Sunday, November 30, 2008

Predictably, Pakistani papers blame Mumbai attacks on Mossad "false flag" operation

This was to be expected: Pakistani websites are blaming Mossad for the Mumbai attacks.

Russians have a small aphorism which makes fun of pathological Jew-haters which see "the Jews" as always responsible for everything:

If there is no water in the faucet - then the Jews must have drunk it
If there is water in the faucet - then the Jews must have peed in it

(it rhymes in Russian)

Seriously, it could have been Mossad, I am not saying it ain't so, but let's wait to get some facts before jumping to the usual knee jerk conclusions...

Indians had advanced warning, Pakistani connection becoming clear

(Thanks to Shashank for sending me the link to this article. VS)

by Saikat Datta for Outlook India

By mid-September, Indian agencies knew that the attack would come from the sea, by mid-November, they knew that the Taj hotel would be targeted... And yet... and yet... A blow by blow account of how the plan to attack Mumbai by sea was hatched and executed:

In mid-September this year, the CIA station chief in Delhi sought an urgent meeting with his counterpart in R&AW to pass on some critical inputs. This was part of an understanding that Indian and American intelligence had institutionalised in the aftermath of 9/11. From its assets in Pakistan and Afghanistan, American intelligence had come to learn that the Lashkar-e-Toiba was planning to launch a major terrorist attack in Mumbai, which would be carried out from the sea.

This input was in conjunction with other inputs that Indian intelligence had received from various other sources. For instance, Riyasuddin, the son of Maulana Nasiruddin, who was under arrest for his alleged involvement in the assassination of the then Gujarat home minister Naren Pandya, had stated in his statements to the police that a sea-borne attack was being planned by certain terrorist groups abroad for an attack on Mumbai.

Similarly other vague inputs had also come in from Uttar Pradesh as well as other sources. But by September 24, Indian intelligence picked up several specific inputs. These were:

* An LeT module was being trained in a camp around Karachi for launching attacks from the sea for at least three months
* Yusuf Muzammil, the chief of operations of the LeT was in contact with an LeT operative stationed in Bangladesh (identified as "Yayah") who was being asked to procure international SIM cards for an operation that had been planned
* Information was also available that the team had been trained by Zakir-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, also known as "Chacha" an ageing ideologue who conducted most of the LeT's training modules.

By the middle of November, as Indian intelligence continued to check out further inputs, the pieces of an intricate jigsaw puzzle began to fall into place. Sources say they learnt that the attack would come from the sea and that the Taj Hotel would be a major target. However, it was not known whether this attack would be carried out by planting bombs in the hotel or by terrorists carrying small arms. Indian intelligence assessments were tilting towards bombs being planted and security at the hotel was beefed up accordingly to prevent terrorists from planting bombs inside the premises.

On November 18, R&AW passed on a specific advisory to the Coast Guard, which serves as the Lead intelligence Agency for the coastal area. The advisory asked the coast guard to intensify patrolling and look out for a suspicious vessel, probably of Pakistani origin, which had sailed off from Karachi. While the coast guard began to patrol the area with renewed intensity, the terrorists had an entirely different plan.

According to details available with Indian intelligence and the information given by the terrorist who was picked up by the Mumbai police in an encounter near Chowpatty, the terrorists hijacked an Indian fishing boat, the Kuber, somewhere near Pakistani waters. They beheaded the majority of the boat's crew of six and only allowed one crew-member, Amarsinh Solanki, to live so that he could help them with navigating the boat to Mumbai. The coast guard found a Global Positioning System abandoned on the fishing trawler that was drifting nearly four nautical miles off the coast of Mumbai early on Thursday, November 27 morning, several hours after the terrorist attack began.While the coast guard was looking for a Pakistani or unidentified vessel, the Kuber (registration number 2303) blended in with the thousands of registered Indian fishing vessels out at sea.

This enabled the terrorists to avoid detection and slip into Badhwar park in Cuffe Parade in Mumbai before they began their operations. Most of them got into waiting boats that had been arranged by Karachi-based underworld don Dawood Ibrahim's diesel smuggling network in Mumbai. Arms, ammunition and plastic explosives were quickly transferred to the waiting boats that took the terrorists to the Gateway of India which was the pre-arranged launching pad for the terrorist attack.

What has surprised investigators piecing together the details of the attack is that the GPS recovered from the abandoned trawler, Kuber, had two maps fed into it to aid navigation. One was a route from Karachi that was plotted quite close to the Indian coast, while a return route had also been mapped into the GPS from the Mumbai coast back to Karachi. "We think this was done to give the terrorists some semblance of hope that they would go back home after a successful raid," a top security official told Outlook. The fact that these two maps were fed into the GPS has confirmed that there was some help from people with a naval or army background, and had extensive knowledge of navigation at sea.

Arrested terrorist Azmal Amir Qasab

What security officials have also confirmed is the fact that most of the terrorists were from Punjab in Pakistan. The arrested terrorist, Azmal Amir Qasab, a resident of Chippalpura Taluka in Ukkad Zilla, Punjab, Pakistan has told his interrogators that the terrorists had trained for over two months, much of it on the Karachi coast for the naval leg. They were trained in basic rudiments of conducting naval commando raids, given extensive biefings on the layout of South Mumbai with adequate footage for familiarity and CDs of alleged "atrocities" carried out against Muslims in India. Qasab has also given details of how two of their operatives checked into the Taj Hotel last Saturday, November 22, with a lot of equipment. The duo received several visitors with huge bags, apparently carrying RDX for the two IEDs which were defused by the Mumbai police on the night of the first attack.

Meanwhile, investigators are poring through the call data details downloaded from the satellite phone also recovered from the abandoned trawler. Many of the call details have revealed numbers that have been traced back to the LeT's chief of operations, Muzamil, as well as to Lakhvi. Interestingly, the international SIM cards recovered from the bodies of the killed terrorists correspond to the intelligence picked up earlier, when Muzamil had asked his Bangladesh operative Yayah, to procure them. He apparently also procured the fake Mauritian identity card recovered by the marine commandos.

Top security sources have also told Outlook that the intercepts made by the intelligence agencies while the NSG commando assault was underway clearly indicates that the terrorists were speaking to their handlers in Pakistan. Among the instructions passed on to them during the nearly 62-hour crisis were to throw grenades indiscriminately if they were in danger of being overpowered and to start fake negotiations to prolong the crisis.In fact, two such attempts at negotiations were made at Nariman Bhawan and the Oberoi-Trident hotel to stave off an impending assault, even though the terrorists had already killed the hostages.

In the days to come investigators will have to continue putting the pieces of the puzzle together to create a more comprehensive picture of the attack. Hidden among them will be key lessons on how to prevent similar attacks in the future.

Indians claim terrorists took orders from Pakistan

From the Times Online:

The Indian authorities yesterday claimed to have proof that the Mumbai terrorists were receiving instructions from Pakistan and discussing tactics with their handlers during the three days of attacks in which they killed at least 195 people.

The claims threaten further to embitter relations between the two nuclear powers. Tensions have been high since confirmation that the only captured gunman was a 21-year-old Pakistani.

It has also emerged that India had been warned that terrorists were planning an attack in Mumbai.

Up to 22 foreigners were among those killed in raids by 10-15 terrorists on sites across the city, including hotels, the main railway station, a Jewish community centre and two hospitals. The last of the gunmen was killed by Indian commandos yesterday morning, ending the siege at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel. One hotel worker was found alive and 22 bodies were removed. As many as 80 bodies may still be in the building.

One Briton has been confirmed dead and last night the Foreign Office refused to say whether more UK citizens could be among the victims in the wreckage of the hotel.

RR Patil, the deputy chief minister of Mumbai’s state government, said there was “proof” that the terrorists were on the phone to someone in Pakistan during the attack.

“All phone calls made by them were tapped. They were being instructed from outside regarding their movement inside the hotel - whether to go upstairs or come down or make a move left or right,” he said.

Patil also claimed that the terrorists had intended to kill at least 5,000 people, making for a greater atrocity than 9/11.

The Pakistan government denied any involvement in the attacks but backtracked on a decision to send the chief of its spy agency to India to help the investigation. Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s president, promised to take the “swiftest of action” if there was evidence the terrorists came from his country.

Yesterday the Indian authorities firmly denied reports that up to seven of the attackers were British. Intelligence sources in the UK said they were unaware of any evidence that British nationals were involved.

Police chiefs in Mumbai confirmed they had been aware as long ago as January that the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba was planning a terrorist spectacular.

The information came from Fahim Ansari, a captured operative for the group, who revealed under interrogation that he had carried out reconnaissance visits to the Taj and Oberoi hotels.

CCTV footage revealed that Ansari had visited the Oberoi. Both hotels said they had received warnings as recently as August about an attack and had stepped up security.

The Indian authorities intercepted a telephone call made from the Arabian Sea less than two weeks ago in which a terrorist suspect was heard saying “we’re coming to Mumbai”.

The Indian coastguard was alerted but Ajmal Aamer Kasav, the surviving gunman, is understood to have told his interrogators the terrorists had switched ships to evade detection. Kasav, who speaks fluent English, told investigators he and his fellow terrorists had trained at a camp at the Mangla dam between Pakistani Punjab and Pakistan-held Kashmir.

The group had travelled in pairs to Karachi where they boarded a boat. They had been told not to talk to each other on the journey.
Comment: all this is bad, bad, bad. It is now becoming increasingly clear that the Indians SNAFUed all the warnings about what would happen. Even worse, the Pakistani connection is becoming even more crucial. For example, if it is true that the terrorists were getting instructions by phone during the attacks, then ISI must have been fully aware of this, if not through their own capabilities, then at least via the USA. As for the decision not to send Pasha to India, here is probably what happened: President Zardari, probably horrified by the news, decided to sent Pasha as a sign of his full collaboration, only to be over-ruled by the real bosses in Pakistan: the ISI brass whose role in what happened raises all sorts of very scary questions. I wonder how much more restraint India can show towards Pakistan and I am afraid that India cannot just take one terrorist attack after the other (all with strong Pakistani connections) without some kind of retaliation.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bad news from Islamabad (UPDATED!)

According to Press TV Pakistan has reversed a decision to send its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief to India to help in Mumbai terror attacks investigation.

No explanation was given in a short statement issued by the premier's office in Islamabad for the change of plan, Press TV correspondent said Saturday.

Earlier Prime Minister Yourself Raze surprised many by announcing that the ISI Chief General Ahmed Shura Pasha would be sent to New Delhi to help the investigation into the Mumbai terror attacks that claimed at least 195 lives.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in a telephone conversation on Friday, urged his Pakistani counterpart to send the spy chief to New Delhi.

Sources said the change came after reservations in Pakistan's top military circles over the unprecedented move. "The military leadership was not consulted before an announcement was made to the media regarding the decision to send the ISI chief to India," a senior official said.

It is said that Pakistan will send a senior official to India instead of Pasha; however, there was no mention of when the official is likely to arrive in New Delhi.

India's Foreign Minister Prefab said Friday that initial evidence in the Mumbai attacks show the militants had links with Pakistan. Pakistan's president, premier and other top officials have condemned the attacks and promised full cooperation in fighting terrorism, however.

Gunmen targeted several places across the port city of Mumbai late Wednesday, killing 195 people and injuring 327 others.

UPDATE: according to the BBC, Indian security forces have captured at least one of the terrorists. His nationality? Pakistani.
Commentary: this kind of zig-zagging by Pakistani officials is most unhelpful. Regardless of whether Pakistani national are involved in these attacks or not, Pakistan is playing with fire here and the initial decision to agree to send General Pasha to India was the correct one. This reversal, if confirmed, would send a terrible message to an already outraged Indian public opinion. Sure, the Indian press (and politicians) were probably too eager to point fingers at Pakistan, but considering the past history of terror attacks in India by individuals linked to Pakistan, the Pakistanis should not have been offended by that. The fact is that Pakistan is the single most dangerous and unstable country in the world right now and that it will need the full cooperation of all its neighbors to tackle its many causes of instability and outright danger. If there is one thing the Pakistanis cannot afford is a worsening relationship with India. Since the real power in the country is, and always has been, ISI - sending the ISI chief was a very good move. Keeping him in Islamabad is, I am afraid, a bad sign of ruffled nationalistic feathers, a luxury Islamabad simply cannot afford right now.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Questions about the Mumbai attacks

After 48 hours sporadic combat is still taking place in Mumbai so it is way too early to try to analyze what happened. Still, there are some questions which come to my mind which I would like to share with you and, if you have any clues as to what the answers to these questions might be, I ask you to share them with me. My questions are:

a) how it is possible that the Indian intelligence community was, apparently, caught totally off-guard by these attack?! After all, in terms of size this is a far bigger operation that 9/11 and, unlike 9/11, this was a very predictable development (I am referring to the official version of 9/11 here, for the sake of comparison, not as an endorsement of the official version). And it's not like the Indians did not know from which circles such an attack might come. The fact that such a major operation was totally missed seems to point to a total, unforgivable, intelligence failure on the part of the Indian intelligence community.

b) why did negotiations not take place? after all, news reports seem to indicate that the attackers took hostages, which implies some desire to negotiate. The Indian security forces were involved in what appear to be pitch battles almost immediately after the attack was discovered. Who gave the order to immediately attack the hostage takers?

c) what kind of forces does India have specifically trained for anti-terrorist hostage/rescue operations? From what I have seen in the various news reports, a mix of so-called "commando" forces were used, which is probably the single worst option in such a situation and, moreover, none of these forces seem to be of a dedicated anti-terrorist hostage-rescue profile like, say, the Russian "Gruppa A". Does India have real, specialized, anti-terrorist hostage-rescue forces and, if yes, how many would be available for a major city like Mumbai?

As I said, these are questions to which I have found no answers so far. All I can say is that so far my impression of the Indian response is very bad and I fear that this entire situation was grossly mismanaged.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gaza - humanitarian aid VERBOTEN!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Obama’s odious entourage

This will appear in the next issue of Al-Ahram Weekly

Disappointment follows disappointment with each ‘new’ face, bemoans Eric Walberg, but there is a sort of silver lining

Yes, we mustn’t expect too much. We all know it is the establishment that comes first in United States politics. Obama’s presidency could easily be sabotaged by the powers that put him there.

But still. He would never have made it past the first, obscure primary without his army of selfless, grassroots activists, and his coffers were first filled by millions of small, personal donations. Surely these are the people he should honour with at least a few names. Even Clinton had his Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala (at least until she was tarred and feathered by the right). Obama’s one token progressive appointment was Melody Barnes of the Center for American Progress, who was chief counsel to Senator Edward Kennedy, and will head the toothless Domestic Policy Council.

Not one of the 23 Senators and 133 House Representatives who voted against the war in Iraq are on his transitional team or even on a short-list for an important post in his Cabinet. The only promise that might be kept is to close Guantanamo, though he could hardly do less. The entire US legal establishment seems to be pushing to end this outrage.

Keeping on uberhawk Robert Gates as secretary of war, despite the continued slaughter in Iraq and Afghanistan under his capable mismanagement, his uncompromising position on missiles for Poland, and his shady past (including Iran-Contra) gives little cause for hope. Russia can probably kiss improved relations with the US good-bye. It looks like there will be neocon policy as usual. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state just confirms this.

Yes, everyone in Washington is solidly Zionist, so Rahm Emanuel’s devotion to Israel hardly changes much, as John Zogby argues. But, how is it he served with the Israeli Defense Forces — during a war — and yet never served with the US military? As an American, if he did this for any other country but Israel, he would have been arrested and his political career over at once. Instead, he is honoured with the key role of the president’s chief of staff.

On a positive note, hinging that the domestic crimes against personal freedom perpetrated under Bush are not entirely forgotten, John Brennan, who supported extraordinary rendition and warrantless wiretapping, was forced to excuse himself in the race for CIA head. Still, no criminal charges against those who authorised or conducted torture during the Bush years are foreseen.

As Bloomberg notes, almost half the people on the Transition Economic Advisory Board “have held fiduciary positions at companies that, to one degree or another, either fried their financial statements, helped send the world into an economic tailspin, or both.” This includes, for example, Anne Mulcahy and Richard Parsons, both of whom were Fannie Mae directors when the company fudged accounting rules. Mulcahy and Parsons were executives of their respective companies, Xerox and Time Warner, and were charged with accounting fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Also on this team is Robert Rubin, who as Bloomberg notes, was “chairman of Citigroup’s executive committee when the bank pushed bogus analyst research, helped Enron cook its books, and got caught baking its own. He was a director from 2000 to 2006 at Ford, which also committed accounting fouls and now is begging Uncle Sam for Citigroup-style bailout cash.”

Larry Summers, who was Clinton ’s treasury secretary, will head the National Economic Council — the president’s senior economic adviser. This looks ominous. It was Summers who forced through the deregulation of financial markets in the 1990s and imposed disaster capitalism on Russia . Considering that he is a chief architect of the current financial meltdown, we should be wondering why Obama isn’t preparing an arrest warrant for him, instead of offering him the most powerful economic role in the world. As chief economist for the World Bank, Summers wrote a memo saying the WB should actively encourage the dumping of toxic waste in developing countries, particularly “under-polluted countries in Africa,” since poor people in developing countries rarely live long enough to develop cancer, making him a particularly bizarre appointment for Obama. This contradiction will be interesting to watch unfold.

Summers, Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary, and Peter Orszag as budget director are all protégés of Robert Rubin, who held two of their jobs under President Bill Clinton. All three advisers are believers in what has been dubbed Rubin-omics: balanced budgets, free trade and financial deregulation, a combination that supposedly was responsible for the prosperity of the 1990s.

But times have changed since then. Rubin is facing questions about his role as director of Citigroup, which is the benefactor of the government’s latest bailout. Obama has pledged to introduce an era of re-regulation. Instead of balancing budgets, Obama plans a two-year fiscal stimulus worth hundreds of billions of dollars to aid the jobless, states and cities. “Everyone recognises that we’re looking at deficits of considerable magnitude,” said Jared Bernstein, an economist at the liberal Economic Policy Institute. “Whether it’s Bob Rubin, Larry Summers or the most conservative economist, that is a widely shared recognition.”

The list of establishment appointees to his transitional team devoted to “change” goes on and on, begging the question: Is this really the best he could come up with? How about Nobel prize winners Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, or James K Galbraith, for starters? Someone who represents labour such as Arlene Holt Baker, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO? Something to suggest that change is really what this administration is about?

Remember Obama’s Bush moment, as they enthused about Bush’s bailout bill. Others, such as Senator Russ Feingold, realised the bill’s problems and voted against it. Feingold said that the Wall Street bailout legislation “fails to reform the flawed regulatory structure that permitted this crisis to arise in the first place. And it doesn’t do enough to address the root cause of the credit market collapse, namely the housing crisis. Taxpayers deserve a plan that puts their concerns ahead of those who got us into this mess.” Feingold was right. In short, Obama promised “Change we can believe in,” but it’s looking a lot more like “Business as usual.”

So far the only black to be appointed to a senior post is former deputy attorney general Eric Holder, will be attorney general. He is best known as the Chiquita Bananas lawyer who approved of president Bill Clinton’s pardon for Marc Rich, the blatantly corrupt financier whose former wife, Denise Rich, had contributed heavily to Clinton’s presidential library.

Despite the extreme disappointment that many are now experiencing, there are a few straws to grasp at. Emanuel was forced to apologise publicly for his father’s now legendary anti-Arab remark about mopping floors in the White House, and this incident will act as a bell-weather for anti-Arab policies. Is this, plus the appointments of Gates, Summers and Clinton possibly a wily Obama “keeping his enemies close”?

Despite the inexorable march of the empire with a black commander-in-chief at the helm, at least the Cabinet is filled with competent people, some — like Clinton — with considerable authority and prestige around the world. Holder seems to be genuinely against torture and hostile to the concept of the imperial presidency. Obama himself is intelligent and will not have circles spun around him as did Bush, nor will he take five-week vacations and rely on comic book memos for snap decisions to go to war.

Despite his team’s credentials as Rubin-omists, they are hard at work on a huge fiscal stimulus package and further tightening of government regulations on banks and the financial sector. Conservation and the long-overdue move away from fossil fuels are high on the agenda. These bureaucrats are not fools (like Bush, Rice and many others in the current administration), and taking a leaf from president Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal administration, will not be afraid to borrow from the liberal handbook as the need arises.

What the progressives in the US must now do is mobilise, mobilise, mobilise, and articulate a clear, cogent agenda for real change. The old adage holds true more than ever: No pain — no gain.

It seems the only thing we can truly feel some exhilaration for at this point is the fact that Obama’s father was a black Muslim and his mother an altruistic humanitarian who truly loved other cultures and devoted her life to better understanding among peoples. Let us hope for some sign that their spirit lives on in their son to help fight off the demons who surround him at present. Perhaps a good old-fashioned African exorcism is in order.


Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly. You can reach him at

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Victory for Venezuela’s Socialists in Crucial Elections – November 2008

by James Petras for Venezuela Analysis

The pro-Chavez United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won 72% of the governorships in the November 23, 2008 elections and 58% of the popular vote, dumbfounding the predictions of most of the pro-capitalist pollsters and the vast majority of the mass media who favored the opposition.

PSUV candidates defeated incumbent opposition governors in three states (Guarico, Sucre, Aragua) and lost two states (Miranda and Tachira). The opposition retained the governorship in a tourist center (Nueva Esparta) and won in Tachira, a state bordering Colombia, Carabobo, and the oil state of Zulia, as well as scoring an upset victory in the populous state of Miranda and taking the mayoralty district of the capital, Caracas. The socialist victory was especially significant because the voter turnout of 65% exceeded all previous non-presidential elections. The prediction by the propaganda pollsters that a high turnout would favor the opposition also reflected wishful thinking.

The significance of the socialist victory is clear if we put it in a comparative historical context:

  1. Few if any government parties in Europe, North or South American have retained such high levels of popular support in free and open elections.
  2. The PSUV retained its high level of support in the context of several radical economic measures, including the nationalization of major cement, steel, financial and other private capitalist monopolies.
  3. The Socialists won despite the 70% decline in oil prices (from $140 to $52 dollars a barrel), Venezuela’s principal source of export earnings, and largely because the government maintained most of its funding for its social programs.
  4. The electorate was more selective in its voting decisions regarding Chavista candidates – rewarding candidates who performed adequately in providing government services and punishing those who ignored or were unresponsive to popular demands. While President Chavez campaigned for all the Socialist candidates, voters did not uniformly follow his lead where they had strong grievances against local Chavista incumbents, as was the case with outgoing Governor Diosdado Cabello of Miranda and the Mayor of the Capital District of Caracas. Socialist victories were mostly the result of a deliberate, class interest based vote and not simply a reflex identification with President Chavez.
  5. The decisive victory of the PSUV provides the basis for confronting the deepening collapse of world capitalism with socialist measures, instead of pouring state funds to rescue bankrupt capitalist banks, commercial and manufacturing enterprises. The collapse of capitalism facilitates the socialization of most of the key economic sectors. Most Venezuelan firms are heavily indebted to the state and local banks. The Chavez government can ask the firms to repay their debts or handover the keys – in effect bringing about a painless and eminently legal transition to socialism.

The election results point to deepening polarization between the hard right and the socialist left. The centrist social-democratic ex-Chavista governors were practically wiped from the political map. The rightist winner in Miranda State, Henrique Capriles Radonsky, had tried to burn down the Cuban embassy during the failed military coup of April 2002 and the newly elected Governor of Zulia, Pablo Perez, was the hand picked candidate of the former hard-line rightwing Governor Rosales.

While the opposition controlled state governorships and municipal mayors can provide a basis to attack the national government, the economic crisis will sharply limit the amount of resources available to maintain services and will increase their dependence on the federal government. A frontal assault on the Chavez Government spending state and local funds on partisan warfare could lead to a decline of federal welfare transfers and would provoke grassroots discontent. The rightwing won on the basis of promising to improve state and city services and end corruption and favoritism. Resorting to their past practices of crony politics and extreme obstructionism could quickly cost them popular support and undermine their hopes of transforming local gains into national power. The newly elected opposition governors and mayors need the cooperation and support of the Federal Government, especially in the context of the deepening crisis, or they will lose popular support and credibility.


There is no point in expecting the mass media to recognize the Socialist victory. Its effort to magnify the significance of the opposition’s 40% electoral vote and their victory in 20% of the states was predictable. In the post-election period, the Socialists, no doubt, will critically evaluate the results and hopefully re-think the selection of future candidates, emphasizing job performance on local issues over and above professed loyalty to President Chavez and ‘Socialism’. The immediate and most pressing task facing the PSUV, President Chavez, the legislators and the newly elected Chavez officials is to formulate a comprehensive socio-economic strategic plan to confront the global collapse of capitalism. This is especially critical in dealing with the sharp fall in oil prices, federal revenues, and the inevitable decline in government spending. Chavez has promised to maintain all social programs even if oil prices remain at or below $50 dollars a barrel. This is clearly a positive and defensible position if the government manages to reduce its huge subsidies to the private sector and doesn’t embark on any bailout of bankrupt or nearly bankrupt private firms. While $40 billion dollars in reserves can serve as a temporary cushion, the fact remains that the government, with the backing of its majorities in the federal legislature and at the state levels, needs to make hard choices and not simply print money, run bigger deficits, devalue the currency and exacerbate the already high rates of annual inflation (31% as of November).

The only reasonable strategy is to take control of foreign trade and directly oversee the commanding heights of the productive and distributive sectors and set priorities that defend popular living standards. To counter-act bureaucratic ineptness and neutralize lazy elected officials, effective power and control must be transferred to organized workers and autonomous consumer and neighborhood councils. The recent past reveals that merely electing socialist mayors or governors is not sufficient to ensure the implementation of progressive policies and the delivery of basic services. Liberal representative government (even with elected socialists) requires at a minimum mass popular control and mass pressure to implement the hard decisions and popular priorities in the midst of a deepening and prolonged economic crisis.

Iranian Parliament Speaker Larijani warns Iraq against US SOFA

Press TV reports that Iran's Majlis (parliament) speaker says an Iraq-US security pact would have dire consequences for the Iraqi nation and regional states.

Under the proposed security agreement, American troops will be able to legally stay in Iraq for three more years after a UN mandate allowing their military presence on Iraqi soil expires on December 31.

The Iraqi parliament is scheduled to vote on the controversial treaty on Wednesday.

Ali Larijani, the top Iranian Majlis member, said Monday that Iraqi parliamentarians should carefully study all aspects of the agreement and have the right to be over sensitive about it.

"There are articles in the deal that are a kind of deception ... and contradict Iraq's sovereignty," Larijani was quoted by Mehr news agency.

"The treaty is a mirage that if finalized will compel Iraqis to follow the Americans for a very long time," he continued.

The top US military commander, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, hinted last week that even after signing the agreement, Washington would continue talks to change the articles of the security treaty.

"Three years is a long time. Conditions could change in that period of time," said Adm. Mullen. "Clearly, [changing the agreement] is theoretically possible."

The Election, Economy, War, and Peace

by Noam Chomsky for Znet

The Election

The word that immediately rolled off of every tongue after the presidential election was "historic." And rightly so. A Black family in the White House is truly a momentous event.

There were some surprises. One was that the election was not over after the Democratic convention. By usual indicators, the opposition party should have had a landslide victory during a severe economic crisis, after eight years of disastrous policies on all fronts including the worst record on job growth of any post-war president and a rare decline in median wealth, an incumbent so unpopular that his own party had to disavow him, and a dramatic collapse in US standing in world opinion. The Democrats did win, barely. If the financial crisis had been slightly delayed, they might not have.

A good question is why the margin of victory for the opposition party was so small, given the circumstances. One possibility is that neither party reflected public opinion at a time when 80% think the country is going in the wrong direction and that the government is run by "a few big interests looking out for themselves," not for the people, and a stunning 94% object that government does not attend to public opinion. As many studies show, both parties are well to the right of the population on many major issues, domestic and international.

It could be argued that no party speaking for the public would be viable in a society that is business-run to an unusual extent. Evidence for that is substantial. At a very general level, evidence is provided by the predictive success of political economist Thomas Ferguson's "investment theory" of politics, which holds that policies tend to reflect the wishes of the powerful blocs that invest every four years to control the state. More specific illustrations are numerous. To mention just one, for 60 years the US has failed to ratify the core principle of international labor law, which guarantees freedom of association. Legal analysts call it "the untouchable treaty in American politics," and observe that there has never even been any debate about the matter. And many have noted Washington's dismissal of conventions of the International Labor Organization as contrasted with the intense dedication to enforcement of monopoly pricing rights for corporations ("intellectual property rights"). There is much to explore here, but this is not the place.

The two candidates in the Democratic primary were a woman and an African-American. That too was historic. It would have been unimaginable forty years ago. The fact that the country has become civilized enough to accept this outcome is a considerable tribute to the activism of the 1960s and its aftermath.

In some ways the election followed familiar patterns. The McCain campaign was honest enough to announce clearly that the election wouldn't be about issues. Sarah Palin's hairdresser received twice the salary of McCain's foreign policy adviser, the Financial Times reported, probably an accurate reflection of significance for the campaign. Obama's message of "hope" and "change" offered a blank slate on which supporters could write their wishes. One could search websites for position papers, but correlation of these to policies is hardly spectacular, and in any event, what enters into voters' choices is what the campaign places front and center, as party managers know well.

The Obama campaign greatly impressed the public relations industry, which named Obama "Advertising Age's marketer of the year for 2008," easily beating out Apple. The industry's prime task is to ensure that uninformed consumers make irrational choices, thus undermining market theories. And it recognizes the benefits of undermining democracy the same way.

The Center for Responsive Politics reports that once again elections were bought: "The best-funded candidates won nine out of 10 contests, and all but a few members of Congress will be returning to Washington." Before the conventions, the viable candidates with most funding from financial institutions were Obama and McCain, with 36% each. Preliminary results indicate that by the end, Obama's campaign contributions, by industry, were concentrated among Law Firms (including lobbyists) and financial institutions. The investment theory of politics suggests some conclusions about the guiding policies of the new administration.

The power of financial institutions reflects the increasing shift of the economy from production to finance since the liberalization of finance in the 1970s, a root cause of the current economic malaise: the financial crisis, recession in the real economy, and the miserable performance of the economy for the large majority, whose real wages stagnated for 30 years, while benefits declined. The steward of this impressive record, Alan Greenspan, attributed his success to "growing worker insecurity," which led to "atypical restraint on compensation increases" - and corresponding increases into the pockets of those who matter. His failure even to perceive the dramatic housing bubble, following the collapse of the earlier tech bubble that he oversaw, was the immediate cause of the current financial crisis, as he ruefully conceded.

Reactions to the election from across the spectrum commonly adopted the "soaring rhetoric" that was the hallmark of the Obama campaign. Veteran correspondent John Hughes wrote that "America has just shown the world an extraordinary example of democracy at work," while to British historian-journalist Tristram Hunt, the election showed that America is a land "where miracles happen," such as "the glorious epic of Barack Obama" (leftist French journalist Jean Daniel). "In no other country in the world is such an election possible," said Catherine Durandin of the Institute for International and Strategic Relations in Paris. Many others were no less rapturous.

The rhetoric has some justification if we keep to the West, but elsewhere matters are different. Consider the world's largest democracy, India. The chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, which is larger than all but a few countries of the world and is notorious for horrifying treatment of women, is not only a woman, but a Dalit ("untouchable"), at the lowest rung of India's disgraceful caste system.

Turning to the Western hemisphere, consider its two poorest countries: Haiti and Bolivia. In Haiti's first democratic election in 1990, grass-roots movements organized in the slums and hills, and though without resources, elected their own candidate, the populist priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The results astonished observers who expected an easy victory for the candidate of the elite and the US, a former World Bank official.

True, the victory for democracy was soon overturned by a military coup, followed by years of terror and suffering to the present, with crucial participation of the two traditional torturers of Haiti, France and the US (contrary to self-serving illusions). But the victory itself was a far more "extraordinary example of democracy at work" than the miracle of 2008.

The same is true of the 2005 election in Bolivia. The indigenous majority, the most oppressed population in the hemisphere (those who survived), elected a candidate from their own ranks, a poor peasant, Evo Morales. The electoral victory was not based on soaring rhetoric about hope and change, or body language and fluttering of eyelashes, but on crucial issues, very well known to the voters: control over resources, cultural rights, and so on. Furthermore, the election went far beyond pushing a lever or even efforts to get out the vote. It was a stage in long and intense popular struggles in the face of severe repression, which had won major victories, such as defeating the efforts to deprive poor people of water through privatization.

These popular movements did not simply take instructions from party leaders. Rather, they formulated the policies that their candidates were chosen to implement. That is quite different from the Western model of democracy, as we see clearly in the reactions to Obama's victory.

In the liberal Boston Globe, the headline of the lead story observed that Obama's "grass-roots strategy leaves few debts to interest groups": labor unions, women, minorities, or other "traditional Democratic constituencies." That is only partially right, because massive funding by concentrated sectors of capital is ignored. But leaving that detail aside, the report is correct in saying that Obama's hands are not tied, because his only debt is to "a grass-roots army of millions" - who took instructions, but contributed essentially nothing to formulating his program.

At the other end of the doctrinal spectrum, a headline in the Wall Street Journal reads "Grass-Roots Army Is Still at the Ready" - namely, ready to follow instructions to "push his agenda," whatever it may be.

Obama's organizers regard the network they constructed "as a mass movement with unprecedented potential to influence voters," the Los Angeles Times reported. The movement, organized around the "Obama brand" can pressure Congress to "hew to the Obama agenda." But they are not to develop ideas and programs and call on their representatives to implement them. These would be among the "old ways of doing politics" from which the new "idealists" are "breaking free."

It is instructive to compare this picture to the workings of a functioning democracy such as Bolivia. The popular movements of the third world do not conform to the favored Western doctrine that the "function" of the "ignorant and meddlesome outsiders" - the population -- is to be "spectators of action" but not "participants" (Walter Lippmann, articulating a standard progressive view).

Perhaps there might even be some substance to fashionable slogans about "clash of civilizations."

In earlier periods of American history, the public refused to keep to its assigned "function." Popular activism has repeatedly been the force that led to substantial gains for freedom and justice. The authentic hope of the Obama campaign is that the "grass roots army" organized to take instructions from the leader might "break free" and return to "old ways of doing politics," by direct participation in action.

Latin America

In Bolivia, as in Haiti, efforts to promote democracy, social justice, and cultural rights, and to bring about desperately needed structural and institutional changes are, naturally, bitterly opposed by the traditional rulers, the Europeanized mostly white elite in the Eastern provinces, the site of most of the natural resources currently desired by the West. Also naturally, their quasi-secessionist movement is supported by Washington, which once again scarcely conceals its distaste for democracy when it does not conform to strategic and economic interests. The generalization is a staple of serious scholarship, but does not make its way to commentary about the revered "freedom agenda."

To punish Bolivians for showing "the world an extraordinary example of democracy at work," the Bush administration cancelled trade preferences, threatening tens of thousands of jobs, on the pretext that Bolivia was not cooperating with US counter-narcotic efforts. In the real world, the UN estimates that Bolivia's coca crop increased 5 percent in 2007, as compared with a 26 percent increase in Colombia, the terror state that is Washington's closest regional ally and the recipient of enormous military aid. AP reports that "Cocaine seizures by Bolivian police working with DEA agents had also increased dramatically during the Morales administration."

"Drug wars" have regularly been used as a pretext for repression, violence, and state crimes, at home as well.

After Morales's victory in a recall referendum in August 2008, with a sharp increase in support over his 2005 success, rightist opposition turned violent, leading to assassination of many peasants supporting the government. After the massacre, a summit meeting of UNASUR, the newly-formed Union of South American Republics, was convened in Santiago Chile. The summit issued a strong statement of support for the elected Morales government, read by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. The statement declared "their full and firm support for the constitutional government of President Evo Morales, whose mandate was ratified by a big majority" -- referring to his overwhelming victory in the referendum a month earlier. Morales thanked UNASUR for its support, observing that "For the first time in South America's history, the countries of our region are deciding how to resolve our problems, without the presence of the United States."

A matter of no slight significance, not reported in the US.

The Administration

Turning to the future, what can we realistically expect of an Obama administration? We have two sources of information: actions and rhetoric.

The most important actions to date are selection of staff. The first selection was for vice-President: Joe Biden, one of the strongest supporters of the Iraq invasion among Senate Democrats, a long-time Washington insider, who consistently votes with his fellow Democrats but not always, as when he supported a measure to make it harder for individuals to erase debt by declaring bankruptcy.

The first post-election appointment was for the crucial position of chief of staff: Rahm Emanuel, one of the strongest supporters of the Iraq invasion among House Democrats and like Biden, a long-term Washington insider. Emanuel is also one of the biggest recipients of Wall Street campaign contributions, the Center for Responsive Politics reports. He "was the top House recipient in the 2008 election cycle of contributions from hedge funds, private equity firms and the larger securities/investment industry." Since being elected to Congress in 2002, he "has received more money from individuals and PACs in the securities and investment business than any other industry"; these are also among Obama's top donors. His task is to oversee Obama's approach to the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, for which his and Obama's funders share ample responsibility.

In an interview with an editor of the Wall Street Journal, Emanuel was asked what the Obama administration would do about "the Democratic congressional leadership, which is brimming with left-wing barons who have their own agenda," such as slashing defense spending (in accord with the will of the majority of the population) and "angling for steep energy taxes to combat global warming," not to speak of the outright lunatics in Congress who toy with slavery reparations and even sympathize with Europeans who want to indict Bush administration war criminals for war crimes. "Barack Obama can stand up to them," Emanuel assured the editor. The administration will be "pragmatic," fending off left extremists.

Obama's transition team is headed by John Podesta, Clinton's chief of staff. The leading figures in his economic team are Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers, both enthusiasts for the deregulation that was a major factor in the current financial crisis. As Treasury Secretary, Rubin worked hard to abolish the Glass-Steagall act, which had separated commercial banks from financial institutions that incur high risks. Economist Tim Canova comments that Rubin had "a personal interest in the demise of Glass-Steagall." Soon after leaving his position as Treasury Secretary, he became "chair of Citigroup, a financial-services conglomerate that was facing the possibility of having to sell off its insurance underwriting subsidiary... the Clinton administration never brought charges against him for his obvious violations of the Ethics in Government Act."

Rubin was replaced as Treasury Secretary by Summers, who presided over legislation barring federal regulation of derivatives, the "weapons of mass destruction" (Warren Buffett) that helped plunge financial markets to disaster. He ranks as "one of the main villains in the current economic crisis," according to Dean Baker, one of the few economists to have warned accurately of the impending crisis. Placing financial policy in the hands of Rubin and Summers is "a bit like turning to Osama Bin Laden for aid in the war on terrorism," Baker adds.

The business press reviewed the records of Obama's Transition Economic Advisory Board, which met on November 7 to determine how to deal with the financial crisis. In Bloomberg News, Jonathan Weil concluded that "Many of them should be getting subpoenas as material witnesses right about now, not places in Obama's inner circle." About half "have held fiduciary positions at companies that, to one degree or another, either fried their financial statements, helped send the world into an economic tailspin, or both." Is it really plausible that "they won't mistake the nation's needs for their own corporate interests?" He also pointed out that chief of staff Emanuel "was a director at Freddie Mac in 2000 and 2001 while it was committing accounting fraud."

Those are the actions, at the time of writing. The rhetoric is "change" and "hope."

Health Care

The primary concern for the administration will be to arrest the financial crisis and the simultaneous recession in the real economy. But there is also a monster in the closet: the notoriously inefficient privatized health care system, which threatens to overwhelm the federal budget if current tendencies persist. A majority of the public has long favored a national health care system, which should be far less expensive and more effective, comparative evidence indicates (along with many studies). As recently as 2004, any government intervention in the health care system was described in the press as "politically impossible" and "lacking political support" - meaning: opposed by the insurance industry, pharmaceutical corporations, and others who count. In 2008, however, first Edwards, then Obama and Clinton, advanced proposals that approach what the public has long preferred. These ideas now have "political support." What has changed? Not public opinion, which remains much as before. But by 2008, major sectors of power, primarily manufacturing industry, had come to recognize that they are being severely damaged by the privatized health care system. Hence the public will is coming to have "political support." There is a long way to go, but the shift tells us something about dysfunctional democracy.

International Relations

Internationally, there is not much of substance on the largely blank slate. What there is gives little reason to expect much a change from Bush's second term, which stepped back from the radical ultranationalism and aggressive posture of the first term, also discarding some of the extreme hawks and opponents of democracy (in action, that is, not soothing words), like Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz.


The immediate issues have to do mostly with the Middle East. On Israel-Palestine, rumors are circulating that Obama might depart from the US rejectionism that has blocked a political settlement for over 30 years, with rare exceptions, notably for a few days in January 2001 before promising negotiations were called off prematurely by Israel. The record, however, provides no basis for taking the rumors seriously. I have reviewed Obama's formal positions elsewhere (Perilous Power), and will put the matter aside here.

After the election, Israeli president Shimon Peres informed the press that on his July trip to Israel, Obama had told him that he was "very impressed" with the Arab League peace proposal, calling for full normalization of relations with Israel along with Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories - basically, the long-standing international consensus that the US-Israel have unilaterally blocked (and that Peres has never accepted - in fact, in his last days as Prime Minister in 1996 he held that a Palestinian state can never come into existence). That might suggest a significant change of heart, except that the right-wing Israeli leader Binyamin Netanyahu said that on the same trip, Obama had told him that he was "very impressed" with Netanyahu's plan, which calls for indefinite Israeli control of the occupied territories.

The paradox is plausibly resolved by Israeli political analyst Aluf Ben, who points out that Obama's "main goal was not to screw up or ire anyone. Presumably he was polite, and told his hosts their proposals were `very interesting' - they leave satisfied and he hasn't promised a thing." Understandable, but it leaves us with nothing except his fervent professions of love for Israel and dismissal of Palestinian concerns.


On Iraq, Obama has frequently been praised for his "principled opposition" to the war. In reality, as he has made clear, his opposition has been entirely unprincipled throughout. The war, he said, is a "strategic blunder." When Kremlin critics of the invasion of Afghanistan called it a strategic blunder, we did not say that they were taking a principled stand.

By the time of writing, the government of Iraq seems close to accepting a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Washington on the US military presence in Iraq - with reservations, according to Prime Minister Maliki, who said that this is the best Iraq could get and it was at least "a strong beginning." The talks dragged on, the Washington Post reports, because Iraq insisted on "some major concessions, including the establishment of the 2011 withdrawal date instead of vaguer language favored by the Bush administration [and] also rejected long-term U.S. military bases on its soil." Iraqi leaders "consider the firm deadline for withdrawal to be a negotiating victory," Reuters reports: Washington "long opposed setting any timetable for its troops to withdraw, but relented in recent months," unable to overcome Iraqi resistance.

Throughout the negotiations, the press regularly dismissed the obstinate stance of the Maliki government as regrettable pandering to public opinion. US-run polls continue to report that a large majority of Iraqis oppose any US military presence, and believe that US forces make the situation worse, including the "surge." That judgment is supported, among others, by Middle East specialist and security analyst Steven Simon, who writes in Foreign Affairs that the Petraeus counterinsurgency strategy is "stoking the three forces that have traditionally threatened the stability of Middle Eastern states: tribalism, warlordism, and sectarianism. States that have failed to control these forces have ultimately become ungovernable, and this is the fate for which the surge is preparing Iraq. A strategy intended to reduce casualties in the short term will ineluctably weaken the prospects for Iraq's cohesion over the long run." It may lead to "a strong, centralized state ruled by a military junta that would resemble the Baathist regime Washington overthrew in 2003," or "something very much like the imperial protectorates in the Middle East of the first half of the twentieth century" in which the "club of patrons" in the capital would ‘dole out goods to tribes through favored conduits." In the Petraeus system, "the U.S. military is performing the role of the patrons -- creating an unhealthy dependency and driving a dangerous wedge between the tribes and the state," undermining prospects for a "stable, unitary Iraq."

The latest Iraqi success culminates a long process of resistance to demands of the US invaders. Washington fought tooth and nail to prevent elections, but was finally forced to back down in the face of popular demands for democracy, symbolized by the Ayatollah Sistani. The Bush administration then managed to install their own choice as Prime Minister, and sought to control the government in various ways, meanwhile also building huge military bases around the country and an "embassy" that is a virtual city within Baghdad - all funded by congressional Democrats. If the invaders do live up to the SOFA that they have been compelled to accept, it would constitute a significant triumph of nonviolent resistance. Insurgents can be killed, but mass nonviolent resistance is much harder to quell.

Within the political class and the media it is reflexively assumed that Washington has the right to demand terms for the SOFA. No such right was accorded to Russian invaders of Afghanistan, or indeed to anyone except the US and its clients. For others, we rightly adopt the principle that invaders have no rights, only responsibilities, including the responsibility to attend to the will of the victims, and to pay massive reparations for their crimes. In this case, the crimes include strong support for Saddam Hussein through his worst atrocities on Reagan's watch, then on to Saddam's massacre of Shiites under the eyes of the US military after the first Gulf War; the Clinton sanctions that were termed "genocidal" by the distinguished international diplomats who administered them and resigned in protest, and that also helped Saddam escape the fate of other gangsters whom the US and Britain supported to the very end of their bloody rule; and the war and its hideous aftermath. No such thoughts can be voiced in polite society.

The Iraqi government spokesman said that the tentative SOFA "matches the vision of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama." Obama's vision was in fact left somewhat vague, but presumably he would go along in some fashion with the demands of the Iraqi government. If so, that would require modification of US plans to ensure control over Iraq's enormous oil resources while reinforcing its dominance over the world's major energy producing region.

Afghanistan, Pakistan...

Obama's announced "vision" was to shift forces from Iraq to Afghanistan. That stand evoked a lesson from the editors of the Washington Post: "While the United States has an interest in preventing the resurgence of the Afghan Taliban, the country's strategic importance pales beside that of Iraq, which lies at the geopolitical center of the Middle East and contains some of the world's largest oil reserves." Increasingly, as Washington has been compelled to accede to Iraqi demands, tales about "democracy promotion" and other self-congratulatory fables have been shelved in favor of recognition of what had been obvious throughout to all but the most doctrinaire ideologists: that the US would not have invaded if Iraq's exports were asparagus and tomatoes and the world's major energy resources were in the South Pacific.

The NATO command is also coming to recognize reality publicly. In June 2007, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer informed a meeting of NATO members that "NATO troops have to guard pipelines that transport oil and gas that is directed for the West," and more generally to protect sea routes used by tankers and other "crucial infrastructure" of the energy system. That is the true meaning of the fabled "responsibility to protect." Presumably the task includes the projected $7.6-billion TAPI pipeline that would deliver natural gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India, running through Afghan's Kandahar province, where Canadian troops are deployed. The goal is "to block a competing pipeline that would bring gas to Pakistan and India from Iran" and to "diminish Russia's dominance of Central Asian energy exports," the Toronto Globe and Mail reported, plausibly outlining some of the contours of the new "Great Game."

Obama strongly endorsed the then-secret Bush administration policy of attacking suspected al-Qaeda leaders in countries that Washington has not (yet) invaded, disclosed by the New York Times shortly after the election. The doctrine was illustrated again on October 26, when US forces based in Iraq raided Syria, killing 8 civilians, allegedly to capture an al-Qaeda leader. Washington did not notify Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki or President Talabani, both of whom have relatively amicable relations with Syria, which has accepted 1.5 million Iraqi refugees and is bitterly opposed to al-Qaeda. Syria protested, claiming, credibly, that if notified they would have eagerly apprehended this enemy. According to Asia Times, Iraqi leaders were furious, and hardened their stance in the SOFA negotiations, insisting on provisions to bar the use of Iraqi territory to attack neighbors.

The Syria raid elicited a harsh reaction in the Arab world. In pro-government newspapers, the Bush administration was denounced for lengthening its "loathsome legacy" (Lebanon), while Syria was urged to "march forward in your reconciliatory path" and America to "keep going backwards with your language of hatred, arrogance and the murder of innocents" (Kuwait). For the region generally, it was another illustration of what the government-controlled Saudi press condemned as "not diplomacy in search of peace, but madness in search of war."

Obama was silent. So were other Democrats. Political scientist Stephen Zunes contacted the offices of every Democrat on the House and Senate Foreign Relations Committees, but was unable to find any critical word on the US raid on Syria from occupied Iraq.

Presumably, Obama also accepts the more expansive Bush doctrine that the US not only has the right to invade countries as it chooses (unless it is a "blunder," too costly to us), but also to attack others that Washington claims are supporting resistance to its aggression. In particular, Obama has, it seems, not criticized the raids by Predator drones that have killed many civilians in Pakistan.

These raids of course have consequences: people have the odd characteristic of objecting to slaughter of family members and friends. Right now there is a vicious mini-war being waged in the tribal area of Bajaur in Pakistan, adjacent to Afghanistan. BBC describes widespread destruction from intense combat, reporting further that "Many in Bajaur trace the roots of the uprising to a suspected US missile strike on an Islamic seminary, or madrassa, in November 2006, which killed around 80 people." The attack on the school, killing 80-85 people, was reported in the mainstream Pakistani press by the highly respected dissident physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy, but ignored in the US as insignificant. Events often look different at the other end of the club.

Hoodbhoy observed that the usual outcome of such attacks "has been flattened houses, dead and maimed children, and a growing local population that seeks revenge against Pakistan and the US." Bajaur today may be an illustration of the familiar pattern.

On November 3, General Petraeus, the newly appointed head of the US Central Command that covers the Middle East region, had his first meeting with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and other high officials. Their primary concern was US missile attacks on Pakistani territory, which had increased sharply in previous weeks. "Continuing drone attacks on our territory, which result in loss of precious lives and property, are counterproductive and difficult to explain by a democratically elected government," Zardari informed Petraeus. His government, he said, is "under pressure to react more aggressively" to the strikes. These could lead to "a backlash against the US," which is already deeply unpopular in Pakistan.

Petraeus said that he had heard the message, and "we would have to take [Pakistani opinions] on board" when attacking the country. A practical necessity, no doubt, when over 80% of the supplies for the US-NATO war in Afghanistan pass through Pakistan.

Pakistan developed nuclear weapons, outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), thanks in no small measure to Ronald Reagan, who pretended not to see what his ally was doing. This was one element of Reagan's "unstinting support" for the "ruthless and vindictive" dictator Zia ul-Haq, whose rule had "the most long-lasting and damaging effect on Pakistani society, one still prevalent today," the highly respected analyst Ahmed Rashid observes. With Reagan's firm backing, Zia moved to impose "an ideological Islamic state upon the population." These are the immediate roots of many of "today's problems - the militancy of the religious parties, the mushrooming of madrassas and extremist groups, the spread of drug and Kalashnikov culture, and the increase in sectarian violence."

The Reaganites also "built up the [Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, ISI] into a formidable intelligence agency that ran the political process inside Pakistan while promoting Islamic insurgencies in Kashmir and Central Asia," Rashid continues. "This global jihad launched by Zia and Reagan was to sow the seeds of al Qaeda and turn Pakistan into the world center of jihadism for the next two decades." Meanwhile Reagan's immediate successors left Afghanistan in the hands of the most vicious jihadis, later abandoning it to warlord rule under Rumsfeld's direction. The fearsome ISI continues to play both sides of the street, supporting the resurgent Taliban and simultaneously acceding to some US demands.

The US and Pakistan are reported to have reached "tacit agreement in September [2008] on a don't-ask-don't-tell policy that allows unmanned Predator aircraft to attack suspected terrorist targets" in Pakistan, according to unidentified senior officials in both countries. "The officials described the deal as one in which the U.S. government refuses to publicly acknowledge the attacks while Pakistan's government continues to complain noisily about the politically sensitive strikes."

Once again problems are caused by the "ignorant and meddlesome outsiders" who dislike being bombed by an increasingly hated enemy from the other side of the world.

The day before this report on the "tacit agreement" appeared, a suicide bombing in the conflicted tribal areas killed eight Pakistani soldiers, retaliation for an attack by a US Predator drone that killed 20 people, including two Taliban leaders. The Pakistani parliament called for dialogue with the Taliban. Echoing the resolution, Pakistani foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said "There is an increasing realization that the use of force alone cannot yield the desired results."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's first message to president-elect Obama was much like that delivered to General Petraeus by Pakistani leaders: "end US airstrikes that risk civilian casualties." His message was sent shortly after coalition troops bombed a wedding party in Kandahar province, reportedly killing 40 people. There is no indication that his opinion was "taken on board."

The British command has warned that there is no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and that there will have to be negotiations with the Taliban, risking a rift with the US, the Financial Times reports. Correspondent Jason Burke, who has long experience in the region, reports that "the Taliban have been engaged in secret talks about ending the conflict in Afghanistan in a wide-ranging 'peace process' sponsored by Saudi Arabia and supported by Britain."

Some Afghan peace activists have reservations about this approach, preferring a solution without foreign interference. A growing network of activists is calling for negotiations and reconciliation with the Taliban in a National Peace Jirga, a grand assembly of Afghans, formed in May 2008. At a meeting in support of the Jirga, 3,000 Afghan political and intellectuals, mainly Pashtuns, the largest ethnic group, criticized "the international military campaign against Islamic militants in Afghanistan and called for dialogue to end the fighting," AFP reported.

The interim chairman of the National Peace Jirga, Bakhtar Aminzai, "told the opening gathering that the current conflict could not be resolved by military means and that only talks could bring a solution. He called on the government to step up its negotiations with the Taliban and Hizb-i-Islami groups." The latter is the party of the extremist radical Islamist warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a Reagan favorite responsible for many terrible atrocities, now reported to provide core parliamentary support for the Karzai government and to be pressing it towards a form of re-Talibanization.

Aminzai said further that "We need to pressure the Afghan government and the international community to find a solution without using guns." A spokeswoman added that "We are against Western policy in Afghanistan. They should bury their guns in a grave and focus on diplomacy and economic development." A leader of Awakened Youth of Afghanistan, a prominent antiwar group, says that we must end "Afghanicide -- the killing of Afghanistan." In a joint declaration with German peace organizations, the National Peace Jirga claimed to represent "a wide majority of Afghan people who are tired of war," calling for an end to escalation and initiation of a peace process.

The deputy director of the umbrella organization of NGOs in the country says that of roughly 1,400 registered NGOs, nearly 1,100 are purely Afghan operations: women's groups, youth groups and others, many of them advocates of the Peace Jirga.

Though polling in war-torn Afghanistan is a difficult process, there are some suggestive results. A Canadian-run poll found that Afghans favor the presence of Canadian and other foreign troops, the result that made the headlines in Canada. Other findings suggest some qualifications. Only 20% "think the Taliban will prevail once foreign troops leave." Three-fourths support negotiations between the Karzai government and the Taliban, and more than half favor a coalition government. The great majority therefore strongly disagree with the US-NATO focus on further militarization of the conflict, and appear to believe that peace is possible with a turn towards peaceful means. Though the question was not asked, it is reasonable to surmise that the foreign presence is favored for aid and reconstruction.

A study of Taliban foot soldiers carried out by the Toronto Globe & Mail, though not a scientific survey as they point out, nevertheless yields considerable insight. All were Afghan Pashtuns, from the Kandahar area. They described themselves as Mujahadeen, following the ancient tradition of driving out foreign invaders. Almost a third reported that at least one family member had died in aerial bombings in recent years. Many said that they were fighting to defend Afghan villagers from air strikes by foreign troops. Few claimed to be fighting a global Jihad, or had allegiance to Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Most saw themselves as fighting for principles - an Islamic government -- not a leader. Again, the results suggest possibilities for a negotiated peaceful settlement, without foreign interference.

A valuable perspective on such prospects is provided by Sir Rodric Braithwaite, a specialist on Afghanistan who was UK ambassador to Moscow during the crucial 1988-92 period when the Russians withdrew (and the USSR collapsed), then becoming chair of the British Joint Intelligence Committee. On a recent visit, Braithwaite spoke to Afghan journalists, former Mujahideen, professionals, people working for the US-based "coalition" - in general, to "natural supporters for its claims to bring peace and reconstruction." In the Financial Times, he reports that they were "contemptuous of President Hamid Karzai," regarding him as another one of the puppets installed by foreign force. Their favorite was "Mohammad Najibullah, the last communist president, who attempted to reconcile the nation within an Islamic state, and was butchered by the Taliban in 1996: DVDs of his speeches are being sold on the streets. Things were, they said, better under the Soviets. Kabul was secure, women were employed, the Soviets built factories, roads, schools and hospitals, Russian children played safely in the streets. The Russian soldiers fought bravely on the ground like real warriors, instead of killing women and children from the air. Even the Taliban were not so bad: they were good Muslims, kept order, and respected women in their own way. These myths may not reflect historical reality, but they do measure a deep disillusionment with the `coalition' and its policies."

Specialists on the region urge that US strategy should shift from more troops and attacks in Pakistan to a "diplomatic grand bargain -- forging compromise with insurgents while addressing an array of regional rivalries and insecurities" (Barnett Rubin and Ahmed Rashid in Foreign Affairs, Nov.-Dec. 2008). They warn that the current military focus "and the attendant terrorism" might lead to the collapse of nuclear-armed Pakistan, with grim consequences. They urge the incoming US administration "to put an end to the increasingly destructive dynamics of the Great Game in the region" through negotiations that recognize the interests of the concerned parties within Afghanistan as well as Pakistan and Iran, but also India, China and Russia, who "have reservations about a NATO base within their spheres of influence" and concerns about the threats "posed by the United States and NATO" as well as by al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The immediate goal should be "Lowering the level of violence in the region and moving the global community toward genuine agreement on the long-term goals," thus allowing Afghans to confront their internal problems peacefully. The incoming US president must put an end to "Washington's keenness for `victory' as the solution to all problems, and the United States' reluctance to involve competitors, opponents, or enemies in diplomacy."

It appears that there are feasible alternatives to escalation of the cycle of violence, but there is little hint of it in the electoral campaign or political commentary. Afghanistan and Pakistan do not appear among foreign policy issues on the Obama campaign's website.


Iran, in contrast, figures prominently -- though not of course as compared with effusive support for Israel; Palestinians remain unmentioned, apart from a vague reference to a two-state settlement of some unspecified kind. For Iran, Obama supports tough direct diplomacy "without preconditions" in order "to pressure Iran directly to change their troubling behavior," namely pursuing a nuclear program and supporting terrorism (presumably referring to support for Hamas and Hezbollah). If Iran abandons its troubling behavior, the US might move towards normal diplomatic and economic relations. "If Iran continues its troubling behavior, we will step up our economic pressure and political isolation." And as Obama informed the Israeli Lobby (AIPAC), "I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon" - up to nuclear war, if he meant what he said.

Furthermore Obama will strengthen the NPT "so that countries like North Korea and Iran that break the rules will automatically face strong international sanctions." There is no mention of the conclusion of US intelligence with "high confidence" that Iran has not had a weapons program for 5 years, unlike US allies Israel, Pakistan, India, which maintain extensive nuclear weapons programs in violation of the NPT with direct US support, all unmentioned here as well.

The final mention of Iran is in the context of Obama's strong support for Israel's "Right to Self Defense" and its "right to protect its citizens." This commitment is demonstrated by Obama's co-sponsorship of "a Senate resolution against Iran and Syria's involvement in the war, and insisting that Israel should not be pressured into a ceasefire that did not deal with the threat of Hezbollah missiles." The reference is to Israel's US-backed invasion of Lebanon in 2006, with pretexts that are hardly credible in light of Israel's regular practices. This invasion, Israel's fifth, killed over 1000 Lebanese and once again destroyed much of southern Lebanon as well as parts of Beirut.

This is the sole mention of Lebanon among foreign policy issues on Obama's website. Evidently, Lebanon has no right of self defense. In fact who could possibly have a right of self defense against the US or its clients?

Nor does Iran have such rights. Among specialists, even rational hawks, it is well understood that if Iran is pursuing a weapons program, it is for deterrence. In the conservative National Interest, former CIA weapons inspector David Kay speculates that Iran might be moving towards "nuclear weapons capability," with the "strategic goal" of countering a US threat that "is real in Teheran's eyes," for good reasons that he reviews. He notes further that "Perhaps the biggest agitator of all in this is the United States, with its abbreviated historical memory and diplomatic ADD." Wayne White, formerly deputy director for the Near East and South Asia in State Department intelligence, dismisses the possibility that Supreme Leader Khamenei and the clerical elite, who hold power in Iran, would throw away the "vast amounts of money" and "huge economic empires" they have created for themselves "in some quixotic attack against Israel with a nuclear weapon," if they had one. The probability of that is virtually undetectable, he points out.

White agrees that Iran might seek weapons capability (which is not the same as weapons) for deterrence. He goes on to suggest Iran might also recall that Saddam Hussein had no nuclear weapons program when Israel bombed its Osiraq reactor in 1981, and that the attack led him to initiate a program using nuclear materials it had on hand as a result of the bombing. At the time, White was Iraq analyst for State Department intelligence, with access to a rich body of evidence. His testimony adds internal US intelligence confirmation to the very credible evidence available at once, later strengthened by reports of Iraqi defectors, that the Israeli bombing did not terminate, but rather initiated, Saddam's pursuit of nuclear weapons. US or Israeli bombing of Iranian facilities, White and other specialists observe, might have the same effect. Violence consistently elicits more violence in response.

These matters are well understood by informed hardliners. The leading neoconservative expert on Iran, Reuel Marc Gerecht, formerly in the CIA Middle East division, wrote in 2000 that:

Tehran certainly wants nuclear weapons; and its reasoning is not illogical. Iran was gassed into surrender in the first Persian Gulf War; Pakistan, Iran's ever more radicalized Sunni neighbor to the southeast, has nuclear weapons; Saddam Hussein, with his Scuds and his weapons-of-mass-destruction ambitions, is next door; Saudi Arabia, Iran's most ardent and reviled religious rival, has long-range missiles; Russia, historically one of Iran's most feared neighbors, is once again trying to reassert its dominion in the neighboring Caucasus; and Israel could, of course blow the Islamic Republic to bits. Having been vanquished by a technologically superior Iraq at a cost of at least a half-million men, Iran knows very well the consequences of having insufficient deterrence. And the Iranians possess the essential factor to make deterrence work: sanity. Tehran or Isfahan in ashes would destroy the Persian soul, about which even the most hard-line cleric cares deeply. As long as the Iranians believe that either the U.S. or Israel or somebody else in the region might retaliate with nuclear weapons, they won't do something stupid.

Gerecht also understands very well the real "security problem" posed by Iranian nuclear weapons, should it acquire them:

A nuclear-armed Islamic Republic would of course check, if not checkmate, the United States' maneuvering room in the Persian Gulf. We would no doubt think several times about responding to Iranian terrorism or military action if Tehran had the bomb and a missile to deliver it. During the lead-up to the second Gulf War, ruling clerical circles in Tehran and Qom were abuzz with the debate about nuclear weapons. The mullahs...agreed: if Saddam Hussein had had nuclear weapons, the Americans would not have challenged him. For the "left" and the "right," this weaponry is the ultimate guarantee of Iran's defense, its revolution, and its independence as a regional great power.

With appropriate translations for the doctrinal term "Iranian terrorism," Gerecht's concerns capture realistically the threat posed by an Iran with a deterrent capacity (Iranian military action is quite a remote contingency).

While as usual ignored as irrelevant to policy formation, American public opinion is close to that of serious analysts and also to world opinion. Large majorities oppose threats against Iran, thus rejecting the Bush-Obama position that the US must be an outlaw state, violating the UN Charter, which bars the threat of force. The public also joins the majority of the world's states in endorsing Iran's right, as a signer of the NPT, to enrich uranium for nuclear energy (the position endorsed also by Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Kissinger and others when Iran was ruled by the tyrant imposed by US-UK subversion). Most important, the public favors establishment of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East, which would mitigate and perhaps eliminate this highly threatening issue.

Popular Influence

These observations suggest an interesting thought experiment. What would be the content of the "Obama brand" if the public were to become "participants" rather than mere "spectators in action"? It is an experiment well worth undertaking, and there is good reason to suppose that the results might point the way to a saner and more decent world

From Irgun to AIPAC: Israel Lobby’s US Treasury Follies Hurt

AIPAC and its associated think tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), were instrumental in lobbying the president for the creation of the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence unit early in 2004. The Israel lobby also vetted Stuart Levey who President Bush approved to lead the new unit. TFI claims to be “safeguarding the financial system against illicit use and combating rogue nations, terrorist facilitators, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferators, money launderers, drug kingpins, and other national security threats.” However its actions—and more important, inactions—reveal it to be a sharp-edged tool forged principally to serve the Israel lobby.

TFI has taken no actions to undercut one nexus of money laundering in the Middle East unveiled in 2005 by Israeli prosecutor Talia Sasson and exposed by USA Today. Even mainstream print outlets such as Reuters continue to wonder aloud why US tax exemptions are offered for illegal overseas activities. Although Stuart Levey has made multiple official visits to Jerusalem to liaise with Israeli government officials, when formally asked under a Freedom of Information Act request to reveal how TFI was tackling the reported $50-$60 billion laundered from the US through Israel and into illegal West Bank settlements, TFI politely demurred. (PDF) TFI claims that Levey’s US-taxpayer-funded missions to Israel must be kept secret from the American public in order to comply with the Bank Secrecy Act, which ironically is an anti-money-laundering law.1 This is not to say that TFI is a black box to everyone. Invited guests and members of WINEP have received many intimate briefings from TFI officials and consultants—possibly more than the entire US Congress.

TFI’s highly selective, largely secret pursuits should surprise no one. This is not the first time Israel lobbyists have bent an agency toward counterproductive foreign policy initiatives with the approval of a sitting president. During WWII, Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr. became infatuated with the efforts of Peter H. Bergson (aka Hillel Kook, born in Lithuania, 1915-2001) toward the formation of a “Jewish Army” in the Middle East. Bergson’s “Committee for a Jewish Army” circulated an early plan to the US Congress calling for financing an army of 100,000 Jews in Palestine to fight Nazis and “fifth columnists” of Syria, Iraq, and Egypt. In reality, Bergson was leading an American front organization for Menachem Begin’s Irgun Z’vai Leumi organization. Irgun also lobbied Nazi Germany for a Jewish Army, as well as a formal alliance between 1940 and 1941 while Hitler appeared to have the upper hand in Europe.2

Morgenthau strongly identified with Bergson’s later rescue efforts to save Jews from Nazi barbarity by finding refugee havens in Western host countries. Morgenthau sought to remove displaced person policy from the jurisdiction of the US State Department by commissioning his own department assistants, Josiah Dubois, John Pehle, and Randolph Paul, to compile a report on rescue opportunities and failures, which he presented to President Roosevelt on January 16, 1944. It roundly castigated the State Department and recommended that Roosevelt “remove the hands of men who are indifferent, callous and perhaps even hostile.” He also threatened to launch a public relations attack on the State Department as a bastion of anti-Semitism. It was a charge, he said, that “will require little more in the way of proof for this suspicion to explode into a nasty scandal.”3

Roosevelt, not wishing to face such a scandal in an election year, issued Executive Order 9417 establishing the War Refugee Board (WRB). He named Morgenthau, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and War Secretary Henry Stimson to head the board. John W. Pehle, who as assistant treasury secretary had spent much of his time working to produce evidence of State Department procrastination on refugee efforts, became director of the WRB. Josiah Dubois affirmed that the work of Bergson was effective in “generating an atmosphere conducive to its formation…we were seeking the same goals.” Earlier, Pehl had ordered that Bergson be allowed to utilize State Department cables to communicate with Irgun leader Vladimir Jabotinsky and facilitate his movements to Turkey.4 The WRB was authorized to establish refugee absorption centers in neutral countries, a worthy effort that was unable to lead by example. By late July of 1944, the WRB was only able to secure infrastructure for 1,000 refugees at Fort Ontario in Lake Oswego, New York. This number was unimpressive to other countries being lobbied to absorb refugees, and the entire effort was largely a failure. But it was more than just a failure to rescue innocent victims of the Holocaust or a diversion of wartime assets—with no referendum on the matter or act of Congress, Morgenthau had allied a key US government agency to terrorists.

Before Bergson began receiving support from Treasury, Irgun had plenty of blood on its hands. Vladimir Jabotinsky was a major figure in the World Zionist Organization and put together a force of 5,000 soldiers as the organization’s contribution to the British conquest of Palestine during WWI. In 1920, he organized the Haganah, the precursor to the Israeli Army, and held a position in the WZO World Executive for his leadership role. The Haganah worked jointly with the British to quell the uprising as their “settlement police.” He resigned to build his own far-right-wing Zionist-Revisionist World Union in 1925, which opposed World Zionist Organization president Chaim Weizmann’s vision. Jabotinsky’s was to “revise” the British decision to separate Trans-Jordan from territory allotted to become the “Jewish National Home” after WWI in the Balfour declaration. Jabotinsky also wanted to “revise” the British decision to disband the Jewish legion. His views evolved over time toward supporting the absolute necessity of violent armed displacement of Arabs in Palestine. This was frankly encapsulated in his 1923 “Iron Wall” manifesto:

There can be no kind of discussion of a voluntary reconciliation between us and the Arabs…Any native people…view their country as their national home. They will not voluntarily allow, not only a new master, but even a new partner…Colonization can have only one goal. For the Palestinian Arabs this goal is inadmissible. This is in the nature of things. To change that nature is impossible…colonization can therefore, continue and develop only under the protection of a force independent of the local population—an iron wall which the native population cannot break through. This is, in toto, our policy toward the Arabs. To formulate it any other way would only be hypocrisy.

Jabotinsky established his paramilitary Betar youth group in 1923 in Palestine and other countries. Menachem Begin joined in 1929 in Poland, rising to head the national unit that became Betar’s largest branch.

Arab Palestinians, sensing their own eventual displacement, had begun revolting against Jewish immigration in 1936. A Revisionist paramilitary split from the Haganah in 1931 and was placed under the command of Jabotinsky in December of 1936. Although they were originally committed to “self restraint,” by November the Irgun forces were actively engaging in terrorism, including the use of milk-can bombs that would be famously deployed a decade later against the British in the King David Hotel attack. Early in September of 1936, 13 Arabs were killed, supposedly in retaliation for the death of three Jews. Several Irgunists were determined to act on their own, but the Irgun Command headed them off by organizing a wave of operations, beginning on November 14, that resulted in 10 dead and numerous wounded. The Irgun’s campaign of attacks on purely civilian targets reached its high point in the summer of 1938. On July 6, a bomb in a milk can went off in the Arab market in Haifa, leaving 21 dead and 52 injured. On July 15, an electric mine in David Street in the old city of Jerusalem killed 10 and wounded 30. On July 25, another bomb in the Haifa market left 35 dead and 70 wounded. On July 26, a bomb in Jaffa’s market killed 24 and injured 35.5 Historian Paul Johnson claims that Israel owes its existence largely due to the timely deployment of such terrorist attacks.6 Still, in these days long predating the so-called “war on terror,” the architect of many of these bloodbaths had no problem entering the US.

In America, Irgun leader Jabotinsky roamed freely for a short time. On August 2, 1940, he was examined by a doctor who suspected that he had heart trouble. Jabotinsky then made his way to a Betar camp in Greene County in the Catskill Mountains, 130 miles from New York. After reviewing an honor guard, he collapsed and died. Although Irgun has long since left the building, AIPAC’s men may now kill off the remaining international credibility of an already severely debilitated US Treasury Department.

Treasury gasped this week as it bailed out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the tune of billions in committed taxpayer funds. International financial institutions holding US-mortgage-backed and Treasury securities forced the Treasury to intervene in order to avert a global financial catastrophe. Such sovereign economic interests are now returning to the forefront of international relations and displacing blind acquiescence to preemptive bellicosity. Looking back, it is painfully obvious that the United States should have accepted the comprehensive “Grand Bargain” tendered by Iranian moderates in 2003. Iran’s $753-billion-dollar economy would be a highly productive trading partner for the United States—Iran’s competitive advantages in energy are well matched with the US’s high-tech, engineering service and machinery exports. Instead, we have AIPAC continually disrupting trade flows against the broader American interest.

AIPAC has a history of directing US trade policy against the interests of American producers and workers. In 1984, the FBI found AIPAC in possession of purloined secret International Trade Commission documents that US government officials solicited from private industry in order to negotiate a favorable bilateral free trade agreement with Israel. AIPAC promptly used this stolen information against the American worker—the subsequent FTA has yielded a $63 billion net US trade deficit with Israel between 1989 and 2007.

The grinding march toward a pointless war with Iran, like Morgenthau’s dalliances with the Irgun, is not really about America’s own best interests. It’s not that Stuart Levey doesn’t know how Israeli extremism can endanger the United States. Levey’s Fulbright-grant-funded undergraduate thesis was all about Meir Kahane, the Brooklyn-born rabbi who founded the Israeli group Kach. Kahane Chai (Kach) currently occupies slot number 20 on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. While the buttoned-down Levey is certainly not an extremist of Kahane’s or Jabotinsky’s violent mold, his AIPAC-sponsored financial warfare is clearly extreme. Levey and his supporters are threatening US trading partners, banks, multinational corporations, independent shippers, small trade related businesses and the international shipping system. The only beneficiary of the action is Israel—a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and longtime owner of its own nuclear weapons—an arsenal financed and created, in large part, by precisely the kinds of “deceptive schemes” and “illicit commerce” toward which TFI consciously turns a blind eye. In contrast, Iran signed the NPT, is under active International Atomic Energy Agency monitoring, and is not enriching uranium to levels sufficient for nuclear weapons production.

Like the rigged 1984 Free Trade Agreement, AIPAC’s Treasury Department actions will create more hard times for American workers. As never before, America’s economy could benefit from any expansion in export jobs boosted by new market access. Trade with Iran and the rest of the Middle East is based on real comparative advantages. US workers, many facing home foreclosures due to junk mortgages, will be the unknowing victims of the latest US Treasury gambit. Like the Morgenthau scheme, the Israel lobby’s latest venture is likely to fail as the international system routes around the new trade impediments. The world largely ignored Morgenthau’s and the men from Irgun’s attempts to “lead by example” to save displaced persons of Europe. Levey’s far less worthy cause, fighting for Israeli regional nuclear hegemony through damaging trade edicts, may also be similarly ignored. Countries suffering from the fallout of their investments in US junk mortgages are unlikely to buy into more junk policies and junk wars crafted by the Israel lobby.

  1. Smith, Grant F., America’s Defense Line: The Justice Department’s Battle to Register the Israel Lobby as Agents of a Foreign Government, page 197-198.
  2. Polkehn, Klaus, “The Secret Contacts: Zionism and Nazi Germany, 1933-1941,” Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 5, No. 3/4 (Spring–Summer 1976), pp. 54-82.
  3. Peck, Sarah E., “The Campaign for an American Response to the Nazi Holocaust , 1943-1945,” Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 15, No. 2 (April 1980), pp. 367-400.
  4. Peck, Sarah E., “The Campaign for an American Response to the Nazi Holocaust, 1943-1945,” Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 15, No. 2 (April 1980), pp. 367-400.
  5. Brenner, Lenni, “Zionist-Revisionism: The Years of Fascism and Terror,” Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 13, No. 1 (Autumn 1983), pp. 66-92.
  6. Johnson, Paul, A History of the Jews, New York, Harper and Row, 1987, p. 526.

Grant F. Smith is the author of the new book, America's Defense Line: The Justice Department's Battle to Register the Israel Lobby as Agents of a Foreign Government. He currently serves as director of research at the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy in Washington (IRmep), D.C. Read other articles by Grant, or visit Grant's website.