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The Egyptian Revolution and Democracy

By Brian NapoletanoPalestine Chronicle

Washington’s response to the Egyptian revolution suggests that US officials have no desire to see democracy

Imperial conquests have always had their ideological justifications. Even in earlier ages, exterminating a people, exploiting their resources, stealing their lands, and enslaving their children were generally non-starters when it came to firing up the local populace for another military campaign. Accordingly, the Romans “civilized” the barbarians, the Spanish conquistadores “brought the gospel” to the “New World,” and the English were “shining the light of civilization” on the Indian subcontinent. Although most history books tend to minimize the genocide and slavery that accompanied Europe’s string of conquests (including North America), few have any illusions about the true objectives of Rome, Spain, Portugal, Great Britain, and other countries’ imperial adventures. Similarly, when future students of history read about the mission undertaken by the US government to “spread democracy” at the dawn of the twenty-first century, they too will most likely understand its true motives far better than most of the intellectuals and analysts who frequently appear in the news media today.

The recent democratic revolution in Egypt provides a number of insights into the gap between the US government’s ostensible and actual commitments to democracy in Northern Africa and Western Asia. According to most accounts in the popular media, Washington’s enthusiasm for the revolution was tempered by its desire for “stability” in the region. Specifically, US officials, according to this framing of the revolution, wanted to support the democratic revolution, but had to consider what sort of message such support would send to their other allies in the region. Underlying this explanation is the fact that the US is allied to a number of regimes that are not democratic, and may soon be facing popular uprising similar to the one that took place in Egypt.

An alternative interpretation of Washington’s response to the Egyptian revolution, however, suggests that US officials have no desire to see democracy establish itself in the North Africa or West Asia, their public pronouncements—repeated endlessly by the major news media—notwithstanding. While this interpretation is not likely to appear in the New York Times or the Washington Post, it is far more consistent with the available evidence and the historical record than is the one based on a stability-democracy trade-off. The essence of this alternative is that what US officials call democracy, and therefore would like to see established in Egypt and the rest of the region, bears only a superficial resemblance to democracy proper, or the form of democracy that was embodied in the Egyptian revolution.

Insofar as democracy is defined in its literal sense, it entails public participation in the important decisions that affect everyone’s lives, a government that is responsive to the will of the majority while simultaneously respecting the rights of the minority to try to gain majority support through unrestricted speech, dissent, and equal access to the press, a respect for individual dignity, and a commitment to creating the conditions that will allow each member of society to develop her potential to his own satisfaction. Insofar as this form of democracy can be considered a means instead of an end, it is a means by which each individual expresses her individual sovereignty, and it is a process through which society learns to govern itself. Its basic principles are, for the most part, consistent with those contained (in various forms) in the US Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and corresponding treaties on social, economic, civil, and political rights, and in most textbooks on government and society.

US and other policymakers, however, consider such a definition of democracy naïve at best, and in most cases consider it dangerously misguided. They adhere to an alternative definition of democracy  as a means by which a prescribed set of policies is legitimized with a public mandate. In this form of democracy, most of the policies and programs that actually affect the public are moved out of the democratic realm and into the economic market, where authoritarian institutions dominate the decision-making process with little to no democratic accountability. Instead, the production of goods and services is determined by a layer of technocrats whose primary objective is to maximize the bottom line, while a layer of bureaucrats ensures that the transfer of public resources from state institutions to the private sector is not disrupted by a change in political leadership.

One of the defining features of this ersatz version of democracy is how little influence the public actually has on the most important decisions that affect everyone’s lives. From issues that affect the rights of minorities… to widespread social issues, such as the provision of health care and the allocation of public resources, the public is virtually excluded from the decision-making process. On the other hand, periodic elections are typically a key component of this formal democracy, and popular governments to which the US is opposed (e.g. Hamas and the Patido Socialista Unido de Venezuela) are frequently accused of subverting, fixing, or not even holding elections. As the recent presidential election in the United States illustrated, however, the outcomes of elections in the formal version of democracy have very little bearing on the economic and social policies and programs adopted by the state.

Politicians frequently conflate the “popular” and the “formal” definitions of democracy, and the popular media rarely, if ever, challenge this equivocation. As a result, commentators must then invent elaborate explanations to account for the disparity between Washington’s professed democratic values and the seemingly anti-democratic policies it implements. The Egyptian revolution, however, offers an example of a popular democratic movement that defies Washington’s moribund political model and the reforms it offers as palliatives.

By most accounts, the popular uprising in Egypt formed in response to the Mubarak regime’s failure to meet the criteria of popular democracy. The overwhelming majority of the country was unified behind a simple desideratum: Mubarak’s immediate resignation. The Obama administration initially sided with Mubarak. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, who considers Mubarak a family friend, was among the first US officials to comment on the situation, and emphasized that Mubarak’s regime was an important US ally that had consistently helped the US maintain “stability” in the region.

In the 28 January speech that he coordinated with Mubarak, Obama condescendingly reminded the protesters that they had “a responsibility to express themselves peacefully,” regardless of the violence inflicted on them by the country’s US-trained and equipped security and military forces. Although Obama offered nothing more than vacuous statements about Egypt’s future, promised no specific reforms, and evinced no commitment to backing the protesters’ demands, Washington Post reporter Karen DeYoung claimed at the end of January that the Obama administration had “firmly aligned itself … with the protest movement that has overtaken Egypt” by “calling for an ‘orderly transition’ to a more representative government.” the administration merely called on Mubarak to implement cosmetic reforms, while protesters were demanding his immediate resignation.

As late into the revolution as 7 February, the LA Times was reporting that the administration had “dampened” its “sense of urgency” regarding a transition from Mubarak’s regime, and instead “aligned itself with power-brokers such as new Vice President Omar Suleiman, who are urging a more stable, if much slower, move to real [i.e. formal] democracy.” The Times described this policy as consistent with  the Obama administration’s “goal of maintaining stability in the Middle East,” even at the expense of democracy. Meanwhile, Obama’s “crisis envoy” to Egypt, Frank Wisner—a longtime advocate for and personal friend of Mubarak—openly called for Mubarak to retain power in Egypt, a statement to which the Obama administration responded by claiming that Wisner was only speaking in his “private capacity.”

Once the protesters finally forced Mubarak out of office the White House performed a volte-face. In his carefully worded response to Mubarak’s resignation, Obama congratulated the Egyptian people on toppling the regime, and announced that the US government stands “ready to provide whatever assistance is necessary, and asked for, to pursue a credible transition to a democracy.”

Obama did not, however, apologize to the Egyptian people for the military and political support, including some of the weapons and training used against the protesters themselves, that the US government had been giving to Mubarak for several years.

Self-identified “realists” and other key elements of the US foreign policy establishment have largely praised the Obama administration’s “balanced” response to the Egyptian revolution. Most of the media have portrayed the US government as having refrained from direct involvement in or obstruction of the revolution, and have praised Obama for maintaining a delicate balance between the need for “regional stability,” which consists largely of regimes willing to tolerate—and frequently facilitate—Israeli apartheid and US “counter-terrorism” operations, on the one hand, and the desire to promote the spread of democracy on the other. This prompted the Obama administration to adopt, according to the narrative, a non-interventionist approach to the protest, which was the best the US could do under the circumstances.

While this narrative has won praise for Obama among both hawks and doves, it neglects two important factors: that funding for the training and equipment used by the same police, security, and military forces that were arresting, “disappearing,” and torturing protesters was provided by US taxpayers, and that the US and other governments’ habit of backing dictators—which has been almost universally condemned by the public and by international human rights organizations—has been identified as the key source of much of the anger directed at the US for more than 50 years, yet the habit continues.

Despite the acknowledged absence of any democratic credibility, the Egyptian government was the largest single recipient of US military and other aid after that other paragon of democracy in the region, Israel. Moreover, most of this aid had little to do with encouraging democracy or protecting the Egyptian people from Mubarak’s human rights abuses—Obama had actually cut funds for democracy-promotion initiatives from $50 million to $20 million in 2008, and cut aid to Egyptian civil society from $32 million to $7 million. Even without these cuts, these investments in democracy promotion programs (which are themselves frequently co-opted by the CIA to serve as propaganda platforms) and civil society comprised an insignificant proportion of the roughly $1.5-2 billion that the Egyptian government received from the US annually, principally in the form of military aid.

Egypt’s security forces have a long tradition of collaboration with US intelligence and police agencies, and Egypt was the US government’s initial partner in the illegal “extraordinary rendition” program that started under the Clinton administration. Moreover, recent embassy cables released by WikiLeaks confirm that the FBI has been supplying training and intelligence, including visits to the FBI’s training center in Quantico, Virginia, to Egypt’s repressive SSIS. The tear gas canisters and concussion grenades that police used against the protesters provided further evidence of US support, as many of them still bore their US manufacturing identifications.

While Obama praised the Egyptian military on behalf of the soldiers who refused to open fire on civilians, he failed to mention the officers who had issued such orders. He also failed to mention reports carried by the Guardian that Human Rights Watch has documented 119 arrests of pro-democracy activists, that the organization believes that many more have been “disappeared,” and that HRW’s Daniel Williams has expressed concerns that Mubarak’s resignation could be eclipsed by the US-trained military’s recent foray into torture and political repression.

The torture sessions that accompanied the “interrogation” of protesters arrested by the military, which receives approximately $1.5 billion in US aid annually, led many to conclude that the primary objective was intimidation rather than the identification of foreign instigators, particularly as pro-government protesters who were arrested by the military were handed over to the police and then released. The numerous accounts of torture and abuse by the Egyptian military that have begun to emerge contrast sharply with Obama and the media’s portrayal of soldiers as impartial observers to the unrest and as buffers between Mubarak’s hired thugs and the protesters.

While a number of media reports acknowledged US aid to the Mubarak regime, most of them portrayed Washington as having been placed in a “difficult situation” by the uprising, and continued to describe US backing for dictators like Mubarak as a “necessary evil” in light of the need to maintain “stability” in the region. Very few, however, offered further details on what is embodied in a stability important enough to merit military and political aid to a regime that routinely violates basic human rights, beyond explaining that such stability involves a level of repression severe enough to keep the population intimidated, but not so severe that it triggers a revolution.

One of the more convincing explanations of why such stability is so important to US policymakers was offered by the political scientist Vijay Prashad in an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!. According to Prashad, the stability that Mubarak imposed on Egypt was valuable to the US for three reasons (which he described as two pillars, one of which I have separated into two parts): Mubarak’s willingness to participate in the CIA’s illegal extraordinary rendition program and other “counter-terrorism” operations allowed the US to pursue its geopolitical objective of projecting hegemony over the region, his role as Washington’s apologist in a region that is both rich in natural resources and where US foreign policy has created widespread resentment among the public reduced the risk of political backlash to US economic and trade policies in the region, and his willingness to uphold the Egypt-Israel treaty of 1979 ensured that Israeli apartheid would not face a united challenge among the Arab nations. When journalists such as the Washington Post’s Scott Wilson refer to the “political vacuum” created by Mubarak’s resignation and the need to retain stability, they are primarily referring to Washington’s hopes that whoever replaces Mubarak will continue to maintain these three features of Israeli policy.

This “necessary evil” of backing brutal dictators because they uphold US interests and of blocking efforts to establish democracy has been a consistent feature of US foreign policy worldwide, and was already identified by the US National Security Council in 1958 as one of the primary reasons for the animosity towards the US that some in the Middle East evince. More than 50 years later, the popular uprising against Mubarak revealed a remarkable continuity in US policy. Unable to continue attributing this “pragmatic” doctrine to the “Soviet threat,” apologists now invoke the threat of “international terrorism” as the justification for Washington’s attachment to various dictators and repressive regimes. In the Middle East alone, the list of regimes that have received US backing, despite their hostility to human rights and basic democratic principles, includes Mohammad Rezâ Shâh Pahlavi in Iran, Saddam Hussein in Iraq (until he tried to assassinate the elder Bush), Muammar al-Qaddafi in Libya, Hussein bin Talal and Abdullah II bin al-Hussein in Jordan, Camille Nimr Chamoun in Lebanon, every Israeli regime from David Ben-Gurion to Benjamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas in the occupied Palestinian territories, and countless others.

Just as analysts in 1958 cautioned that Washington’s intimate relationships with brutal dictators was more likely to foster the growth of Stalinism than to deter it, contemporary analysts such as Michael Scheuer—a former CIA analyst and one of the architects of the extraordinary rendition program—have repeatedly warned that continued support for repressive regimes in the Middle East is more likely to trigger even more violent terrorist attacks than it is to deter them. This suggests that something other than the security of the US public is motivating Washington’s policies.

An erroneous conclusion frequently drawn regarding the reasons for US policies in North Africa and West Asia is that the Zionist lobby is responsible for the invidious policies endorsed by Washington. While Israel’s unmatched influence on US policy could explain some of the disregard for the rights of Palestinians, it fails to explain the consistency with which the US has backed dictatorships in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa, and ignores the fact that Washington has demonstrated that it will readily cut off Israel’s political and military support should Israeli actions be deemed inimical to Washington’s overriding political and economic interests.

A more accurate characterization of Washington’s attitude is that maintaining Israel as an extension of US hegemony and the most powerful military force in the region is consistent with US geopolitical objectives. Washington’s insouciant disregard for the interests of the majority of the Arab population is consistent with its attitude toward other regions of strategic interest, such as South and Central America and Southeast Asia. US policymakers tolerate Israeli apartheid because the strategic advantages of retaining Israel as a subaltern state outweigh the deleterious effects that such backing has on US prestige. As examples such as Cuba, Venezuela, Vietnam, Russia, and others have demonstrated, the US government can easily turn a population against itself even when Israel’s not involved.

Moreover, providing military aid to Israel has proven to be exceptionally lucrative for US weapons contractors. Whatever influence the Zionist lobby might wield, it pales in comparison to the money and influence wielded by corporations such as General Electric, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin. A number of other corporations, including Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard , and the Bobcat Company, also profit from the Israeli occupation by providing armored bulldozers to the Israeli Defense Forces, security systems, construction materials, and other resources to expand and entrench the illegal settlements.

In essence, the US government has repeatedly failed to push Israel into making peace with Palestinian people primarily because the Washington has no significant vested interest in doing so. While support for Israel’s apartheid government has done little to endear the US to much of the Arab population, Israel remains a loyal client state dependent on US military aid and political backing, and therefore a useful projection of US foreign policy in the region.

Discussions of US national security tend to be more frank than other political presentations, and offer more specific insights into what Washington means by “stability” in a given region. A consistent theme in US foreign policy and national security throughout the twentieth (and twenty-first) century has been has been cheap access to “raw materials” and “foreign markets.” Similarly, the US’ primary economic competitors, Europe and China, also require the same access for their firms to remain competitive. Hence, the economic competition between companies in these regions translates into a global geopolitical struggle for control over the world’s energy and agricultural resources. As a region abundant in the former and situated at a crossroads between Asia, Europe, and Africa, the Middle East has been a center of such struggle for decades. Accordingly, Washington is willing to tolerate Israeli apartheid and any other anti-democratic governments if doing so allows it to exert more control over the region’s energy resources than its principal competitors.

The media frequently confuse this issue by conflating the need to control the Middle East’s energy resources with the US’ economic dependence on inexpensive petroleum. However, the US does not need Middle Eastern oil for its own consumption—most (almost 60%) of the refined petroleum imported into the US from its 15 largest suppliers is actually provided by Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and other American countries, while only 22% comes from the Middle East (including Algeria). The need to control the flow of oil from the Middle East is more closely related to China and Europe’s dependence on the region’s oil supply, and the competitive economic relationship between the three regions, than to outright dependence on the supply by the US. While it is a bit of an oversimplification, the truth is stretched far less by suggesting that the US backs dictatorial regimes in the Middle East so that its companies can out-compete those of Europe and China than it is by suggesting that the US is actually concerned with promoting the spread of popular democracy in the region.

As the Obama administration’s response to the Egyptian revolution indicates, the US government does not support the growth or spread of popular democracy. While they do favor a system that maintains a veneer of democratic legitimacy through periodic elections, the absence of such legitimacy does not preclude a steady supply of US weapons and training. Essentially, democracy is acceptable insofar as it does not threaten the interests or power of the US’ dominant economic institutions. Consequently, Washington would much rather have seen Mubarak undertake superficial reforms to remain in power than an open revolution, and is already advising its other allies in Saudi Arabia, Israel, and elsewhere to undertake the former and stave off the latter.

The public is not always pacified by such reforms, however, and as living conditions continue to deteriorate for the poorest segments of society worldwide, challenges to US hegemony can be expected to occur more frequently. When such threats have arisen in the past, Washington has openly embraced dictatorships before conceding to the people of the Northern Africa, Western Asia, or any other region the right to determine their own destiny. In contrast to narratives that portray it as an impartial observer to Egypt’s revolution, the US government had been working for years to prevent the Egyptian government from becoming democratic. That the Egyptian people succeeded in spite of Washington’s efforts is a testimony to their strength and determination.

If democracy is to survive in Egypt, then it must also be allowed to thrive elsewhere. While the revolution has drawn attention to the gap between official rhetoric and US policies, it cannot be expected to significantly alter Washington’s attitude by itself. Instead, such change will require a concerted effort by the US public.

Accordingly, the ultimate outcome of the Egyptian revolution also depends on the willingness of the people of the US and its allies to follow their Egyptian counterparts’ example and demand popular democracy in their own countries. Only then can they hope to achieve more just and humane foreign policies that respect democracy, protect human rights and other basic standards, and subordinate economic considerations to the needs of the public.

Brian Napoletano is a member of the International Socialist Organization and the former Public Relations officer for Purdue University Students for Justice in Palestine.


After Tunisia and Egypt, Top US Intelligence Officials Promise to do Better

Source: Reuters

Top U.S. intelligence officials, facing criticism in Congress, on Wednesday defended their agencies’ reporting on the recent upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt but pledged to do better in the future.

“Specific triggers for how and when instability would lead to the collapse of various regimes cannot always be known or predicted,” James Clapper, director of national intelligence, told a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.

“What intelligence can do in such cases is reduce, but certainly not completely eliminate, uncertainty for decision-makers. But we are not clairvoyant.”

CIA Director Leon Panetta said his agency has set up a 35-member task force to examine how future unrest in sensitive regions could erupt and to assess potential outcomes.

Much more attention will be paid to how the Internet and social media can spark and affect protest movements, they said, although Panetta cautioned about the vast new piles of data that experts must pore over.

“The real challenge is … going through the diversity of languages, going through the different sites that are out there,” he said. “This involves a tremendous amount of analysis.”

U.S. spy agencies have been criticized in the past for not knitting together reports that could have given warning of major events, ranging from the collapse of the Soviet Union to al Qaeda’s attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.

In the case of September 11 and, more recently, the failed bombing of a U.S. airliner in December 2009, investigations showed U.S. agencies collected clues that could have disrupted the attacks well in advance but failed to connect the dots.

Tunisia was not ‘Top 10′ Concern’

Senior officials have strongly denied there were any intelligence failures over the unrest in Tunisia and Egypt — despite criticism from some lawmakers that the agencies’ reports were sometimes less informative than news stories.

The two spy chiefs acknowledged U.S. agencies offered little if any advance warning when unrest erupted in Tunisia in January. But Clapper, who supervises 16 frontline spy agencies and serves as President Barack Obama’s chief intelligence adviser, pointed to the limits of spycraft.

“We’re not like Sherman Williams paint. We don’t cover the earth equally. So frankly Tunisia was probably not up there on our top 10 countries that we were watching closely,” Clapper said. “Obviously we are going to work on that.”

Two sources who routinely read analytical papers by U.S. intelligence agencies said it would be unfair to criticize them for not being able to predict how the initial events in Tunisia would set off a chain reaction that, within days, would lead to the collapse of its government and the exile of its president.

But the sources said they were disappointed at the material generated after the Tunisian government fell, which tried to consider implications for other countries, particularly Egypt.

A senior U.S. intelligence official refuted the criticism, telling Reuters that in the 10 days between the collapse of the Tunisian government and the eruption of protests in Egypt, U.S. agencies produced many reports “that examined the implications for the Middle East and elsewhere around the world.”

Some of the papers, the official said, went only to the president and a small group of senior officials. Others were more widely distributed to officials authorized to read highly classified intelligence materials.

21st Century Strategy: Militarized Europe, Globalized NATO

By Rick RozoffGlobal Research

The new Strategic Concept, in addition to codifying a 21st century and expeditionary NATO, will fully launch global NATO, the world’s first international military axis

With the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms expiring last December 5 and its successor held up almost three months in large part because of U.S. missile shield provocations in recent weeks, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is forging ahead with the formulation and implementation of a new Strategic Concept.

On February 5 Russia unveiled its new military doctrine, which identified further NATO expansion eastward to its frontier and American and NATO interceptor missile deployments on and near its borders as the “main external threats of war.” [1]

On February 23 NATO held its fourth seminar on the new – 21st century – Strategic Concept decided upon at the sixtieth anniversary summit in April of 2009 in Strasbourg, France and Kehl, Germany. After previous meetings in Luxembourg, Slovenia and Norway, the final – and far most important – meeting was held in Washington, DC. Entitled Strategic Concept Seminar on Transformation and Capabilities, it was conducted at the National Defense University in the nation’s capital.

The Strategic Concept endorses expansion of the bloc deeper into the Balkans and the former Soviet Union, broadening global partnerships outside the Euro-Atlantic zone and consolidating an interceptor missile system to cover all of Europe as a joint U.S. and NATO project.

Russian concerns and NATO designs are at complete loggerheads, which accounts for among other problems a new START agreement remaining in limbo. And for Russia’s new military doctrine.

The results of the four seminars, masked as deliberative proceedings and even public information forums when in fact all important matters were decided years in advance, will be presented to NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on May 1 and formally adopted at the NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal this November.

The meetings that matter, those in the American capital where the White House and the Pentagon are situated, were presided over by former U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former chief executive officer of Royal Dutch Shell Jeroen van der Veer and their Group of Experts, alternatively Wise Men. The speakers at the Washington seminar included the U.S. foreign policy triumvirate of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Adviser James Jones, the last NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander from 2003-2006. Other talks were given by the same principals on the preceding evening.

The U.S. permanent representative to NATO, Ivo Daalder, and Alliance chief Rasmussen also gave presentations.

Gates demanded the world’s only true military bloc and certainly the sole one currently involved in a war “uphold the long legacy that has made NATO the most successful military alliance in history.” [2]

All the American speakers laid particular emphasis on NATO’s Article 5, in effect a mutual assistance provision for armed conflicts.

Robert Gates: “Few would have imagined that the first invocation of Article 5 in the alliance’s history would follow an attack on the United States homeland by a non-state entity based in a nation far beyond NATO’s traditional borders….”

“[T]he Strategic Concept must be clear that Article 5 means what it says: an attack on one is an attack on all. The concept also must go further to strengthen Article 5’s credibility with a firm commitment to enhance deterrence through appropriate contingency planning, military exercises, and force development.”

Hillary Clinton: “I want to reaffirm as strongly as I can the United States’ commitment to honor Article 5 of the NATO treaty. No Ally – or adversary – should ever question our determination on this point. It is the bedrock of the Alliance and an obligation that time will not erode.” [3]

Ivo Daalder: “Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which says that an attack against one is an attack against all, remains the bedrock of the alliance. And in order to have that Article 5 operate effectively in the world that we live in today, we need the deployability of forces, we need the ability for forces to move from different places across territory, we need to be prepared through exercising and planning to show and ensure that NATO is prepared to confront the threats that we face….” [4]

James Jones went even further in stating “NATO must be more lean, agile, and flexible to effectively address the security challenges before it. NATO must move beyond its doctrine of static defense of the 20th Century to become a more proactive Alliance for the modern era.”

“NATO must be prepared to address, deny, and deter the full spectrum of threats, whether emanating from within Europe, at NATO’s boundaries, or far beyond NATO’s borders.” [5]

NATO and American officials were equally unequivocal on the deployment of global interceptor missile facilities in Europe and beyond. NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said “Clearly, the development of a common Missile Defence capability will be more efficient and more cost effective if it is developed in common.” [6]

More specifically, he said that “missile defence has become a strategic imperative. To my mind, missile defence makes the most sense in an Alliance context. That way, you get forward-based sensors and infrastructure. Allied defence systems can fill the gaps in the US system’s coverage.” [7]

Daalder linked that project with NATO’s Article 5:

In his words, it is necessary “to make territorial missile defense a mission of this alliance, a mission to defend against a new kind of armed attack, that which arrives on ballistic missiles, whether these weapons come from Iran and hit Western Europe or North Korea and towards North America. In both instances, they would be a responsibility for Article 5 to be dealt with.”

Specifically mentioning the “120-some-thousand troops” from fifty nations serving under NATO command in Afghanistan and ongoing NATO naval operations in the Gulf of Aden and the Horn of Africa, he added: “Those are the kinds of operations that we are engaged in, that we are likely to continue to engage in, some of which will follow under Article 5. A defense against ballistic missile attack – even those of ballistic missiles come from very far if they attack NATO territory – would be an Article 5 contingency.”

Daalder came to his current post as U.S. ambassador to NATO from being Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and before that director for European Affairs on the National Security Council from 1995-1996, where he was responsible for the Clinton administration’s Bosnia policy.

He was an avid supporter of and advocate for the wars against Yugoslavia in 1999 – co-authoring a 2000 book titled Winning Ugly: NATO’s War to Save Kosovo – against Iraq in 2003 and against Afghanistan from 2001 to the present.

In his years at Brookings he co-authored a number of articles with James Goldgeier, a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, including a 2006 piece called “For global security, expand the alliance” which stated “since the challenges NATO faces are global, its membership should be as well.”

The authors added “NATO must become larger and more global by admitting any democratic state that is willing and able to contribute to the fulfillment of the alliance’s new responsibilities.

“NATO’s ability to bring together countries with similar values and interests to combat global problems is constrained by the exclusively trans-Atlantic character of its membership. Other democratic countries share NATO’s values and many common interests – including Australia, Brazil, Japan, India, New Zealand, South Africa and South Korea – and all of them can greatly contribute to NATO’s efforts by providing additional military forces or logistical support to respond to global threats and needs.” [8]

In the same year Daalder and Goldgeier wrote an article for Foreign Affairs, the publication of the Council on Foreign Relations, entitled “Global NATO.” In contents included the contention that “the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has gone global” and that its alleged “forward defense often requires a global military reach.” [9]

The new Strategic Concept, in addition to codifying a 21st century and expeditionary NATO (the terms are those of Alliance officials and advocates), will fully launch global NATO, the world’s first international military axis.

The project promoted by Daalder and his colleagues since the early 1990s is to be brought to fruition. He was given his post last year to assist in achieving that objective.

In the tendentious journalism he practiced in the pages of major U.S. dailies and journals while senior fellow at the Brookings Institution from 1998-2009 Daalder frequently criticised the ineffectuality of the United Nations, and his program for a global NATO – his exact term, recall – is meant not to supplement but to supplant the UN. [10]

Madeleine Albright, who delivered the opening and closing remarks at the February 23 Strategic Concept seminar, has similarly derogated the role of the UN; she who was U.S. ambassador to the organization from 1993 to 1997 when she led the successful effort to depose UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1997 after conspiring behind his back with Kofi Annan to obtain UN authorization for NATO’s bombing of Bosnian Serb positions in August and September of 1995. (The following month Annan was appointed UN special envoy to NATO.)

In speaking of “our vision for a revitalized Alliance for the 21st century,” Hillary Clinton celebrated Albright’s efforts throughout the post-Cold War period in her address in Washington on February 22: “She helped bring some of the countries represented here tonight into NATO in the late 1990s – an effort that many questioned at the time but which I believe has proven to be a major success. She played a central role in developing NATO’s last Strategic Concept eleven years ago.”

The vision of what NATO is to become in the new millennium was officially disclosed by Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen on February 7 at the annual Munich Security Conference. He unabashedly called for a global NATO.

Ahead of the Strategic Concept meeting in Washington, he urged that “NATO can be the place where views, concerns and best practices on security are shared by NATO’s global partners. And where … we might work out how to tackle global challenges together.” [11]

His view was seconded by Madeleine Albright, who said “I think we are talking about how we can have some coordinating mechanism for all the various organizations that exist in the world.” Raising a rhetorical question as to “which organization can make the biggest difference,” she answered it with “While I am a great admirer of the United Nations, I know what it can and cannot do.” [12]

A Russian news source responded eleven days later by revealing “NATO’s new strategy authorizing the alliance to use force in any part of the globe arouses deep concern in Moscow.

“Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said this strategy contradicts the United Nations’ Charter.”

Russia’s Lavrov warned that with the Alliance’s new Strategic Concept “NATO’s sphere of interests may cover the entire world.” [13]

That is precisely what the new doctrine and policy is designed to effect and what Rasmussen, Albright, et al. bluntly state its intention to be. The United Nations and international law will take a back seat to global NATO.

The United Nations and international law will take a back seat to global NATO

NATO “is working on a new military strategy which will let the alliance…use force globally,” of which Russia Foreign Minister Lavrov said “It does not fully comply with the UN Charter, and, of course, raises our concerns.” [14]

Not only does the Western military bloc’s plans to undermine, supersede and ultimately scrap the entire post-World War II international diplomatic and security order “not fully comply with the UN Charter,” it is a direct attack on it.

The new concept also reiterates and intensifies the complete militarization of Europe, the retention of U.S. nuclear arms and the stationing of missile shield components there and the deployment of the continent’s troops to war zones abroad. 35 of 41 European nations have deployed troops to Afghanistan on NATO’s behest, for example. [15]

It also advocates the right of the North Atlantic military bloc to intervene anywhere in the world and is increasingly reviving discussion of activating its Article 5 provision for confrontation with Russia in Europe and the South Caucasus.

Earlier this month Belgian Prime Minister Belgian Yves Leterme stated that his nation and Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway would issue a joint declaration urging consideration of the removal of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe. Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands are among five NATO countries housing the warheads, the others being Italy and Turkey. [16]

Nevertheless NATO’s position is to support the continued basing of American nuclear weapons, and the bloc will defer to Washington’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, scheduled to be submitted to Congress last December but delayed for several months.

NATO is the Pentagon’s nuclear Trojan horse in Europe.

After the founding of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in April of 1949 – four months before the Soviet Union successfully tested its first atomic bomb – the U.S. began to station nuclear weapons in Europe, as many as 7,300 by the early 1970s. [17]

The Pentagon retains as many as 350 nuclear weapons in the five nations mentioned above, a full twenty years after the end of the Cold War.

At the Strategic Concept seminar on February 23 in Washington Ivo Daalder repeated the sixty-year NATO position on nuclear weapons in stating, “We need to continue to rely on a deterrence based on a mix of conventional and nuclear forces.”

He also linked three integral components of NATO’s now global strategy – the threat to employ nuclear weapons, a worldwide interceptor missile system and the bloc’s Article 5 war clause – in asserting that “we need, in the new environment, to make territorial missile defense a mission of this alliance, a mission to defend against a new kind of armed attack, that which arrives on ballistic missiles, whether these weapons come from Iran and hit Western Europe or North Korea and towards North America. In both instances, they would be a responsibility for Article 5 to be dealt with.”

To underscore the point – that NATO would marshal the combined military might of its 28 member states in Europe and North America in alleged defense of any member requesting it – he added, “A defense against ballistic missile attack – even those of ballistic missiles come from very far if they attack NATO territory – would be an Article 5 contingency.”

“We would like the alliance to embrace the notion that the territorial defense of our – of – that territorial missile defense is a mission of NATO and therefore ought to be a fundamental part of what NATO does on a day-to-day basis. Whether that’s in the Strategic Concept or is a separate decision at the Lisbon summit is less important. Article 5 is going to be in the Strategic Concept. Ballistic missiles that are directed at the territory of a NATO state would be an armed attack and therefore fall under the definition of Article 5.

“We believe NATO should be in the business of missile defense. The United States has offered its new approach to missile defense as its U.S.-funded contribution to a NATO system. And we hope that by Lisbon [the NATO summit in November], the entire alliance will embrace this as a mission and we move forward together in defending against the threats that are out there in the 21st century.”

Defense Secretary Gates spoke in the same vein: “The threat from rogue nations is real – in particular Iran, which is focusing its efforts on short-and-medium-range missiles that could strike most of Europe. Last year, the Obama administration announced a new plan for missile defense in Europe – a phased, adaptive approach that will give us real capabilities in a shorter period of time than the previous plan. We consider this a U.S.-funded contribution to NATO missile defense, which is critical to the collective-defense mission….”

Collective defense, sometimes deemed collective self-defense, are the NATO codewords for activating Article 5 and ordering all members to respond militarily to a threat – real or fancied – to one or more members.

Clinton followed suit in stating “Missile defense, we believe, will make us safer because, clearly, we see a threat. We see a threat that is emanating from the Middle East and we see a threat that can only be addressed in the spirit of collective defense.”

Targeting the same countries earlier identified by Daalder (two of the three so-called axis of evil nations identified as such by former president George W. Bush), she said, “nuclear proliferation and the development of more sophisticated missiles in countries such as North Korea and Iran are reviving the specter of an interstate nuclear attack. So how do we in NATO do our part to ensure that such weapons never are unleashed on the world?”

In no manner does Iran raise the “specter of an interstate nuclear attack” and Clinton knew that. But it is the pretext required by the U.S. and NATO to base interceptor missile sites along Russia’s western borders from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.

The excuse needed to support Clinton’s demand that, more than twenty years since the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, NATO members still “need to invest in deterrence, nuclear deterrence as well as missile defense….”

The U.S. nuclear shield, linked with NATO’s Article 5, is being extended from Europe to Asia, the Middle East and ultimately the entire world. Global nuclear NATO.

In keeping with the conference held on NATO’s new Strategic Concept in London last October 1, hosted by Lloyd’s of London, in which the bloc’s Secretary General Rasmussen identified no less than seventeen nominal threats – all of them non-military in nature and all of them without geographical limitations – that NATO was prepared to respond to, [18] the Washington conference also highlighted the boundless and timeless mandate that NATO was arrogating to itself.

Rasmussen’s speech on February 23 included these observations:

“We must face new challenges. Terrorism, proliferation, cyber security or even climate change will oblige us to seek new ways of operating.

“As we deploy in operations with over 40 participating countries – Allies as well as partners – we have to move beyond a multinational force to become a truly unified force – a force where information and capabilities are shared among all to the benefit of all, and to get the job done.

“I have decided to establish a new division at NATO Headquarters to deal with new threats and challenges. Naturally Allied Command Transformation will be a key partner for this new division, which will become operational after the summer.” [19]

The previous evening Rasmussen spoke at Georgetown University in Washington, DC and elaborated on the Alliance’s Article 5 in practice rather than just in theory:

“The problems of the 21st century can only be solved multilaterally. And there is no stronger, more effective framework for that cooperation than NATO. But did you know that, on September 12th, all of America’s Allies in NATO declared that they considered this attack on America as an attack on them as well? Did you know that NATO sent aircraft to patrol the skies here in the United States? Did you know that all NATO countries put their ports and airfields at US disposal for the operation into Afghanistan? Or that most of them sent Special Forces, alongside US soldiers, in the initial military response?

“44 countries have soldiers in Afghanistan, under NATO command. Sharing the risks, the costs and the burdens with the United States. The non-US members make up 40% of the total number of forces. They also take 40% of the casualties.” [20]

He also indicated which nation NATO may next invoke its collective military assistance clause against: Russia. Unnamed but not needing to be in the context he was discussing.

“Our NATO Ally Estonia suffered a few years ago from a sustained, directed cyber attack that shut down a lot of essential services.

“Luckily, Estonia was able to withstand the attack. but NATO was called upon to provide advice and assistance, and we’ve set up a team that can deploy wherever needed, to support any Ally in case they come under this kind of attack.”

Rasmussen also singled out Iran and North Korea as potential targets for NATO action, as Clinton and Daalder also did. Those two nations will be at the center of NATO’s new international strategy.

He repeated his call at the Munich Security Conference for a NATO-initiated and -dominated worldwide security force:

“A key priority for me is to enhance NATO’s ‘connectivity’ with the broader international community, by building new ties to civilian actors – the United Nations, the European Union, the World Bank, all the way to the NGO community. We are also deepening our partnerships with countries from across the globe, from Australia to Japan. I believe we should also reach out to the rising stars of this century, such as China and India….And we are pushing ahead with the transformation of our military forces, to make them more flexible and useable.”

“NATO is a permanent Alliance, with a multinational political and military structure, and with over 60 years of experience in security cooperation. Put another way, we are no ad-hoc coalition of the willing. And this gives NATO a degree of competence, credibility and legitimacy that encourages even non-NATO countries to put their forces under NATO command.”

Daalder also advocated a sweeping, borderless agenda for the military bloc: “In order to provide security for NATO, it is important that one tackles…challenges and threats, if necessary, at the source, which means that NATO will have to operate beyond the territorial confines of the North Atlantic Treaty. And it does, which is why we’re in Afghanistan. We have 120-some-thousand troops, and growing, in Afghanistan….We have a counter-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden because the security of our economic lifeline is affected by the degree to which we can provide security for the ships that are crossing those lines.”

“NATO is an actor in a globalized world. And NATO will be involved as an actor in that globalized world, far from the shores, as it has been today, when it has launched the largest military operation in the history of the alliance, 5,000 kilometers from the headquarters in Brussels.”

Hillary Clinton also defined the world as NATO’s area of responsibility: “Some of the new dynamics we’re dealing with were beginning to appear in 1999 when NATO last revised its Strategic Concept. For example, we faced the question of whether the Alliance would engage in out-of-area operations. Today, NATO ships are combating piracy off the Horn of Africa. NATO’s Training Mission in Iraq has provided instruction to more than 14,000 Iraqis. We have agreed to work together to counter the missile threat from the Middle East. And in the last two and a half months, Allies have answered President Obama’s call to support ISAF’s mission in Afghanistan and are scheduled to increase their contributions by nearly 10,000 troops. In an interconnected world, we cannot defend our people by crouching behind the geographic boundaries of the Alliance.”

“We were glad to see the Alliance welcome Albania and Croatia last year. And there can be no question that NATO will continue to keep its doors open to new members.” An allusion to the remaining former Yugoslav states not yet full NATO members – Bosnia, Macedonia and Montenegro and behind them Kosovo and Serbia – and the former Soviet republics of Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova.

“NATO must also forge deeper partnerships with leading democracies beyond the Euro-Atlantic community. We are already working with many of these nations in Afghanistan. And we must find ways to build on these efforts and encourage more regular cooperation. We have already determined the need for a NATO that can operate at strategic distance.”

Clinton, Rasmussen, Albright, Jones and Daalder alike made claims for NATO’s global role, but the address by Pentagon chief Robert Gates was in some ways the most blunt and revealing of all.

The website of The Australian gave the title “Peace culture weakens NATO” to an account of his comments, which included his boast that “more than 120,000 troops are serving as part of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan – and thousands more are on their way,” and his insistence on “the expectation that everyone will fulfill their Article 5 responsibilities and duties.” [21]

The following are further excerpts from his address:

-At the strategic level, the greatest evolution in NATO over the last two decades is the transition from a static, defensive force to an expeditionary force – from a defensive alliance to a security alliance.

-It is clear that our security interests are no longer tied solely to the territorial integrity of member states, as instability elsewhere can be a real threat. Just consider the types of missions undertaken by NATO over the last two decades – from Bosnia and Herzegovina, to Kosovo, to counter-terrorism in the Mediterranean and counter-piracy in the Gulf of Aden, to the massive, multi-faceted stability, reconstruction, and counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan.

As Rasmussen and Clinton both mentioned alleged threats to Estonia where the only nation presenting them could be Russia, so Gates targeted the same country in his stressing “the core goal of defending the territory of member states from attack – a point made more relevant after Russia’s invasion of Georgia and its recent military exercises on NATO’s border, the largest of that type since the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

The “core goal” he spoke about is that addressed in NATO’s Article 5, which states:

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Gates like the other American speakers at the seminar invoked Iran as the justification for interceptor missile deployments, but repeated mention of Estonia and Georgia pertain exclusively to Russia.

He then launched into a diatribe against a fictitious peace contagion enveloping Europe – when almost the entire continent is now absorbed by NATO and practically every nation on it has sent troops to a war zone in Asia, “5,000 kilometers from NATO headquarters.”

Indicting European NATO allies’ unwillingness to match U.S. military spending – slated to reach an unprecedented $708 billion next year – Gates said, “Since the end of the Cold War, NATO and national defense budgets have fallen consistently – even with unprecedented operations outside NATO’s territory over the past five years.”

If anyone still cherishes hope for a peace dividend a generation after the end of the Cold War, Gates has nothing but contempt for them:

“These budget limitations relate to a larger cultural and political trend affecting the alliance. One of the triumphs of the last century was the pacification of Europe after ages of ruinous warfare. But, as I’ve said before, I believe we have reached an inflection point, where much of the continent has gone too far in the other direction. The demilitarization of Europe – where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it – has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st.”

A cultural infection of pacifism. A non-existent demilitarization of Europe which threatens peace. Sentiments of this type have not been voiced in Europe itself since the late 1930s and early 1940s, when like now most of the continent was united under one politico-military power.


1) NATO Expansion, Missile Deployments And Russia’s New Military Doctrine
Stop NATO, February 12, 2010
2) United States Department of Defense
3) Remarks at the NATO Strategic Concept Seminar
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Ritz-Carlton Hotel
Washington, DC
February 22, 2010
United States Department of State
4) On New Global Doctrine
Special Briefing on the Future of NATO
Ivo Daalder
Permanent Representative to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
Washington, DC
February 23, 2010
United States Department of State,
5) Atlantic Council, February 24, 2010
6) Remarks by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the fourth
Strategic Concept Seminar on Transformation and Capabilities, Washington DC
February 23, 2010
7) Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at Georgetown
February 22, 2010
8) International Herald Tribune, October 12, 2006
9) Foreign Affairs, September/October 2006
10) West Plots To Supplant United Nations With Global NATO
Stop NATO, May 27, 2009
11) Reuters, February 7, 2010
12) Ibid
13) Voice of Russia, February 18, 2010
14) Russia Today, February 18, 2010
15) Afghan War: NATO Builds History’s First Global Army
Stop NATO, August 9, 2009
16) Michel Chossudovsky, Europe’s Five “Undeclared Nuclear Weapons States”
17) NATO’s Secret Transatlantic Bond: Nuclear Weapons In Europe
Stop NATO, December 3, 2009
NATO’s Sixty Year Legacy: Threat Of Nuclear War In Europe
Stop NATO, March 31, 2009
18) Thousand Deadly Threats: Third Millennium NATO, Western Businesses Collude
On New Global Doctrine
Stop NATO, October 2, 2009
19) Remarks by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the fourth
Strategic Concept Seminar on Transformation and Capabilities, Washington DC
February 23, 2010
20) Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at Georgetown
February 22, 2010
21) NATO Strategic Concept Seminar
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, National
Defense University, Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why Do They Hate Us?

By Bouthaina ShaabanDaily Star Lebanon

News of what is happening to Arabs and Muslims in terms of injustice, imprisonment, starvation and torture have been prevented from reaching international conscience

The report of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon caused a shock to all those concerned about justice and human rights. In his report to the UN General Assembly on February 5, 2010, on the Israeli war on Gaza, he says: “No determination can be made on the implementation of resolution 64/10 by the parties concerned,” pointing out that he has “called upon all of the parties to carry out credible domestic investigations into the conduct of the Gaza conflict.” Ban does not live on the moon, of course; and, unlike American officials, he visited Gaza and saw for himself the hundreds of homes and schools, some of which are UN schools, shelled by the missiles and phosphorus bombs fired by Israeli warplanes.

TV screens all over the world had shown the dead bodies of children, women and unarmed civilians killed by Israeli bombs. He saw for himself the smoke of white phosphorus in the sky over Gaza. In order to ascertain himself of the credibility of the Palestinian narrative, he only has to look at the disabled people who lost their limbs, eyes and members of their families. Putting the Israelis and the Palestinians in the same category implies a great deal of injustice; and ignoring the tragic conditions imposed on the Palestinians for 60 years as a result of occupation and blockade is an injustice and a shame that will haunt those who committed it and those who condone it.

Although human life is sacred and must not be subject to the litany of figures, it might be useful to remind Western politicians who ask idiotically “Why do they hate us?” that Gaza was destroyed a year ago, not by earthquake as in Haiti, but by a war launched by Israel that killed over 1,400 Palestinian civilians and wounded over 8,000 other civilians, most of them seriously. The war destroyed the infrastructure; agricultural land was flooded by sewage water; and Israel continues to use collective punishment and blockade on over 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza where over 300 civilians have died as a result of the blockade. Still, Western officials ignore this horrible tragedy. The same is done by the UN secretary general, who is supposed to represent international conscience. He equates Israeli generals with their unarmed civilian victims. He and Western officials ignore the testimony of Israeli soldiers who revealed that they were ordered not take any account of the life of Palestinian civilians. The Israeli organization “Breaking the Silence” has revealed new facts about Israeli practices in the West Bank and Gaza. So, why this cover up of the crimes of those generals and why equating criminals with their victims by politicians and journalists who repeat the question: “Why do they hate us?”

Ban’s report, which reveals the international community’s failure to condemn war criminals if they were not Muslim or African, came days after US President Barack Obama made the State of the Union address, in which he ignored the Middle East completely.

The fact is that hundreds of millions of Muslims all over the world have for decades been watching the reactions of Western leaders toward tragedies caused by their policies, particularly their support for the Israeli occupation, settlements and blockade. They see that international institutions dominated by the West do not care about the killing and displacement of their brothers and sisters and the deprivation of their freedoms and human rights. If anyone makes a move to insure that justice takes its course, the American veto is there to thwart this effort. After all this, Western politicians still ask: “Why do they hate us?”

Even news of what is happening to Arabs and Muslims in terms of injustice, imprisonment, starvation and torture have been prevented from reaching international conscience. Here is the US, which boasts about the freedom of the press, banning satellite TV stations en masse if they try to uncover the depth of the human suffering of a people under occupation, while the occupiers enjoy unprecedented international immunity. They commit war crimes, and no one has the right to demand that they should be deterred and punished, as if the lives of Arabs and Muslims are not equal to the lives of other humans in Western standards.

Indifference to human suffering caused by occupation, injustice and oppression increases indignation against this gap between this painful reality and the double standards of the powers which control international media and politics.

The enquiry involving former British Premier Tony Blair shows the fragility of the logic which turns the lives of millions into a daily tragedy. But if Blair, like the prime minister who did not notice the racial segregation wall which is destroying the life of the Palestinians because he does not care about them, cannot see the millions of orphans, widows and handicapped produced by the war on Iraq, how is he supposed to regret supporting that disastrous war on the whole Iraqi people? Such trials have no significance and are no longer able to polish the image of Western democracy which has revealed its reality through its stances regarding the events in the Middle East.

Violence is the result of using unjust force instead of trying to achieve justice in Palestine. And whether Western politicians understand that or not, Palestine, the cradle of Jesus Christ, is the bleeding wound which will never be healed until the US, Europe and international bodies take a just position which restores to the Palestinians their freedom, rights and dignity. These countries and bodies, by funding and arming Israel, are responsible for depriving the Palestinians of their freedom and human rights; and when they grant immunity to its war criminals, they become accomplices in Israeli wars and blockades. When the American administration, and with it Europe and the highest international body, ignore atrocious documented war crimes committed by the occupation forces, only because the war criminals are Israeli, and turn a blind eye to the cruelest forms of suffering imposed on a whole people, only because they are Muslim, there will always be Jews, Christians and Muslims in America, Europe and even in Israel who will support the oppressed against their oppressors.

New twist in Iran’s nuclear brinkmanship

By Kaveh AfrasiabiAsia Times

As Iran celebrates the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, there are rays of hope that the dark clouds of a more intensified nuclear crisis may be disappearing

It is possible that by giving the go-ahead for the production of 20% enriched uranium, Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has sufficiently jolted the other side to rethink its approach on the nuclear fuel-swap deal.

On the surface, Iran’s decision has raised alarm bells in the West and has provoked a strong response from United States President Barack Obama, who has warned that his administration is “developing a significant regime of sanctions” to impose on Iran.

Even Moscow has expressed its displeasure, in the form of a statement by a Foreign Ministry official, which said, “We are disappointed with the Iranian step, which did not allow diplomats to agree on mutually acceptable ways for the fulfillment of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] proposal of higher-enriched uranium fuel production for the Tehran research reactor outside Iran.”

Under a proposal put forward by the IAEA last year, Iran would hand over its low-enriched uranium (LEU) to be further processed in another country before being returned for use at the Tehran reactor. On February 2, after much flip-flopping, Iran said it was now ready to send its LEU abroad. Then, on February 7, Iran announced it would itself begin enriching uranium to 20%, while saying it was still open to discussing the original proposal.

This has heightened concerns that Iran aims to build nuclear weapons, something it has consistently denied.

However, not all hope is lost for the IAEA-proposed deal, and there are emerging signs of growing activity on both sides to come to some sort of mutually satisfactory agreement.

On Iran’s part, various officials from the Atomic Energy Organization (AEO) to the Foreign Ministry have repeatedly stated that Iran is still open to the swap deal. Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the AEO, told the Tehran daily Iran that the government was willing to suspend production of 20% uranium if there were an exchange “without preconditions” of Iran’s 3.5% LEU in return for nuclear fuel rods. According to Salehi, Iran’s LEU could be “sealed and put under the custody” of the IAEA until it received the fuel it needed for the medical research reactor.

The news from Washington on the other hand indicates that the US is now working on a new proposal aimed at salvaging the nuclear deal that was unveiled last October in Geneva. This focuses on procuring medical isotopes for Iran from the international market. An administration official told the Washington Post, “Rather than operate a reactor, this would be a more cost-effective and efficient approach.”

Not everyone agrees with that assessment, however, and some US nuclear experts have openly admitted that Iran’s home production of key ingredients (eg technetium 99) would be less costly and more efficient. (See Dangerous steps in Iran’s nuclear dance Asia Times Online, February 9, 2010).

That aside, the problem with the US’s new approach is that it apparently seeks to make the reactor redundant by the promise of delivering the reactor’s net products. That will not wash with the Iranians, who have had an earful of unfulfilled promises over the past 30 years.

Instead, what may work to everyone’s advantage is a “mixed approach”, whereby the fuel swap under set timelines and delivery of medical isotopes to Iran would be the central elements of an agreement according to which Iran would refrain from engaging in enrichment activities deemed “highly dangerous” by the West.

“It’s Iran’s version of nuclear brinksmanship,” said a Tehran foreign policy expert. “The message from Tehran is clear: take our counter-proposal seriously or face the consequence of Iran taking a giant step closer to the ‘nuclear-capable’ threshold … There is cause for a pause on the part of Washington and London in their unreasonable rejection of Iran’s proposal.”

If a deal is worked out and a modified version of the IAEA proposal accepted, it would represent a unique victory for Iran’s nuclear diplomacy, combining “soft” and “hard” power to elicit a favorable response from the “Iran Six” nations, ie the US, France, Britain, Russia, China and Germany. These countries have engaged in nuclear negotiations with Iran over the past several years.

Also, if there were a breakthrough, it would frustrate some of the hardline voices in Iran that argue in favor of Iran “deepening its nuclear capability”. To silence such voices and to agree to limit Iran’s enrichment activities to low levels (below 5%), Iran’s top decision-makers would have to show that they had struck the right bargain without selling themselves short.

As Iran celebrates the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution on Thursday, with people expected to take to the streets in their thousands across the country – although some will be protesting against the current government – there are rays of hope that the dark clouds of a more intensified nuclear crisis may be disappearing.

The Biased US Broker in the Middle East

By Khalid AmayrehIslam Online

Ariel Sharon: “We control the United States, and the Americans know it.”

Ever since the ill-fated Rogers Plan, proposed and named after former US secretary of state William Rogers in 1969, every American administration made ostensibly exhaustive efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.

However, all these efforts failed miserably, apparently due to Israel’s adamant refusal to give up the spoils of the 1967 War.

Another key reason behind the failure of the US peace diplomacy in the Middle East is the US reluctance and consistent refusal to exert meaningful pressure on Israel to abide by international law, which further emboldened Israel and made the Jewish state bask undisturbed in its rejectionism and arrogance of power.

In 1969, Golda Meir, the former Israeli prime minister, who displayed characteristic Zionist arrogance, as well as profound pathological hatred of Arabs, flatly rejected the Rogers Plan, describing it as a “disaster” for Israel and saying that “it would be irresponsible for any Israeli government to support such a plan.”

In1969, Israel’s cabinet formally rejected the plan, and in 1970, 70 American senators and 280 representatives rejected the plan as “being too one-sided against Israel.”

That was 40 years ago; today, the Obama administration is regurgitating more or less the same ideas, centering on the concept of the land-for-peace formula. Other US administrations under presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr, Bill Clinton, and George W Bush employed the same ideas in formulating their respective Middle East initiatives, but to no avail.

During these decades, Israel heavily employed diversionary tactics to distract attention from real issues. It used issues such as Arab non-recognition of Israel, Arab refusal to sit down with Israel at the negotiating table, and later the issue of “terror,” a reference to Arab resistance to Israel’s ruthless and cruel aggressions against Arab civilians in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, as well as inside the occupied Palestine.

In addition, successive Israeli governments used the time to create facts on the ground, namely building hundreds of Jewish colonies and transferring hundreds of thousands of its Jewish citizens to live on an occupied land belonging to another people.

The United States was closely monitoring all these developments, but refused to take any pro-active step against Israel, despite the latter’s brazen violations of international law, including America’s own laws such as the prohibition of the use of American-supplied weapons against civilians.


Israel is a small country with a population of six million, while the United States is the world’s remaining super power, with a population exceeding 300 million people. Moreover, Israel relies on the United States for acquiring state-of-the-art American military technology, which enables Israel to maintain a manifestly arrogant stand vis-à-vis the Arab world, as well as clear defiance of international law, including the United Nations and its Security Council.

Therefore, at the face value, one would think that the United States, not Israel, should be in a natural position to pressure, even coerce Israel, to heed the American will.

The truth, however, is that Israel has been in a position to pressure, even coerce, every American administration since president Eisenhower effectively ordered Israel in November, 1956 to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula, following the Anglo-French invasion of Egypt.

Even today, it is amply clear that President Obama is more concerned about Israeli (Jewish) pressure on his administration than Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu is concerned about the possible US pressure on Israel.

This fact allows Netanyahu to successfully challenge and defy the Obama administration on the issue of settlement expansion, effectively forcing the American president to admit that he had underestimated the obstacles impeding a possible peace settlement between Israel and Palestinians.

The unique Israeli predominance over American politics and policies is not new. It goes back to the very birth of Israel when American Jewish circles used their financial leverage and political influence to get president Truman to recognize Israel against recommendations to the contrary by the state department.

Over the years, Israel and its powerful allies at the American arena successfully consolidated and virtually perpetuated Israeli predominance over US politics. The Israeli penetration of American politics has been meticulously documented by such American intellectuals, such as Alfred Lilienthal, who in 1978 wrote his masterpiece reference “The Zionist Connection: What Price peace; and Paul Fiendly who wrote “They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby.”

More recently, J J Mearsheimer and S W Walt jointly wrote The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy , which, using meticulous documentation, exposed Israel’s disproportionate influence on the US foreign policy.

Unbreakable Israeli-US Bond!

In fact, thanks to this disproportionate influence, the Octopus-like Israeli-American lobby, which tightly controls the Congress, was able to obtain long-standing commitments from the United States that no other country in the world would ever receive.

These include the following:

First, the United States committed itself to Israel’s survival and security, irrespective of Israeli behavior. This iron-clad commitment is routinely and almost ritualistically repeated by every new administration and by almost every American official visiting Israel. Again, this commitment is an independent variable, a constant that is not subject to other variables. In short, United States is with Israel all along, whether aggressor or victim.

Second, the United States is committed to maintain Israel’s qualitative edge in terms of its military and strategic capabilities over all Arab states combined and other Israel’s potential enemies. This is also a constant American foreign policy not subjected to the modes of Israeli behavior. This explains the visibly aggressive American efforts against the Iranian nuclear program, although there is no unequivocal evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

In this context, the United States imposed harsh sanctions against Libya until the North African state was bullied to dismantle its nuclear program and ship its components to the United States. All of this happened while Israel continued to maintain a large nuclear arsenal made up of hundreds of nuclear bombs and warheads.

Third, there is a long-standing American-Israeli understanding, according to which the United States would nearly unconditionally support and back Israeli diplomatically whether at the United Nations or the world at large. The United States used its veto power rather liberally to shield Israel from international condemnation, even when Israel was manifestly the aggressor party.

Hence, Israel effectively has nothing to worry about in terms of the military, political,and diplomatic ramifications and repercussions of its behavior in the Middle East.

This is why Israel has been able to annex and Judaize East Al-Quds (Jerusalem), build hundreds of Jewish-only colonies, and demolish tens of thousands of Arab homes throughout occupied Palestine, with nearly total impunity, thanks to this more or less total American commitment to the Jewish state.

In 2006, the Israeli air force dropped perhaps two million cluster bomblets over Lebanon, enough to kill or maim two million children. In 2008-2009, Israel committed a virtual genocide against the thoroughly starved and thoroughly-beleaguered inhabitants of Gaza, killing and maiming thousands of civilians and utterly destroying thousands of homes, schools, mosques, and other civilian infrastructure.

Tel Aviv Controls Washington?

Far from denouncing Israel’s violence and Nazi-like brutality, both the lame-duck Bush administration and the succeeding Obama administration watched the grisly massacres as if they were taking place on a different plant.

It was rumored a few years ago that the former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, a certified war criminal by any standard of honesty and fairness, told Shimon Peres, who reportedly objected to Israeli measures in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that he (Peres) should never worry about American pressure on Israel.

Sharon told him, “We control the United States, and the Americans know it.”

Israeli circles long denied the authenticity of the statement. However, it is amply clear that Sharon, who is now lying comatose for the fourth year, did not go too far in describing the unique American-Israeli relation.

By now and in the light of more than half a century of “special relations” between Israel and the United States, it should be clear that Israel has been able to impose its will on the US government, regardless of which administration is in power.

In light, it is explicitly futile to expect the Obama administration or any other American administration to force Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank and allow the Palestinians to have a viable state with East Al-Quds as its capital.

The United States has been given more than half a century to resolve the conflict in Palestine in accordance with international law, and the net result has been a gigantic fiasco.

Now, if Mr Obama, who is probably “the last and best shot,” from the Arab vantage point, is brazenly capitulating to Israel, as is clear from his administration’s inability or perhaps unwillingness to force Israel to stop the decades-old process of devouring whatever remains of the West Bank.

It is strikingly stupid to continue to count on his administration to give justice to Palestinians.

This is not to say though that the United States cannot be influenced. It can, but first, Arabs and Muslims must first show some respect for themselves and deal with the United States using the language of mutual interests, not the language of subservience and submission.

In the winter of 1973, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia told then US secretary of state Henry Kissinger that America could not be a true friend to Arabs and Muslims and at the same time continues to embrace Israeli territorial expansion at the expense of Palestinians.

Unfortunately, very few Arab leaders have ever since dared to make the same point to Americans.

To conclude, Palestinians and their supporters must stop chasing the American mirage, because it will not ever produce water. This is why an alternative strategy ought to be sought, preferably one that would make occupied Palestine a Muslim issue first, and a nationalist one second.

Egypt detains Muslim Brotherhood Leaders

Worldwide Religious Network

Thirteen senior members of the Islamist opposition movement in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, have been detained.

They include its deputy leader, Mahmoud Ezzat, the organisation says.

The Brotherhood is officially outlawed in Egypt but its members have many seats in parliament, sitting as independents.
A spokesman for the group said the arrests were an attempt by the authorities to thwart its preparations for elections later in the year.

Supporters are routinely arrested.

Charity work

The Brotherhood has been banned from open political activity since 1954, and leading activists are frequently arrested and imprisoned by the authorities.

Despite this, Brotherhood members standing as independent candidates won 20% of the seats in the last parliamentary election in 2005, its best ever result.

In January, the movement named Mohammed Badie, a 66-year-old veterinary professor, as its new leader.

He has said that the Muslim Brotherhood was not an adversary of the Egyptian government and that he would try to avoid confrontation with it.

The Muslim Brotherhood has influenced Islamist movements around the world with its model of political activism combined with charity work.

US Foreign Policy & Redrawing the Map of the Middle East

Talk by Dr. Azmi Bishara at UC Berkeley after collapse of Baghdad.
Date: 04/11/2003

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

US is pushing Pakistan into the Abyss of Oblivion

By Zafar BangashCrescent Online

Pakistan is rapidly hurtling into the abyss of oblivion

We are supposed to hate suicide bombers, those grotesque creatures hell-bent on killing innocent people because of their “demented ideology”. There is no shortage of experts delivering sermons from every pulpit pontificating on the evils of terrorism. Government officials and their media sycophants join in this chorus but few bother to ask whence these hateful creatures came? There were no suicide bombers in Pakistan or Afghanistan a mere five years ago. What happened during this period to give birth to the phenomenon of suicide bombings is a question that must be addressed in earnest.

No problem can be tackled or solved properly without understanding its genesis, the circumstances surrounding its emergence and factors that feed its growth. Equally important is the fact that if a particular approach fails to solve the problem, alternatives must be explored.

Pakistan is rapidly hurtling into the abyss of oblivion. Hardly a day passes by without a bomb explosion or suicide bombing in some part of the country. What possible excuse could there be for the murderous attack on a masjid as happened on December 4 that killed more than 40 people in Rawalpindi, we are asked. The coordinated attack by suicide bombers followed by armed men shooting worshippers during Friday prayers when the masjid was full was particularly gruesome. Among those killed were a major general, a brigadier, a colonel, two lieutenant colonels and two majors. Seventeen children were also killed.

Four days later (December 8), the Moon Market in Iqbal Town, Lahore was bombed when it was full of shoppers; 43 people died in that carnage. On December 9 the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) offices in Multan were attacked. Unable to enter the building, the attackers detonated their lethal wares in the nearby building where families of ISI officials live. The car bombing left 12 dead and scores injured. Many more such attacks will occur in the days to come if past experience is anything to go by. The brief hiatus during Eid al-Adha celebrations has been shattered with far greater bloodletting.

Theories abound about the identity of the perpetrators: Taliban, Indian agents, American agents, Afghan agents, Blackwater mercenaries and Mossad. The list is endless. All of them may be involved but how has this situation evolved? Why were there no suicide bombers a mere five years ago; what circumstances led to their emergence and who else is fishing in the troubled waters of Pakistan? Is the US a friend or foe? The people of Pakistan know the answer but Pakistani elites continue to harbor illusions about America’s friendship and believe it wants to help Pakistan — presumably over a cliff.

Immediately after the Moon Market bombing in Lahore, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the government had evidence that weapons were being smuggled from Afghanistan. Perhaps. Lahore Police chief, Pervez Rathore said India was involved. This may also be true. The Lahore daily, The Nation, reported on December 9 that two vehicles were stopped attempting to enter the restricted area of Lahore Cantonment late at night. The occupants were Americans who refused to show their identity papers or allow the police to search their vehicles. Officials from the US Consulate finally arrived at the scene to get the vehicles and their occupants freed. There is widespread belief that these were Blackwater mercenaries.

Thousands of Blackwater operatives (the organization has now renamed itself Xe Service to hide the criminal past associated with its former name) have descended on Pakistan. They carry prohibited weapons and on numerous occasions have been arrested by the police in suspicious circumstances only to be released on orders of Pakistani government officials. The US embassy in Islamabad has also hired a large number of retired army officers that act like warlords, trying to browbeat the police into submission. Poorly paid and lacking motivation, the police are easily intimidated by ex-army officers who throw their weight about driving in expensive, American-provided vehicles.

Last November, a plane load of Blackwater mercenaries arrived in Pakistan and were immediately whisked through Islamabad International Airport without going through immigration and customs formalities, according to officials at the airport quoted by The Nation newspaper (November 4, 2009). “We had instructions to allow the foreigners entry without custom procedure,” officials on duty at Islamabad airport said. Blackwater mercenaries have operated in Pakistan for many years. On several occasions Pakistani police have arrested them at odd hours near Pakistan’s nuclear sites or other sensitive installations. Every time ex-army officers working for the US embassy have intervened to secure their release. These former military officers and a long list of bureaucrats, journalists and politicians are on the US embassy payroll and are working directly against the interests of Pakistan.

Former Chief of Army Staff Mirza Aslam Baig has gone so far as to accuse the former military dictator Pervez Musharraf of being complicit in Blackwater crimes. General Baig has said it was Musharraf who gave these mercenaries the green light to carry out terrorist operations in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Quetta. The current civilian rulers, led by Asif Ali Zardari, a venal character and a notorious crook, are in no position to say no to the Americans. Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times reported on August 29, 2009 that the CIA hired these mercenaries for targeted assassinations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as early as 2004. Following a particularly gruesome episode in Baghdad in 2007 in which 17 Iraqis were murdered in cold blood, the Iraqi regime refused to grant the company an “operating license.” In a joint piece in the New York Times on December 11, Mazzetti and James Risen shed light on the tight relationship between the CIA and Blackwater. Hired for security duties, Blackwater operatives have indulged in wanton killings in Iraq. In Pakistan, the US hired them for illegal drone attacks as well as targeted killings.

Blackwater mercenaries are only one, even if the major problem facing Pakistan. There are other factors as well behind the escalating mayhem that is rapidly spinning out of control. The root of the problem is the US invasion and occupation of Afghanistan that has now spilled over into Pakistan. As a consequence of the US-NATO war and brutality in Afghanistan and the incessant drone attacks, there is great resentment in Pakistan toward the US. With fighting concentrated primarily in the south and southeast of Afghanistan where the Pashtuns reside, mass killings there have aroused much anger among the Pashtuns on the Pakistan side of the border as well.

It was bad enough when the US-NATO forces launched their aerial assault with B-1 bombers in October 2001 killing thousands of people in Afghanistan; the bombing of wedding parties and defenseless villagers in their mud huts in subsequent years has intensified hatred of the US. This has been heightened by the Pakistan military launching operations against its own people in the tribal areas of North and South Waziristan, Swat, Bajaur and now in Orakzai Agency. This ongoing painful chapter has contributed greatly to escalating tensions in Pakistan where none existed before, leading to the phenomenon of suicide bombings.

We need to consider the timeline of several events.

Military attacks in North and South Waziristan

If one can establish a turning point in Pakistan’s tortuous history, the Lal Masjid saga must stand out as the one that pushed the country over the brink

Under pressure from the US, the former Pakistani dictator, General Pervez Musharraf ordered military operations against the people of South Waziristan in early 2004. The excuse advanced was that Pakistan had to “flush out” foreign fighters, mainly Uzbeks and Arabs. After several weeks of fighting that left hundreds of villagers dead and thousands as refugees, an agreement was reached with Naik Muhammad, the young charismatic tribal leader in the region. As a gesture of goodwill during a ceremony on April 24, 2004, the tribesmen surrendered their pistols and handed a copy of the Qur’an to the Pakistani general.

The agreement horrified Washington; it did not want peace in the area. On May 21, 2004, Musharraf presidedover a high-powered meeting in Islamabad and ordered resumption of attacks. While the Corps Commander Peshawar, in charge of military operations in Waziristan, opposed such attacks and warned against breaking the agreement because it would have serious repercussions for the future, Musharraf was adamant. He insisted on attacking the tribesmen because Washington demanded it. The military relaunched its operations in early June. The US also joined with drone attacks and killed Naik Muhammad with whom the Pakistani military had, only a few weeks earlier, signed a widely publicized peace deal. The people of Waziristan were incensed by such betrayal. In order to protect the US, Musharraf claimed the Pakistan army had carried out the attack that killed Naik Muhammad. More than 15,000 people attended his funeral prayer in defiance of threats that the funeral procession would be bombed.

Between 2004 and 2006, Waziristan — both North and South — became a war zone. The US continued drone attacks killing civilians, mostly women and children. Several ceasefires were agreed upon only to be violated as a result of US pressure or drone attacks. As the attacks continued, there emerged a group calling itself Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Suicide bombings increased in Pakistani cities mainly in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). The Pakistan army continued attacking its own people while the Americans intensified their demands that Islamabad must “do more”.

Lal Masjid attack: July 2007

As if the war in Waziristan that had already spread to other areas of the NWFP and the adjoining tribal areas was not bad enough, Musharraf perpetrated another outrage by attacking the Lal Masjid-madrassa compound in Islamabad in July 2007. Run by two imams, with long ties to the government and several ministers, they became embroiled in a dispute over growing immorality in the capital, especially prostitution. Girl students from the madrassa took it upon themselves to clean up the filth because the government had refused to do so. The girls’ action was taken as a great affront by the regime as well as the secular elite. How could government-paid imams demand an end to prostitution when the ruling elites regularly patronize their dens? Several weeks of negotiations between the clerics and government emissaries fell apart because Musharraf did not want a peaceful resolution. He insisted on a military showdown to establish the “government’s writ” and to prove he was in charge. The Americans also demanded crushing the militants.

On July 11, 2007, Musharraf ordered his commandos to attack the Lal Masjid. In the weeklong attack, more than 1,400 students, most of them girls, were brutally murdered. Phosphorous bombs were used to burn people to death. The overwhelming majority of girls belonged to Swat; they were from poor families and had found the madrassa-masjid complex a useful place to educate their daughters and to provide them a roof, being too poor even to feed them (madrassas in Pakistan do not charged fees; Muslim philanthropists often contribute toward such expenses as part of their Islamic duty).

The Lal Masjid attack sent a shockwave throughout the country, particularly in Swat. While the secular elites, including Benazir Bhutto, then still “languishing” in her luxury apartment in London or commuting to her palaces in Dubai, applauded the commando raid and the killing of hundreds of innocent girls, ordinary Pakistanis were horrified. The Americans, too, applauded the killings. The result was catastrophic for Pakistan.

Bombings and suicide attacks immediately escalated. If one can establish a turning point in Pakistan’s tortuous history, the Lal Masjid saga must stand out as the one that pushed the country over the brink. Battle lines became so clearly drawn that only the blind could fail to see. The ruling elites have never cared for ordinary people or their children but hitherto it was reflected in lack of services. Now the elites had embarked on a killing spree. The reaction was swift and strong. There has been no turning back since. Soon Musharraf was engulfed in a political crisis that forced him out of office following a British-American brokered deal that facilitated Bhutto’s return to Pakistan. Corruption cases against Bhutto, her even more corrupt husband Asif Zardari, and thousands of other thieves and criminals, totaling 8041 people, were withdrawn under what came to be called the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). Critics dubbed it the National Robbers’ Ordinance.

Before the January 8, 2008 national elections were held, Benazir Bhutto was shot dead in Rawalpindi on December 27, 2007. Her death has been engulfed in controversy; few believe the official version that she hit her head on a door handle in the vehicle when she fell down after being hit. There is widespread belief in Pakistan that her husband had a hand in her killing. The street urchin, not fit to be even a doorman, ended up as president of the country and its unfortunate people after Musharraf was forced to resign on August 18, 2008. Musharraf’s departure, however, did little to contain the mayhem that was rapidly engulfing the country. More than 100,000 troops were deployed in the tribal area fighting its own people, merely to appease the US.

Attack on Swat

On April 26, 2009, the military attacked Swat. It immediately resulted in more than three million people becoming refugees. In the sweltering heat, people were forced to live in dusty camps in Peshawar, Mardan and Sawabi. There was little or no government help extended to them. Pakistani bureaucrats that had gained notoriety for past corruption were appointed to look after the new refugees referred to as Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), stole donations earmarked for refugees. The Swat operation lasted several months. Massive damage was inflicted on major towns in Swat and the surrounding areas; hundreds of young people were executed in cold blood but leaders of the Taliban, against whom the operation was ostensibly launched, were neither captured nor killed. Some have been apprehended but it is widely believed that they are being sheltered by the regime.

On October 17, 2009, the military launched a fresh attack on South Waziristan, again under the rubric of extending “government writ”. This strange animal is invoked each time the Americans exert pressure on Pakistan to “do more”. While the military has continued to bomb villages in South Waziristan turning it into wasteland driving 500,000 people from their homes, car and suicide bombings have escalated in cities like Kohat, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Lahore and Multan. October was a particularly bad month with attacks on a number of military targets including the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi. A number of brigadiers were also killed in Islamabad.

On December 12, 2009, the Pakistan government announced that it was halting military operations in South Waziristan but attacks against Orakzai Agency had already commenced. Long-range artillery batteries placed in Hangu, the district headquarter bordering Orakzai Agency, are being used to fire at villages like Bagh and other places in the tribal area. An estimated 250,000 people, the overwhelming majority women and children, from Orakzai Agency have been forced to flee and are now living in appalling conditions in refugee camps in Hangu. With the onset of winter that is extremely harsh in that region coupled with lack of proper shelter and heating facilities as well as lack of food, people’s suffering will escalate, as will their resentment to seek revenge for the military’s barbarous attacks. Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gailani said this would be a 10-12 year war. He is beginning to sound like American officials.

As US President Barack Obama announced his surge for Afghanistan, he also called upon Pakistan to launch military operations in Baluchistan. Obama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, wants to turn the whole of Pakistan into a war zone. He has threatened to extend drone attacks into Baluchistan as well. The Los Angeles Times reported on December 12 that the US intends to launch drone attacks o the Afghan Taliban Shura’s alleged home base in Quetta. Now that would be a real gesture of peace!

When the Pakistan army and American drones kill innocent civilians, it is unrealistic to expect that people will not react. Each killing escalates resentment and stokes the urge to exact revenge, a long-established tradition in that part of the world. Victims have long memories; they do not easily forget their dead no matter how many rhetorical phrases are hurled at them. If for 3,000 American deaths on 9/11, the US can attack two countries and murder more than 1.5 million people, why is it so difficult to understand that other people will feel equally hurt and seek revenge?

The ruling elites in Pakistan should understand that they have aligned themselves with the enemy — the US government — against their own people for a fistful of dollars. They are now enemy agents and therefore, legitimate targets for those who have lost loved ones in the ongoing escalating attacks on their villages where they witnessed their children, mothers or wives blown to pieces. It is not and never was Pakistan’s war; it is America’s war imposed on Pakistan. And it does not help to prattle about an “extremist ideology” driving people to do crazy things; this is the reaction of very normal, ordinary people. It would be highly abnormal if they did not react this way.

Hamid Mir, the Pakistani journalist recounts the story of a young boy lying in a run-down hospital in Waziristan. The boy who had lost his limbs in a US Drone attack, told Mir that his mother too had died in a similar strike. In her dying moments, she had instructed him to avenge in Islamabad — where the decisions to maim and kill are made — what was done to her in Bajaur. Years later, his older brother was caught in Islamabad attempting to blow himself up in a high-security area.

The Pakistani elites have embarked on a suicidal policy. Their actions can only invite suicide bombers. They have only themselves to blame. History will render a very harsh verdict because they are actively engaged in destroying Pakistan.

The Incapacitation of Haiti

By Ashley SmithCounterPunch

The fault line of U.S. imperialism interacted with the geological one to turn the natural disaster into a social catastrophe

A devastating earthquake, the worst in 200 years, struck Port-au-Prince on Tuesday, laying waste to the city and killing untold numbers of people. The quake measured 7.0 on the Richter scale, and detonated more than 30 aftershocks, all more than 4.5 in magnitude, through the night and into Wednesday morning.

The earthquake toppled poorly constructed houses, hotels, hospitals and even the capital city’s main political buildings, including the presidential palace. The collapse of so many structures sent a giant cloud into the sky, which hovered over the city, raining dust down onto the wasteland below.

According to some estimates, more than 100,000 people may have died, in a metropolis of 2 million people. Those that survived are living in the streets, afraid to return inside any building that remains standing.

Around the world, Haitians struggled to contact their family and friends in the devastated country. But most could not reach their loved ones since phone lines were down throughout the country.

* * *

WHILE MOST people reacted to the crisis by trying to find a way to help or donate money, Christian Right fanatic Pat Robertson stooped to new depths of racism. He explained that Haitians were cursed because they made a pact with the devil to liberate themselves from their French slave masters in the Haitian revolution two centuries ago.

The corporate media at least reported that shifting tectonic plates along a fault line underneath Port-au-Prince caused the earthquake–and that Haiti’s poverty and the incapacity of the Préval government made the disaster so much worse. But they didn’t delve below the surface.

“The media coverage of the earthquake is marked by an almost complete divorce of the disaster from the social and political history of Haiti,” Canadian Haiti Solidarity Activist Yves Engler said in an interview. “They repeatedly state that the government was completely unprepared to deal with the crisis. This is true. But they left out why.”

Why were 60 percent of the buildings in Port-au-Prince shoddily constructed and unsafe in normal circumstances, according to the city’s mayor? Why are there no building regulations in a city that sits on a fault line? Why has Port-au-Prince swelled from a small town of 50,000 in the 1950s to a population of 2 million desperately poor people today? Why was the state completely overwhelmed by the disaster?

To understand these facts, we have to look at a second fault line–U.S. imperial policy toward Haiti. The U.S. government, the UN, and other powers have aided the Haitian elite in subjecting the country to neoliberal economic plans that have impoverished the masses, deforested the land, wrecked the infrastructure and incapacitated the government.

The fault line of U.S. imperialism interacted with the geological one to turn the natural disaster into a social catastrophe.

During the Cold War, the U.S. supported the dictatorships of Papa Doc Duvalier and then Baby Doc Duvalier–which ruled the country from 1957 to 1986–as an anti-communist counter-weight to Castro’s Cuba nearby.

Under guidance from Washington, Baby Doc Duvalier opened the Haitian economy up to U.S. capital in the 1970s and 1980s. Floods of U.S. agricultural imports destroyed peasant agriculture. As a result, hundred of thousands of people flocked to the teeming slums of Port-au-Prince to labor for pitifully low wages in sweatshops located in U.S. export processing zones.

In the 1980s, masses of Haitians rose up to drive the Duvaliers from power–later, they elected reformer Jean-Bertrand Aristide to be president on a platform of land reform, aid to peasants, reforestation, investment in infrastructure for the people, and increased wages and union rights for sweatshop workers.

The U.S. in turn backed a coup that drove Aristide from power in 1991. Eventually, the elected president was restored to power in 1994 when Bill Clinton sent U.S. troops to the island–but on the condition that he implement the U.S. neoliberal plan–which Haitians called the “plan of death.”

Aristide resisted parts of the U.S. program for Haiti, but implemented other provisions, undermining his hoped-for reforms. Eventually, though, the U.S. grew impatient with Aristide’s failure to obey completely, especially when he demanded $21 billion in reparations during his final year in office. The U.S. imposed an economic embargo that strangled the country, driving peasants and workers even deeper into poverty.

In 2004, Washington collaborated with Haiti’s ruling elite to back death squads that toppled the government, kidnapped and deported Aristide. The United Nations sent troops to occupy the country, and the puppet government of Gérard Latortue was installed to continue Washingotn’s neoliberal plans.

Latortue’s brief regime was utterly corrupt–he and his cronies pocketed large portions of the $4 billion poured into the country by the U.S. and other powers when they ended their embargo. The regime dismantled the mild reforms Aristide had managed to implement. Thus, the pattern of impoverishment and degradation of the country’s infrastructure accelerated.

In 2006 elections, the Haitian masses voted in longtime Aristide ally René Préval as president. But Préval has been a weak figure who collaborated with U.S. plans for the country and failed to address the growing social crisis.

In fact, the U.S., UN and other imperial powers effectively bypassed the Préval government and instead poured money into NGOs. “Haiti now has the highest per capita presence of NGOs in the world,” says Yves Engler. The Préval government has become a political fig leaf, behind which the real decisions are made by the imperial powers, and implemented through their chosen international NGOs.

* * *

THE REAL state power isn’t the Préval government, but the U.S.-backed United Nations occupation. Under Brazilian leadership, UN forces have protected the rich and collaborated with–or turned a blind eye to–right-wing death squads who terrorize supporters of Aristide and his Lavalas Party.

The occupiers have done nothing to address the poverty, wrecked infrastructure and massive deforestation that have exacerbated the effects of a series of natural disasters–severe hurricanes in 2004 and 2008, and now the Port-au-Prince earthquake.

Instead, they merely police a social catastrophe, and in so doing, have committed the normal crimes characteristic of all police forces. As Dan Beeton wrote in NACLA Report on the Americas, “The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (Minustah), which began its mission in June 2004, has been marred by scandals of killings, rape, and other violence by its troops almost since it began.”

First the Bush administration and now the Obama administration have used the coup and social and natural crises to expand the U.S.’s neoliberal economic plans.

Under Obama, the U.S. has granted Haiti $1.2 billion in debt relief, but it hasn’t canceled all of Haiti’s debt–the country still pays huge sums to the Inter-American Development Bank. The debt relief is classic window-dressing for Obama’s real Haiti policy, which is the same old Haiti policy.

In close collaboration with the new UN Special Envoy to Haiti, former President Bill Clinton, Obama has pushedPapa Doc with US Vice President Nelson Rockefeller for an economic program familiar to much of the rest of the Caribbean–tourism, textile sweatshops, and weakening of state control of the economy through privatization and deregulation.

In particular, Clinton has orchestrated a plan for turning the north of Haiti into a tourist playground, as far away as possible from the teeming slums of Port-au-Prince. Clinton lured Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines into investing $55 million to build a pier along the coastline of Labadee, which it has leased until 2050.

From there, Haiti’s tourist industry hopes to lead expeditions to the mountaintop fortress Citadelle and the Palace of Sans Souci, both built by Henri Cristophe, one of the leaders of Haiti’s slave revolution. According to the Miami Herald:

The $40 million plan involved transforming the now quaint town of Milot, home to the Citadelle and Palace of Sans Souci ruin, into a vibrant tourist village, with arts and crafts markets, restaurants and stoned streets. Guests would be ferried past a congested Cap-Haïtien to a bay, then transported by bus past peasant plantations. Once in Milot, they would either hike or horseback to the Citadelle…named a world heritage site in 1982…

Eco-tourism, archaeological exploration and voyeuristic visits to Vodou rituals are all being touted by Haiti’s struggling boutique tourism industry, as Royal Caribbean plans to bring the world largest cruise ship here, sparking the need for excursions.

So while Pat Robertson denounces Haiti’s great slave revolution as a pact with the devil, Clinton is helping to reduce it to a tourist trap.

At the same time, Clinton’s plans for Haiti include an expansion of the sweatshop industry to take advantage of cheap labor available from the urban masses. The U.S. granted duty-free treatment for Haitian apparel exports to make it easy for sweatshops to return to Haiti.

Clinton celebrated the possibilities of sweatshop development during a whirlwind tour of a textile plant owned and operated by the infamous Cintas Corp. He announced that George Soros had offered $50 million for a new industrial park of sweatshops that could create 25,000 jobs in the garment industry. Clinton explained at a press conference that Haiti’s government could create “more jobs by lowering the cost of doing business, including the cost of rent.”

As TransAfrica founder Randall Robinson told Democracy Now! “That isn’t the kind of investment that Haiti needs. It needs capital investment. It needs investment so that it can be self-sufficient. It needs investment so that it can feed itself.”

One of the reasons why Clinton could be so unabashed in celebrating sweatshops is that the U.S.-backed coup repressed any and all resistance. It got rid of Aristide and his troublesome habit of raising the minimum wage. It banished him from the country, terrorized his remaining allies and barred his political party, Fanmi Lavalas, the most popular in the country, from running for office. The coup regime also attacked union organizers within the sweatshops themselves.

As a result, Clinton could state to business leaders: “Your political risk in Haiti is lower than it has ever been in my lifetime.”

Thus, as previous U.S. presidencies have done before, the Obama administration has worked to aid Haiti’s elite, sponsor international corporations taking advantage of cheap labor, weaken the ability of the Haitian state to regulate the society, and repress any political resistance to that agenda.

* * *

THESE POLICIES led directly to the incapacitated Haitian state, dilapidated infrastructure, poorly constructed buildings and desperate poverty that combined with the hurricanes and now the earthquake to turn natural disasters into social catastrophes.

While everyone should support the current outpouring of aid to help Haiti, no one should do so with political blinders on. As Engler said:

Aid in Haiti has always been used to further imperial interests. This is obvious when you look at how the U.S. and Canada treated the Aristide government in contrast to the coup regime. The U.S. and Canada starved Aristide of almost all aid. But then after the coup, they opened a floodgate of money to back some of the most reactionary forces in Haitian society.

We should therefore agitate against any attempt by the U.S. and other powers to use this crisis to further impose their program on a prostrate country.

We should also be wary of the role of international NGOs. While many NGOs are trying to address the crisis, the U.S. and other governments are funneling aid to them in order to undermine Haitians’ democratic right to self-determination. The international NGOs are unaccountable to either the Haitian state or Haitian population. So the aid funneled through them further weakens what little hold Haitians have on their own society.

The Obama administration should also immediately lift the ban against Aristide’s return to Haiti, as well as the political ban on his party, Fanmi Lavalas, from participating in the electoral process. After all, a known drug criminal and coup leader, Guy Philippe, and his party Front for National Reconstruction (FRN) has been allowed to participate in the electoral process. Aristide and his party, by contrast, are still the most popular political force in the country and should have the right to participate in an open and fair vote.

The U.S. should also stop deportations of Haitians who have fled their crisis-torn country and grant Temporary Protected Status to Haitian refugees. That would allow any Haitians who have fled the political and social crisis since the coup, the hurricanes and now the earthquake to remain legally in the U.S.

On top of that, we must demand that the U.S. stop imposing its neoliberal plans. The U.S. has plundered Haitian society for decades. Instead of Haiti owing any debt to the U.S., other countries or international financial institutions, the reverse is the case. The U.S., France, Canada and the UN owe the people of Haiti reparations to redress the imperial plunder of the country.

With these funds and political space, Haitians would be finally able to begin shaping their own political and economic future–the dream of the great slave revolution 200 years ago.