Monthly Archives: January 2012
The deaths caused by the U.S. in Iraq are “untold” by the media
By Danny Lucia
January 31, 2012 ” ISO” — OVER A million Iraqis are dead from America’s war.
That sentence is a cognitive litmus test. Some people’s immediate reaction is, “That can’t be right,” because the United States couldn’t do that. Or because crimes on that scale don’t still happen. Or because they do happen, but only in horrible places that the United States hasn’t rescued.
One million is a “Grandpa, what did you do to stop it?” number. It’s a number that undeniably puts the American state among history’s villains. Those who are not willing or able to accept this are physically unable to retain the fact that over a million Iraqis are dead. Their brains expel it like a foreign germ.
Noam Chomsky once wrote that the “sign of a truly totalitarian culture is that important truths simply lack cognitive meaning and are interpretable only at the level of ‘Fuck You,’ so they can then elicit a perfectly predictable torrent of abuse in response.”
That pretty much sums up the how the media reacted to the one million figure in 2007 when it was announced by the British polling firm Opinion Research Business (ORB). (In fact, the firm estimated 1,220,580 Iraqis had died, confirming and updating a separate study done the year before by researchers from Johns Hopkins University and published in the Lancet medical journal.)
Take Kevin O’Brien, deputy editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Upon receiving a media advisory about the findings from ORB, whose clients include the British Conservative Party and Morgan Stanley, this was his response: “Please remove me from your mailing list and spare me your transparent propaganda.”
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“WE DON’T do body counts,” Gen. Tommy Franks once famously answered a reporter’s question about civilian casualties. He’s not alone.
Amid all the somber reflections last month about the end of the Iraq War, a specific number of how many Iraqis had died was rarely given. Reporters often described the tally of Iraqi casualties as an “untold number,” a somber-sounding phrase that reflects the same level of journalistic effort used for finding the death toll of squirrels in a forest fire.
This line from Reuter’s Mary Milliken was typical: “[T]oday was about remembering the untold number of Iraqis and nearly 4,500 Americans who died in the war.”
How many Americans died, Mary? Nearly 4,500. And how many Iraqis? Oh, you know, lots. A whole bunch.
“Untold number” implies that there are no available estimates of just how many Iraqis died. In fact there are two: an organization called Iraq Body Count (IBC) has tallied about 110,000 deaths, based on media accounts and health ministry records. IBC admits that its total is surely too low since occupying armies and sectarian civil wars are not known for meticulous bookkeeping, but it disputes the higher figures from ORB and Johns Hopkins.
Methodology debates aside, there are numbers on hand to describe the Iraqi death toll. They are “untold” only by reporters like Kevin O’Brien and Mary Milliken.
The silence around numbers is not so much a conspiracy as a reflection of the fact that some information is simply incompatible with the American imperial mindset.
Consider a different grisly number from a previous decade: According to the United Nations Children Fund, 500,000 Iraqi children died in the 1990s due to United Nations sanctions (rammed through by the U.S.) that barred medicines and other basic necessities from entering the country.
In 2000, the UN humanitarian aid coordinator resigned to protest the sanctions, two years after his predecessor had done the same. Both of these life-long diplomats later used the word “genocide” to describe the American policy.
If you are ignorant of or forgot this information, you are not alone. So did the people who planned the Iraq War. There is no other way to explain the fact that America’s war and occupation strategy rested on the expectation that its soldiers would be greeted as liberators by the parents of half a million dead children. (The sanctions, by the way, weren’t imposed in the Kurdish north, the only part in Iraq that did not offer massive resistance to the U.S. occupation.)
It’s not by chance that many of the most committed antiwar activists are revolutionaries of one stripe or another. We are able to process and comprehend the staggering evil been done to Iraq because we are radicals. And vice versa.
Revolutionaries face the ironic conventional wisdom that because we want to see society radically transformed, we are ends-justifies-the-means fanatics who think nothing of how much blood might be spilled in the process.
But it was then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright who said of the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children that “the price is worth it.” And it is current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta who used the exact same phrase recently regarding the second invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Those are the words of a fanatical order that anyone should be proud to oppose with all of their being.
By Mac Slavo
January 31, 2012 “SHTFplan” — While President Obama’s supporters hailed his withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq as the end of the war in the middle east, behind the scenes the Pentagon has been quietly massing troops and armaments on two islands located just south of the Strait of Hormuz, and within easy striking distance of Iran.
In addition to some 50,000 U.S. troops currently in the region waiting for orders (apparently they won’t be home by this past Christmas as was originally promised), Nobel Peace Prize winner President Barack Obama is deploying an additional 50,000 soldiers to be ready for ‘any contingency’ by March: :
President Barack Obama is reported exclusively by DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military and Washington sources to have secretly ordered US air, naval and marine forces to build up heavy concentrations on two strategic islands – Socotra, which is part of a Yemeni archipelago in the Indian Ocean, and the Omani island of Masirah at the southern exit of the Strait of Hormuz.
Since 2010, the US has been quietly building giant air force and naval bases on Socotra with facilities for submarines, intelligence command centers and take-off pads for flying stealth drones, as part of a linked chain of strategic US military facilities in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf.
The Socotra facilities are so secret that they are never mentioned in any catalogue listing US military facilities in this part of the world, which include Jebel Ali and Al Dahfra in the United Arab Emirates; Arifjan in Kuwait; and Al Udeid in Qatar – all within short flying distances from Iran.
Additional US forces are also being poured into Camp Justice on the barren, 70-kilometer long Omani island of Masirah, just south of the Hormuz entry point to the Gulf of Oman from the Arabian Sea.
Western military sources familiar with the American buildup on the two strategic islands tell DEBKA-Net-Weekly that, although they cannot cite precise figures, they are witnessing the heaviest American concentration of might in the region since the US invaded Iraq in 2003.
Then, 100,000 American troops were massed in Kuwait ahead of the invasion. Today, those sources estimate from the current pace of arrivals on the two island bases, that 50,000 US troops will have accumulated on Socotra and Masirah by mid-February. They will top up the 50,000 military already present in the Persian Gulf region, so that in less than a month, Washington will have some 100,000 military personnel on the spot and available for any contingency.
US air transports are described as making almost daily landings on Socotra and Masirah. They fly in from the US naval base of Diego Garcia, one of America’s biggest military facilities, just over 3,000 kilometers away. The US military presence in the region will further expand in the first week of March when three US aircraft carriers and their strike groups plus a French carrier arrive in the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea: They are theUSS Abraham Lincoln, USS Carl Vinson, USS Enterprise and the Charles de Gaulle nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
A fourth US carrier will be standing by in the Pacific Ocean, a few days’ sailing time from the water off Iran’s coast.
Still holding out hope that we won’t go to war with Iran?
There’s already reason enough for the powers-to-be to invade Iran based on the accusations that they are in the process of manufacturing nuclear weapons. Whether true or not makes no difference, as we saw with weapons of mass destruction that have yet to be found in Iraq.
Similarly, like Saddam Hussein before them, Iran’s leadership is attempting to trade their oil without going through the proper channels – in essence attempting to bypass the United States and Europe by striking deals with China, India, and Russia that will not require the exchange of oil for US dollars, but rather, Yuan, Rupees and Gold.
It may very well be that nuclear weapons, like WMD in Iraq, are simply the pretext, rather than the real reason, that will be used to crush those who oppose the financiers, politicians and influencers behind the new world order paradigm.
Make no mistake: this is serious business. They will kill as many as is needed (on our side and theirs) in order to push the agenda forward.
Copyright SHTFplan and Mac Slavo
Written by Lal Khan
It is not ruled out that if the democratic facade of imperialism creates a crisis that threatens to unravel the economic system, the imperialist bosses would not hesitate to revert back to military dictatorship.
In the last few days there has been yet another spat between the civilian government and the so-called military establishment. The rumours of another military takeover have been gyrating ferociously in society and the political arena. The circumstances for the military to intervene are very much there if one recalls the experiences of previous military coups in Pakistan. However, the military has not struck yet. Backward and conservative layers of society are very much in favour of such an act. Sections of the military’s officer caste are itching to carry through the coup in a false notion that through such a despotic regime, rampant corruption, crime and other ills that have engulfed Pakistan can be eliminated. The exceptional vocabulary used by the civilian government against the military’s top brass in this ongoing conflict has goaded the top brass of the army that has ruled the roost in this country. This has also heightened tensions within the armed forces. The proclivity of the imperialists, although fleeting, for the present regime has further aggravated the angst in the military. That is what the Memogate scandal is all about.
All this has put enormous pressure on the military high command to strike with a vengeance. However, the military bosses have been reluctant for a putsch up till now. This is not flowing from their love for ‘democracy’ or for newfound humanitarian causes but the main reason is that the top generals have lost the confidence and moral conviction to impose direct military rule. The first and foremost cause of this deficit is the erosion of the military’s discipline and chain of command by the massive influx of capital, mostly of the black variety. Secondly, the conflagrating society and a disastrous economic situation have produced circumstances where it is almost next to impossible to rule this country stably and assert the state’s power deep into society. Thirdly, the situation internationally has changed sharply in the last period and military dictatorships are no longer in vogue. The imperialists who dominated the so-called third world through such despotic regimes have been forced to deploy the facade of democracy to continue their plunder and exploitation. Not only is such marionette democracy cheaper for the imperialists but military dictatorships can provoke mass revolts due to their blatant repression that the youth and working classes are no longer ready to tolerate. The past experiences of the imperialists with their military stooges have not been exhilarating. From Noriega in Panama to Ziaul Haq in Pakistan, their despotic toadies became so megalomaniacal that they went berserk by defying their masters and had to be physically eliminated.
On the other hand, the present day liberal and democratic sycophants of imperialism are crying hoarse to save the ‘system’. These sections of the Pakistani ruling classes are the beneficiaries of this democracy, which is in reality of the rich, by the rich and for the rich. The masses have suffered because of the excruciating poverty, price hike, unemployment, disease and misery. Thirty-eight thousand people in Pakistan fall below the poverty line every day. But the most important fact, which is undermined and concealed by the media, is the socioeconomic policies carried out by the military dictatorships and the so-called democratic regimes are fundamentally the same. In the present government, not even the faces of the most important ministers under dictatorships have changed. Whatever the political nature of the regime might be, the dictatorship of the financial oligarchy is always there and will always be as long as society is shackled in this ailing capitalist system. It is not ruled out that if the democratic facade of imperialism creates a crisis that threatens to unravel the economic system, the imperialist bosses would not hesitate to revert back to military dictatorship. In the last analysis, it is their interests of plunder that shape their policies of regime selection. The history of capitalism is witness to that. Ted Grant wrote in his epic work, The Unbroken Thread, “In the history of society there have been many methods of class rule. This is especially true of capitalist society, with many peculiar and variegated forms: republic, monarchy, fascism, democracy, dictatorship, Bonapartist, technocratic, centralised and federal, to give some examples.”
The military has directly ruled the country for half of its chequered history. The main reason was the failure of the ruling class to complete the tasks of the bourgeois revolution. A class that got its profits and surplus through plundering the state and monstrous exploitation of society gave the most powerful state institution its blessings to intervene to retrieve the crumbling capitalist system. In the process of such long dictatorial rule, the military itself became part of the plundering elite and it is not an accident that leaving aside its huge share in the black economy that constitutes two-thirds of the whole economic base of Pakistan, it is also the largest business enterprise with assets of more than $ 27 billion in industry, farming and services in the formal sector. This financial status of the military is the main interest of its elite along with largesse of the country’s resources to be spent on defence to keep its structures running and the commissions from its defence contracts expanding. It is also a fact that the military expenditures increase more in the so-called democratic regimes than under direct military rule. This shows the pathetic character of Pakistan’s civilian political elite.
At the moment, the economic crisis has become so severe that its reverberations are exploding the contradictions within the ruling elite and the state institutions. The right-wing has never been weaker. The state institutions are in internal decay and hence these acts of desperation from the judiciary and the army. Even if the imperialists manage to engineer a patch-up, it would be fragile and short-lived. A military coup, though not the most likely perspective, cannot be ruled out. However, if it comes from the lower tiers it will be a gory affair leading to a bloody civil war, pulverising an already devastated society. A military dictatorship will be a terrible setback for the masses. It will push mass consciousness backwards and create illusions in bourgeois democracy yet again. The vicious cycle of different variants of capitalist rule will continue to ensnare the masses. But in the present harrowing socio-economic scenario, it can also provoke a mass revolt that will not stop at the stage of bourgeois democracy. For a genuine workers’ democracy the modes of production, the economy and resources of the country have to be in the collective ownership of the toilers. Only such a revolutionary change can end this cruel agonising suffering and salvage society.
By Peter Symonds
31 January 2012
Despite claims that its focus is on diplomatic and economic sanctions against Iran, the Obama administration is making barely disguised preparations for military strikes to back its threat to use “all options” to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.
In an interview with CBS on Sunday, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta repeated the warning that any attempt by Iran to develop a nuclear weapon would be a “red line” for the US and also for Israel. Asked how Washington would respond, he declared: “We will take whatever steps are necessary to stop it.”
Iran has again and again denied plans to build a nuclear weapon, but that has not stopped the barrage of unsubstantiated allegations, misinformation and outright lies in the American, Israeli and international media about its nuclear programs.
Speaking at the Davos summit last Friday, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak claimed that time was running out “as the Iranians are deliberately drifting into what we call an immunity zone where no surgical operation could block them.” The Associated Press reported unnamed senior Israeli defence officials saying that a military attack on Iran would have to occur by the middle of this year.
Barak’s reference to “an immunity zone” reflects concerns in the Israeli defence establishment about its ability to destroy Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Fordo, which is heavily guarded and dug into a mountain.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last Thursday, Panetta revealed that the Pentagon was pressing ahead with modifications to a 30,000-pound bomb, known as the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), to ensure that it can demolish the Fordo plant. Panetta explained that while the “bunker-buster” would do “a lot of damage,” it would not necessarily destroy Iran’s underground facilities outright.
The Pentagon secretly submitted a request to Congress this month for funds to enhance the bomb’s capabilities. The Journal reported: “The push to boost the power of the MOP is part of stepped-up contingency planning for a possible strike against Iran’s nuclear program, say US officials.”
The article pointed out that “some Pentagon planners believe conventional bombs won’t be effective against Fordo and that a tactical nuclear weapon may be the only military option if the goal is to destroy the facility.” Discussion of the possible use of nuclear weapons against Iran underlines the recklessness of US foreign policy and Obama’s oft-repeated mantra that “all options are on the table.”
Other US military contingency preparations include the conversion of an amphibious transport and docking ship, the Ponce, into a floating base for military operations in the Middle East. The “afloat forward staging base” would enable the dispatch of special forces troops, helicopters, speedboats and aircraft with short-takeoff capacity, including drones, without having to negotiate the use of land bases in the region.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby claimed there was nothing unusual in the proposal, describing it as “a longstanding request.” However, the refitting of the Ponce, which was due to be decommissioned, has replaced other “staging base” plans, to ensure that it could be deployed to the Middle East by mid-year. The US navy has already doubled the number of aircraft carrier battle groups stationed near the Persian Gulf.
Amid the military build-up, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), at Tehran’s invitation, began three days of inspections on Sunday of Iranian nuclear facilities and discussions on its nuclear programs. Inspectors will visit the Fordo uranium enrichment plant, which, despite media allegations about its sinister nature, is under constant IAEA monitoring to check that it does not produce weapons-grade enriched uranium.
IAEA Deputy Director General Herman Nackaerts told reporters that he wanted Iran to “engage us on all concerns,” adding that this was a long overdue dialogue. The reference to “all concerns” includes allegations of nuclear weapons research based on doubtful evidence supplied by US, European and Israeli intelligence agencies. Tehran has refused to discuss issues that were based on “fabricated documents.”
Foreign Minister Ali Abkar Salehi said on Sunday that Iran was “very optimistic about the [IAEA] mission and the outcome… During the visit, the delegation has questions and the necessary answers will be given.” On Monday, he added that the IAEA team could extend its stay if necessary.
It is impossible for Iran to satisfy the IAEA. As was the case prior to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Tehran is being asked to prove a negative: that it has no nuclear weapons program anywhere in its vast territory. Each Iranian answer to IAEA questions only leads to further questions, insinuations and allegations as the US and its allies seek to demonise Tehran and create the public climate for war.
The entire campaign is completely cynical. Any Iranian hint of retaliation is seized on as a new pretext for more aggressive measures, even as the US political establishment openly discusses the launching an illegal, unprovoked war on Iran, and the Obama administration takes steps to make good its threats. Washington’s overriding aim is to fashion, in one way or another, a regime in Tehran to further its ambitions for domination in the oil-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia.
The US and its allies are already waging an economic war against Iran in the form of crippling sanctions, as well as a covert war of sabotage and assassination directed against Iranian nuclear and military programs.
In an interview last week with the World Socialist Web Site, Vijay Prashad, professor of international studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, warned: “There are three aspects of a war that has been ongoing against Iran: economic, covert and diplomatic. I fear that Iran is getting boxed in so much that it is now beginning to threaten things like closing the Strait of Hormuz. The moment Iran takes that action, the West is going to use that action as a casus belli and say that Iran has started the war and proceed to bombard six or seven sites where there are identifiable nuclear production facilities… It is a very dangerous situation.”
Any attack on Iran by the US and its allies could rapidly escalate into a regional conflict that has the potential to involve all the major powers.
31 January 2012
The New York Times on Sunday published a lengthy article in its weekly magazine that sympathetically and clinically lays out the arguments of Israeli policy makers in favor of a military attack on Iran sometime this year. The article, written by Ronen Bergman, a prominent Israeli journalist who specializes in intelligence matters, features interviews with top current and former Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon and former Mossad chief Meir Dagan.
Bergman discusses the extensive military preparations made by Israel for an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities and reviews the covert war being waged by Israel, with US support, which has included deadly explosions at military and nuclear facilities, cyber warfare, and the assassination of five Iranian nuclear scientists since 2007, the latest occurring January 11 in the center of Tehran.
The author concludes the article by stating, “I have come to believe that Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012.”
Appearing in the context of newly announced US and European sanctions against Iranian oil exports and a buildup of US naval forces in the Persian Gulf, the article serves a definite and sinister purpose: to provide the pretexts and condition public opinion for a preemptive and unprovoked war of aggression that will have catastrophic consequences for the people of Iran and the Middle East and ultimately for the entire world.
It appeared only days after President Obama’s belligerent State of the Union address, in which he boasted of isolating and economically crippling Iran and reiterated that he would “take no options off the table” to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. The same day the article was published, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta appeared on CBS Television’s “60 Minutes” program and baldly asserted that Iran would have a nuclear weapon within a year.
The Times article cites both supporters and opponents within the Israeli establishment of a near-term attack on Iran, giving greater weight to the former than the latter. It accepts uncritically the common premise advanced by Israel, the US and the European powers that Iran is embarked on a program to build nuclear weapons and must be prevented from doing so, if necessary by military means. It quotes Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s vice prime minister and minister of strategic affairs, as saying, “Our policy is that in one way or another, Iran’s nuclear program must be stopped.”
This statement of Israeli policy underscores the utterly criminal character of the war being prepared against Iran. Israel, a non-signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which illegally maintains a large stockpile of nuclear weapons, declares its right to destroy the nuclear program of Iran, a signatory to the treaty, which insists that its nuclear program is civilian and therefore permitted under international law. Despite the best efforts of the US, Israel and their imperialist allies, the International Atomic Energy Agency has been unable to substantiate their claims that Iran is, in fact, seeking to build nuclear weapons.
The casus belli of Iranian nuclear weapons is no more credible than the claims of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction or the crusade against Al Qaeda used to justify the US imperialist wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, or the pretext of “protecting civilians” in the case of the colonial war for regime change in Libya.
The real war aims of the US and Israel in Iran are bound up with Israel’s drive to maintain its military dominance in the Middle East and Washington’s campaign to monopolize the world’s oil resources and weaken the economic and geopolitical position of its major rivals, among whom China increasingly looms as the target of future military aggression.
The Times article demonstrates the degree to which it and the entire US media and political establishment have embraced a foreign policy based on outright criminality—aggressive war, torture, assassinations, abductions, disappearances, etc.
The aim of the “newspaper of record” is to sanitize and justify a war that could cost hundreds of thousands of lives in a country of 74 million people and risk Iranian retaliation not only against Israel, but also against US targets at home and abroad, as well as engulfing Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, the Gulf states, Russia and China. It starkly reveals the internal rot of American democracy and the virtual absence of democratic consciousness within the American ruling elite.
One can imagine similar articles appearing in the German press in the run-up to the Nazi invasion of Poland, calmly laying out the matters of self-defense obliging the Third Reich to subjugate its neighbor to the east.
The erosion of any constituency within the American ruling class for the defense of democratic principles either abroad or at home is an expression of the crisis of American capitalism, revealed first and foremost in the staggering growth of social inequality and the buildup of class tensions.
The eruption of American imperialism internationally goes hand in hand with the destruction of democratic rights and the impoverishment of the working class within the US. The only social force that can halt the slide toward dictatorship and world war is the American and international working class.