Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Phantom Menace:
Fantasies, Falsehoods, and Fear-Mongering about Iran's Nuclear Program

"To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary."
- George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

Facts rarely get in the way of American and Israeli fear-mongering and jingoism, especially when it comes to anti-Iran propaganda. For nearly thirty years now, U.S. and Israeli politicians and analysts, along with some of their European allies, have warned that Iranian nuclear weapons capability is just around the corner and that such a possibility would not only be catastrophic for Israel with its 400 nuclear warheads and state-of-the-art killing power supplied by U.S. taxpayers, but that it would also endanger regional dictatorships, Europe, and even the United States.

If these warnings are to be believed, Iran is only a few years away from unveiling a nuclear bomb...and has been for the past three decades. Fittingly, let's begin in 1984.

An April 24, 1984 article entitled "'Ayatollah' Bomb in Production for Iran" in United Press International referenced a Jane's Intelligence Defense Weekly report warning that Iran was moving "very quickly" towards a nuclear weapon and could have one as early as 1986.

In response, a U.S. Department of State spokesman was reportedly quick to point out the official government belief that "it would take at least two to three years to complete construction of the reactors at Bushehr," adding that the light water power reactors at the Bushehr plant "are not particularly well-suited for a weapons program." He also noted that "we have no evidence of Iranian construction of other facilities that would be necessary to separate plutonium from spent reactor fuel."

Two months later, on June 27, 1984, in an article entitled "Senator says Iran, Iraq seek N-Bomb," Minority Whip of the U.S. Senate Alan Cranston was quoted as claiming Iran was a mere seven years away from being able to build its own nuclear weapon.

In April 1987, the Washington Post published an article with the title "Atomic Ayatollahs: Just What the Mideast Needs – an Iranian Bomb," in which reporter David Segal wrote of the imminent threat of such a weapon.

The next year, in 1988, Iraq issued warnings that Tehran was at the nuclear threshold.

Citing a recent Jane's Defense Weekly assessment, the trade journal Nuclear Developments reports on May 15, 1990, that Chile, Iran, South Korea, and Libya are already capable of producing nuclear weapons.

A Los Angeles Times report from January 27, 1991 stated that officials in the George H.W. Bush administration and non-proliferation analysts "have grown increasingly worried" that Iran was engaged in "secret efforts to buy nuclear technology and build nuclear weapons." The report noted, however, "that any nuclear threat from Iran would be years, perhaps a decade, away," and quoted a "State Department official" as saying, "They're doing basic research and development. From a technical standpoint, they're very far away."

By late 1991, Congressional reports and CIA assessments maintained a "high degree of certainty that the government of Iran has acquired all or virtually all of the components required for the construction of two to three nuclear weapons."

On October 13, 1991, Cairo-based Al Ahram reports that Iran has purchased five tactical nuclear missiles from the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. Later reports claim Iran only bought three such warheads.

On October 31, 1991, Elaine Sciolino reported for The New York Times that "an American intelligence assessment has concluded that at least some of Iran's revolutionary leaders are intent on developing nuclear weapons." The report quotes Anthony Cordesman, a military expert and author of "Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Middle East," as saying, "There is no doubt that Iran is pursuing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and seeking to obtain long-range missiles from North Korea and to develop them in Iran."

On November 21, 1991, The Los Angeles Times reported on testimony delivered by Assistant Secretary of State Edward P. Djerejian to the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee, during which the Bush administration official was said to be "convinced that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons," despite the fact that Iran had "opened its facilities to international inspection."

A January 18, 1992 report about nuclear proliferation in The Economist suggested that "Iran may have snapped up a couple of tactical nuclear warheads at bargain prices in the Central Asian arms bazaar."

A report by the U.S. House Republican Research Committee, released in early 1992, stated with "98 per cent certainty that Iran already had all [or virtually all] of the components required for two to three operational nuclear weapons made with parts purchased in the ex-Soviet Muslim republics," and suggested Iran would acquire these weapons by April 1992.

In March 1992, The Arms Control Reporter reported that Iran already had four nuclear weapons, which it had obtained from Russia. That same year, the CIA predicted that Iran was "making progress on a nuclear arms program and could develop a nuclear weapon by 2000," then later changed their estimate to 2003.

On March 26, 1992, The Jerusalem Report, noting that "Israel keeps a wary watch on Teheran's march to the Bomb," predicted that, "[b]y the year 2000, Iran will almost certainly have the Bomb."

In Congressional testimony delivered on March 27, 1992, then-Director of the CIA Robert Gates stated, "We judge that Tehran is seeking to acquire a nuclear weapon capability. Barring significant technical input from abroad, however, the Iranians are not likely to achieve that goal before the year 2000."

According to The Washington Post's R. Jeffrey Smith in an article published March 28, 1992, Gates told the panel that Iran was also engaged in "the development of poison gas warheads to place atop Scud missiles" and that "the country's 'relatively crude' chemical weapons program is expected to produce such warheads within a few years. 'We also suspect that Iran is working toward a biological warfare capability,' he said."

A May 1992 report in The European claims that "Iran has obtained at least two nuclear warheads out of a batch officially listed as 'missing from the newly independent republic of Kazakhstan.'"

On May 28, 1992, Agence France Press reported that Israeli president Chaim Herzog had warned of "attempts by Iran and its allies to spread fundamentalism" in former Soviet republics. Herzog added, "The threat is all the more real as some elements linked to this fundamentalism are trying to seize nuclear weapons. Fundamentalist extremism plus weapons of mass extinction are the recipe that is bound to lead to disaster."

On June 14, 1992, the Daily Mail reported on Israeli claims that "nuclear experts from the former Soviet Union are helping Iran to build atomic bombs," quoting a "top Israel defence official" as saying, "If nothing is done to stop the Iranians they are certain to have atom bombs within a few years."

The Washington Post reported on June 15, 1992, that Israeli Major General Herzl Budinger had said that unless "Iran's intensive effort to develop atomic weapons is not 'disrupted,'" it would "become a nuclear power by the end of the decade."

On June 22, 1992, Ethan Bronner, reporting from Tel Aviv, wrote in The Boston Globe that Israeli "[i]ntelligence assessments here say that Iran will have nuclear weapons by the end of the decade."

On August 5, 1992, international wire services reported on a newly-release study by the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center "warned that unless Western nations halt the flow of such [duel-use nuclear] technology, Iran is likely to produce its first nuclear bomb within five or six years."

Speaking on French television in October 1992, then-Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres warned the international community that Iran would be armed with a nuclear bomb by 1999. Peres declared that Iran posed the greatest threat to peace in the Middle East "because it seeks the nuclear option while holding a highly dangerous stance of extreme religious militantism."

The following month, on November 8, 1992, the New York Times reported that Israel was confident Iran would "become a nuclear power in a few years unless stopped." A "senior army officer" in Israel told the paper that "the Iranians may have a full nuclear capability by the end of the decade." The Times stated, "For Israel, a sense that the region's nuclear clock is ticking."

After the November 1992 release of a new National Intelligence Estimate, which found that Iran "is making progress on a nuclear arms program and could develop a nuclear weapon by 2000," CIA head Robert Gates addressed the imminent threat in an interview with the Associated Press. "Is it a problem today?" he rhetorically asked, "probably not. But three, four, five years from now it could be a serious problem."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Jeffrey Goldberg's Anti-Boycott Bluster & Blunder

"The gradual abolition of the slave trade: or leaving of sugar by degrees in 1792"
by Isaac Cruikshank

Earlier this week, Indypendent journalist and frequent Mondoweiss contributor Alex Kane noted:
"As the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement continues full-steam ahead in its efforts to force Israel to comply with international law, pro-Israel hawks are increasingly attempting to link the movement to anti-Semitism and Nazi Germany-era policies."
The latest example of this disingenuous and intellectually dishonest smear campaign comes (unsurprisingly) from Jeffrey Goldberg, the former IDF prison guard, unabashed warmonger, and Zionist apologist and propagandist, who recently cheered the New Israel Fund for, in his words, leaving the "BDS swamp."

Despite Goldberg's claim to be "running a campaign on this blog against the cheap deployment of Nazi imagery in argument-making," he does just that, stating that "it's a fair analogy" to liken the boycott of Israeli goods to the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses in 1933, explaining that "the BDS movement, like no other anti-Israel propaganda campaign, has sent chills down the collective Jewish spine precisely because economic boycotts have been, throughout history, used to hurt Jews."

Kane, in his cogent response, accurately points out many of Goldberg's errors. For example, Kane notes that the BDS campaign is not a "European-centered campaign," as Goldberg writes, but rather is "a Palestinian-led civil society movement that has spread to the Western world." He also points out that Goldberg is "guilty of conflating Israel with Judaism, and Jews with Israelis," continuing:
"The BDS movement is not an economic boycott directed against Jews; it is a boycott movement directed against the State of Israel, which labels itself the Jewish State, because of its flagrant violations of international law and its continued occupation of Palestinian land."
As per the Nazi analogy, Kane writes that while "Nazi Germany instituted a blanket boycott...directed at a persecuted minority just because of their religious faith...[t]he BDS movement is targeting a state, asking Israel to comply with their obligations under international law, because of their unjust and oppressive policies towards the Palestinian people."

But this is not the limit of Goldberg's spurious claims and specious equivalency. What could - and should - also be addressed is Goldberg's blanket contention that "economic boycotts have been, throughout history, used to hurt Jews."

This statement follows Goldberg's pattern of labeling any and all human rights efforts as "anti-Semitic" whenever they happen to address war crimes, contempt for international law, rampant and aggressive discrimination, land and water theft, ethnic cleansing, and collective punishment routinely committed by the Israeli government and military and widely supported (or ignored, or justified) by the Israeli public.

Goldberg not only traffics in knee-jerk emotional blackmail, as usual - yelling "Nazi!" in a crowded blogosphere - but also relies on a very selective historical memory regarding the history of boycotts and campaigns to educate the public about ongoing injustice and mobilize it against such atrocities.

Even leaving the most obvious, and historically recent, connection of the boycott of Apartheid South Africa to the BDS call aside, Goldberg's contention still falls flat.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

If Words Could Kill:
Those Bloodthirsty Americans and Their Death Threat Duplicity

"i want people to see the truth...regardless of who they are...because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public." - Bradley Manning

"Assassination is the extreme form of censorship." - George Bernard Shaw

Ever since WikiLeaks became a household name this past summer, following the release of 77,000 secret U.S. documents relating to the ongoing occupation and destruction of Afghanistan, many American politicians and pundits have been calling for blood. Despite then-top military commander General Stanley McChrystal's own admission in March of this year, the U.S. military in Afghanistan has "shot an amazing number of people" even though "none has ever proven to be a threat," the ire resulting from the activities of WikiLeaks is directed at the whistle-blowers themselves, rather than at those actually implicated in war crimes as shown by the leaked documents.

In their eternal allegiance to government secrecy, aggressive imperialism, and American exceptionalism, numerous WikiLeaks' critics have been outraged over the publication of U.S. government documents.  While accusing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of everything from espionage to terrorism to treason (Assange isn't a U.S. citizen), they hold him responsible for the deaths of both soldiers and civilians and have even publicly suggested and supported threats to assassinate him.

The U.S. State Department claimed that the release of classified cables would "at a at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals" and Attorney General Eric Holder stated his belief that "national security of the United States has been put at risk. The lives of people who work for the American people have been put at risk. The American people themselves have been put at risk by these actions that I believe are arrogant, misguided and ultimately not helpful in any way."

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has described these hysterical reactions to WikiLeaks release as "fairly significantly overwrought" due to the continuing slow and calculated release of over 251,000 previously secret and classified U.S. diplomatic cables (fewer than 1,500 cables have been released so far).  Still, there are increasing calls not only for Assange's indictment, but also explicitly for his murder.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Balfour and After:
Discussing the Declaration on NPR

Jonathan Schneer, an expert in British history and author of a new book about the Balfour Declaration, was the featured guest on today's Leonard Lopate Show on NPR. It was a very interesting and wide-ranging discussion that lasted about 30 minutes.

Here is Lopate's introduction:

November 2nd marked the 93rd anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, the statement that put imperial support behind the aspirations of a small group of British Zionists in 1917. But, while the British were giving Jews a mandate to settle in Palestine, Prime Minister Lloyd George was secretly promising the land to the Ottoman Empire and some members of his government were simultaneously supporting the rise of Pan-Arabism. In his new book, The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Jonathan Schneer, a specialist in modern British history at Georgia Tech, explores the complicated history behind the document.
Schneer says that the British government believed that issuing the Balfour Declaration would help them win the ongoing World War. He continues,
Essentially, the leader of British Zionism who was a Russian chemist named Chaim Weitzmann, who later becomes the first president of Israel, persuaded the British governing elite that Jews represented a very powerful, if subterranean, force in world affairs. And, having persuaded them of that, he persuaded them, as well, that most Jews were Zionists and he also warned them that Germany was courting Zionists, and therefore the British concluded, as Weitzmann wanted them to conclude, that they should make an offer to Zionists which would win their support and win it for the British in World War I, and so they promised them Palestine in the Balfour Declaration.
Schneer also points out early on in the discussion that "Weitzmann's genius was to play upon preexisting anti-Semitic stereotypes held by some among the British governing elite in order to get them to make the promise," continuing that Weitzmann "let them think that Jews would wield important influence in the United States and helped persuade President Wilson that American should enter the war and helped to finance it, and also that Jews were very important in Russia and would keep Russia in the war if they could be bribed with the promise of Palestine."

Friday, December 10, 2010

Human Rights Day & U.S. Hypocrisy:
Defensive America's Contempt for Full Court, Press

"The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity." - André Gide

"WikiLeaks has shown there is an America in civics textbooks and an America that functions differently in the real world." - James Moore

Sixty-two years ago today, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 19 of the Declaration, to which the United States is undoubtedly beholden, affirms:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Well, except for WikiLeaks, of course.

Internet giant, which hosted the whistle-blowing website, dropped WikiLeaks last week, "only 24 hours after being contacted by the staff of Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate's committee on homeland security." Lieberman's call for censorship was also heeded by the Seattle-based software company, Tableau, which was hosting some informational, interactive charts linked to by WikiLeaks. These graphics contained absolutely no confidential material whatsoever and merely provided data regarding where the leaked cables originated and in what years they had been written. Nevertheless, for fear of government retribution, Tableau removed the charts, explaining,
"Our decision to remove the data from our servers came in response to a public request by Senator Joe Lieberman, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security Committee, when he called for organizations hosting WikiLeaks to terminate their relationship with the website."
Visa, Mastercard, and Paypal have all since followed suit.

But Lieberman hasn't stopped there. A few days ago, the Senator suggested that the New York Times could potentially be charged with violating U.S. law by publishing the leaked diplomatic cables. "To me, New York Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship," Lieberman said, during an interview with Fox News. "And whether they've committed a crime, I think that bears very intensive inquiry by the Justice Department," he continued.

Direct connections can, and should, be made to the 2006 revelations in the New York Times about the Bush administration's widespread domestic surveillance program, when then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales suggested that "the government has the legal authority to prosecute journalists for publishing classified information."

In addition to being a perfect example of the exploitation of state power to protect unflattering, revealing, and possibly damaging information about the government, Lieberman's censorship crusade is also amazingly ironic considering statements he has made in the past regarding internet freedom. Lieberman is a member of the less than nine-month-old "Global Internet Freedom Caucus," founded in late March 2010 by Senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Ted Kaufman (D-DE) in an effort to further demonize countries that occasionally push back against American imperialism and hegemony.