Concocting lies before the Iraq war

By Jonathan Power

April 19th, 2016.

President Barack Obama has observed, “ISIL – Islamic State – is a direct outgrowth of Al Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of our invasion – which is an example of unintended consequences – which is why we should generally aim before we shoot”.

Many of us, looking at the horror of the Iraq war, waged by the US and the UK against the regime of Saddam Hussein when 200,000 civilians died and a total of 800 billion US dollars was spent on the campaign, need little to be persuaded that there was a Machiavellian plot to find an excuse to make war. Yet there are many in the circles of power in Washington who believe the US should shoot on sight and to kill whenever danger is thought to have appeared- in Iraq, Syria, Libya and, before that, in Vietnam.

The so-called “justification” for going to war in Iraq 13 years ago was based on a 93 page classified CIA document that allegedly contained “specific information” on Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction programs and his close links with Al Qaeda.

The document has now been declassified thanks to the work of the investigative journalist, Glenn Greenwald. His findings have just been published in the on-line magazine, VICE.

The document, before published with a large number of deletions, is available for everyone to read in its entirety. It reveals that there was zero justification for the war. It reveals that there was “no operational tie between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda” and no weapons of mass destruction programs.

President George W. Bush’s secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, claimed that the US had “bulletproof evidence” linking Saddam Hussein to the terrorist group. “We do have solid evidence Read More »

TFF PressInfo # 369 – A Sunni-Salafist-Zionist Coalition Changing Middle East?

By Jan Oberg

Please try Google “Gulf states want nuclear weapons against Iran – Israel “ and only one Western mainstream media will appear, an excellent article by The Telegraph’s Raf Sanchez in Jerusalem.

The only other media carrying the story is Russia Today and Vigilant Citizen and MintPress News also carries the story and offers a wider background

What is this about?A new coalition?

So the usual Western media filter, meaning it must be interesting. And it is a quite sensational story: Saudi Arabia and Israel are up to a nuclear mischief against a country that has just been prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons by means of a huge legally binding document, UN Security Council endorsement and extremely tight monitoring mechanism. What’s it about?

It’s about Israel’s defence minister Moshe Ya’alon saying in public at the recent Munich conference that Arab states are “not willing to sit quietly with Iran on the brink of a nuclear bomb”.

He thinks that Iran was liable to break the agreement as their economic situation improves with the lifting of international sanctions. Ya’alon is quoted as saying that “I speak about the Gulf states and North African states too…For them, Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood are the enemy. Iran is the bad guy for us and for the Sunni regimes. They are not shaking hands [with Israelis] in public, but we meet in closed rooms.”

So not only Jordan’s monarchy and Egypt’s dictatorship but also Gulf and North African states: A coalition lead by Saudi Arabia and Israel – Israel as the only nuclear weapons power in the region and Saudi Arabia as the most likely next nuclear weapons state.

For much too long the world’s attention has been on Iran’s imagined nuclear weapons, not on the dozens or hundreds real nukes that Israel possesses as a non-member of which is the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

One can say that Israel and Saudi Arabia lost the political battle against the nuclear deal with Iran concluded with the five permanent UNSC members and Germany last year – and now will do their utmost to use Iran’s non-nuclear weapons status as a pretext for others going nuclear against, predominantly, Iran.

Propaganda hysteria dominates in an age where knowledge plays a diminishing role

The problem for them, however, is that Iran will be difficult to sell as a real threat – but we live of course in Read More »

TFF PressInfo # 367: Will the EU become a criminal union tomorrow?

By Jan Oberg

The EUropean Union – a criminal? The EU that has peace as it’s top goal and received Nobel’s Peace Prize? The EU with Schengen and Dublin? The EU with “European” values, humanism and mission civilisatrice that tells others how to live in accordance with international law and in respect for human rights?

We live in times where little shall surprise us anymore. The answer to the question – will EU become a criminal in international law terms? – will be answered on March 17 and 18 when the EU Council meets to decide whether or not to carry through the agreement with Turkey about how to handle refugees.

Amnesty International knows what it is all about. AI uses words such as “alarmingly shortsighted”, “inhumane”, “dehumanising”, “moral and legally flawed” and “EU and Turkish leaders have today sunk to a new low, effectively horse trading away the rights and dignity of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.”

And “By no stretch of imagination can Turkey be considered a ‘safe third country’ that the EU can cosily outsource its obligations to,” says Iverna McGowan, Head of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.

When Amnesty International expresses itself this way, we should listen very very carefully. I do and I’ve signed Amnesty’s Open Letter to Swedish prime minister Löfvén protesting that Sweden too may join this inhuman and law-violating agreement with Turkey. Hurry up, it is tomorrow!

Behind every refugee stands an arms trade, stands militarism. Read More »

TFF PressInfo # 360: Sweden, Denmark and refugees – still hope? Part 4/4

By Jan Oberg

Article 3/4 – TFF PressInfo # 359

Sweden

Permit a digression to neighbouring Sweden.

Sweden has – shamefully – not only closed its borders for people without valid documents, scrapped the right to asylum embedded in the Human Rights Declaration. It has declared (January 28, 2016) that it intends to deport 60.000-80.000 refugees already inside Sweden.

It was Sweden’s ambassador, the courageous Harald Edelstam, who in 1973 stood at the stadium in Santiago after the Pinochet coup and murder of president Allende and told thousands that they would always be welcome in Sweden. Thousands came and made a good life in Sweden. (There were 90 Chileans living in Sweden before the coup, today over 40,000). A small internationalist country took humanitarian leadership and we could all be proud.

But we can’t take that many people now, I hear many say.

The head of the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Region (SKL) has stated that 40-50 municipalities are facing crisis in Sweden but that, significantly, 200-220 municipalities “say they can do more.”

But then what about the country’s security and stability? The risk of social disorder, criminality, hatred?

Of course that is a risk. But that is an old one – xenophobia and racism has been around for long in Sweden, however less visible at the surface. An enlightened government’s response should be to serve as a role model and combat racism, Islamophobia in particular – not to combat and deport refugees.

Sweden’s new overall refugee-repelling strategy is a deplorable bending down for the worst forces in society instead of mobilising a demonstratively humanitarian and visionary policy for the common good – good for Sweden and good for Europe. If you behave like Denmark and Sweden you lose your goodwill and certainly every chance to influence or take leadership among other EU countries.

Where there is a will there is a way. But it also requires a little creativity.

The Swedish government lacks the will. Like Denmark – albeit in different ways.

Are we moving from democracy towards some kind of kakistocracy – i.e.“government by the worst, least qualified or most unprincipled citizens”?

New Danish fighter planes and reduced development assistance

Back to Denmark and one more piquant aspect.Read More »

TFF PressInfo 359: Why anti-refugee policies in Denmark? Part 3/4

By Jan Oberg

Article 1/4

Article 2/4

But why?

One can point to many reasons for such a tragic development in an otherwise decent, wealthy and hitherto well-respected country.

• It’s become too easy to go to war. The generation of politicians who might have a sense of war are long gone. If you take property owned by people who have fled thousands of kilometres because their life opportunities have been smashed and who carry just what they could grab in a hurry and carry – you simply have no idea of what life is like in a war zone. Neither do you see any need for advisers.

• Only a small percentage of Danish politicians have any international experience, no special competence, in international affairs – in sharp contrast to the 1970s-80s.

• Knowledge, broad civic education and cultured manners have been replaced by marketing consultants, styling experts, and fast politics salesmanship.

• Politics nowadays attracts a different kind of people than before. They fight more for their power positions than for an ideology, values, norms or a vision of a better world – all of which is totally outdated in today’s politics.

• Politics is a job or profession, not a calling based on deepy held individual values and visions about a better society for all.

• Anyone mentioning ethics or existential responsibilities would be ridiculed. And neither do media people raise such dimensions. An expert in ethics is hardly ever invited to the TV debates.

• Since the end of the Cold War, there has been no international balancing factor to take into account – the US/NATO and EU could do virtually what they pleased, riskfree violations of all good norms and international law – and implicit, if not intended, humiliation of Russia.

• The social democratic party developed from a working class solidarity movement to a middle class power elite losing on the way all ideals, ideology and solidarity with disadvantaged classes domestically and internationally. It lost its narrative and party identity as a social transformation agent for the better sometime in the 1980s.Read More »

TFF PressInfo # 358 – Denmark, Decency and Decay (2/4)

By Jan Oberg

Or, where there is a will, there is a way

The first part of four here

2001 – the ‘war on terror’

The war on terror was initiatied after 9/11 – Afghanistan 10/7. Denmark went along without thinking. The idea came from Washington, so what was there to think about?
At the time about 400 people were killed in international terrorism per year; today the Global Terror Index informs us that 32.000 people are killed in terrorism. It must be the stupidest war in modern time and the majority of the victims are found in the Middle East, not in Europe and not in the US.

But we bomb – and create more terrorism. And more refugees. Politics having become anti-intellectual and devoid of ethical considerations, few connect the dots. Fewer see Denmark’s own co-responsibility for causing the problems and even fewer see the moral responsibility of taking care. No, steal their belongings.

Iraq

It was prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen of the liberal Party, Venstre (meaning left but it’s neo-liberal right) whose government made Denmark an occupying power in Iraq over four years (2003-2007). By any standards the most serious foreign policy blunder of Danish foreign policy since 1945.

Asked recently on Danish television how he felt about the tragic situation in today’s Iraq he answered that – well, we stretched out our hand to the Iraqi people but unfortunately they didn’t take it.

No remorse there, Mr. Always Right. But quite a statement when you are a non-convicted war criminal having joined a project that killed about 1 million Iraqis during war, occupation and 13 years of sanction. The Danish politicians and people are still, it seems, unable or unwilling to understand the dimensions of this blunder – which is one reason they also don’t understand today what it means to be a refugee.

Muhamed carictures

It was under his leadership – or lack if it – the Muhamed caricatures became a diplomatic disaster. He refused to meet with Muslim leaders in Denmark and also ignored a letter of concern from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the global voice of Muslims with 57 member states and 1,6 billion people.

Probably no one in the PM’s and foreign minister’s office had a clue what the OIC was.

But he did know who Khadaffi was when later, rewarded for his good deeds by the US and catapulted to S-G of NATO, he spearheaded the coalition member states’ violation of the very limited UN mandate, their destruction of that country and the killing of Khadaffi.Read More »

Slouching toward global disaster

By Richard Falk

There are many disturbing signs that the West is creating conditions in the Middle East and Asia that could produce a wider war, most likely a new Cold War, containing, as well, menacing risks of World War III. The reckless confrontation with Russia along its borders, reinforced by provocative weapons deployments in several NATO countries and the promotion of governing regimes hostile to Russia in such countries as Ukraine and Georgia seems to exhibit Cold War nostalgia, and is certainly not the way to preserve peace.

Add to this the increasingly belligerent approach recently taken by the United States naval officers and defense officials to China with respect to island disputes and navigational rights in the South China Seas. Such posturing has all the ingredients needed for intensifying international conflict, giving a militarist signature to Obama’s ‘pivot to Asia.’

These developments are happening during the supposedly conflict averse Obama presidency. Looking ahead to new leadership, even the most optimistic scenario that brings Hillary Clinton to the White House is sure to make these pre-war drum beats even louder.

From a more detached perspective it is fair to observe that Obama seems rather peace-oriented only because American political leaders and the Beltway/media mainstream have become so accustomed to relying on military solutions whether successful or not, whether dangerous and wasteful or not, that is, only by comparison with more hawkish alternatives.

The current paranoid political atmosphere in the United States is a further relevant concern, calling for police state governmental authority at home, increased weapons budgets, and the continuing militarization of policing and law enforcement.

Such moves encourage an even more militaristic approach to foreign challenges that seem aimed at American and Israeli interests by ISIS, Iran, and China. Read More »

Responding to Megaterrorism after Paris

By Richard Falk

Prefatory Note
The article below is based on an opinion piece published by Middle East Eye on December 1, 2015 under the title “A Different Response to ISIS after Paris.” My modified text places its focus on the originality of megaterrorism and its distinctive challenges, suggesting that the choice of response needs to be extended beyond the iron cage of militarism and vengeance. Also, it is essential for analysts and leaders to envision the response to the response as well as being preoccupied with how best to hit back. Increasingly, American politicians treat the challenge as if playing poker whereas the realities of the situation call for a chess players’ natural disposition to think ahead as many moves as possible. Finally, given the religious and civilizational dimensions of current versions of megaterrorism, it is vital to guard against various manifestations of Islamophobia.

What separates megaterrorism from other more customary forms of terrorism is the theme of this post. It is not possible to give a precise definition of megaterrorism by pointing to a threshold of casualties or the magnitude of response. Each megaterrorist event is decisively shaped by its distinctive sociopolitical and psychological context.

The focus here is to take account of this radical new category of threat posed in a variety of settings, critique the ‘war’ reflex and the war/crime binary, briefly consider alternate paths of response, and recommend risk and cost assessments that take into account adversary responses to the prescribed response. The 21st century experience with responding to megaterrorist events does not create confidence in either most conceptualizations of the challenges being posed or the responsive strategies chosen to be implemented.

The horrific Paris attacks of November 13th challenge the West more deeply in some ways than did the 9/11 attacks 14 years ago. Read More »

TFF PressInfo # 350 – The West will lose to ISIS – too

By Jan Oberg

Lund, Sweden, November 30, 2015

French president Hollande has declared war – war on terror, George W. Bush style. Like September 11, 2001 wasn’t a war, Paris November 13 wasn’t a war. It was a criminal act.

The war on terror has been an exceptionally stupid war.

In the years before 9/11 about 400 people died worldwide by terrorist attack. The Global Terror Index informs us that 32.600 died in 2014 – 80 times more!

And, still, the only answer everywhere is: More war on terror.

The only – intelligent – exception is Italy whose PM has announced that Italy is going to counter terrorism by investing billions of Euros in culture, art and creativity – showing the world what civilisation is.

Politicians and the mainstream media seemingly try to make us believe – as if we were uneducated – that we in the West are the main victims and innocent victims at that. We are neither.Read More »

The Failure of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East

By Richard Falk

Prefatory Note: What follows is a modified version of the Morton-Kenney annual public lecture given at the University of Southern Illinois in Carbondale on November 18, 2015 under the joint sponsorship of the Department of Political Science and the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.

The Failure of U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East

While focusing on the ‘failure’ of American foreign policy in the Middle East it is relevant to acknowledge that given the circumstances of the region failure to some degree was probably unavoidable. The argument put forward here is that the degree and form of failure reflected avoidable choices that could and should have been corrected, or at least mitigated over time, but by and large this has not happened and it is important to understand why.

This analysis concludes with a consideration of three correctible mistakes of policy.

It is also true that the Middle East is a region of great complexity reflecting overlapping contradictory features at all levels of political organization, especially the interplay of ethnic, tribal, and religious tensions internal to states as intensified by regional and geopolitical actors pursuing antagonistic policy agendas. Additionally, of particular importance recently is the emergence of non-state actors and movements that accord priority to the establishment and control of non-territorial political communities, giving primary legitimacy to Islamic affinities while withdrawing legitimacy from the modern state as it took shape in Western Europe. Comprehending this complexity requires attention to historical and cultural background, societal context, and shifting grand strategies of geopolitical actors.

I.

From many points of view American foreign policy in the Middle East has been worse than a disappointment. It has been an outright failure, especially in the period following the 9/11 attacks of 2001. Even such an ardent supporter and collaborator of the U.S. government as Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has acknowledged as much in a recent set of comments where he basically says that the West has tried everything, and whatever the tactics were relied upon, the outcome was one of frustration and failure. Read More »