Tuesday, May 31, 2011

An Illegal, Unprovoked Military Attack on Iran?:
Anything Less Would Be Uncivilized

Iran Nuclear Scare Timeline Update XXXVIII:

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon told a Russian new agency that because "an Iran possessing nuclear weapons would be a threat to the entire civilized world," the Israeli government "strongly hope[s] that the entire civilized world will come to realize what threat this regime is posing and take joint action to avert the nuclear threat posed by Iran, even if it would be necessary to conduct a pre-emptive strike."

And what's more civilized than a devastating coordinated assault on a sovereign nation of over 70 million people that hasn't attacked any other country in over two centuries and whose military spending per capita is among the lowest in the region?

Last week, on May 27, Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London reiterated his frequent claims that Iran is close to a nuclear breakout capability. Reuters quotes Fitzpatrick as saying "the totality of the evidence indicates beyond reasonable doubt" that Iran was seeking a capability to make such weapons, continuing that "if Iran decided to 'weaponize' enrichment, it would need about 16 months to yield the first bomb's worth of highly enriched uranium at its Natanz enrichment facility, if all centrifuge machines were used for this purpose."

The report goes on:

At least six months would then be required to fashion the highly-refined uranium into a weapon, Fitzpatrick added. Developing a missile to deliver it would add to the timeline, the former senior U.S. State Department official said.

But one bomb would be insufficient as a credible deterrent.

"It would seem foolhardy for a nation to go for broke, with the international reaction that would entail, before it could manufacture at least a handful of weapons," Fitzpatrick said.

"Assembling such an arsenal would multiply both the amount of weapons-grade uranium that would be needed and the amount of time it would take Iran to reach the threshold capability."
Regarding the recent IAEA Safeguards Report, released on May 24, Fitzpatrick repeated the false allegations of Iran hawks like The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg and The New York Times' David Sanger. "The latest IAEA report includes evidence that what originally were thought to be just paper studies also include actual experiments, including on triggers for a nuclear weapon," he said, despite the fact that the new report included absolutely no evidence of any actual experiments, not even on triggers.


Iran Nuclear Scare Timeline Update XXXVII:
Meir Javedanfar's Continued Fear-Mongering and Shoddy Journalism

Writing this past weekend in The Guardian, perennial Iran alarmist and Israel defender Meir Javedanfar addresses the latest IAEA Safeguards Report on the Iranian nuclear program. He leads off with this hysterical attention-grabber:

Last week brought new indications that the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran want to make a nuclear bomb.

The disclosure was part of the newly released nine-page report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It stated that "Tehran has conducted work on a highly sophisticated nuclear triggering technology that experts said could be used for only one purpose: setting off a nuclear weapon".
Seems simple enough. But it's a lie. The quote Javedanfar uses is not from the IAEA report at all despite what he writes; rather, it is swiped wholesale from the New York Times article lede on the IAEA report, written a few days earlier by the Times' resident Judith Miller clones, David Sanger and William Broad. The actual IAEA report does not make this claim. In fact, the words "evidence" and "trigger" are nowhere to be found in the IAEA report, despite the fact that the New York Times headline reads "Watchdog Finds Evidence That Iran Worked on Nuclear Triggers." The claim made by "experts" comes from the NYT report, not the IAEA. Javedanfar seems to have confused the two; one wonders if he's actually even read the IAEA report.

Here's what the new IAEA report, released on May 24, 2011, actually says:
Based on the Agency’s continued study of information which the Agency has acquired from many Member States and through its own efforts, the Agency remains concerned about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile. Since the last report of the Director General on 25 February 2011, the Agency has received further information related to such possible undisclosed nuclear related activities, which is currently being assessed by the Agency.
Compare this with the IAEA report back in February:
Based on the Agency’s continued study of information which the Agency has acquired, not only from many Member States but also directly through its own efforts, the Agency remains concerned about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.
The only difference between the two is the additional claim that the IAEA has, since February, "received further information" which is "currently being assessed." The IAEA makes no mention of having obtained "evidence" of anything, nor does it comment on the authenticity of the newly-acquired "information" received from "Member States."

Moreover, the New York Times report notes, "The agency did not say where the evidence came from, nor did it provide many details about the allegations."

In a more recent article (complete with a six-year old picture of Ahmadinejad and a big ol' Iranian warhead), William Broad fans the flames of the manufactured Iran Nuclear Scare™ by printing claims made by "two diplomats familiar with the evidence, both of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity under the usual protocol." Although emphasizing that "no single one of the technologies stood out as indicating bomb work" and conceding that some "have peaceful uses," these unidentified officials added that "the totality of the evidence...suggested that Iran has worked hard on multiple fronts to advance the design of nuclear arms."

In response to the new IAEA report, German analyst Bernhard, who writes the Moon of Alabama blog, pointed out:
The alleged uranium deuteride experiments claim comes from a much discussed 2009 article in the London Times. That one was likely based on fake documents presented by the U.S. to the IAEA on the infamous Laptop Of Death.
Nevertheless, Israeli and U.S. government stenographers like Javedanfar, Sanger, and Broad, along with the Washington Post's Joby Warrick and countless others, consistently use language regarding the Iranian nuclear program and IAEA reports that is purposefully selective, incomplete, and misleading with the clear intention of obfuscating the truth and ratcheting up propagandistic fear-mongering. For example, their reports in the most prestigious Western news outlets would naturally lead uncritical readers to the unequivocal conclusion that numerous questions regarding the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program, which is supervised and monitored around the clock by IAEA representatives, remain unanswered. However, the truth is quite different.

A look at the 2007 "Work Plan" between Iran and the IAEA (a prime example of Iranian 'confidence building measures') and Iran's compliance with fulfilling these measures to the IAEA's satisfaction shows that Iran has indeed responded adequately to the IAEA's demands for information about its nuclear program.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Interview with Kourosh Ziabari

Kourosh Ziabari is an Iranian journalist, author, polyglot, and contributing columnist and correspondant for numerous publications worldwide, including the Netherlands, Canada, Italy, Hong Kong, Bulgaria, South Korea, Belgium, Germany, the UK and the US. At the age of 14, he was selected as the world's youngest journalist by International Federation of Journalists and, in 2010, was honored by Iran's National Organization of Youths for his outstanding contributions and achievements in the field of "Media Activities."

Ziabari has conducted interviews with politicians, Nobel laureates, journalists, authors, among them political commentator and linguist Noam Chomsky, former Mexican President Vicente Fox, former U.S. National Security Council advisor Peter D. Feaver, German political prisoner Ernst Zündel, Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff, American author Stephen Kinzer, journalist Eric Margolis, former assistant of the U.S. Department of the Treasury Paul Craig Roberts, American-Palestinian journalist Ramzy Baroud, American international relations scholar Stephen Zunes, American singer/songwriter David Rovics, American political scientist and anthropologist William Beeman, British journalist Andy Worthington, Australian author and blogger Antony Loewenstein, Iranian geopolitics expert Pirouz Mojtahedzadeh, Lebanese scholar and researcher Gilbert Achcar, American historian Michael A. Hoffman II and Israeli musician and political commentator Gilad Atzmon.

I am thrilled and honored to have now been added to that list.

Below is the complete text of my recent interview with Ziabari during which we discussed a variety of issues including Israeli-American relations, Iran's nuclear program, recent Arab uprisings, and the death of Osama Bin Laden.

***** ***** *****

Kourosh Ziabari: As you have pointed out in your articles, over the past decade Israel has been continuously threatening Iran with preemptive military strikes. War threats have been an inseparable part of the U.S.-backed, Zionist-run propaganda project against Iran. The question which I want to raise is that, from a legal point of view, shouldn't incessant war threats by a fake political entity against a sovereign nation be followed by the decisive action of the international organizations, such as the United Nations Security Council? Why doesn't this aggressive fear-mongering have any punitive consequence for the Israeli regime?

Nima Shirazi: Considering no amount of actual Israeli aggression, whether in the form of ethnically cleansing East Jerusalem, shooting unarmed Palestinian protesters in the occupied West Bank, dropping bombs and white phosphorous on a besieged civilian population in Gaza, or murdering Turkish peace activists in international waters, is met with anything but unconditional support by Western powers, it's hardly surprising that Israel has been getting away with threatening a military attack on Iran for decades now. While it is true that both "the threat or use of force" is forbidden by the United Nations Charter, and therefore a breach of international law, it has long been clear that Israel is immune to such scrutiny as its ongoing violence is repeatedly justified, endorsed, and funded by the United States.

One of the primary reasons for this impunity is the successful promotion of Zionist mythologies in American political discourse. These mythologies, which go unquestioned and are often repeated by both Israeli and U.S. officials, serve to cast Israel - a heavily militarized, nuclear-armed hegemon - in the role of perpetual victim, always on the defensive. The result is emotional blackmail on an international level. This perennial victimhood completely inverts cause and effect. As a result, the oppressed becomes the oppressor, the culprit becomes the victim, occupation is security, illegal colonization is cultural liberation, aggressive expansion is righteous reclamation, genocide is self-defense, apartheid is justice, resistance is terrorism, and ethnic cleansing is peace.

The fear-mongering over a phantom Iranian nuclear bomb (a manufactured specter of death and destruction promoted by the U.S. and Israel for the past three decades) is invariably coupled with allusions to the Holocaust in which the Islamic Republic of Iran is the new Nazi Germany, Ahmadinejad is Hitler, Israel's very existence is threatened, and Jews worldwide face imminent extinction. As an Israeli Iran expert once explained to Trita Parsi, "You have to recognize that we Israelis need an existential threat. It is part of the way we view the world. If we can find more than one, that would be preferable, but we will settle for one."

The consequence of such dishonest and dangerous analogies is clear, as Peter Beinart pointed out last year in The New York Review of Books, "In the world of AIPAC, the Holocaust analogies never stop, and their message is always the same: Jews are licensed by their victimhood to worry only about themselves."

Recent comments by both Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu are both illustrative and instructive. Obama, speaking the other day at the 2011 AIPAC Conference, managed to weave a string of Zionist talking points together in one dazzling sentence: "When I went to Sderot and saw the daily struggle to survive in the eyes of an eight-year-old boy who lost his leg to a Hamas rocket, and when I walked among the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, I was reminded of the existential fear of Israelis when a modern dictator seeks nuclear weapons and threatens to wipe Israel off the face of the map -- face of the Earth."

Naturally, there is no mention or acknowledgement of the daily terror experienced by Palestinian children in Gaza who are subject to, not only deliberate sonic booms and collective punishment, but also U.S.-supplied Israeli fighter jets, attack helicopters, unmanned aerial drones, missiles, bombshells, bullets, and chemical, banned, and experimental weaponry. Needless to say, terming Ahmadinejad a "dictator" demonstrates a distinct lack of understanding about the Iranian political system. There is absolutely no evidence Iran is seeking nuclear weapons (Obama's own intelligence apparatus has consistently confirmed this) and the absurd "wipe Israel off the face of the map" quote has long been debunked. For the American president to repeat all these lies - in one sentence, no less - demonstrates the power and pervasiveness of Zionist mythology.

Netanyahu used a nearly identical formulation is his recent speech to a special joint session of Congress. "As for Israel, if history has taught the Jewish people anything, it is that we must take calls for our destruction seriously," he declared. "We are a nation that rose from the ashes of the Holocaust. When we say never again, we mean never again. Israel always reserves the right to defend itself."

Netanyahu's turn of phrase is ironic considering the title of former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg's 2008 book, "The Holocaust Is Over; We Must Rise From Its Ashes," in which Burg exposes the purpose of playing the victim. "Victimhood sets you free," he wrote. Over thirty years ago, in 1980, Israeli journalist Boaz Evron put it another way: "If we assume the world hates us and persecutes us, we feel exempted from the need to be accountable for our actions towards it."

The United States, which wields unparalleled power over international institutions such as the UN Security Council, has long dedicated itself to promoting this narrative and protecting its partner-in-war crimes Israel from any diplomatic or political scrutiny.

KZ: In your recent article, you referred to the remarks made by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who said in an interview with Charlie Rose that Iran does have the courage to announce its intention to build nuclear bombs if it ever has one. My question is that, are the United States and its European allies, really unaware of the fact that Iran does not have nuclear weapons and doesn't intend to build them? It's quite inconceivable that with its sophisticated intelligence structure, the United States hasn't really come to the point that Iran doesn't have nuclear bombs nor does it intend to make one. Is it all about black propaganda and fear-mongering to discredit Iran and derail its status as a regional superpower or a simple lack of sufficient information?

NS: Despite all the war-mongering rhetoric, the United States government is well aware that Iran's nuclear energy program remains peaceful and fully monitored by the IAEA. Its own intelligence agencies have consistently reaffirmed the non-military nature of the program, from the recently updated National Intelligence Estimate to its Annual Threat Assessments, and maintains that Iran's military strategy is purely defensive, not aggressive.

Iran is one of the only nations in the world that refuses to back down from its own inalienable rights in the face of Western, namely U.S., pressure. While Obama often declares his solidarity with the Iranian people (which he sees as unsupportive of its own government - another fallacy based mostly on Western wishful thinking), he ignores that, according to a recent RAND Corporation survey, 87% of Iranians strongly favor the "Iranian development of nuclear energy for civilian use," while a whopping 98% believe that the "possession of nuclear energy is a national right." By insisting that Iran relinquish its rights (as affirmed by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran has been a signatory for over four decades), Obama reveals himself as a hypocrite and a bully.

KZ: The United States is apparently clinging to double standards when it comes to Israel's nuclear program. Almost everyone knows that the Israeli regime is the sole possessor of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. It does possess up to 200 nuclear warheads in its arsenal, and none of the international organizations, including IAEA have ever dared to question or investigate this dangerous arsenal. Once in an interview with me, the Antiwar.com writer Joshua Frank said that the "United States doesn't have to justify its double standards to anyone," because of the arrogant nature of its statesmen and the complicated structure of what Hamid Golpira calls its "corporatocracy." What's your viewpoint in this regard?

NS: The duplicity of both the United States and Israel when it comes to the nuclear issue is astounding. During his recent speech to Congress, Israel Prime Minster Netanyahu actually suggested with a serious face that "a nuclear-armed Iran would ignite a nuclear arms race in the Middle East," as if his own country - with its own massive nuclear stockpile - either didn't exist or wasn't in the Middle East.

It is both official Israeli and U.S. policy that Israel's nuclear arsenal goes unacknowledged. This policy was established between President Richard Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in 1969. A declassified memo from Nixon's national security adviser Henry Kissinger, dated July 19, 1969, notes, "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." Accordingly, Nixon formally suspended all inspection of Israel's Dimona nuclear plant in 1970 and ceased demands that Israel join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The next year, the Nixon administration sold Israel hundreds of krytons, a type of high-speed switch necessary for the development of nuclear warheads.

When 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" and which was tantamount to giving "Israel an NPT treaty get out of jail free card."

Israeli nuclear expert Avner Cohen has described the denial policy as the equivalent of "don’t ask, don’t tell." Yet, when officials are occasionally asked, the policy invariably becomes "don't tell, then quickly change the subject to the manufactured Iranian threat."

In recent years, there have been efforts by NPT members to pressure the IAEA to investigate and inspect Israel's nuclear arsenal. These actions have all been opposed by Western states, led by the U.S. Last year, all 189 member nations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (including both the United States and Iran) agreed to "the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction." Unsurprisingly, Israel denounced the accord, describing it as "deeply flawed and hypocritical" and declared, "As a nonsignatory state of the NPT, Israel is not obligated by the decisions of this Conference, which has no authority over Israel. Given the distorted nature of this resolution, Israel will not be able to take part in its implementation."

In June 2010, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano asked all member states to submit their review to support the implementation of a 2009 IAEA resolution which expressed "concern about the Israeli nuclear capabilities, and calls upon Israel to accede to the NPT and place all its nuclear facilities under comprehensive IAEA safeguards." In response, Obama reaffirmed his administration's commitment to double standards when it comes to Israel during a meeting with Netanyahu. After decrying efforts to supposedly "single out" Israel, Obama proceeded to do just that, claiming that, of all countries in the world, "Israel has unique security requirements." He then vowed that, with regards to any international efforts towards weapons control and decommissioning nuclear weapons, the "United States will never ask Israel to take any steps that would undermine their security interests" and promised to maintain Israel's "qualitative military edge" in the region. In September 2010, after intense U.S. lobbying on behalf of Israel, IAEA members narrowly rejected the resolution with a vote of 51 against, 46 for, and 23 abstentions. The hypocrisy continues.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Iran Nuclear Scare Timeline Update XXXVI:
A Busy Week, AIPAC'd with Propaganda

Over the past five months, I have been adding updates to my article, "The Phantom Menace: Fantasies, Falsehoods, and Fear-Mongering about Iran's Nuclear Program," whenever new predictions and allegations about Iran's nuclear program are released.

To read them all, click here.

Here's the latest:

May 24, 2011 - The past few days have seen a flurry of furious fear-mongering and lies about Iran - none of them new, all of them ridiculous.

As two War Criminals/Pathological Liars/Men of Peace™ (one who presides over two endless occupations, the illegal assault on Libya, and authorizes illegal drone strikes on civilians in numerous countries; the other a racist ethnosupremacist presiding over continued ethnic cleansing, occupation, land theft, colonization, apartheid, and collective punishment) did the rounds at Washington D.C. podiums - from the State Department to AIPAC to the halls of Congress - nearly every tired, tried and true Iran talking point was trotted out in one of the most absurd propaganda bonanza offensives seen in recent memory - aimed not only at raising the levels of the trusty Iran Spookometer, but also to make sure Palestinians will never know a day without injustice, oppression, and humiliation.

On May 19, Barack Obama delivered a major policy speech about the Middle East and North Africa during which he decried "Iran's intolerance and Iran's repressive measures," as well as "its support of terror" and what he deemed Iran's support for Syria's recent crackdown on dissent with "assistance from Tehran in the tactics of suppression." Naturally, although Obama spoke of Iranian hypocrisy, he didn't mention the U.S.-made tear gas canisters that blind, maim, and kill both American and Palestinian unarmed protesters in the West Bank or the U.S.-made aircraft and missiles that bombard the imprisoned residents of Gaza on a regular basis. He also claimed that "Iran has tried to take advantage of the turmoil" in Bahrain, despite the fact that there is literally no evidence for such a charge.

Notably, though, Obama mentioned his administration's opposition to what he called Iran's "illicit nuclear program," though he didn't take the time to explain what about the IAEA-monitored program was "illicit." He did, however, state that the United States "will continue to insist that the Iranian people deserve their universal rights, and a government that does not smother their aspirations." Apparently, he meant all universal rights except the "inalienable" one that affirms Iran's right to "develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination." According to a recent RAND Corporation survey, 87% of Iranians strongly favor the "Iranian development of nuclear energy for civilian use," while a whopping 98% believe that the "possession of nuclear energy is a national right." Obama didn't make it clear when he would start insisting on that particular Iranian right.

Instead, during a meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister the following day, Obama noted that he and Netanyahu "continue to share our deep concerns about Iran, not only the threat that it poses to Israel but also the threat that it poses to the region and the world if it were to develop a nuclear weapon."

Two days later, speaking in front of the densest concentration of Zionist war-mongers this side of Herzliya, the American President easily won a bet by weaving about ten different hasbara talking points into a single sentence, declaring,

"When I went to Sderot and saw the daily struggle to survive in the eyes of an eight-year-old boy who lost his leg to a Hamas rocket, and when I walked among the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, I was reminded of the existential fear of Israelis when a modern dictator seeks nuclear weapons and threatens to wipe Israel off the face of the map -- face of the Earth."
Chances are, Netanyahu has already had this quote printed on t-shirts.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Disregarding Law, Redefining Justice:
The (Il)legality of Killing Osama, or "Bin There, Gun That"

"Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage -- torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians -- which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by 'our' side...The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them."

- George Orwell, Notes on Nationalism, May 1945

Much has already been written about the legality of the SEAL Team Six operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan. While there is little discussion or interest on the so-called "right" regarding such trivialities as international law and extrajudicial killing, some on the so-called "left" have seen the value of raising questions and attempting to answer them. While some suggest (or declare) that, based on the information available from the White House public relations team, Osama bin Laden was assassinated without requisite due process, others - like ThinkProgress' Matt Yglesias and American Prospect's Adam Serwer - have laid out evidence insisting that the raid and killing of bin Laden was perfectly legal.

Soon after MSNBC's resident blowhard Ed Shultz dismissively mocked "intellectual liberal hand-wringing" over the kill team's legality and appropriateness, Serwer posted a summary of his pro-legality arguments under the heading, "A Liberal's Guide To Why Killing Bin Laden Was Legal," in which he tries to "collect all the liberal arguments against the legality of killing Osama bin Laden in one place" and then address them one by one in a good faith effort "to make clear why killing bin Laden was legally justified."

Unfortunately, Serwer - who is an impressively prolific and astute analyst - doesn't do a very good job. His selective reading and application of international law and United Nations resolutions, as well as his inability to decide whether or not al Qaeda is a "criminal organization" or a "military target," does his smug declarations no favors. This is not to say that the determination of legality in this regard is an easy or uncontroversial one, but that Serwer's analysis is, at best, weak and unconvincing.

Earlier this year, Serwer wrote of his frustration with the Obama administration's continuance of the Bush "war on terror" policies (though, amazingly, he praised the Bush administration for constructing a narrative based on flat-out lies). He condemned the Bush policies of "torture, rendition, the use of black sites, a two-tier system of justice for suspected terrorists, and the prison at Guantánamo Bay" and lamented that "Obama has preserved the 'hybrid' legal system for suspected terrorists and has announced he will continue to hold 50 Guantánamo Bay detainees indefinitely" and described the policy as "lawless." The system he decries is one based on a false premise, pushed by the Bush administration, that the "war on terror" is a legitimate military operation - a real "war" - in which captured combatants and suspects are treated as prisoners of war (and therefore can be detained without prosecution until the "cessation of hostilities" - which translates into permanent incarceration without due process since any manufactured "war" against a tactic or ideology is inherently endless).

So, according to Serwer, the capture and torture of suspected terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who the 9/11 Commission called "the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks," is "lawless," while the extra-judicial execution of Osama bin Laden, who has never stood trial for his crimes, is "legally justified." Oddly enough, in reference to the water-boarding of KSM and information obtained through torture, Serwer recently wrote in the Washington Post, "Effectiveness aside, torture wouldn't be morally justified even if it worked." So, again, torturing the 9/11 "mastermind" is unethical, whereas putting two bullets in the head of Osama bin Laden (read: not the 9/11 mastermind) and dumping his body in the ocean is, in Serwer's own words, "the most proportionate, legally and morally justified use of American state force against terrorism in a decade."

This hardly makes sense, unless you assume Osama bin Laden represents a singular, inhuman evil or believe his killing is required as a symbolic action of American triumph and commitment. If so, it follows that neither domestic nor international law has any meaning and that political assassination is legitimate so long as it might provide "closure" for someone, somewhere. American exceptionalism laid bare.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Killing of Osama bin Laden:
Vengeance Has Been Done

It has taken a while for me to write anything regarding Barack Obama's announcement last Sunday night that members of the US Special Operations Forces (JSOC's Navy SEAL Team Six) had shot and killed Osama bin Laden in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The reason is primarily due to so many other excellent analysts beating me to the punch and voicing my own feelings far better than I could have myself (thus saving me the time and effort). My own reaction to the news lies somewhere within an amalgam of these articles by Glenn Greenwald and David Sirota in Salon, Chris Floyd from Empire Burlesque, Haim Baram in H'aretz, Cord Jefferson in Good, Chris Hayes in The Nation, Kai Wright of ColorLines, and this post by Will Wilkinson from The Economist.

With all the shifting versions of what really happened during the Abbottabad raid (prompting the White House to finally gag itself), one thing is clear: this was a kill mission.

The other day, Marc Ambinder, writing in National Journal, reported:

The White House made clear to JSOC that it strongly preferred to have bin Laden killed, rather than captured, because the administration had no good idea where to put him. Still, just in case bin Laden successfully surrendered, a contingency plan was created for taking custody of him. It involved flying bin Laden to a U.S. aircraft carrier in international waters, with decisions to be made later on where to take him after that. The half-formulated plan, of course, never had to be used. (emphasis added)
So, apparently, it's better to execute a wanted criminal than have the annoying task of actually bringing him to justice. I mean, it's such a hassle to figure out where to put him! And they had "no good idea" anyway. Imagine all the paper work! Far easier to shoot him in the face and dump him into the ocean. In strict accordance to Islamic principles, of course. Just like all Muslim sea burials.

Clearly, this is what Obama meant by the "pride in what this nation stands for, and what we can achieve." He is aware that shooting an unarmed man is "a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people." Anyone who might think that the "rule of law and the rights of man" are what make America great would be wrong. Covert kill teams are what make us great. A decade of invasions, occupations, and hundreds of thousands dead in order to exact vengeance on one man, now that's dedication, American-style. It's how we "stand up for our values abroad." It is "the story of our history."

Apparently, when he declared "that America can do whatever we set our mind to" and affirmed that "there’s nothing we can’t do," the President really meant, "there's nothing we can't do except actually capture bin Laden alive in order to put him on trial and sentence him to death for his crimes like our Constitution demands we do, because, hey, I just have no good idea about where to put him." When, during his inaugural speech, Obama said, "In reaffirming the greatness of our nation we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less," he wasn't counting the short-cut of killing rather than capturing and the settling for revenge rather than justice. And when, in the same speech and many since, Obama rejected "as false the choice between our safety and our ideals" and assured his citizens, and the world, that the United States would not abandon those ideals "for expedience sake," he didn't mean having to spend time dealing with the irritating task of finding a suitable location to detain the country's most wanted man and irksome minutiae of due process.

Earlier in his fawning love letter to JSOC, Ambinder also noted,
Created in 1980 after the disastrous hostage-rescue mission in Iran, JSOC is part of the U.S. Special Operations Command that oversees the various special-operations commands of the Army, Air Force, Marines, and Navy. Over the past 10 years, JSOC units have been essential to U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. JSOC has fought a silent but successful proxy war against Iran's Revolutionary Guards—even, National Journal has learned, engaging directly with its soldiers in at least three countries. It has broken up nuclear-proliferation rings. JSOC has developed contingency plans to safeguard Pakistan's nuclear weapons in the event of a coup in that nation. Its intelligence unit helps Colombian commandos dismantle lucrative drug rings that finance Hezbollah operations around the world. (emphasis added)
One would hope that such assertions would be backed up by actual evidence or at least a link to a source, but nah, Ambinder and his editors don't think so. Isn't this major news? Armed combat with the troops of another country? And yet, it's just glossed over with the expectation that Ambinder's readers will just smile and move on, thrilled that our militarism and kill teams know no bounds.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Iran Nuclear Scare Timeline Update XXXIII:
Israeli Fear-Mongering about Iran Faces a Barak-lash

Over the past four months, I have been adding updates to my article, "The Phantom Menace: Fantasies, Falsehoods, and Fear-Mongering about Iran's Nuclear Program," whenever new predictions and allegations about Iran's nuclear program are released.

To read them all, click here.

Here's the latest:

UPDATE XXXIII: Israeli Fear-Mongering about Iran Faces a Barak-lash

May 4, 2011 - Sometimes Ehud Barak has trouble staying on message.

Last year in Herzliya, he warned of Israel becoming an apartheid state like South Africa, a usually verboten analogy among Zionist officials, unless a viable Palestinian state is created soon. "As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic," Barak said. "If this bloc of millions of ­Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state." Whoops.

This time around, however, Barak pulled the rug out from under Israel's favorite scare tactic. The former Israeli Prime Minister/current Minister of Defense/Deputy Prime Minister told Ha'aretz today that even "[i]f Iran succeeds in developing nuclear weapons, it is unlikely to bomb Israel," thereby undermining one of the Netanyahu administration's main propaganda lines that a nuclear-armed Iran (if one ever were to exist) would represent an immediate "existential threat" to the self-proclaimed Jewish state.

According to Ha'aretz, Barak voiced his opinion that "Israel should not spread public panic about the Iranian nuclear program and responded to a question about whether he thought Iran would launch a nuclear attack on Israel by saying, "Not on us and not on any other neighbor."

Just a few days ago, on May 1, both Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres repeated their dire warnings and tired talking points about the supposed Iranian threat. Speaking at the opening ceremony of Holocaust Memorial Day at Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial to Jewish victims of Nazi genocide, Netanyahu and Peres both "stressed Iranian nuclear aspirations as an existential threat to Israel," with Netanyahu declaring that "Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas are working openly for the destruction of our people." He continued, "We cannot place our fate in the hands of others," and then warned that, "when Israel and the Israel Defense Forces say, 'Never Again,' they mean precisely that." Going for broke, Netanyahu just started making things up. "[T]oday, new enemies are rising, and as they deny the Holocaust, call for the destruction of our people," he said, "those wishing to destroy the Jewish state" are "arming themselves with nuclear weapons in order to realize those ambitions." Naturally, he threw in the "existential threat" canard: "The threat to our existence isn't a theoretical one, it cannot be minimized, it stands before us, before all of humanity, and it must be stopped," he bellowed.

Peres went even further, stating, "Iran's fanatic leadership is a danger to the entire world. It is not only a threat to Israel. It is a threat to any household, anywhere. It is a real risk to the fate of humanity."

Drawing a bogus parallel from Nazi intentions to Iranian ones has long been a mainstay of Israeli fear-mongering despite its obvious absurdity.

Meanwhile, during his Ha'aretz interview, Barak explained, "I don’t think in terms of panic," continuing,

"What about Pakistan, some political meltdown happens there and four bombs wind up in Iran. So what? So you head for the airport? You close down the country? Just because they got a shortcut? No. We are still the most powerful in the Middle East."
This is not the first time Barak has made such comments. In April 2010, Barak told Israel Radio, "Right now, Iran does not pose an existential threat to Israel. If Iran becomes nuclear, it will spark an arms race in the Middle East. This region is very sensitive because of the oil flow; the region is important to the entire world. The fact that Iran is not an immediate threat, but could evolve into one, means that we can't let ourselves fall asleep."