tens of millions of followers to ac- ationism. They have created parallel re-
cept the toxic totalitarian line by trick- search and scholarly institutions. They
ing them into believing it’s their own. pump out articles in self-published
Ironically, at the outset the movement journals to provide “evidence” that ho-
seemingly encourages people to think mosexuals can be cured, that global
“independently” or “courageously.” warming is a myth, that abortion can
cause breast cancer, that something
Iron control they call “post-abortion syndrome”
At first all have, in the totalitarian belief leads to deep depression and suicide
system, a right to an opinion, or, in and that abstinence-only education is
short, a right to believe anything. Soon, an effective form of birth control.
under the iron control of an empow- This pseudo-science has seeped into
ered totalitarian movement, facts be- the public debate. It is disseminated by
come worthless, kept or discarded nervous and timid media anxious to
according to an ideological litmus test. give both sides in every argument.
And once these movements achieve Those who have contempt for facts and
power, facts are ruthlessly manipulated truth, for honest research and inquiry,
or kept hidden to support the lie. Cre- are given the same platform by the
ationism is not about offering an alter- press as those who deal in a world of
native. Its goal is the destruction of the reality, fact and rationality.
core values of the open society – the The movement desperately needs
ability to think for oneself, to draw in- the imprint of science to legitimize it-

20 TheREADER | April 2007


self. It achieves this imprint by discred- groups. They seek to challenge the le- They need,
iting real science and claiming creation- gitimacy and the power of the tradi- in the midst
ist science as true science. tional organizations. of their flight
All attempts to argue the creation- The duplication of the structures from reality,
ists out of their mythical belief, to per- and methods employed by the non-to- to reassure
suade them with logic, evidence, talitarian world, the use of pseudo-sci- their followers
scientific inquiry and fact, will fail. They ence to dress up fantasy, is slowly that science,
have created a “fundamentalist sci- undermining our legitimate scientific science not
ence.” and educational institutions. It is de- contaminated
They know they cannot return to stroying the foundations of our open by secular
the pre-Darwinian innocence that let society. humanists and
them believe the Bible alone was It is ushering us into a world where nonbelievers,
enough. They need, in the midst of lies are true. CT is on their side
their flight from reality, to reassure their
followers that science, science not con- NOTES
taminated by secular humanists and 1. Scott LaFee, “Local scientists,
nonbelievers, is on their side. In this doctors and professors talk about
they are a distinctly modern move- ‘intelligent design,’ “ The San Diego
ment. They seek the imprint of science Union-Tribune, F-1, June 8, 2005.
and scholarship to legitimize myth. 2. Frank Newport, “Third of
This is a characteristic they share Americans Say Evidence Has
with all modern totalitarian move- Supported Darwin’s Evolution
ments, which co-opt the disciplines of Theory,” The Gallup Poll, Nov. 19,
law, science, medicine and scholarship 2004,
to give a modern veneer to their prim- default.aspx?ci=14107&pg=1.
itive and superstitious belief systems,
systems that allow the rulers to dictate Chris Hedges, a graduate of Harvard
reality and truth. Divinity School and former
The “paraprofessional” organiza- Pulitzer-prize winning foreign
tions formed by the Christian right, or- correspondent for The New York Times,
ganizations of teachers, journalists, is the author of American Fascists:
doctors, lawyers and scientists, mimic The Christian Right and the War on
the activities of real professional America


Download and read his political and humorous essays,
all in pdf format, all FREE, at:
April 2007
2007 | TheREADER 21


This annual was still at Ichilov Hospital in Tel had open-heart surgery than listen to
meeting of Aviv when my mobile rang. Rot- any further analysis of the Middle East.
Israeli and tem, the head of the news depart- Inside the taxi I reopened the con-
foreign ment, asked me how I was doing. ference kit that had been emailed to
politicians, ‘They opened up my belly last night,’ I me. It was the first time I had been to
academics, grumbled, ‘took my appendix out, the event, but as an Israeli I knew its
military experts closed me up with staple pins and left.’ importance.
and It hurt. ‘Well, you sound like you’re all Since the first conference in 2000,
businessmen right now,’ he said rather bluntly. ‘I’m this annual meeting of Israeli and for-
has become sure you can make it to the Herzliya eign politicians, academics, military ex-
one of the most Conference in two days’ time. There’s a perts and businessmen has become one
prestigious panel about Iran or Lebanon or some- of the most prestigious platforms for
platforms thing from your field, and I want you to delivering political points and geo-
for delivering cover it.’ Before I could decide on an an- strategic messages. In 2003 Ariel Sharon
political swer – this was an attractive offer for a unveiled the Gaza disengagement plan
points and beginner journalist – he went on: ‘Actu- at Herzliya and since then the signifi-
geostrategic ally, I’ve put your name down on the cance of the event has only grown.
messages list.’ I looked at the nurse coming to- This year the conference was to be
wards me and asked for a painkiller. broadcast live on Israeli news sites, and
Two days later, I woke up in my attended by at least ten government
small apartment in Tel Aviv, and while ministers, including Prime Minister
struggling to put on my shoes, cursed Olmert. Forty-two well-known Ameri-
the moment I failed to say no. The bot- can figures – among them, the deputy
tom right of my abdomen was aching. secretary of defense, the under-secre-
My rendezvous with Israel’s biggest tary of state for political affairs and the
strategic threats looked like a very bad secretary of education – were to take
idea. I could not have believed that by part. Only two Palestinian citizens of
the end of the day I would have rather Israel were invited, even though Pales-

22 TheREADER | April 2007


tinians make up 20 per cent of the I took advantage of the extra time in The courtyard
country’s population. the taxi, and the heavy traffic of Her- was empty,
On the front page of the kit was a zliya’s mornings, to get a better under- and the
brief survey of the subjects that were standing of what I was supposed to gatekeeper
going to be considered. The overall cover. The panel was entitled ‘The told us that
theme is always ‘The Balance of Israel’s Changing Paradigm of Israeli-Palestin- if we were
National Security’, and Professor Uzi ian Relations in the Shadow of Iran and looking for
Arad, the director and founder, made the War against the Hizbullah’. the Herzliya
the point that this year’s conference The session was to be chaired by a Conference
had been convened ‘amidst the reper- former Israeli ambassador to the UN, it was taking
cussions of the campaign in Lebanon, Dore Gold, who is currently president place at the
regional and international develop- of the Jerusalem Centre for Public Af- Daniel Hotel
ments, and their implications for Is- fairs. I vaguely remembered coming
rael’s security and diplomatic postures’ across one of his books as an under-
(my emphasis). graduate at Tel Aviv University: Ha-
In an interview with Haaretz tred’s Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia
recorded before the conference but Supports the New Global Terrorism.
published after it ended, Arad said that The second speaker was Professor
‘the Israeli left will need to realise that Bernard Lewis of Princeton University.
it makes up only 50 per cent of the con- I knew his work well – who didn’t? The
ference, unlike the 90 per cent presence title of one of his books encapsulates
it has in any other event.’ A former his views: What Went Wrong? The Clash
Mossad senior official and Benjamin between Islam and Modernity in the Mid-
Netanyahu’s foreign policy adviser, dle East. Clash of Civilisations: here we
Arad went on to insist that ‘my individ- come.
ual political views are one thing, and The third speaker was Moshe
what is happening at the conference is Yaalon, the former Israeli chief of staff.
another.’ A true Voltairean. After his retirement in 2005 he told
Haaretz that the Palestinians were still
Empty courtyard looking for ways to exterminate Israel;
The taxi driver said we had arrived. We therefore Israeli withdrawal to the 1967
were at the main gate of the Interdisci- borders would never solve the conflict.
plinary Centre in Herzliya, the first pri- It was Yaalon who introduced the no-
vate university in Israel. The courtyard tion – these are his words – of searing
was empty, and the gatekeeper told us deep ‘into the consciousness of the
that if we were looking for the Herzliya Palestinians that they are a defeated
Conference it was taking place at the people’. He now works at the Shalem
Daniel Hotel. Slightly embarrassed, I Centre, an education and research in-
turned to the taxi driver and asked him stitution that is identified with the Is-
to take us to the correct location, a five- raeli right and American neo-con-
star hotel on the Herzliya seashore, one servatives.
of Israel’s wealthiest spots. I assumed that the panel would in-

April 2007 | TheREADER 23


The crowd clude at least one speaker who thought Dore Gold was the first speaker.
applauded. differently from his colleagues and ‘John Negroponte,’ he began, ‘US direc-
It isn’t every started to feel bad for the fourth tor of national intelligence, said a week
day that speaker. Poor fellow, I thought, facing ago that in the Middle East, Iran and its
Israelis and those three. I read on. The poor fellow neighbours see a strategic move. The
their American was revealed to be James Woolsey, a influence of Iran is rising beyond its nu-
supporters former director of the CIA. I knew clear programme. The fall of the Tal-
get to hear nothing about him. I googled his name iban and Saddam Hussein, the increase
that they have and found out that in July Woolsey had in oil incomes, the victory of Hamas in
nothing to do called on the US to bomb Syria. My the elections and the perceived victory
with the stitches started hurting again. I didn’t of Hizbullah in its war against Israel in-
instability have time to catch my breath: the creased Iran’s shadow in the region.’
of the region driver told me to pick myself up be- According to Gold, this ‘shift’ had
cause we were in front of the hotel. I been sensed by the researchers of his
paid and limped towards the entrance. institution as early as the beginning of
The hotel lobby was beautifully 2006. He said that, due to this ‘historic
arranged. The room was wide with turning point’, Israel and the West
large windows overlooking the Her- needed to re-evaluate their positions.
zliya beach: the view dazzled the eyes. The paradigm that claims that the
I went over to the journalists’ stand, source of instability in the region is the
gave them my best smile and noncha- Israeli-Arab conflict, and that solving
lantly pulled out my press card. A feel- this would bring stability to the region,
ing of importance came over me. The was no longer valid. A new paradigm
world outside was forgotten. The had to be found: a new paradigm for a
woman behind the desk checked my new era.
details, smiled back at my smiling face
and gave me my conference tag. I was New demon
accepted. The crowd applauded. It isn’t every day
I was then allowed to climb to the that Israelis and their American sup-
second floor, where a large buffet was porters get to hear that they have noth-
on offer to anyone who hadn’t lost their ing to do with the instability of the
appetite at the prospect of the Shadow region. The US invasion of Iraq? Israel’s
of Iran and the War against the Hizbul- forty-year occupation of the West Bank
lah. I decided to stick to my job and and the Gaza Strip? Israel’s continual
went straight to the conference hall, refusal to reply to the Syrians’ propos-
leaving the tempting croissants behind. als for negotiations? All of these are
I found myself a good seat, close to the part of the past. Fortunately, a new
stage but not too close, and felt ready demon had been found to take every-
to hear how threatening Ahmadine- body’s sins on himself: Ahmadinejad.
jad’s shadow was. More and more peo- Professor Bernard Lewis spoke next.
ple crowded in and eventually filled It was the first time I had heard him
every corner of the hall. speak. He started by explaining that

24 TheREADER | April 2007


the collapse of the Soviet Union mar- gramme, or its army, or any of its secu- Why did Lewis,
ked the end of a period that had begun rity forces, or any of its strategic plans; an expert
two hundred years before, with the and that even if he was both stupid on the Middle
landing of Napoleon Bonaparte’s forces and crazy he would still be unable to East, not find it
in Egypt. make these kinds of decision? Why did appropriate to
Nowadays, Lewis said, ‘the outside Lewis, an expert on the Middle East, mention that
powers are not as interested in the not find it appropriate to mention that power over Iran
Middle East as they were.’ This meant power over Iran lies entirely in the lies entirely in
that the region had returned to its old hands of the supreme leader Ali the hands of the
patterns. The crowd held its breath: Khamenei? Was it because such an ex- supreme leader
Islam’s desire to conquer the West was planation might put paid to the unity Ali Khamenei?
in the air. Lewis confirmed it. He said of the panel or stand in the way of the Was it because
that the Muslims’ first attempt to con- audience’s notion that a pre-emptive such an
quer the world took place in Europe in attack was needed? We wanted a war explanation
the eighth century, and the second took so much. might put paid
place when the Ottomans occupied to the unity of
Constantinople in the 15th century. Straight to the point the panel or
‘What we see today,’ he concluded, ‘is James Woolsey stepped up to the stand in the way
the third attempt, with aspirations that podium. He was sharp, focused and se- of the audience’s
it will be third time lucky . . . We see in rious, exactly as a former head of the notion that a
Muslim writings that the struggle has CIA should be. He went straight to the pre-emptive
already begun.’ point and very soon touched on the au- attack was
Lewis coughed, and continued with dience’s most sensitive point: the Holo- needed?
his forecast. ‘My Iranian friends tell me caust. The Iranian, Iraqi, Lebanese and
that Ahmadinejad might be crazy, but Syrian ‘challenges’, according to Wool-
he is not stupid. He really means what sey, should correctly and jointly be
he says, and he really believes in an thought of as ‘Islamist totalitarianism’,
apocalyptic message.’ Lewis left no the ‘defeat of which I believe is the
room for doubt: there is a widespread great challenge of our age, just as the
understanding, he said, that a religious defeat of Nazism and the defeat of
war between Gog and Magog is on its Communism were’.
way. There were sparkling eyes in the au-
The professor returned to his seat. I dience, and he was heading for glory.
held my pen tight, as if it was my last ‘Destroying Israel and the US is the
friend on earth. After a few seconds I essence of the Iranian state,’ Woolsey
started breathing. The crowd was still said, ‘and trying to convince Iran to
applauding. I couldn’t understand why stop it is like trying to convince Hitler
such a distinguished professor was not not to be anti-semitic.’ The crowd was
willing to lift the fog over Iran by sup- now his. Woolsey didn’t lose his mo-
plying even the most basic facts. Why mentum. ‘I agree with Dr Gold,’ he
didn’t he mention that Ahmadinejad said, as he looked over at the panellists.
has no control over Iran’s nuclear pro- ‘Wahhabi Islam, al-Qaida and Vilayat

April 2007 | TheREADER 25


Someone rose e-Faqih cannot be treated individually. tween good and evil and they were on
to his feet. Those who say that they will not co- the side of good. Someone rose to his
And someone operate with one another are as wrong feet. And someone else, and someone
else, and as those who claimed that the Nazis else, and someone else. I looked at the
someone else, and Communists would not co-oper- audience, amazed. They were cheering
and someone ate.’ as one.
else. I looked The audience couldn’t contain its ex- This wasn’t funny. Israel is the
at the audience, citement and started clapping riotously. strongest country in the Middle East,
amazed. Woolsey kept his grip. ‘We should lis- the only country in the region with nu-
They were ten to what they say,’ he said, silencing clear power, the only state that co-op-
cheering the crowd, ‘just like we needed to listen erates unquestioningly with the world’s
as one to Hitler.’ only superpower. Why do we have
An attentive silence spread through such a short memory? Why don’t we
the room. ‘We must not accept totali- remember the circumstances that led
tarian regimes,’ he said, ‘and we should to the invasion of Iraq and the 600,000
not tolerate a nuclear weapon capabil- Iraqis who have died over the last four
ity for Iran . . . If we use force, we should years? Why are Israelis so eager to fight
use it decisively, not execute some sur- Syria, when Damascus seems to want
gical strike on a single or two or three to sit down and talk? How can the na-
facilities. We need to destroy the power tion that suffered immeasurably in the
of the Vilayat e-Faqih if we are called Holocaust let people use the memory
upon and forced to use force against of six million Jews as an instrument to
Iran.’ Next Woolsey took his audience gain international support?
to Syria. ‘It is a shame,’ he said, that Is-
rael and the US failed to ‘participate in Trojan Horse
a move against Syria last summer’. The next speaker allowed me to focus
He paused. ‘Finally,’ he said, looking on something other than the Holo-
into his audience’s eyes, ‘we must not caust. Happily, Yaalon, the former Is-
forget who we are. We, as Jews, Chris- raeli chief of staff, wasn’t saying
tians and others, are heirs of the tradi- anything new, so I could relax a bit.
tion deriving from Judaism.’ Woolsey Like his colleagues, he said that solving
chose an American and Jewish ending. the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and end-
‘Elijah had it right in confronting Ahab, ing the Israeli occupation would not
and Thomas Jefferson had it right in bring stability to the region. Then he
the one sentence of his that circles your said that the Palestinians had agreed to
head as you stand in front of his statue the Oslo Accords because they wanted
in Washington DC: “I have sworn on to use them as a Trojan Horse – as an
the altar of almighty God eternal hos- excuse to enter negotiations and then
tility against every form of tyranny over fight for more. I was reminded of David
the mind of man.”‘ Ben-Gurion, who accepted the parti-
The audience went wild; Woolsey tion plan in 1947, but told his followers
had outlined the ultimate battle be- it was only a step towards gaining more

26 TheREADER | April 2007


territory. Yaalon went on. He said time had come for questions from the I waited for
Palestinian children were being floor. I felt a bit dizzy when I stood up my turn, and
brought up on ‘hatred and death’. He and headed towards the queue for the when it came
said: ‘the conflict after the 1979 revolu- microphone. I remember hearing some- I started
tion in Iran turned into a clash of civil- one ask when exactly the war would shivering.
isations. This is the Third World War.’ start, and why had Israel failed to win What the hell
Surprisingly, the Israeli ex-general had a the war in Lebanon; there were other am I doing,
solution and unsurprisingly it had a lot questions that might as well have been I wondered.
to do with armies. ‘If the West yearns asked by the panellists themselves. I I imagined
for life,’ he said, ‘it cannot run away waited for my turn, and when it came I being crushed
from a confrontation with Jihadi Islam, started shivering. What the hell am I by the mighty
and – first and foremost – with the doing, I wondered. I imagined being lords of war
Iranian regime.’ He had no doubts: crushed by the mighty lords of war sit- sitting
‘There will not be an inner change in ting in front of me. in front of me
Iran without external pressure.’ A con-
troversial claim: what about the stu- My question
dents in Iran burning photos of I waited a few seconds and said: ‘My
Ahmadinejad? What about the victory name is Yoni Mendel and I am from
of the reformists at the last municipal Walla News Israel. I would like to ask
elections? Or the fact that Iran is the Mr Woolsey a question, because it
only country in the Middle East apart deals with US foreign policy.’ Woolsey
from Israel to hold regular democratic looked at me, and I considered forget-
elections and where the leadership ting about my question and instead
changes every few years? putting in a request to be sent to Iraq or
Yaalon’s speech didn’t go down as Iran or Vietnam. I tried to keep focused
well as Woolsey’s, but he, too, had and said: ‘The four of you represent the
given the audience what they wanted: same point of view.’
yes, there would be a war with Iran. Four pairs of eyes were now staring
Yes, it is Israel’s only option. And no, Is- at me. ‘But there are also other views.
rael has nothing to do with the contin- Professor David Menashri, the head of
uing crises in the Middle East. But the the Tel Aviv Iranian Studies Depart-
audience’s applause still didn’t make ment, and Ephraim Halevy, the former
sense. If a war with Iran broke out, head of Mossad, have argued on vari-
wouldn’t Israel be in great danger? I ous occasions that a dialogue with Iran,
could understand American listeners or even a secret negotiation channel
cheering: a missile from Iran could with the US, could be the solution to
never hit their houses, but why are Is- the crisis.’
raelis walking towards (another) mili- Chairman Gold interrupted. ‘What
tary confrontation without asking is your question?’ he said loudly. I hes-
themselves what the consequences itated and said: ‘As one can see, since
might be? And without fear? the US included Iran in the Axis of Evil
The chairman announced that the in 2001 the opposite of what it intended

April 2007 | TheREADER 27


I wanted to tell has taken place: the reformists of to impose sanctions on Iran, and if yes,
them that when Khatami lost power, the conservatives how come the ‘window of opportunity’
Iran elected a of Ahmadinejad gained power and the was shut then, when Khatami, the
local democrat nuclear programme was speeded up.’ I moderate president of Iran, came to
and reformist, heard Gold’s voice over mine: ‘Could power two years later and was there for
Muhammad you shorten your question, our next eight years. I wanted to make it clear to
Mussadeq, guest, the minister of defence, is waiting the audience that Ahmadinejad has
in 1953, to outside.’ I tried not to think about the served as Iran’s president for the last
replace the US minister. ‘Well, the question is: don’t year and eight months and not for the
puppet shah, you think that American policy is not last 12 years, as they might be confused.
Muhammad helping to halt the Iranian nuclear pro- I wanted to tell them that when Iran
Reza Pahlavi, gramme, but contributes to the exact elected a local democrat and reformist,
and to end US opposite?’ Muhammad Mussadeq, in 1953, to re-
control over There was giggling around me. place the US puppet shah, Muhammad
Iranian oil, the Woolsey didn’t hesitate. ‘I think that’s Reza Pahlavi, and to end US control
CIA used covert nonsense,’ he said. The crowd ap- over Iranian oil, the CIA used covert
operations to plauded: an easy knockout. My stitches operations to overthrow him and to
overthrow him felt as though they were about to ex- bring back the hated and unelected
and to bring plode. shah; but it was too late for me to say
back the hated Woolsey went on: ‘I think that there anything.
and unelected was a window of opportunity between
shah; but it was Khatami’s taking office and the spring Lunatic Israeli Jew
too late for me of 1995 when one could responsibly Chairman Gold sent us all out for a
to say anything hold the view that he might be em- short break before the speech from the
barked on major changes for Iran. But minister of defence. I tried to avoid the
the crackdown came in the spring of stares of the audience; they wanted to
1995: students were killed, editors were see close up what a lunatic Israeli Jew
killed, prisoners were tortured, and looked like. One of them asked me:
since then there has been no reason- ‘Did you ever study history?’ I told him
able chance of working with anything about my master’s degree in history. He
approaching a moderate Iranian reg- said: ‘If you had been studying properly
ime.’ ‘And today,’ he concluded, ‘I don’t you would have seen the similarities
believe that anybody who knows any- between Iran and the Nazis.’ I was glad
thing about Iran, frankly, believes that he hadn’t been marking my exams and
serious negotiations are possible.’ headed for the exit.
I remember hearing applause. I wan- Someone from an organisation
ted to ask Mr Woolsey what he meant called Demography held me up to say
by the time between Khatami’s taking that he too was against the occupation
office and the spring of 1995, when and against the separation wall, ‘but
Khatami took office in 1997 and retired also against the Arabs’. I didn’t reply. I
in 2005. I wondered if by the ‘spring of was a minority of one, but I wasn’t
1995’ he meant the American decision ready to be eaten alive. I left the hall,

28 TheREADER | April 2007


without even saying goodbye to the life of the Israeli people under threat,’ I phoned my
lovely croissants, and ran outside for he said. ‘We have absolute freedom of boss and
some fresh air. I phoned my boss and action to defend our vital interests. And shamefully
shamefully reported that among a pro- we will not hesitate to use it.’ reported
war audience with pro-war experts in a Three days earlier, Senator John Ed- that among a
pro-war country I had asked a stupid wards, a candidate for the Democratic pro-war
question. Rottem told me not to worry nomination in next year’s presidential audience with
too much. I was cheered to think I had- election, reassured the Herzliya Confer- pro-war experts
n’t lost my job. ence that the US, whether Democrat or in a pro-war
On my way back in the taxi I Republican, is on the same warpath as country
thought about the term ‘groupthink’, Israel. ‘Under no circumstance,’ he said, I had asked a
which tries to explain how a state of ‘can Iran be allowed to have nuclear stupid question.
mind can penetrate all levels of society weapons . . . Iran must know that the Rottem told me
and bring about a general stagnation in world won’t back down . . . We need to not to worry
thinking. When Israeli sociologists tried keep all options on the table. Let me re- too much.
to understand why Israel hadn’t been iterate – all options must remain on the I was cheered
ready for the 1973 war, they coined the table.’ to think I hadn’t
term ‘the conception’: all levels of soci- lost my job
ety were under the sway of a ‘concep- Unified by threats
tion’ based on the euphoria of 1967. It The Herzliya Conference has enormous
felt to me as though the Israeli and significance in Israeli society. Is it be-
American peoples were now under the cause we worship anything that has to
sway of another ‘conception’. It is not do with the security establishment? Or
categorically wrong – Iran might in- maybe because ‘strategic threats’ – and
deed achieve a nuclear capability – but Israel even has a minister devoted to
there is no discussion in Israel about them – are the only thing that can
ways to deal with it and whether there unite a society that is torn apart by so
is an alternative to confrontation. many differences? Are we really under
An honest debate, with more than continual threat, or are we perpetuat-
one point of view, is the minimum re- ing the situation by letting our gener-
quired before reaching critical conclu- als and security-minded leadership
sions. But current Israeli discourse – dictate a course of action that is about
Israeli common sense – does not allow much more than security? This is the
for dissenting voices, or take into ac- way Israel has always thought. The
count inconvenient facts. Israeli politics, Herzliya Conference demonstrates Is-
the academy, the security establish- rael’s core belief that the US is its
ment, and even the press: they all think guardian angel, an angel that is never
alike. There is only one message. wrong, whose use of force will eventu-
Two days after the panel discussion, ally make Israel a safer place.
when Prime Minister Olmert addressed I was depressed not only because of
the conference, he confirmed it: ‘We what was said but also because of what
will not let the Iranian regime put the wasn’t said, and depressed for those

April 2007 | TheREADER 29


On the eve of who were not saying it. Out of more refuse even to consider an option that
a war with Iran, than 160 participants in the conference, does not involve violence. A country
a war with there were only 17 women. that has lived by the sword refuses to
unknown Of the two Palestinian citizens of Is- question it, even when its own future
consequences, rael who took part, only one, Aida is at risk. I think of the frog and scor-
Israelis refuse Touma-Sliman, a member of the Fol- pion story. I do not know who the frog
even to consider low-Up Committee for the Arab Popu- is here, but I do have a strong sense
an option that lation of Israel, contributed a different that Israel is playing the scorpion: It
does not involve message. The other, Ramzi Halabi from cannot stop behaving the way it has al-
violence Tel Aviv University, is a Druze who has ways behaved, even when this is
reached the rank of lieutenant-colonel against its own interests.
in the Israeli army. A postscript. Out of the eight ques-
The worst of it is that – among the tions asked of the panel only seven
audience, the media, the participants, were published on the official Herzliya
the politicians, the academics – almost Conference internet site. Guess who
no one felt that something or someone didn’t get lucky. CT
was absent. There was no fault found
in a conference that excluded commu- Yonatan Mendel is Walla News Israel
nities because they were not Jewish, correspondent for the Middle East.
American, militant or manly enough. The Other Side of Iran, a series of six
How can an audience go on clapping articles, will be published online in the
their hands at a discussion that is dis- next few weeks.
On the eve of a war with Iran, a war Originally published in the
with unknown consequences, Israelis London Review of Books (




Visit to order

US$50 (Canada) and US$42 (United States) per year

30 TheREADER | April 2007



t’s time for the Iraqis to cease their ready endured at that point: From Sep- That revolt,
bloody sectarian rivalries, disband tember, 1980 to August, 1988 more than which George
their ruthless militias and death a million Iraqis and Iranians died in Bush’s father
squads and take responsibility for what was the longest war of the twen- had called for,
their country’s fate. Why should Amer- tieth century. As that conflict raged, ended with
ican boys continue dying to save Iraqis Saddam also launched his genocidal at- Saddam’s
from their own perverse selves? tacks against the Kurds – which Presi- slaughter
It’s a view expressed by all sides in dents Reagan and Bush Senior – then of tens of
the U.S. four years after the 2003 inva- Saddam’s de facto allies against Irandid thousands
sion. The problem is it shows no under- their best to ignore. of Shiites
standing of Iraq’s nightmarish past and Next came Saddam’s disastrous in- – as U.S. troops
calamitous psychological present. vasion of Kuwait in August 1990 – there stood by
Take, for instance, the report of a again the U.S. played a hand–followed
group of Harvard medical researchers by an abortive popular uprising against
who found that the children of Iraq Saddam. That revolt, which George
were “the most traumatized children Bush’s father had called for, ended with
of war ever described.” The experts Saddam’s slaughter of tens of thou-
concluded that “a majority of Iraq’s sands of Shiites – as U.S. troops stood
children would suffer from severe by.
psycho- logical problems throughout At the same time, the United Na-
their lives.” (Additional citations for this tions Security Council was implement-
material are in my book, Web of Deceit: ing a Draconian embargo on all trade
The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, with Iraq. Indeed, when the Harvard
from Churchill to Kennedy to George W. study cited above was carried out, those
Bush”) sanctions had been in effect for only
That appalling judgment was ren- seven months. They cut off all trade
dered not recently but 16 years ago, in between Iraq and the rest of the world.
May 1991. Consider what Iraqis had al- That meant everything, from food and

April 2007 | TheREADER 31


“The U.S. theory electric generators to vaccines, hospital Added to that was a disastrous
behind the equipment – even medical journals. shortage of food, which meant malnu-
sanctions was Since Iraq imported 70% of its food, trition for some, starvation and death
that if you hurt and its principle revenues were derived for others. At the same time, the med-
the people of from the export of petroleum, the sanc- ical system, once the country’s pride,
Iraq and kill tions had an immediate and cata- was careening towards total collapse.
the children strophic impact. Iraq would soon have the worst child
particularly, Enforced primarily by the United mortality rate of all 188 countries meas-
they’ll rise up States and Great Britain, they remained ured by UNICEF.
with anger and in place for almost 13 years and were in There is no question that U.S. plan-
overthrow their own way a weapon of mass de- ners knew what the awful impact of
Saddam” struction far more deadly than any- the sanctions would be. The health
thing Saddam had developed. Two calamity was first predicted and then
U.N. administrators who oversaw hu- carefully tracked by the Pentagon’s De-
manitarian relief in Iraq during that pe- fense Intelligence Agency. Their first
riod, and resigned in protest, consider study was entitled “Iraq’s Water Treat-
the embargo to have been a “crime ment Vulnerabilities.”
against humanity.” Indeed, from the beginning the intent
of U.S. officials was to create such a
Elimination of Saddam catastrophic situation that the people of
Early on it became evident that for the Iraq – civilians but particularly the mil-
United States and England, the real ob- itary – would be forced to react. As
jective of the sanctions was not the Dennis Halliday, the former U.N. hu-
elimination of Saddam Hussein’s WMD manitarian coordinator for Iraq, put it
but of Saddam Hussein himself, though to me, “the U.S. theory behind the
that goal went far beyond anything au- sanctions was that if you hurt the peo-
thorized by the Security Council. The ple of Iraq and kill the children partic-
effect of the sanctions was magnified by ularly, they’ll rise up with anger and
the wide-scale destruction of Iraq’s in- overthrow Saddam.”
frastructure – power plants, sewage But rather than weakening Saddam,
treatment facilities, telephone ex- the sanctions only consolidated his hold
changes, irrigation systems – wrought on power. The government’s rationing
by the air and rocket attacks preceding system became vital to the survival of
the war. Iraq’s contaminated waters be- the people, even though it provided less
came a biological killer as lethal as any- than a third of a person’s nutritional
thing Saddam had attempted to pro- requirements. Iraqis were so obsessed
duce. with simply keeping their families alive
There were massive outbreaks of se- that there was little interest or energy to
vere child and infant dysentery. Typhoid plot the overthrow of one of the most
and cholera, which had been virtually ruthless dictatorships on the planet.
eradicated in Iraq, also packed the hos- “The people didn’t hold Saddam re-
pital wards. sponsible for their plight,” Dennis Hal-

32 TheREADER | April 2007


liday said. “They blamed the US and There is no question that Saddam Only $28 billion
the UN for these sanctions and the pain ripped off money during the sanctions actually arrived
and anger that these sanctions brought regime to attempt to rebuild his mili- in Iraq. That had
to their lives.” tary and support his family’s lavish to cover not just
By now it was clear that sanctions lifestyle, but that point hides the basic food but all
and the terrible sacrifices they were ex- issue: Iraq’s needs were enormous. Even Iraq’s imports.
acting from the people of Iraq would if Saddam had invested everything he That amounted
not rid the world of Saddam Hussein. skimmed from the sanctions into re- to $170 per
But rather than ending the sanctions or building his country and feeding his person per year
modifying them to target those items people, those sums would have never which, as one
truly crucial to building WMD, the Clin- prevented the colossal devastation that analyst pointed
ton administration continued the futile sanctions brought about. out, is less than
policy: decimating an entire nation in one half the
order to destroy one leader. Smuggled petroleum annual per
Neither for the first nor the last time, Of course Saddam profited by smug- capita income
the people of Iraq were victims of failed gling petroleum to neighboring coun- of Haiti, the
U.S. policy. tries. But, according to the Volcker most destitute
The Oil for Food program which was Commission set up to investigate nation of the
introduced in 1996 and expanded over charges of corruption under the sanc- Western
the following years was billed as a ma- tions regime, the great bulk of those il- Hemisphere
jor humanitarian measure by the U.S. It licit activities were known about – and
allowed Iraq to sell unlimited amounts accepted – by the U.S.-dominated
of petroleum to pay for vital imports, Sanctions Committee. Because the
not just food. But Hans Von Sponeck, other countries involved in the smug-
who also resigned his post as U.N. co- gling – Turkey, Jordan and Syria – had
ordinator in Iraq, condemned the pro- powerful allies on the Security Council,
gram as “a fig leaf for the international the delegates closed their eyes to what
community.” was going on.
The simple fact is that Iraq didn’t By the time the sanctions were fi-
have much petroleum to sell. The coun- nally removed, May 22, 2003, after the
try’s ability to pump oil had been crip- U.S.-led invasion, an entire generation
pled by the bombings and sanctions. of Iraqis had been decimated by the
Because of other restrictions imposed failed policy. A Unicef study in 1999 con-
by the Security Council, only $28 billion cluded that half a million Iraqi children
actually arrived in Iraq. That had to perished in the previous eight years be-
cover not just food but all Iraq’s im- cause of the sanctions – and that was
ports. That amounted to $170 per per- four years before they ended. Another
son per year which, as one analyst American expert in 2003 estimated that
pointed out, is less than one half the an- the sanctions had killed between
nual per capita income of Haiti, the 343,900 to 529,000 young children and
most destitute nation of the Western infants. The exact number will never
Hemisphere. be known. It was, however, certainly

April 2007 | TheREADER 33


It is that more young people than were ever study – terminating only with the
generation killed by Saddam Hussein. American led invasion of Iraq which
of “the most (In a statement right out of Orwell unleashed the current debacle.
traumatized on March 27, 2003 Tony Blair actually It is that generation of “the most
children of war cited the dramatic increase in infant traumatized children of war ever de-
ever described,” mortality in Iraq to justify the invasion.) scribed,” who have come of age and
who have come Beyond the death and destruction been engulfed by the cataclysm that is
of age and been of infrastructure, the sanctions had an- Iraq today. It is they who – if they have
engulfed by the other, equally devastating, but less vis- not fled the country –also make up
cataclysm that ible impact, as documented early in 1991 much of the insurgencies, the militias,
is Iraq today. by the group of Harvard medical re- the criminal gangs, the death squads. It
It is they who searchers. They reported that four out is also they, as the new military and
– if they have of five children interviewed were fearful police commanders, bureaucrats and
not fled the of losing their families; two thirds legislators, who are confronted with
country – doubted whether they themselves governing this anarchic land.
also make up would survive to adulthood. The ex- It is also they, as the months pass,
much of the perts concluded that a majority of Iraq’s who will be increasingly blamed –
insurgencies, children would suffer from severe psy- along with the Democrat controlled
the militias, chological problems throughout their congress – for America’s ultimate failure
the criminal lives. “The trauma, the loss, the grief, in Iraq. CT
gangs, the the lack of prospects, the feeling of
death squads threat here and now, that it will all start Barry Lando, a former 60 Minutes
again, the impact of the sanctions, make producer, is the author of Web of
us ask if these children are not the most Deceit: The History of Western
suffering child population on earth.” Complicity in Iraq from Churchill
Those sanctions, we reemphasize, to Kennedy to George W. Bush.
lasted for another 12 years after that He also blogs at

34 TheREADER | April 2007



joined tens of thousands of people In truth, these “demonstrations” and The
of every kind from all over in Wash- “marches” do more to harm our cause demonstrations
ington’s freezing wind on the fourth than to serve it. or rallies are
anniversary of the Iraq War to The marches are full of bonhomie, boring, endlessly
march on the Pentagon, after a week of solidarity, and spirit, but essentially are verbose and
multiple actions and protests, including easily ignored marches to nowhere. The hopelessly
the encampment at the Capitol, arrests demonstrations or rallies are boring, diffused affairs,
inside the Rayburn building where none endlessly verbose and hopelessly dif- run apparently
of We The People were allowed into fused affairs, run apparently more to more to satisfy
Our House to witness the Co-Conspir- satisfy the egos of their promoters than the egos of
ators’ cha cha cha, and an action by to provide lightning rods or impetus for their promoters
3,000 Christian Anti War Activists with change. than to provide
multiple arrests in the sleet and snow. The major pimp media and the en- lightning rods
Brave and hearty souls, all of ‘em. forcers of the status quo use the meager or impetus
But . . . If we want the war to stop, if we attendance at these events to prove for change
want seriously to cause change, we’re their case: that those against the war
going to have to dump these worn out are a marginal few, and a motley dis-
old models, and the obsolete 1967 style jointed few at that.
Protest March. What worked in 1967 It was not the bad weather, or the lo-
works no more. gistical difficulties, or the lack of media
We took one last ride in the old exposure that kept tens of millions
sedan, and – as well as the old boy has away from this and many other demon-
served us over the years, as comfy as it strations. It was that the event itself,
is to ride in, as much as it revives warm like so many before – was going to be
memories of granpa and granma and one more unfocused and unproductive
how we did so much Good when we snore.
were kids – it’s time to stuff it and hang What exactly was the POINT ?
it on the wall. The organizers accepted the restric-

April 2007 | TheREADER 35


If we want tions laid out by the cops, started on the period of their lives when they could
to change outskirts of town, and then left town feel strong, powerful, potent; with life
anything, completely. We needed to be in the and death in their hands, and shared
we’d better middle of town, in the middle of the purpose in their daily lives. Who have
do something week, and on the doorsteps of those never again felt as good as when they
new, and be funding, running and supporting this could strap on the M-16, and kick some
quick about it war, not on a weekend in a dingy incon- slope ass.
spicuous parking lot well out of the There was more real dialogue about
earshot and view of anyone even the war in the confrontations between
slightly involved with the war. We did these vets and the protestors, than we
not need speeches, we needed to stop have heard or seen in Congress or the
the machine. Stop business as usual. major media in six years, including the
What is it that compels people to re- last three months under Pelosi’s Pos-
peat acts that do not work? What is it eurs. Is there more self-delusion pos-
that causes pretty smart folks to rely on sible than the sign “Safe since 9-11”? Or
and invest expectations in others, like another that read “There or HERE”?
those in Congress, to end this war for Well, just about as much as the self-
us, when we all know that they have serving illusion that another XX thou-
done, and will do, nothing of the kind ? sand people marching with signs and
Of course, we show up and feel bet- hearing harangues and going home will
ter because we see people who share do one single thing to change the course
our views, and can vent some feelings of this war or alter our precipitate de-
about the way things are being done – scent into fascism and planetary de-
in a supportive environment of like- struction.
minded souls. But damned few of us are Here is what I think needs to be
showing up, and when we do, nothing done: We need to take care of this our-
really happens, and absolutely nothing selves. No Congress, no newspaper, no
changes. court, no silver tongued candidate, no
So, if we want to make ourselves feel messiah. No logos, no “organizations.”
better, we can keep marching and We need to mobilize, we the people
chanting and carrying smart signs and of the country, one body and one con-
we can continue to write or email or fax science and one will at a time.
or call our Congresspeople. If we want And we need to walk – starting from
to change anything, we’d better do wherever we are – to Washington DC.
something new, and be quick about it. And walk into Washington DC, and to
Along the march route, we encoun- the White House, and Congress, and
tered a good sized group of Pro War the Pentagon and all along K street-
demonstrators, many of them Vietnam and fill the streets with our bodies, and
Vets. These are people who cannot ac- lie down and not allow another minute
cept that what they and many of their of this bloody business as usual.
buddies and families sacrificed for was We need to take Gandhi’s march to
meaningless, who are stuck – in that the sea ( uk/

36 TheREADER | April 2007


1930-1939/Story/0,,128140,00.html) as DC in three months or so, maybe even We need to

our model. by July 4. take Gandih’s
Every day, we walk, and we gather What do you say? How about we all march to the sea
others, and day after day we gather take a walk? I’ll tell ya what. If you will as our model
more and more – and the media cannot join me, I will stop everything I am do-
ignore us, and people along the way ing – everything – and do only this.
will take us in, and feed us and join us. Will you ? CT
I nominate and have tried to ask Cindy
Sheehan to lead the walk. She would be David Rubinson retired from a long life
ideal, but we don’t need her. We need in the record business producing a wide
you and me, and our kids and friends. variety of artists and film music.
And we need to start now. He lives in California and Jamaica W.I.
The weather is getting warm. If we and produces the Negril and Kingston
leave California in April, we can get to Free Film Festival.



If you enjoy The ColdType Reader

subscribe to future issues – it’s free!
April 2007 | TheREADER 37


Run via satellite n June this year, 26,000 US and tary base in Western Australia, which
from Australia Australian troops will take part in will bring the total of known US bases
and Hawaii, bombarding the ancient fragile around the world to 738. No matter the
Operation landscape of Australia. They will setback in Iraq, the US military empire
Talisman Sabre storm the Great Barrier Reef, gun down and its ambitions are growing.
2007 is warfare “terrorists” and fire laser-guided mis- Australia is important because of a
by remote siles at some of the most pristine remarkable degree of servility that
control, wilderness on earth. Stealth, B-1 and Howard has taken beyond even that
designed for B-52 bombers (the latter alone each of Tony Blair. Once described in the
“pre-emptive” carry 30 tonnes of bombs) will finish Sydney Bulletin as Bush’s “deputy sher-
attacks on other the job, along with a naval onslaught. iff ”, Howard did not demur when
countries Underwater depth charges will explode Bush, on hearing this, promoted him
where endangered species of turtle to “sheriff for south-east Asia”.
breed. Nuclear submarines will dis- With Washington’s approval, he has
charge their high-level sonar, which de- sent Australian troops and federal po-
stroy the hearing of seals and other ma- lice to intervene in the Pacific island
rine mammals. nations; in 2006, he effected “regime
Run via satellite from Australia and change” in East Timor, whose prime
Hawaii, Operation Talisman Sabre 2007 minister, Mari Alkatiri, had the nerve to
is warfare by remote control, designed demand a proper share of his country’s
for “pre-emptive” attacks on other oil and gas resources. Indonesia’s re-
countries. Australians know little about pression in West Papua, where Ameri-
this. The Australian parliament has not can mining interests are described as “a
debated it; the media is not interested. great prize”, is endorsed by Howard.
The result of a secret treaty signed by This sub-imperial role has a history.
John Howard’s government with the When the six Australian states feder-
Bush administration in 2004, it includes ated as a nation in 1901, “a Common-
the establishment of a vast, new mili- wealth . . . independent and proud”,

38 TheREADER | April 2007


said the headlines, the Australian “statesmen” only when they serve im- A Royal Air Force
colonists made clear that independence perial interests. (Honourable exceptions officer was
was the last thing they wanted. They have been dealt with by smear and sub- threatened with
wanted Mother England to be more version). In the 1960s, Menzies connived prosecution after
protective of her most distant colony to be “asked” to send Australian troops he revealed that
which, they pleaded, was threatened to fight for the Americans in Vietnam. 400 to 500
by a host of demons, not least the “Asi- Red China was coming, he said. Aborigines were
atic hordes” who would fall down on Howard is more extreme; in his decade in the target
them as if by the force of gravity. “The of power, he has eroded the very basis zones.
whole performance,” wrote the histo- of Australia’s social democratic institu- “Occasionally
rian Manning Clark, “stank in the nos- tions and cast his country as the model we would bring
trils. Australians had once again grov- of a Washington-style democracy, them in for
- elled before the English. There were where the only popular participation is decontamination,”
Fatman politicians who hungered for a that of voting every few years for two he said. “Other
foreign title just as their wives hun- “opposing” parties which share almost times, we just
gered after a smile of recognition from identical economic, foreign and “cul- shooed them
the Governor-General’s wife, who was tural” policies. off like rabbits”
said to be a most accomplished snub- For “cultural”, read race, which has
ber.” always been important in creating an
insidious state of fear and compliance.
Power hunger In 2001, Howard was re-elected after
Australia’s modern political class has manipulating the “children overboard
the same hunger for the recognition of affair”, in which his senior advisers
great power. In the 1950s, prime minis- claimed that Afghan refugees had cal-
ter Robert Menzies allowed Britain to lously thrown their children into the
explode nuclear bombs in Australia, sea in order to be rescued by an Aus-
sending clouds of radioactive material tralian naval vessel. They produced
across populated areas. Australians photographs that were proven false,
were told only the good news of being but only after Howard had touched
chosen for this privilege. A Royal Air every xenophobic nerve in the white
Force officer was threatened with pros- electorate and was duly re-elected. The
ecution after he revealed that 400 to two officials who brought the “crisis” to
500 Aborigines were in the target zones. its fraudulent fever pitch were pro-
“Occasionally we would bring them in moted after one of them admitted that
for decontamination,” he said. “Other the deception had “helped” the prime
times, we just shooed them off like rab- minister.
bits.” Blindness and unexplained deaths In a more scandalous case, Howard
followed. After 17 years in power, Men- claimed his defence department had
zies was knighted by the Queen and been unaware of another leaking,
made Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. stricken boat filled with Iraqi and
An undeclared maxim of Australian Afghan refugees heading for Australia
politics is that prime ministers become until after it had sunk. An admiral later

April 2007 | TheREADER 39


Rupert revealed this, too, was false; 353 people visers, David Gazard, recently distin-
Murdoch’s were allowed to drown, including 146 guished an American-run seminar in
influence has children. Melbourne, organised by the Public Re-
been critical, Above all, it is the control of dissent lations Institute of Australia, at which
far more so that has changed Australia. Rupert those paying A$595 were taught the
than in Britain. Murdoch’s influence has been critical, tricks of conflating activism with “ter-
Whenever far more so than in Britain. Whenever rorism” and “security threat”. Sugges-
Howard or one Howard or one of his more oafish min- tions included: “Call them suicide
of his more isters want to bend an institution or bombers . . . make them all look like ter-
oafish ministers smear an opponent, they carry out the rorists . . . tree-hugging, dope-smoking,
want to bend task in alliance with a pack of rabid bloody university graduate, anti-
an institution or mostly Murdoch commentators. As progress . . .” They were advised on
smear an Stuart MacIntyre describes in a new how to set up bogus community groups
opponent, they book, Silencing Dissent, the Melbourne and falsify statistics.
carry out the Herald-Sun columnist, Andrew Bolt,
task in alliance conducted a campaign of ridicule Murdoch poison
with a pack of against the independent Australian Re- Schoolteachers who do not fly the flag
rabid mostly search Council which, he claimed, had or music concert organisers who dis-
Murdoch fallen into the hands of a “a club of courage the attendance of racist thugs
commentators scratch-my-back-leftists” whose work wrapped in the flag are at risk of a dose
was “hostile to our culture, history and of Murdoch poison. Equally, if you re-
institutions”, as well as “peek-in-your- veal the shame of Australia’s vassal role
pants researchers fixated on gender and you are deemed “anti-Australian” and,
race”. The then minister of education, without irony, “anti- American”. Few
Brendan Nelson, vetoed one project Australians are aware that Murdoch,
grant after another without explana- who dominates the press, abandoned
tion. his own Australian citizenship so that
The National Museum of Australia, he could set up the Fox TV network in
the national child benefits centre, Abo- the US. The University of Sydney is to
riginal policy bodies and other inde- open a United States Study Centre,
pendent institutions have been sub- backed by Murdoch after he com-
jected to similar intimidation. A friend plained about the inability of Aus-
who holds a senior university post told tralians to appreciate the benefits of
me: “You dare not speak out. You dare the bloodbath in Iraq.
not oppose the government or ‘the big Having recently spoken at overflow-
end of town’ [corporate Australia].” ing public meetings in Brisbane, Sydney
As embarrassing corporate crime and Melbourne, I am left in no doubt
rises, the treasurer, Peter Costello, has that many are deeply worried that free-
blithely announced a ban on moral or doms in their sunny idyll are slipping
ethical boycotts of certain products. away. They were given a vivid reminder
There was no debate; the media was of this the other day when Vice Presi-
simply told. One of Costello’s senior ad- dent Dick Cheney came to Sydney to

40 TheREADER | April 2007


“thank” Howard for his support. The with Iran. Almost every speech he gives The New South
New South Wales state government includes a threat. Wales state
rushed through a law that allowed By any measure of international law, government
Cheney’s 70 secret service guards to Cheney is a major war criminal, yet it rushed through
carry live weapons. With the police, was left to a small, brave group of pro- a law that
they took over the centre of Sydney testers to uphold the Aussie myth of allowed
and closed the Harbour Bridge and principled rebellion and stand up to the Cheney’s
much of the historic Rocks area. Seven- police. 70 secret service
teen-vehicle motorcades swept theatri- The opposition Labor Party leader, guards to carry
cally here and there, as if Howard was Kevin Rudd, the embodiment of com- live weapons
boasting to Cheney: “Look at my con- pliance, called them “violent ferals”;
trol over this society; look at my compli- one of the protesters was 70 years old.
ant country.” The next day, the headline in the Syd-
And yet his guest and mentor is a ney Morning Herald read: “Terrorists
man who, having refused to fight in have ambitions of empire, says
Vietnam, has brought back torture and Cheney.” The irony was exquisite, if
lied incessantly about Iraq, who has lost. CT
made millions in stock options as his
Halliburton company profits from the John Pilger’s latest book is Freedom
carnage and who has vetoed peace Next Time (Bantam Press)









{ An excerpt from his book HEROES }


Download excerpts from his books,
all in pdf format, all FREE, at
April 2007 | TheREADER 41


The company f any of you doubts that protest is otters and even rarer wildlife, such as
intends to empty being criminalised in the United Cetti’s warblers and water rails(2). It is
the lake, line it Kingdom, take a look at the injunc- the place where local people walk their
with clay and tion posted at dogs, swim, fish and picnic. But for the
pour in at least Granted in the High Court by the Ho- giant energy company RWE npower,
60,000 tonnes of nourable Mr Justice Calvert-Smith, it which runs Didcot power station, it is
grey slurry – the forbids the people of a village in Ox- the next dump for its pulverised fly ash,
fly ash mixed fordshire from “coming to, remaining a by-product of burning coal. The com-
with water – on, trespassing or conducting any pany intends to empty the lake, line it
then wait for demonstrations or protesting or other with clay and pour in at least 60,000
years until it activities” on the claimant’s land(1). tonnes of grey slurry – the fly ash mixed
solidifies before As this land is also the villagers’ most with water – then wait for years until it
attempting treasured local amenity, it means they solidifies before attempting “remedia-
“remediation” have to abandon any effective means of tion”. Fly ash typically contains lead,
trying to protect their quality of life. If mercury, arsenic and cadmium(3).
not, they could end up with five years The project, in other words, is an
behind bars. abomination. The people of Radley vil-
On second thoughts, don’t look at lage, as anyone would, have tried to
the injunction – it will turn you to stop this dumping. They have marched
stone. A cunning clause ensures that it and demonstrated and photographed
also applies “to any other person who the cutting down of trees and the de-
has been given notice of the terms of struction of habitats. They have been
this order”. In fact you have probably confronted by one of the most brutal
already been injuncted by reading the instruments on the statute book.
first paragraph of this article. So if you The Protection from Harassment Act
value your liberty, you can’t now go 1997 is, on the face of it, a sensible piece
near Thrupp Lake. of legislation defending people from
The lake is the haunt of kingfishers, stalkers. But when it was drafted, sev-

42 TheREADER | April 2007


eral of us warned that it failed to distin- tographed them(6). I don’t know whe– As well as being
guish between genuine harassment and ther or not this is true, but the guards forbidden
legitimate protest. Harassment includes claim this has made them feel “scared” to step onto
“alarming the person or causing the and “intimidated” for themselves or the land they
person distress”, which could mean al- their families. It seems to me that the have walked
most anything: you can alarm some- security company has hired a bunch of and played on
one, for example, by telling them that right cissies. But all the act requires is a for years, the
pulverised fly ash contains mercury. It judgement that the men felt “alarmed” villagers and
requires a “course of conduct” to be or distressed”. other protesters
pursued, but this means nothing more So an instrument designed to pre- are forbidden
than doing something twice(4). If you vent intimidation in turn intimidates. to loiter
take two pictures of workers felling As well as being forbidden to step onto “within
trees, that counts. Conduct includes the land they have walked and played 5 yards of any
speech. on for years, the villagers and other pro- of the
Worse still, it was the first of several testers are forbidden to loiter “within 5 protected
“behaviour acts” which blur the dis- yards of any of the protected persons persons
tinction between civil and criminal of- (whether on foot or in vehicles) in the
fences. The victim of the course of con- vicinity of Radley Lakes”(7). In other
duct may take a civil claim to the High words, if one of the security guards ap-
Court. On the basis of far less evidence proaches them, they must step well
than a criminal case requires the court back if they want to avoid the possibil-
can grant an injunction against the de- ity of five years inside. The injunction
fendant. If the defendant then breaks has thrown a great bucket of cold wa-
that injunction – by continuing to talk ter over their attempts to protect the
to the people he is seeking to dissuade, neighbourhood.
or to march or picket or protest – he At first I thought these uses were an
then commits a criminal offence, carry- accidental product of bad drafting. Now
ing up to five years’ imprisonment. I am not so sure. The law company
We warned that it had the makings serving the writ, Lawson-Cruttenden,
of a new sedition law. No one took us describes itself as “the market leader
seriously. But the first three people to be in obtaining ground breaking injunc-
arrested under the act were peaceful tions on behalf of individuals and cor-
protesters(5). Since then it has been used porations who have been the subject of
repeatedly to stifle legitimate dissent. harassment by direct action protest
The injunction was granted on the groups.” It also boasts that it “assisted
grounds that the site’s security guards in the drafting of the … Protection from
were feeling threatened by the protest- Harassment Act 1997”(8). Are such ap-
ers. Many of the guards are former parent conflicts of interest normal? Did
members of the armed forces. In the Lawson-Cruttenden know that the act
photos I have seen they wear black face would support a lucrative line of busi-
masks. They allege that protesters have ness? Did Michael Howard, the Home
spoken threateningly to them and pho- Secretary at the time, know that com-

April 2007 | TheREADER 43


Lawyers have an panies like this would use the law like and the other barrister-legislators.
instinctive love a new riot act? When you elect lawyers, you get laws.
of new laws, as The journalist Henry Porter, who has I have met quite a few lawyers – not
this is how they done more than anyone else to draw at- always voluntarily – and some of them
derive their tention to some of our illiberal new are able to perform a passable impres-
power over laws, believes that they result from sion of human beings. Like teenagers,
the rest of us. Tony Blair’s “authoritarian streak” and they are generally quite harmless by
In this respect his attempts to build a “fussy, hairsplit- themselves. But sensible voters would
Tony Blair ting, second-guessing, politically cor- ensure that they were never let loose in
differs not a jot rect state”(9). On this matter I think he a representative chamber. People of the
from Margaret is wrong. same trade seldom meet together but
Thatcher, Some of the most illiberal laws of re- the conversation ends in a conspiracy
Michael Howard, cent years – the 1986 Public Order Act, against the public. Lawyers are no ex-
Jack Straw the 1992 Trade Union Act, the 1994 ception. CT
and the other Criminal Justice Act, the 1996 Security
barrister- Service Act, the 1997 Police Act and the NOTES
legislator 1997 Protection from Harassment Act – 1.
were drafted by the Conservatives. Blair npower-injunction-in-full
has supplemented them with all man- 2.
ner of pernicious instruments (such as village/natural_history/thrupp_ lakes.
the 2000 Terrorism Act, the 2001 Anti- htm
Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, the 3. See Save Radley Lakes, 2007. Why are
2001 Criminal Justice and Police Act, the we so concerned?
2003 Anti-Social Behaviour Act, the
2004 Civil Contingencies Act and the ground%20info/CONCERNS.htm
2005 Serious Organised Crime and Po- 4. Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
lice Act). But this illiberal trend long
pre-dates him. 1997/97040 – a.htm#2
I think it arose partly in line with 5. SchNEWS, 20th March 1998. Issue 159.
rising inequality, and the ever more ur-
gent demands by corporations and the 6. Eg Witness statements A,C, D, E, F & G
super-rich that their assets and their (appended).
position be defended. But it also re- 7. See
flects something else, seldom discussed the-npower-injunction-in-full
by the press: the over-representation 8. http://www.lawson-cruttenden.
of lawyers in British politics. Lawyers 9. Henry Porter, 29th June 2006. Blair laid
have an instinctive love of new laws, as bare: the article that may get you ar-
this is how they derive their power over rested. The Observer.
the rest of us. In this respect Tony Blair
differs not a jot from Margaret George Monbiot’s latest book is Heat
Thatcher, Michael Howard, Jack Straw (Doubleday Canada)

44 TheREADER | April 2007




lash! This just in! The Cold War ing for freedom and democracy. A US-backed
was not a struggle between the I’m reminded of all this because of a war that was
United States and the Soviet recent article in the Washington Post defined at the
Union. about El Salvador. It concerned two time as a battle
It was a struggle between the United men who had been on opposite sides against
States and the Third World. What in the civil war of 1980-1992. One was communism
there was, was people all over the Third José Salgado, who had been a govern- is now seen
World fighting for economic and polit- ment soldier, and is now the mayor of by former
ical changes against US-supported re- San Miguel, El Salvador’s second- government
pressive regimes, or setting up their largest city. soldiers and
own progressive governments. Salgado enthusiastically embraced former guerrillas
These acts of self-determination did- the scorched-earth tactics of his army as less a conflict
n’t coincide with the needs of the bosses, the Post reports, even mas- about ideology
American power elite, and so the sacres of children, the elderly, the sick and more
United States moved to crush those – entire villages. It was all in the name a battle over
governments and movements even of beating back communism, Salgado poverty
though the Soviet Union was playing says he remembers being told. But he’s and basic
virtually no role at all in these scenar- now haunted by doubts about what he human rights
ios. (It is remarkable the number of saw, what he did, and even why he
people who make fun of conspiracy fought. A US-backed war that was de-
theories but who accepted without fined at the time as a battle against
question the existence of an Interna- communism is now seen by former
tional Communist Conspiracy.) government soldiers and former guer-
Washington officials of course could- rillas as less a conflict about ideology
n’t say that they were intervening to and more a battle over poverty and
block economic or political change, so basic human rights.
they called it “fighting communism”, “We soldiers were tricked,” says Sal-
fighting a communist conspiracy, fight- gado. “They told us the threat was

April 2007 | TheREADER 45


A civil war communism. But I look back and real- ing his friends in the People’s Revolu-
still rages in ize those weren’t communists out there tionary Army. He remembers fighting
Colombia. that we were fighting – we were just “for a piece of land, for the chance that
Government poor country people killing poor coun- my children might someday get to go
soldiers and try people.” to the university.”(1)
large numbers Salgado says he once thought that The Salvadoran government could
of right-wing the guerrillas dreamed of communism, never have waged the war as destruc-
paramilitary but now that those same men are his tively and for as long as it did without
forces, with colleagues in business and politics, he a massive influx of military aid and
indispensable is learning that they wanted what he training from Washington – estimated
and endless wanted: prosperity, a chance to move value: six billion dollars; 75,000 Sal-
military support up in the world, freedom from repres- vadorans dead; about 20 Americans
from the United sion. killed or wounded in combat; dissi-
States, battle All of which makes what they see dents today still have to fear right-wing
“communism”, around them today even more heart- death squads; scarcely any significant
year after year, breaking and frustrating. For all their social change in El Salvador; the poor
decade after sacrifices, El Salvador is still among the remain as ever; a small class of the
decade poorest countries in the Western Hemi- wealthy still own the country. But never
sphere – more than 40 percent of Sal- mind. “Communism” was defeated,
vadorans live on less than $2 a day, and El Salvador remains a loyal mem-
according to the United Nations. The ber of the empire, sending troops to
country is still racked by violence, still Iraq.(2)
scarred by corruption. For some the This is not merely of historical inter-
question remains: Was it all worth it? est. A civil war still rages in Colombia.
“We gave our blood, we killed our Government soldiers and large num-
friends and, in the end, things are still bers of right-wing paramilitary forces,
bad,” says Salgado. “Look at all this with indispensable and endless military
poverty, and look how the wealth is support from the United States, battle
concentrated in just a few hands.” “communism”, year after year, decade
The guerrillas Salgado once fought after decade.
live with the same doubts. Former The casualties long ago exceeded El
guerrilla Benito Argueta laments that Salvador. The irony is monumental, for
the future didn’t turn out as he’d of those labeled “communist”, a hand-
hoped. ful of the older ones may have fancied
Even though some factions of the themselves as heirs to Che Guevara 10
coalition of guerrilla armies that fought or 20 or 30 years ago, but for a long time
in the civil war were Marxist, he said, now the primary motivation of these
ideology had nothing to do with his de- “left-wing” paramilitary forces has
cision to take up arms and leave the been profits from drugs and kidnap-
farm where his father earned only a ings, obtaining revenge for their com-
few colones for backbreaking work. rades’ deaths, and staying alive and
Nor did ideology play a role in motivat- avoiding capture.

46 TheREADER | April 2007


Someday the survivors on both sides sentative for German-American rela- Someday, as
may well be expressing sentiments and tions: “You concentrate on rebuilding well, survivors
regrets similar to the Salvadorans and peacekeeping, but the unpleasant on all sides of
above, wondering what the hell it was things you leave to us.” ... “The Ger- Washington’s
all really about, or at least wondering mans have to learn to kill.” “War on
what the United States’s obsessive in- A German officer at NATO head- Terrorism”,
terest in their country was. (For those quarters was told by a British officer: may wonder
who may have forgotten, it should be “Every weekend we send home two who the real
noted that the Soviet Union has not metal coffins, while you Germans dis- terrorists were
existed since 1991.) tribute crayons and woollen blankets.”
And someday, as well, survivors on A NATO colleague from Canada re-
all sides of Washington’s “War on Ter- marked that it was about time that
rorism”, may wonder who the real ter- “the Germans left their sleeping quar-
rorists were. ters and learned how to kill the Tal-
The Germans have to learn to kill Bruce George, the head of the British
In the September 5, 2005 edition of this Defence Committee, said “some drink
report I wrote about the decades-long tea and beer and others risk their lives.”
effort by the United States to wean And in Quebec, a Canadian official
Japan away from its post-WW2 pacifist told a German official: “We have the
constitution and foreign policy and set dead, you drink beer.”(3)
it back on the righteous path to again Yet, in many other contexts since the
being a military power, acting in coordi- end of the war the Germans have been
nation with US foreign policy needs. unable to disassociate themselves from
For some years, the United States the image of Nazi murderers and mon-
has of course had the same goal in sters.
mind for its other major WW2 foe. But Will there come the day when the
recent circumstances indicate that Taliban and Iraqi insurgents will be
Washington may be losing patience mocked by “the Free World” for living
with the rate of Germany’s submission in peace?
to the empire’s embrace. Germany de-
clined to send troops to Iraq and sent Should it be legal under
only non-combat forces to Afghan- international law to criticize
istan, not quite good enough for the the state of Israel?
Pentagon war lovers and their NATO “On Faith”, an Internet feature of the
allies. Germany’s leading news maga- Washington Post and Newsweek mag-
zine, Der Spiegel, recently reported the azine, poses questions each week to a
following: panel of more than 50 persons from the
At a meeting in Washington, Bush world of religion. A recent question was
administration officials, speaking in the “Can you be critical of Israel and not be
context of Afghanistan, berated Kar- anti-Semitic?”
sten Voigt, German government repre- Jonathan Sarna, professor of Ameri-

April 2007 | TheREADER 47


Can those in can Jewish history at Brandeis Univer- 40th anniversary of the March
Palestine sity replied: “Much depends on the on the Pentagon, coming up
and Lebanon, motives of the critic. The unworthy crit- March 17; an excerpt from
upon whose ics today are easy to find. ... their shrill William Blum’s memoir
heads and voices are neither moderated by love
homes Israeli nor tinged with sadness. Their desire is October 21, 1967, the March on the Pen-
bombs fall, to see the Jewish state destroyed. The tagon, surely one of the most extraor-
be worthy worthy critics, by contrast, are more dinary and imposing acts of protest
critics of Israeli scarce. ... their words mingle praise and civil disobedience in history – the
policies? along with reproof. They speak directly, government hunkered down in its
Are they not sadly, and always in pain.”(4) trenches in the face of an audacious as-
speaking So there you have it. A question so sault upon its seat of power by its own
“directly, sadly, ridiculous on its face that it should not citizens; a demonstration much bigger
and always even be raised by two media giants or than the Bonus Marchers of 1932 (those
in pain”? anyone else with any intellectual pre- depression-stricken World War One
tensions, but is being raised because of veterans demanding payment on their
the unrelenting pressure of the Israeli government bonus certificates NOW,
lobby in the United States and not in some pie-in-the-sky future – the
throughout the world. It then receives people peaceably assembled to petition
an appropriately ridiculous answer. the government for a redress of griev-
Can anyone express reservations ances, violently and humiliatingly
about a papal decree and not be anti- squashed by federal troops under the
Catholic? Can anyone be critical of the command of a general named Mac-
pilgrimages to Mecca, which often end Arthur, and his aide named Eisen-
in tragedy, and not be anti-Islam? Can hower, and their officer named Patton.)
anyone be critical of the African negli- After a stirring concert at the Reflect-
gence on the AIDS crisis and not be ing Pool by Phil Ochs surrounded by
racist? 150,000 of his closest friends, most of
For anyone in the world to criticize the protestors marched over the Me-
the US war in Iraq do they have to love morial Bridge to the war factory. Never
the United States? To be taken seri- to be forgotten: the roof of the Penta-
ously – to be judged a “worthy critic” – gon when the colossus first came into
must they in the same breath offer view and we marched closer and closer
some kind of praise for the US? Are we – soldiers standing guard, spaced
to judge that those who don’t do so de- across the roof from one side to the
sire to see the American state de- other, weapons at the ready, motion-
stroyed? Can those in Palestine and less, looking down upon us from on
Lebanon, upon whose heads and high with all the majesty of stone war-
homes Israeli bombs fall, be worthy riors or gods atop a classical Greek
critics of Israeli policies? Are they not temple. For the first time that day I
speaking “directly, sadly, and always in wondered – not without excitement –
pain”? what I was letting myself in for.

48 TheREADER | April 2007


This was wholly unlike my first At one spot a Vietnam teach-in for the The
protest at the Pentagon. This was not troops was broken up by MPs with paratroopers
a group of Quaker pacifists sworn to clubs. proceeded to
non-violence, who could bring out the Later, 82nd Airborne Division para- kick ass –
least macho side of even professional troopers, veterans of Vietnam, entered after ‘Nam this
military men, and who would be re- the scene, bayonets fixed, face to face was a church
ceived cordially in the Pentagon cafete- at last with these people they had been picnic – and
ria. Today, we were as welcome and as hearing about so much, the privileged many bruised
safe as narcs at a biker rally. Our num- little sons of bitches whose incessant and battered
bers included many the boys at the crying about international law and demonstrators
Pentagon must have been itching to get morality and god-knows-what-else were carried
their hands on, like those in the Com- gave aid and comfort to the enemy, the away to waiting
mittee to Aid the National Liberation cowardly little snotnosed draft-dodgers prison busses,
Front, with their Vietcong flags, and who wallowed in sex and dope while helping to swell
SDS, and other “anti-imperialist” the GIs wallowed in mud and death the day’s total
groups, who became involved in some (and dope as well). arrestees
of the earliest confrontations that day. The paratroopers proceeded to kick to near 700
In sharp contrast to the likes of these ass – after ‘Nam this was a church pic-
were the illuminati like Norman Mailer, nic – and many bruised and battered
Marcus Raskin, Noam Chomsky, demonstrators were carried away to
Robert Lowell, Dwight McDonald – waiting prison busses, helping to swell
men in dark suits, white shirts and ties the day’s total arrestees to near 700.
as if to ward off evil spirits with the The protestors, whose only defense
cross of respectability. was to lock arms, appealed to the sol-
In the vast parking lot to which we diers to back off, to join them, to just
were confined, open hostility was kept act human, shouting through a bull
in check at first, but it was clear that horn: “The soldiers are not our enemy,
the peace was only an inch deep. Re- the decision makers are.” Though this
peated draft-card burnings took place was a sincere declaration, its failure to
– a veritable performance, with flaming sway their attackers gave way to angry,
cards held high and flaunted square in impotent curses of “bastards” and
the irises of the soldiers, whose faces “motherfuckers”.
were masked in studied indifference. I had no big argument with the idea
Although this augured conflict of un- that the soldiers’ bosses were the real
predictable dimensions, I found it ex- enemy, but I had real difficulty with the
hilarating to see all those young people expressions of “love” for the GIs that
acting so principled and fearless. I was some silly hippie types allowed to pass
sorry that I was too old to have a card their lips. The soldiers, after all, had
to burn. made decisions, just as others of their
Scattered pockets of mild confronta- generation had opted for draft evasion
tion broke out, soon unfolding into or Canada. These soldiers, in particular,
more widespread and serious clashes. were fresh from the killing fields. The

April 2007 | TheREADER 49


My favorite one idea of “individual responsibility” is not tenership on National Public Radio,
is that just a conservative buzzword. and I think she does a pretty good job
“marijuana use Several eyewitnesses told the Wash- with her very wide-ranging interviews,
leads to heroin”. ington Free Press that in other areas of but the woman has one deep-seated
How do they the “battlefield” they saw as many as flaw: She doesn’t understand ideology
know? Well, three soldiers drop their weapons and very well – right from left, conservative
95%, or 97%, helmets and join the crowd, and that at from liberal, liberal from radical leftist,
of all heroin least one of them was seized and and so on.
users first used dragged into the Pentagon by MPs Time and time again she gathers a
marijuana. soon afterward. Later attempts to ob- group to discuss some very controver-
That’s how tain information about these soldiers sial issue, and there is not amongst
they know. from the Pentagon were met with de- their number a single person of genuine
Of course, 100% nials.(5) leftist credentials, or even close to it;
of all heroin and from a number of remarks I’ve
users first used There’s no evidence heard her make, my guess is that this is
milk. Therefore, like no evidence not because she has a conservative
drinking milk “AIDS patients suffering from debilitat- bias, but rather that she has an inade-
leads to heroin? ing nerve pain got as much or more re- quate comprehension of what distin-
lief by smoking marijuana as they guishes left from right; although
would typically get from prescription whoever helps her choosing guests
drugs – and with fewer side effects – may well be conscious of what they’re
according to a study conducted under doing.
rigorously controlled conditions with The program of February 27, with
government-grown pot.”(6) someone sitting in for Rehm, is a case
So, yet another study illustrating the in point. The topic was Iran – all the
absurdity of marijuana use being illegal controversial issues surrounding that
in the United States. It remains to be country were on the table. The discus-
seen whether the anti-marijuana forces sants were: 1) someone from the Coun-
will even bother to respond with one of cil on Foreign Relations (CFR), the
their fatuous arguments. My favorite oldest, most traditional private institu-
one is that “marijuana use leads to tion in support of US imperialism; 2)
heroin”. How do they know? Well, someone from the American Enterprise
95%, or 97%, of all heroin users first Institute, which makes the CFR look
used marijuana. That’s how they know. positively progressive; 3) someone from
Of course, 100% of all heroin users first the Brookings Institution, which is
used milk. Therefore, drinking milk about on a par with CFR ideologically.
leads to heroin? The Brookings representative was Ken-
neth Pollack, former CIA analyst and
The sins of omission are National Security Council staffer, who
more insidious than will always be remembered (or at least
the sins of commission should be) for his 2002 book:
Diane Rehm has a large and loyal lis- The Threatening Storm: The Case for

50 TheREADER | April 2007


Invading Iraq. Can we look forward to accept him; the man then hurled him- . . . a paraplegic
his next book, The Case for Global self from the hospital van to the street. man, no
Warming”? Witnesses said that the van driver ig- wheelchair
In a society which pays so much lip nored their cries for help and instead or walker,
service to dissent, free speech, and applied makeup and perfume before somehow
Town Hall “balanced” discussions, the speeding off.(7) propelling
lineup of Diane Rehm’s guests is de- This is one of several cases in the re- himself along
pressingly typical in the mainstream cent past of “homeless dumping” in Los a street in
world. Whether it’s the 9-11 Commis- Angeles. It’s all very understandable, Los Angeles,
sion, the Iraq Study Group, the Con- from a bookkeeping point of view. The a broken
gressional JFK assassination com- homeless missions have only so many colostomy bag
mittee, or any of dozens of other con- beds, the hospitals have a budget and dangling from
gressional investigating committees the debits and the credits have to bal- his piteous body,
over the years, the questioning, chal- ance. It’s what happens when a free clothed in a
lenging, progressive point of view is al- market in a free society guarantees ac- soiled hospital
most always one that cannot be cess to Coca Cola but not to health gown, dragging
entertained in polite society. care. CT a bag of his
belongings in his
Is capitalism past NOTES clenched teeth
its sell-by date? [1] Washington Post , January 29, 2007, p.1
The prisoner at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, [2] For further details of the civil war pe-
standing on a box, a pointed black riod see William Blum, “Killing Hope: US
hood over his face, his arms out- Military and CIA Interventions Since
stretched, electrical wires dangling World War II”, chapter 54
from his fingers, leading to other parts [3] Der Spiegel, November 20, 2006, p.24
of his cloaked body ... a symbol, an [4] Washington Post, February 24, 2007,
iconic image of the US war against the p.B9
people of Iraq. [5] “West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War
Now we have, if a photo were avail- Memoir”,
able, what could be an iconic image of bblum6/mem.htm
the US war against the people of Amer- [6] Washington Post, February 13, 2007,
ica, or at least against their health care p.14
– a paraplegic man, no wheelchair or [7] Los Angeles Times, February 15, 2007
walker, somehow propelling himself
along a street in Los Angeles, a broken William Blum is the author of
colostomy bag dangling from his Killing Hope: US Military and CIA
piteous body, clothed in a soiled hospi- Interventions Since World War 2;
tal gown, dragging a bag of his belong- Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s
ings in his clenched teeth ... This Only SuperpowerWest-Bloc
human being had been taken by Hol- Dissident: A Cold War Memoir;
lywood Presbyterian Medical Center to and Freeing the World to Death:
a homeless mission, which refused to Essays on the American Empire

April 2007 | TheREADER 51



“There’s no way urreal. Prince Harry, the Queen’s dard that the “spare heir” as some
I’m going to sit 22-year-old grandson, the late cynics shamefully refer to him is “...ab-
on my arse Princess Diana’s youngest son solutely officer material ...and not over
while my boys and third in line to the throne, is complicated”.
are fighting.” being dispatched to Iraq, with his regi- The Prince left Britain’s elite Eton
ment, the Blues and Royals. To be de- College with a ‘B’ grade in art, which
ployed in Basra, the party loving Prince led to his art teacher, Sarah Forsyth, re-
is reportedly “over the moon” and ceiving £45,000 in damages, for unfair
“thrilled”. He has apparently under- dismissal from the College, for alleging
gone a course in cultural awareness and she had helped with the project. A
customs (presumably including kicking spokesman for the Prince rejected her
down doors at 3 a.m., hurling families claims, detailed The Scotsman (14th
from their beds and dragging kids into February 2006.) The man who is to
barracks and beating them up, with the lead his ‘boys’ through Mesapotamia’s
odd bit of torture thrown in.) complex and often (to western eyes)
“Cornet Wales”, is his official army featureless Basra Province and the myr-
title, equal to a Second Lieutenant (a iad alleys and sprawling complexities of
cornet is also a conical wafer filled with ancient Basra City, also gained a ‘D’ in
ice cream, which drips copiously unless geography.
eaten with speed) said, of his determi- Dropped from his final exams was
nation to deploy, rather than be history, which might have been helpful.
grounded at home for safety reasons: Iraqis have a long historical memory of
“There’s no way I’m going to sit on my British invasions for which they suf-
arse while my boys are fighting.” His fered. Basra was first occupied by the
“boys?” Hope they know their place British in November 1914. Uprisings fol-
under their fledgling Sovereign Lord. lowed, culminating in 1920, when Iraq
Professor Michael Clark of London’s was put under British mandate. (In
King’s College told the Evening Stan- 1917, British General Stanley Maude

52 TheREADER | April 2007


stood in Falluja and said that we come ple. “I do not understand this squea- All history
as “liberators’ not as ‘invaders.”) mishness about the use of gas. I am repeats
On 13th August 1921 Britain installed strongly in favour of using poison gas uncannily
their puppet King, Faisal 1st. (“At last against uncivilised tribes”, wrote Win- in Iraq.
we have crowned our little King”, ston Churchill. And the same
wrote Gertrude Bell from Baghdad.) “If the Kurds hadn’t learned by our disregard
Subsequently the British went on example to behave themselves in a for life and
their re-mapping of the region (‘lines in civilised way, then we had to spank patronisation
the sand’) and in 1933 Faisal died and their bottoms. This was done by bombs had been shown
was succeeded by his son Ghazi who and guns”, wrote Wing Commander for its people
was assassinated in 1939 – Iraq version. Gale, 30th Squadron, Royal Air Force
Killed in a car crash, British version. (courtesy Simons.) The British em-
The British were anyway held respon- ployed or educated virtually no Iraqis,
sible by the Iraqis. and when they left, writes SImons, the
When World War II broke out, the average life expectency was 26 and il-
Iraqi government of Nuri Said sided literacy over 90 percent.
with Britain (he ended up being drag- Add recent history’s wickednesses
ged through the streets until little re- and the more recent 13 year embargo,
mained.) responsible for at least one and a half
On the 14th July, 1958 the last vestige million excess deaths (1990-2003) an il-
of British influence died with the exe- legal invasion and subsequent carnage,
cution of Faisal II, when 200 ‘Free Offi- the lynching of Iraq’s legitimate Presi-
cers’ overthrew the monarchy. dent and his half brother and this is
‘Independence’ from Britain had been where the ‘not over complicated’ Prince
declared in 1932, in fact it mirrored is to lead his ‘boys’.
Iraq’s fake ‘independence’ of America Basra has also been war’s front line
and Britain now and only died with in recent decades. In the Iran-Iraq war
Faisal II. (1980-1988) the 1991 Gulf war, and now
“The full period of the British im- in the Iranian incursions and British
posed monarchy saw great turbulence and American onslaughts and disre-
in Iraq .. violence and terror’ escalated gard for the ancient city’s peoples. ‘If
... ‘coups, assassinations, public execu- there was a war between France and
tions, persecution of dissident groups Germany, Basra would be bombed’, is
... uprising, followed uprising..” writes a wry saying in the town. First World
Geoff Simons (Iraq: from Sumer to Sad- War poet Siegfried Sassoon’s family
dam, Macmillan 1994.) Further, then as came from Basra :
now, fundamentalist elements in Iran “You smug-faced crowds with kindling
sought to wield influence, especially in eye
Basra and the southern provinces. Who cheer when soldier lads march by,
All history repeats uncannily in Iraq. Sneak home and pray you’ll never know
And the same disregard for life and pa- The hell where youth and laughter go”.
tronisation had been shown for its peo- (Suicide in the Trenches )

April 2007 | TheREADER 53


Only the naive Sinbad left for his magical journeys ing, invading, slaughtering, lynching the
would think from this haunting city, which, with the legitimate President of Iraq. Prince
that the capture, region, produces nearly 600 different Harry and his ‘boys’ are now to illegally
or worse, of the kinds if dates, revered as near sacred, squat in Palaces or other State build-
Prince would as Palestine’s olives. The British arrived ings. A war crime.
not be the in Basra in 2003 flying the St George He will also be part of the Nurem-
ultimate flag – the Crusaders’ flag – on their ve- berg Tribunal’s ruling of the ‘supreme
payback time hicles. When lack of water, due to crime’: a war of agression. It has to be
for numerous bombing, became a death threatening wondered what Her Majesty must
British historical crisis for the population, donated water think. Only the naive would think that
injustices in aid was brought in on the British Naval the capture, or worse, of the Prince
Iraq, ancient vessel ‘Sir Lancelot’. It seemingly turned would not be the ultimate payback
and recent in to a nice little earner. time for numerous British historical in-
Her Majesty’s Navy was reportedly justices in Iraq, ancient and recent. Fur-
so nervous of the traumatised, hungry, ther, the Prince cannot even go to a
dehydrated population, rather than night club in London’s exclusive May-
give it out themselves, they gave it to fair (and fall out of the door at 3 a.m.)
locals with tankers to sell to the penni- without a personal protection squad.
less. Any old tanker, no matter what As he becomes, inevitably, the ultimate
had been in it. Legend has it that Sir magnet for the resistance, it is reported
Lancelot was stolen as a baby and an SAS unit has been training to fol-
brought up by a water fairy. Those cru- low/protect/rescue him. What of the
saders sure have a sense of humour. prize his ‘boys’ too, will become, by his
If Prince Harry wishes to gauge the presence? The logic of his deployment
level of appreciation for the the illegal equals the recent revelation that the
British presence in Basra and Basra Ministry of Defence had spent £18,000
Province, he would do well to take his in experiments to find whether random
‘boys’ on a detour to Basra’s cemetary, U.K., citizens could find Osama bin
containing the British War Graves. Laden by clairvoyance. Prince Harry
Cemetaries of former British invaders, and his men, whether ‘patrolling’ or
throughout Iraq, have been tended by palace squatting, will be a prize beyond
generations of Iraqis, as if their own lay gold.
there, the oldest, for 100 years. At Britain’s precious Prince, will also be
death, God takes over responsibility for allowed home for a memorial service
injustice and He judges. A final resting for his mother and a concert in her ho-
place must be respected by the living. nour. Britain’s soldiers of a lesser God
On the invasion, British war graves being able to pop home for poignant
were immediately vandalised and family commemorations? Dream on.
wrecked – including that of General As the privileged pray and party, the
Maude, in Baghdad. ‘boys’ will doubtless patrol alone, even,
That, though is the fate of the dead. Heaven forbid, maybe pay the Cornet’s
Britain has joined America in crusad- price. “When the war is done and

54 TheREADER | April 2007


youth stone dead (and old men) toddle field. Her son is headed for both a po- The
home and die in bed”, wrote Basra’s litical and actual one. Ironically the Independent’s
son, Sassoon, of war planners. Prince’s deployment was announced on Political sketch
Prime Minister Blair said recently he 22nd February, a year to the day of the writer,
was ‘proud’ of his war. The Indepen- destruction of the Golden Mosque at Simon Carr,
dent’s Political Sketch writer, Simon Samarra. In the Middle East, dates are wrote in
Carr, wrote in concern of the Dear all. The second day of the second concern of the
Leader: ‘... crossing the fine line be- month, was deemed unlucky by Dear Leader:
tween insanity and lunacy’. Pythagoras and consigned to Pluto. ‘... crossing
When Prince Harry’s mother, Samarra was 222. the fine line
Princess Diana died, Blair at his school- between
boy Shakespearean best, stood with “Cry God, for Harry, England and insanity
wobbly lip and talked of ; “ ...the peo- St.”George’. Shakespeare, Henry V; Act and lunacy’
ple’s Princess.” It has to be hoped, that Three.
despite all best efforts, the final chap- Will humanity never learn? CT
ter in this historic folly which defies
shame, is not him stumbling into the Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist and
sunset, for a seat on the giant Carlile activist who has visited the Arab and
Group (founded by the Bush and Bin Muslim world on numerous occasions.
Laden families) remembered for all She has written and broadcast on Iraq,
time, paying tribute to: “The people’s and was also senior researcher for John
Prince.” Pilger’s award-winning documentary,
Diana herself is remembered in a Paying the Price: Killing the Children
carefully staged walk through a mine- of Iraq.


To mark the anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the
World Trade Center and Pentagon and US-led ‘war on terror,’
Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent of London’s
Independent returned to Afghanistan where he wrote
scathing essays on a bombing offensive to rid the country of
its Taliban rulers and Bin Laden’s al-Qa’ida leaders.
Download your FREE copy at

April 2007 | TheREADER 55



The Iraqis are our years into the Iraq war – quite the same page, and compete for
intimately aware “hard to believe,” eh, Mr Wol- authority and resources – a competi-
of the debate fowitz? – don’t expect the U.S. tion that occurs partly in the public eye,
in Washington media to dwell on the concep- via “leaks” to the media, whose source
over withdrawal, tual foundations of this catastrophe. is invariably the bureaucratic rivals of
and they know That may be because the media was those who are made to look bad by the
that despite rather complicit in laying those founda- story. The executive decisionmakers are
the surge of tions. But the more interesting ques- always vulnerable to the limited ap-
troops, the U.S. tion, today, I think, is where the Iraq ad- petite of the electorate for costly impe-
will in the near venture is going, because its narratives rial adventures, and the electorate gets
future be forced have clearly unraveled, and its strategic to express its impatience every two
by domestic purpose – in the sense of attainable years by using the ballot box to limit
pressure to goals rather than fantasies – is now far the authority of those directing the cur-
withdraw most from clear. To be sure, today, Washing- rent imperial expedition.
of its infantry ton is clear only on what it wants to The patience of the enemy out in the
from Iraqi prevent in Iraq, and even then its field, meanwhile, is invariably far deeper
streets chances of doing so are slim. Still, as than that allowed by U.S. election cy-
Bush says, that doesn’t mean it can cles. Ho Chi Minh knew that; so do the
withdraw. Iraqi insurgents and the Shiites and the
It’s worth noting, in passing, that the Iranians, and the Palestinians and Syr-
decision making structures in the ians and everybody else Washington is
United States are fundamentally dys- fighting. The Iraqis are intimately aware
functional to its imperial project – its of the debate in Washington over with-
system of government is democratic (in drawal, and they know that despite the
a plutocratic sort of way), and distrib- surge of troops, the U.S. will in the near
utes its flow of information and decision future be forced by domestic pressure to
making across a number of bureaucratic withdraw most of its infantry from Iraqi
command centers that are seldom on streets. (No wonder frustrated hawks

56 TheREADER | April 2007


like Max Boot and Michael O’Hanlon establish (at the time, not only in retro- Paul Bremer
are suggesting that the U.S. military be- spect) that the war was based on false was sent in
gin outsourcing expeditionary warfare premises: Not only the premise that without a clue,
to the satrapies, offering green cards for Saddam had some unconventional armed with
four years service – just as the British weapons, but that even if he did, that some old
wherever possible sent Indians or invading and occupying his country was manuals from
Ghurkas to do their fighting.) But even a wise response. (Think about it, would the occupation
that won’t overcome the bureaucratic Iraq be any less of a mess today if the of Germany in
internecine warfare. U.S. had actually found a couple of 1945 (no jokes!)
Ask a question as simple as “How sheds full of mustard gas and even a re- and a civil
could the U.S. occupy Iraq without hav- frigerator stocked with botulinum administration
ing a coherent plan?” and the answer is toxin?) Nor was it that hard to establish recruited largely
simple: There was a plan, but it was the inevitability that the U.S. occupa- from the intern
trashed because it had been developed tion of Iraq would stir a nationalist re- echelon
in the State Department, whose per- sistance that would be hard to contain of neocon
sonnel hadn’t drunk the Kool Aid of – people don’t like being occupied; it think-tanks
permanent revolution in the Middle makes Arab people feel like the Pales- (again,
East, and therefore couldn’t be trusted. tinians, and that inspires them to resist. no jokes!)
While the neocons might have believed All this was lost on the coterie of “ex-
their fantasies about Iraq tranforming perts” who have dominated the
itself immediately into a willing and milquetoast media discussion of Iraq
happy satrap of the U.S., the likes of even after they’ve been proved so spec-
Cheney and Rumsfeld had no inclina- tacularly wrong (Kristol, Boot, Kraut-
tion to back a long occupation. So, Paul hammer, Beinart, Hitchens, Packer and
Bremer was sent in without a clue, so on).
armed with some old manuals from the But there’s no value in reprising the
occupation of Germany in 1945 (no morbid jig that sent America lurching
jokes!) and a civil administration re- into this mess.
cruited largely from the intern echelon The more interesting question, I
of neocon think-tanks (again, no think, is what is Iraq now? What is the
jokes!). U.S. doing there? What are its objec-
tives, and which of them can be sal-
Media failure vaged? And the reason those questions
Then there’s the question of the media’s are so interesting is that the original
failure to challenge the conceptual bundle of impulses and objectives that
frameworks in which the public was took America into war has now com-
prepared for war. I’ll resist the hubristic pletely unraveled in the brutal reality of
temptation to reprise the predictive Iraq. Not only that, the U.S. long ago
highlights of the 487 pieces of analysis lost its ability to shape the outcome,
I’ve written for over the and the agendas of others limit what
years on Iraq, but suffice to say that Washington is able to achieve.
you didn’t need to be a clairvoyant to Bush sounded almost comical Mon-

April 2007 | TheREADER 57


Funny how those day when he appealed for patience, stake in the resulting vacuum. So, while
who tell us that saying it would take months to secure there’s not much that can be achieved,
“the only Baghdad. Perhaps, but pacification of cutting bait could result in greater set-
language Arabs the capital via a massive injection of backs.
understand is new troops, four years into the war, is Iraq, then, may no longer simply be
violence” are not much of an achievement – and even a place or a project; instead it has be-
those most then, it will happen relatively quickly come the morbid condition of contem-
inclined to because the Shiite militias have simply porary imperial America.
converse with gone to ground to let the U.S. forces The decision to invade Iraq is not re-
the Arab world sweep their areas unimpeded, and con- ducible to any single cause or impulse,
in that tongue centrate on the Sunni insurgents. as both the Administration hacks (in-
The Shiite and Sunni political-mili- cluding Christopher Hitchens!) and the
tary formations will be there months conspiracy theorists and vulgar-Marx-
from now, and there’s no sign that the ists would have us believe. Just as polit-
current government is able to achieve ical power itself rests in a complex web
an accord that would resolve the con- of relations and balances spread over a
flict. Nor is there a credible alternative range of different institutions with dif-
to the present government – if the best ferent interests and objectives, so must
hope is the wannabe-thug Iyad Allawi, the decision to go to war be explained
suddenly returned from London to try as the confluence of a range of different
and forge a new coalition, you know impulses into a kind of “perfect storm.”
Maliki is as good as it gets.
And, of course, some of the things Language of violence
Maliki has to do to stay in power are Even before 9/11 created an easily ex-
likely to intensify the conflict – not only ploited climate of fear and crude belief
his alliance with Sadr, but his depend- among those in power in the necessity
ence on the support of the Kurds, who of retribution (inspired by the sort of
are pressing to complete their takeover vulgar Orientalism of the Bernard Lewis
of Kirkuk this year, which the Sunni brigade – funny how those who tell us
Arabs and Turkey are unlikely to ac- that “the only language Arabs under-
cept. Breaking up the country will cause stand is violence” are those most in-
regional chaos, holding it together offers clined to converse with the Arab world
simply a more contained chaos. in that tongue), there were other im-
Still, Bush is not wrong in saying that pulses:
retreating from Iraq will empower ● IIraq was not invaded simply be-
forces hostile to the U.S. all over the re- cause of its vast oil reserves, and yet
gion. Of course he omits to acknowl- there’s absolutely no question that win-
edge that it already has, but a with- ning control over those reserves for
drawal would certainly underscore the Western oil companies was considered
image of epic defeat, and would likely a major benefit of going to war – given
plunge the region into chaos as various the broad prescriptions of the Energy
regional powers moved to secure their Task Force headed up by Cheney two

58 TheREADER | April 2007


years earlier, it’s simply impossible that staging area of U.S. military operations It was the very
the Administration had not factored throughout the region, building 14 per- weakness of the
the oil windfall into its thinking. Sad- manent bases there from which U.S. Iraqi regime that
dam was a nuisance in the geopolitical power could be projected in all direc- made it such
sphere, but once the opportunity pre- tions (and taking the pressure of host- an appealing
sented itself, there was no reason to ing the U.S. off the more fragile regime beach-head
live with his control over such vast oil in Saudi Arabia). And the neocons were for the launch
reservves. already talking about bringing down of a broad
● Iraq was not invaded simply be- the regimes of Iran, Syria and even strategy to
cause of the suspicion that it harbored Saudi Arabia, all of whom had actually reorder the
unconventional weapons. Even if it had allied with the U.S. to a greater or lesser politics of
the weapons unaccounted for by the extent against al-Qaeda. the region to
UN inspectors, those posed no strategic ● Iraq wasn’t invaded to spread the advantage
threat to anyone – indeed, it was the “democracy” in the Middle East; in- of the U.S. and
very weakness of the Iraqi regime that deed, democratic elections weren’t even its allies
made it such an appealing beach-head on the agenda as Bremer sought a through the
for the launch of a broad strategy to re- three-year process to remake the polit- application
order the politics of the region to the ical and economic system under his di- of U.S.
advantage of the U.S. and its allies rect control with no direct elections. It military force
through the application of U.S. military was the pressure from Ayatollah Sistani
force. and the Shiites that forced the U.S. to
● Iraq wasn’t invaded because of a relent and hold the elections, and once
suspicion that it might be in cahoots that happened, political control slipped
with al-Qaeda. That was the flimsiest forever out of the hands of the U.S. and
part of the case; indeed, it’s hard to the exiles it had cultivated and para-
imagine how Colin Powell could keep a chuted in – democracy produced a gov-
straight face making that allegation to ernment closer to Tehran than to Wash-
the UN Security Council. Al-Qaeda ington. Hobbesian hardmen like
loathed Saddam, and Saddam loathed Cheney and Rumseld would have had
al-Qaeda. Moreover, neither Saddam little instinctive enthusiasm for the
nor al-Qaeda represented a significant messianic naivete of the likes of Wol-
strategic threat to the U.S. Still, the fowitz and the neocons, but their prior-
broad strategy of putting a massive U.S. ity may have been to limit the exposure
military presence at the heart of the of U.S. troops and its duration,
Arab world was definitely viewed as a (Rummy) and to hasten the transfer of
means of destroying the emerging chal- authority to a kleptocratic Quisling
lenges to U.S. authority and influence class with whom the likes of Hallibur-
that al-Qaeda was hoping to stir. Partly, ton and the oil companies would love
this was the crude logic of “retaliation”; to deal. (Too bad democracy involves
partly it was a very specific plan to re- letting people vote.)
organize the political-military terrain Plainly, much of that vision lies in
of the region by making Iraq the major tatters. The question is how much of it

April 2007 | TheREADER 59


The fact that can be salvaged, and at what cost – or be for them. (Who’d have imagined the
there’s still no even more gloomily, how can Iraq be Trotskyist contrarian of old not only
sign of an Iraqi managed in ways that limit the extent flakking for the Administration, but also
air force or any to which it weakens and imperils U.S. as a shill for Big Oil…)
other military global interests. (It’s no longer plausible But whether it’s the troop surge or
capability to to see it as advancing those interests.) the oil law, what we’re seeing now are
defend the The Baghdad security plan is clearly panicky improvisations. And many
country’s triage, aggressive defense designed to questions simply remain unanswered
borders tells prevent the capital outside the Green – the Administration has studiously
you that Zone from falling entirely into the dodged ever stating clearly its inten-
Washington has hands of insurgents and militias. It’s be- tions, or even desires, apropos the per-
made no plans ing tied to political conditions set for the manent bases it has constructed in Iraq.
to leave Iraq Iraqi government, although it’s already (But Washington is still pouring billions
independent, clear that the government is unlikely of dollars into constructing them.) But
in the sense of to meet many of those – the idea of na- the fact that there’s still no sign of an
capable of tional reconciliation they envisage may Iraqi air force or any other military ca-
defending its not be plausible for the foreseeable fu- pability to defend the country’s borders
sovereignty, ture. Interestingly enough, one of the tells you that Washington has made no
any time soon most urgent “benchmarks” set for the plans to leave Iraq independent, in the
Maliki government is the passing of a sense of capable of defending its sover-
new oil law. eignty, any time soon. (Even the Hillary
Clinton types talk of pulling U.S. forces
Foreign oil companies out of the cities and deploying them
The oil law is characterized in most of on the borders, as if Iraq is to remain a
the U.S. media simply as a mechanism U.S. protectorate in perpetuity.)
for fairly sharing oil revenues among But there simply is no U.S. plan con-
the various regions and therefore sects structed in a modular way that allows
and ethnic groups – but the far more maximal aims to be jettisoned in order
significant portion of the legislation is to ensure the realization of core objec-
the fact that it offers up ownership of tives. It simply unravels, messily.
Iraq’s reserves to foreign oil companies, Much of the U.S. coverage of the
meaning that, in fact, the revenues troop surge is centered on whether or
available for sharing will be consider- not it will “work,” with Democrats in-
ably reduced – but the imperial objec- sisting it won’t and neocons saying it al-
tivce of acquiring control of Iraq’s oil re- ready has. But that depends, very
serves will be ensured. Although much, on what we mean by “work.”
Maliki’s cabinet has accepted the law, it Obviously it won’t defeat the insur-
remains to be seen whether the parlia- gency or the Shiite militias: The com-
ment will adopt it. Iraqis are not stupid, mander in charge, General David Pe-
and won’t that easily sign away their traeus, is a smart counterinsurgency
patrimony no matter how good thinker, and he has made clear himself
Christopher Hitchens tells them it will that no action by the U.S. military can

60 TheREADER | April 2007


secure Iraq – the critical dimension, he can be sidelined or Sadr eliminated. The problem,
insists, remains political: the ability of a Instead, he’s more likely to encourage of course,
new political order to integrate the Sun- discussion with the insurgents, and also is that both
nis, and to negotiate compacts with the the diplomatic process Iraq’s govern- the domestic
Shiite leadership to whom the militias ment has initiated with its neighbors, political process
answer. forcing Washington into engaging with in Iraq, and
So, when Petraeus is asked, for ex- Iran and Syria (or creating cover for it to the regional
ample, whether the Mehdi army of Mo- do so). If Iran and Saudi Arabia are able diplomacy,
qtada Sadr could have a legitimate role to achieve a compact that stabilizes are beyond
as a community security force protect- Lebanon, then such regional horse- Washington’s
ing Shiites, he is open to the idea even trading may yet have something to of- control
if Washington’s political echelon isn’t. fer in Iraq. The problem, of course, is
It strikes me that Petraeus envisages that both the domestic political process
his mission as a holding operation, to in Iraq, and the regional diplomacy, are
prevent Baghdad from collapsing into beyond Washington’s control.
anarchy in the hope that freezing the What Iraq is, in short, after four years,
current balance of forces between the is an exercise in damage-limitation. The
sectarian rivals largely in place, the U.S. only certainty now is that the U.S. will
can create space for a new political emerge from the conflict considerably
compact. While the failed social engi- weaker as a global power than when it
neers in Washington may be hoping to went in. “Hard to believe,” eh Wolfie,
remake the political center in Baghdad, “hard to believe…“ CT
their prospects for doing so look in-
creasingly grim. Petraeus is unlikely to Tony Karon is a senior editor at
be as naive as the political wing of the Originally published at his
Administration in imagining that Maliki personal web site –


Visit the ColdType Archives for books,
essays and photojournalism

April 2007 | TheREADER 61



He was t is appropriate that a person from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
subjected to Australia, home of the kangaroo, These bogus military commission tri-
repeated should be the first one dragged be- als amplify global contempt for the
interrogations. fore the kangaroo court at the U.S. Guantanamo prison.
He witnessed naval base at Guantanamo Bay. David The Pentagon claims that Hicks was
other prisoners Hicks, imprisoned there for more than in Afghanistan fighting against the
being beaten five years, pleaded guilty last month to United States, then was apprehended
and terrorized providing material support for terror- by the Northern Alliance in late 2001
with dogs. He ism. while fleeing to Pakistan. After transfer
was at times The case of Hicks offers us a glimpse to U.S. military control, he was moved
kept in total into the Kafkaesque netherworld of de- around various detention facilities and,
darkness, at tentions, kidnappings, torture and he says, brutally beaten and sodom-
times in show trials that is now, internationally, ized.
continual bright the shameful signature of the Bush ad- By January 2002 he was in Guan-
light (he has ministration. Hicks’ passage through tanamo. He was subjected to repeated
grown his hair to this sham process affords us all an op- interrogations. He witnessed other pris-
chest length so portunity to demand the closure of oners being beaten and terrorized with
he can cover his Guantanamo and an end to these dogs. He was at times kept in total
eyes to allow heinous policies. darkness, at times in continual bright
him to sleep) Conditions may soon exist to shutter light (he has grown his hair to chest
the prison, with George Bush’s lame- length so he can cover his eyes to allow
duck status, the Democratic takeover of him to sleep). He had no access to a
Congress, the possible departure of lawyer for more than a year or knowl-
Guantanamo’s arch-defender and ar- edge of the charges against him. Others,
chitect, Attorney General Alberto Gon- those lucky enough to have lawyers or
zales, and, if recent reports are true, a to have actually gotten out, tell similar
desire to close the prison on the part of tales of continual cold, of desecration of
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the Quran and of sexual humiliation

62 TheREADER | April 2007


designed specifically to torture Muslim Navy reservist attorney, Rebecca Sny- Having no hope
men. der, who was assisting Hicks’ govern- for a fair trial,
During his five years of detention, ment-appointed attorney. Hicks was he reportedly
people fought for Hicks. His father, stunned, and at first refused to plead. believed that
Terry Hicks, traveled to the U.S. He Hours later, after the trial was recon- pleading guilty
donned an orange jumpsuit, like the vened, he pleaded guilty to his one re- would allow him
one his son was forced to wear, and maining charge. to serve his
stood in a 6-foot-by-8-foot cage on Having no hope for a fair trial, he re- sentence in
Broadway in New York while fielding portedly believed that pleading guilty Australia
questions from the press. would allow him to serve his sentence – his only hope
Even the U.S. Supreme Court, the in Australia – his only hope of escaping of escaping
body that appointed Bush president in Guantanamo. Guantanamo
2000, agreed that the prisoners must There are still more than 380 prison-
have some access to habeas corpus, the ers at Guantanamo. Almost none have
right to challenge one’s imprisonment. been charged. Those ultimately charged
This central tenet of Western law, estab- with murder could be sentenced to
lished in the Magna Carta in 1215, has death by the military commission. The
been thrown out the window, along decider of the death penalty after ap-
with the Geneva Conventions, by Bush, peals are exhausted is none other than
Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Gonza- George Bush, who as governor of Texas
les and others. oversaw the most active death chamber
Guantanamo has sparked one of the in the United States. Back then his
United States’ major growth industries: lawyer was Alberto Gonzales.
protesting against Guantanamo. From The U.S. attorney scandal is threat-
campuses to churches, the anger has ening to take down Gonzales. But it is
driven regular citizens to action. Cindy his condoning of torture from Guan-
Sheehan and members of the Catholic tanamo to Abu Ghraib that should seal
Worker Movement went to Cuba and his fate.
marched overland to Guantanamo to The grim Guantanamo experiment is
challenge the illegitimate prison and its reaching its climax. The house of cards
jailers in person. that has been erected to support this
immoral, criminal enterprise is poised to
Dismissed civilian lawyer collapse. Call, shout, sit down, march,
Even in Hicks’ brief moment in the con- donate, write, protest … demand that
troversial “trial,” the government did Guantanamo be closed. CT
what it could to strip him of the few
rights it claims he has. Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy
The presiding military judge, Marine Now!, a daily international TV/radio
Col. Ralph Kohlmann, dismissed his news hour airing on 500 stations in
civilian lawyer, Joshua Dratel, and a North America.

April 2007 | TheREADER 63



At this point, the he frenzy in America’s corpo- fact that the Democrats last week re-
relative merits rate media over Iran’s detain- fused to include in the current House
of the British ment of 15 British Marines who bill on Iraq war funding proposed lan-
and Iranian may, or may not, have violated guage forbidding the White House from
versions of Iranian-claimed territorial waters is a launching war on Iran without explicit
what actually flashback to the unrestrained support congressional approval.
happened are for the administration’s war-monger- The impression, cultivated by the
greatly less ing against Iraq shortly before the war. White House and our domesticated
important than The British are refusing to concede media, that Saudi Arabia and other
how hotheads the possibility that its Marines may Sunni-majority states might favor a mil-
on each side – have crossed into ill-charted, Iranian- itary strike on Iran is a myth.
and particularly claimed waters and are ratcheting up But the implications go far beyond
the British – the confrontation. At this point, the rel- the Middle East. With the Russians and
decide to exploit ative merits of the British and Iranian Chinese, the US has long since forfeited
the event versions of what actually happened are the ability, exploited with considerable
greatly less important than how hot- agility in the 70s and 80s, to play one off
heads on each side – and particularly against the other.
the British – decide to exploit the event. In fact, US policies have helped drive
There is real danger that this inci- the two giants together. They know
dent, and the way it plays out, may well that it’s about oil and strategic po-
turn out to be outgoing British Prime sitioning and will not stand idly by if
Minister Tony Blair’s last gesture of Washington strikes Iran.
fealty to President George W. Bush, Intelligence analysts place great store
Vice President Dick Cheney, and “neo- in sources’ record for reliability and the
conservative” advisers who, this time, historical record. We would be forced to
are looking for a casus belli to “justify” classify Tony Blair as a known prevari-
air strikes on Iran. Bush and Cheney cator who, for reasons still not entirely
no doubt find encouragement in the clear, has a five-year record of acting as

64 TheREADER | April 2007


man’s best friend for Bush. If the presi- British government has used to show Compare the
dent needs a casus belli, Blair will prob- coordinates of the incident and the commodore’s
ably fetch it. Iran/Iraq maritime border – the story caution with
Is there, then, any British statesman uncritically accepted by stenographers the infallible
well versed in both the Middle East and of the mainstream press. certainty with
maritime matters, who is worthy of Murray writes: “The Iran/Iraq mar- which Blair
trust? There is. Craig Murray is former itime boundary shown on the British has professed
UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan (until government map does not exist. It has to be “utterly
he was cashiered for openly objecting to been drawn up by the British Govern- confident”
UK and US support for torture there) ment. Only Iraq and Iran can agree on that the
and also former head of the maritime their bilateral boundary, and they have Marines were
section of the British Foreign Office, never done this in the Gulf, only inside in Iraqi waters,
and has considerable experience nego- the Shatt because there it is the land and you get
tiating disputes over borders extend- border too. This published boundary is an idea of
ing into the sea. a fake with no legal force...Anyway, the what may be
In recent days, former ambassador UK was plainly wrong to be ultra- Blair’s ultimate
Murray has performed true to character provocative in disputed waters... purpose
in courageously speaking out, taking “They [the British Marines] would
public issue with the British govern- under international law have been al-
ment’s position on the incident at hand. lowed to enter Iranian territorial waters
He was quick to quote, for example, if in “hot pursuit” of terrorists, slavers,
the judiciously balanced words of Com- or pirates....But they were looking for
modore Nick Lambert, the Royal Navy smuggled vehicles attempting to evade
commander of the operation on which car duty. What has the evasion of Iran-
the Marines were captured: “There is ian or Iraqi taxes got to do with the
absolutely no doubt in my mind that Royal Navy?”
they were in Iraqi territorial waters. Ambassador Murray has appealed
Equally, the Iranians may well claim to reason and cooler heads. To state
that they were in their territorial wa- what should be the obvious, he notes it
ters. The extent and definition of terri- is not legitimate for the British govern-
torial waters in this part of the world is ment to draw a boundary without
very complicated.” agreement of the countries involved: “A
Compare the commodore’s caution little more humility, and an acknowl-
with the infallible certainty with which edgement that this is a boundary sub-
Blair has professed to be “utterly confi- ject to dispute, might actually get our
dent” that the Marines were in Iraqi people home. The question is are we re-
waters, and you get an idea of what ally aiming to get our people home, or
may be Blair’s ultimate purpose. to maximize propaganda from the inci-
Writing in his widely read blog dent?
( “What is known at this point regard-
.html), Murray points to a “colossal ing the circumstances suggests Royal
problem” with respect to the map the Navy misfeasance rather than deliber-

April 2007 | TheREADER 65


One side or the ate provocation. The way the UK and recalcitrance.
other is going US media has been stoked, however, Unless one’s basic intention is to pro-
to be forced suggests that both London and Wash- voke a hostile action to which the US
to surrender ington may decide to represent the in- and UK could “retaliate,” getting in-
some of its transigence of Iranian hotheads as a ca- volved in a tit-for-tat contest with the
pride if a more sus belli for the long prepared air strikes Iranians is a foolish and reckless game,
deadly on Iran. And not to be ruled out is the for it may not prove possible to avoid
confrontation possibility that we are dealing with a escalation and loss of control. And we
is going provocation ab initio. Intelligence ana- seem to be well on our way there. If one
to be averted lysts look to precedent, and what seems calls Iran “evil,” arrests its diplomats,
entirely relevant in this connection is accuses it of promoting terrorism and
the discussion between Bush and Blair unlawful capture, one can be certain
on Jan. 31, 2003 six weeks before the at- that the Iranians will retaliate and raise
tack on Iraq. the stakes in the process.
The “White House Memo” (like the That is how the game of tit-for-tat is
famous “Downing Street Memo” lea- played in that part of the world. What
ked earlier to the British press) shows British and American officials seem not
George Bush broaching to Blair vari- to be taking into account is that the
ous options to provoke war with Iraq. Iranians are the neighborhood toughs.
The British minutes – the authenticity In that neighborhood, they control the
of which is not disputed by the British conditions under which the game will
government – of the Jan. 31, 2003 meet- be played. They can change the rules
ing stated the first option as: “The US freely any time they want; the UK can-
was thinking of flying U2 reconnais- not, and neither can Washington.
sance aircraft with fighter cover over Provocative behavior, then, can be very
Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam dangerous, unless you mean to pick a
fired on them, he would be in breach.” fight you may well regret.
Not to mention the (in)famous Tonkin Someone should recount to Tony
Gulf non-incident, used by President Blair and Ayatollah Khameini the
Lyndon Johnson to justify bombing maxim quoted by former United Na-
North Vietnam. tions chief weapons inspector Hans Blix
The increasingly heavy investment recently:
of “face” in the UK Marine capture sit- “The noble art of losing face
uation is unquestionably adding to the Will someday save the human race.” CT
danger of an inadvertent outbreak of
open hostilities. The Steering Group of the Veteran
One side or the other is going to be Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
forced to surrender some of its pride if (VIPS) consists of Ray Close, Princeton,
a more deadly confrontation is going to NJ, Larry Johnson, Bethesda, MD,
be averted. And there is no indication David MacMichael, Linden, VA, Ray
that the Bush administration is doing McGovern, Arlington, VA, and Coleen
anything other than encouraging British Rowley, Apple Valley, MN

66 TheREADER | April 2007




wo recent cases prosecuted by the Justice Department web site. The defendants
the US Justice Department in- The defendants in this second case in this second
volving charges of providing are part of a major multinational oper- case are part
material aid to a foreign terror- ation and admit to funneling millions of of a major
ist organization have led to startlingly dollars abroad to finance a murderous multinational
different results for the defendants. terrorist organization. Yet they were al- operation
In the first, the accused was seized by lowed to reach a pre-trial plea bargain and admit
federal agents at a US airport, vilified as that included as the penalty a fine to funneling
a mass murderer by the US attorney amounting to 0.55 percent of their an- millions of
general in a nationally broadcast press nual revenue. The organization that fi- dollars abroad
conference and then held in solitary con- nanced the foreign terrorists has boasted to finance
finement without charges or the right to publicly that its global operations have a murderous
see a lawyer or have contact with family not been affected in the slightest. terrorist
members for more than three years. What is to account for this appar- organization
During this period, he underwent sen- ently gross disparity? The answer is sim-
sory deprivation and outright torture ple. In the first case, the defendant was
that, his lawyers argue, left him mentally Jose Padilla, born in Brooklyn and raised
damaged and incompetent to stand trial. in a Chicago ghetto before converting
While federal prosecutors now portray to Islam in prison. In the second, the de-
the defendant as merely a low-level fendants are multimillionaire executives
courier, working for others, they still of a multibillion-dollar US-based trans-
want to jail him for life. national corporation with a long history
In the second instance, the individual of political influence and a prominent
defendants have never been named, role in US foreign policy – Chiquita
much less publicly denounced by the Brands International, Inc.
attorney general. The sole mention of By any objective scale, the crimes to
the ultimate punishment for their crime which the corporation pleaded guilty
came in the form of a discreet posting on are far more serious than the rather

April 2007 | TheREADER 67


Chiquita, on vague conspiracy allegations made by terial support. According to the an-
the other hand, the government against the former “en- nouncement of the plea deal posted on
acknowledged emy combatant” Padilla. the Justice Department’s web site, Chiq-
financing In November 2005, faced with a po- uita made more than 100 monthly pay-
right-wing tential ruling by the US Supreme Court ments to the AUC through its wholly
paramilitary challenging the administration’s claim owned Colombian subsidiary, “Bana-
death squads that it is empowered to detain both US dex,” which was the corporation’s most
in Colombia citizens and foreign nationals indefinitely profitable division. The payments were
to the tune without charges on the sole say-so of the arranged following a meeting in 1997 be-
of more than US president that they are “enemy com- tween a senior company executive and
$1.7 million batants,” the Justice Department crimi- the leader of the AUC, Carlos Castaño.
between 1997 nally indicted Padilla. “Chiquita’s payments to the AUC
and 2004 Gone were the lurid claims made 31/2 were reviewed and approved by senior
years earlier that he was involved in a executives of the corporation, including
plot to detonate radioactive “dirty high-ranking officers, directors and em-
bombs” in US cities. Instead, he was ac- ployees,” the Justice Department re-
cused of a “conspiracy” involving the ported. The company listed these pay-
raising of funds for Islamic movements in ments in its records as being for “security
places like Bosnia, Chechnya and Kos- services.” Beginning in 2002, it began
ovo, with the amounts of money listed making direct cash payments to the
ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. No death squad, in order to better conceal
charges whatsoever were presented that the relationship.
Padilla was involved in any terrorist ac- Fully half of these payments – total-
tivities in the US itself. ing $825,000 – were made after the US
Chiquita, on the other hand, ac- designation of the AUC as a terrorist or-
knowledged financing right-wing para- ganization. The Justice Department un-
military death squads in Colombia to covered records of communications be-
the tune of more than $1.7 million be- tween the corporation and its outside
tween 1997 and 2004. This organization, counsel in 2003 in which the lawyers in-
the United Self-Defense Forces of Col- sisted emphatically that Chiquita should
ombia (known by its Spanish acronym immediately halt the payments and un-
AUC), has been involved in the mas- load its Colombian operation in order to
sacre, assassination, kidnapping and tor- avoid prosecution for aiding a terrorist
ture of thousands of Colombians, mostly organization. The Chiquita board of di-
peasants and workers, as well as trade rectors took the decision to continue the
unionists and left-wing political figures. payments, while disclosing the practice
On September 10, 2001, a day before to the US Justice Department. The atti-
the attacks on the World Trade Center tude of company officers was expressed
and the Pentagon, the US State Depart- to their lawyer as, “Just let them sue us,
ment formally designated the AUC as a come after us.”
“foreign terrorist organization,” making The Justice Department, according to
it illegal in the US to provide it with ma- its own account, took an extraordinarily

68 TheREADER | April 2007


lenient approach, describing the prac- tigation and have indicated that they While Chiquita’s
tice as “complicated” and only a “tech- are preparing to seek the extradition of executives have
nical violation.” Nonetheless, it main- at least eight Chiquita executives. been given
tained that the payments were illegal In addition to the payments to the virtually
and could not continue. AUC, the executives are under investiga- a free pass by
Chiquita’s management, however, tion in connection with the shipment of the US Justice
continued to flout the law, paying the 3,000 Israeli rifles and millions of rounds Department,
right-wing paramilitaries for almost an- of ammunition to the right-wing para- prosecutors
other year, giving them another militaries in 2001. The weapons were in Colombia
$300,000. During that year, the AUC was brought into Colombia through the port are pursuing
accused of carrying out 16 massacres, facility operated by Banadex, Chiquita’s a separate
362 assassinations and 180 kidnappings, subsidiary, and stored on the company’s investigation
all of these crimes financed in part by the docks before being distributed to the and have
US food giant. In June 2004, Chiquita death squads. indicated
sold its Colombian subsidiary, Banadex, Even Colombia’s right-wing President that they are
for about $43.5 million. Alvaro Uribe – Washington’s closest ally preparing
– has voiced support for extradition of to seek the
Why Chiquita paid the AUC Chiquita officers, apparently in part to extradition
The company has defended its action divert public attention from a massive of at least
by describing the financing of the AUC political scandal engulfing his adminis- eight Chiquita
as “protection payments,” made, in the tration. Top ruling party politicians, as executives
words of Chiquita chairman and chief well as his foreign minister and former
executive Fernando Aguirre, out of “our secret police director, have been arrested
good faith concern for the safety of our or forced to resign because of ties to the
employees.” AUC death squads.
While apparently the company did The Bush administration’s supposed
make such payments to left-wing guer- zeal for its “global war on terror” not-
rilla movements, including the Revolu- withstanding, there is little danger that
tionary Armed Forces of Colombia millionaire executives are going to be
(FARC), before 1997, the relationship be- sent to Colombia to stand trial for fi-
tween the fruit company and the right- nancing and arming terrorists. In an-
wing paramilitaries was something quite nouncing the Chiquita plea bargain, US
different. In their original meeting in Attorney for the District of Columbia
1997, AUC leader Castaño sought and Jeffrey Taylor made this curious state-
secured funding from the corporation ment: “Funding a terrorist organization
for a military campaign to drive the can never be treated as a cost of doing
FARC out of the regions where Chiquita business. American businesses must take
had its banana operations. note that payments to terrorists are a
While Chiquita’s executives have whole different category. They are
been given virtually a free pass by the US crimes.... American businesses, as good
Justice Department, prosecutors in corporate citizens, will find ways to con-
Colombia are pursuing a separate inves- form their conduct to the requirements

April 2007 | TheREADER 69


Such methods of the law and still remain competitive.” be accomplished as simply as finding or
of terror, Clearly implied in this statement is organizing new death squads that are
violence and that Chiquita’s financing of the death not on the State Department’s official
murder against squads in Colombia was a means of in- terrorist list. No doubt, Chiquita is more
the working creasing its competitiveness and its prof- than up to such a task. The company, the
class are, its. How does this work? Quite simply, successor to the United Fruit Company,
as the the right-wing terrorists earn their has more than a century of experience in
statement from money by terrorizing workers, murder- organizing invasions, right-wing coups,
the US attorney ing those who seek to organize struggles massacres and assassinations.
suggests, for higher wages or improved conditions Through much of the twentieth cen-
a common and threatening the rest that the same tury, the operations of the government
business will happen to them if they don’t submit. and United Fruit in Central America,
practice, Over the past six years, more than Colombia and elsewhere in Latin Amer-
dedicated 800 union officials and organizers have ica were tightly integrated – as in the or-
to improving been assassinated in Colombia – and ganization of the CIA-backed coup in
the bottom line more than 4,000 since 1986 – with virtu- Guatemala that overthrew the reformist
ally no one punished. It is routine for government of Jacobo Arbenz in 1954.
employers to utilize the right-wing para- Given the Justice Department’s kid-
militaries as hit-men against their own gloves treatment for Chiquita, there is
rebellious employees. every reason to believe that this rela-
An example of this process involving tionship continues, and that the com-
another US multinational is working its pany’s financing of the AUC took place
way through the legal systems in both with the approval of the Bush adminis-
the US and Colombia. Colombian pros- tration in Washington.
ecutors have opened a formal investiga- This is the reality of Washington’s so-
tion against the Alabama-based coal called “war on terrorism.” It is utilized as
producer Drummond Co. Inc. on charges a propaganda tool for justifying unpro-
that company paid a paramilitary leader voked wars of aggression abroad and
to carry out the death squad murders of terrorizing the American people and at-
three union officials at its coal mine in tacking their democratic rights at home.
the northeast of the country. The com- For this purpose, “terrorists” must be
pany is being sued in a civil case involv- discovered and prosecuted, in their vast
ing the same charges in Alabama, where majority hapless victims of FBI entrap-
Drummond is headquartered. ment operations. Meanwhile, real terror
Such methods of terror, violence and remains a vital instrument for imposing
murder against the working class are, as the interests of US-based transnational
the statement from the US attorney sug- corporations and banks all over the
gests, a common business practice, ded- world, and those who practice it are pro-
icated to improving the bottom line. To tected by the government. CT
“conform their conduct to the require-
ments of the law and still remain com- Originally published on the World
petitive,” as the prosecutor suggests, can Socialist Website at

70 TheREADER | April 2007