Monday, October 6, 2014

American Airstrikes & the Universal Language of Force


In his speech before the meeting of the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 24, U.S. President Barack Obama resurrected yet another turn of phrase used most often by those wishing to make the case for dropping bombs on people and things.

In an effort to justify U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria, Obama declared that the militant organization known as ISIS (or ISIL or IS, the 'Islamic State') not only commits the "most horrific crimes imaginable," but is so vicious, violent, and uniquely brutal that it "forces [the international community] to look into the heart of darkness," adding later:
No god condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning, no negotiation, with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.
The rhetoric used by Obama to defend yet another illegal and ill-conceived American air campaign in the Middle East - an undefined, unconstitutional operation designed to inevitably expand and escalate - is well-worn. The very same word salad, notably the "language of force" line, has been routinely served up to justify lethal action against a seemingly intractable foe and it puts the onus on the target of that aggression for bringing such violence upon itself: if they weren't such barbarians, we too wouldn't have to resort to barbarism.

So, bombs away. After all, military action was our only choice, we are told, despite the fact that the declared targets of our artillery pose no direct or imminent threat to the United States. The irrational and bloodthirsty comprehend only the heat-seeking and bunker-busting. Diplomacy is impossible, thus destruction is imperative.

In his 2005 book, Writing the War on Terrorism: Language, Politics and Counter-terrorism, Richard Jackson, deputy director at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago in New Zealand, explored this very kind of political messaging:
One of the most noticeable and ubiquitous features of the language of counter-terrorism is its invariable appeal to identity: terrorists are endlessly demonised and vilified as being evil, barbaric and inhuman, while America and its coalition partners are described as heroic, decent and peaceful - the defenders of freedom.
"At its most basic level, the language used by officials is attempt to convince the public that a 'war' against all forms of terrorism is necessary, reasonable, inherently good and winnable," he added.

Over the past few decades, whenever bombing Iraq is on the horizon, we've heard much of the same from government officials and their pro-war mouthpieces in the media and think tank establishment.

In late 1990, Martin Indyk, founder and executive director of the AIPAC-launched Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) and later senior advisor to presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, wrote, "Saddam Hussein has demonstrated that he only speaks and understands the language of force."

In 1991, Maine Representative Olympia Snowe supported the authorization of Operation Desert Storm due to her determination that successfully confronting Saddam Hussein required "a credible military threat be maintained against a brutal aggressor who only understands the language of force."

Just days before Bill Clinton's first inauguration as president in January 1993, the George H.W. Bush administration was again bombing Iraq. Utah Senator Orrin Hatch insisted, "Unfortunately, Saddam Hussein knows only the language of force. President Bush has delivered a message that Saddam is certain to understand," adding, "The air strikes are not enough."

In September 1996, when the Clinton administration itself was routinely bombing Iraq, Secretary of State Warren Christopher expressed his frustration with Russian condemnation of such attacks. He told the press he was "disappointed" the Russians "don't understand as we do that the only language that Saddam understands is the language of force." This became a go-to phrase in the administration's talking points.

Speaking to members of the group "Seeds of Peace" on September 3, 1996, Christopher made arguments eerily reminiscent of what we've heard recently with regard to Obama's current operation:
The record is, unfortunately, all too clear. Saddam has threatened and invaded his neighbors, developed and used weapons of mass destruction, sponsored countless acts of terrorism, and for the last two decades he has relentlessly persecuted the Kurds and the Shiites. When Saddam tests the will and resolve of the international community, our response must be and will be forceful and immediate.
Time and again we've seen that the United States leadership is essential to provide that response. Military action that the United States launched today has made it clear that Saddam will pay a price whenever he engages in aggression. We are answering in the only language he understands, the language of force.
Later that month, on September 12, 1996, former Secretary of State James Baker testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee and encouraged more military attacks, saying, "Iraq under Saddam Hussein only understands force. And more to the point, it seems only to understand overwhelming force. When we respond in a situation like this, I do not believe that it needs to be limited so as to be proportionate to the provocation."

In their book about the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation, New York Times correspondent Michael R. Gordon and former Marine lieutenant general Bernard Trainor recount the words of a high-ranking officer of the U.S. Army's Fourth Infantry Division sent to attack the city of Tikrit. "The only thing these sand niggers understand is force," the officer remarked, "and I’m about to introduce them to it." General Ray Odierno, who led the 4th ID's attack, is currently the U.S. Army's Chief of Staff.

The messaging is clear. As Richard Jackson notes, "In this most rudimentary sense, the language accompanying the 'war on terrorism' is a public relations or propaganda exercise; it is designed to 'sell' the policies of counter-terrorism." In order to build support for military action, the public is repeatedly told that "the terrorists are inhuman barbarians who deserve to be eradicated from civilised society; the threat posed by terrorism is catastrophic and it is only rational to respond with all due force; and the American-led war against terrorism is by definition a good and just war."

Historically, however, this rhetoric has not been reserved solely for justifying American military action against predominately Muslim countries in the Middle East. Nor has this phrase been used only by one side of the conflict.

In a video message allegedly made and distributed on October 20, 2001, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden declared, "Bush and Blair... don't understand any language but the language of force. Every time they kill us, we kill them, so the balance of terror is achieved," according to a declassified report released by the British government in November 2001.

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri, in a 2003 sermon, reportedly announced, "The Crusaders [Americans] and the Jews only understand the language of force, and they only understand the return of coffins and destroyed interests and burned towers and destroyed economy."

In a statement claiming responsibility for simultaneous suicide bombings that killed 155 people in Baghdad on October 25, 2009, an anti-occupation, al-Qaeda linked group known then as the Islamic State in Iraq explained, "Among the chosen targets were the ministry of oppression known as the Ministry of Justice and the Baghdad provincial assembly... The enemies only understand the language of force."

Prior to the beheading of American journalist James Foley, on August 12, 2014, ISIS reportedly sent an email to Foley's family announcing their intention to murder him in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes and delivering a wider message to the American government and people. Claiming to have provided "many chances to negotiate the release of your people via cash transactions" and "prisoner exchanges," ISIS wrote that it was clear "this is NOT what you are interested in." (emphasis in original)

The email went on: "You have no motivation to deal with the Muslims except with the language of force, a language you were given in 'Arabic translation' when you attempted to occupy the land of Iraq! Now you return to bomb the Muslims of Iraq once again, this time resorting to Arial [sic] attacks and 'proxy armies', all the while cowardly shying away from a face-to-face confrontation!"

"You do not spare our weak, elderly, women or children so we will NOT spare yours!" the email warned. "You and your citizens will pay the price of your bombings!"

In his speech before the United Nations last week justifying expanded airstrikes against ISIS, Obama thus recycled the very phrase used by ISIS to justify its own violence.

Still, the phrase has even older roots.

Zionism and Its Malcontents

In 1891, after one of his frequent travels through Palestine, Ahad Ha'am, the Ukrainian-born Jewish essayist known widely as the founder of cultural Zionism, lamented that Zionist settlers acted like "the only language the Arabs understand is that of force" and "behave towards the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, trespass unjustly upon their boundaries, beat them shamefully without reason and even brag about it, and nobody stands to check this contemptible and dangerous tendency."

This same, possibly apocryphal, formulation has been credited over the years to Israel's first prime minister David Ben-Gurion, second prime minister Moshe Sharett, and IDF chief of staff Rafael Eitan, and is widely considered the immutable underlying assumption guiding racist, hawkish Israeli attitudes towards Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular.

This linguistic articulation of Zionist sentiment was already so prevalent prior to the establishment of the State of Israel that renowned political theorist Hannah Arendt turned the phrase on its head in her 1948 essay, "Peace or Armistice in the Near East?," published two years later in the Review of Politics. "All hopes to the contrary notwithstanding," she wrote, as the Nakba raged on, "it seems as though the one argument the Arabs are incapable of understanding is force."

In February 1992, following the assassination of Hezbollah leader Sheikh Abbas Moussawi, killed in southern Lebanon in an Israeli airstrike along with his wife and five-year-old son, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens boasted, "We've learned that terror organizations like Hezbollah only understand one language - the language of force."

Two weeks after the start of the Second Intifada, when Israel had already fired 1.3 million bullets at Palestinian demonstrators in the West Bank and Gaza, a military spokesman justified Israel actions, saying that force "will be the only language they understand."

Prior to Israeli parliamentary elections in 2009, supporters of the fascistic Avigdor Lieberman enthusiastically endorsed this narrative. "He's the kind of leader we've been waiting for, he knows how to talk to Arabs in their own language, the language of force," an Israeli woman who resides in a town close to the border with Gaza told the press.

Predictably, those opposed to Israel policies of colonialism, annexation, occupation, and military aggression have also resorted to such rhetoric. "Our enemy knows only the language of force and negotiations are useless," Palestinian officials have longed declared. In 1998, a resident of the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza said this of Israeli leadership: "They only understand the language of force, not of peace." A decade later, a Palestinian professor in Gaza said that same of Hamas.

"The enemy knows nothing but the language of force," Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie said of Israel in November 2012, following Israel's eight-day bombardment of Gaza. "Be aware of the game of grand deception with which they depict peace accords,"

From Stalin to Putin

While the "language of force" has long been used in the West to describe the supposed base nature and unsophisticated lack of humanity of the savage "Oriental" - a colonial, supremacist discourse popularized all the more after the attacks of September 11, 2001 - this discursive process has not been reserved for Arab or Muslim targets alone.

In his famous March 1946 "Iron Curtain Speech," Winston Churchill expressed his conviction that, for Soviet Russia and its Communist satellites, "there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness, especially military weakness." Thus, he reason, "Western Democracies" must "stand together" lest "they become divided or falter in their duty and if these all-important years are allowed to slip away then indeed catastrophe may overwhelm us all."

68 years later, speaking at a Center for Strategic and International Studies forum in March 2014, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen paraphrased Churchill's admonition, saying of Russian president Vladimir Putin that "the language he understands is force" and warning that, "unless there is a strong response, and a united response above all," to Russian actions in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, "from the United States and Europe together to this, and a reassertion of the transatlantic alliance and NATO, then we could be heading in a very worrying direction."

In May 2014, prior to his election as new Ukrainian president, billionaire confectionery magnate Petro Poroshenko stated that, in order to deal with pro-Russian separatists — whom he called "terrorists" — "we should find out the right language they understand, and that would be the language of force."

Vietnam

On April 19, 1965, as American bombs fell in Vietnam, conservative columnist Russell Kirk wrote, "Like the Nazis, the Asiatic Communists prefer guns to butter," and accused North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh of aggressive "conquest":
At this stage of affairs, only effective military resistance and retaliation can dissuade Ho Chi Minh from pursuing the war with increased vigor. The language of force, indeed, Communists understand.
General William C. Westmoreland, commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam at the time of the My Lai Massacre, and soon-to-be Army Chief of Staff, often and openly maintained that "meaningful force" was "the only language they [the North Vietnamese] understood."

As late as March 1975, after nearly all American troops had been withdrawn from the conflict, and following a meeting with President Gerald Ford, the then-retired Westmoreland told journalists that "the culprit in this whole thing is Hanoi," adding, "The only language Hanoi understands is the language of force and I think it's too bad that we couldn't again mine Haiphong harbor and that the President doesn't have authority to use tactical air and B52 strikes to hit the Communist supply lines."

Six weeks later, Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese Army.

Nicaragua

On the floor of the United States Congress on February 4, 1988, long-serving South Carolina Senator Ernest Hollings advocated for increased military aid sent to the Contras in Nicaragua. Denouncing Congressional Democrats as "not committed to fight for anything" and "only willing to posture and talk," Hollings declared that "there is no hope in Nicaragua without aid to the Contras." Dismissing diplomacy, he bellowed, "Peace plans? The Marxists only understand the language of force."

Later that year, in August 1988, Nicaraguan Contra founder and commander Enrique Bermúdez also made the case for continued military support from the U.S. government. "The only language the Sandinistas understand or respect is the language of force," he insisted. "If the Sandinistas weren't receiving massive assistance from the Soviet Union, Cuba and other communist countries, the Nicaraguan people wouldn't have any need of foreign sources of support."

Repeated Rhetoric

The ubiquity of the "language of force" line has rendered the phrase effectively meaningless, levied at one's enemies in order to silence debate and promote military action.

The same was said of South Africa's Apartheid regime in the 1980s. Croatian officials, Kosovar separatists, and New York Times columnists said the same of Serbian president Slobodan Milošević in the 1990s. It's been said about the "leaders of the Axis of Evil," it was said about Gaddafi and Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and it is often said about Assad. It has been said about the Pakistani Taliban, the Somali militant group al-Shabab and the Nigerian Boko Haram.

The same rhetoric is used by tyrants as well to describe dissident, resistance, and revolutionary movements. For instance, in early February 2011, as Cairo's Tahrir Square swelled with increasing demands for Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak's resignation, a CNN report noted that the U.S.-backed leader had long "argued that Egypt had to adopt a tight security policy to combat terrorism; that the forces of political Islam do not understand anything but the language of force and a strong government grip."

A year ago, in a September 20, 2013 article, David Sanger of the New York Times credited Obama's economic warfare on Iran and threats of military action in Syria with restarting nuclear negotiations and, with the help of Russia, dismantling Assad's chemical weapons. With regard to "President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, and Iran's erratic mullahs," Sanger wrote, Obama was experiencing "the long-delayed fruits of the administration's selective use of coercion in a part of the world where that is understood."

Speaking before the United Nations General Assembly two weeks later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that, "when it comes to Iran, the greater the pressure, the greater the chance" of successfully denying the nation their inalienable right to a domestic nuclear energy program.

For years, however, Iranian officials from three successive presidential administrations have consistently pushed back against this offensive presumption.

Back in June 2003, as U.S.-led pressure over Iran's nuclear program increased, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi warned that unjust accusations and illegal threats would strengthen the resolve of conservative elements in the government opposed to diplomacy with the West. "Excessive pressure on Iran would untie the hands of those who do not believe in dialogue," he said, "Even those who favour constructive talks would not accept the language of force and threat."

Two years later, as dubious allegations, wild predictions, and threats of unprovoked attack mounted, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the nuclear issue in his first speech before the UN General Assembly on September 17, 2005. Western powers and Israel, he said,
have misrepresented Iran's healthy and fully safeguarded technological endeavors in the nuclear field as pursuit of nuclear weapons. This is nothing but a propaganda ploy. The Islamic Republic of Iran is presenting in good faith its proposal for constructive interaction and a just dialogue. However, if some try to impose their will on the Iranian people through resort to a language of force and threat with Iran, we will reconsider our entire approach to the nuclear issue.
The next year, leading Iranian cleric Ahmad Khatami, a senior member of the Assembly of Experts, noted in a nationally broadcast weekly sermon, "Iran is favourable toward negotiations that are just, logical and without preconditions, but refuses the language of force," adding, "Using the language of force with Iran is a foolish and clumsy attitude."

"Resolutions, sanctions and threats have always made the issue more complicated," Iran's IAEA envoy Ali-Asghar Soltanieh said in late 2009 before a Board of Governor's vote on a resolution focusing on the recently-announced uranium enrichment facility at Fordow. "We recommend the IAEA not to refer to such methods and use the language of logic rather than force."

Throughout 2012, Ahmadinejad reaffirmed his assertion that Iran would never buckle to the West's "language of force and insult."

Earlier this year, following a round of nuclear negotiations in Vienna, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif remarked that "the language of force has no place in foreign policy agendas" and that "any state using the 'all-options-on-the-table' rhetoric is actually taking outdated measures."

In late 2009, then IAEA chief and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei concurred with this message. "[U]sing the language of force is not helpful. It leads to confrontation, to the other country taking counteraction," he said in an interview with The Hindu. "It is better to forget the language of coercion and focus on trying to engage in dialogue."

The Force of Language

Barack Obama, the drone president who defended perpetual war while receiving his own Nobel prize, disagrees. In his UN speech, Obama has again joined the ranks of those who justify the use of force through the abuse of weaponized language. The appeal to an adversary's unprecedented "brand of evil" serves not to illuminate the challenges faced, but rather to obfuscate an informed comprehension of current affairs. It is, by design, the ultimate conversation-stopper.

As terrorism expert Richard Jackson explains:
...the language of good and evil suppresses questions: we don't need to ask what the motivations or aims of the terrorists were if they are 'evil,' as 'evil' is its own motivation and its own self-contained explanation. Evil people do not have any politics and there is no need to examine their causes or grievances. Evil people do what they do simply because they are evil. Clearly, the use of this language is a way of encouraging quiescence and displacing more complex understandings of political and social events. As such, it qualifies as demagoguery by appealing to ignorance and arrogance through a distorted representation of the nature of evil.
As the United States and its coalition partners embark once again on an ill-fated, military misadventure in the Middle East, the recycled language used to promote such policies is predictable. And this time around, as in the past, it's effectiveness is proven.

A FoxNews poll released this week shows that upwards of 78% of Americans approve of U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, while 55% believe such action is "not aggressive enough." Additionally, 57% of respondents are supportive of a ground operation if the bombing campaign proves ineffective or indecisive. A Washington Post/ABC News poll this week produced similar results.

Yet, beyond all the political rhetoric and domestic jingoism, for those on the ground in Iraq and Syria, including the dozens of civilians already killed in U.S. airstrikes against ISIS, bombs drop louder than words.

*****

Cross-posted at Muftah.

*****

Monday, September 8, 2014

Hillary Clinton's Friends and the Kissinger of Death

Henry Kissinger and Hillary Clinton (AP Photo)

In Hillary Clinton's predictable, self-serving, overlong, boilerplate review of Henry Kissinger's new book, published last week in the Washington Post, she - well, the communications grunt who actually wrote the review - praises a man who should be serving life in prison for war crimes.

While there is no point addressing the majority of her article, nauseating and noxious as it is, a few things stick out. The first is that Hillary Clinton is friends with a whole lot of absolutely despicable people.

"Kissinger is a friend, and I relied on his counsel when I served as Secretary of State. He checked in with me regularly, sharing astute observations about foreign leaders and sending me written reports on his travels," Clinton writes in the review, echoing a passage from her own recent pre-presidential campaign manifesto, "Hard Choices."

That book contains myriad references to Clinton's "valued" and "invaluable friends," most of whom are rich, powerful or famous public figures - often all three.

Included among these are war criminals Benjamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres. Clinton writes that she and Netanyahu "worked together as partners and friends." Peres, she notes in the book, is an "old friend."

In her role as Secretary of State, Clinton routinely referred to former Israeli Prime Minister and then-current Defense Minister Ehud Barak as her "friend," "old friend," and "longtime friend and colleague." In April 2010, Clinton remarked, "I have known the defense minister for more years than I care to remember. We were both very young, Ehud."

Barak endearingly replied, "Immediately after your bat mitzvah." A hearty chuckle was had by all.

Hillary, Hosni and Shimon

While Netanyahu has, at times, called Clinton "a great friend and a great champion of peace," Clinton and Shimon Peres have even more of a history of mutual admiration. In early March 2009, Clinton met with Peres in Jerusalem, describing him as "my dear and old friend" and thanking him "for the extraordinary example that your life sets, as someone who has devoted yourself to the state of Israel, to its security, and to the cause of peace."

Shimon Peres (born Szymon Perski in 1923 in what is now Belarus) immigrated to Palestine in 1934. He procured weaponry for the Haganah during Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1947-48 and later became the architect of Israel's illicit nuclear weapons programforging close ties with the Apartheid regime in South Africa.

In November 1974, after visiting the leadership in Pretoria, then-Israeli Defense Minister Shimon Peres stressed to the Knesset the "vitally important" economic, political and military ties between South Africa and Israel, emphasizing that "this cooperation is based not only on common interests and on the determination to resist equally our enemies, but also on the unshakeable foundations of our common hatred of injustice and out refusal to submit to it."

Clinton and Peres
Years later, Peres was acting prime minister during the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon in 1996, including the Qana massacre, in which Israeli warplanes shelled a UN compound sheltering hundreds of displaced civilians, killing 106.

Nevertheless, Hillary Clinton fawned, "I always come away from my times with you both inspired and encouraged to think more deeply and more broadly. And I also am silently challenged by your ceaseless optimism about the future." In earlier remarks, Clinton said to Peres, "You are an inspiration to me personally, as a person who has dedicated your entire adult life to the State of Israel." She extolled her presence in Israel as "truly a visit among friends."

The feelings were mutual. Peres expressed sincere gratitude to "our very dear Hillary" for her "understanding and sympathy and friendship."

When Clinton returned to Israel 18 months later, Peres hailed "her wisdom, her friendship, her carefulness and caring," while she, in turn, gushed that it was "a personal pleasure, privilege, and honor to be here with you."

When the two shared a stage at the Israeli-obsessed Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute in June 2012, Hillary called Peres her "longtime friend" whom she "so greatly" admires, while Peres expressed his "personal admiration, which is really tremendous" for Clinton.

Back in Jerusalem the following month, Clinton made sure to "be the first friend to wish [Peres] a very happy birthday," and expressed "such great gratitude how much I appreciate you, our friendship, the work we have done together and the work that we will do together in the future."

A day before Clinton's first official visit to Israel as Secretary of State in 2009, she was in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt. In an interview with Al Arabiya, Clinton effectively dismissed the State Department's annual report on Egyptian human rights abuses as constructive criticism amongst chums, and declared, "I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family."

In this context, her respect, admiration, and friendship with Kissinger makes a lot more sense.

Kissinger's Democratic Values and Love of Legitimacy

In her sad stump speech/review of Kissinger's book, Clinton assures readers that, while they have their differences, she, President Barack Obama, and Kissinger all share the "belief in the indispensability of continued American leadership in service of a just and liberal order."

Hillary Clinton's review sheds some light on these supposed "shared values" and the collective view of American imperialism by the politically powerful:
During the Cold War, America's bipartisan commitment to protecting and expanding a community of nations devoted to freedom, market economies and cooperation eventually proved successful for us and the world. Kissinger’s summary of that vision sounds pertinent today: "an inexorably expanding cooperative order of states observing common rules and norms, embracing liberal economic systems, forswearing territorial conquest, respecting national sovereignty, and adopting participatory and democratic systems of governance."

This system, advanced by U.S. military and diplomatic power and our alliances with like-minded nations, helped us defeat fascism and communism and brought enormous benefits to Americans and billions of others. Nonetheless, many people around the world today — especially millions of young people — don't know these success stories, so it becomes our responsibility to show as well as tell what American leadership looks like.
Later, Clinton pointedly notes - in a glowing review of a book by Henry Kissinger, mind you - that "our devotion to human rights and democratic values" are an integral part of what "make[s] us who we are as a nation." Adhering to such values, Kissinger apparently suggests in his newly-published doorstop, is what leads to success.

Neither Clinton nor Kissinger actually believe this, of course. After all, when asked whether "national security is more important than human rights" during a 2007 debate, it was Clinton who eagerly responded, "I agree with that completely. The first obligation of the president of the United States is to protect and defend the United States of America." Clinton was wrong, of course. The president is primarily duty-bound, per the oath of office, to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," y'know, that thing with all those rights in it.

Indeed, one would be hard pressed to figure out just how respecting national sovereignty, an abiding commitment to democratic governance, and standing up for human rights fits into the policy prescriptions of the either the Nixon/Kissinger or Obama/Clinton administrations.

As David Corn wrote in Mother Jones, rather than a champion of justice and self-determination, Kissinger is best remembered for engaging "in underhanded and covert diplomacy that led to massacres around the globe, as he pursued his version of foreign policy realism. This is no secret." Corn continues:
  • Chile: Nixon and Kissinger plotted to thwart the democratic election of a socialist president. The eventual outcome: a military coup and a military dictatorship that killed thousands of Chileans.
  • Argentina: Kissinger gave a "green light" to the military junta's dirty war against political opponents that led to the deaths of an estimated 30,000.
  • East Timor: Another "green light" from Kissinger, this one for the Indonesian military dictatorship's bloody invasion of East Timor that yielded up to 200,000 deaths.
  • Cambodia: The secret bombing there during the Nixon phase of the Vietnam War killed between 150,000 and 500,000 civilians.
  • Bangladesh: Kissinger and Nixon turned a blind eye to—arguably, they tacitly approved—Pakistan's genocidal slaughter of 300,000 Bengalis, most of them Hindus.
And there's more. Kissinger's mendacity has been chronicled for years. See Gary Bass' recent and damning book on the Bangladesh tragedy, The Blood Telegram.There's Seymour Hersh's classic, The Price of Power. In The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Christopher Hitchens presented the case against Kissinger in his full polemical style. As secretary of state, Kissinger made common cause with—and encouraged—tyrants who repressed and massacred many. He did not serve the American values of democracy, free expression, and human rights. He shredded them.
Kissinger and Pinochet
According to the National Security Archive at George Washington University, documents declassified a year ago, upon the 40th anniversary of Salvador Allende's overthrow in Chile (the other September 11th), "spotlight Kissinger's role as the principal policy architect of U.S. efforts to oust the Chilean leader, and assist in the consolidation of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile."

Peter Kornbluh, director of the archive's Chile Documentation Project, stated, "These documents provide the verdict of history on Kissinger's singular contribution to the denouement of democracy and rise of dictatorship in Chile."

Yet in her review, Clinton writes:
For an international order to take hold and last, Kissinger argues, it must relate "power to legitimacy." To that end, Kissinger, the famous realist, sounds surprisingly idealistic. Even when there are tensions between our values and other objectives, America, he reminds us, succeeds by standing up for our values, not shirking them, and leads by engaging peoples and societies, the sources of legitimacy, not governments alone.
What Clinton doesn't mention is that Kissinger despised legitimate popular governments, as they too often undermined American domination and exploitation.

Despite prior covert U.S. operations to derail Allende's inauguration in November 1970, Kissinger sent a memorandum to President Nixon warning of "the insidious model effect" of his democratic election. In fact, he was convinced that the "consolidation of Allende in power in Chile... would pose some very serious threats to our interests and position in the hemisphere" and that "a successful elected Marxist government in Chile would surely have an impact on -- and even precedent value for -- other parts of the world" that could "significantly affect the world balance and our own position in it."

He was particularly frustrated that "Allende was elected legally" and "has legitimacy in the eyes of Chileans and most of the world; there is nothing we can do to deny him that legitimacy of claim he does not have it." Furthermore, Kissinger lamented, "We are strongly on record in support of self-determination and respect for free election," adding that Nixon himself was "firmly on record for non-intervention in the internal affairs of this hemisphere."

"It would thereby be very costly for us to act in ways that appear to violate those principles, and Latin Americans and others in the world will view our policy as a test of the credibility of our rhetoric," he wrote.

Kissinger immediately outlined a strategy to topple the Allende government.

Following the successful coup and Pinochet's installation as Chile's dictator, Kissinger maintained that "however unpleasant they act, this government is better for us than Allende was." He ignored appeals to address the severe human rights abuses in Chile, telling Pinochet himself, "In the United States, as you know, we are sympathetic with what you are trying to do here. We want to help, not undermine you. You did a great service to the West in overthrowing Allende."

Thus when Nixon complained that "liberal" press was giving him "crap" about the coup, Kissinger was indignant. "In the Eisenhower period, we would be heroes," he said.

Kissinger knew this would strike a chord with his audience of one. Nixon was Vice President when Eisenhower authorized the 1953 CIA-organized coup that overthrew popular Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh for the crime of nationalizing the nation's oil industry and not buckling to British and American diktat. The coup consolidated U.S.-backed dictatorial power under the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi who ruled Iran for the next quarter century.

"By restoring the Shah to power," Nixon recalled years later, "it meant that the United States had a friend in Iran, a very strong friend, and for 25 years Iran played a role as a peace-keeper in the Persian Gulf area."

Always valuing imperial interests over democratic and humanitarian values, Nixon made an official pilgrimage to visit the Shah in Iran shortly after the coup. Fifteen years later, as president, Nixon provided weapons systems and military assistance to Iran on a massive scale, effectively bankrolling the Shah's prospective $20 billion military build-up. Massachusetts Congressman Gerry E. Studds at the time called the arms transfers "the most rapid buildup of military power under peacetime conditions of any nation in the history of the world."

Kissinger himself mused, "[W]e adopted a policy which provides, in effect, that we will accede to any of the Shah’s requests for arms purchases from us (other than some sophisticated advanced technology armaments and with the very important exception, of course, of any nuclear weapons capability)."

In a private meeting with Kissinger on July 27, 1973 at Blair House, the Shah confirmed as much. "I have a friend in the U. S. that is ready to provide anything I need - short of atomic weapons and they are not an issue," he said during a conversation about acquiring American fighter jets, tanks, and battleships and agreeing to arm Pakistan against India.

Kissinger and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi

The Nixon White House - and Kissinger in particular - maintained very close relations with the Shah, in turn gaining a dutiful puppet in the region. This was especially beneficial during the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, when Arab members of the petroleum exporting consortium "cut production and stopped oil shipments to the United States and other countries that were backing Israel in the Yom Kippur War." With the Shah in power, Iran continued production and export to the United States and its allies, including apartheid South Africa, throughout the embargo and was rewarded handsomely by reaping the windfall of the oil shock.

When the Iranian Revolution finally forced the Shah to flee Iran, it was Kissinger and a cohort of such "influential friends" as Chase Manhattan Bank's David Rockefeller, former statesman and World Bank president John McCloy, and National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who intensively lobbied the Carter administration to eventually admit the Shah to the United States. Carter's reluctant acquiescence was the main catalyst for the November 4, 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

A month after the seizure of the embassy, Kissinger gave an interview to People Magazine. He had already visited the Shah twice since his arrival. He also insisted that Iranians had no legitimate reason to resent American foreign policy. Admitting that the Shah was "certainly authoritarian," Kissinger praised his "reforming government" for its professed economic, education, environmental, and medical advances.

"Not everybody who attacks us is doing so because we supplied a just grievance," he said, adding that "it must be made clear that challenging the U.S. is not for free. There has to be some penalty for opposing us and some reward for being friendly. Unless we can reestablish that balance, this trend will continue."

Regarding his belief that the United States was indebted to its former quisling, Kissinger told People, "I have held the position all along that the Shah was a friend of the U.S. for 37 years. Every President, starting with Truman, lauded the Shah's friendship and his modernizing tendencies and spoke of the gratitude we owed him." Such a partner deserved "private humanitarian asylum," Kissinger said. "In light of the Shah's help to our nation, I felt a duty to help."

Despite all this, Hillary Clinton, in her review of "World Order," maintains that "Kissinger's analyses of the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East are particularly valuable."

Atomic Drop

While writing about Kissinger's diplomatic philosophies and policy prescriptions, Clinton manages to repeatedly praise herself for her own work as Secretary of State, including what she terms taking "decisive action on challenges such as Iran's nuclear program."

This "decisive action" actually consisted of issuing threats, ultimatums, and imposing "crippling" sanctions upon a country over its refusal to abandon its inalienable right to a domestic nuclear energy program. It wasn't until she left the administration that the current negotiations got underway.

Yet bringing up such a topic in an article about Henry Kissinger is itself ironic, as Iran may never have established a nuclear program to begin with were it not for him.

In 1975, during his tenure as Gerald Ford's Secretary of State, "Kissinger signed and circulated National Security Decision Memorandum 292, titled 'U.S.-Iran Nuclear Cooperation,' which laid out the administration's negotiating strategy for the sale of nuclear energy equipment projected to bring U.S. corporations more than $6 billion in revenue," reported the Washington Post's Danfa Linzer in 2005.

The strategy paper, Linzer wrote, "commended Iran's decision to build a massive nuclear energy industry," and argued that Iran needed to "prepare against the time -- about 15 years in the future -- when Iranian oil production is expected to decline sharply."

Working alongside other Ford administration officials like Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, Kissinger engaged in "intense efforts to supply Iran with U.S. nuclear technology" and even "tried to accommodate Iranian demands for plutonium reprocessing." A directive signed by Ford in 1976 offered access to "a complete 'nuclear fuel cycle' -- reactors powered by and regenerating fissile materials on a self-sustaining basis."

When asked by Linzer about the potential consequences and hypocrisy of such a deal in light of more recent punitive and preventive policies, Kissinger shrugged. "I don't think the issue of proliferation came up," he said, eventually adding, "They were an allied country, and this was a commercial transaction. We didn't address the question of them one day moving toward nuclear weapons."

Diplomatic Double Standards

In mid-1969, as Nixon's National Security Adviser, Kissinger outlined what would soon become official American policy regarding Israel's clandestine nuclear arsenal. Once Israeli nuclear capability came to light in Washington - outside of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Israel refused to sign - the Nixon administration attempted to devise a strategy to deal with it.

A National Security Study delivered to Kissinger in May 1969 by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Rodger Davies noted, "Israel has committed to us that it will not be 'the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the area', but there are grounds for believing that Israel does not construe production of a weapon to constitute 'introduction.'" It further stated:
If the possession of nuclear weapons offered an ultimate deterrent for Israel we would perhaps be prepared to conclude that, whatever other disadvantages this development might have, its contribution to Israel's security, especially with the prospect of continuing Arab hostility, was in the US interest.

Israel wants nuclear weapons, as was both explicit and implicit in our conversations with Rabin, for two reasons: first, to deter the Arabs from striking Israel, and second, if deterrence fails and Israel were about to be overrun, to destroy the Arabs in a nuclear Armageddon.
In a July 19, 1969 memo to the president, Kissinger introduced a new policy option, writing that "while we might ideally like to halt actual Israeli possession, what we really want at a minimum may be just to keep Israeli possession from becoming an established international fact."

Golda Meir, Richard Nixon, and Kissinger

Despite the efforts of Nixon officials to place curbs on the program, they eventually "withdrew step after step from an ambitious plan to block Israeli nuclearization, until they finally acceded, in internal correspondence – the content of the conversation between Nixon and Meir is still classified – to recognition of Israel as a threshold nuclear state," wrote Amir Oren recently in Ha'aretz, basing his report on newly-declassified documents.
The Nixon advisers concluded that, all things considered, "we cannot force the Israelis to destroy design data and components, much less the technical knowledge in people’s minds, nor the existing talent for rapid improvisation." Thus, Davies wrote in July, two months before the Nixon-Meir meeting, the lesser evil would be to agree for Israel to "retain its 'technical option'" to produce nuclear weapons.
"If the Israelis show a disposition to meet us on the nuclear issue but are adamant on the Jericho missiles, we can drop back to a position of insisting on non-deployment of missiles and an undertaking by the Israelis to keep any further production secret," Davies added.
Such "nuclear ambiguity" has been both official Israeli and U.S. policy ever since President Richard Nixon met with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in September 1969. Accordingly, Nixon formally suspended all American inspection of and visitation to Israel's Dimona nuclear plant in 1970 and ceased demands that Israel join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

When President Obama first met with Netanyahu in May 2009, he confirmed the continuity of the secret agreement, a stance one Senate staffer reportedly described as "call[ing] into question virtually every part of the president's nonproliferation agenda" by giving "Israel an NPT treaty get out of jail free card."

The Clinton Doctrine

Hillary Clinton's review of Henry Kissinger's new book provides her and her public relations team an opportunity to set the stage for what seems like another inevitable run for president. It affirms her fealty to American imperialism and hegemony, her reliance on the advice of predecessors, colleagues and friends with demonstrably more appalling records than her own, and her firm commitment to continue the failed and dangerous policies of past administrations, all the while retaining the same sanctimony, self-righteousness, and entitlement that got her where she is today.

The review is already paying dividends as intended.

"I know Hillary as a person," Kissinger told NPR's Scott Simon the other day. "And as a personal friend, I would say yes, she'd be a good president." Though perhaps conflicted as a lifelong Republican as to whom he would vote for come 2016, Kissinger nevertheless confirmed, "Yes, I'd be comfortable with her as the president."

That alone should cost her the primary.

From voting to authorize the invasion of Iraq to her consistently hawkish defense of Israeli war crimes and constant bellicosity on Iran to her personal role in the Obama administration's expansion of the American surveillance state and drone program, and now hailing Henry Kissinger as a gritty, truth-telling idealist, the question remains: is there anything about Hillary Clinton that isn't absolutely terrible?

*****

UPDATE:

September 10, 2014 - Peter Hart of the vital media watchdog FAIR has a phenomenal piece up today about Kissinger's recent round of public appearances and interviews. It should be read in its entirety three times in a row and then shared with everyone you know:

And Now, a Word From Henry Kissinger…
*****

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dilanian's Dizzying Defense & Dissemination of Disinformation:
My Own Discussion with the 'CIA's Mop-Up Man'


On Wednesday afternoon, The Intercept's Ken Silverstein dropped a bombshell:
A prominent national security reporter for the Los Angeles Times routinely submitted drafts and detailed summaries of his stories to CIA press handlers prior to publication, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.
That reporter is Ken Dilanian, who has since joined Associated Press as an intelligence reporter.

A swath of emails from the first half of 2012, released to The Intercept in response to a FOIA request, show that Dilanian maintained a particularly obsequious relationship with the media relations team over at the Central Intelligence Agency, the clandestine U.S. government service he was hired to cover for the paper.

Dilanian, dubbed "the CIA's Mop-Up Man" by The Intercept, went beyond the usual role of mainstream media stenographer of government talking points. According to Silverstein - and overwhelmingly corroborated by the content of the published documents - Dilanian "enjoyed a closely collaborative relationship with the agency, explicitly promising positive news coverage and sometimes sending the press office entire story drafts for review prior to publication. In at least one instance, the CIA's reaction appears to have led to significant changes in the story that was eventually published in the Times."

Silverstein continues:
"I'm working on a story about congressional oversight of drone strikes that can present a good opportunity for you guys," Dilanian wrote in one email to a CIA press officer, explaining that what he intended to report would be "reassuring to the public" about CIA drone strikes. In another, after a series of back-and-forth emails about a pending story on CIA operations in Yemen, he sent a full draft of an unpublished report along with the subject line, "does this look better?" In another, he directly asks the flack: "You wouldn't put out disinformation on this, would you?"
Another example of Dilanian's shameful sycophancy is found in an email he sent to his contact at the CIA Office of Public Affairs on April 11, 2012. In the message, Dilanian passes along a 10-day-old dispatch from the Yemen Times, reporting on a U.S. drone strike in Azzan, a town in the country's eastern Shabwa province. Five people were killed in the strike, one of whom was immediately identified as 60-year-old civilian, Mohamed Saleh al Suna. Six children were also injured by shrapnel from the bombing while playing soccer.

Even though Reuters had already reported on the attack on March 30, 2012 - the day it occurred - Dilanian attempted to get confirmation on the strike and reported casualties from his buddies at the CIA. "This one sounds like you guys," he wrote, adding, "Do you agree that a civilian was killed?"


Far from acting as a venerable "Fourth Estate" check on the excesses state power, Dilanian clearly revels in his access to the upper echelons of the security and surveillance establishment, eager to laundering their lies and whitewash their war crimes.

While Dilanian's "closely collaborative" and "deferential relationship" with the CIA, as Silverstein puts it, is shameful, unprofessional, and does a great disservice to what should be the adversarial, critical, and challenging role the press should have vis-à-vis the government, it certainly comes as no surprise.

At least to me.

A month before the first of Dilanian's emails released to The Intercept was written, I engaged in a brief online correspondence with him.

On February 23, 2012, Ken Dilanian wrote a refreshingly solid piece on the U.S. government's view of the Iranian nuclear program, noting that there was still no evidence Iran is actually building a nuclear bomb nor actively pursuing the means to do so.

Nevertheless, the article contained a slight error regarding Dilanian's shorthand description of Iran's declared and safeguarded enrichment site at Fordow, which he wrote was a "clandestine underground facility" that had been "discovered" by "Western intelligence agencies."

Since the piece was otherwise generally good, I thought Dilanian would be receptive to a minor bit of fact-checking and decided to get in touch, using my nice voice.

What happened next was bizarre. The defensive posture immediately on display by Dilanian - someone with an important role at a large American newspaper - was revealing, and illuminating. No amount of reasoned explanation or fact-based rationale would do - he deflected, doubled-down, fumed, fulminated, and then, as the short-lived conversation continued, became increasingly insulting and juvenile.

He effectively admitted to being a sounding board for anonymous government spooks and berated anyone who doesn't have Pentagon and CIA officials on speed-dial as being ignorant and agenda-driven, citing a "conspiracy" I never suggested existed.

The best part, perhaps, was when he wrote, "[T]here are checks and balances, including Congressional oversight, journalistic scrutiny and whistleblowers from within – all of which insures, I would argue, that US officials do not often get away with elaborate lies..."

My guess is that there are hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who might beg to differ with his particularly sunny assessment if they weren't already dead.

At another point, Dilanian insisted to me that "U.S. government officials are not in the habit of elaborate disinformation campaigns," and then later, after I challenged the official narrative on something, writes, "but it's so easy for you to sit in Brooklyn, having no contact whatsoever with anyone senior from the government's national security apparatus, and having no real idea of how that apparatus works, and us[ing] phrases like 'a narrative emerges.'"

With the new revelations published by The Intercept, we now know, even more than before and beyond a shadow of doubt, who's actually responsible for foisting particular narratives upon the unwitting public.

But, hey, if only I sent fawning emails from Washington D.C. to my pals across the Potomac in Langley, maybe I'd have some clue as to what really going on. Thanks Ken, for setting me straight.

Below is our email exchange in full (the only editing made have been the standardization of the spelling of "Fordow" and the removal of Dilanian's mobile phone number):


From: Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America
Sent: Friday, February 24, 2012 1:55 AM
To: Dilanian, Ken
Subject: Your Iran Piece: A Thank You and a Comment

Mr. Dilanian,

I'm writing to thank you for the important piece, "U.S. does not believe Iran is trying to build nuclear bomb," in the L.A. Times today. It contains a lot of vital information that is not reported on nearly often enough in the mainstream press. Those who follow this issue closely, like myself, have been writing about this information for a long time, so reading it in the L.A. Times is a huge boost to getting the truth out.

I do question, however, your decision to include the following sentence: "In 2009, Western intelligence agencies discovered a clandestine underground facility called Fordow, near the city of Qom..."

In fact, the Fordow plant was not really "discovered" by "Western intelligence agencies"; rather, it was announced by Iran to the IAEA on September 21, 2009. Barack Obama's sensationalist press conference, alongside Nicholas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown in Pittsburgh, during which supposedly "revealed" the existence of the Fordow facility to the world, occurred on September 25, 2009, four days after Iran itself told the IAEA about the plant, which was subsequently described as “a hole in a mountain” and “nothing to be worried about” by then-IAEA Secretary General Mohammed ElBaradei.

In advance of Obama's supposed revelation, IAEA spokesman Marc Vidricaire told reporters, "I can confirm that on 21 September, Iran informed the IAEA in a letter that a new pilot fuel enrichment plant is under construction in the country."

Obama even acknowledged this fact in his speech, noting, "Earlier this week, the Iranian government presented a letter to the IAEA that made reference to a new enrichment facility...", though he deliberately omitted the inconvenient fact that Iran is only legally obligated to inform the IAEA of new facilities within 180 days of the introduction of nuclear material thereby making his own accusation of Iran's alleged intransigence deliberately deceiving.

Unfortunately, your report also fails to acknowledge the essential fact that IAEA spokesman Gill Tudor has confirmed: “All nuclear material in the [Fordow] facility remains under the agency’s containment and surveillance.”

In such an otherwise excellent report, it is frustrating to see the "secret Fordow facility" meme still repeated.

Considering your attention to the Iranian nuclear issue and constant dis- and misinformation, speculation and propaganda regarding Iran's capabilities and intentions, I think you might be interested in this piece of mine from December 2010, which has subsequently been updated over 51 times with new predictions since its original publication: The Phantom Menace: Fantasies, Falsehoods, and Fear-Mongering about Iran's Nuclear Program

Best,
Nima Shirazi
Brooklyn, NY



From: Dilanian, Ken
Sent: Friday, February 24, 2012 9:35 AM
To: Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America
Subject: Re: Your Iran Piece: A Thank You and a Comment


Mr. Shirazi, thanks for your comment. I believe you are flat wrong about Fordow. Iran declared it only after Iran discovered that Western intelligence agencies knew about it. I did get the date wrong – the U.S. actually discovered it years before, and announced it only after Iran’s preemptive letter. See:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/26/world/middleeast/26intel.html?_r=2&hp=&pagewanted=all

http://www.isisnucleariran.org/assets/pdf/Qom_Q-As.pdf

Best,

Ken Dilanian
National Security Correspondent
Los Angeles Times
O:(202) 824 8328
Twitter: @KenDilanianLAT





From: Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America
Sent: Friday, February 24, 2012 10:12 AM
To: Dilanian, Ken
Subject: Re: Your Iran Piece: A Thank You and a Comment

Thanks for replying so quickly, Ken.

That Iran was merely reacting to a Western discovery and hoping to pre-empt its publicity is precisely the narrative that has been wholeheartedly accepted by the press without any hint of scrutiny or shred of evidence. First off, how would Iran find out that Obama was going to hold a press conference announcing the "discovery" of the site with enough time to decide to "preemptively" draft a letter to the IAEA? - a declaration, it should be pointed out, that took place well before the 180 days before nuclear material was introduced to the site as mandated by Iran's ratified Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA. Actually, Iran announced the site about a year and a half before it technically and legally had to. I suppose, though, it is possible that Iranian agents had access to Rahm Emanuel's google calendar.

It's silly to rehash what has been addressed already, but I think IPS journalist Gareth Porter's recent article on this very subject in instructive (forgive me for quoting at length):

The Clinton and Hague statements [that Fordo was "covert" and "clandestine" before revealed to the world by the West] recalled a briefing for reporters during the Pittsburgh G20 summit meeting Sep. 25, 2009, at which a "senior administration official" asserted that Iran had informed the IAEA about the Fordow site in a Sep. 21 letter only after it had "learned that the secrecy of the facility was compromised".

That administration claim was quickly accepted by major media outlets without any investigation of the facts. That story line is so deeply entrenched in media consciousness that even before Clinton's remarks, Reuters and Associated Press had published reports from their Vienna correspondents that repeated the official Obama administration line that Iran had revealed the Fordow site only after Western intelligence had discovered it.

But the administration never offered the slightest evidence to support that assertion, and there is one major reason for doubting it: the United States did not inform the IAEA about any nuclear facility at Fordow until three days after Iran's Sep. 21, 2009 formal letter notifying the IAEA of the Fordow enrichment facility, because it couldn't be certain that it was a nuclear site.

Mohammed ElBaradei, then director general of the IAEA, reveals in his 2011 memoir that Robert Einhorn, the State Department's special advisor for nonproliferation and arms control, informed him Sep. 24 about U.S. intelligence on the Fordow site – three days after the Iranian letter had been received.

An irritated ElBaradei demanded to know why he had not been told before the Iranian letter.

Einhorn responded that the United States "had not been sure of the nature of the facility", ElBaradei wrote.

The administration's claim that Iran announced the site because it believed U.S. intelligence had "identified it" was also belied by a set of questions and answers issued by the Obama administration on the same day as the press briefing. The answer it provided to the question, "Why did the Iranians decide to reveal this facility at this time," was "We do not know."

Greg Thielmann, who was a top official in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research until 2003 and was on the staff of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence during the 2009 episode, told IPS the evidence for the claim that Iran believed the site had been discovered was "all circumstantial".

Analysts were suspicious of the Iranian letter to the IAEA, Thielmann said, because, "it had the appearance of something put together hurriedly."

But there is an alternative explanation: the decision to reveal the existence of a second prospective enrichment site – this one built into the side of a mountain – appears to have reflected the need to strengthen Iran's hand in a meeting with the "P5 + 1" group of state led by the United States that was only 10 days away.

The Iranian announcement that it would participate in the meeting on Sep. 14, 2009 came on the same day that the head of Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, warned against an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

The idea that Iran was planning to enrich uranium secretly at Fordow assumes that the Iranians were not aware that U.S. intelligence had been carrying out aerial surveillance of the site for years. That is hardly credible in light of the fact that the Mujahideen-E-Khalq (MEK), the armed opposition group with links to both U.S. and Israeli intelligence, had drawn attention to the Fordow site in a December 2005 press conference – well before it had been selected for a second enrichment plant.
Anyway, whether you roll your eyes or not about this minor point of contention, my opinion, or Porter's conclusions, I do thank you again for your LAT piece and look forward to reading more from you in the future.

Best,
Nima



From: Dilanian, Ken
Sent: Friday, February 24, 2012 10:32 AM
To: Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America
Subject: Re: Your Iran Piece: A Thank You and a Comment


Nima, the problem with intelligence reporting is there is often no way to independently confirm what your sources are telling you. You just have to rely on triangulating the information, on your years of experience dealing with certain people, and on the fact that—while you may find this hard to believe—U.S. government officials are not in the habit of elaborate disinformation campaigns. Not to say it never happens, of course, but it’s just not typically the way it works. I am confident in the New York Times reporting on this, which was based on multiple sources from within the U.S. intelligence community. What seems to be the case is that the US, France and Britain thought they knew what was there, but were not 100% certain until Iran admitted it, which may be why they didn’t send a letter to the IAEA. Just like the CIA wasn’t certain bin Laden was in Abbottabad until they ID’d his body. It is, of course, easy to say there isn’t a “shred of evidence” to support what anonymous US intelligence sources are claiming. That is true for just about any story about secret intelligence. But there are checks and balances, including Congressional oversight, journalistic scrutiny and whistleblowers from within – all of which insures, I would argue, that US officials do not often get away with elaborate lies of the kind you are suggesting they perpetrating here. Ken




From: Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America
Sent: Friday, February 24, 2012 2:49 PM
To: Dilanian, Ken
Subject: Re: Your Iran Piece: A Thank You and a Comment

I don't think it's particularly elaborate or dastardly for U.S. officials to establish a particular narrative regarding alleged Iranian intransigence and malfeasance. This one is actually quite simple - Iran legally places a new facility under full IAEA Safeguards in line with its obligations and, as a result, undercuts a big, fancy announcement by the president. So, in response, a narrative emerges that Iran did this deliberately because they had been "found out." And the press repeats that story until it becomes established, unquestioned fact.

Pretty simple, really.

Anyway, no need to bicker about this. I'm glad to hear you have such confidence in the honesty of our government officials and think that they "do not often get away with elaborate lies."

Best,
Nima



From: Dilanian, Ken
Sent: Friday, February 24, 2012 2:58 PM
To: Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America
Subject: Re: Your Iran Piece: A Thank You and a Comment


but it’s so easy for you to sit in Brooklyn, having no contact whatsoever with anyone senior from the government’s national security apparatus, and having no real idea of how that apparatus works, and uses phrases like “a narrative emerges.”; what you are saying there is that multiple people from multiple government agencies conspired in a big lie. you can’t make the accusation and then hide behind euphemisms. and what I’m saying is, we live in a democracy, it doesn’t (usually) work like that. not that people are so righteous, but that it’s impossible to orchestrate a conspiracy like that. there are 16 intel agencies, and a lot of other people with access to this sort of information, including liberal democrats and conservative republicans. even if obama and his advisers wanted to lie about something like this, some malcontent somewhere would talk.




I chose not to carry the conversation further. After all, I had plenty of more sitting to do in Brooklyn, far far away from all those truth-tellers in the CIA press office.

*****