Harper's Anti-Terrorism Act isn't about Terrorism: it's a Torture Act

First published as “Impending Threat to Canadian Democracy: Harper Government's 'Anti-Terrorism Act' isn't about Terrorism, it's a Torture Act,” Centre for Research on Globalization (11 March 2015), http://www.globalresearch.ca/impending-threat-to-canadian-democracy-harper-governments-anti-terrorism-act-isnt-about-terrorism-its-a-torture-act/5435766; and as “Harper's anti-terrorism act is a torture act,” Rabble.ca (13 March 2015), http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/views-expressed/2015/03/harpers-anti-terrorism-act-torture-act.


The Harper government's Bill C-51, or Anti-Terrorism Act, has been in the public domain for over a month. Long enough for us to know that it subverts basic principles of constitutional law, assaults rights of free speech and free assembly, and is viciously anti-democratic.

An unprecedented torrent of criticism has been directed against this bill as the government rushes it through Parliament. This has included stern or at least sceptical editorials in all the major newspapers; an open letter, signed by four former Prime Ministers and five former Supreme Court judges, denouncing the bill for exposing Canadians to major violations of their rights; and another letter, signed by a hundred Canadian law professors, explaining the dangers it poses to justice and legality.

As its critics have shown, the bill isn't really about terrorism: it's about smearing other activities by association—and then suppressing them in ways that would formerly have been flagrantly illegal. The bill targets, among others, people who defend the treaty rights of First Nations, people who oppose tar sands, fracking, and bitumen-carrying pipelines as threats to health and the environment, and people who urge that international law be peacefully applied to ending Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. (Members of this latter group include significant numbers of Canadian Jews.)

But the Anti-Terrorism Act is more mortally dangerous to Canadian democracy than even these indications would suggest. A central section of the act empowers CSIS agents to obtain judicial warrants—on mere suspicion, with no requirement for supporting evidence—that will allow them to supplement other disruptive actions against purported enemies of Harperland with acts that directly violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other Canadian laws.

The only constraints placed on this legalized law-breaking are that CSIS agents shall not “(a) cause, intentionally or by criminal negligence, death or bodily harm to an individual; (b) wilfully attempt in any manner to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice; or (c) violate the sexual integrity of an individual.”

The second of these prohibitions—occurring in the midst of a bill that seeks systematically to obstruct citizens in the exercise of their rights, pervert justice, and defeat democracy—might tempt one to believe that there is a satirist at work within the Department of Justice. (Note, however, that CSIS agents can obstruct, pervert and defeat to their hearts' content, so long as they do so haphazardly, rather than “wilfully.”)

But the first and third clauses amount to an authorization of torture.

On February 16, Matthew Behrens observed that these clauses recall “the bone-chilling justification of torture” in the infamous memos of George W. Bush's Justice Department. He pertinently asked what the Canadian government knows, if it “actually feels the need to spell out such a prohibition, [...] about illicit CSIS practices behind closed doors....”1 On February 17, two prominent legal experts, Clayton Ruby and Nader R. Hasan, remarked that the “limited exclusions” in these clauses “leave CSIS with incredibly expansive powers, including water boarding, inflicting pain (torture) or causing psychological harm to an individual.”2

Like the Bush torture memos, Harper's Anti-Terrorism Act is attempting to legitimize forbidden practices. Bush's lawyers argued that interrogation methods producing pain below the level of “organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death” were legal—as were methods producing purely mental suffering, unless they resulted in “significant psychological harm [...] lasting for months or even years.”3 Harper's legislation prohibits acts of the kind that created an international scandal when the torture practices of Abu Graib, Bagram and Guantánamo became public. But as Ruby and Hasan recognize, in so doing it is tacitly declaring acts of torture that fall below that horrifying threshold to be permissible.

Most of the torture methods applied in the black sites of the American gulag during the so-called War on Terror would be permitted to CSIS under Harper's Anti-Terrorism Act. Among these methods are sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation (both of which induce psychosis, without of course leaving physical marks), stress-position torture and waterboarding (which again leave no marks of “bodily harm”), and techniques of beating and pressure-point torture that produce excruciating pain without leaving visible traces.4

As to what CSIS does behind closed doors, we know enough to be able to say that this agency is already seriously off its leash. CSIS agents were involved in interrogating Afghan prisoners from early 2002 until 2007 or later, a period during which the American and Afghan agencies with which they collaborated were systematically torturing detainees. We know from journalists Jim Bronskill and Murray Brewster that one of the Kandahar interrogation sites used by CSIS, “work[ing] alongside the American CIA and in close co-operation with Canada's secretive, elite JTF-2 commandos,” was a “secluded base”—this seems a polite way of saying 'secret torture facility'—“known as Graceland.”5

American torturers seem to have enjoyed giving names of this sort to their black sites: the secret facility outside the Guantánamo prison where three prisoners were tortured to death on the night of June 9, 2006 is called “Penny Lane.”6 (Think about the lyrics to Paul Simon's “Graceland” and the Beatles' “Penny Lane”: you'll understand that these interrogators are sick puppies indeed.)7

But these are the people that Jack Hooper, Assistant and then Deputy Director of CSIS Operations from 2002 until 2007, wanted his agents to emulate. He told his men, “If you're going to run with the big dogs, you'd better learn to piss in the high grass.”8

We know already that Stephen Harper doesn't flinch from covering up high-level Canadian responsibility for torture in Afghanistan. In November 2009, the Toronto Star quoted a former senior NATO public affairs official as saying that flagrantly false denials about Canadian complicity in the torture of Afghan detainees had been scripted by Harper and his PMO, “which was running the public affairs aspect of Canadian engagement in Afghanistan with a 6,000-mile screwdriver.”9 And we've not forgotten that a month later Mr. Harper prorogued Parliament in order to shut down a parliamentary committee that was hearing evidence on the subject.

But on October 22 of last year, when a deranged gunman murdered Corporal Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial and then tried to run amok on Parliament Hill, Mr. Harper was less brave. While some members of his caucus prepared to defend themselves and their parliamentary colleagues with anything that came to hand, he hid in a closet.

It seems that Mr. Harper would now like us all to share the emotion he felt in that closet—if not by quivering at the mention of ISIS jihadis, then, soon enough, by shaking in our boots at the thought of CSIS toughs kicking down doors at midnight.

Canadians need to tell this government, and this prime minister, that we are not intimidated on either count.

We are ashamed by his lies over high-level Canadian complicity in torture in Afghanistan.

We will not tolerate his attempt to institutionalize torture in Canada.

Michael Keefer, who is Professor Emeritus at the University of Guelph, is a graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada, a former President of the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English, a member of the Seriously Free Speech Committee, and an associate member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada.



1  Behrens, “Troubled times ahead with new anti-terror legislation,” Rabble.ca (16 February 2015), http://rabble.ca/columnists/2015/02/troubled-times-ahead-new-anti-terror-legislation.

2  Ruby and Hasan, “Bill C-51: A Legal Primer. Overly broad and unnecessary anti-terrorism reforms could criminalize free speech,” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (17 February 2015), https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/monitor/bill-c-51-legal-primer.

3  Jay S. Bybee, “Memorandum for Alberto R. Gonzales, Counsel to the President, Re: Standards of Conduct for Interrogation under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2340-2340A (August 1, 2002),” in David Cole, ed., The Torture Memos (New York: New Press, 2009), p. 41.

4  See Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror (New York: Owl Books, 2006).

5  Jim Bronskill and Murray Brewster, “CSIS reviewing role in Afghan detainee interrogations,” Canadian Press, available in The Toronto Star (2 August 2010), http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/843055--csis-reviewing-role-in-afghan-detainee-interrogations. See also Murray Brewster and Jim Bronskill, “CSIS played critical role in Afghan prisoner interrogations: documents, sources,” Canadian Press (8 March 2010), available at http://www.webcitation.org/query?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Fhostednews%2Fcanadianpress%2Farticle%2FALeqM5jJLuGfEH6QP3vrNSLPiAGPZNqBcw&date=2010-03-09; and “Le SCRS était au courant de cas de torture,” La Presse Canadienne, available at Radio-Canada.ca (21 January 2011), http://www.radio-canada.ca/nouvelles/International/2011/01/21/007-scrs-detenus-afghans-torture.shtml.

6  David Swanson, “We've murdered some folks,” Review of Murder at Camp Delta, by Joseph Hickman, Cold Type 94 (March 2015), p. 26, http://coldtype.net/Assets.15/pdfs/ColdType.0315.pdf.

7  Some relevant lines from “Graceland”: “Everybody sees you're blown apart / Everybody sees the wind blow / In Graceland, in Graceland / I'm going to Graceland / For reasons I cannot explain / There's some part of me wants to see / Graceland....” And from “Penny Lane”: “In Penny Lane there is a barber selling photographs / Of every head he's had the pleasure to know / ... / Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes....”

8  Quoted by Michelle Shephard, Guantanamo’s Child: The Untold Story of Omar Khadr (Mississauga: John Wiley, 2008), p. 57.

9  Mitch Potter, “PMO issued instructions on denying abuse in ’07,” The Toronto Star (22 November 2009), http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/afghanmission/article/729157--pmo-issued-instructions-on-denying-abuse-in-07.  

Defending Critical Research into 9/11

The primary content of this piece was first published among the comments to an article by Robyn Urback, “Research grant to fund conspiracy theories? University of Lethbridge student awarded $7,714 to investigate war on terror 'truth',” Maclean's (26 November 2010), http://www.macleans.ca/education/university/research-grant-to-fund-conspiracy-theories/.


The short texts reproduced here were occasioned by a minor outbreak of McCarthyist journalism in the autumn of 2010. It was initiated by Jonathan Kay of the National Post, who had recently published Among the Truthers, an attempt to explain, in the inept vocabulary of pop psychology, the phenomenon of scepticism about the official narrative about the events of September 11, 2001 and the “global war on terror” which that narrative legitimized.

On November 25, 2010, Kay devoted his column to what might seem a bizarrely petty subject: the fact that the University of Lethbridge had awarded a quite modest graduate fellowship to Joshua Blakeney, a student who planned, under the supervision of Professor Anthony Hall, to write an MA thesis that would “evaluate the content, quality and veracity of the body of literature that both supports and criticizes the government version of history used to justify the invasions and domestic transformations that make up the GWOT [Global War On Terrorism].”1

My own assessment of such a research proposal would be that, barring rigorous selectiveness as to how much of the field it attempted to cover, the subject risked being much too large for an MA thesis.

Kay thought it deficient in other respects—first, because he knew that both Professor Hall and Joshua Blakeney had expressed vocal doubts about the veracity of that “government version of history,” and secondly because Blakeney's research proposal indicated that his and Professor Hall's interest in “debates and controversies concerning the originating events of the GWOT” had been stimulated “by the scholarship of a number of academics including professors David Ray Griffin, John McMurtry, Michel Chossudovsky, Graeme MacQueen, Michael Keefer, Peter Dale Scott, Stephen Jones, Niels Harrit, and Nafeez Ahmed.” These names, Kay remarked,

effectively constitute a who's-who of the most influential Canadian, American and British 9/11 Truth conspiracy theorists. [....]

In other words, the University of Lethbridge—and, through the province of Alberta's funding arrangements, the taxpayers of Alberta—are paying a British graduate student $7,714 to pursue his conspiracy theory that the 9/11 attacks were staged by Washington.

Does anyone else see a problem with that?2

I would have liked to post a comment on the National Post website, indicating that I saw two problems with Jonathan Kay's own column—the first being a transparent McCarthyism, and another more serious one being a matter of intellectual dishonesty.

That might seem a severe judgment, but Kay interviewed me at length in 2009 for his Truthers book. Knowing him to have had a scientific education, I gave him detailed guidance during that interview and in follow-up correspondence as to the scientific studies and the physical, chemical, and materials-science evidence that underlies my own rejection of the “government narrative” of the three World Trade Center skyscraper collapses on 9/11. One would not guess from Kay's book, or from anything else he's written on the subject, that such information as this existed.

It would be absurd to demand that others automatically assent to my own interpretations of such matters. But I do observe that Jonathan Kay knows very well that scepticism about the government narrative of 9/11 is supported by a substantial body of unchallenged peer-reviewed scientific evidence, some of it published by Stephen Jones and Niels Harrit. He should also know, if he has read any of the books on 9/11 by David Ray Griffin, Michel Chossudovsky, Peter Dale Scott, and Nafeez Ahmed, as well as essays by John McMurtry, Graeme MacQueen, and others, that a large amount of other evidence points in the same direction. For him to give no hint of this, while smearing as “conspiracy theorists” the scientists and scholars who have helped to assemble and to analyze this evidence, is dishonest.

I am not writing out of any animus over my own treatment in Jonathan Kay's book. Aside from his suppression of serious evidence with which I know him to have been acquainted, my only objection to the three pages he devoted to me in the first chapter of Among the Truthers would be that he gave readers an inflated impression of my academic reputation as a scholar of Renaissance literature and early modern philosophy.

I would have liked to raise a parallel objection to being included among a list of “influential” 9/11 sceptics in Kay's November 25th article: I am indeed a 9/11 sceptic, but the characterization “influential” is in my estimation untrue. (In this case, to be fair, the error was Joshua Blakeney's: Kay merely quoted and commented on his list.) However, I was unable to post a response to Kay's article on the National Post website. Since no comments of any kind appear under the article in question, I suppose that the comments function must have been deliberately disabled.

Kay's stirring of the pot was quickly taken up in Maclean's magazine by Robyn Urback, who on the next day, November 26, 2010, published a short article whose title ends with a question mark: “Research grant to fund conspiracy theories?”3 Perhaps she hoped the grant would be withdrawn.

Urback's trajectory in this piece is interesting. To her mind, the “lunacy” of using tax dollars “to fund conspiracy theories” was “readily apparent.” But unexpectedly, she deviated into what looked like a defense of academic freedom, writing that “the expectation of graduate research is that it challenges the status quo and seeks to break through conventional belief.” Though feeling “little faith” that Blakeney's MA thesis could amount to more than “9/11 jabber,” she proposed that “academic freedom would be compromised if taxpayers could suddenly decide which theses were worth their dollar.” But then another swerve took her to her real goal:

Indeed, I think the outrage is warranted [...], but if anything, this situation just reinforces the need to establish a fully private post-secondary education system.4

I took this as a starting point in commenting on Robyn Urback's article.


1. Comment on Robyn Urback “Research grant to fund conspiracy theories? University of Lethbridge student awarded $7,714 to investigate war on terror 'truth',” Maclean's (26 November 2010), posted on 27 November at 4:52 p.m.

Let's ask ourselves a simple question. Why do Canadians think it important to pay for publicly funded universities—including paying the salaries of real scholars who do actual research as well as teaching, and including the provision of research grants to support graduate students who will go on to become university researchers and teachers themselves?

One reason, I would suggest, is that Canadians still see some value in being able to distinguish between critically sifted historical actualities and the miasmal deceptions of propaganda. We still see some value in being assisted to an understanding of the forces at work in contemporary history by people who (as Shakespeare's Hamlet put it) can show “the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.”

Professor Anthony Hall of Lethbridge University is a scholar of high distinction whose two books, The American Empire and the Fourth World (2004) and Earth Into Property: Colonization, Decolonization, and Capitalism (2010), both published by McGill-Queen's University Press, are major contributions to an understanding of North American history.

The sneering attacks by Jonathan Kay and now also by Robyn Urback on the quite modest research funding that the University of Lethbridge is offering to Professor Hall's graduate student Joshua Blakeney are easily identifiable as McCarthyist gutter journalism. But it may not be immediately obvious how much is at stake in this apparently quite minor controversy.

A significant number of young Canadians, serving in good faith and courageously in a war whose only justification is the official narrative of the events of 9/11, have been killed and maimed in Afghanistan. (Let us add that a much larger number of Afghans have been killed, maimed, or tortured as a result of our presence in their country.)

But that official narrative about 9/11—that official conspiracy theory—is, from top to bottom, untrue. The key evidence adduced by the 9/11 Commission Report was all based upon torture, and the pseudo-scientific explanations of the destruction of the Twin Towers and World Trade Center 7 that were offered by the US government's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have been refuted by independent scientific studies that show the buildings were brought down by explosive demolition.

I am a graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada. In early October of this year, I stood on the College's parade square with several hundred other ex-cadets, including more than fifty from the class in which I graduated forty years ago, and watched as two currently serving officer cadets were presented with awards given to them by the bereaved families—parents, widows, and small children—of two RMC graduates recently killed in Afghanistan. I grieved then for the loss of those young lives, and I grieve now.

I do not want to see any more young Canadians killed or maimed in a war that is grounded in a pack of lies about the events of 9/11.

How then would I describe the behaviour of those, whether journalists or fellow citizens, who seek to obstruct, through mockery or through threats of de-funding, the honest research of scholars in Canadian universities into what happened on 9/11, and into the ways in which the events of that day have been so thoroughly obfuscated?

I have one word to describe that mockery, and those threats. They are contemptible.


2. An addendum, posted on 27 November 2010 at 6:18 p.m.

How interesting: the British newspaper The Independent has named Professor Hall's Earth Into Property as one of the best books of 2010. (See “The best books for Christmas: Our pick of 2010,” The Independent [26 November 2010].)


3. A response by David Leitch, Ph.D., 27 November 2010 at 9:07 p.m.

One of the first posts in response to Robyn Urback's article had been by David Leitch, who identified himself as “a recent graduate of a Ph.D. program here in Canada,” and professed himself “fairly appalled at the fact that government-dispensed grant money is going to fund such nonsense. [....] What I cannot fathom is that some granting agency actually gave credence to a verifiably false thesis: that the United States government somehow orchestrated the 9/11 attacks.” Expressing his faith in NIST's report on the collapse of the Twin Towers, Dr. Leitch marvelled that anyone could “honestly believe” that a government incapable of preventing the leaking of hundreds of thousands of documents relating to its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and including confidential diplomatic cables, “could possibly keep a MASSIVE conspiracy under wraps” for a week, let alone nearly a decade.

Dr. Leitch responded aggressively to my first post:

“You're accusing the NIST of pseudo-science? Do you have advanced degrees in Civil, Structural, Mechanical, and Materials Engineering? Architecture? Physics? Do you even know what the NIST is actually tasked with, or how many other agencies and groups contributed to that report? The NIST is NOT the US government—they are about as apolitical as you can get. Throw in for good measure the Structural Engineering Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Society of Fire Protection Engineers, National Fire Protection Association, American Institute of Steel Construction, Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc., Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, and the Structural Engineers Association of New York. But I guess all these groups are in on the conspiracy too hey? Just how many tens of thousands of people are 'in the know' about 'the truth,' and why have none of these people come forward with any shred of evidence to support the controlled demolition theory? And where are these independent scientific studies that refute the NIST report? Are they published? Certainly the NIST report is not perfect, no scientific paper ever is, but making the leap to controlled demolition is ludicrous. Ever heard of Occam's Razor? Everyone in the entire world saw planes hit those buildings. Why is there a need to invoke an astronomically complex plan to blow the buildings up? And no, analyzing YouTube videos does not count as scientific. [....]”


4. My response, posted on 30 November 2010 at 8:54 p.m.

A quick seminar for David Leitch, who doesn't like criticism of the US National Institute of Standards and Technology.

   i. “As apolitical as you can get?”

NIST, an agency of the US Department of Commerce, was under direct Bush administration control. A NIST whistleblower went public in 2007, claiming that NIST had been “fully hijacked from the scientific into the political realm,” and that their work on 9/11 evidence was done under direct surveillance by the National Security Agency, senior officials of the Department of Commerce, and President Bush's Office of Management and Budget. (See David Ray Griffin, The New Pearl Harbor Revisited, pp. 11-12.)

   ii. Some scientific studies:

(a) Steven Jones at al., “Extremely high temperatures during the World Trade Center destruction,” Journal of 9/11 Studies (January 2008); 
(b) Kevin Ryan et al., “Environmental anomalies at the World Trade Center: evidence for energetic materials,” The Environmentalist (August 2008); 
(c) Graeme MacQueen and Tony Szamboti, “The Missing Jolt: A Simple Refutation of the NIST-Bazant Collapse Hypothesis,” Journal of 9/11 Studies (January 2009); 
(d) Niels Harrit et al., “Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe,” The Open Chemical Physics Journal 2 (2009).

   iii. Plus two studies of witness evidence, both by Graeme MacQueen:

(a) “118 Witnesses: The Firefighters' Testimony to Explosions in the Twin Towers,” Journal of 9/11 Studies (August 2006); 
(b) “Waiting for Seven: WTC 7 Collapse Warnings in the FDNY Oral Histories,” Journal of 9/11 Studies (January 2008).

   iv. Occam's Razor

Yes, I've heard of it. If David Leitch cares to look up William of Occam's Reportatio II (Book 3 of his Super quatro libros sententiarum), q. 150, he'll learn that Occam himself thought the so-called “Razor”—his injunction against “multiplying entities” in causal explanations—doesn't apply to observations of physical events.

Of course two hijacked aircraft hit the Twin Towers. But NIST's account of the buildings' destruction has been refuted, and the clear scientific evidence that explosives were used is massively supported by the testimony of witnesses.

   v. Since we've strayed into medieval philosophy....

Let's hear what another English Franciscan, Roger Bacon, said in the opening section of his Opus Maius about the causes of error.

“The four chief obstacles to grasping truth,” he says, “are submission to incorrect and unworthy authority; the influence of custom; popular prejudice; and concealment of our ignorance, accompanied by an ostentatious display of our knowledge.”

Ouch. (That last phrase hurts.) Does the shoe pinch you as well, Dr. Leitch?


5. An objection by 'George', posted on 1 December 2010 at 3:42 a.m.

Dear Michael Keefer,

I hope you know your use of “scientific evidence” is terribly misguided, and that you are just pretending and are performing a study to see how people react to your statements... Sure the Journal of 9/11 Studies and The Open Chemical Physics Journal contained peer-reviewed “science”—to the ability of those peers. There's a reason who those “peers” are stuck submitting their articles into the open version of a real science journal, and the Journal of the 9/11 Conspiracy.

“...the clear scientific evidence that explosives were used...” What is this scientific evidence exactly? I fear you mean “the clear YouTube video analysis...”


6. Signing off, on 2 December 2010 at 11:04 p.m.


I'm sorry—I forgot to mention that the six studies I mentioned are all available online: Google will fetch them for you in an instant. Do please read them and form your own opinion of their significance.




1  Joshua Blakeney, MA research proposal quoted by Jonathan Kay, “University of Lethbridge pays student $7,714 to pursue 9/11 conspiracy theories,” National Post (25 November 2010), http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2010/11/25/university-of-lethbridge-pays-student-7714-to-pursue-conspiracy-theories/.

2  Kay, “University of Lethbridge pays student $7,714.”

3  Robyn Urback, “Research grant to fund conspiracy theories? University of Lethbridge student awarded $7,714 [to] investigate war on terror 'truth',” Maclean's (26 November 2010), http://www.maclans.ca/education/university/research-grant-to-fund-conspiracy-theories/.

4  Ibid.   

The Triple Victimization of Omar Khadr

First published at ColdType 98 (Mid-May 2015): 28-31, http//coldtype.net/Assets.15/pdfs/CT98.MayBonus.pdf.

Omar Khadr has been the victim of a triple suspension of what ought to have been his by right—as a child, a citizen, and a human being. His father’s political fanaticism led to a suspension of the parental protection that is the normal anchorage of a child’s world, exposing him at age fifteen to the military power of an imperial state that had cast off the constraints of those international laws which define the basic rights accruing to us as human beings—and exposing him, as well, to the betrayal of his rights as a citizen by a Canadian government that, first through cowardice and then through harsh conviction, shaped its own notions of legality to the prevailing wind.

International law recognizes child soldiers as victims, and their recruitment as a crime: but Ahmed Said Khadr was willing to see his own sons become child soldiers. In 1994 he sent Omar's two older brothers, then aged thirteen and twelve, to a guerilla training camp in Afghanistan, at that time still riven by civil war. In July 2002, after the fall of the Taliban regime, he allowed Omar, aged fifteen, to serve as Pashto translator for a group of guerillas moving from Pakistan into the Khost region of Afghanistan on a mission that ended on July 27th with their deaths and Omar’s near-death and capture.

But Omar Khadr’s public significance stems from other more far-reaching forms of victimization. In the Manichaean theatrics of its global war of good against evil, the American imperial state imprisoned, tortured and demonized him; and up until this week he has been victimized as well by Canadian political leaders who, at first cravenly and then in a deliberate scorn of legality, have violated his rights as a Canadian citizen and refused their responsibilities to him under Canadian and international law.

The grotesque injustice of Omar Khadr’s treatment by the United States is widely recognized. Even were it true that he killed an American soldier, his imprisonment and the pressing of charges against him remain a violation of Articles 37, 39, and 40 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,1 and the torture to which he was subjected at Bagram and at Guantánamo is a criminal matter for which the responsible US officials deserve indictment.

Let us remember some of the details of this treatment.

When the Afghan compound where the guerillas were staying was attacked on July 27, 2002 by US Apache helicopters and A10 ground-attack aircraft, all but two of the group, Khadr and one of the men, were killed. Khadr received multiple splinter wounds during the attack and was partially blinded. A document inadvertently given to reporters during his pre-trial hearing in February 2008 states that a US soldier who entered the shattered compound killed the other survivor with a head shot, and seeing Khadr “sitting up facing away from him leaning against [a pile of] brush,” shot him twice in the back.

Could Khadr have thrown the grenade that killed one of the US soldiers? In March 2008, Khadr's military lawyer learned that the commander of the American infantry unit wrote in his July 28, 2002 report that the survivor of the aerial bombardment who threw the grenade had then himself been killed—and learned as well that this report was revised months later (though falsely given the same date of July 28) to say that the grenade thrower was merely “engaged” by US troops—thus pointing the finger at Khadr.

A confession was extracted from Omar Khadr while he lay chained to his bed in the prison hospital at Bagram with two gaping exit wounds in his chest, and we know from the testimony of a prison guard and of another prisoner, British citizen Moazzam Begg, that Khadr was repeatedly and harshly tortured at Bagram, where the guards singled him out “for the worst treatment, payback for allegedly killing one of their own.” Khadr now claims to remember having tossed a grenade backward over his head. But remembering is not a matter of simply recovering something that in its wholeness is filed away somewhere in the mind; it is a process, rather, of reconstruction. That memory, reconstructed for a traumatized, badly wounded, and consequently suggestible adolescent in the course of many hours of unrelenting interrogation, may be no more reliable than Khadr's confession at Bagram that he had seen Maher Arar in the company of Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan (at a time when the wholly innocent Arar was under close RCMP surveillance in Canada).

At the Guantánamo Bay prison, to which he was transferred in October, 2002, Khadr was subjected to physical abuse, threats of rape, sleep-deprivation torture, very extended solitary confinement, and long periods of being “short-shackled” in stress positions to a concrete floor. When on one such occasion, after hours chained to the floor, he wet himself, the guards drenched him with floor cleanser, used him as a human mop to wipe up his own urine, and left him in his soiled and chemical-stained clothing for the next two days. Khadr was also denied medical treatment for shrapnel injuries to his eyes and his legs. In April 2008, his lawyer Dennis Edney declared that he had by that time been locked in solitary confinement for a total of “more than two years with no relief from the overhead fluorescent lights,” and during the years of his imprisonment had been given “no education, no psychological assessment and no Canadian consular representative.”

In his book A Question of Torture (2006), Alfred W. McCoy studied the torture methods developed by the CIA since the 1950s, which focus on sensory deprivation, on ‘self-inflicted’ pain caused by forcing prisoners into stress positions, and on techniques of disorientation involving isolation and sleep-deprivation. The aim is to induce psychological regression from a normal state, in which a prisoner may resist interrogation, into a condition of fear, dependency, and deep (even psychotic) confusion. In the torture manuals analyzed by McCoy, and in the tortures inflicted throughout the US gulag system, these techniques have been combined with older and more obviously brutal methods of inducing terror, mental breakdown, and despair.

Omar Khadr was subjected to all of these forms of torture during the years of his captivity and repeated interrogations at Bagram and Guantánamo—and there is no doubt about the effects of this treatment. The Pentagon refused repeated requests for an independent medical examination. However, when lawyers acting on Khadr’s behalf were at last allowed to meet with him—in November 2004 and the spring of 2005—they administered two standard psychological tests to him themselves. Experts who assessed the results concluded that Khadr’s symptoms were those of a torture victim, and that his answers met the “full criteria for a diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” The lawyers’ attempt to secure an injunction against further interrogations was denied.

No less dismaying, from a Canadian perspective, is Omar Khadr's victimization by our own government. On August 30, 2002, Canada requested consular access to Khadr at Bagram (in conformity with the Geneva Conventions and the Vienna Convention on Consular Access), and asked both that due consideration be given to his age (Canada had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2001), and that he not be transferred to Guantánamo. But when the US denied consular access and bundled Khadr off to Gitmo, Canadian officials followed the advice of Foreign Affairs legal advisor Colleen Swords to “claw back on the fact that [Omar] is a minor.” And when the US permitted access to him only by intelligence officers, on the understanding that they would seek out and share information that could be incriminating, our government acquiesced.

In February 2003, Khadr was interrogated on three successive days by two intelligence officers from CSIS and the Department of Foreign Affairs. They responded to his complaints that he had been tortured into making false statements and was not receiving adequate medical care with a callous contempt that is the more remarkable for the fact that his wounds, as he showed by raising his shirt, were (in the words of his US military lawyer) “infected, swollen, and still seeping blood.” There were further interrogations in the Fall of 2003 by two CSIS agents, and in March 2004 by a Foreign Affairs intelligence officer who was aware that Khadr had been subjected to three weeks of sleep-deprivation torture to make him “more amenable and willing to talk.”

Khadr’s lawyers brought these facts to the Canadian Federal Court of Appeal, which in 2007 ruled that our government had violated international law, and ordered the release of all documents relating to his imprisonment. The Harper government appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled that Khadr’s rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms had likewise been violated. When in April 2009 the Federal Court ordered that a request be made for Khadr’s repatriation to Canada as soon as possible, the government again appealed to the Supreme Court, which issued its judgment in January 2010. While strongly critical of the deprivation of Khadr’s “right to liberty and security of the person,” and judging that Canada’s complicity in the American preparation of a prosecution case through the use of sleep deprivation “offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects,” the Supreme Court left it to the government to decide how best to uphold Omar Khadr’s violated rights. Given this latitude, the Harper government allowed the American Military Commission in Guantánamo to lurch unprotested toward its preordained guilty verdict.

On October 31, 2010—Halloween, that is—a military jury arrived at the ghoulish conclusion that Khadr deserved an additional forty years in prison for war crimes, fifteen years more than the prosecution had called for. But this sentence was pre-empted by a plea-bargain agreement, according to which, in return for a full acknowledgment of guilt, Khadr would receive an eight-year sentence, after a year of which the US government “would support his bid to apply to serve the rest of his sentence in a Canadian prison.”

At every subsequent stage, from Khadr's repatriation to the bail hearing that has just concluded, the Harper government has has taken every available opportunity to express its confidence in a kangaroo-court conviction resting on falsified evidence and on torture, and to resist justice for Omar Khadr by every means at its disposal.

Only following his release on bail have Canadians been able to see and hear Omar Khadr speak for himself. What we saw on May 8 was a smiling, soft-spoken young man who thanked Canadians and the court system for trusting him and giving him a chance, and calmly said, in response to Stephen Harper's impenitently punitive attitude: “I'm going to have to disappoint him. I'm better than the person he thinks I am.”

But we should give the last word to Dennis Edney, the lawyer who has worked tirelessly on Omar's behalf for the past eleven years, and whose affection and support have undoubtedly been a major factor in his rehabilitation:

I think he's worth every effort. I met him in a cold, empty cell. And I saw a broken bird, chained to the floor. So, we journeyed together. We have, in some ways, both grown up together. I'm proud of who he is. He's gone through hell.




1  Article 37 provides that “The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort for the shortest appropriate period of time. Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance….” Article 39, on Rehabilitative Care, provides that “States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of a child victim of: any form of neglect, exploitation, or abuse; torture or any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; or armed conflicts. Such recovery and reintegration shall take place in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child.” Article 40 recognizes the right of a child accused of a crime “to be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child’s sense of dignity and worth,” and provides for “hav[ing] the matter determined without delay by a competent, independent and impartial authority or judicial body in a fair hearing according to law.” For the full text, see CRIN: Child Rights Information Network, http://www.crin.org/docs/resources/treaties/uncrc.asp. The US has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, but professes to respect it.   

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Canadian War Crimes in Afghanistan

First published at the Centre for Research on Globalization (24 April 2011), http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=24473, and reproduced online at six other websites. The present version contains some additional material on the attitudes of senior Canadian military officers towards the torture of Afghan detainees.


Torture has been a grim component of nearly every aspect of the current war in Afghanistan. Setting aside the behaviour both of the Taliban regime and of their Afghan opponents, the warlords of the Northern Alliance, which included grievous violations of human rights, US forces were involved in torture from almost the moment of their arrival in Afghanistan in late 2001.

In the years after 2001, the US government attempted to justify its invasion and occupation of Afghanistan through narratives of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that were based almost entirely on confessions elicited by torture from actual or suspected associates of Osama bin Laden.

And torture has been an integral part of the counterinsurgency tactics employed by the US, its NATO allies, and the Karzai regime. These tactics—involving infantry sweeps through communities in whose vicinity resistance has been encountered, more or less indiscriminate arrests, and the handing over of prisoners to the Afghan police or to the National Directorate of Security, whose ‘intelligence’ (based on torture) then serves as a guide to further arrests—have victimized large numbers of civilians, most of them people with no connection to the Afghan resistance.

Canada, as a practitioner of these tactics, has been implicated for at least the past six years in a detainee-torture scandal, one of whose consequences has been very serious damage to Canada’s international reputation. There is evidence that this scandal reaches to the very highest levels of the Canadian government.


1. Illegality of the Afghanistan War

Growing numbers of people are skeptical about the justifications offered by the United States for the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Nearly all of the ‘evidence’ in the key chapters of the 9/11 Commission Report which assign responsibility for the 9/11 terrorist attacks is derived from torture—which means that these chapters have the epistemic value of pure fiction. (One of the major sources, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was waterboarded 183 times by the CIA; his confessions were confirmed by the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded 83 times. The 9/11 Commission’s requests to interview these ‘high-value’ prisoners, or even just their CIA interrogators, were denied; and in 2005, in defiance of court orders, the CIA destroyed its videotapes of the interrogations.)1

The invasion of Afghanistan appears to have been primarily motivated by the energy geopolitics of a new “Great Game.” When the Taliban came to power in 1996, there were negotiations for a Unocal pipeline from the Caspian Basin gas fields across Afghanistan into Pakistan and thence to the Indian Ocean. But after Osama bin Laden’s 1998 bombings of US embassies in East Africa and retaliatory Tomahawk strikes into Afghanistan, these talks collapsed. There is evidence that in the summer of 2001—months before the 9/11 attacks—American diplomats threatened the Taliban that continued obstruction of the pipeline plan would result in a bombing campaign, and their overthrow, by October of that year.2

US and Canadian government officials have scoffed at the notion that energy geopolitics had anything to do with the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. But in June 2008 the distinguished petroleum economist John Foster, who has worked for British Petroleum, the World Bank, Petro-Canada, and the Inter-American Development Bank, published a monograph on the subject of plans for a $7.6-billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline that was going to be built, at American insistence, in 2010—and the Canadian government acknowledged that Canadian forces would indeed be assigned to protect the pipeline, whose route lies through Kandahar province, where most of our casualties have been suffered.3

However, it was for different reasons that on October 9, 2001, two days after the bombing of Afghanistan began, Michael Mandel, of Toronto’s Osgoode Hall Law School, declared the attack illegal. In his words, it “violate[d] international law and the express words of the United Nations Charter,” whose Article 51 only “gives a state the right to repel an attack that is ongoing or imminent as a temporary measure until the UN Security Council can take steps necessary for international peace and security.”4 Since the attack was not ongoing,5 and since neither of the UN Security Council resolutions condemning the September 11 attacks “can remotely be said to authorize the use of military force,” Mandel declared that those who die from the attack on Afghanistan “will be victims of a crime against humanity, just like the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.”6 In November 2001, Thomas Jefferson School of Law professor Marjorie Cohn made similar arguments, adding that the bombing was not legitimate self-defence because the atrocities of 9/11 “were criminal attacks, not ‘armed attacks’ by another state.”7

Subsequently expounded by Mandel and by Cohn at greater length, and supplemented by further considerations, including the fact that in September and October 2001 the Taliban regime offered to give Bin Laden up for trial in a third country,8 these views are shared by other leading specialists in international law, among them Francis Boyle, Alex Conte, and Myra Williamson.9


2. The Canadian Torture Scandal

Illegalities of a more concrete nature have come to haunt Canada’s participation in the war in Afghanistan. In December 2001, a cover of legality was given to the formation of an occupation army, or International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), by the UN Security Council’s acceptance of the claim that this force was established “at the request of the Government of Afghanistan”10—which at the time consisted of Hamid Karzai, protected by a guard of US SEAL and British SBS special forces soldiers, and a loose coalition of US-financed ‘Northern Alliance’ warlords. But it was the question of how to dispose of Afghans captured by Canadian troops, whether in combat conditions or merely under suspicion, that developed into a specifically Canadian scandal.

In January 2002, there were questions in Parliament over the revelation that members of the Joint Task Force 2 unit, after taking part in the fighting in the Tora Bora mountains, had transferred prisoners into US custody.11 The horrors of Abu Graib in Iraq became public knowledge at the end of April 2004; shortly afterward, it was revealed that prisoners held by the US in Afghanistan were also systematically tortured, and in at least five cases had died from their treatment. In June 2004, a Human Rights Watch spokesman declared that in US prisons in Afghanistan “The entire system operates outside the rule of law. At least in Iraq, the US is trying to run a system that meets Geneva standards. In Afghanistan, they’re not.”12

With the option of Canadian-run POW camps ruled out from the start, and with further transfers into US prisons becoming politically impossible, the Canadian Forces passed captives on to Afghan authorities, amid unlikely claims that ‘state-building’ programs were taking effect. But even after acquiring a façade of legitimacy through the 2004 presidential and 2005 parliamentary elections,13 the Karzai regime remained one to which any transfer of prisoners was a most dubious matter. By 2005, Eileen Olexiuk, the second-ranking Canadian diplomat in Kabul, was raising concerns to the Paul Martin government about the fate of transferred detainees.14 Her messages were ignored, and a toothless memorandum of agreement regarding detainee transfers that was signed in December 2005 by General Rick Hillier, Chief of the Defence Staff, and the Afghan Minister of Defence, contained no provisions for follow-up access to detainees.15 Evidence of systematic torture continued to accumulate, and Richard Colvin, who in 2006-2007 held the diplomatic position Olexiuk had occupied, called attention to it in urgent messages which he circulated as widely as possible through all the official government and military channels available to him.16

Article 12 of the Third Geneva Convention is categorical: “Prisoners of war may only be transferred […] to a Power which is a party to the Convention and after the Detaining Power has satisfied itself of the willingness and ability of such transferee Power to apply the Convention.”17 Afghanistan has been a party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions since 1956, and in late 2009 acceded to the 1977 Additional Protocols I and II, which protect victims of international conflicts and civil wars.18 However, Olexiuk’s and Colvin’s messages show that Canada had not “satisfied itself”—despite whatever senior officials might say—that the Karzai regime would treat prisoners decently.

Even without direct statements from Canadian diplomats, senior military and civilian officials could have no grounds for pretending ignorance. In December 2009, Lawyers Against the War (LAW) itemized in an “Open letter to the Parliamentary Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan” the evidence that Canada’s detainee policies violated Canadian and international law.19 By the spring of 2007, this included—in addition to legal opinions sent by LAW on February 1, 2004 and March 6, 2007 to Prime Ministers Martin and Harper and their senior ministers—expressions of concern by Amnesty International in early 2002 over detainee transfers to US forces, and in December 2005 over “the widespread, longstanding reality of torture throughout the Afghan prison system”;20 the Report of the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Afghanistan, M. Cherif Bassouni, to the UN Commission on Human Rights (11 March 2005), referring to torture practices current within the Afghan security system; The London Compact of February 1, 2006, which set as a goal—for the end of 2010—the Afghan state’s adoption of “corrective measures […] aimed at preventing arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, extortion and illegal appropriation of property with a view to the elimination of these practices”;21 and the US State Department’s report on Afghanistan in 2006, which noted reports by human rights organizations that Afghan authorities in Herat, Helmand and elsewhere used torture consisting of “pulling out fingernails and toenails, burning with hot oil, beatings, sexual humiliation, and sodomy.”22

Ironically, it was evidence of prisoner abuse in Canadian rather than Afghan custody, obtained in early February 2007 by University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran and passed on to the Military Police Complaints Commission, that helped to give the issue increased public prominence.23 A quick succession of other events brought the pot to a boil. On February 21, 2007, Amnesty International and the BC Civil Liberties Association applied for a judicial review of Canada’s detainee-transfer policy.24 In March, the Minister of National Defence, Gordon O’Connor, acknowledged that since April 2006 he had repeatedly misled the House of Commons by falsely claiming that the Red Cross was monitoring transferred prisoners on Canada’s behalf.25 And on April 23, 2007, The Globe and Mail published an investigative report, based on interviews with thirty Afghan prisoners whom the Canadian army had handed over to the Afghan National Directorate of Security, which showed they had been systematically tortured, with apparent Canadian complicity.26 University of British Columbia law professor Michael Byers commented: “If this report is accurate, Canadians have engaged in war crimes, not only individually but also as a matter of policy.”27

The Military Police Complaints Commission inquiry prompted by Professor Attiran’s complaint subpoenaed the diplomat Richard Colvin, who in late 2009, when the MPCC’s proceedings had been seriously delayed by interventions from the Harper government,28 was also called before the House of Commons Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan. In October 2009, shortly before he testified there, the claims of Prime Minister Harper and Defence Minister Peter MacKay that they had not been informed on the detainee issue were vigorously refuted by General Rick Hillier’s memoir, A Soldier First.29

But Colvin’s testimony on November 18, 2009 was more thoroughly damaging in its exposure of high-level lawlessness. He revealed that the Canadian military’s system of reporting the transfer of detainees delayed follow-up, making it all the more likely that they would be tortured (as his sources thought nearly all of them were); he claimed that in 2006-2007 senior Foreign Affairs officials—including David Mulroney, the Assistant Deputy Minister responsible for Afghanistan, who was also Prime Minister Harper’s Foreign and Defence Policy Advisor—had censored and blocked the distribution of dispatches from Kabul; and he exposed the fact that the government had made very determined attempts to intimidate him and prevent him from giving testimony. Finally, Colvin excoriated policies under which, “disregard[ing] our core principles and values,” Canadians “retained and handed over for severe torture a lot of innocent people,” which is “a very serious violation of international and Canadian law,” and which also “alienated us from the population and strengthened the insurgency.”30


3. Running With the Big Dogs

“Complicity in torture,” Colvin reminded the parliamentarians, “is a war crime.” By the summer of 2010, despite a disgraceful smear campaign against Colvin led by Defence Minister Peter MacKay (which prompted a public letter of rebuke signed by “more than 100 former diplomats, many of them ambassadors”),31 despite Stephen Harper’s shutting down of the MPCC by refusing to appoint a replacement when its chair’s term of office expired, and his proroguing of the House of Commons in order to close down the parliamentary committee which had heard Colvin’s evidence (this prompted a public letter signed by more than 175 professors of political science denouncing Harper for having “violated the trust of Parliament and of the Canadian people”),32 and despite Harper’s defiance of Parliament’s call to have all of the relevant documents released, the full extent and depth of that complicity was evident.

Highly segmented state structures may often seem to operate in an almost chaotic manner. But at times—even when the governing party is doing its best to obscure and deny access to the evidence—a clear constellation of intentionality emerges from the murk. With help from the late Jack Hooper, who was CSIS Assistant Director of Operations from 2002 to 2005, and Deputy Director of Operations until his retirement in 2007, we can give this pattern a name. Known for being pithy and outspoken, Hooper liked to tell his colleagues that “If you’re going to run with the big dogs, you’d better learn to piss in the high grass.”33

CSIS, we now know, was involved in interrogating Afghan prisoners from early 2002 until December 2007; and journalists Jim Bronskill and Murray Brewster learned from an unnamed source or sources that one of the Kandahar interrogation sites used by CSIS, “work[ing] alongside the American CIA and in close co-operation with Canada’s secretive, elite JTF-2 commandos,” was a “secluded base”—this seems a polite way of saying ‘black site’ or ‘secret torture facility’—“known as Graceland.”34

Running with the big dogs apparently meant complicity in the work of Afghan as well as American torturers. Asadullah Khalid, the governor of Kandahar province, who was widely accused of corruption, drug-trafficking, and direct personal involvement in torture, seems to have retained his position after 2006 only thanks to the interventions of senior Canadian military officials.35 General Rick Hillier, the Chief of the Defence Staff who famously defined the Taliban as “scumbags and murderers” whom it was the Canadian army’s job to kill, praised Khalid’s work in early 2008 as “phenomenal” and associated it with “some incredible changes in the province,” adding that “if there’s an issue of any kind of impropriety whatsoever, that’s an issue for the Afghanistan government.”36 It is of course an issue for the Canadian government as well. Scott Taylor, a journalist with wide experience in Afghanistan, has endorsed Hillier’s view of the Taliban, but with an important corrective: “What he failed to mention is that the guys we’re propping up are also scumbags and murderers.”37

Richard Colvin’s November 2009 testimony to the Parliamentary Special Committee revealed another aspect of Canada’s collaboration in Afghan torture—a “very peculiar” process, he called it, in which the notification of detainee transfers went from the Canadian military police in Kandahar to the Canadian Forces command group at Kandahar airport, then to the Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM) in Ottawa, who informed the Canadian Embassy in Geneva, who contacted Red Cross headquarters in Geneva, who at last notified the Red Cross mission in Kandahar. While the Dutch and British, who also had troops in southern Afghanistan, notified the Red Cross office in Kandahar directly about prisoner transfers, so that within a day at most the Red Cross could monitor their treatment, this Canadian paper-chase could take weeks or even months—during which time the transferred prisoner became effectively invisible.

What might seem an idiotic instance of bureaucracy-run-wild was actually part of a more serious wildness, a policy of deliberate obstructionism. For as Colvin also testified, “When the Red Cross wanted to engage on detainee issues, for three months the Canadian Forces in Kandahar wouldn’t even take their phone calls. The same thing happened to the NATO ISAF command in Kabul, who had responsibilities to report detainee numbers to Brussels, but were told, ‘We know what you want, but we won’t tell you’.”38 Senior Canadian officers have indicated the value they placed on ‘intelligence’ received in regular meetings with leaders of Afghan’s notorious National Directorate of Security.39 And in a May 2007 interview with the Ottawa Citizen’s David Pugliese, one of them was quite explicit about the role the Canadian military and NATO were assigning to the NDS in the counter-insurgency war:

Canadian Brig.-Gen. Jim Ferron says he is confident that Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security or NDS is following proper procedures when it interrogates insurgent detainees.

The general also pointed out that the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force is interested in further developing its relationship with the NDS because it is a key Afghan government agency and the intelligence it is providing is highly credible in the battle against insurgents.

“We’d like to make (NDS intelligence) a significant part because the best information is the information that comes from the Afghans themselves,” said Brig.-Gen. Ferron, ISAF’s chief intelligence officer. “They have the cultural nuances that we may miss. So I think it’s safe to say we would like to make it more a part of our daily intelligence.”

[…] “[I]nterrogating […] is not a bad word if it’s done properly and professionally,” he explained. “The detainees are detained for a reason. They have information we need.”

Brig.-Gen. Ferron said much of the information a detainee provides is not truthful and is aimed at deceiving military forces. That’s why it is up to intelligence analysts to sift through what is truth and what is deception. “But if we don’t have the information we can’t even start on that process,” he added.40

Ferron’s words make clear the Canadian military’s dependence on NDS ‘intelligence,’ and the determination of senior officers to ignore, obfuscate, and dismiss the by-this-time massive evidence of NDS torture practices. In mid-May 2007, someone of Ferron’s rank and position could hardly have been ignorant of the urgent messages about detainee torture that Richard Colvin had been sending from Kandahar and from the embassy in Kabul between May and December 2006—or of the fact that, as Colvin writes, embassy officials had supplemented their written reports by “interven[ing] directly with policy-makers”:

For example, in early March 2007, I informed an interagency meeting of some 12 to 15 officials in Ottawa that, ‘The NDS tortures people, that’s what they do, and if we don’t want our detainees tortured, we shouldn’t give them to the NDS.’ [….] The response from the Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM) note-taker was to stop writing and put down her pen.41

As this eloquent gesture suggests, even junior officers in CEFCOM understood that their seniors—the desk-soldiers with aspirations to join the big dogs—wanted to keep other puppies from sniffing out what passes for intelligence-gathering in the tall grass. Indeed, since June 2010 we have known that CEFCOM intervened vigorously in the spring of 2007 to put a stop to Colvin’s circulation of information about the torture of detainees: a CEFCOM memo dated May 7, 2007 declared that “his continued employment in Kabul […] could become a liability to the government of Canada’s interests if left unchecked”; and on two occasions senior officials, including a lieutenant-general and an associate deputy minister, intervened to “caution” him.42

Within days of Colvin’s November 2009 testimony to the effect that Prime Minister Harper’s Defence and Foreign Policy Advisor had censored messages from the Kabul embassy about detainee torture, and Colvin’s exposure of the Canadian military’s obstruction of Red Cross and ISAF attempts to monitor prisoner transfers, a report in the Toronto Star revealed how directly the Prime Minister had involved himself in the issue in 2007. According to a former senior NATO public affairs official, the denials of torture issued by NATO in Kabul—“at a time when it was privately and generally acknowledged in our office that the chances of good treatment at the hands of Afghan security forces were almost zero”—were scripted by Harper and his office in Ottawa:

I was told this was the titanic issue for Prime Minister Harper and that every statement that went out needed to be cleared by him personally […]. The lines were, ‘We have no evidence’ of coercive treatment being used against detainees handed over to the Afghans. [….] [I]t was made clear to us that this was coming from the Prime Minister’s Office, which was running the public affairs aspect of Canadian engagement in Afghanistan with a 6,000-mile screwdriver.43

The pattern that emerges from mainstream news reports is thus one of high-level complicity in torture, combined with attempts—organized from the very top of the Canadian government—to falsify the public record.

According to law professor Amir Attaran, who has seen uncensored versions of the documents that the Harper government has so strenuously resisted sharing with Parliament, the paper trail is thoroughly incriminating. In March 2010 Attiran told CBC News: “If these documents were released [in full], what they will show is that Canada partnered deliberately with the torturers in Afghanistan for the interrogation of detainees […]. There would be a question of rendition and a question of war crimes on the part of certain Canadian officials. That’s what’s in these documents, and that’s why the government is covering up as hard as it can.”44


4. Conclusion

The clear pattern of intentionality revealed in the words and actions of senior Canadian government bureaucrats and senior military officers is both embarrassing (these people actually believe, despite copious evidence to the contrary, that torture produces real ‘intelligence’)45 and also a scandalous offense against the rule of law.

More scandalous still is the evidence that these people were acting on directives from Stephen Harper—that Harper knew perfectly well that the Afghan puppet-state tortures the prisoners handed over to it by the Canadian Forces, but nonetheless permitted the continuation of this system, and that he actually took charge of the program of lying about it.




1  In early 2008 award-winning journalist Robert Windrem showed in an analysis for NBC News that more than one-quarter of all footnotes in the 9/11 Commission Report, and nearly all of those in the key chapters, are based on torture; see Windrem, “Blogs & Stories: Cheney’s Role Deepens,” The Daily Beast (13 May 2009), http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2009-05-13/cheneys-role-deepens/p/; and “The 9/11 Commission & Torture: How Information Gained Through Waterboarding & Harsh Interrogations Form Major Part of 9/11 Commission Report,” Democracy Now! (7 February 2008), http://www.democracynow.org/2008/2/7/the_9_11_commission_torture_how. See also “September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed ‘waterboarded 183 times’,” The Sunday Times (20 April 2009), http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article6130165.ece; and “Complete 911 Timeline: Destruction of CIA Interrogation Tapes,” History Commons, http://www.historycommons.org/timeline.jsp?timeline=complete_911_timeline&complete_911_timeline__war_on_terrorism__outside_iraq=complete_911_timeline_destruction_of_cia_tapes.

2  Michel Chossudovsky, America’s “War on Terrorism”(Pincourt, Québec: Global Research, 2005), p. 66.

3  John Foster, A Pipeline Through a Troubled Land: Afghanistan, Canada, and the New Great Energy Game (Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, June 19, 2008); see also Shawn McCarthy, “Pipeline opens new front in Afghan war,” The Globe and Mail (19 June 2008), http://v1.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080619.wafghanpipeline19/BNStory/Afghanistan; and McCarthy, “Would help protect pipeline, Canada says,” The Globe and Mail (20 June 2008), http://v1.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080620.wafghanpipeline20/BNStory/SHAWN+MCCARTHY.

4  Michael Mandel, “This War is Illegal,” CounterPunch (9 October 2001), http://www.counterpunch.org/mandel5.html.

5  Graeme MacQueen, founding director of McMaster University’s Institute of Peace Studies, has noted that the anthrax attacks in the US, whose first victim died on October 5 (two days before the assault on Afghanistan began), created the appearance of an ongoing al Qaeda attack—supported by Iraq. Initially identified by the FBI as Iraqi in origin, the anthrax in fact came from a US weapons lab, and the coatings applied to it required high-tech expertise that the scientist later fingered by the FBI as the lone perpetrator did not possess. See MacQueen, “The Connection Between 9/11, Anthrax, and Iraq” (1 May 2010), available at 911 Blogger.com, http://911blogger.com/news/2010-05-10/dr-graeme-macqueen-connection-between-911-anthrax-and-iraq-05-01-10-walkerton-1-5.

6  Mandel, “This War is Illegal.”

7  Marjorie Cohn, “Bombing of Afghanistan is Illegal and Must be Stopped,” Jurist (6 November 2001), http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/forum/forumnew36.htm.

8  See “Bush rejects Taliban offer to hand Bin Laden over,” The Guardian (14 October 2001), http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/oct/14/afghanistan.terrorism5; and Andrew Buncombe, “Bush rejects Taliban offer to surrender bin Laden,” The Independent (15 October 2001), http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/bush-rejects-taliban-offer-to-surrender-bin-laden-631436.html.

9  Michael Mandel, How America Gets Away With Murder: Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage, and Crimes Against Humanity (London: Pluto Press, 2004); and Marjorie Cohn, Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law (Sausalito, CA: Podipoint Press, 2007). See also Francis Boyle, Destroying World Order: U. S Imperialism in the Middle East Before and After September 11th (Atlanta, GA: Clarity Press, 2004); Alex Conte, Security in the 21st Century: The United Nations, Afghanistan, and Iraq (Aldershot, Hants: Ashgate, 2005); and Myra Williamson, Terrorism, War and International Law: The Legality of the Use of Force Against Afghanistan in 2001 (Aldershot, Hants: Ashgate, 2009).

10  The wording is from a notable UK court decision: Paragraph 15 of Regina (Evans) vs. Secretary of State for Defence, High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, Divisional Court, [2010] EWHC 1445 (Admin), 25 June 2010, http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/60E1560B-7E8A-4C3C-A886-C309B35237AD/0/revansvssdjudgment.pdf.

11  See Michael Byers, “Afghanistan: Wrong Mission for Canada,” The Tyee (6 October 2006), http://thetyee.ca/Views/2006/10/06/Afghanistan/; the parliamentary stir is discussed by Janice Gross Stein and Eugene Lang, The Unexpected War: Canada in Kandahar (Toronto: Viking Canada, 2007).

12  Quoted by Duncan Campbell and Suzanne Goldenberg, “‘They said this is America … if a soldier orders you to take off your clothes, you must obey’,” The Guardian (23 June 2004), http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/jun/23/usa.afghanistan; see also David Townsend, “The Passion of Dilawar of Yakubi,” National Catholic Reporter (12 August 2005), http://natcath.org/NCR_Online/archives2/2005c/081205/081205z.htm.

13  According to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), the elections were marked by debilitating technical problems, and by widespread intimidation and electoral fraud. For relevant articles, see Press for Conversion 59 (September 2006), available at http://coat.ncf.ca.

14  “Afghan detainee torture risk raised in 2005,” CBC News (10 March 2010), http://www.cbc.ca/politics/story/2010/03/09/detainee-afghan-diplomat.html.

15  See “Arrangement for the Transfer of Detainees between the Canadian Forces and the Ministry of Defence of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan” (18 December 2005), http://www.afghanistan.gc.ca/canada-afghanistan/assets/pdfs/Dec2005.pdf.

16  See Richard Colvin, “Affidavit for the Military Police Complaints Commission” (5 October 2009), http://www3.thestar.com/static/PDF/Colvin_Affidavit.pdf.

17  Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949, Art. 12, http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/FULL/375?OpenDocument.

18  See ICRC Annual Report 2009, Annex: States Party to the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, pp. 488-89, http://www.icrc.org/eng/assets/files/annual-report/icrc-annual-report-2009-states-party.pdf, where the accession date given is 10 November 2009; and “Afghanistan accedes to Additional Protocols I and II in historic step to limit wartime suffering,” ICRC Resource Centre (24 June 2009), http://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/document/news-release/afghanistan-news-240609.htm; this would mean that the Protocols came into force after six months, on 24 December.

19  Lawyers Against the War, “Torture: The Transfers of Afghan Prisoners. Letter to Canada’s House of Commons,” Centre for Research on Globalization (22 December 2009), http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=16648.

20  These are the words of Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, quoted by LAW from his testimony on March 4, 2008 to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

21  Building on Success, The London Conference on Afghanistan: The London Compact (1 February 2006), http://anama.unmissions.org/Portals/UNAMA/Documents/AfghanistanCompact-English.pdf.

22  “Afghanistan,” http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/78868.htm.

23  See “Military probes abuse allegations in Afghanistan,” CBC News (6 February 2007), http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2007/02/06/military-probe.html. In this and following paragraph I am indebted to the article “Canadian Afghan detainee issue,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Afghan_detainee_issue (consulted on 28 January 2011).

24  Paul Koring, “Amnesty slams Canada over Afghan detainees,” The Globe and Mail (21 February 2007, updated 31 March 2009), http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/article743285.ece. On the strength of a government decision in late February 2007 to suspend transfers, effective November 5, 2007, due to allegations of torture, Federal Court Justice Anne Mactavish dismissed the application for judicial review. (Thus between the end of February and November 5, 2007 the Canadian Forces appear to have been transferring prisoners into Afghan prisons that the Federal Court had effectively acknowledged to be in systematic violation of the Third Geneva Convention.) Transfers began again on February 29, 2008. (For details, see “Amnesty International and British Columbia Civil Liberties Association v. Chief of Defence Staff for the Canadian Armed Forces, et al.,” BC Civil Liberties Association, http://www.bccla.org/antiterrorissue/afghan.htm.)

25  “O’Connor sorry for misinforming House on Afghan detainees,” CBC News (19 March 2007), http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2007/03/19/afghanapology.html; see also Paul Koring, “Red Cross contradicts Ottawa on detainees,” The Globe and Mail (8 March 2007, updated 31 March 2009), http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/article746018.ece.

26  Graeme Smith, “From Canadian custody into cruel hands. Savage beatings, electrocution, whipping and extreme cold: Detainees detail a litany of abuses by Afghan authorities,” The Globe and Mail (23 April 2007), http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/article92169.ece; also available at http://v1.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070423.wdetainee23/BNStory/Afghanistan.

27  “Afghan Prisoner Torture Scandal: War Crimes,” Ceasefire.ca (23 April 2007), http://www.ceasefire.ca/?p=118.

28  Janice Tibbetts, “Tories try to block witnesses at military commission,” Canwest News Service (1 October 2009), http://www.canada.com/news/Tories+block+witnesses+military+commission/2055852/story.html; for a fuller account of Harper’s obstruction of the MPCC, see Murray Dobbin, Harper’s Hitlist: Power, Process and the Assault on Democracy, Part 4: “Controlling Critics,” The Council of Canadians (15 April 2010), http://www.canadians.org/democracy/documents/p4.pdf.

29  General Rick Hillier, A Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War (Toronto: HarperCollins, 2009); see John Ibbitson, “PMO told about Afghan jail conditions, Hillier writes,” The Globe and Mail (21 October 2009), http://v1.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/GAM.20091021.HILLIER21ART2244/TPStory/TPComment.

30  “Richard Colvin’s Testimony,” 18 November 2009, FAIR, http://fairwhistleblower.ca/content/richard-colvins-testimony. See also Colvin’s follow-up statement, “Further Evidence of Richard Colvin to the Special Committee on Afghanistan, December 16, 2009,” available at http://www.cbc.ca/news/pdf/further-evidence-special-committee.pdf, and from the Toronto Star, http://www3.thestar.com/static/PDF/FurtherEvidencetoSpecialCommittee.pdf.

31  Murray Dobbin, Harper’s Hitlist: Power, Process and the Assault on Democracy, Part 2: “Two Prorogations in Less Than a Year,” The Council of Canadians (15 April 2011), http://www.canadians.org/democracy/documents/p2.pdf.

32  Ibid.

33  Michelle Shephard, Guantanamo’s Child: The Untold Story of Omar Khadr (Toronto: John Wiley, 2008), p. 57.

34  Jim Bronskill and Murray Brewster, “CSIS reviewing role in Afghan detainee interrogations,” Canadian Press, available in The Toronto Star (2 August 2010), http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/843055--csis-reviewing-role-in-afghan-detainee-interrogations. See also Murray Brewster and Jim Bronskill, “CSIS played critical role in Afghan prisoner interrogations: documents, sources,” Canadian Press (8 March 2010), available at http://www.webcitation.org/query?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Fhostednews%2Fcanadianpress%2Farticle%2FALeqM5jJLuGfEH6QP3vrNSLPiAGPZNqBcw&date=2010-03-09; and “Le SCRS était au courant de cas de torture,” La Presse Canadienne, available at Radio-Canada.ca (21 January 2011), http://www.radio-canada.ca/nouvelles/International/2011/01/21/007-scrs-detenus-afghans-torture.shtml.

35  See Stephanie Levitz, Brian Laghi, Campbell Clark and Paul Koring, “Kandahar governor denies torture claim,” The Globe and Mail (2 February 2008), http://v1.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080202.wafghan-governor0201/BNStory/PAUL+KORING; Kamran Mir Hazar and Robert Maier, “Asadullah Khalid’s Mafia,” Kabulpress.org (3 May 2009), http://kabulpress.org/my/spip.php?article3417; and “Afghan governor’s rights abuses known in ’07,” CBC News (12 April 2010), http://www.cbc.ca/politics/story/2010/04/12/afghan-governor-human-rights-abuses.html. See also “Further Evidence of Richard Colvin to the Special Committee on Afghanistan, December 16, 2009,” pp. 13-14.

36  Quoted by Stephanie Levitz et al., “Kandahar governor denies torture claim.”

37  Quoted by Bea Vongdouangchanh, “‘We’re bringing the ugly truth back to the people’,” The Hill Times (6 December 2010), http://hilltimes.com/page/view/qnataylor-12-6-2010. Taylor is editor of Esprit de Corps magazine, and maker of the documentary Afghanistan: Outside the Wire (2010).

38  “Richard Colvin’s Testimony,” 18 November 2009.

39  See Murray Brewster, “Canadian general defends Afghan intelligence service, denies torture,” Toronto Star (9 September 2010), http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/afghanmission/article/858862--canadian-general-defends-afghan-intelligence-service-denies-torture; Stephen Chase, “Military vows to probe ‘grave’detainee accusations,” The Globe and Mail (14 April 2010, updated 15 April 2010), http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/military-vows-to-probe-grave-detainee-accusations/article1534345/page1/; Thomas Walkom, “Walkom: Was Afghan torture a deliberate tool for Canada?” Toronto Star (17 April 2010), http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/796809--walkom-was-afghan-torture-a-deliberate-tool-for-canada. For evidence of the consistency of this use of Afghan torturers as intelligence-gatherers with an earlier Canadian policy of using Syrian and Egyptian torturers in the same way, see Walkom, “Walkom: Torture by remote control,” Toronto Star (24 February 2010), http://www.thestar.com/opinion/article/770352--walkom-torture-by-remote-control.

40  David Pugliese, “NATO sees importance of secret Afghan info: Intelligence crucial in fight against Taliban,” Ottawa Citizen (16 May 2007), available online at Canada.com, http://www2.canada.com/components/print.aspx?id=636a562e-6669-42c7-98fc-9d92088f05f7. I am indebted for knowledge of this article to Gareth Porter, “The Torture Mill: Why the US and NATO Fed Detainees to Brutal Afghan Security Service,” Counterpunch (27 April 2011), http://www.counterpunch.org.

41  Colvin, “Further Evidence of Richard Colvin to the Special Committee on Afghanistan,” http://www.cbc.ca/news/pdf/further-evidence-special-committee.pdf, p. 2.

42  Steven Chase, “Military wanted detainee whistleblower pulled from Afghanistan,” The Globe and Mail (14 June 2010, updated 5 October 2010), http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/military-wanted-detainee-whistleblower-pulled-from-afghanistan/article1604188/.

43  Mitch Potter, “PMO issued instructions on denying abuse in ’07,” The Toronto Star (22 November 2009), http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/afghanmission/article/729157--pmo-issued-instructions-on-denying-abuse-in-07.

44  “Canada wanted Afghan prisoners tortured: lawyer,” CBC News (5 March 2010), http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/03/05/afghan-attaran005.html.

45  For some of that evidence, see Edward Peters, Torture (Oxford: Blackwell, 1985); Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain (1985; rpt. New York: Oxford University Press); Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture (New York: Metropolitan/Owl Books, 2006); and also Matthew Alexander, “I’m still tortured by what I saw in Iraq: An interrogator speaks,” The Washington Post (30 November 2008), http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/28/AR2008112802242.html?hpid=opinionsbox1; and Ben Macintyre, “‘24’ is fictional. So is the idea that torture works,” The Sunday Times (23 April 2009), http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/ben_macintyre/article6150151.ece.     

Canada in Afghanistan

The first item in this sequence was published in the letters column of the Guelph Mercury (19 November 2008), and re-published in eVeritas, the online journal of the Royal Military College of Canada Club.


This sequence of letters began with one I sent to the Guelph Mercury on November 17, 2008, which that newspaper published two days later. Re-published in eVeritas, the online journal of the Royal Military College of Canada Club (see www.everitas.rmcclub.ca/?p=2900), the letter attracted some commentary there. It also received a much fuller response in the form of public correspondence from Peter Ludorf, one of my RMC classmates (we studied and trained there from 1966 to 1970). I reproduce here my original letter, the responses to it in eVeritas, and my exchanges with Peter Ludorf, and finally, some comments on the last of the responses published in eVeritas

My comments include a reference to the College's motto: “Truth, Duty, Valour.” Peter Ludorf and I signed our letters with our college numbers, as did the RMC graduates who sent responses to eVeritas. (These numbers began with the first class that entered the college in 1876: my great-grand-uncle Harold was number 17 in that Old Eighteen; my father Thomas, whose class entered in 1932, had the number 2330.) The footnote I have added to my second letter to Peter Ludorf corrects an error of fact.


1. We mustn't participate in 'criminal follies'

Guelph Mercury, 19 November 2008

Thanks to Rob O'Flanagan for his thoughtful and eloquent column (“Too many things make me sick of war,” November 15, 2008).

I've been thinking about war myself lately, in part because November 10 is the anniversary of my father's death—and in his last days nearly twenty years ago, my father's thoughts often went back to his service in World War II, and to the deaths of his three closest friends at Dieppe and in the Normandy campaign.

My father was in uniform for ten years—six during the war, and before that four years at the Royal Military College of Canada. His only brother served in the Royal Navy as an MTB captain in the English Channel and the Mediterranean; a decade after the war, still suffering from what we'd now call post-traumatic stress disorder, he committed suicide. A much-loved honorary uncle on my mother's side also served in the Royal Navy from shortly before the outbreak of World War II until its end.

My two grandfathers each spent more than ten years of their lives in uniform. One served in the British army before World War I, and in the Canadian Corps during that war. The other, who was an important presence in my childhood, narrowly escaped the fate of his best friends, all of whom died in the Gallipoli campaign or on the Western front; he re-enlisted in World War II and directed the Royal Army Medical Corps hospital system on the Burma front.

My two older brothers and I also graduated from RMC; two of us were reserve entry officer cadets, and therefore free on graduation to pursue careers in government and academe; my eldest brother's time in the Canadian army included service with the UN peacekeeping force on the Gaza strip.

What does this enumeration of the men closest to me by blood and affection add up to? Among other things, it means that eight men in my generation and the two preceding ones—none of whom thought of the military as a career—spent a total of more than sixty years in uniform during the early and middle years of the last century.

Some of that service—I'm thinking of the First World War—was no doubt deluded. But none of it involved the flagrant illegality of the present war in Afghanistan, or the very particular horrors of a war that pits civilian insurgents against a foreign army of occupation.

The American invasion of Afghanistan was a direct violation of international law; the ensuing occupation is likewise illegal. The deaths of a hundred young Canadians in such a cause, and the grievous injuries suffered by many hundreds more, should horrify us all. These losses, together with the still more appalling losses being inflicted upon Afghan civilians by the occupying forces, are the legacy of the Bush regime's now wholly discredited policies.

Canadians must refuse any further participation in these criminal follies.

Michael Keefer
Professor, School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph


2. Responses in eVeritas

3584 Archie Beare (November 25, 2008):  It is regrettable that some, perhaps few, feel as Michael Keefer and the Guelph Mercury writer he quotes. The UN sanctioned, NATO endorsed operations in Afghanistan are a long way short of being “illegal” and to state that it is, is an insult to all of our troops who have [served] and will serve in Afghanistan. [….] To besmirch those outstanding Canadians is an injustice that should result in an apology by Keefer.

4155 George Kinloch (November 26, 2008):  International law is reasonably clear on what constitutes an illegal war, and it is difficult to find a reading of the law which would make the invasion legal, no matter which organization of nations might sanction it. It is because Keefer values the lives of our soldiers that he finds the squandering of their lives an insult. There is no hint, in his letter, of denigration of the lives of our soldiers, quite the opposite. He owes no apology. But an apology is owed to the tens of thousands who, like so many members of Keefer's family, lost their lives in fighting for a world in which we had the rule of law. World War II, after all, touted itself as being the “War that would Really End All Wars.” [….]

4270 Sean Henry (November 26, 2008):  Mr. Keefer displays the ignorance and misplaced sentiments of many of his fellow Canadians. They are not to blame in their own right. From the beginning the government has not made it clear that Canada's national interests are at stake in the war on terrorism being waged in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The mission is to defeat the Taliban and other Islamic radicals to prevent the re-establishment of a haven and training ground for terrorists. To achieve this end it is also necessary to rebuild Afghanistan into a functioning state. In this respect those Canadians who have died in Afghanistan have been defending Canada and their fellow citizens in equal measure to their forefathers in previous wars. [….] Finally, the military operations in Afghanistan were approved by the UN and NATO and the allied forces are there at the invitation of the Afghan government. It is not an illegal war and the troops are not occupiers. These definitions are spread as disinformation by misguided members of pacifist organizations.

4135 George W. Hosang (November 29, 2008):  Rob O'Flanagan, in his Guelph Mercury Nov. 15, 2008 article certainly reflects the opinion of many who despise war and who wish it would go away, even just disappear instantaneously from the human consciousness. He seems to display, however, a total ignorance of history. For example, if the British and all those who came to their aid had not mounted an effective opposition to Hitler and Nazi Germany, we probably all would be speaking German today because he was getting pretty close to having intercontinental military capabilities. [….]


3. Letters from an RMC Classmate

Reply to Mike Keefer's Anti-Afghanistan Article (Circulated to the RMC Class of 1970, 25 November 2008)


Despite having known each other almost 50 years, from public and high school in Toronto to RMC, I don't think we know each other at all. Your comments on our Canadian Forces' participation in the NATO ISAF mission in Afghanistan not only shocked and depressed me, it also showed me how wrong you are. You were always the artsy left of centre guy that we aspiring Generals at the College could goad into a good argument, but this article of yours is really beyond the pale. Let me remind you that the UN sanctioned the US attacks on the Taliban post 9-11. In Oct 2001, the UN authorized creation of a NATO force, the International Stability Assistance Force (ISAF) which, incidentally, has a large number of non-NATO nations who volunteered to join. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that this is not Bush's war. It is the international community responding to the continued attacks on the west and on the more progressive Muslim states by the radical Taliban Islamists killing thousands and wanting to kill ALL “infidels,” the inhumane treatment of Afghani women and the well publicized goal of forced fundamental Islamisation of the ENTIRE WORLD.

What is it about the Taliban that we should be allowing to continue? Is it the burning of Canadian Provincial Reconstruction Teams-built schools? Is it the poisoning of our Canadian drilled wells? Is it the keeping of all girls from any schooling? Is it the forced burkas, forced marriages, forced rapes, forced childbirth? Is it the explosives training to attack western countries? Is it the throwing of acid into the faces of schoolgirls? Would you have us simply pull out of our commitment and write off the deaths and injuries of our people as being in a lost and misguided cause?

Mike, it is a horrible and nasty business in Afghanistan. It must, however, be done lest we surrender to radical Islam. The statement “better to fight them there than to fight them on our main streets” might be seen by you as being trite but it is seen by many of us as being the truth. The Taliban and Al Qaeda must be pacified or eradicated. Simple as that. The ISAF mission is not illegal. It is there at the invitation of the democratically elected Afghan government. It is sanctioned by the UN. Simple as that. Afghani military and police forces are being trained to carry on this fight themselves. Your calling this crusade a “criminal folly” is not only an insult to those who have fallen but also to those who continue the fight.

I doubt I have convinced you to change your mind but I simply could not allow your anti-Bush and anti-Canadian Forces rant to go unchallenged. I am asking our Class Secretary to send your comments as well as this reply to our entire class. They can decide whether your comments reflect honour on your family's honourable military tradition.

8542 Peter Ludorf, Former Class of 70 Class Secretary


A First Reply (26 November 2008)

Dear Pete,

Thanks for your note about my letter that appeared in the Guelph Mercury (and was re-published in eVeritas). Do by all means circulate your comments to our classmates.

I'll have a response for you shortly, in which I'll hope to show you and anyone else who's interested that much of what you take to be fact is no more than propaganda and misinformation; that what you believe to be simple is really quite complex; and that a military occupation you understand as legal is actually in flagrant violation of international law.

For the moment, two quick points.

The first word of the RMC motto directs us, I believe, to a shared commitment to Truth: let's see whether that helps to move us beyond overheated rhetoric about being “anti-Bush and anti-Canadian Forces,” and toward a lucid consideration of what's at stake here.

Secondly, you conclude your message with a reference to honour. I do not think there is anything honourable about sending young Canadian men and women off to war on false pretences. 

The real insult to their courage, their sacrifices, and their suffering comes from the politicians and propagandists who have lied to them.



8430 Michael Keefer, D.Phil.,

Professor, School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph


And a Riposte (26 November 2008)


If I were corresponding with Taliban Jack Layton (as he is widely called by our troops) or Elizabeth May, I could understand and simply dismiss the left wing nut element, but with a classmate who invokes Truth, Duty, Valour, I am compelled to continue the debate. I assume you are one who insists that 9/11 was a US (read, George Bush) inside job. You must be shattered by the fact that Obama intends to increase the US contingent in Afghanistan [by] anywhere from 7,000 to 70,000 troops. This left wing politician is likely also lying to everyone and is covering up the illegal invasion and repression of the poor misunderstood Taliban who are, after all, simply defending their country (which it is not) from the infidel invader (which we are not). Mike, what are you smokin'? You did not reply to my points about the inhumane treatment of women and the fact that Al Qaeda continues to use Afghanistan as a training ground for renewed attacks on those not exactly like them, attacks just like New York, London, Bali, Amman, Islamabad and Madrid, or do you consider these attacks to be lies and propaganda as well?

I maintain that our Forces are doing an honourable job in fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda. They are responding to the very real attacks and inhumane treatment of others. That would be Truth. They are doing what our government demands of them. That covers Duty. They are truly fighting for our freedom since a withdrawal like you advocate would see increased radical Islamicization throughout the civilized world. That would be the Valour. Mike, God bless our democracy and our ability to think as each one wants. It is our Forces in concert with our allies that allow that to happen.



4. Canada's Afghan 'Crusade' and its Deceptions: Letter to an RMC Classmate

Chris Ford, Class of 70 Class Secretary December 13, 2008

Dear Chris,

Here’s the full reply to Peter Ludorf that I promised. I’d be grateful if you could kindly circulate it to our classmates.

For the sake of anyone who’s only now taking notice of our conversation, here’s the back-story. On November 19th, the Guelph Mercury published a letter I had sent them remembering the military service of members of my family, and condemning Canada’s involvement in the occupation of Afghanistan. My letter was noticed by Bill Oliver, editor of the RMC Club’s online newsletter, who republished it in eVeritas on November 24th. Peter Ludorf read it there, was “shocked and depressed” by it, and wrote to me in rather harsh terms. He wrote as well as to Chris, asking him to circulate my Guelph Mercury letter and his reply to the Class of 70. I replied briefly to Peter’s first message, promising a fuller response later. I’m still very much tied up with end-of-the-academic-term work, but don’t want to keep him waiting any longer.

Best wishes, 
Michael Keefer


Dear Peter,

Please forgive my delay in responding in detail to your messages: the end of the teaching semester is a busy time of year for academics.

In my brief reply to your first message, I noted that the first word of the RMC motto directs us to a shared commitment to Truth—which I suggested might help to move us beyond overheated rhetoric and toward a lucid consideration of what’s at stake. Let’s see then if we can sort out truth from propaganda, disinformation and outright falsehood in the case of the occupation of Afghanistan.

You believe that what you call our Afghan “crusade” (a term the people of that country, whatever their politics, are unlikely to appreciate) is legal, necessary, and defensive in purpose; and you think my comments dishonour “[my] family’s honourable military tradition,” and are “an insult to those [Canadians] who have fallen” and “to those who continue the fight.”

I believe you are wrong on all the major issues of fact out of which these judgments arise. And as I said in my previous brief response, “I do not think there is anything honourable about sending young Canadian men and women off to war on false pretences. The real insult to their courage, their sacrifices, and their suffering comes from the politicians and propagandists who have lied to them.”

Let’s consider first why the United States overthrew the Taliban regime in the fall of 2001. The purported reason is that the Taliban were harbouring Osama bin Laden, who organized the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The Taliban were indeed harbouring Bin Laden, who had effectively declared war upon the United States. We can agree that the Taliban regime was loathsome, and that Bin Laden is (or was) a terrorist. But did Bin Laden’s minions carry out the atrocities of 9/11?

As you guessed in your second missive, I’m among those who believe 9/11 was an “inside job.” But before you jeer or scoff about “conspiracy theorists,” I’d suggest you take a look at the website Patriots Question 9/11, where you’ll discover that scepticism about the official story of 9/11 has been publicly voiced by a significant number of senior US military officers, military research scientists and intelligence officers, as well as distinguished academics in many disciplines, and more than six hundred architects and engineers.

Check out the people listed there, and see if you think they’re all fools. They include Raymond McGovern, former Chairman of National Intelligence Estimates, CIA; Lt. Col. Shelton Lankford, USMC, a former fighter pilot with over 300 combat missions; David L. Griscom, PhD, a distinguished research physicist with decades of service at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington; Paul Craig Roberts, PhD, former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury, Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal, and William E. Simon Chair of Political Economy at Georgetown University’s Center for Strategic and International Studies; Capt. Russ Wittenberg, a pilot with over 30,000 hours flying time, including over 100 combat missions and 35 years as a commercial pilot; and Lt. Col. Robert Bowman, PhD, another former fighter pilot with over 100 missions, and Director of Advanced Space Programs Development under Presidents Ford and Carter. (I had the honour of sharing a platform with Bowman at an event in Toronto this past July. Should you be interested, a video of our lectures is available on the internet; a documentary film of a discussion we had together on the same day, The Fighter Pilot & the Professor: A Conversation About 9/11 [Snowshoe Films, August 2008], is available on DVD.)

You might also want to check out some of the books the people listed on the Patriots Question 9/11 website refer to in their statements and writings. They include:

Nafeez Mossadeq Ahmed, The War on Freedom: How and Why America was Attacked, September 11, 2001 (Tree of Life Publications, 2002). 
----, Behind the War on Terror (New Society Publishers, 2003). 
----, The War on Truth: 9/11, Disinformation, and the Anatomy of Terrorism (Olive Branch Press, 2005). 
Michel Chossudovsky, America’s “War on Terrorism” (Global Research, 2005). 
David Ray Griffin, The New Pearl Harbor (Olive Branch Press, 2004). 
----, The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions (Olive Branch Press, 2005). 
----, Debunking 9/11 Debunking (Olive Branch Press, 2007). 
----, 9/11 Contradictions: An Open Letter to Congress and the Press (Olive Branch Press, 2008). 
----, The New Pearl Harbor Revisited: 9/11, the Cover Up, and the Exposé (Olive Branch Press, 2008). 
R. T. Naylor, Satanic Purses: Money, Myth, and Misinformation in the War on Terror (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006). 
Michael C. Ruppert, Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil (New Society Publishers, 2004). 
Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9/11 (University of California Press, 2007). 
Paul Zarembka, ed., The Hidden History of 9/11 (Seven Stories Press, 2008). 
Barrie Zwicker, Towers of Deception: The Media Cover-Up of 9/11 (New Society Publishers, 2006).

In these books, and at websites like those of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth and Scholars for 9/11 Truth and Justice, a large body of evidence and of critical analysis is available. This evidence and analysis shows, I think conclusively, that if people associated with Bin Laden were in any way connected with the events of 9/11, it was as patsies.

The key elements of the events of that day were organized by the people who financed Mohammed Atta’s group (notably General Mahmoud Ahmad, head of Pakistan’s ISI, who was in Washington on 9/11 for meetings with senior US intelligence officials); by the people who effectively disabled the US air defences by means of multiple exercises scheduled for 9/11 (including air defence exercises that shifted fighter aircraft from the northeast US to Iceland and Alberta, and hijacking exercises which cluttered the screens of military air traffic controllers); and by the people who planted demolition charges in World Trade Center buildings 1, 2, and 7 (despite the obfuscatory efforts of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the evidence of demolition is irrefutable).

Whoever they may have been, these people were quite certainly not Al Qaeda operatives.

Add to this the fact that despite Colin Powell’s promise of a White Paper demonstrating Bin Laden’s guilt, the US never produced evidence of that guilt. The famous “confession video” that surfaced in November 2001 after the invasion of Afghanistan may be evidence of Bin Laden’s malice, but it contains nothing that was not already public knowledge. Perhaps that’s why, in 2006, the FBI’s ‘most wanted’ page on Bin Laden contained no mention of 9/11: a journalist who noticed this peculiar fact was told by the FBI’s Director of Investigative Publicity that this was because the agency had no hard evidence linking him to the attacks.

So what’s left of the rationale for the invasion of Afghanistan? You claim in your second message that Al Qaeda “continues to use Afghanistan as a training ground for renewed attacks on those not exactly like them,” and mention as examples the terror attacks in London, Bali, Amman, Islamabad, Madrid and Mumbai.

But the notion of a significant connection between Afghanistan and any of these atrocities is without foundation. And since you ask—yes, there are indeed problematic features to some of these attacks. Survivors of the London underground bombings reported that the explosions blew up the floors of the carriages from below (which contradicts the official story of suicide bombers with backpacks). Senior Indonesian politicians have claimed publicly that state intelligence agencies were responsible for the Bali bombing. Photographic evidence suggests that the bomb in the Amman hotel was planted in the ceiling rather than carried into the building and detonated at floor level. And the diary of one of the Madrid bombers contained the private phone number of one of Spain’s most senior anti-terrorism officials. I draw no conclusions, but don’t you think it might make sense to call for serious inquiries into such matters?

There’s another rather more convincing explanation for the US invasion of Afghanistan. It has to do with energy geopolitics. When the Taliban came to power, there were serious negotiations for a Unocal pipeline from the Caspian Basin oil and gas fields across Afghanistan and into Pakistan and thence to the Indian Ocean. After the 1998 bombings of US embassies in East Africa and retaliatory Tomahawk strikes into Afghanistan, these talks stagnated and finally collapsed. There’s good evidence that in the summer of 2001 US diplomats threatened the Taliban that continued obstruction of the pipeline plan would result in heavy-duty bombing, and their overthrow, by October 2001 at the latest (see Chossudovsky, p. 66).

The events of 9/11 very conveniently brought US and world opinion into support for the already planned attack on Afghanistan.

Of course, the notion that energy geopolitics had anything to do with the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan has been scoffed at by American and Canadian government officials. But in June 2008 the distinguished petroleum economist John Foster (whose four-decade career has included stints with British Petroleum, the World Bank, Petro-Canada, and the Inter-American Development Bank) published a monograph entitled A Pipeline Through a Troubled Land: Afghanistan, Canada, and the New Great Energy Game (Ottawa: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, June 19, 2008)—and suddenly it was being generally acknowledged that a $7.6-billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline was indeed going to be constructed, at American insistence, in 2010—and further, that Canadian forces in Afghanistan would be assigned responsibility for protecting the pipeline, which is to pass through the Kandahar region in which most of the Canadian army’s casualties have been suffered. (Should you care to check this out, you’ll find articles by Shawn McCarthy, “Pipeline opens new front in Afghan war,” and “Would help protect pipeline, Canada says,” in The Globe and Mail [19 and 20 June, 2008].)

Let’s talk about honour, then. How honourable is it to tell young Canadian soldiers that they’re putting life, limb and sanity at risk defending us all from attacks by terrifying Afghanistan-based terrorists—when the story of an Afghan connection to the crimes of 9/11 is a fraud, and when what we actually want them to do is to protect a pipeline?

Is it honourable to tell our soldiers, as a fall-back position, that they’re protecting the rights of Afghan women, who were being oppressed and tormented by misogynist theocrats? Yes, Taliban fanatics have done the vile things you mentioned, from denial of schooling to murderous violence against women. But misogynist theocratic fanatics in the puppet government the US put into power have done and continue to do many of the same things. (Have you forgotten Sima Samar, the Minister of Women’s Affairs, who was driven from office by death threats from fundamentalists, among them the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who charged her with blasphemy, a capital crime?)

And what about the opium trade, which the Taliban had very nearly eliminated, but which came roaring back once the war-lords and drug-lords of the Northern Alliance were in power?

And democracy? It’s a cruel mockery of the word to claim that the puppet government of Hamid Karzai and his associates has anything to do with democracy. In the Wolesi Jirga (Parliamentary) elections of 2005, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) identified debilitating technical problems, and observed widespread intimidation, vote rigging, electoral fraud, and miscounting of ballots. (If you care to find out about these things, one starting place would be Press for Conversion, Issue 59 [September 2006], which reprints a large number of articles from the mainstream and alternative press on the subject of “The New Face of Terror in Afghanistan: How so-called 'Democracy' Empowered our Allies, the Fundamentalists, Warlords, and Drug Barons.” The website is http://coat.ncf.ca.)

Is it honourable to litter someone else’s country with depleted uranium? Isn’t that what happens when our troops, or those of other NATO detachments, are attacked by Taliban insurgents, and call in US air support? Setting aside the criminality of exposing civilian populations to this horrible and permanent toxicity, do we have no concern about its effects on our young soldiers? (Do you want details? Check out Michael Clarke, “Doing the Wrong Thing in Afghanistan: Depleted Uranium: The Definitive Moral Paradox,” Uruknet.info [29 August 2006], http://www.uruknet.info/?p=26240.)

Is it honourable, finally, to have our troops handing over prisoners they’ve taken to Afghan authorities which our government knew and knows has been subjecting them to torture and to summary execution? That is, unambiguously, a war crime. (Our government very certainly did know: see Paul Koring, “What Ottawa doesn’t want you to know: Government was told detainees faced ‘extrajudicial executions, disappearances, torture and detention without trial’,” The Globe and Mail (25 April 2007), http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070424.wdetaineereport0425/BNStory/Afghanistan/home.) “If this report is accurate,” University of British Columbia law professor Michael Byers declared, “Canadians have engaged in war crimes, not only individually but also as a matter of policy.”

Even if there weren’t incriminating evidence that senior figures in the Canadian government had been informed of what was being done to these prisoners by the puppet government’s police, it would still be a violation of the Geneva Conventions to hand prisoners over. We’re an “Occupying Power,” together with other NATO countries, and prisoners taken by our soldiers are therefore subject to the Geneva Conventions. As Neil Kitson—an activist who has worked hard to save the honour of our country—has written:

Articles 10 and 12 of the Third Geneva Convention make abundantly clear that prisoners taken must be cared for by the “Detaining Power,” and if transferred to a “Transferring Power,” such transferring power must be a signatory to the Geneva Conventions. The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has not signed any Geneva Conventions. Furthermore, Article 10 of the Third Geneva Convention makes clear that signing agreements with local authorities when the country is ‘occupied’ is illegal. Therefore, Canada’s agreements with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan regarding prisoners are invalidated by the Geneva Convention they claim to uphold.

(Kitson, “The War of Fog: Canadian Prisoners in Afghanistan,” Antiwar.com (7 February 2008)1

Here’s a final judgment for you, from Francis A. Boyle, a respected authority on international law:

The Bush Jr. administration’s war against Afghanistan cannot be justified on either the facts, a paucity of which has been offered, or the law, either domestic or international. Rather it is an illegal armed aggression that has created a humanitarian catastrophe for the twenty-two million people of Afghanistan and is promoting terrible regional instability.

(Boyle, Destroying World Order: U.S. Imperialism in the Middle East Before and After September 11 [Clarity Press, 2004], pp. 119-20)

That’s what I was saying—very briefly—in the Guelph Mercury letter which caused you such distress. Perhaps this longer response will only shock and distress you further. But who ever said that the truth isn’t sometimes unwelcome, and painful?

I’d like to insist that this isn’t a matter, as you seem to think, of being politically left-wing or right-wing. I very much doubt that any of the distinguished Americans whom I mentioned above as being among those listed on the Patriots Question 9/11 website would classify himself as a leftist, or even (with the possible exception of David Griscom) a liberal. Robert Bowman, the only one of that group that I’ve met, is a staunch conservative. But these are people who’ve made a thoughtful and unflinching assessment of the evidence, and have then had the courage to stand up in public and say aloud what they believe to be the truth.

That is behaviour that I respect, and honour, and admire. I hope that with time, and study of the evidence, you may come to share my opinion of it.

Best wishes,

8430 Michael Keefer
Professor, School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph


5. Coda: A belated eVeritas comment on “We mustn't participate in 'criminal follies'” (and my response)

16142 J.J. Smith (July 7, 2010):  As a lawyer and law academic I appreciate Professor Keefer's well reasoned opinion piece. But his conclusion that the 2001 invasion and continuing occupation under the aegis of a NATO mission [are illegal] is, regrettably, incorrect. Chapter 7 of the UN Charter applies here to make the use of Security Council sanctioned force entirely legal. And, for greater effect, NATO is the invitee of a democratically elected government, whatever its present frailties may be. The use of force in generally proportionate ways and the presence of foreign armed force in Afghanistan is, to the contrary, entirely legal and manifestly correct under the new world order put in place in 1945. Better, perhaps, to address continuing illegal occupations that threaten the arrangement of sovereign nation-states, including the cases of Palestine and Western Sahara, to name two in which CF personnel have served under UN mandates.


This comment deserves a response (not least because I addressed the question of legality only very briefly in my correspondence with Peter Ludorf).

The UN Charter permits the use of armed force by one country against another (1) in self-defense, or (2) with the authorization of the Security Council.

(1) The US invasion of Afghanistan was not an act of self-defense. By the US government's account, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were carried out by a non-state organization, Al Qaeda, and no claim was made either that any of the nineteen men identified as suicide-hijackers were Afghans or agents of the Taliban regime (fifteen of them in fact were Saudis), or that the US faced any imminent threat of attack by Afghanistan. The Taliban was indeed sheltering Osama bin Laden, but offered to send him to a third country for trial, asking only for what would amount to prima facie evidence of his involvement in the 9/11 attacks—evidence that the US refused to provide. (It would have been appropriate in this regard to have recourse to the Montreal Sabotage Convention, of which Afghanistan and the US were both signatories.)

(2) The US was not authorized by the Security Council to use military force against Afghanistan. George W. Bush wanted such a resolution, but Security Council resolutions 1368 and 1373 did not authorize military action. The fact that NATO accepted the US's invocation of article 5 of the NATO treaty (thus activating the organization's collective security provisions) gives no cover of legitimacy. Chapter VII of the UN Charter thus does not apply; the US attack was illegal.

It is a mistake to claim that NATO entered Afghanistan at the invitation of an elected government: NATO forces were there before any post-Taliban government was elected (and under article 10 of the Third Geneva Convention, any ex post facto invitation by the puppet government of a country under occupation is vacuous).

The question of the legality of the ongoing occupation is more complicated. It could be claimed that an otherwise illegal occupation was legitimized by the actions of the UN Secretary-General and Security Council. On December 5, 2001 the UN produced the Bonn Agreement, which provided for the establishment of an Interim Authority on December 22, to be replaced within six months by a Transitional Authority established by an Emergency Loya Jirga convened by former king Mohammed Zaher, and, following elections held within a further eighteen months, a Constitutional Loya Jirga charged with adopting a new constitution for Afghanistan. On December 20, 2001, Security Council resolution 1383 ratified the Bonn Agreement, authorizing the establishment for six months of an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF); and on October 13, 2003, Security Council resolution 1510 authorized ISAF to operate beyond the immediate region of Kabul, calling on ISAF “to continue to work in close consultation with the Afghan Transitional Authority and its successors and the Special Representative of the Secretary General as well as with the Operation Enduring Freedom.” The language of this resolution seems designed to offer retrospective legitimation to the invasion as well as to the occupation of Afghanistan.

These resolutions are evidence not that the occupation is legal, but that the Security Council acted corruptly, betraying the principles of international law in the lawless interests of the global superpower in a largely monopolar world.

Other instances of the same corruption include the Security Council's failure to condemn the illegal invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and of Iraq in 2003; its failure to condemn the no less illegal overthrow of Haitian democracy by the US, Canada, and France in 2004; and its resolutions ratifying, after the fact, the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the occupation of Haiti. The notion that actions which are in themselves criminal can be whitewashed in this manner violates elementary and fundamental principles of law.

Some relevant analyses by specialists in international law:

Francis Boyle, Destroying World Order: U.S. Imperialism in the Middle East Before and After September 11th (Atlanta, GA: Clarity Press, 2004). 
Marjorie Cohn, Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law (Sausalito, CA: Podipoint Press, 2007). 
Alex Conte, Security in the 21st Century: The United Nations, Afghanistan, and Iraq (Aldershot, Hants.: Ashgate, 2005). 
Michael Mandel, How America Gets Away With Murder: Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage, and Crimes Against Humanity (London: Pluto Press, 2004). 
Myra Williamson, Terrorism, War, and International Law: The Legality of the Use of Force Against Afghanistan in 2001 (Aldershot, Hants.: Ashgate, 2009).

I agree with J.J. Smith's suggestion that we should attend to other “continuing illegal occupations” in the Western Sahara and Palestine—though we should so not instead of, but in addition to attending to the illegal occupation of Afghanistan.

A UN mission (MINURSO) has since 1991 maintained a buffer zone between the two-thirds of the Western Sahara occupied by Morocco and the remaining part administered by Frente POLISARIO, but no Canadians are currently serving in MINURSO, and it may be doubted that Canada has much leverage in the UN's rather pallid attempts to nudge Morocco towards accepting a plebiscite.

The situation with regard to Palestine is quite different. Canada has been deeply complicit in the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, providing both diplomatic and financial support to the occupation, and Canada was the first country in 2006 to join in Israel's blockade of Gaza. A shift in Canada's position—toward demanding an end to the blockade, a withdrawal of Israel's settlements in the West Bank, the removal of Israel's apartheid wall, and an end to the occupation, would be of major importance.




1  Kitson's statement here needs some correction. The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan regards itself as a successor state to the Afghan government which in 1956 became a party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. (It can be added that in late 2009, nearly two years after Kitson wrote, and a year after I wrote this letter, Afghanistan acceded to the 1977 Additional Protocols I and II, which protect victims of international conflicts and civil wars.) It remains the case, however, that Article 12 of the Third Geneva Convention is categorical: “Prisoners of war may only be transferred […] to a Power which is a party to the Convention and after the Detaining Power has satisfied itself of the willingness and ability of such transferee Power to apply the Convention.” It is clear from the statements both of senior Canadian diplomats and of Amnesty International, the UN Commission on Human Rights, the US State Department, and other sources, that the Canadian government, far from having “satisfied itself” that the Afghan regime would treat prisoners properly, knew that the regime made a regular practice of torturing prisoners. For details, see my article “Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Canadian War Crimes in Afghanistan,” published by the Centre for Research on Globalization (24 April 2011). Kitson's remark about Article 10 of the Third Geneva Convention is valid: Afghanistan is a country under military occupation, and agreements signed by the occupying powers with the government they set up following their overthrow of the preceding regime have no more legitimacy than agreements signed in the early 1940s between Germany and the Norwegian government of Vidkun Quisling.   

Michael Winterbottom’s In This World

This text was delivered on 3 October 2004 as an introduction to the first film shown in my colleague Paul Salmon's Beyond Hollywood 2004/2005 series at the University of Guelph. It has not previously been published.



The remarkable film that we are going to see this-evening, Michael Winterbottom’s In This World, is at once a documentary and a drama. At intervals documentary-style voice-overs will give us crucial historical and contextual information; and we will see on contour maps the itinerary followed by two young Afghans who are seeking to get to London from the refugee camp outside Peshawar which has been their home. The film is shot with hand-held cameras, to which the people who appear on camera are sometimes clearly responding. There is a story-line, established by the film crew in advance—and yet that story-line consists simply of a journey through actually-existing networks of refugee-trafficking. The two principal characters in the film are paid actors, but also real refugees. Their dialogue, and that of the other people in the film, is unscripted: they are saying what it comes into their own minds to say in the situations they find themselves in. The Iranian border policemen are real border policemen, whom Winterbottom and his colleagues persuaded to participate in their narrative. And at the end of the film the younger refugee, Jamal, is living in London, though subject to a deportation order which is to be activated the day before his eighteenth birthday: his journey to London has been both fictive and actual. His companion Enayatullah returns to his wife and young children in the camp at Peshawar; with the money he has made from the film, he is able to buy a pick-up truck and start a small business.

* * *

My goal in introducing this film is to offer some additional understanding of the historical events that led after the Soviet intervention in December 1979 to the collapse of civil society in Afghanistan and to the long-term refugee crisis. (Sixteen-year-old Jamal was born in the Peshawar camp, and until his departure for London knew no other home.)

Afghanistan’s internal divisions flared into civil war after 1979—perhaps less because of the country’s internal socio-political dynamics than as a result of imperial geopolitics. During the nineteenth century Afghanistan, as the ‘Northwest Frontier’ of British India, was the site of a ‘Great Game’ of intrigue, diplomacy, and intermittent border warfare played out between the British and Russian empires and their surrogates. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor, explained in a 1998 interview that after July 1979 it became the deliberate policy of the United States to revive this ‘Great Game’ in a new form by seeking to destabilize Afghanistan’s secular and (thanks to a recent coup d'état) pro-USSR government. The calculation was that the Russians would not tolerate the collapse of a friendly regime on their southern border, and could thus be drawn into a counter-insurgency war that the U.S., with the help of Islamist guerrilla forces supplied from Pakistan, could turn into the USSR’s “own Vietnam war.”1

This strategy succeeded: the Afghan war broke the morale of the Red Army and contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union. A significant part of the ‘Western’ costs of the war was borne by U.S. surrogates, especially Saudi Arabia, which also provided Islamist moujahidin (among them Osama bin Laden) to fight godless secularism in Afghanistan. But the human costs to Afghans were appalling: they were exposed both to the horrors of Russian aerial bombardments and helicopter attacks, and also to the tyrannies of the competing warlords who eventually overthrew the Russian-supported Najibullah regime, and who then proceeded to reduce the capital city of Kabul to rubble with their own internecine struggles for supreme power. Urban Afghan women lost the civil rights they had begun to enjoy under secular governments. Opium poppy production sky-rocketed, with the Afghan warlords and the CIA using the profits of the drug trade to finance their respective endeavours.2 Fighting among the warlord factions ended only in 1998 when they were militarily defeated in all but the northern provinces of Afghanistan by a puritanical Islamist movement known as the Taliban—which was, by the way, created and run by Pakistan’s own CIA, the Interservices Intelligence Directorate (ISI).

In the mean time, a different kind of geopolitical pressure was emerging. During the 1990s, the United States gave public notice of a new strategy aimed at gaining military and economic control over the hydrocarbon reserves both of the Middle East and of Central Asia—and at denying access to these reserves by competing powers such as Russia, China, India, Japan, and France. This new ‘Great Game,’ discussed in documents published by the Congressional Committee on International Relations in February 1998, was adopted by the U.S. Congress in the Silk Road Strategy Act of March 19, 1999.3

The 1991 Gulf War had advanced American military-geopolitical and oil interests very significantly: Iraq, a major regional power, was removed from contention, and the U.S. was able to establish bases in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. Other aspects of the emerging Silk Road Strategy fell into place when the United States established a regional military alliance, under NATO protection, with Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova, and secured permission to construct air bases in Tajikistan, Kyrgistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.

The importance of Afghanistan in relation to this strategy has been underlined by Michel Chossudovsky:

It not only borders the “Silk Road Corridor” linking the Caucasus to China’s Western border, it is also at the hub of five nuclear powers: China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Kazakhstan. [….] Afghanistan is at the strategic crossroads of the Eurasian pipeline and transport routes. It also constitutes a potential land bridge for the southbound oil pipeline from the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan to the Arabian Sea across Pakistan….4

Such a pipeline from the Caspian Basin oilfields across Afghanistan was negotiated by the oil giant Unocal with the Taliban government, though by early 2001 the Taliban had lost interest in the idea. In the summer of 2001 the Taliban was informed by American diplomats that it should expect to be overthrown by the U.S. military by October.

When it came, the American attack upon Afghanistan in October, 2001 was legitimized in world opinion by the terrorist attacks upon the United States of September 11, 2001, the generally accepted mastermind of which, Osama bin Laden, enjoyed the protection of the Taliban state. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1368 called “on all States to work together urgently to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of these terrorist attacks”—which, as Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert have observed, “is a far cry from authorizing the United States to decide unilaterally to wage a war against Afghanistan.”5

There is reason to believe, as I have already implied, that the primary motivation for the American attack on Afghanistan had more to do with geopolitics than with any desire to capture the planners of the terrorist crimes of September 11th. The London Daily Telegraph reported on October 4, 2001 that the government of Pakistan had rejected an agreement reached by the Taliban according to which Bin Laden would be extradited to Pakistan to stand trial there for the September 11 attacks before an international tribunal. It has been suggested that the United States vetoed this proposal—which seems plausible, given other evidence that the U.S. was less keen on capturing Bin Laden than it professed to be. (For example, a U.S. official was quoted during the war as saying that “casting the objectives too narrowly would risk a premature collapse of the international effort if by some lucky chance Mr bin Laden were captured.”)6

Two important new books cast further retrospective light upon the Afghan war. In The New Pearl Harbor, David Ray Griffin, a distinguished American theologian and philosopher, concludes after a lucid and careful weighing of the evidence that there are a total of forty distinct reasons—“smoking guns,” he calls them—which point to complicity by the government of President George W. Bush in the attacks of September 11.7 Michael Ruppert, a former LAPD detective, goes further in his forthcoming book Crossing the Rubicon, which presents evidence that the Bush administration was not merely complicitous in 9/11, but actually organized the attacks.8

During the year after October 7, 2001, the United States lavished some ten billion dollars on Afghanistan—84% of which “was spent to bomb the country and to finance anti-Taliban fighters [….] paying warlords $100,000 each and supplying them with truckloads of weapons.”9 Although estimates of casualties resulting from the bombing campaign can be no more than approximations, it seems that some 3,000 civilians were killed, and that a further 20,000 died from causes such as starvation and disease as an indirect result of the bombing.10

President Bush claimed in his State of the Union address in January 2002 that the United States had “saved a people from starvation, and freed a country from brutal oppression.” Wrong on both counts. On September 6, 2001 the World Food Program had announced, in response to “widespread pre-famine conditions,” a new project to provide food aid to 5.5 million Afghans; but the aid convoys were blocked when, at U.S. insistence, the Afghanistan-Pakistan border was closed on September 16. By October 2002, the mortality rate in one northern refugee camp had risen to twice what it had been before the bombing. A policy brief published by the aid agency CARE in September 2002 suggested that “promises [to rebuild Afghanistan] now look increasingly suspect”: though reconstruction needs were “significantly higher” than in Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, or East Timor, the international aid pledged to Afghanistan was less than 30% of the average per capita rate for those countries in 2002—and the amount pledged for the following five years was only 17% of that rate.11

“Today,” George Bush said in that same State of the Union address, “[Afghan] women are free.” Wrong again. On March 2, 2003, CBC Newsworld showed the documentary The Daughters of Afghanistan, featuring the journalist Sally Armstrong. As Michele Landsberg wrote in the Toronto Star, “Armstrong says that only about 30 per cent of Afghan girls attend school today, due to lack of resources and a Taliban-like fundamentalist grip on the country outside the capital. The warlords are still running the country, and their rule is cruel, violent, and deeply misogynist. Outside of Kabul, girls and women are still jailed for trying to escape forced marriages. They are forced to wear the burqa, attacked by fanatic vice squads […]. Schools are firebombed; warlords’ troops rape with impunity.”12

The war exacerbated the refugee situation as a result of what can only be described as terror bombing of civilian populations. The manner in which the ground war was fought would appear also to have been designed to provoke terror. There is evidence, for example, that American troops, CIA agents, and the forces of Northern Alliance General Dostum collaborated in major war crimes in November 2001 following the surrender of Taliban forces in Kunduz. The murder of more than 3,000 prisoners of war at Mazar-i-Sharif has been very thoroughly documented, in part by the Irish director Jamie Doran’s film Massacre in Mazar. (This film was a major news story in Europe after it was shown in June 2002 to deputies and members of the press at the European parliament in Strasbourg; news of it was blacked out by the American media.)13

What is the current situation in Afghanistan? The American-imposed Prime Minister Hamid Karzai, a former employee of Unocal, has been described as effectively no more than the mayor of Kabul. Within the territories he and his close allies control, corruption, thievery, and a resurgent opium trade are rampant.14 The rest of the country is controlled either by U.S.-allied warlords or else, intermittently, by a resurgent Taliban resistance. The U.S. is spending $950 million per month to keep 9,000 pairs of boots on the ground in Afghanistan (with a further 35,000 support troops outside the country providing logistical support); other countries, among them Canada and Germany, have provided brigade-level forces for what amounts to a garrison of Kabul. There has been some movement of refugees back to their communities from the camps into which they had been driven by war and starvation, but large parts of the country remain humanitarian disaster areas—not least because of growing resentment against the American occupation forces and an intensifying insurgency. (As of February 2004, the mortality rate for U.S. troops in Afghanistan was three times higher than for U.S. troops in Iraq.)

As Marc Herold writes, “violence is endemic, corruption and extortion are rampant, the countryside is balkanized into fiefdoms, opium is the crop of choice, most Afghans (87%) still have no access to clean water, the lot of women has barely improved….”15 One can understand why, in 2004 no less than in 2001 or 2002, Afghan refugees might think the long, dangerous, and ruinously expensive journey from their dusty camps to the safety of Western Europe to be worth attempting.16

Welcome to “this world.”




1  The quoted words are Brzezinski’s. See John K. Cooley, Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism (2nd ed., London: Pluto Press, 2000), p. 19.

2  See Cooley, pp. 127-61.

3  See Michel Chossudovsky, War and Globalization: The Truth Behind September 11 (Shanty Bay, ON: Global Outlook, 2002), pp. 66-68.

4  Chossudovsky, War and Globalization, p. 69.

5  Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert, “9/11 and Afghanistan: Part B of 45 Questions on U.S. Foreign Policy,” ZNet (October 9, 2002), http://www.zmag.org//content/showarticle.cfm?SectionD=40&ItemID=2447.

6  See Milan Rai, War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq (London: Verso, 2002), pp. 37-38.

7  David Ray Griffin, The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11 (2nd ed., Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, 2004), pp. 196-201.

8  Michael Ruppert, Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil. Ruppert made a preliminary presentation of his case in an address to San Francisco’s prestigious Commonwealth Club on August 31, 2004; much of the evidence presented in his book is available at Ruppert’s website, http://www.copvcia.

9  James Ingalls, “Afghanistan: The First Puppet Regime in the Post Sept 11 World (Talk given at the Afghan Women’s Mission Conference, October 30, 2002),” ZNet, http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=49&ItemID=2565.

10  See the articles of Ingalls and of Shalom and Albert cited above, and also Marc W. Herold, “A Dossier on Civilian Victims of United States Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Accounting [revised],” Cursor (March, 2002), http://www.cursor.org/stories/civilian_deaths.htm.

11  See the article by Ingalls cited above.

12  Michele Landsberg, “Afghanistan documentary exposes Bush’s promises,” Toronto Star (March 2, 2003).

13  See Stefan Steinberg, “Afghan war documentary charges US with mass killings of POWs,” World Socialist Web Site (June 17, 2002), http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/jun2002/afgh-j17.shtml.

14  See Marc W. Herold, “AfghaniScam: Livin’ Large Inside Karzai’s Reconstruction Bubble,” Cursor (September 24, 2003).

15  Herold, “The Taliban’s Second Coming,” Cursor (February 29, 2004), http://cursor.org/stories/secondcoming.html. 

16  For an account of the actual journey of a young Afghan refugee (also named Jamal!) to Norway, see Aseem Shrivastava, “Which Way Now? The Saga of an Anguished Afghan,” CounterPunch (August 7-8, 2004).  

War Against Iraq: Critical Resources

[This anthology was prepared in the period between November 2002 and early March 2003. I had been speaking out publicly against the sanctions imposed upon Iraq, the bombing of Iraq (under cover of the U.S.-led imposition of “no-fly zones”), and the open criminality of U.S.-U.K. plans for an invasion of Iraq: this collection of short excerpts emerged out of a determination to ensure that my statements rested upon careful analysis of the best available primary and critical sources. I shared early versions of it by email with colleagues in a number of universities in Canada, the U.K., and the U.S., and posted the final version under my name on the University of Guelph's server—from which it was deleted, without consultation, in late 2003. It had in the mean time been reproduced on at least one U.S. website).]


FAIR USE NOTICE: This dossier contains excerpts from copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. These materials are made available on this page, without profit, to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the information contained here for research and educational purposes; they are included here in the belief that this constitutes fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S. C § 107. Anyone wishing to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes that extend beyond fair use should obtain permission from the copyright owners.]





Preface   3

1. The principle of “universalism”   4-7

2. What is Terrorism?   7-10

3. Western War Crimes, 1991-2003
     (a) The bombing of Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War was criminal   11
(b) The use of depleted uranium munitions was criminal   11-13  
(c) Sanctions against Iraq constituted a war crime   13-18
(d) The U.S./U.K. “no-fly-zones” in Iraq constituted a war crime   18-21

4. U.S./U.K. War Crimes in the 2003 Attack on Iraq
(a) “Pre-emptive war” (i.e. unprovoked attack) is a war crime   21-24  
(b) The bombing of civilians is a war crime   24-30  
(c) U.S. use of chemical weapons would be a war crime   30-32
     (d) The responsibilities of occupying powers   32-34

5. Weapons of Mass Destruction: Did Iraq pose a threat to peace and security?
     (a) The evidence of Iraq’s disarmament   34-39
     (b) The sources of Iraq’s pre-1991 WMD program   39-40  
(c) U.S. use of weapons of mass destruction   40-42

6. Decoding U.S. and U.K. Propaganda
     (a) Key statements of the U.S. and U.K. position   42  
(b) Responses to Bush and Powell   43-45  
(c) Responses to Blair   45-48  
(d) The scandal of Blair’s plagiarized Dossier   48-49  
(e) Another British forgery: uranium from Niger   49-51  
(f) Old whoppers: murdered incubator babies (1990), 265,000 Iraqi troops massed on the Saudi border (1991), the supposed attempt to assassinate George Bush I (1993)   52-54  
(g) Newer lies: Iraq’s supposed expulsion of the UNSCOM weapons inspectors (1998)   54-56  
(h) Recent fictions: Iraqi links with al Qaeda   56  
(i) Recent fictions: the ‘threat’ of Iraq’s weaponry   56-57  
(j) Attempts to manipulate and distort the weapons inspectors’ report   57

7. Is the United States a “Rogue State”?   58-63

8. War for Oil   63-67

9. The “War on Terrorism”
     (a) Ethical ironies of the “War on Terrorism”   67-69  
(b) Consequences of the “War on Terrorism”   69-72  
(c) 9/11 as an “opportunity” for the U.S. government (and the Project for the New American Century [PNAC] Report)   72-75  
(d) Manipulations of public fear   75-77

10. The attack on Afghanistan and its consequences  
(a) Was the war legitimate?   77-78  
(b) Has the war been a “success” in U.S. terms?   78-81  
(c) What have its political and humanitarian consequences been?   81-83  
(d) War crimes committed against Taliban prisoners of war   83-85

11. War crimes in Palestine   85-92

12. Larger Contexts of the Attack on Iraq: Some Recent Studies   92-94

13. What Is To Be Done?   94-98



This dossier contains excerpts from recent readings on the subject of events which for me, as for many other people, have been a source of anguish. My goal in preparing it has been to assemble a coherently organized body of material that makes clear the relevant historical facts, that exposes the many deliberate falsehoods and distortions circulated by the American and British governments and by their allies in the corporate mass media, and that provides strong examples of sceptical, historically responsible and ethically grounded interventions in what we must recognize as a matter of life and death for hundreds of thousands of children, women and men. (My own brief contributions are printed in italics. I have in all cases indicated sources, usually in the form of internet addresses.)

Certain kinds of texts dealing with Iraq and related subjects have been excluded from this selection.

Writers who make a virtue of amoral irrationalism and loudly repeat known falsehoods are not represented here. For a minor example of the genre, see Rex Murphy, “9/11 was the smoking gun, boys,” The Globe and Mail (February 8, 2003): A19.

Writers who mistake a cowardly and unethical Realpolitik for political wisdom are not represented here. See for instance J. L. Granatstein, “Why go to war? Because we have to,” National Post (February 20, 2003): A18. This historian’s strongest reason for supporting the Bush regime’s aggressions is that “Canada shares a continent with the United States and we will pay heavily if we do not support our neighbour.

Writers whose pretence of judicious balance excludes any serious consideration of facts, ethics and international law are not represented here. This tendency is exemplified by Thomas Homer-Dixon, “War: Which way to turn?” The Globe and Mail (February 8, 2003): A17. The “balance” of this director of the University of Toronto’s Centre for the Study of Peace and Conflict is indistinguishable from hypocrisy: he is against war, but only, it seems, “for the moment. To build legitimacy for action against Iraq we must build as broad an international consensus behind war as possible.” 

My hope is that the materials I have chosen may provide a useful basis for discussion and debate. I believe it is important to move beyond feelings of private anguish and to take our demands for justice and for peace firmly into the public sphere.

Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatistas (whose words reappear at greater length at the end of these excerpts) is right in identifying the present moment as one in which “no honest man or woman can remain silent and indifferent.”

Michael Keefer
Toronto, February 28, 2003


1. The principle of “universalism”

A refusal to judge one’s own actions by the same standards of morality or legality one applies to others is a common human failing—but one that in recent years has been especially evident in American political discourse. Americans have been taught by media pundits to think of their country as somehow standing outside the structures of socio-economic causality and political calculation that characterize the behaviour and the history of other countries. In this view, the United States is the culmination of a world-historical narrative of material progress and human liberation, and therefore an exception to the rules that condition the behaviour of other states, and a uniquely moral agent in world politics. (To be the end-point of a story is in some sense to escape from the story: the “New Jerusalem” or the “City on a Hill” is not a city like any other city, and the “Last, Best Hope of Humankind” is not a nation-state like any other nation-state.)

Whether myths of this sort legitimize a politics of egalitarian emancipation, of arrogant complacency, or of vehement reaction depends very largely on whether this “last, best hope” is represented as something still to be actualized, as already realized, or as under threat (for example, by “terror”). But “exceptionalism” in any form contradicts the principle of universalism that is the basis both of international law and of any coherent ethics.

Writings by Uri Avnery, Noam Chomsky, Harold Pinter, Edward Said, Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert, Norman Solomon, and Hans von Sponeck are excerpted in this section.


[…] human-rights violations and the breach of international treaties by the Iraqi regime in no way absolve the international community of their obligation to maintain ethical, moral and legal standards in their treatment of Iraq.

Hans von Sponeck, former UN assistant secretary-general and humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, “Iraq: International Sanctions and What Next?” Middle East Policy (October 2000), http://www.afsc.org/iraq/guide/sponeck.shtm.


While the US government accuses Iraq of having violated 16 UN resolutions, no mention is made that the main responsibility for the violation of just about all international treaties and conventions from the UN Charter to the International Covenant of economic, social and cultural rights, the Geneva and Hague Conventions and the genocide convention points to the US and British governments (see in this connection a document of UN/ECOSOC dated 21 June 2000 (GE.00-14092) in which Prof. Marc Bossuyt, presently judge in the Belgian Supreme Court and formerly chairman of the UN Human Rights Commission, gives evidence to this effect [...]).

Hans von Sponeck, “Four Questions, Four Answers” (European Colloquium, Brussels, September 25, 2002), http://www.afsc.org/iraq/guide/4questions.shtm.


Of course the real issue in the Gulf [War of 1991] so far as the U.S. was concerned was oil and strategic power, not the Bush administration’s professed principles, but what compromised intellectual discussion throughout the country, in its reiterations of the inadmissibility of land unilaterally acquired by force, was the absence of universal application of the idea. What never seemed relevant to the many American intellectuals who supported the war was that the U.S. itself had just recently invaded and for a time occupied the sovereign state of Panama. Surely if one criticized Iraq, it therefore followed that the U.S. deserved the same criticism? But no: “our” motives were higher, Saddam was a Hitler, whereas “we” were moved by largely altruistic and disinterested motives, and therefore this was a just war.

Edward Said, Representations of the Intellectual (1994; rpt. New York: Vintage, 1996), pp. 95-96.


[…] the principle of universality […] says that: whatever criteria we think justify a war on the part of one country justify as well wars by other countries in the same situation. So if the United States is justified in bombing Afghanistan for providing sanctuary to terrorists, then other countries have comparable rights. Thus, Nicaragua or Cuba, which have been victimized by terrorism planned and supported by Washington, would be justified in bombing the United States. Militarily, of course, such an action would make no sense, but in terms of justice it is no more unwarranted than the U.S. action in Afghanistan.

Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert, “Intervention in General: Part A of 45 Questions and Answers Regarding U.S. Foreign Policy,” ZNet (October 8, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2446


[…] if you take a poll among U.S. intellectuals, support for bombing Afghanistan is just overwhelming. But how many of them think that you should bomb Washington because of the U.S. war against Nicaragua, let’s say, or Cuba […]? Now, if anyone were to suggest this, they would be considered insane. But why? I mean, if one is right, why is the other one wrong?

When you try to get someone to talk about this question, they can’t understand what your question is. They can’t comprehend that we should apply to ourselves the standards you apply to others. That is incomprehensible. There couldn’t be a moral principle more elementary. All you have to do is read George Bush's favorite philosopher [Jesus]. There’s a famous definition in the Gospels of the hypocrite, and the hypocrite is the person who refuses to apply to himself the standards he applied to others.

By that standard, the entire commentary and discussion of the so-called War on Terror is pure hypocrisy, virtually without exception.

Noam Chomsky, Power and Terror: Post-9/11 Talks and Interviews, eds. John Junkerman and Takei Masakazu (New York: Seven Stories Press, Tokyo: Little More, 2003), pp. 28-29.


America believes that the 3,000 deaths in New York are the only deaths that count, the only deaths that matter. They are American deaths. Other deaths are unreal, abstract, of no consequence.

The 3,000 deaths in Afghanistan are never referred to. The hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children dead through American and British sanctions which have deprived them of essential medicines are never referred to. The effect of depleted uranium, used by America in the Gulf War, is never referred to. [….] The 200,000 deaths in East Timor in 1975 brought about by the Indonesian government but inspired and supported by America are never referred to. The 500,000 deaths in Guatemala, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Argentina and Haiti, in actions supported and subsidized by America, are never referred to. The millions of deaths in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are no longer referred to. The desperate plight of the Palestinian people, the central factor in world unrest, is hardly referred to.

But what a misjudgment of the present and what a misreading of history this is. People do not forget. They do not forget the death of their fellows, they do not forget torture and mutilation, they do not forget injustice, they do not forget oppression, they do not forget the terrorism of mighty powers.

Harold Pinter, “The American Administration is a Bloodthirsty Wild Animal,” address on receiving an honorary degree at the University of Turin (December 11, 2002), ZNet, http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2739.


“Don’t eat Belgian chocolate,” the Israeli consul in Florida ordered the large Jewish community there. In Israel, anti-Belgian curses reached an ear-splitting new crescendo. Miserable Belgium! Mad Belgium! Megalomaniac Belgium! And again and again: Anti-Semitic Belgium! Neo-Nazi Belgium! The Israeli ambassador was, of course, recalled from Brussels. [….]

The storm broke when a Belgian court decided that Ariel Sharon can be sued for alleged war crimes, but only after finishing his term as prime minister of Israel. Israeli army officers connected with the 1982 massacre in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps can be sued even now.

On an Israeli TV programme, the anchorman, a lawyer, put it this way. “Anti-Semitic Belgium wants to judge the officers of a second country for crimes committed in a third country, while the accused have no connection at all with Belgium, are not on Belgian territory and the whole affair does not concern Belgium. That is megalomania, really a matter for psychiatrists!”

“Strange,” I replied on the programme. “I seem to remember a case where country A kidnapped in country B the citizen of country C for committing in country D war crimes against the citizens of countries E, F and G, all this in spite of the fact the crimes were committed before country A even existed.” I meant, of course, the trial of Adolf Eichmann, to which we all agreed.

“How can you compare the two!” the other participants in the programme cried out in outraged unison. [….]

Well, it was the Jews who demanded, after World War II, that all countries put Nazi war criminals and their allies on trial. Eichmann was judged in Israel according to the Israeli “Law for bringing the Nazis and their Helpers to Justice”, which does not recognize any borders. More recently the Knesset enacted another law, enabling Israeli courts to judge perpetrators of any crime committed against Jews anywhere in the world. If so, what’s wrong with the Belgian law of “universal jurisdiction”, that allows Belgian courts to judge war criminals from all over the world?

Immanuel Kant promulgated the Categorical Imperative: “Act as if the principle by which you act were about to be turned into a universal law of nature.” [….]

The Belgian law against war crimes is a step in this direction, and I hope that many other countries will follow suit. Of course, it would be better if the International Criminal Court in The Hague would fulfil this duty, but much time will pass before it will be able to. Immense political pressures are being exerted, many limitations have been imposed, its hands and feet have been shackled. Worse, the only superpower, the United States, is openly trying to destroy it […].

Uri Avnery, “It’s OK to Eat Belgian Chocolates,” ZNet (February 23, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=3107.


When the day comes that news outlets accord the life of a Palestinian child the same reverence as the life of an Israeli child, we’ll know that media coverage has moved beyond craven mediaspeak to a single standard of human rights.

Norman Solomon, “Decoding Some Top Buzzwords,” ZNet (December 13, 2002), http://zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=21&ItemID=2746.



2. What is Terrorism?

As the Oxford English Dictionary informs us, the word “terrorism” was initially used to describe “Government by intimidation as directed and carried out by the party in power in France during the Revolution of 1789-1794; the system of the ‘Terror’ (1793-4).” This meaning was subsequently generalized to the senses of “A policy intended to strike with terror those against whom it is adopted; the employment of methods of intimidation; the fact of terrorizing or condition of being terrorized” (OED, “terrorism,” 1, 2).

The term “terrorist,” accordingly, was first applied “to the Jacobins and their agents and partisans in the French Revolution,” and especially “to those connected with the Revolutionary tribunals during the ‘Reign of Terror’.” By the latter part of the nineteenth century this word had come to denote “Any one who attempts to further his views by a system of coercive intimidation”—with particular reference to tactics used by some opponents of Czarism in Russia. But from the first decade of the nineteenth century the term had also been used to identify “One who entertains, professes, or tries to awaken or spread a feeling of terror or alarm; an alarmist, a scaremonger” (OED, “terrorist,” 1.a-b, 2).

In its early uses, “terrorism” referred consistently to the practices of people who hold state power—that is, to acts of exemplary violence carried out by agents of the state, in the manner of that nineteenth-century French army officer who is said to have prepared the soldiers under his command for battle by shooting one of them in cold blood “pour encourager les autres.” In contemporary usage, in contrast, “terrorism” is most commonly applied to acts of warlike violence carried out by agencies other than a state—or other than a state of which one approves. One deliberate effect of this usage has been to criminalize movements of resistance to colonial or neocolonial violence and aggression—movements which might otherwise be recognized as legitimate risings against tyranny. The tactic is not a new one: the Nazis denounced resistance fighters in occupied Europe as terrorists, and the apartheid regime in South Africa imprisoned Nelson Mandela as a terrorist; the state of Israel now describes the Palestinian fighters who resist Israeli attacks upon refugee camps and cities in the occupied territories as terrorists.

The notion of “state terrorism” has developed as a means of talking about the easily ascertainable fact that the vast majority of acts aimed at violent coercion or intimidation of a social collectivity (on the principle of victimizing a few “pour encourager les autres”) have been carried out by state authorities.

In the late nineteenth century the word “terrorism” was also used to describe systems of religious intimidation that had been deployed in earlier centuries to repress any leanings toward doubt or rebellion, and to ensure that people were terrified into passive conformity by fear of demonic forces—witches and devils and the plagues they could supposedly unleash—and terrified as well by the devilish persecutions which awaited anyone who could be accused, as a heretic or ‘witch’, of taking the devils’ side against God and the state. (See, for example, W. E. H. Lecky’s discussion of the “engines of terrorism” in his History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe [1865; rpt. New York, 1888], vol. 1, pp. 37-81.)

Concerted attempts are currently being made to convince Americans that they are under threat by similarly demonic agents—the unlocatable Osama bin Laden, said to have formed an alliance (for which there has never been a shred of evidence) with the now likewise unlocatable Saddam Hussein to assault the U.S. with Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction (the existence of which in recent years is also unsupported by any evidence [see section 5 below]). During the build-up to the U.S.-U.K. attack on Iraq many thousands of Americans were terrified by Tom Ridge, the Director of Homeland Security, into panic buying of duct tape and plastic sheeting as a protection against attack by chemical or biological weapons. These were presumably to be delivered to American cities by the Iraqi drone aircraft which Secretary of State Colin Powell was at the same time describing as an urgent threat. The drones in question turned out to have an effective range of eleven kilometers; they were powered by engines resembling those of common-garden weed-whackers, and constructed out of balsa wood and—wait for it—duct tape.

People whose skin colour or ethnic origin makes them vulnerable to suspicions of sympathy with these demonized enemies of a godly people have reason to be fearful. Since 2001, the protections against the exercise of arbitrary state power that the Constitution of the United States once provided have been systematically destroyed by the Bush regime (see section 9 [b] below). A clear regression to pre-Enlightenment conditions is evident in the provisions of the two so-called Patriot Acts for arbitrary revocation of citizenship, arbitrary imprisonment, and the removal of protections against forced self-incrimination. The U.S. government, moreover, has subjected prisoners to torture in its Guantanamo Bay prison and elsewhere, and openly acknowledges that terrorism suspects are tortured by the security forces of its client states—to which it sends suspects for that purpose.

It may be time to think of reviving Lecky’s sense of the word “terrorism”.

The excerpts in this section are from writings by John McMurtry, Russell Mokhiber, Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert, and Arundhati Roy. For further readings on the subject of terrorism, see the following:

Ahmad, Eqbal. Terrorism: Theirs and Ours. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2001.

Chomsky, Noam. Pirates and Emperors, Old and New: International Terrorism in the Real World. Toronto: Between the Lines, 2002.

----. Power and Terror: Post-9/11 Talks and Interviews. Eds. John Junkerman and Takei Masakazu. New York: Seven Stories Press; Tokyo: Little More, 2003.

Scowen, Peter. Rogue Nation: The America the Rest of the World Knows. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2003. (Chapters five and six provide an account of U.S. terrorism in Central America during the 1980s.)

Townshend, Charles. Terrorism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.


Terrorism is most frequently defined as attacks on civilians undertaken for political purposes. Terrorism is wrong if it is blowing up a small bomb in a pizza parlor or on a bus. It is wrong if it is blowing up a larger bomb in a large bus station. It is wrong if it is a plane used to take out a huge skyscraper. And it is wrong if it is a massive air force pummeling the civilian population and infrastructure of a society, or if it is sanctions denying a society the means to sustain the life of many of its citizens. Terrorism is wrong when carried out by disgruntled individuals, groups, or whole armies and governments. And it is wrong regardless of whether the motives would be worthy were the means different, or whether the motives are themselves horribly unjust, or just insane.

Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert, “9/11 & Afghanistan: Part B of 45 Questions on U.S. Foreign Policy,” ZNet (October 9, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2447.


Mokhiber: In his book Veil, Bob Woodward reported a couple of years ago that a CIA sponsored car-bomb killed 80 innocent civilians in Beirut. You talk about terror and the war on evil. Does the war on terror and evil include U.S. sponsored terror and U.S. sponsored deaths—civilian deaths? 
Fleischer: I am not going to accept the premise of that question, we are talking about the United States acting in self-defense.  

Russell Mokhiber, “Ari & I: White House Press Briefing with Ari Fleischer, Tuesday, November 20, 2001 12:15 PM,” Common Dreams, http://www.commondreams.org/headlines01/1120-06.htm.


Setting aside the rhetoric for a moment, consider the fact that the world has not yet found an acceptable definition of what “terrorism” is. One country's terrorist is too often another’s freedom fighter. At the heart of the matter lies the world’s deep-seated ambivalence towards violence. Once violence is accepted as a legitimate political instrument, then the morality and political legitimacy of terrorists (insurgents or freedom fighters) becomes contentious, bumpy terrain. The US government itself has funded, armed, and sheltered plenty of rebels and insurgents around the world. The CIA and Pakistan’s ISI trained and armed the mujahideen who, in the 1980s, were seen as terrorists by the government in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, while President Reagan posed with them for a group portrait and called them the moral equivalents of America's founding fathers. Today, Pakistan—America’s ally in this new war—sponsors insurgents who cross the border into Kashmir in India. Pakistan lauds them as “freedom fighters”, India calls them “terrorists”. India, for its part, denounces countries who sponsor and abet terrorism, but the Indian army has, in the past, trained separatist Tamil rebels asking for a homeland in Sri Lanka—the LTTE, responsible for countless acts of bloody terrorism. (Just as the CIA abandoned the mujahideen after they had served its purpose, India abruptly turned its back on the LTTE for a host of political reasons. It was an enraged LTTE suicide-bomber who assassinated former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.)

Arundhati Roy, “War is Peace,” Outlook (October 18, 2001), http://www.zmag.org/roywarpeace.htm.


John McMurtry identifies, beyond the easily identifiable violence of “retail” or of state terrorism, something that he calls “the unseen terrorist pattern.” (His analysis of this pattern has been elaborated in three recent books: Unequal Freedoms: The Global Market as an Ethical System [Toronto: Garamond, 1998], The Cancer Stage of Capitalism [London: Pluto, 1999], and Value Wars: The Global Market Versus the Life Economy [London: Pluto, 2002].)

The gravest problem with corporate market fundamentalism is that it is decoupled from society’s life conditions. It is, in fact, incapable of recognizing any value to anything except corporate “value adding” which, it is assumed, should regulate all peoples and conditions of life on earth for “efficiency” and “maximum growth”. To this point, there has been no outside margin to this total doctrine’s demands, or government subservience to them.

Since the commitments of a society to safeguard the lives of its members and to ensure they are able to express themselves as human is the measure of its civilization, this global corporate program is not merely uncivilized. It is, beneath recognition, terrorist in its meaning. For if we recognize the real meaning of “terrorism”—to instill in innocent people fear for their life security to coerce their compliance to an armed faction’s demands—we see its pattern increasingly at work across world life organization. Under the financial dictates of the corporate market backed by rising extremes of armed force, citizens everywhere are subjected to a low-intensity campaign of destabilization and fear that leaves no aspect of their lives secure. [….]

The pattern cannot be plausibly denied once it is exposed. There are two major forms of attack on peoples’ means of life to coerce them to conform to global financial and corporate demands. The first is to defund societies’ non-profit social infrastructures everywhere until peoples have no choice but to privatize their management for profit. The second front of attack is more directly violent—to wage one financial and military war after another on the poorest peoples of the world to control their states and expropriate their regional resources. Both these wars on humanity are driven by a fanatic fundamentalism—to produce ever more money for those with most money, with no limit, regulation or higher goal permitted to “obstruct” these transnational money sequences.

The shape of this Beast’s ever grosser lines dwarfs the monster beheld by St. John of the Apocalypse, or the boundless greed of Duryodhana told by the Mahabharatta. We live under an increasingly global reign of terror, but our disconnection from the meaning is its triumph.

John McMurtry, “Why is there a War in Afghanistan?” Opening Address, Science for Peace Forum and Teach-In, University of Toronto, December 9, 2001, http://scienceforpeace.sa.utoronto.ca/Special_Activities/McMurtry_Page.html.



3. Western War Crimes, 1991-2003

This section is made up of excerpts from writings by Nyier Abdou and Denis Halliday, Anthony Arnove, Noam Chomsky, Reese Erlich, David Hilfiker, Pope John Paul II, John Pilger, Jeremy Scahill, Hans von Sponeck, and Mickey Z.


(a) The bombing of Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War was criminal

Certain episodes attracted western media attention at the time—such as the deliberately targeted bombing of the Amiriya air raid shelter in Baghdad on February 13, 1991, which killed some 400 civilians. But the more general criminality of the 1991 bombing stems from the fact that it was deliberately designed to destroy the life-sustaining civilian infrastructure of the country. Attacks of this kind are expressly forbidden by international law.


U.S. bombs also destroyed essential Iraqi infrastructure [which provided] for civilian needs, particularly safe water and electricity—not as an accident, but as part of an explicit strategy. “Amid mounting evidence of Iraq’s ruined infrastructure and the painful consequences for ordinary Iraqis, Pentagon officials more readily acknowledge the severe impact of the 43-day air bombardment on Iraq’s economic future and civilian population,” Barton Gellman of the Washington Post wrote a few months after the war.

“Though many details remain classified, interviews with those involved in the targeting disclose three main contrasts with the administration’s earlier portrayal of a campaign aimed solely at Iraq’s armed forces and their lines of supply and command. Some targets, especially late in the war, were bombed primarily to create postwar leverage over Iraq, not to influence the course of the conflict itself. Planners now say their intent was to destroy or damage valuable facilities that Iraq could not repair without foreign assistance…. Because of these goals, damage to civilian structures and interests, invariably described by briefers during the war as ‘collateral’ and unintended, was sometimes neither.”

Anthony Arnove, “A Decade of US War on Iraq,” Socialist Worker (December 15, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2755.


(b) The use of depleted uranium munitions was criminal

The use of depleted uranium artillery and tank shells and aircraft munitions during the 1991 Gulf War could also be classified as a war crime. Although the havoc they wreak by causing birth defects, cancers and leukemia is deferred rather than instantaneous, these munitions can appropriately be described as weapons of mass destruction.


… more than 1 million rounds of depleted uranium (DU) shells were used by the U.S. in Iraq and Kuwait. The Pentagon uses these outrageous munitions because they can pierce tanks and other thick surfaces—but the shells leave behind a toxic disaster. “Today, nearly 12 years after the use of the super-tough weapons,” the Seattle Post-Intelligencer recently reported, “the battlefield remains a radioactive toxic wasteland.”

“Iraqi physicians say depleted uranium is responsible for a significant increase in cancer and birth defects in the region. Many researchers outside Iraq, and several U.S. veterans’ organizations agree; they also suspect depleted uranium of playing a role in Gulf War Syndrome, the still-unexplained malady that has plagued hundreds of thousands of veterans.”

Anthony Arnove, “A Decade of US War on Iraq,” Socialist Worker (December 15, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2755.


Depleted uranium is a weapon of mass destruction. Coated on missiles, and tank shells, its explosive force spreads radiation over a wide area, especially in the desert dust.

Professor Doug Rokke, the US army physicist in charge of cleaning up depleted uranium in Kuwait, told me, “I am like most people in southern Iraq. I have 5,000 times the recommended level of radiation in my body. What we’re seeing now, respiratory problems, kidney problems, cancers are the direct result. The controversy over whether or not it’s the cause of these problems is a manufactured one. My own ill-health is a testament to that.”

John Pilger, “The Secret War: The US War Against Iraq is well under way,” The Mirror (December 20, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2776.


One study conducted by Iraqi doctors indicated that 0.776 percent of Basra-area children were born with birth defects in 1998, compared to just 0.304 percent in 1990, before the Gulf War. Another study showed a rise in childhood cancers and other malignancies of 384.2 percent from 1990-2000. [….]

Iraqi doctors, and an increasing number of western scientists, attribute the rise in diseases and birth defects to the U.S. and British use of depleted uranium. [….] The Pentagon confirms firing 320 tons of DU ammunition during the Gulf War.

U.S. and British army veterans also suspect DU as a cause of Gulf War illnesses. Dr. Doug Rokke, now a major in the U.S. Army Reserves, was in charge of cleaning up twenty-four U.S. tanks hit by American DU shells during the Gulf War, casualties of friendly fire. He and his crew worked for three months shipping the armor back to the U.S. for special decontamination.

The exposure to DU contamination was so intense, Rokke told me, “We all got sick within seventy-two hours.” Three years later, Rokke said, a urine test showed that he had 5,000 times the permissible level of uranium in his body. A number of Gulf War veterans who worked in DU-contaminated zones have been diagnosed with the same kind of cancers as found in Basra civilians, and they also fathered children with birth defects.

Rokke, a physicist with a Ph.D. and the U.S. Army’s former DU Project Director, studied the military's internal documents and prepared materials on how to clean up DU contaminated areas. Based on his experience, he says, “The United States military leaders knew that using DU would cause health and environmental problems.”

Reese Erlich, “Depleted Uranium: America's Dirty Secret,” in Norman Solomon and Reese Erlich, Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't Tell You (New York: Context Books, 2003), pp. 58-60.


For those unfamiliar with DU, consider this: When fired, the uranium bursts into flame and sears through steel armor. The heat of the shell causes any diesel fuel vapors in the enemy tank to explode, and the crew inside is burned alive. DU burns on contact, creating tiny aerosolized particles of radiation less than five microns in diameter, small enough to be inhaled. DU was also used by the US in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan.

In other words, the US has conducted four nuclear wars: Japan, Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan […].

Mickey Z, “Anti War Speech,” ZNet (February 25, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=51&ItemID=3127.


(c) Sanctions against Iraq constituted a war crime

The sanctions against Iraq constituted a war crime as defined by Article 85 of the Additional Protocols I to the Geneva Conventions of 1949: they wilfully and with the full knowledge of those who impose them caused death or serious injury to the bodies or health of a civilian population.

Furthermore, Protocol 1 Additional to the Geneva Conventions (1977) outlaws the starvation of civilians as a method of warfare; according to this protocol, it is forbidden “to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless” drinking water installations and supplies, irrigation works, and materials indispensable to the production of foodstuffs for the specific purpose of denying them to the civilian population.

The sanctions also violated the following charters of international law:

1. Constitution of the World Health Organization (1946)—In this document the enjoyment of the highest standard of health is defined as a fundamental human right.

2. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)—Among the rights defined here is the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of oneself and one’s family, including food, clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services, and security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age, or other lack of livelihood.

3. Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States, adopted by the UN General Assembly (1974)—This charter forbids any state to use or encourage the use of economic, political or other measures to coerce another state to produce the subordination of the exercise of its sovereign rights, or to secure advantages of any kind.

4. UN General Assembly Resolution 44/215 (December 22, 1989)—The resolution calls upon developed countries to refrain from political coercion through economic means with the aim of changing the economic or political systems, or the domestic or foreign policies, of other countries; it reaffirms that developed countries should not threaten or apply trade and financial restrictions, blockades, embargoes and other economic sanctions incompatible with the Charter of the United Nations and in violation of multilateral or bilateral undertakings.

5. International Conference on Nutrition, World Declaration on Nutrition, FAO/WHO (1992)—This document recognizes access to nutritionally adequate and safe food as a basic human right, and affirms that food must not be used as a tool for political pressure.

Source: http://www.afsc.org/iraq/guide/intlaw.shtm.


It is striking that with such high-profile defections as that of [Denis] Halliday [former UN assistant secretary-general and chief UN relief co-ordinator for Iraq] and his successor, Hans von Sponeck, not to mention the persistent struggle of former UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter to debunk US and British half-truths about the threat from Iraq, the sanctions regime remains in place. In Cairo last week for a conference launching the International Campaign against US Aggression on Iraq (ICAA), both Halliday and von Sponeck condemned the crippling of the Iraqi economy, the prevention of health care and soaring infant and child mortality rates in Iraq as nothing short of genocide perpetrated by the very organisation founded to protect the humanity and sovereignty of its member nations.

“Genocide” is a strong word; and one that, it could be argued, is used too freely. But Halliday does not shy away from every implication the term carries: from the institutional methodology, to the systematic execution, to the racial hatred. In his address to the conference last Wednesday, Halliday defined sanctions as “warfare” and “consistent with war crimes.” Speaking of US President George W Bush’s determination to invade Iraq, Halliday denounced the administration’s war plans as “obscene.” “It’s criminal,” he said, “and I believe it’s indictable.”

While Halliday maintains that sanctions—provided for in the UN charter—are a legitimate device to force the hand of leaderships, he is pointed about the punitive nature of sanctions in Iraq, noting that he thinks given his experience in Iraq, the United Nations “is rethinking, and hopefully will never use open-ended, comprehensive sanctions again.” But he adds that the mistakes made in applying sanctions in Iraq have been well acknowledged, justified, compounded and sustained. “The fact is, the UN Security Council has allowed these sanctions on Iraq to drag on for twelve years, and this is not happenstance; this is deliberate decision-making. That’s why I’ve determined it to be a genocide.”

Nyier Abdou and Denis Halliday, “Scylla and Charybdis: An Interview with Denis Halliday,” Al Ahram (December 30, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2810.


When I first met Halliday, I was struck by the care with which he chose uncompromising words. “I had been instructed,” he said, “to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over a million individuals, children and adults. We all know that the regime, Saddam Hussein, is not paying the price for economic sanctions; on the contrary, he has been strengthened by them. It is the little people who are losing their children or their parents for lack of untreated water. What is clear is that the Security Council is now out of control, for its actions here undermine its own Charter and the Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention. History will slaughter those responsible.”

Inside the UN, Halliday broke a long collective silence. Then on February 13 this year [2000], Hans von Sponeck, who had succeeded him as humanitarian co-ordinator in Iraq, resigned. “How long,” he asked, “should the civilian population of Iraq be exposed to such punishment for something they have never done?” Two days later, Jutta Burghardt, head of the World Food Programme in Iraq, resigned, saying privately she, too, could not tolerate what was being done to the Iraqi people. [….]

Denis Halliday and I travelled to Iraq together. It was his first trip back. Washington and London make much of the influence of Iraqi propaganda when their own, unchallenged, is by far the most potent. With this in mind, I wanted an independent assessment from some of the 550 UN people, who are Iraq’s lifeline. Among them, Halliday and von Sponeck are heroes. I have reported the UN at work in many countries; I have never known such dissent and anger, directed at the manipulation of the Security Council, and the corruption of what some of them still refer to as the UN “ideal”.

John Pilger, “Squeezed to death: Half a million children have died in Iraq since UN sanctions were imposed—most enthusiastically by Britain and the US. Three UN officials have resigned in despair. Meanwhile, bombing of Iraq continues almost daily,” The Guardian (March 4, 2000), http://www.guardian.co.uk/weekend/story/0,3605,232986,00.html.


Discussions in Europe and North America with experts on international law have removed any doubt that ten years of sanctions against Iraq have resulted in serious breaches of key provisions of all relevant treaties and treaty-like instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights…. It must be remembered that there is a hierarchical relationship between articles of the U.N. Charter and the concept of subsidiarity. Principles of justice and international law (Article 1.1) and the preservation of human rights (Article 55.c) take unquestionable preference over the provisions of Chapter VII (Article 41). UNICEF reports that some 5,000 children die every month in Iraq as a direct result of sanctions, i.e., due to a policy that is no longer based on principles of international law.

Hans von Sponeck, “Iraq: International Sanctions and What Next?” Middle East Policy (October 2000), http://www.afsc.org/iraq/guide/sponeck.shtm.


Comprehensive economic sanctions against the people of Iraq are [in September 2002] entering their 13th year. The human conditions identified already in 1991 after the Gulf War as ‘apocalyptic’ have significantly worsened since then in both mental and physical terms. The amount of evidence collected by reputable international organisations about child mortality, malnutrition, re-emerging diseases, impoverishment, educational neglect and psychological disorders continues to accumulate (please see in particular recent reports by UNICEF, CARITAS, Save the Children/UK).

What the international community has seen since May 2002 when UN/SC resolution 1409 introduced so-called ‘smart sanctions’ represents, as predicted by individual members of the current UN Security Council, anything but an improvement. In addition, over $5 billion worth of humanitarian supplies remain on hold—blocked by US/UK authorities. The oil pricing confrontation created by the US/UK governments to end the ‘illegal’ surcharge issue has resulted in a major shortfall of funding for the present phase XII of the oil for food programme and seriously endangers the already fragile humanitarian exemption programme.

Hans von Sponeck, “Four Questions, Four Answers” (European Colloquium, Brussels, September 25, 2002), http://www.afsc.org/iraq/guide/4questions.shtm.


Among those now debating whether the Iraqi people should be cluster-bombed or not, incinerated or not, you are unlikely to find the names of Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, who have done the most to break through the propaganda. No one knows the potential human cost better than they. As assistant secretary general of the UN, Halliday started the oil-for-food programme in Iraq. Von Sponeck was his successor. Eminent in their field of caring for other human beings, they resigned their long UN careers, calling the embargo “genocide.”

Their last appearance in the press was in the Guardian last November [i.e. 2001], when they wrote: “The most recent report of the UN secretary general, in October 2001, says that the US and UK governments’ blocking of $4bn of humanitarian supplies is by far the greatest constraint on the implementation of the oil-for-food programme. The report says that, in contrast, the Iraqi government’s distribution of humanitarian supplies is fully satisfactory… The death of some 5-6,000 children a month is mostly due to contaminated water, lack of medicines and malnutrition. The US and UK governments’ delayed clearance of equipment and materials is responsible for this tragedy, not Baghdad.”

They are in no doubt that if Saddam Hussein saw advantage in deliberately denying his people humanitarian supplies, he would do so; but the UN, from the secretary general himself down, says that, while the regime could do more, it has not withheld supplies. Indeed, without Iraq’s own rationing and distribution system, says the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, there would have been famine. Halliday and von Sponeck point out that the US and Britain are able to fend off criticism of sanctions with unsubstantiated stories that the regime is “punishing” its own people. If these stories are true, they say, why do America and Britain further punish them by deliberately withholding humanitarian supplies, such as vaccines, painkillers and cancer diagnostic equipment? This wanton blocking of UN-approved shipments is rarely reported in the British press. The figure is now almost $5bn in humanitarian-related supplies. Once again, the UN executive director of the oil-for-food programme has broken diplomatic silence to express “grave concern at the unprecedented surge in volume of holds placed on contracts [by the US].”

John Pilger, “A compliant press is preparing the ground for an all-out attack on Iraq” (March 21, 2002), http://pilger.carlton.com/print/100275.


As we prepare [in January 1998] for a new round of bombings, we cry out in anguish over seven years of United Nations sanctions against the Iraqi people, which can only be understood as biological warfare against a civilian population. During the Gulf War, U.S.-led coalition forces deliberately targeted Iraq’s infrastructure, destroying its ability to provide food, water and sanitation to its civilian population and unleashing disease and starvation on an unimaginable scale. United Nations reports claim that over 1 million civilians have died as a direct result of the sanctions. UNICEF reports that 4,500 children are dying each month. As people of faith, we are ashamed that the actions of the UN, whose mission is to foster peace, can be so deliberately directed toward the sustained slaughter of innocent civilians.

Pope John Paul II, Address to the Vatican diplomatic corps, January 1998; quoted by Andrew Cockburn and Patrick Cockburn, Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein (1999; rpt. New York: HarperPerennial, 2000), p. 275.


As for the moral level, if the word can even be used, it is hard to improve on the pronouncements of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Two years ago [i.e. in 1996], when asked on national TV about her reaction to reports that the sanctions she administers have killed half a million Iraqi children in five years, she responded that it is “a very hard choice,” but “we think the price is worth it.” We know well enough on what page of history those sentiments belong.

Noam Chomsky, “Chomsky Comment on Iraq Bombing,” http://www.zmag.org/forums/chomiraqb.htm.


In Iraq, a decade of harsh sanctions under US pressure has strengthened Saddam Hussein while leading to the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis—perhaps more people “than have been slain by all so-called weapons of mass destruction throughout history,” military analysts John and Karl Mueller wrote in Foreign Affairs in 1999.

Noam Chomsky, “Drain the Swamp and There Will Be No More Mosquitoes,” ZNet (September 10, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=11&ItemID=2312.


We’ve visited a number of water treatment plants that are falling apart across the country because of the effects of the [1991] war and the sanctions. Without purified drinking water, the children are dying, an under-five mortality rate 2 1/2 times higher than before the war. How can we possibly explain to ourselves not allowing parts for water treatment, money to pay for installation of new plants, and so on, when the water and sanitation disaster is the primary cause of the increased child mortality that now takes some 13% of all young children?

When asked that kind of question, apologists for US action usually respond that the problem is not the sanctions but Saddam Hussein’s misuse of humanitarian materials that would alleviate the problem if he only allowed their proper use. In 1996, the “Oil-for-Food” Program (OFFP) was initiated, which allowed Iraq to sell certain amounts of its oil. A certain percentage (about a quarter) would be kept to pay reparations to Kuwait and another percentage would pay the UN for its monitoring expenses; the rest could be used to import humanitarian goods: food, medical supplies, medications, water treatment equipment, etc. This was supposed to alleviate the humanitarian crisis, and official US policy is that it would alleviate it if Baghdad used the funds properly. Many United Nations studies have shown, however, that Iraq is in fact using the treatment appropriately. In fact, the food distribution program is considered the best that the UN has run.

The problems it seems are several. Most of the goods that can be imported under the OFFP have to go through a UN Security Council committee, which deliberates in secret and where the US (along with the other permanent members of the Security Council) has a veto. Recent research by Joy Gordon (“Cool War” in November 2002 Harper’s Magazine) cracks some of the secrecy to show that the US routinely blocks or puts on hold billions of dollars of goods that no one else (except sometimes Great Britain) objects to, on the basis either that the goods could also be used for military purposes (“dual-use goods”) or that more documentation is needed (and then procrastinating on the evaluation of the documentation). Children’s vaccines (might be used to extract biological weapons even though European biological weapons experts flatly said it was impossible), water tankers (might be used to carry chemical weapons), truck tires, milk-producing equipment, and so on have all been blocked or put on hold. Doctors here have told me that of five chemotherapeutic agents for treating cancer (that will have a finite shelf life and need to be used simultaneously to have the proper effect) three will get through and two will be delayed until the others have expired. People at water-treatment plants told us that they got new equipment to replace their plants … but then found they were missing a crucial part. And so on. If it all sounds too childish to be true, I have trouble believing it, too. Yet the stories have been consistent with UN documentation and journalistic reports in the foreign press. [….]

My friends, this is the Vietnam of this generation. What we are doing here is an unspeakable evil.

David Hilfiker, “Letter from David Hilfiker,” ZNet (December 23, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2788.


For fuller studies of the imposition and administration of the UN sanctions against Iraq, see:

Cockburn, Andrew, and Patrick Cockburn. Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein. 1999; rpt. New York: HarperPerennial, 2000. (See pp. 114-39.)

Gordon, Joy. “Cool War: Economic sanctions as a weapon of mass destruction,” Harper’s Magazine (November 2002), http://www.scn.org/ccpi/HarpersJoyGordonNov02.html.

Pilger, John. “Squeezed to death,” The Guardian (March 4, 2000), http://www.guardian.co.uk/weekend/story/0,3605,232986,00.html.

----. The New Rulers of the World. London: Verso, 2002. (Pilger’s wholly devastating interview with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Rubin on the subject of sanctions appears on pp. 82-90.)

Rai, Milan. War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq. London: Verso, 2002. (See pp. 175-84.)


(d) The US/UK “no-fly zones” in Iraq constituted a war crime


… the establishment of the two no-fly-zones is based on no UN mandate and constitutes a serious breach of international law and UN resolutions which make specific mention of Iraq’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. As the UN designated Official for Security of UN staff in Iraq, I introduced air strike reports which reflected collected and verified information on damage to life and property of civilians as a result of US/UK air incursions and attacks in Iraq. In 1999 my office in Baghdad recorded 132 air strikes with 144 civilian death[s] and over 300 wounded and civilian property destroyed […]. It is a serious matter that the UN Security Council having a mandated oversight responsibility has not been able to stop this serious violation, particularly since US and UK pilots have operated in Iraqi airspace after Operation Desert Fox in December 1998 under ‘enlarged rules of engagement’. These allow them to use their firing power with fewer restrictions and consequently with more damage to civilian life and property.

Hans von Sponeck, “Four Questions, Four Answers” (European Colloquium, Brussels, September 25, 2002), http://www.afsc.org/iraq/guide/4questions.shtm.


The Bush administration asserted that firing on U.S. aircraft that had entered Iraqi airspace constituted a “material breach” of the November 8 UN Security Council resolution on Iraq. The charge was quickly, though diplomatically, rebuffed by Secretary General Kofi Annan and several foreign governments, including Security Council member China. There are no UN resolutions that prohibit Iraq from maintaining its military or taking action in defence of its territory.

Von Sponeck, a former UN assistant secretary general, scoffs at U.S. media’s and government officials’ characterization of these zones as having a basis in the UN charter or Security Council resolutions. “There is no UN mandate for the establishment of these two no-fly zones. It’s an illegal establishment of a zone for bilateral interests of the U.S. and the U.K. They always refer to resolution 688, which deals with an appeal to the Secretary General to ensure the protection of minorities in Iraq.” But despite the protests raised by von Sponeck and a handful of other UN officials, Washington continues to receive support from the UN in the form of silence.

Jeremy Scahill, “No-Fly Fiasco: U.S. bombs same Shiites enlisted to oust Saddam,” Now Magazine [Toronto] (December 12-18, 2002), 21, 23.


The American and British attack on Iraq has already begun. While the Blair government continues to claim in Parliament that “no final decision has been taken”, Royal Air Force and US fighter bombers have secretly changed tactics and escalated their “patrols” over Iraq to an all-out assault on both military and civilian targets. [….]

Under the United Nations Charter and the conventions of war and international law, the attacks amount to acts of piracy: no different, in principle, from the German Luftwaffe’s bombing in Spain in the 1930s as precursor to its invasion of Europe.

The bombing is a “secret war” that has seldom been news. Since 1991, and especially in the last four years, it has been unrelenting and is now deemed the longest Anglo-American campaign of aerial bombardment since World War Two.

The US and British governments justify it by claiming they have a UN mandate to police so-called “no-fly zones” which they declared following the Gulf War. They say these “zones”, which give them control of most of Iraq’s airspace, are legal and supported by UN Security Council Resolution 688.

This is false. There are no references to no fly zones in any Security Council resolution. To be sure about this, I asked Dr Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who was Secretary General of the United Nations in 1992 when Resolution 688 was passed. “The issue of no fly zones was not raised and therefore not debated: not a word,” he said. “They offer no legitimacy to countries sending their aircraft to attack Iraq.”

In 1999, Tony Blair claimed the no fly zones allowed the US and Britain to perform “a vital humanitarian task” in protecting the Kurds in the north of Iraq and the ethnic Marsh Arabs in the south. In fact, British and American aircraft have actually provided cover for neighbouring Turkey’s repeated invasions of northern, Kurdish Iraq.

A long-running insurrection by Turkey’s Kurdish population is regarded by Washington as a threat to the “stability” of Turkey’s “democracy” that is a front for its military which is among the world’s worst violators of human rights. Hundreds of thousands of Turkish Kurds have been displaced and an estimated 30,000 killed. Turkey, unlike Iraq, is “our friend”.

In 1995 and 1997, as many as 50,000 Turkish troops, backed by tanks and fighter aircraft, occupied what the West called “Kurdish safe havens”. They terrorised Kurdish villages and murdered civilians. In December 2000, they were back, committing the atrocities that the Turkish military commits with impunity against its own Kurdish population.

For joining the US “coalition” against Iraq, the Turkish regime is to be rewarded with a bribe worth $6 billion. Turkey’s invasions are rarely reported in Britain. So great is the collusion of the Blair government that, virtually unknown to Parliament and the British public, the RAF and the Americans have, from time to time, deliberately suspended their “humanitarian” patrols to allow the Turks to get on with killing Kurds in Iraq.

In March last year [2001], RAF pilots patrolling the “no fly zone” in Kurdish Iraq publicly protested for the first time about their enforced complicity in the Turkish campaign. The pilots complained that they were frequently ordered to return to their base in Turkey to allow the Turkish air force to bomb the very people they were meant to be “protecting”.

Speaking on a non-attributable basis to Dr Eric Herring, a senior lecturer in politics at Bristol University and a specialist on Iraqi sanctions, the pilots said whenever the Turks wanted to attack the Kurds in Iraq, RAF patrols were recalled to base and ground crews were told to switch off their radar—so that the Turks’ targets would not be visible. One British pilot reported seeing the devastation in Kurdish villages caused by the attacks once he had resumed his patrol.

American pilots, who fly in tandem with the British, are also ordered to turn their planes around and turn back to Turkey to allow the Turks to devastate the Kurdish “safe havens”.

“You’d see Turkish F-14s and F-16s inbound, loaded to the gills with munitions,” one pilot told the Washington Post. “Then they’d come out half an hour later with their munitions expended.” When the Americans returned to Iraqi air space, he said, they would see “burning villages, lots of smoke and fire”.

The Turks do no more than American and British aircraft in their humanitarian guise. The sheer scale of the Anglo-American bombing is astonishing, with Britain a very junior partner. During the 18 months to January 1999 (the last time I was able to confirm official US figures) American aircraft flew 36,000 sorties over Iraq, including 24,000 combat missions.

The term “combat” is highly deceptive. Iraq has virtually no air force and no modern air defences. Thus, “combat” means dropping bombs or firing missiles at infrastructure that has been laid to waste by a 12-year-old embargo.

The Wall Street Journal, the authentic voice of the American establishment, described this eloquently when it reported that the US faced “a genuine dilemma” in Iraq. After eight years of enforcing a no fly zone in northern (and southern) Iraq, few targets remain. “We’re down to the last outhouse,” one US official protested.

John Pilger, “The Secret War: The US War Against Iraq is well under way,” The Mirror (December 20, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2776.


See also the articles listed under “No-Fly Zones” at http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/flyindex.htm.



4. U.S./U.K. War Crimes in the 2003 Attack on Iraq

This section contains excerpts from texts by Michael Byers, writers of the Canadian Press news agency, Christine Delphy, Robert Fisk, Dinah Po Kempner, Stephen Kerr, Adrian Kuzminski, Michele Landsberg, Michael Mandel and Gail Davidson, Rahul Mahajan, Grant McCool, John Pilger, Barbara Stocking, and Mickey Z.


(a) “Pre-emptive war” (i.e. unprovoked attack) is a war crime


What prohibits military force is international law. The Charter of the United Nations allows war only where it fits within the narrow confines of the right of self-defence or where it is explicitly and validly authorized by the Security Council after all peaceful alternatives have been exhausted. That’s because the Charter regards war as a “scourge” and its main purpose was to ban it where it was not absolutely necessary and demonstrated as such to the lawfully constituted assembly of states, namely the Security Council.

Without an explicit authorization from the Security Council, the mere violation of a resolution is not enough to entitle any state or states to use military force to enforce it. Israel has been in violation of numerous Security Council resolutions for thirty-five years, but none of them explicitly authorize the use of force. Are our governments saying that any state has the right to attack Israel to enforce compliance with these resolutions?

Why try to distort the plain meaning of Resolution 1441?

Is it because without real Security Council authority, and lacking any claim of self-defence beyond the delusional, a US war on Iraq would constitute what the Nuremberg tribunal called the “supreme international crime,” the crime against peace? In fact, without valid Security Council authority, Canada’s very participation in this war would make Prime Minister Chrétien and his colleagues personally guilty of murder and other crimes against humanity. [….]

Intentional killing without lawful justification or excuse is murder. When it’s premeditated, it’s first-degree murder. International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War calculates that war against Iraq will result in the death of a minimum of 50,000 Iraqis, most of whom will be civilians. There are an awful lot of people serving life sentences in Canadian prisons for the murder of just one person. The law doesn’t care if the victim is a Canadian or an Iraqi, and it doesn’t care if the criminal is a Prime Minister or a pauper.

By letter to the Prime Minister dated January 23, Lawyers Against the War put the government of Canada on notice that we will “pursue prosecution of all responsible government officials on all appropriate charges, including murder and crimes against humanity, in both the Canadian and international criminal courts.” British and American lawyers made similar declarations to their governments. We mean it.

Michael Mandel and Gail Davidson, “Resolution 1441 and the Security Council,” ZNet (February 6, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=21&ItemID=2978.


In 1946 the judges at Nuremberg who tried the Nazi leaders for war crimes left no doubt about what they regarded as the gravest crimes against humanity.

The most serious was unprovoked invasion of a sovereign state that offered no threat to one’s homeland. Then there was the murder of civilians, for which responsibility rested with the “highest authority”.

Blair is about to commit both these crimes, for which he is being denied even the flimsiest of United Nations cover now that the weapons inspectors have found, as one put it, “zilch”.

Like those in the dock at Nuremberg, he has no democratic cover. Using the archaic “royal prerogative” he did not consult parliament or the people when he dispatched 35,000 troops and ships and aircraft to the Gulf; he consulted a foreign power, the Washington regime.

Unelected in 2000, the Washington regime of George W Bush is now totalitarian, captured by a clique whose fanaticism and ambitions of “endless war” and “full spectrum dominance” are a matter of record. All the world knows their names: Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, Cheney and Perle, and Powell, the false liberal. Bush’s State of the Union speech last night was reminiscent of that other great moment in 1938 when Hitler called his generals together and told them: “I must have war.” He then had it. To call Blair a mere “poodle” is to allow him distance from the killing of innocent Iraqi men, women and children for which he will share responsibility.

He is the embodiment of the most dangerous appeasement humanity has known since the 1930s. The current American elite is the Third Reich of our times, although this distinction ought not to let us forget that they have merely accelerated more than half a century of unrelenting American state terrorism: from the atomic bombs dropped cynically on Japan as a signal of their new power to the dozens of countries invaded, directly or by proxy, to destroy democracy wherever it collided with American “interests”, such as a voracious appetite for the world’s resources, like oil.

John Pilger, “Blair is a Coward,” The Daily Mirror (February 2, 2003).


Clearly a state subject to armed attack from another state (or a non-state group) has the right to fight back. This basic right is enshrined in Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. The problem for international lawyers here lies in determining whether there has been an armed attack and whether the response to that armed attack is necessary and proportionate. A further difficulty associated with self-defence concerns the availability of a right to anticipatory self-defence.

This so-called right comes in two versions. In the first, more limited and more plausible, version a state can use force to defend itself from an imminent armed attack by another entity. In other words, there is no need for a state to wait for an attack before attacking its opponent.

The second version, now termed the Bush Doctrine, seems to envisage an expanded version of this right whereby states can use force to prevent future, possible but by no means imminent armed attacks from potential enemies. This is the doctrine that would be used to justify a use of force by the United States against Iraq in the absence of a Security Council Resolution. Such a doctrine would be highly controversial among international lawyers. It would also, if universally available, represent a serious threat to international order.

“Lawyers Grapple with Attack on Iraq,” AlterNet (January 31, 2003), http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/attack/law/2003/0131lawyergrap.htm.


In a fundamental change of policy, the Bush administration has embraced the doctrine of preemptive war, including the first strike use of nuclear weapons, and is now applying it to Iraq. Speaking in Davos, Switzerland, on 26 January 2003, US Secretary of State, Colin L. Powell, said: “We continue to reserve our sovereign right to take military action against Iraq alone or in a coalition of the willing…”

There is no such unqualified sovereign right. On the contrary, as a member state of the United Nations, the US is obliged by law to pursue peaceful means in international relations, as stated in the UN Charter, Chapter 1, Article 2:

“All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered; and, all Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state […].”

The UN Charter does recognize the use of unilateral military force by a member state, but only for purposes of self defense and only when an “armed attack” has occurred against that state, as stated in Chapter 7, Article 51 of the UN Charter:

“Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”

Iraq has not been shown to have carried out “an armed attack” on the United States. No evidence has been offered that assigns any responsibility to Iraq for the attacks on the United States made on 11 September 2001, or any other attacks. Iraq has not been shown to be a credible threat to the US.

Possession of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq, weapons already widely distributed among many countries, does not constitute an “armed attack” on anyone; nor does it justify unilateral US military action. If such weapons are a threat to its neighbours or anyone else, including the US, this is a matter for UN action, not unilateral American military action outside the UN.

Adrian Kuzminski, “US Prepared to Violate International Law,” Coastal Convergence Society (February 1, 2003), http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/attack/law/2003/0201powell.htm.


Iraq is threatening no country with aggression and its violations of Security Council resolutions, while clear, are technical, mostly a matter of providing complete documentation about weapons that may or may not exist, and for the use of which there are no apparent plans. [….]

[…] Iraq has been under illegal attack for the past decade, with numerous bombings including the Desert Fox campaign, even as it was called on to start obeying international law.

The United States also took numerous illegal or questionably legal steps to subvert the legal regime of “containment”—passing the “Iraq Liberation Act” in October 1998, which provided $97 million for groups trying to overthrow the Iraqi government, a clear violation of Iraqi sovereignty and a violation of international law; stating that only with regime change would the sanctions be lifted, in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 687; and using weapons inspections to commit espionage, the information from which was then used in targeting decisions during Desert Fox. [….]

[…] the war the United States is planning on Iraq is an act of premeditated aggression. [….] First, in August [2002], Defense Secretary Rumsfeld ordered that the list of bombing targets be extended far beyond any goal of enforcing the no-fly zones to include command-and-control centers and in general to go beyond simple reaction to threats […]. By December 2002, the shift could be noted in a 300% increase in ordnance dropped per threat detected—a clear sign that simply defending the overflights was no longer the primary aim of the bombings. According to the Guardian, “Whitehall officials have admitted privately that the ‘no-fly’ patrols, conducted by RAF and US aircraft from bases in Kuwait, are designed to weaken Iraq’s air defense systems and have nothing to do with their stated original purpose.”

Weakening air defense and command-and-control are the standard first steps in all U.S. wars since 1991, so the first salvoes in the war were being fired even as inspections continued. In the first two months of this year, bombings occurred almost every other day. [….]

The war was being seriously planned from at least the spring of 2002, but in the summer there was a serious internal debate in the military between a so-called “Afghan option” with 50-75,000 troops and heavy reliance on air power and Iraqi opposition forces and the eventual plan, “Desert Storm lite,” with 200-250,000 troops and a full-scale invasion.

The decision was made in late August, but the more involved plan […] required at least a six-month deployment. Ever since then, the timetable has not been one of diplomacy, U.N. resolutions, and weapons inspections, but rather one of deployment, strong-arming of regional allies needed as stageing areas for the invasion, and, quite likely, replenishment of stocks of precision weapons depleted in the war on Afghanistan. [….]

In fact, the U.S. war on Iraq is itself the most fundamental violation of international law. In the language coined at the Nuremberg trials, it is a crime against peace. Former Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, chief U.S. prosecutor at the first Nuremberg trial, called waging aggressive war “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

It surely is unprecedented in world history that a country is under escalating attack; told repeatedly that it will be subjected to a full-scale war; required to disarm itself before that war; and then castigated by the “international community” for significant but partial compliance.

Rahul Mahajan, “UN Resolution or not, this war is illegal,” ZNet (March 14, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3237.


(b) The bombing of civilians is a war crime


“If war is forced upon us, we will fight in a just cause and by just means sparing, in every way we can, the innocent.” –George W. Bush, in his State of the Union Address, January 28, 2003

The Pentagon recently revealed its plan for the first day of the inevitable saturation bombing of Iraq. Baghdad, in particular. On “Air Strikes Day” (or “A Day”) the US and Britain will launch 300 to 400 cruise missiles into Iraq. “That’s more missiles than were launched during the entire 40-day Persian Gulf war of 1991,” says James Ridgeway in the Village Voice.

The following day, another 400 missiles will be launched. “The sheer size of this has never been contemplated before,” one Pentagon strategist told CBS News. “There will not be a safe place in Baghdad.” In warspeak, this plan is called “shock and awe.” The idea is to crush the enemy’s will to fight. According to military strategist Harlan Ullman, the planned attack will be “rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima.” Air Strikes Day will “take the city down,” wipe out the water and power supplies in Baghdad, and leave the Iraqis “physically, emotionally, and psychologically exhausted.”

“What Bush proposes,” says Ridgeway, “is not collateral damage, but a level of civilian destruction not seen since the Second World War, with tens of thousands of intended civilian casualties.”

Mickey Z, “From Dresden to Baghdad: 58 Years of “Shock and Awe,” ZNet (February 8, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=3003.


Last week the Pentagon in Washington announced matter of factly that it intended to shatter Iraq “physically, emotionally and psychologically” by raining down on its people 800 cruise missiles in two days.

This will be more than twice the number of missiles launched during the entire 40 days of the 1991 Gulf War.

A military strategist named Harlan Ullman told American television: “There will not be a safe place in Baghdad. The sheer size of this has never been seen before, never been contemplated before.”

The strategy is known as Shock and Awe and Ullman is apparently its proud inventor. He said: “You have this simultaneous effect, rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks but minutes.” What will his “Hiroshima effect” actually do to a population of whom almost half are children under the age of 14?

The answer is to be found in a “confidential” UN document, based on World Health Organisation estimates, which says that “as many as 500,000 people would require treatment as a result of direct and indirect injuries”. A Bush-Blair attack will destroy “a functioning primary health care system” and deny clean water to 39 per cent of the population. There is “likely [to be] an outbreak of diseases in epidemic or pandemic proportions”.

John Pilger, “Blair is a Coward.” The Daily Mirror (February 2, 2003).


The children of Iraq are haunted by the fear of not getting to grow up, of burning to death, of crying for their dead mama amidst the rubble of their home, according to a report by the International Study Team. [….]

The children may not know that the hawks and militarists in the United States are bandying about the theories of “shock and awe,” the idea being that they will pound Baghdad with 800 cruise missiles in the first two days of the war, one every four minutes, so that Iraq buckles to its knees in total devastation, presumably shocked and overawed. But the children know that they are helpless against the thundering onslaught.

Some of the youngest pre-schoolers cling, heartbreakingly, to magical comforts: one is sure that she is protected when her sister holds a blanket over their heads.

The International Study Team is a group of eminent researchers, academics and practitioners who first documented the humanitarian impacts of the Gulf War in 1991. The team just completed another tour of inspection in Iraq at the end of January and has issued Our Common Responsibility, The Impact of a New War On Iraqi Children. The report is available from War Child Canada (416-971-7474) or at www.warchild.ca.

The team interviewed children in their homes and schools, and were struck to discover that parents “have found no good way to inform or comfort their children…”

What is there to say, after all? The children are consumed by fear, and even their own parents cannot protect them from the coming firestorm. [….]

I’d be astounded if the Americans drew back from the brink, no matter how events unfold. But Canada does not have to follow them into what will amount to a bloody slaughter. Perhaps the most powerful moral lesson you can ever teach your children is to put your feet on the street today, and in the weeks to come, to say no to war.

Michele Landsberg,, “Children of Iraq live in terror of U.S. onslaught,” Toronto Star (February 15, 2003): K1.


Oxfam has 60 years experience of working in conflict. We know the impact that military action has on civilians. In some cases, as in Rwanda, military action is necessary to save lives and is justified. But, on the basis of our experience and the current evidence, we cannot see how a military strike on Iraq can be justified, nor indeed how such an attack could be waged without violating international humanitarian law. [….]

A recent visit to Iraq by aid agency experts, including an Oxfam specialist, confirmed that the water and sanitation system is on the verge of collapse. [….]

Any military action that damages power supplies will inevitably destroy the already fragile water and sanitation system. Inevitably, disease will sweep through the population. Any attack that affects roads, ports or railways will lead to the collapse of the system of food distribution upon which the bulk of Iraq’s population depends.

Article 54 of Additional Protocol 1 of the Geneva convention prohibits attacks upon “objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population.” In Iraq, this must be taken to include ports, roads, railways and power lines. The convention states that “in no event shall actions against these objects be taken which might be expected to leave the civilian population with such inadequate food or water as to cause its starvation or force its movement.”

Barbara Stocking, Director of Oxfam, “Iraqis’ Suffering Can Be Made Worse,” International Herald Tribune (December 27, 2002), http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/attack/law/2002/1227oxfam.htm.


International humanitarian law, the jus in bello, concerns the way wars may be fought. It is distinct from the law governing when wars may be fought (the jus ad bellum of self-defence and the UN Charter). [….] Today, the rules of international humanitarian law are found in the 1907 Hague Conventions, the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their two Additional Protocols of 1977, as well as in a parallel body of unwritten customary international law that binds all countries, including those that have not ratified the Conventions and Protocols. A central principle prohibits the direct targeting of civilians, as well as attacks on military targets that could be expected to cause civilian suffering disproportionate to the specific military goals to be achieved. [….]

After decades of massive defence spending, the US is today assured of victory in any war it chooses to fight. High-tech weaponry has reduced the dangers to US personnel, making it easier to sell war to domestic constituencies. As a result, some US politicians have begun to think of war, not as the high-risk recourse of last resort, but as an attractive foreign policy option in times of domestic scandal or economic decline. This change in thinking has already led to a more cavalier approach to the jus ad bellum, as exemplified by the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive self-defence. It is beginning to have a similar effect with regard to the jus in bello. When war is seen as an ordinary tool of foreign policy—‘politics by other means’—political and financial considerations impinge on the balance between military necessity and humanitarian concerns. [….]

In Washington, it has become accepted wisdom that future opponents are themselves unlikely to abide by international humanitarian law. [….] If your enemy is going to cheat, why bother playing by the rules?

Michael Byers, “The Laws of War, US-Style,” London Review of Books, vol. 25, no. 4 (February 20, 2003): 9-10.


A group of U.S. law professors opposed to a possible war on Iraq warned U.S. president George W. Bush on Friday that he and senior government officials could be prosecuted for war crimes if military tactics violated international humanitarian law.

“Our primary concern … is the large number of civilian casualties that may result should U.S. and coalition forces fail to comply with international humanitarian law in using force against Iraq,” the group, led by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, said in a letter to Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The group cited the particular need for U.S. and coalition forces to abide by humanitarian law requiring warring parties to distinguish between military and civilian areas, use only the level of force that is militarily necessary and to use weaponry that is proportionate to what is being targeted.

The letter, which had more than 100 signatories, said the rules had been broken in other recent wars. It said air strikes on populated cities, carpet bombing and the use of fuel-air explosives were examples of inappropriate military action taken during the 1991 Gulf War, the 1999 Kosovo campaign and the 2001 Afghan conflict that led to civilian casualties and might be used again in Iraq.

Grant McCool, “US Lawyers Warn Bush on War Crimes,” Lawyers Against the War (January 28, 2003), http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/attack/law/2003/0128uslawyers.htm.


Americans are innovators, and we have invented a new style of war. Now we want new rules as well. This is critical as war with Iraq looms and major world powers convene in closed session at Harvard University to discuss reinterpreting the Geneva Conventions and the laws of war that provide some minimal protection to noncombatants. [….]

[…] the US view [is] that it is acceptable to attack civilian morale in the form of nonmilitary targets whose destruction can undermine public support for war: turning the lights off in Belgrade or Baghdad, targeting the enemy’s industrialist supporters, destroying civilian propaganda outlets or symbols of the regime such as monuments or civilian administration. All are off-limits under international law, which limits attacks to targets that make a direct contribution to military action.

The way Americans approach the issue of civilian casualties is different as well. The law forbids attacks where the cost to civilian lives and property will be excessive in relation to the direct and concrete military advantage of achieving a particular target. Americans, and to some degree the British, wish to equate the idea of an “attack” with an entire campaign, an overall military objective, or even a political objective such as “regime change.” [….]

Why, in the end, do these rules, framed in other times for other battles, still matter? The fact that Switzerland [which bears responsibility for administering the Geneva Conventions], upon the objection of some states, refused to admit the media or civil society groups to the meeting at Harvard should raise alarm bells. [….]

It is ironic that at the moment the United States, by virtue of its military prowess, can most afford to set the highest standard in armed conflict, it is backing away from time-honored laws that impose the constraints of humanity upon slaughter.

Dinah Po Kempner (general counsel at Human Rights Watch), “America’s Dangerous New Style of War,” Boston Globe (January 29, 2003), http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/attack/law/2003/0129dangerous.htm


The wounds are vicious and deep, a rash of scarlet spots on the back and thighs or face, the shards of shrapnel from the cluster bombs buried an inch or more in the flesh. The wards of the Hillah teaching hospital are proof that something illegal—something quite outside the Geneva Conventions—occurred in the villages around the city once known as Babylon.

The wailing children, the young women with breast and leg wounds, the 10 patients upon whom doctors had to perform brain surgery to remove metal from their heads, talk of the days and nights when explosives fell “like grapes” from the sky. Cluster bombs, the doctors say—and the detritus of the air raids around the hamlets of Nadr and Djifil and Akramin and Mahawil and Mohandesin and Hail Askeri shows that they are right.

Were they American or British aircraft that showered these villages with one of the most lethal weapons of modern warfare? The 61 dead who have passed through the Hillah hospital since Saturday night cannot tell us. Nor can the survivors who, in many cases, were sitting in their homes when the white cannisters opened high above their village, spilling thousands of bomblets into the sky, exploding in the air, soaring through windows and doorways to burst indoors or bouncing off the roofs of the concrete huts to blow up later in the roadways. [….]

Some victims died at once, mostly women and children, some of whose blackened, decomposing remains lay in the tiny charnel house mortuary at the back of the Hillah hospital. The teaching college received more than 200 wounded since Saturday night—the 61 dead are only those who were brought to the hospital or who died during or after surgery, and many others are believed to have been buried in their home villages—and, of these, doctors say about 80 per cent were civilians.

Soldiers there certainly were, at least 40 if these statistics are to be believed, and amid the foul clothing of the dead outside the mortuary door I found a khaki military belt and a combat jacket. But village men can also be soldiers and both they and their wives and daughters insisted there were no military installations around their homes. True or false? Who is to know if a tank or a missile launcher was positioned in a nearby field—as they were along the highway north to Baghdad? But the Geneva Conventions demand protection for civilians even if they are intermingled with military personnel, and the use of cluster bombs in these villages—even if aimed at military targets—thus crosses the boundaries of international law.

So it was that 27-year old Asil Yamin came to receive those awful round wounds in her back. And so five-year old Zaman Abbais was hit in the legs and 48-year old Samira Abdul-Hamza in the eyes, chest and legs. Her son Haidar, a 32-year old soldier, said the containers which fell to the ground were white with some red and green sometimes painted on them. “It is like a grenade and they came into the houses,” he said. “Some stayed on the land, others exploded.”

Heartbreaking is the only word to describe 10-year old Maryam Nasr and her five-year old sister Hoda. Maryam has a patch over her right eye where a piece of bomblet embedded itself. She also had wounds to the stomach and thighs. I didn’t realise that Hoda, standing by her sister’s bed, was wounded until her mother carefully lifted the little girl’s scarf and long hair to show a deep puncture in the right side of her head, just above her ear, congealed blood sticking to her hair but the wound still gently bleeding. Their mother described how she had been inside her home and heard an explosion and found her daughters lying in their own blood near the door. The little girls alternately smiled and hid when I took their pictures. In other words, the hideously wounded would try to laugh, to show their bravery. It was a humbling experience. [….]

It is not easy to listen to Iraqi officials condemning the use of illegal weapons when the Iraqi air force has itself dropped poison gas on the Iranian army and on pro-Iranian Kurdish villages during the 1980-88 war against Iran. Outraged claims from Iraqi officials at the abuse of human rights sound like a bell with a very hollow ring. But something terrible happened around Hillah this week, something unforgivable and something contrary to international law. One hesitates, as I say, to talk about human rights in this land of torture but if the Americans and British don’t watch out, they are likely to find themselves condemned for what they have always—and rightly—accused Iraq of: war crimes.

Robert Fisk, “Wailing children, the wounded, the dead; victims of the day cluster bombs rained on Babylon,” The Independent (April 3, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3383.


Red Cross doctors who visited southern Iraq this week saw “incredible” levels of civilian casualties including a truckload of dismembered women and children, a spokesman said Thursday from Baghdad.

Roland Huguenin, one of six International Red Cross workers in the Iraqi capital, said doctors were horrified by the casualties they found in the hospital in Hilla, about 160 kilometres south of Baghdad.

“There has been an incredible number of casualties with very, very serious wounds in the region of Hilla,” Huguenin said in an interview by satellite telephone.

“We saw that a truck was delivering dozens of totally dismembered dead bodies of women and children. It was an awful sight. It was really very difficult to believe this was happening.”

Huguenin said the dead and injured in Hilla came from the village of Nasiriyah, where there has been heavy fighting between American troops and Iraqi soldiers, and appeared to be the results of “bombs, projectiles.”

“At this stage we cannot comment on the nature of what happened exactly at that place … but it was definitely a different pattern from what we had seen in Basra or Baghdad.

“There will be investigations I am sure.”

Baghdad and Basra are coping relatively well with the flow of wounded, said Huguenin, estimating that Baghdad hospitals have been getting about 100 wounded a day.

Most of the wounded in the two large cities have suffered superficial shrapnel wounds, with only about 15 per cent requiring internal surgery, he said.

But the pattern in Hilla was completely different.

“In the case of Hilla, everybody had very serious wounds and many, many of them small kids and women. We had small toddlers of two or three years of age who had lost their legs, their arms. We have called this a horror.”

At least 400 people were taken to the Hilla hospital over a period of two days, he said—far beyond its capacity.

“Doctors worked around the clock to do as much as they could. They just had to manage, that was all.”

The city is no longer accessible, he added.

Red Cross staff are also concerned about what may be happening in other smaller centres south of Baghdad.

“We do not know what is going on in Najaf and Kabala. It has become physically impossible for us to reach out to those cities because the major road has become a zone of combat.”

Canadian Press (April 6, 2003), http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/%201049413227648_10/?%20hub=SpecialEvent3.


(c) The U.S.’s intended use of chemical weapons would be a war crime

In addition to bombing Iraqi civilians in Nasiriyah and elsewhere, the United States made it clear prior to the invasion of Iraq that it was prepared to deploy chemical weapons against the population of Baghdad. Testifying on February 5, 2003 before the House Armed Services Committee, Donald Rumsfeld was asked by Congressman Meehan whether the U.S. has plans to use so-called “non-lethal weapons” to disarm and disperse armed civilians encountered by U.S. forces during the intense street fighting in Baghdad that was promised by the Iraqi dictatorship. Stephen Kerr writes as follows about Rumsfeld's response.


A US-German NGO, the Sunshine Project, has revealed how the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD), working with scientists at Penn State University's Marine Corps Research facility and the US Army Edgewood Biological and Chemical Center, have been researching and developing a chemical weapon similar to that which killed 20% of those who were exposed to it at the Palace of Culture Theatre in Moscow in October 2002. A trail of declassified documents Donald Rumsfeld would rather not discuss clearly illustrates the process, and you can find some of them on the website of the Sunshine Project at www.sunshine-project.org.

Fentanyl, a powerful sedative drug, is used as a surgical anesthetic and is also known as Sublimaze, increasingly a street drug of abuse. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that JNLWD has transformed this narcotic and others such as Ketamine (Special K) into a new “non-lethal” weapon which will “put everyone in a room to sleep, combatants, and non-combatants,” according to a JNLWD commander. Another document identifies “hungry refugees, unwilling to wait” for the distribution of emergency food, as a target for these new “non-lethal” chemical weapons.

And according to Defence Department Directive 3000.3, the “non-lethal” part of the weapon isn’t 100%.

So Congressman Meehan wanted to know if America had any plans for the hostile use of Fentanyl or other novel gases on Iraqi civilians, though he didn’t quite put it that way.

After a long pause, and the standard reminder about how Saddam Hussein “lies about every single thing he says,” Rumsfeld made a startling admission; the United States is planning for the use of gas against any Iraqis who resist the American invasion, and has already employed such illegl weapons in the War on Terror. Rumsfeld knows the law is not on his side. He admitted as much when he stated, “With respect to the use of non-lethal riot agents I regret to say that we are in a very difficult situation. There is a treaty that the United States signed [the Chemical Weapons Convention www.opcw.org]. Rumsfeld pauses, then “… let me put it this way, absent a Presidential waiver … in many instances our forces are allowed to shoot somebody and kill them, but they are not allowed to use a non-lethal riot control agent.”

No they are not allowed. The CWC outlaws the hostile use of chemistry, and in the case of “non-lethal” riot-control agents, forbids states “from using riot control agents as means of warfare.”

The laws of armed conflict are quite clear that weapons systems and the soldiers who employ them must discriminate between soldiers and civilians. Chemical weapons can’t tell the difference, which is one major reason why they're illegal. A second reason was aptly demonstrated last October by Russian Special Forces at the Palace of Culture Theatre, who summarily executed 50 Chechen hostage takers, after the sedative gas put them to sleep. US troops employed tear gas in Vietnam to similar effect.

But Donald Rumsfeld wants to remove the ban on chemical weapons, the better to police the Pax Americana. [….]

“There are times when the use of non-lethal riot agents is perfectly appropriate … when transporting dangerous people in a confined space, in an airplane for example, when there are enemy troops in a cave in Afghanistan and you know there are women and children in there with them, and they are firing out at you, and you have the task of getting at them, and you’d prefer to get at them without also getting at women and children, and non-combatants,” said Rumsfeld, hesitating several times.

This deeply cynical statement obscures the reality that it is precisely non-combatants who may not be targeted by weapons under international law. The Geneva Convention explicitly states that “The presence within the civilian population of individuals who do not come within the definition of civilians does not deprive the population of its civilian character,” thus the civilian population may not be drugged against their will with an indiscriminate chemical weapon to allow US troops to “sort the wheat from the chaff” as contemplated in US military planning papers, and admitted by Donald Rumsfeld.

Stephen Kerr, “For the President and Poison Gas: Donald Rumsfeld and Poison Gas,” ZNet (February 27, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3148.


(d) The responsibilities of occupying powers


The Iraqi people are protected by a substantial body of law

First, the Geneva Conventions, in particular the 4th, which dates from 1951 and has since been reinforced by multiple treaties: the Protocol regarding refugee status in 1967, the conclusions of the UN High Commission on refugees, as well as the Guidelines on Internal Population Displacement approved by the AG of the UN in 1998; finally, they are covered under what is known as the humanitarian conventions of international law.

What does this body of law state? That the lives and property of civilians must be protected as far as possible. A measure of collateral damage is permissible only in the case of legitimate military action. But that action to authorise a measure of collateral damage must be legitimate. Is the intervention of the American and British military in Iraq legitimate? Kofi Annan is doubtful (Le Monde, March 13); a growing chorus of world legal authorities have declared that intervention which defies the UN charter is totally illegal. In this case, civilian deaths are simply war crimes. In all likelihood, the US will occupy Iraq. On this point, international law is very clear: as soon as the US becomes an occupying power, they become at the same time accountable for the totality of injuries suffered by civilians. Any failure to protect civilians would be a violation of the 4th Geneva Convention. Article 55 of the 4th Convention obliges the US, if they occupy Iraq, to assure the civilian population's need for food, but also to guarantee their fundamental rights to care, education, freedom of movement and settlement. Wherever the occupying power fails to respect or assure respect for these rights, it will be guilty of a serious violation of the Geneva Convention, and such a violation is considered a war crime.

As [early] as December 2002, the UN Predicted a Devastating Humanitarian crisis: 23 million civilians in danger

How does the US plan to fulfil their obligations? And what are those obligations, that is, what will be the population's needs? Without speaking of the direct effects of bombing by terrifying weapons—weapons of mass destruction which the US possesses and might yet use—the American military predicts the near-total destruction of Iraqi infrastructure. UN experts predict the destruction of communications centres (telephone), land and sea transportation, roads and ports, trucks and boats, the railways, all bridges (which will cut off east-west links), and all power plants. Oil production will be paralysed or totally stopped. Drinking water is produced by filtration plants which depend on pumping stations which in turn are dependent on the electrical network. Without electricity, 10 million and in the long term 18 million people will be deprived of drinking water. Furthermore, five million people depend on the sewage network. This system will cease to work. Consequences: epidemics of meningitis, measles, and pan-epidemics of cholera and dysentry. This scenario is already coming true in Bassorah, where the 2 million civilians are deprived of drinking water and electricity since March 22 and epidemics threaten the lives of 100,000 children. [….] Baghdad will soon be under siege: five million civilians will be hostages. The Coalition is using hunger as a weapon. For Baghdadis will have no drinking water, no lights, telephones, sanitation facilities; and what will they eat? [….] UN agencies estimate emergency needs: water and food for 5 and a half million Iraqis immediately, 10 million after six weeks, care for 2 million refugees and internally displaced people; medical supplies and chemical toilets for 5.5 million people, medical supplies for 1000,000 wounded (though estimates reach 500,000), tent shelters for for 1.5 million, reconstruction of bridges and reorganisation of trucks. But these urgent needs are insignificant in comparison with what must be done in the year following invasion: food and medication for 23 million people, care for 2 million refugees, “therapeutic food” for 3 million pregnant and nursing women and children suffering from malnutrition; water for 18 million people, emergency shelter for 3.5 million people, care for some 60,000 people now in institutions and hospitals, mine clearing materials, materials to reconstruct bridges, all sorts of vehicles, and above all, hundreds of electrical generators.

Sharing of Financial and Penal Responsibilities

It is difficult to see how [in] an apocalyptic situation such as is described by UN agencies, the rights of 23 million Iraqis will be protected, because [the protection of] their basic right to life is far from certain. The USA has marshalled 3 million individual rations—that is, one day of food for 3 million people—in terms of food aid, and ha[s] earmarked $52 million, whereas hundreds of millions of dollars will be required. They do not hide the fact that they are counting on the rest of the world to pay the bill, although most other countries have declared their opposition to destruction--a questionable division of international labour. [….]

Appeals attempting to declare this war illegal are underway in Canada and Great Britain; other countries could follow the same example. But no judicial action will happen in time to save civilian Iraqis. It is up to governments opposed to war to show the aggressors their responsibilities. The states prepared to provoke this catastrophe will be guilty, but those which allow them to do it are also from now on and already accomplices to war crimes against an entire population.

Christine Delphy, “International Law and the Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq,” ZNet (March 27, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3332.


For further information on this issue, see the following:

International Humanitarian Law Research Initiative, “International Law: Ensuring humanitarian access in Iraq” (April 5, 2003), http://electronicIraq.net/news/564.shtml.

Mahajan, Rahul. “The New Humanitarianism: Basra as a Military Target,” ZNet (March 28, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3345.



5. Weapons of Mass Destruction: Did Iraq pose a threat to peace and security?

This section contains excerpts from texts by writers of the Associated Press news agency, Hans Blix, Noam Chomsky, Mohamed Elbaradei, Richard Gwyn, Richard Norton-Taylor, Niko Price, Scott Ritter (with William Rivers Pitt), Hans von Sponeck, and Andreas Zumach.


(a) The evidence of Iraq’s disarmament

On September 24, 2002, a U.K. Member of Parliament, George Galloway, contacted British journalists posted in Baghdad by telephone as soon as the Blair government’s dossier on Iraq’s purported weapons of mass destruction capacity was released. They immediately asked Iraqi government officials to take them to sites named in the dossier. The Iraqis cooperated promptly, and the journalists concluded from their visits to the sites that the claims made in the U.K. government dossier were false. (It can be noted that the U.K. government dossier was kept secret until the moment of its release; neither Iraq nor anyone else outside the central agencies of the U.K. government had advance notice of its contents.)

Source: Interview of George Galloway MP on CBC Radio “As It Happens” (September 25, 2002).


Two sites, Al Dora on the outskirts of Baghdad and Al Fallujah III, were identified by the U.S. government (“A decade of Deception and Defiance,” September 12, 2002) and by the U.K. government (Dossier released on September 24, 2002) as places where biological weapons of mass destruction have been in production since the departure of UN weapons inspectors in December 1998. A study published on September 9, 2002 by the U.K. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) makes the same claims about the Al Dora site.


My visit to these two sites (accompanied by the ARD German TV) showed conclusively that Al Dora and Al Fallujah III facilities had been destroyed…. The evidence offered by the US and UK administration as well as the IISS assessment of Iraq’s WMD status does not support in any way the contention that an imminent threat emanates from Iraq justifying a military offensive. The US government-promoted mass hysteria and the psycho war are internationally unacceptable.

Hans von Sponeck, “Four Questions, Four Answers” (European Colloquium, Brussels, September 25, 2002), http://www.afsc.org/iraq/guide/4questions.shtm.


The United States maintains that Iraq poses a threat to its security. This threat, it is argued, is so serious that a pre-emptive military strike is required to protect the US and the wider global community. The UK shares this perception.

The rest of the world, particularly Iraq’s neighbours, do not agree with this assessment. [….] None of the ‘evidence’ the US and UK have produced is accepted by the international community as hard core and unquestionable evidence that Iraq is in possession of or trying to produce ABC [i.e. atomic/biological/chemical] weapons materials.

Attempts to link acts of terrorism involving the 1993 and 2001 WTC, the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar-Es-salaam, the USS Cole in Aden, the Anthrax cases in the US and collaboration with Al Qaeda to the Government of Iraq have failed.

Hans von Sponeck, “Four Questions, Four Answers” (European Colloquium, Brussels, September 25, 2002), http://www.afsc.org/iraq/guide/4questions.shtm.


I believe the primary problem at this point is one of accounting. Iraq has destroyed 90-95% of its weapons of mass destruction. Okay. We have to remember that this missing 5-10% doesn’t necessarily constitute a threat. It doesn't even constitute a weapons program. It constitutes bits and pieces of a weapons program which in its totality doesn’t amount to much, but which is still prohibited. Likewise, just because we can’t account for it doesn’t mean Iraq retains it. There’s no evidence Iraq retains this material. That’s the quandary we’re in. We can’t give Iraq a clean bill of health, therefore we can’t close the book on their weapons of mass destruction. But simultaneously we can’t reasonably talk about Iraqi non-compliance as representing a de-facto retention of a prohibited capability worthy of war.

How do we deal with this uncertainty? There are those who say that because there are no weapons inspectors in Iraq today [i.e. August, 2002], because Iraq has shown a proclivity to acquire these weapons in the past and use these weapons against their neighbors and their own people, and because Iraq has lied to weapons inspectors in the past, we have to assume the worst. Under this rubric, a pre-emptive strike is justified.

If this were argued in a court of law, the weight of evidence would go the other way. Iraq has, in fact, demonstrated over and over a willingness to cooperate with weapons inspectors. Mitigating circumstances surround the demise of inspections and the inconclusive or incomplete nature of the mission, by which I mean Iraq’s failure to be certified as fully disarmed. Those seeking to implement these resolutions—for example, the United States—actually violated the terms of the resolutions by using their unique access to operate inside Iraq in a manner incompatible with Security Council resolutions, for example, by spying on Iraq.

William Rivers Pitt, with Scott Ritter, War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know (New York: Context Books, 2002), "An Interview with Scott Ritter," pp. 29-30.


“How should the problem of the existence and use of weapons of mass destruction in the world today be dealt with?”

They should be eliminated. The non-proliferation treaty commits countries with nuclear weapons to take steps towards eliminating them. The biological and chemical weapons treaties have the same goals. The main Security Council resolution concerning Iraq (687 [1991]) calls for eliminating weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems from the Middle East, and working towards a global ban on chemical weapons. Good advice.

Iraq is nowhere near the lead in this regard. We might recall the warning of General Lee Butler, head of Clinton’s Strategic Command in the early 90s, that “it is dangerous in the extreme that in the cauldron of animosities that we call the Middle East, one nation has armed itself, ostensibly, with stockpiles of nuclear weapons, perhaps numbering in the hundreds, and that inspires other nations to do so.” He’s talking about Israel, of course. The Israeli military authorities claim to have air and armored forces that are larger and more advanced than those of any European NATO power (Yitzhak ben Israel, Ha’aretz, 4-16-02, Hebrew). They also announce that 12% of their bombers and fighter aircraft are permanently stationed in Eastern Turkey, along with comparable naval and submarine forces in Turkish bases, and armored forces as well [...]. By now Israel is virtually an offshore US military base.

Noam Chomsky and Michael Albert, “Interview with Noam Chomsky about US Warplans,” ZNet (August 29, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2422.


Blair’s defence of his policy towards Saddam Hussein and UN weapons inspectors seems increasingly incoherent. In his press conference last week he carefully linked the threat of terrorism with the need to disarm Iraq. There was a danger of weapons falling into the hands of terrorists. He described Iraq as the “focal point” of the problem.

Yet under questioning by MPs on Tuesday, Blair admitted that no evidence had been found of any links between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein, something his intelligence agencies have repeatedly told him. Yet the Bush administration, encouraged by the the Israeli government, continues to promote the lie that such a link exists. [….]

Any threat posed by Iraq was put into perspective this week by the former Democrat senator, Sam Nunn. He was in London to launch a report on nuclear, chemical and biological weapons by 13 respected thinktanks led by the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies. The danger was not so much that a state would supply terrorist groups with these weapons. Terrorists, Nunn warned, are more likely to steal them or buy them on the open market.

Richard Norton-Taylor, “A blindness that puts us all in danger,” The Guardian (January 23, 2003), http://www.guardian.co.uk/terrorism/story/0,12780,880374,00.html.


Important assessments of the question of Iraq’s supposed possession of chemical, biological or (potentially) nuclear weapons include the following:

Blix, Hans. “Statement by Hans Blix to the UN Security Council,” The Guardian (January 27, 2003), http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/unmovic/2003/0127entblixrep.htm.

----, “Statement by Hans Blix to the UN Security Council (February 14, 2003),” http://www.un.org/Depts/unmovic/blix14Febasdel.htm.

----, “Statement by Hans Blix to the UN Security Council (March 7, 2003),” http://www.un.org/Depts/unmovic/SC7asdelivered.htm.

Elbaradei, Mohamed. “Statement of Mohamed Elbaradei to the UN Security Council (March 7, 2003),” http://www.iaea.org/worldatom/Press/Statements/2003/ebsp2003n006.shtml.

Khadduri, Imad. “Iraq’s nuclear non-capability,” Yellow Times (November 21, 2002), http://www.yellowtimes.org/article.php?sid=874.

Pitt, William Rivers, with Scott Ritter. War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know. New York: Context Books, 2002.

Rangwala, Glen. “Claims and evaluations of Iraq’s proscribed weapons,” http://www.traprockpeace.org/iraqweapons.html.

Hans Blix is Executive Chairman of the current UN weapons inspection team (UNMOVIC) in Iraq; Mohamed Elbaradei is Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Scott Ritter was a member of the UN weapons inspection team that was withdrawn at U.S. instigation in 1998. Imad Khadduri, who now lives in Toronto, worked with the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission from 1968 until 1998. Dr. Khadduri’s statement that Iraq’s nuclear weapons program was abandoned after the 1991 Gulf War is supported by Scott Ritter’s account of the UNSCOM inspections which ended in 1998 and by Dr. Elbaradei's conclusions regarding the current IAEA inspections in Iraq.

Dr. Glen Rangwala is an independent analyst, a lecturer in politics at the University of Cambridge. His assessment of the evidence is the most thorough available, and is regularly updated. He has analyzed in scrupulous detail all of the claims relating to Iraqi nuclear, chemical and biological warfare capacities and delivery systems made by the U.S. and U.K. governments. With one single exception— the importation of rocket engines, forbidden under the sanctions, but confessed to in Iraq’s December 2002 weapons declaration to the Security Council—he finds the claims of the American and British governments to be unsupported by the available evidence. See Glen Rangwala, “Claims and evaluations of Iraq's proscribed weapons,” http://www.traprockpeace.org/iraqweapons.html.


When I left Iraq in 1998, when the UN inspection program ended, the [nuclear weapons program] infrastructure and facilities had been 100% eliminated. There’s no debate about that. All of their instruments and facilities had been destroyed. The weapons design facilities had been destroyed. The production equipment had been hunted down and destroyed. And we had in place means to monitor—both from vehicles and from the air—the gamma rays that accompany attempts to enrich uranium or plutonium. We never found anything. We can say unequivocally that the industrial infrastructure needed by Iraq to produce nuclear weapons had been eliminated.

William Rivers Pitt, with Scott Ritter, War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know (New York: Context Books, 2002), “An Interview with Scott Ritter,” pp. 30-31.


* There is no indication of resumed nuclear activities in those buildings that were identified through the use of satellite imagery as being reconstucted or newly erected since 1998, nor any indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities at any inspected sites.

* There is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import uranium since 1990.

* There is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import aluminium tubes for use in centrifuge enrichment. Moreover, even if Iraq had pursued such a plan, it would have encountered practical difficulties in manufacturing centrifuges out of the aluminium tubes in question.

* Although we are still reviewing issues related to magnets and magnet production, there is no indication to date that Iraq has imported magnets for use in a centrifuge enrichment programme.

Mohamed Elbaradei, “Statement of Mohamed Elbaradei to the UN Security Council (March 7, 2003): The Status of Nuclear Inspections in Iraq: An Update,” http://www.iaea.org/worldatom/Press/Statements/2003/ebsp2003n006.shtml.


In his March 7, 2003 report to the UN Security Council, UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Dr. Hans Blix noted that U.S. claims that Iraq possesses mobile biological-weapons laboratories and moves weapons of mass destruction around the country in trucks appear to be incorrect. (“Food testing mobile laboratories and mobile workshops have been seen, as well as large containers with seed processing equipment. No evidence of proscribed activities have [sic] so far been found.”) Claims that weapons of mass destruction are being manufactured or concealed underground are likewise unsupported by the evidence. (“During inspections of declared or undeclared facilities, inspection teams have examined building structures for any possible underground facilities. In addition, ground penetrating radar equipment was used in several specific locations. No underground facilities for chemical or biological production or storage were found so far.”) Blix also remarked, with respect to the ongoing destruction of the short-range Al Samoud 2 missiles, that “We are not watching the breaking of toothpicks” (“Statement by Hans Blix to the UN Security Council [March 7, 2003],” http://www.un.org/Depts/unmovic/SC7asdelivered.htm).

Grasping at straws, Colin Powell and other U.S. officials claimed in the months prior to the invasion of Iraq that Iraq possessed drone aircraft capable of attacking the United States with chemical and biological weapons. But once again, the evidence proved disappointing.


A remotely piloted aircraft that the United States has warned could spread chemical weapons appears to be made of balsa wood and duct tape, with two small propellers attached to what look like the engines of a weed whacker.

Iraqi officials took journalists to the Ibn Firnas State Company just north of Baghdad yesterday, where the drone’s project director accused Colin Powell, the U.S. Secretary of State, of misleading the UN Security Council and the public.

“He’s making a big mistake,” said Brigadier-General Imad Abdul Latif. “He knows very well that this aircraft is not used for what he said.”

In Washington’s search for a “smoking gun” that would prove Iraq is not disarming, Mr. Powell has insisted the drone, which has a wingspan of 7.5 metres, could be fitted to dispense chemical and biological weapons. He has said it “should be of concern to everybody.” [….]

Brig.-Gen. Latif said the plane is controlled by the naked eye from the ground. Asked whether its range is above the 150-kilometre limit imposed by the UN, he said it couldn’t be controlled from more than 11 kilometres. Brig.-Gen. Latif said the exact range will be determined when the drone passes to the next testing stage.

Ibn Firnas’ general director, General Ibrahim Hussein, disputed assertions by Mr. Powell and Ari Fleischer, the White House Press Secretary, that the drone was capable of dispensing biological and chemical weapons. “This RPV is to be used for reconnaissance, jamming and aerial photography,” he said. “We have never thought of any other use.”

Niko Price, “Iraq says duct-taped drone was never hidden,” National Post (March 13, 2003): A15.


The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” (U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.)

It’s troubling […] that Iraq is being required to prove a negative; namely that it does not have weapons of mass destruction. This is a logical impossibility. Only after an invasion can there be absolute certainty about what actually exists, or doesn’t, in the country. At that time, if nothing were found, the Americans could say, and no doubt would, that the weapons did once exist but had been spirited away to Al Qaeda terrorists.

Richard Gwyn, “Clock starts ticking on Iraq,” Toronto Star (Dec. 22, 2002), A21.


(b) The sources of Iraq’s pre-1991 WMD programs

Glen Rangwala notes that some of the relevant evidence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction has not been made public. It was in fact suppressed by the U.S. government—whose UN delegation appropriated the 12,000 page report which was submitted to the Security Council by Iraq in December 2002. The U.S. subsequently supplied to other members of the Council a censored text only 3,000 pages in length. The reason for this bizarre act of concealment is not far to seek. According to reports by Andreas Zumach in the Berlin newspaper DieTageszeitung on December 17 and 18, 2002, the full report contains embarrassingly detailed information about the complicity of western corporations and governments—among them 80 German corporations, 24 American corporations, and the Reagan and Bush I governments—in Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and biological warfare programs during the 1980s. It appears that the U.S. government contemplated using unreleased information about German complicity as a means of blackmailing Germany (which joined the Security Council as a rotating member at the beginning of January 2003) into compliance with the US attack on Iraq.


A long-term high-ranking member of the government in Baghdad (whose name is known to Die Tageszeitung) has signalled his readiness to the Bush administration to deliver more specific information regarding German arms cooperation with Iraq, in return for assurances of protection after a potential regime change. According to sources, the Bush administration might want to use this information to ensure that Germany […] complies with the U.S. position in the Security Council.

Andreas Zumach, Die Tageszeitung (December 17, 2002), translation from http://www.democracynow.org/Zumach2.htm. The German text of Zumach’s articles on Iraq’s weapons report to the Security Council is available at http://www.taz.de. (See also Beaumont, Rose, and Beaver, “US to punish German 'treachery',” The Observer [February 17, 2003], http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3060.)


During the 1980s, when the United States supported Iraq in its 1980-88 war against Iran, the U.S. supplied Saddam Hussein's regime with biological weapons agents. According to an Associated Press report of October 1, 2002, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “and a biological sample company, the American Type Culture Collection, sent strains of all the germs Iraq used to make weapons, including anthrax, the bacteria that make botulinin toxin and the germs that cause gas gangrene….” See “U.S. gave germs to Iraq,” Associated Press (October 1, 2002), http://www.timesdispatch.com/news/more/MGBPGP77R6D.html.

For further evidence of the complicity of corporations and governments in Germany, the U.S., Britain and other countries in supplying the Iraqi government with weapons of mass destruction technology during the 1980s, and in providing diplomatic cover for Iraq when the regime used chemical weapons against its own Kurdish population in 1987 and 1988, see the following articles:

Gendzier, Irene. “Dying to Forget: The US and Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction,” Logos Online (March 14, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3233.

Hiltermann, Joost R. “America Didn’t Seem to Mind Poison Gas,” International Herald Tribune (January 17, 2003), http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0117-01.htm.

Mackay, Neil Mackay. “Iraq's Arms Revealed: 17 British firms armed Saddam with his weapons,” Sunday Herald (February 25, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=3124.


(c) U.S. use of weapons of mass destruction

The United States can hardly claim to occupy the moral high ground when it comes to the question of weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. has repeatedly threatened to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear powers, among them North Korea. (For documentation of the latter threats see Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky, eds. Peter R. Mitchell and John Schoeffel (New York: The New Press, 2002), p. 302 n. 62, available at http://www.understandingpower.com.) On several occasions between August 1990 and February 1991, the U.S. and Britain threatened to use nuclear weapons against Iraq—a threat renewed by British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon in March 2002; see Milan Rai, War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq (London and New York: Verso, 2002), pp. 188, 185.

The research work of two Canadian historians, Stephen Endicott and Edward Hagerman, appears to have confirmed that the U.S. deployed biological weapons during the Korean War, “bombing parts of North Korea and China with anthrax, encephalitis and other diseases in early 1952.” See Faiz Rady, “'Beyond a reasonable doubt’,” Al-Ahram Weekly (April 6-12, 2000, Issue No. 476), http://www.ahram.org.eg/weekly/2000/476/in1.htm. There is also strong evidence of U.S. use of the nerve gas sarin during the Vietnam War: see Barry Grey, “Why did CNN retract its nerve gas report? A closer look,” World Socialist Web Site (July 16, 1998), http://www.wsws.org/news/1998/july1998/cnn-j16.shtml.

A much more damaging use of chemical agents during the U.S. invasion of Vietnam is of course well known, though not commonly recognized as an instance of chemical warfare. The United States forces sprayed “Agent Orange” repeatedly over wide tracks of South Vietnam between the mid-1960s and 1973: though categorized as a “defoliant,” this substance was highly toxic to humans and animals as well as to plants. In May, 2002 Noam Chomsky commented with characteristic irony on some recent non-coverage of the subject in the U.S. media.


Just a couple of weeks ago, there was a front-page story in all the papers. Some scientists had discovered that it would be possible to construct what are called “dirty bombs”—bombs that would have a lot of radiation but not much destructive impact—and to put them in New York somewhere. They calculated the effects and they said there wouldn't be many deaths, just a small number, but maybe a lot of disease, and it would certainly cause panic. So it's a horrible story, front-page news.

The same day, there was a conference in Hanoi, in which leading U.S. scientists participated, people who had worked on dioxin, the main poisonous ingredient in Agent Orange. The conference was concerned with the effects of U.S. chemical warfare on South Vietnam, only South Vietnam. The North was spared this terror. And an American scientist at the conference tested dioxin levels in various parts of the country.

Of course, those who had been subjected to crop destruction and other uses of Agent Orange had very high levels, in fact hundreds of times as high as permissible in the United States. And there are also recent cases. Many of them are just from the last few years, children. And they tried to calculate the effects, which would be colossal, probably hundreds of thousands of victims. That news was hardly even mentioned in the [U.S.] press.

I had a friend do a database search. There were a couple of mentions here and there. So here, a report on our use of chemical weapons, which may have killed maybe hundreds of thousands of people: not a mention. A report that maybe it might be possible to do something in New York that might kill a few people: front-page news.

That’s the difference. That’s the difference in who counts and who doesn't count.

Noam Chomsky, Power and Terror: Post-9/11 Talks and Interviews (New York: Seven Stories Press, Tokyo: Little More, 2003), pp. 27-28.


In an important article, Stephen Kerr documents the evidence that large numbers of U.S. soldiers in Iraq were exposed to sarin gas and other chemical weapons on March 4, 1991, when the U.S. Army idiotically demolished the Iraqi chemical weapons depot at Kamisiyah by blowing it up in the open air. In the same article, Kerr also provides useful information about the U.S.’s own stocks of chemical weapons. See Stephen Kerr, “Where's the VX?” (January 24, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2909.

Elsewhere Kerr has quoted at length from Donald Rumsfeld’s testimony to the House Armed Services Committee on February 5, 2003—testimony which makes clear Rumsfeld’s intention, in defiance of the Geneva Convention and the Chemical Weapons Convention, to use chemical weapons against the civilian population of Baghdad. See section 4 (c) above for an excerpt from Stephen Kerr’s article “For the President and Poison Gas: Donald Rumsfeld and Poison Gas” (February 27, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3148.



6. Decoding U.S. and U.K. Propaganda

This section contains excerpts from texts written (or, in one case, spoken) by Prashant Bhushan, Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Sandro Contenta, George Galloway, Seymour Hersh, Media Lens, Maggie O’Kane, Scott Peterson, John Pilger, Dana Priest, Milan Rai, and Glen Rangwala.


(a) Key statements of the U.S. and U.K. position

Important recent policy statements and claims of fact by the U.S. and U.K. governments include the following, listed in the order of their publication. (The first nine of these texts are available at http://traprockpeace.org/iraqweapons.html.)

U.S. State Department. “A Decade of Deception and Defiance.” (September 12, 2002; background paper to President George W. Bush’s speech to the UN General Assembly.)

U.K. Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). “Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government.” (September 24, 2002).

George W. Bush. “Speech at Cincinnati Museum Center, Cincinnati, Ohio.” (October 7, 2002.)

U.S. Defense Department. “Iraqi Denial and Deception for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Ballistic Missile Programs.” (October 8, 2002.)

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). “Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs.” (October, 2002.)

U.S. State Department. “Fact Sheet: Illustrative Examples of Omissions from the Iraqi Declaration to the United Nations Security Council.” (December 19, 2002.)

U.S. White House, “What Does Disarmament Look Like?” (January 23, 2003).

Colin Powell. “Remarks at the World Economic Forum.” (Davos, Switzerland, January 26, 2003.)

George W. Bush. “State of the Union Address.” (January 28, 2003.)

“Iraq—its infrastructure of concealment, deception and intimidation.” 10 Downing Street Facts (U.K. Government Dossier, January 30, 2003), http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page7111.asp.

Colin Powell. “Remarks: Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to the United Nations Security Council.” (February 5, 2003), http://www.un.int/usa/03clp0205.htm.

Julian Borger. “Straw threat to bypass UN over attack on Iraq.” The Guardian (October 19, 2002), http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,815190,00.html.

Tony Blair. “The price of my conviction.” The Observer (February 16, 2003): 20.


(b) Responses to Bush and Powell

Among the many recent responses to the claims advanced by George W. Bush and Colin Powell, the following (listed according to the date of their publication) are noteworthy:

Norman Solomon and Reese Erlich. Target Iraq: What the News Media Didn't Tell You. New York: Context Books, 2003. Appendix Two: “Detailed Analysis of October 7, 2002 Speech by Bush on Iraq” (Compiled by the Institute for Public Accuracy on October 8, 2002), pp. 125-54.

Phyllis Bennis. “Powell’s Dubious Case,” ZNet (February 5, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2976.

Robert Jensen. “Smoking Guns and Big Guns: The US Drive to War,” ZNet (February 5, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2970.

Robert Fisk.“Powell Presentation: It was like something out of Beckett,” The Independent (February 6, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2977.

Stephen James-Kerr. “The ‘Modified Vehicles’ Powell Forgot to Mention,” ZNet (February 6, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2986.

Danny Schechter. “Powell Doctrine or Doctrinaire?” ZNet (February 6, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=21&ItemID=2981.

Scott Ritter. “Dismissing Powell: Story on Scott Ritter’s Reaction,” Kyodo News (February 7, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2997.

Normon Solomon. “Colin Powell is Flawless—Inside a Media Bubble,” ZNet (February 7, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=21&ItemID=2993.

Rahul Mahajan. “Responding to Colin Powell,” ZNet (February 8, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2980

Maria Tomchick. “Powell’s Flimsy Evidence,” ZNet (February 9, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3009.

Mark Weisbrot. “War Games: ‘Old Europe’ Confronts Washington on Iraq,” ZNet (February 11, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3023.

Mahir Ali. “Blessed Are the Peacemakers,” Dawn [Karachi] (February 12, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3026.

Dennis Hans. “Lying Us Into War: Exposing Bush and His ‘Techniques of Deceit’,” Scoop Media (February 12, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3024.

Joey Slinger. “With friends like this, do we need other reasons,” Toronto Star (February 15, 2003): A2, http://www.thestar.com.

Michele Landsberg. “U.S lies shouldn’t be leading us into battle again,” Toronto Star (February 16, 2003): A2, http://www.thestar.com.

Haroon Siddiqui. “Case for war eroded by absurd U.S. arguments,” Toronto Star (February 16, 2003): B1, http://www.thestar.com.

Robert Byrd. “We stand passively mute,” The Guardian (February 18, 2003): 17.

Hans Blix. “Statement by Hans Blix to the UN Security Council (March 7, 20034),” http://www.un.org/Depts/unmovic/SC7asdelivered.htm.

Mohamed Elbaradei. “Statement by Mohamed Elbaradei to the UN Security Council (March 7, 2003),” http://www.iaea.org/worldatom/Press/Statements/2003/ebsp2003n006.shml.

Niko Price. “Iraq says duct-taped drone was never hidden,” National Post (March 13, 2003): A15.

“White House Claims: A Pattern of Deceit,” Institute for Public Accuracy (March 18, 2003), http://www.accuracy.org/press_releases/PR031803.htm.

Walter Pincus and Dana Milbank. “Bush Clings to Dubious Allegations About Iraq,” The Washington Post (March 18, 2003): A13, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A42517-2003Mar17.html.

Seymour M. Hersh. “Who Lied to Whom? Why did the Administration endorse a forgery about Iraq's nuclear program?” The New Yorker (March 31, 2003), http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?030331fa_fact.

In a recent article, Prashant Bhushan turns George W. Bush’s repeated comparisons of Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler against Bush himself.


While selling his attack on Iraq, Bush often draws an analogy with Hitler's Germany. He likens the threat posed to the world by Saddam today to the threat posed by Hitler in the mid 30s. [….] While the analogy between Saddam and Hitler may be laughable, it is instructive, though frightening, to draw an analogy between Bush and Hitler and the threats posed by them to other nations and to world peace.

[….] Compared to the military arsenal of the US today, Germany’s under Hitler was nothing. The lack of respect of the US for international law is evident not only in the number of occasions that it has engaged in unilateral overt military aggression […] during the last fifty years […], but also from the number of occasions that it has vetoed [otherwise] unanimous Security Council resolutions which were passed to make Israel comply with international law. [….] Any doubt whatsoever about the willingness of Bush to trample upon all norms of international law should have been dispelled by the manner in which Bush has been proclaiming his contempt for the United Nations. [….]

It is obvious by now that the real objective of the attack on Iraq is not to stop Saddam from acquiring and using weapons of mass destruction […]. The real objectives have to do with securing and controlling Iraq's oil […], and indeed to acquire strategic control of the entire Middle East. From the belligerence and arrogance exhibited by Bush and his top advisers […], it appears that the objective is also to generate fear among other countries that the US would be willing to use its military might against nations which cross its path. The [open threat to use the] recently tested sub-nuclear “mother of all bombs (MOAB)” […], along with nuclear tipped deep penetration missiles, against Iraq, is not just designed to scare Iraq into submission, but also to put other countries on notice that the US will not hesitate to use weapons of mass genocide against countries which do not toe its line. [….]

But it may be objected that it would be unfair to compare Bush with Hitler, since Bush leads a democratic country while Hitler had established a dictatorship. But even Hitler had come to power through a democratic election. It was only thereafter, that he used the Reichstag fire and the demonizing of the Jews to generate mass hysteria and acquire absolute power. Hasn’t Bush also used the events of September 11 to carefully orchestrate his “war on terror” to generate the same kind of hysteria? He has used that hysteria to get the Congress to abdicate and cede many of its powers to him, particularly the all-important power of permitting attack on other countries under the cover of this war on terror. He has even got several draconian laws passed, including the infamous Patriot Act, which is being used to erode civil liberties and gradually take the US on the path of a Police State. [….]

[By] every objective standard, Bush today poses a much greater threat to world peace and those countries which do not toe his line, than Hitler ever did. His military arsenal is far bigger and more lethal than any arsenal ever assembled in history. He has displayed an open contempt for the United Nations and international law and an easy willingness to use unilateral military force to even commit mass genocide by using weapons of mass destruction to achieve his ends. He has skilfully generated mass hysteria in the country to increase his own power by whittling down the power of the Congress, and eroding civil liberties. His personal commercial interests and those of his men are closely tied to oil and war and he has demonstrated that he will trample upon all international norms in the pursuit of those interests.

Prashant Bhushan, “Bush Must Be Stopped Now Before It Is Too Late,” ZNet (March 17, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=3254.


(c) Responses to Blair

The claims advanced by Tony Blair have been no less thoroughly refuted and exposed to ridicule:

Alan Simpson and Glen Rangwala. “Labour Against the War’s Counter-Dossier” (September 17, 2002), http://www.labouragainstthewar.org.uk/link5.html.

Robert Fisk. “The dishonesty of this so-called dossier,” The Independent (September 25, 2002), http://argument.independent.co.uk/commentators/story.jsp?story=336404.

“Media Lens Alert: Bitter Ironies of Propaganda.” Media Lens (January 14, 2003), http://www.medialens.org/alerts/030114_Bitter_Ironies.html.

David Edwards. “Blair’s Betrayal: Part I (The Newsnight Debate: Dismantling the Case for War),” Media Lens (February 10, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3012.

David Edwards. “Blair’s Betrayal: Part 2 (The Newsnight Debate: Dismantling the Case for War),” Media Lens (February 11, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3020.

Conor Gearty. “How did Blair get here? Conor Gearty on the folly of the impending war,” London Review of Books, vol. 25, no. 4 (February 20, 2003): 7-8.

John Pilger. “Blair's Lies,” Daily Mirror (March 14, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3235.

One passage in Blair’s “The price of my conviction” speech deserves special emphasis. Blair attempts to refute “the moral case against war” by setting out “the moral case for removing Saddam” in the following manner.


[…] the moral case against war has a moral answer: it is the moral case for removing Saddam. It is not the reason we act. That must be according to the UN mandate on weapons of mass destruction. But it is the reason, frankly, why if we do have to act, we should do so with a clear conscience.

Yes, there are consequences of war. If we remove Saddam by force, people will die, and some will be innocent. And we must live with the consequences of our actions, even the unintended ones.

But there are also consequences of ‘stop the war’. There will be no march for the victims of Saddam, no protests about the thousands of children that die needlessly every year under his rule, no righteous anger over the torture chambers which if he is left in power, will remain in being.

Tony Blair, “The price of my conviction,” The Observer (February 16, 2003): 20.


Blair identifies two categories of victims of the Iraqi tyrant. There is indeed reason for concern about torture and summary executions under Saddam Hussein’s brutal dictatorship. (It is worth adding that such concern does not legitimize a war of aggression—and worth noting that the U.S. and U.K. governments expressed no concern about Iraqi torture during the 1980s when Saddam was their de facto ally.) But for Blair to advance the deaths of Iraqi children as a justification for war—when these deaths have been and continue to be caused by the genocidal regime of sanctions for which the U.S. and his own government bear direct responsibility—is breathtakingly cynical.


Having failed to fabricate a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda, and prove that Iraq has a secret armoury of banned weapons, the warmongers have fallen back on the “moral case” for an unprovoked attack on a stricken country. Farce has arrived. We want to laugh out loud, a deep and dark and almost grief-laden laugh, at Blair’s concern for the “victims of Saddam Hussein” and his admonishment (printed in the Observer) of the millions of protesters: “There will be … no protests about the thousands of [Iraqi] children that die needlessly every year…”

First, let’s look back to Saddam’s most famous victim, the British journalist Farzad Bazoft, who was hanged in 1990 for “spying”, a bogus trial following a bogus charge. Those of us who protested at his murder did so in the teeth of a smear campaign by the British government and a press determined to cover for Britain’s favourite tyrant.

The Sun smeared Bazoft by publishing his conviction for stealing when he was a student—information supplied by MI5 on behalf of the Thatcher government, which was then seeking any excuse not to suspend its lucrative business and arms deals with the Iraqi dictator. The Mail and Today suggested that Saddam was right—that Bazoft was a spy. In a memorable editorial, the Sunday Telegraph equated investigative journalism with criminal espionage. Defending Saddam, not his victim, was clearly preferable.

What did Tony Blair say about this outrage? I can find nothing. Did Blair join those of us who protested, on the streets and in print, at the fact that ministers such as Douglas Hurd were commuting to Baghdad, with Hurd going especially to celebrate the anniversary of the coming to power of the dictator I described as “renowned as the interrogator of Qasr-al-Nihayyah, the ‘Palace of the End’”?

There is no record of Blair saying anything substantive about Saddam Hussein’s atrocities until after 11 September 2001 when the Americans, having failed to catch Osama bin Laden, declared Saddam their number one enemy. As for Blair’s assertion that there have been “no protests about the thousands of children that die needlessly under his rule”, the answer is straightforward.

There have been years of protests about the effects of the Anglo-American embargo on the children of Iraq. That the US, backed by Britain, is largely responsible for the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi deaths is the great unspoken in the so-called mainstream of politics and journalism. That the embargo allowed Saddam Hussein to centralise and reinforce his domestic control is equally unmentionable. Whenever the voluminous evidence of such a monumental western crime against humanity is laid out, the crocodile tears of Blair and the rest of the warmongers barely disguise their cynicism.

Denis Halliday, the former assistant secretary general of the United Nations who was the senior UN official in Baghdad, has many times identified the “genocide” of the American-driven sanctions. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has paid tribute to the Iraqi rationing system, giving it credit for saving an entire population from famine. This, like the evidence and witness of Halliday and his successor, Hans von Sponeck, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) and the Catholic Relief Agency (Cafod) and the 70 members of the US Congress who wrote to President Clinton describing the embargo as “infanticide masquerading as policy”, has been airbrushed out. [….]

John Pilger, “When Saddam hanged a British journalist in 1990, MI5 had the journalist smeared in the Sun, and the Mail agreed he was a spy. What did Blair say? John Pilger can find nothing” (March 27, 2003), http://pilger.carlton.com/print/132122.


One of Tony Blair’s Labour Party colleagues, George Galloway, MP for Glasgow Kelvin, has written as follows about the British prime minister’s position.


What most irks my pro-war parliamentary colleagues is the question I regularly put to them: how has it come about that a Labour government, a Labour government, is shuttling around in limousines, from capital to capital, in the service of a foreign power—acting, as the Wall Street Journal had it, “as America’s newest and brightest ambassador”? As we know, an ambassador is someone sent abroad to lie for his country. It really has come to something when the Prime Minister of Great Britain is sent abroad to lie for someone else's country.

He is roving ambassador to the right-wing, born-again, Bible-belting fundamentalist crew which first turned Texas into the toxic execution chamber of the Western world, and has now, via a four-three vote in the Supreme Court and a lot of pregnant chads, given birth to a government which is a by-word for treaty-busting protocol, scuppering, agreement-wrecking international thuggery. All attempts by the world to rid itself of such plagues as landmines, proliferating small arms, pollution, chemical and biological weapons (I'm not making that last one up: the US has blocked new regulations on the basis that it would require them to allow UN inspectors to see their inventories) have been wrecked by the government now represented on the global stage by Tony Blair.

George Galloway, “Blair Rides Shotgun for Bush,” The Spectator (March 15, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3251.


(d) The scandal of Blair’s plagiarized Dossier

At one point in his February 5, 2003 presentation to the UN Security Council, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “I would call my colleagues’ attention to the fine paper that the United Kingdom distributed yesterday which describes in detail Iraqi deception activities.”

The paper in question, “Iraq—its infrastructure of concealment, deception and intimidation,” was first published by Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Downing Street office on January 30, 2003. On February 5, 2003 Glen Rangwala, a lecturer in politics at Cambridge University, exposed this “fine paper” as consisting very largely of material plagiarized from academic sources published between 1997 and 2002. Rangwala identifies pp. 6, 9-12, and parts of pp. 13-14 as plagiarized from Ibrahim al-Marashi’s essay “Iraq’s Security and Intelligence Network: A Guide and Analysis,” Middle East Review of International Affairs (September 2002). Most of pp. 7-8 and 14-16 is copied from two articles by Sean Boyne published in Jane’s Intelligence Review (July and August 1997); and material on pp. 7, 13 and 15 is lifted from an article by Ken Gause in the same journal (November 2002). Rangwala notes that “Marashi’s typographical errors and anomalous uses of grammar are incorporated into the Downing Street document”—which also, however, makes a number of deliberate changes to its source material.


There are two types of changes incorporated into the British document. Firstly, numbers are increased or rounded up. So, for example, the section on “Fedayeen Saddam” (pp. 15-16) is directly copied from Boyne, almost word for word. The only substantive difference is that Boyne estimates the personnel of the organisation to be 18,000-40,000 (Gause similarly estimates 10-40,000). The British dossier instead writes “30,000 to 40,000”. A similar bumping up of figures occurs with the description of the Directorate of Military Intelligence.

The second type of change in the British dossier is that it replaces particular words to make the claim sound stronger. So, for example, most of p. 9 on the functions of the Mukhabarat is copied directly from Marashi’s article, except that when Marashi writes of its role in: “monitoring foreign embassies in Iraq”--this becomes in the British dossier: “spying on foreign embassies in Iraq”.

Similarly, on that same page, whilst Marashi writes of the Mukhabarat: “aiding opposition groups in hostile regimes”—the British dossier renders this as: “supporting terrorist organisations in hostile regimes”. [….]

Apart from the obvious criticism that the British government has plagiarised texts without acknowledgement, passing them off as the work of the intelligence services, there are two further serious problems. Firstly, it indicates that the UK at least really does not have any independent sources of information on Iraq’s internal politics—they just draw on publicly available data. Thus any further claims to information based on “intelligence data” must be treated with even more scepticism.

Secondly, the information presented as being an accurate statement of the current state of Iraq’s security organisations may not be anything of the sort. Marashi—the real and unwitting author of much of the document—has as his primary source the documents captured in 1991 for the Iraq Research and Documentation Project. His own focus is the activities of Iraq’s intelligence agencies in Kuwait, Aug. 90-Jan. 91—this is the subject of his thesis. As a result, the information presented as relevant to how Iraqi agencies are currently engaged with Unmovic [the UN weapons inspection team] is 12 years old.

Glen Rangwala, “British Intelligence Iraq Dossier Relies on Recycled Academic Articles” (February 5, 2003), http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/issues/iraq/attack/2003/0205plagiarism.htm.


The revelations have left Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office trying to fend off charges of plagiarism over a dossier Blair is using to sell war against Iraq to a British public that is widely opposed.

An MP from Blair’s own Labour party, former cabinet minister Glenda Jackson, said the prime minister’s office would be guilty of “attempting to mislead the country and parliament on the issue of a possible war with Iraq” if it turns out the plagiarized material was passed off as intelligence.

“And of course to mislead is a parliamentary euphemism for lying,” Jackson told the BBC radio’s Today program yesterday.

Added Labour MP Peter Kilfoyle: “It just adds to the general impression that what we have been treated to is a farrago of half-truths, assertions and over-the-top spin.”

Sandro Contenta, “U.K. denies charges of plagiarism,” Toronto Star (February 8, 2003): A10.


(e) Another British forgery: uranium from Niger

The information presented here is from Seymour Hersh's March 31, 2003 article in The New Yorker, cited below. On September 24, 2002, CIA Director George Tenet briefed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Iraq's weapons capability. During this secret briefing, Tenet repeated the claim that high-strength aluminum tubes which Iraq said were intended for missiles were actually intended for the construction of uranium-processing centrifuges. Tenet supported the claim that Iraq had an active nuclear weapons program with “a new and striking fact: the C.I.A. had recently received intelligence showing that, between 1999 and 2001, Iraq had attempted to buy five hundred tons or uranium oxide from Niger, one of the world's largest producers.” On the same day, the British government released a dossier claiming “that Iraq had sought to buy ‘significant quantities of uranium’ from an unnamed African country, ‘despite having no active civil nuclear power programme that could require it.’ The allegation attracted immediate attention; a headline in the London Guardian declared, ‘AFRICAN GANGS OFFER ROUTE TO URANIUM.’” On September 26, Secretary of State Colin Powell repeated Tenet’s and the Blair government’s claim before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee “as evidence of [Iraq's] persistent nuclear ambitions.” These representations had a definite impact on congressional deliberations over a resolution authorizing President George W. Bush to make war on Iraq: the resolution was overwhelmingly approved by Congress two weeks later.


President Bush cited the uranium deal, along with the aluminum tubes, in his State of the Union Message, on January 28th, while crediting Britain as the source of the information: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” He commented, “Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.”

Then the story fell apart. On March 7th, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Vienna, told the U.N. Security Council that the documents involving the Niger-Iraq uranium sale were fakes. “The I.A.E.A. has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents … are in fact not authentic,” ElBaradei said.

One senior I.A.E.A. official went further. He told me, “These documents are so bad that I cannot imagine that they came from a serious intelligence agency. It depresses me, given the low quality of the documents, that it was not stopped. At the level it reached, I would have expected more checking.”

The I.A.E.A. had first sought the documents last fall, shortly after the British government released its dossier. After months of pleading by the I.A.E.A., the United States turned them over to Jacques Baute, who is the director of the agency’s Iraq Nuclear Verification Office.

It took Baute’s team only a few hours to determine that the documents were fake. The agency had been given about a half-dozen letters and other communications between officials in Niger and Iraq, many of them written on letterheads of the Niger government. The problems were glaring. One letter, dated October 10, 2000, was signed with the name of Allele Habibou, a Niger Minister of Foreign Affairs and Coöperation, who had been out of office since 1989. Another letter, allegedly from Tandja Mamadou, the President of Niger, has a signature that had obviously been faked and a text with inaccuracies so egregious, the senior I.A.E.A. official said, that “they could be spotted by someone using Google on the Internet.”

The large quantity of uranium involved should have been another warning sign. Niger’s “yellow cake” comes from two uranium mines controlled by a French company, with its entire output presold to nuclear power companies in France, Japan, and Spain. “Five hundred tons can’t be siphoned off without anyone noticing,” another I.A.E.A official told me. [….]

Baute, according to [this] I.A.E.A. official, “confronted the United States with the forgery: ‘What do you have to say?’ They had nothing to say.” ElBaradei’s disclosure has not been disputed by any government or intelligence official in Washington or London. Colin Powell, asked about the forgery during a television interview two days after ElBaradei’s report, dismissed the subject by saying, “If the issue is resolved, that issue is resolved.” A few days later, at a House hearing, he denied that anyone in the United States government had anything to do with the forgery. “It came from other sources,” Powell testified. “It was provided in good faith to the inspectors.” [….]

The Bush administration’s reliance on the Niger documents may, however, have stemmed from more than bureaucratic carelessness or political overreaching. Forged documents and false accusations have been an element in U.S. and British policy toward Iraq at least since the fall of 1997, after an impasse over U.N. inspections. Then as now, the Security Council was divided, with the French, the Russians, and the Chinese telling the United States and the United Kingdom that they were being too tough on the Iraqis. President Bill Clinton, weakened by the impeachment proceedings, hinted of renewed bombing, but, then as now, the British and the Americans were losing the battle for international public opinion. A former Clinton Administration official told me that London had resorted to, among other things, spreading false information about Iraq. The British propaganda program—part of its Information Operations, or I/Ops—was known to a few senior officials in Washington. “I knew what was going on,” the former Clinton Administration official said of the British efforts. “We were getting ready for action in Iraq, and we wanted the Brits to prepare.”

Over the next year, a former American intelligence officer told me, at least one member of the U.N. inspection team who supported the American and British position arranged for dozens of unverified and unverifiable intelligence reports and tips—data known as inactionable intelligence—to be funneled to MI6 operatives and quietly passed along to newspapers in London and elsewhere. “It was intelligence that was crap, and that we couldn’t move on, but the Brits wanted to plant stories in England and around the world,” the former officer said. There was a series of clandestine meetings with MI6, at which documents were provided, as well as quiet meetings, usually at safe houses in the Washington area. The British propaganda scheme eventually became known to some members of the U.N. inspection team. “I knew a bit,” one official still on duty at U.N. headquarters acknowledged last week, “but I was never officially told about it.”

None of the past and present officials I spoke with were able to categorically state that the fake Niger documents were created or instigated by the same propaganda office in MI6 that had been part of the anti-Iraq propaganda wars in the late nineteen-nineties. (An MI6 intelligence source declined to comment.)

Seymout M. Hersh, “Annals of National Security: Who Lied to Whom? Why did the Administration endorse a forgery about Iraq's nuclear program?” The New Yorker (March 31, 2003), http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?030331fa_fact1. (See also Dana Priest and Karen DeYoung, “CIA Questioned Documents Linking Iraq, Uranium Ore,” The Washington Post (March 22, 2003): A30, http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A9011-2003Mar22.)


(f) Old whoppers: murdered incubator babies (1990), 265,000 Iraqi troops massed on the Saudi border (1991), the supposed Iraqi attempt to assassinate George Bush I (1993)


There should be no illusions: No matter what Baghdad has or has not mentioned in its weapons disclosure documents, the United States and almost certainly Britain are going to war.

If a “material breach” of the United Nations’ ultimatum does not happen by itself, it will be manufactured—just as consent was manufactured with breathtaking cynicism in 1991. There were two glaring examples of how the propaganda machine worked before the 1991 Gulf War:

First, in the final days before the war started on Jan. 9, the Pentagon insisted that not only was Saddam not withdrawing from Kuwait (he was) but that he had 265,000 troops poised in the desert to pounce on Saudi Arabia. The Pentagon claimed to have satellite photographs to prove it. Thus, the waverers and anti-war protesters were silenced.

We now know from declassified documents and photographs taken by a Russian commercial satellite that there were no Iraqi troops poised to attack Saudi Arabia. At the time, no one bothered to ask for proof.

No one except Jean Heller, a five-times nominated, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist from the St. Petersburg Times in Florida who persuaded her bosses to buy two photos, at $1,600 (U.S.) each, from the Soyuz Karta commercial satellite. Guess what? No massing troops. “You could see the planes sitting wingtip to wingtip in Riyadh airport,” says Heller, “but there wasn’t any sign of a quarter of a million Iraqi troops sitting in the middle of the desert.” So, what will the fake satellite pictures show this time? A massive chemical installation with Iraqi goblins cooking up anthrax?

The U.S. propaganda machine is already gearing up. In its sights now is is chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix. He’s too much of a softie for Saddam, former CIA director James Wolsey said recently on the Today television program. His work is of “limited value.” He was Kofi Annan’s “second choice.” What next? Blix’s granny is Iraqi? He has a drug problem?

[….] The second tactic used to get consensus for war in 1991 was another propaganda classic: “dead babies.”

Then, the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador in Washington, Nijirah al-Sabah, tearfully described how, as a volunteer at Al Adnan Hospital in Kuwait City, she had watched Iraqi soldiers looting incubators to take back to Baghdad, pitching the Kuwaiti babies on to “the cold floor to die.”

Except it never happened. The Filipino nurses who worked in the Al Adnan maternity ward, Frieda Construe-Nag and Myra Ancog Cooke, had never seen Ms. al-Sabah in their lives.

Amnesty International admitted it had been duped and Middle East Watch confirmed the fabrication, but it was too late: a marginal U.S. Congress had been swung to vote for war. George Bush the elder mentioned the “incubator babies” seven times in pre-war rallying speeches. It was months before the truth came out. By then, the war was over.

Maggie O’Kane, “The fire next time,” The Toronto Star (Dec. 22, 2002), B1.


“My concern in these situations, always, is that the intelligence you get is driven by the policy, rather than the policy being driven by the intelligence,” says former US Rep. Lee Hamilton (D) of Indiana, a 34-year veteran lawmaker until 1999, who served on numerous foreign affairs and intelligence committees, and is now director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. The Bush team “understands it has not yet carried the burden of persuasion [about an imminent Iraqi threat], so they will look for any kind of evidence to support their premise,” Mr. Hamilton says. “I think we have to be sceptical about it.” [….]

John MacArthur, publisher of Harper’s Magazine and author of Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War, says that considering the number of senior officials shared by both Bush administrations, the American public should bear in mind the lessons of Gulf War propaganda.

“These are all the same people who were running it more than 10 years ago,” Mr. MacArthur says. “They’ll make up just about anything … to get their way.”

On Iraq, analysts note that little evidence so far of an imminent threat from Mr. Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction has been made public.

Critics, including some former United Nations weapons inspectors in Iraq, say no such evidence exists. Mr. Bush says he will make his decision to go to war based on the “best” intelligence.

“You have to wonder about the quality of that intelligence,” says Mr. Hamilton at Woodrow Wilson.

“This administration is capable of any lie … in order to advance its goal in Iraq,” says a US government source in Washington with some two decades of experience in intelligence, who would not be further identified. “It is one of the reasons it doesn’t want to have UN weapons inspectors go back in, because they might actually show that the probability of Iraq having [threatening illicit weapons] is much lower than they want us to believe.”

Scott Peterson, “In war, some facts less factual: Some US assertions from the last war on Iraq still appear dubious,” Christian Science Monitor (September 6, 2003), http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0906/p01s02-wosc.htm.


The CIA officials said they believed that “the last terrorist operation tried by Iraq against the United States was the assassination attempt against the first President Bush during his visit to Kuwait in 1993”—an alleged plot that was supposedly disrupted before it could be carried out. This fabricated “plot” to assassinate former President George Bush Sr. was comprehensively demolished by Seymour Hersh in a forensic article in the New Yorker many years later. One of the key claims linking the alleged plot to the Iraqi government was that the remote-control firing device found in the Kuwaiti car bomb supposedly intended for George Bush has a uniquely identifying “signature” used in previously recovered Iraqi bombs.

The US Administration released colour photographs of the firing devices to substantiate its case. Mr Hersh asked seven independent experts in electrical engineering and bomb forensics to look at the photographs. They all told him “essentially the same thing”: the remote-controlled devices shown in the White House photographs were mass-produced items […]. The experts, who included former police officers, government contract employees and professors of electrical engineering, agreed, too, that the two devices had no “signatures” […].

The US retaliation for the alleged Iraqi bomb plot was to launch 23 Tomahawk cruise missiles, 20 of which hit their targets, three of which landed on houses in the surrounding residential area. Eight civilians were killed. Even if the car bomb plot had been proven to be the work of the Iraqis, there was no legal basis for this assault, which must therefore count as an act of international terrorism.

Milan Rai, War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq (London: Verso, 2002), p. 132.


(g) Newer lies: Iraq’s supposed expulsion of the UNSCOM weapons inspectors (1998)


It is often said that UNSCOM was thrown out of Iraq in December 1998. In fact, the agency was withdrawn on Washington’s orders. If anyone ejected UNSCOM, it was the United States. The first UNSCOM withdrawal in late 1998 came on 11 November 1998, as US military strikes were anticipated. In his memoirs, Richard Butler records that after receiving a telephone call from the acting US permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Peter Burleigh, he visited Burleigh’s office on 10 November 1998. Ambassador Burleigh signalled the US intention to strike Iraq by telling Mr Butler that, “Considering the crisis Iraq had provoked and its refusal to obey the requirements of the Security Council, the United States had decided to draw down the staff in its embassies throughout the region.” The Ambassador then advised Mr Butler, as executive head of UNSCOM, to consider evacuating UNSCOM staff from Iraq. [….] Mr Butler immediately ordered the evacuation of UNSCOM personnel. However, the threat of military action passed on that occasion […].

It was not until after Mr Butler’s December report had been circulated to members of the Security Council on 15 December 1998 that he was called in once again by Ambassador Burleigh. Once again Burleigh urged Mr Butler to be “prudent” with the safety and security of UNSCOM staff. “Repeating a familiar script, I told him that I would act on his advice and remove my staff from Iraq,” Mr Butler later wrote. UNSCOM inspectors were withdrawn within hours, never to return. Mr Butler carried out the withdrawal without even informing the Security Council, the body which the inspection agency supposedly reported to.

The planned air strikes were supposed to be provoked by the collapse of the inspection process. It was therefore necessary to withdraw the inspectors to build the political case for military action. So UNSCOM was ejected from Iraq to facilitate a four-day bombing campaign.

[….] After the bombing started, [Russian Ambassador Sergey] Lavrov said that the crisis had been “created artificially by the irresponsible acts of Richard Butler”, while the Chinese representative at the Security Council said Mr Butler had played a “dishonourable role” in the confrontation.

[….] The final nail in the coffin for UNSCOM was the string of revelations concerning the penetration of the agency by US intelligence, referred to in the July 2002 revelations by former UNSCOM head, Rolf Ekeus. Scott Ritter revealed after his resignation that from the spring of 1992 until November 1993 he worked closely in UNSCOM with a man he called “Moe Dobbs”, a CIA “Special Activities Staff” covert operations specialist. [….]

Mr Ritter later came to suspect that he had been manipulated, and that UNSCOM 150 [a June 1996 operation focused on Republican Guard facilities] had been coordinated with a CIA-backed coup attempt which later came to light.

Milan Rai, War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq (London: Verso, 2002), pp. 53-55.


In 1998 and 1999 it was difficult for the media to avoid some of the more obvious facts about the withdrawal of arms inspectors from Iraq in December 1998. NBC Today accurately reported at the time:

“The Iraq story boiled over last night when the chief UN weapons inspector, Richard Butler, said that Iraq had not fully cooperated with inspectors—as they had promised to do. As a result, the UN ordered its inspectors to leave Iraq this morning.” (Katie Couric, NBC’s Today, December 16, 1998. Quoted, “What a difference 4 years makes: News coverage of why the inspectors left Iraq,” http://www.fair.org.) [….]

A year later, this version of events was still commonly reported by the UK media:

“The UN special commission charged with overseeing the destruction of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction pulled out of Iraq in mid-December, just before the US and Britain launched a series of air strikes.” (David Hirst, “Iraq turns down ‘evil’ UN plan to ease sanctions,” The Guardian, December 20. 1999). [….]

[….] Since the election of George W. Bush and the terrorist attacks of September 11, Bush and Blair have appeared increasingly determined to launch a further assault against Iraq in pursuit of “regime change”. If military force is to be justified, Iraq has to be portrayed as a country that cannot be relied upon to cooperate peacefully with arms inspectors. This is no simple task—Iraqi lying and cat and mouse games aside, by 1998 Unscom arms inspectors had delivered 90-95% disarmament after seven years of intrusive inspections.

The change in US/UK government goals has been accompanied by a change in the US/UK media version of what happened in December 1998. Thus, four years after the comment quoted above, NBC Today reports: “As Washington debates when and how to attack Iraq, a surprise offer from Baghdad. It is ready to talk about re-admitting UN weapons inspectors after kicking them out four years ago.” (Maurice DuBois, NBC’s Saturday Today, August 3, 2002)

The same transformation is found in the UK media. Brian Whitaker of The Guardian wrote in February of this year [i.e. 2002]: “[Saddam] could still save his skin by allowing the weapons inspectors—who were thrown out of Iraq in 1998—to return.” (Whitaker, “Life After Saddam: the winners and losers,” The Guardian, February 25, 2002) [….]

The Independent reports: “Bill Clinton … ordered Operation Desert Fox, the last big air offensive against Iraq, after the eviction of UN weapons inspectors in December 1998.” (Rupert Cornwall, “United States—President calls for support inside and outside America,” The Independent, September 5, 2002)

The Daily Telegraph is of course on-side: “Saddam … refused UN weapons-inspectors access to sites such as his presidential palaces—then expelled them from Iraq.” (Editorial, “Convince us, Mr Blair,” Daily Telegraph, March 31, 2002) [….]

Around the country the deception is repeated again and again […].

The fact that inspectors had been fundamentally successful in disarming Iraq, and were withdrawn after the spying scandal erupted, and after deliberate attempts to provoke the Iraqis, adds unwanted colour to the black and white picture of events that the US/UK governments are seeking to impose on the public. Only a stark “good versus evil” clash has the power to generate the required public support for military action—nuance is a liability.

It goes without saying that the medium for communicating this lethally distorted picture of the world is the corporate mass media—without them, it simply could not be done. This is the awesome extent of their responsibility for mass violence leading to mass death.

“Media Lens Alert: Iraq and Arms Inspectors—The Big Lie, Part 2,” Media Lens (October 29, 2002), http://www.medialens.org/alerts/021029_Big_Lie2.HTM.


(h) Recent fictions: Iraqi links with al Qaeda


As it makes its case against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration has for now dropped what had been a central argument used by supporters of military action against Baghdad: Iraq’s links to al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.

Although administration officials say they are still trying to develop a case linking Saddam Hussein to global terrorism, the CIA has yet to find convincing evidence, according to senior intelligence officials and outside experts with knowledge of discussions within the US Government.

Analysts who have scrutinised photographs, communications intercepts and information from foreign informants say they cannot validate two prominent allegations made by the government: links between President Saddam and al Qaeda members who have taken refuge in northern Iraq, and an April, 2001, meeting in Prague between September 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence agent.

Dana Priest, “CIA fails to find Iraqi link to terror,” The Age [Australia] (September 11, 2002), http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/09/10/1031608245289.html.


For a concise discussion of the repeated—and futile—attempts of the U.S. government to establish links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, see Milan Rai, War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq (London: Verso, 2002), pp. 129-32.


(i) Recent fictions: the ‘threat’ of Iraq’s weaponry

One of the more grotesque features of the American and British propaganda campaign has been the insistent attempts of Bush and Blair and their subordinates to terrorize their own populations with claims—in defiance of all available evidence—that they are in imminent danger of chemical, biological, or even nuclear attack from a demonized Saddam Hussein, working hand in hand with Osama bin Laden (who, because he has also been demonized, can on theological if not evidentiary grounds be asserted to be in cahoots with the Iraqi dictator).

Typical of this propaganda rhetoric are George W. Bush’s (groundless) assertions in his Cincinnati speech of October 7, 2002: “We’ve learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and deadly gases. [….] Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof—the smoking gun—that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”

The following texts, which include Glen Rangwala’s scrupulous and exhaustive assessment of all available evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, reveal the increasing desperation of American attempts to find the desired evidence.

Joseph Curl, “Agency disavows report on Iraq arms,” The Washington Times (September 27, 2002), http://www.washtimes.com/printarticle.asp?action=print&ArticleID=20020927-500715.

Paul Reynolds, “CIA undermines propaganda war,” BBC News: World Edition (October 10, 2002). http://www.news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2315967.stm.

Greg Miller and Bob Drogin, “CIA Feels Heat on Iraq Data,” Los Angeles Times (October 11, 2002), http://www.latimes.com/la-na-cia11oct11,0,2360915.story.

William Rivers Pitt, “The Pure Essence of Stupid,” Truthout (December 12, 2002), http://www.truthout.org/docs_02/12.12A.wrp.stupid.htm

Riras Al-Atraqchi, “The U.S. will not release vital evidence against Iraq,” Yellow Times (January 21, 2003), http://yellowtimes.org/article.php?sid=1007.

Glen Rangwala, “Claims and evaluations of Iraq’s proscribed weapons” (February 18, 2003), http://www.traprockpeace.org/weapons.html.

Niko Price, "Iraq says duct-taped drone was never hidden," National Post (March 13, 2003): A15.

Seymour M. Hersh, “Annals of National Security: Who Lied to Whom? Why did the Administration endorse a forgery about Iraq's nuclear program?” The New Yorker (March 31, 2003), http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?030331fa_fact1.


(j) Attempts to manipulate and distort the weapons inspectors’ reports

American officials, most notably Bush’s National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, appear to have made strenuous attempts first to manipulate, and subsequently to distort, the reports of the UN weapons inspectors.

Agence France-Presse, “Iraq Largely Cooperating with Inspectors, UN Security Council Hears,” Truthout (January 28, 2003), http://www.truthout.org/docsa_02/012903B.irq.jan27.htm.

Judith Miller and Julia Preston, “US is misquoting my Iraq report, says Blix,” Sydney Morning Herald (February 1, 2003), http://www.smh.com,au/articles/2003/01/31/1043804520548.html.

Colum Lynch, “Rice, Blix Confer on Iraq Briefing: Acknowledgment of Violation Urged,” The Washington Post (February 12, 2003), http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A59530-2003Feb11.html.



7. Is the United States a “Rogue State”?

This section contains excerpts from writings by Noam Chomsky, David Corn, David Greenberg, Seymour Hersh, Saul Landau, Russell Mokhiber, John Pilger, and Yifat Susskind.


The relevant legal framework is formulated in the Charter of the United Nations, a “solemn treaty” recognized as the foundation of international law and order, and under the U.S. Constitution, “the supreme law of the land.”

The Charter states that “The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression, and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42,” which detail the preferred “measures not involving the use of armed force” and permit the Security Council to take further action if it finds such measures inadequate. The only exception is Article 51, which permits the “right of individual or collective self-defense” against “armed attack … until the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.” Apart from these exceptions, member states “shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force.”

Noam Chomsky, “Rogue States,” Z Magazine (Apr. 1998), http://www.zmag.org/Zmag/articles/chomskyapr98.htm.


Contempt for the rule of law is deeply rooted in U.S. practice and intellectual culture. Recall, for example, the reaction to the judgment of the World Court in 1986 condemning the U.S. for “unlawful use of force” against Nicaragua, demanding that it desist and pay extensive reparations, and declaring all U.S. aid to the contras, whatever its character, to be “military aid,” not “humanitarian aid.” The court was denounced on all sides for having discredited itself. The terms of the judgment were not considered fit to print, and were ignored. The Democrat-controlled Congress immediately authorized new funds to step up the unlawful use of force. Washington vetoed a Security Council resolution calling on all states to respect international law—not mentioning anyone, though the intent was clear. When the General Assembly passed a similar resolution, the U.S. voted against it, effectively vetoing it, joined only by Israel and El Salvador; the following year, only the automatic Israeli vote could be garnered. Little of this received mention in the media or journals of opinion, let alone what it signifies.

Secretary of State George Shultz meanwhile explained (April 14, 1986) that “Negotiations are a euphemism for capitulation if the shadow of power is not cast across the bargaining table.” He condemned those who advocate “utopian, legalistic means like outside mediation, the United Nations, and the World Court, while ignoring the power element of the equation”—sentiments not without precedent in modern history.

The open contempt for Article 51 is particularly revealing. It was demonstrated with remarkable clarity immediately after the 1954 Geneva accords on a peaceful settlement for Indochina, regarded as a “disaster” by Washington, which moved at once to undermine them. The National Security Council secretly decreed that even in the case of “local Communist subversion or rebellion not constituting armed attack,” the U.S. would consider the use of military force, including an attack on China if it is “determined to be the source” of the “subversion” (NSC 5429/2; my emphasis). The wording, repeated verbatim annually in planning documents, was chosen so as to make explicit the U.S. right to violate Article 51. The same document called for remilitarizing Japan, converting Thailand into “the focal point of U.S. covert and psychological operations in Southeast Asia,” undertaking “covert operations on a large and effective scale” throughout Indochina, and in general, acting forcefully to undermine the Accords and the UN Charter. [….]

The U.S. proceeded to define “aggression” to include “political warfare, or subversion” (by someone else, that is)—what Adlai Stevenson called “internal aggression” while defending JFK’s escalation to a full-scale attack against South Vietnam. When the U.S. bombed Libyan cities in 1986, the official justification was “self defense against future attack.” [….] The U.S. invasion of Panama was defended in the Security Council by Ambassador Thomas Pickering by appeal to Article 51, which, he declared, “provides for the use of armed force to defend a country, to defend our interests and our people,” and entitles the U.S. to invade Panama to prevent its “territory from being used as a base for smuggling drugs into the United States.” Educated opinion nodded sagely in assent.

In June 1993, Clinton ordered a missile attack on Iraq, killing civilians and greatly cheering the president, congressional doves, and the press, who found the attack “appropriate, reasonable and necessary.” Commentators were particularly impressed by Ambassador Albright’s appeal to Article 51. The bombing, she explained, was in “self-defense against armed attack”—namely, an alleged attempt to assassinate former president Bush two months earlier, an appeal that would have scarcely risen to the level of absurdity even if the U.S. had been able to demonstrate Iraqi involvement; “Administration officials, speaking anonymously,” informed the press “that the judgment of Iraq’s guilt was based on circumstantial evidence and analysis rather than ironclad intelligence,” the New York Times reported, dismissing the matter. [….]

The record lends considerable support to the concern widely voiced about “rogue states” that are dedicated to the rule of force, acting in the “national interest” as defined by domestic power; most ominously, rogue states that anoint themselves global judge and executioner.

Noam Chomsky, “Rogue States,” Z Magazine (Apr. 1998), http://www.zmag.org/ZMag/articles/chomskyapr98.htm.


What are the odds that the people in leading positions in a “rogue state” will themselves be “rogues”—or, let’s be frank, criminals? Set aside the records of George W. Bush and his vice-president Dick Cheney, both of whom have been plausibly accused of insider trading and other corporate crimes. Recent senior appointments in Bush’s administration are symptomatic of a rogue administration’s contempt for international as well as domestic law.

John Poindexter, appointed in February 2002 “to run a Big Brother-like Pentagon operation called Total Information Awareness that promises—if news reports can be believed—to harvest all known information about everybody into a searchable Internet database” (Greenberg, B1), was previously Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser. In that capacity he ran the secret arms-for-hostages deal with Iran that was used, in direct violation of US law, to fund the mercenary contra armies used to attack Nicaragua. When he was found out, he “concealed his activities, destroyed evidence and lied to Congress” (Greenberg, B4); he was “convicted of five felonies involving conspiracy, obstruction of Congress, and making false statements” (Landau).

Elliott Abrams, appointed in December 2002 to the senior Middle East position on Bush’s National Security Council, was also up to his neck in the Iran-Contra scandal as Reagan’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of State to Central America, and was convicted on two accounts of lying to Congress; his Congressional testimony included the immortal declaration that “I never said I had no idea about most of the things you said I had no idea about” (quoted by Landau).

Though Poindexter’s conviction was overturned on a technicality by conservative appellate judges, and though Abrams was given a presidential pardon by George Bush I, there is no doubt that they committed the crimes they were convicted of—as well as violations of international law which were of no interest to the U.S. courts.

Other returned rogues are Otto Reich (special White House adviser for Latin America) and John Negroponte (Ambassador to the UN), both of them veterans of the Iran-Contra period. As Saul Landau writes, “Reich was minister of lying to the public from his Office of Public Diplomacy and Negroponte as US Ambassador to Honduras had to cover up—now he has forgotten—the dreadful behavior of our allies.”

But for sheer audacity, Bush’s (briefly accepted) appointment of Henry Kissinger to conduct an inquiry into intelligence and security failings prior to September 11, 2001 takes the cake. This was, as David Corn wrote, “a screw-you affront to any American who believes the public deserves a full accounting of government actions or lack thereof.”

As Nixon’s national security adviser and Secretary of State, Kissinger shares responsibility for the secret bombing of Cambodia in 1969-70, and for the overthrow of democratically elected governments in Bangladesh (1971) and Chile (September 11, 1973). As Gerald Ford’s Secretary of State, he shares responsibility for the appalling war crimes committed by Indonesia in East Timor in 1975 and after, and for the large-scale torture, kidnapping and murder carried out by the fascistic Argentinian junta in 1976 and after. Kissinger is accused of direct implication in the support and financing of the assassins of Chilean General René Schneider in 1970; he is accused of supporting the terrorist murder of Orlando Letelier in Washington in 1976. He is also wanted for questioning by judges in France and Spain as well as by the Chilean Supreme Court in relation to crimes against humanity.

Sources: David Corn, “Kissinger’s Back…,” The Nation (Dec. 1, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2685; David Greenberg, “Back, But Not By Popular Demand: Rogues Rise Again,” The Washington Post (Dec. 8, 2002), B1, B4; and Saul Landau, “The Bush Vision and the Culture of Power,” ZNet (Dec. 12, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2740.


Mokhiber: Ari, other than Elliot Abrams, how many convicted criminals are on the White House staff? 
Ari Fleischer: You tell me, Russell. 
Mokhiber: Could you give a list of convicted criminals on the White House staff, other than Elliot Abrams? 
Ari Fleischer: I’ll go right to the convicted criminals division and ask them. 
Mokhiber: Seriously, why isn’t being convicted of a crime a disqualifier for being on the White House staff? 
Ari Fleischer: Russell, this is an issue that you like to repeat every briefing— 
Mokhiber: But you don’t answer it Ari.

Russell Mokhiber, “Ari & I: White House Press Briefing with Ari Fleischer” (Monday, January 6, 2003 12:30 pm), http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0106-08.htm.


Another important Bush gang rogue is Richard Perle, Assistant Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan, who was one of the founders of the Project for the New American Century (see section 9 [c] of this dossier), and is now the chairman of the Defense Policy Board, a U.S. Defense Department advisory group “composed primarily of highly respected former government officials, retired military officers, and academics” (Hersh, 76). As he revealed in a statement quoted by John Pilger in speaking about America's “war on terror,” Perle nurtures his warmongering with sick fantasies of figuring in some future epic poem of American imperialism:

“No stages,” he said. “This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq … this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war … our children will sing great songs about us years from now.”

John Pilger, “Neocons and their plans for war” (January 10, 2003), http://sf.indymedia.org/news/2003/01/1559346.php.

If total war holds out to Richard Perle the posthumous promise of a minor role in some yet-to-be-written epic celebration of the Bush regime’s conquests—let us call it The Bushiad—it also offers him more immediate prospects of personal enrichment. As chairman of the Defense Policy Board, Perle is a “special government employee,” and therefore subject to a federal code of conduct which bars any special employee “from participating in an official capacity in any matter in which he has a financial interest” (Hersh, 77). However, as Seymour Hersh has revealed in The New Yorker, “Perle is also a managing partner in a venture-capital company called Trireme Partners L.P., which was registered in November, 2001, in Delaware.” In November 2002, a Trireme representative wrote to the notorious Saudi-born arms dealer Adnan Kashoggi (who was a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal of the late 1980s), to explain that Trireme’s main business

… is to invest in companies dealing in technology, goods, and services that are of value to homeland security and defense. The letter argued that fear of terrorism would increase the demand for such products in Europe and in countries like Saudi Arabia and Singapore.

The letter mentioned the firm's government connections prominently: “Three of Trireme's Management Group members currently advise the U.S. Secretary of Defense by serving on the U.S. Defense Policy Board, and one of Trireme's principals, Richard Perle, is chairman of that Board.” (Hersh, 76)

In December 2003, Kashoggi arranged a meeting in Paris between two Trireme representatives and Saudi industrialist Harb Saleh al-Zuhair to discuss “the possibility of a large investment in Trireme,” and on January 3, 2003, Kashoggi arranged a private lunch in Marseilles in the south of France between Perle and al-Zuhair. Seymour Hersh writes that “Kashoggi and Zuhair told me that they understood that one of Trireme’s objectives was to seek the help of influential Saudis to win homeland-security contracts with the Saudi royal family for the businesses it financed. The profits for such contracts could be substantial. Saudi Arabia has spent nearly a billion dollars to survey and demarcate its eight-hundred-and-fifty-mile border with Yemen, and the second stage of the process will require billions more” (Hersh, 79).

Perle is thus at one and the same time a major ideologue of total war and also, in intention if not yet in fact, a large-scale war profiteer. No beans this time: in fact, Perle’s undiplomatic detestation of the Saudi government appears to have upset his lunch companions to the extent that they decided to embarrass him by making his Trireme manoeuverings public. It seems nonetheless that Perle is giving a new twist to the art—highly developed already among the members of the Bush gang—of insider trading.

Source: Seymour M. Hersh, “Annals of National Security: Lunch with the Chairman: Why was Richard Perle meeting with Adnan Kashoggi?” The New Yorker (March 17, 2003): 76-81.


Yifat Susskind of the human rights organization MADRE responds as follows to Bush’s declaration to the UN that “The conduct of the Iraqi regime is a threat to the authority of the United Nations and a threat to peace.”

Here’s what Bush thinks of the authority of the United Nations: Since taking office, he scrapped more international treaties and violated more UN conventions than the rest of the world has in 20 years. Under Bush, the US has opposed the Kyoto protocol on global warming, boycotted a conference to promote the comprehensive (nuclear) test ban treaty and ripped up the anti-ballistic missile treaty. Bush refuses to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child or sign the treaty to ban landmines. The US walked out of the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism and virtually ignored the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. And Bush is the only President in history to “unsign” a UN treaty—the Rome Treaty creating the International Criminal Court.

As for being a “threat to peace,” there’s little doubt that Bush’s “war on terror,” which violates international law, the US Constitution, international human rights instruments and principles of international cooperation and collective security, is the single greatest threat to peace in the world today.

In light of the grave and gathering danger posed by the Bush Administration, we hereby call on the United Nations to declare the United States to be a “threat to peace” under Article 39 of the United Nations Charter. The Security Council, acting under Article 7 of the Charter, must countermand this threat.

In the event of a US veto of the Council’s “enforcement action,” we call on the UN General Assembly to invoke its Uniting for Peace Resolution of 1950 and assume the Security Council’s mandate of enforcing international peace and security.

To quote the “president” of the United States, “Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?”

Yifat Susskind, “MADRE Factsheet: analysis of Bush’s Speech to UN,” ZNet, http://zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=11&ItemID=2359.


For further reflections on the “rogue state” behaviour of the U.S., the following books can be consulted:

Blum, William. Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II. Boston: Common Courage, 1995.

----. Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower. Boston: Common Courage, 2000.

Chomsky, Noam, and Edward Herman. The Political Economy of Human Rights, Volume I: The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism. Montréal: Black Rose Books, 1979.

----. The Political Economy of Human Rights, Volume II: After the Cataclysm: Postwar Indochina and the Reconstruction of Imperial Ideology. Montréal: Black Rose Books, 1979.

Scowen, Peter. Rogue Nation: The America the Rest of the World Knows. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2003.

Stich, Rodney. Drugging America: A Trojan Horse. Alamo, California: Diablo Western Press, 1999.



8. War for Oil

This section contains excerpts from texts by Michel Chossudovsky, Robert Fisk, John Pilger, Hans von Sponeck, and the U.S, House of Representatives Committee on International Relations.


When the Taliban took Kabul in 1996, Washington said nothing. Why? Because Taliban leaders were soon on their way to Houston, Texas, to be entertained by executives of the oil company, Unocal.

With secret US government approval, the company offered them a generous cut of the profits of the oil and gas pumped through a pipeline that the Americans wanted to build from Soviet central Asia through Afghanistan.

A US diplomat said: “The Taliban will probably develop like the Saudis did.” He explained that Afghanistan would become an American oil colony, there would be huge profits for the West, no democracy and the legal persecution of women. “We can live with that,” he said.

Although the deal fell through, it remains an urgent priority of the administration of George W. Bush, which is steeped in the oil industry. Bush’s concealed agenda is to exploit the oil and gas reserves in the Caspian basin, the greatest source of untapped fossil fuel on earth and enough, according to one estimate, to meet America’s voracious energy needs for a generation. Only if the pipeline runs through Afghanistan can the Americans hope to control it.

John Pilger, “This War is a Farce,” The Mirror (October 29, 2001).


During the 31 july / 1 august [2002] hearings on Iraq in the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the ranking representative of the Republican Party, Senator Richard Lugar (R-In) stated: “… we are going to run the oil business. We are going to run it well, we are going to make money; and it’s going to help pay for the rehabilitation of Iraq because there is money there!”

Quoted by Hans von Sponeck, “Four Questions, Four Answers” (European Colloquium, Brussels, September 25, 2002), http://www.afsc.org/iraq/guide/4questions.shtm.


America burns a quarter of all the oil consumed by humanity. A study sponsored by the US Council on Foreign Relations says that “the American people continue to demand plentiful and cheap energy without sacrifice or inconvenience”. Transport in the United States alone burns 66 per cent of America’s petroleum.

One estimate is that the world’s oil reserves will begin to decline within five to ten years at the rate of about two million barrels a day. In the Middle East, the only country capable of significantly increasing its production is Iraq, once described by Vice President Cheney as “the great prize”.

At present, America depends on Iraq’s neighbour Saudi Arabia, not just for oil but for keeping the price of oil down. However, Saudi Arabia is the home of al-Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden and 15 of the alleged September 11 hijackers.

The grievance against the Americans for their imperial interventions in the Middle East is said to be deepest in the country that was invented by British imperialism and has since been maintained by the US as an oil colony.

If America installs a colonial regime in Baghdad, certainly its dependence on Saudi Arabia will be dramatically eased, and its grip on the world’s greatest oil market will be tightened. The price, for the people of the region, for Americans and the rest of us, will be an enduring turmoil similar to that of Palestine, exemplified by last week’s terror bombing of an Israeli hotel in Kenya.

This is the hidden agenda of the “war on terrorism”—a term that is no more than a euphemism for the Bush administration’s exploitation of the September 11 attacks and America’s accelerating imperial ambitions. In the past 14 months, on the pretext of “fighting terror”, US military bases have been established at the gateways to the greatest oil and gas fields on earth, especially in Central Asia, which is also coveted as a “great prize”.

In Afghanistan, the president, Hamid Karzai, guarded by 46 American special forces troops, was employed by a subsidiary of Unocal, the American oil company. The post-Taliban US ambassador is a senior executive of Unocal, and a pipeline to carry lucrative oil and gas across the country from the Caspian Sea will be built by Unocal.

The majority of Bush’s cabinet are from the oil industry, which has made them extremely rich. Bush’s father is still a consultant for the huge oil services company, the Carlyle Group, and his personal clients include the family of Osama bin Laden. One of the reasons the Americans attacked Afghanistan was not to liberate women but to liberate the pipeline deal. [….]

John Pilger, “Lies, Damned Lies, and Terror Warnings,” ZNet (December 5, 2002), http://zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2710.


Once an American regime is installed in Baghdad, our oil companies will have access to 112 billion barrels of oil. With unproven reserves, we might actually end up controlling almost a quarter of the world's total reserves. And this forthcoming war isn’t about oil?

The US Department of Energy announced at the beginning of this month that by 2025, US oil imports will account for perhaps 70 per cent of total US domestic demand. (It was 55 per cent two years ago.) As Michael Renner of the Worldwatch Institute put it bleakly this week, “US oil deposits are increasingly depleted, and many other non-OPEC fields are beginning to run dry. The bulk of future supplies will have to come from the Gulf region.” [….] Some 70 per cent of the world's proven oil reserves are in the Middle East. And this forthcoming war isn’t about oil?

Take a look at the statistics on the ratio of reserve to oil production—the number of years that reserves of oil will last at current production rates—compiled by Jeremy Rifkin in Hydrogen Economy. In the US, where more than 60 per cent of the recoverable oil has already been produced, the ratio is just 10 years, as it is in Norway. In Canada, it is 8:1. In Iran, it is 53:1, in Saudi Arabia 55:1, in the United Arab Emirates 75:1. In Kuwait, it's 116:1. But in Iraq, it’s 526:1. And this forthcoming war isn’t about oil?

Robert Fisk, “This Looming War Isn't About Chemical Warheads or Human Rights: It's About Oil,” The Independent (January 18, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2882.


The oil politics involved in the American and British assault upon Iraq are nakedly obvious. The connections between this act of aggression and the economic and geopolitical motives of the American-led attack on Afghanistan, which may be somewhat less evident, are helpfully clarified by Michel Chossudovsky’s analysis of the informing context of the attack on Afghanistan in chapters five and six of his book War and Globalisation: The Truth Behind September 11 (Shanty Bay, Ontario: Global OutlookTM, 2002). Proposing that “The ‘Anglo-American axis’ in defence and foreign policy is the driving force behind the military operations in Central Asia and the Middle East,” Chossudovsky suggests that “The merger [in August 1998] of British Petroleum (BP) and the American Oil Company (AMOCO) into the world's largest oil conglomerate has a direct bearing on the pattern of Anglo-American relations and the close relationship between the American President and the British Prime Minister” (p. 64; see pp. 89-90).

He notes that on March 19, 1999 “the U.S. Congress adopted the Silk Road Strategy Act, which defined America’s broad economic and strategic interests in a region extending from the Mediterranean to Central Asia” (p. 66). The geopolitical thinking underlying this Silk Road Strategy is expounded in documents of the Congressional Committee on International Relations.

One hundred years ago, Central Asia was the arena for a great game played by Czarist Russia, Colonial Britain, Napoleon's France, and the Persian and Ottoman Empires. [….] One hundred years later, the collapse of the Soviet Union has unleashed a new great game, where the interests of the East India Trading Company have been replaced by those of Unocal and Total [oil companies], and many other organizations and firms. Today [we are seeing] the interests of a new contestant in this new great game, the United States. The five [former Soviet republics] which make up Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan … are anxious to establish relations with the United States. Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan possess large reserves of oil and natural gas, both on-shore and off-shore in the Caspian Sea, which they urgently seek to exploit. Uzbekistan [also] has oil and gas reserves. [….]

Stated U.S. policy goals regarding energy resources in this region include fostering the independence of the States and their ties to the West; breaking Russia's monopoly over oil and gas transport routes; promoting Western energy security through diversified suppliers; encouraging the construction of east-west pipelines that do not transit [through] Iran; and denying Iran dangerous leverage over the Central Asian economies….

[….] Japan, Turkey, Iran, Western Europe, and China are all pursuing economic development opportunities and challenging Russian dominance in the region. It is essential that U.S. policymakers understand the stakes involved in Central Asia as we seek to craft a policy that serves the interests of the United States and U.S. business.

U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Committee on International Relations, “Hearing on U.S. Interests In The Central Asian Republics” (February 12, 1998), http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/intlrel/hfa48119.000/hfa48119_0f.htm (quoted by Chossudovsky, pp. 67-68).

This Silk Road Strategy is clearly aimed both at undermining Russian control of the Caspian Basin oil and gas reserves and at preventing other competitors (among them the French-Belgian conglomerate Elf-Total-Fina) from gaining access to them. One step towards its implementation was taken when the heads of state of Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova met in Washington to sign GUAAM, a regional military alliance under NATO protection. Chossudovsky writes that GUAAM is dominated by Anglo-American oil interests, and its formation “ultimately purports to exclude Russia from the oil and gas deposits in the Caspian area, as well as isolating Moscow politically” (p. 66).

The relationship in GUAAM between planned pipeline routes and diplomatic-military alliances is very clear. Azerbaijan, governed since the military coup of 1993 by a pro-U.S. regime led by former KGB official and Communist Party politburo member President Heydar Aliyevich Aliyev, signed an agreement in 1994 with an oil consortium led by BP-AMOCO. This contract, “involving the development of the Charyg oil fields near Baku,” provides for Azeri oil to be moved west by pipeline through Georgia to the port of Supsa on the east coast of the Black Sea, and thence by tanker to the Pivdenny terminal near Odessa in Ukraine, from where it can be moved by a pipeline linking up to an existing pipeline which runs through Slovakia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. The entire length of this route, which of course bypasses Russian territory, is under the protection of NATO (pp. 72-74).

Afghanistan is of major strategic importance in relation to this Silk Road Strategy. As Chossudovsky writes,

It not only borders the ‘Silk Road Corridor’ linking the Caucasus to China's Western border, it is also at the hub of five nuclear powers: China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Kazakhstan. [….] Afghanistan is at the strategic crossroads of the Eurasian pipeline and transport routes. It also constitutes a potential landbridge for the southbound oil pipeline from the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan to the Arabian Sea across Pakistan, which had initially been negotiated by Unocal with the Taliban government….” (p. 69)

Chossudovsky notes that the Silk Road Strategy Act “designates Israel as America's ‘partner’ in the Silk Road corridor” (p. 69), and argues that

the successful implementation of the SRS requires the concurrent ‘militarization’ of the Eurasian corridor as a means of securing control over extensive oil and gas reserves, as well as ‘protecting’ the pipeline routes on behalf of the Anglo-American oil companies. [….] Under the SRS Act, Washington commits itself to “fostering stability in this region, which is vulnerable to political and economic pressures from the South, North and East,” suggesting that “the threat to stability” is not only from Moscow (to the North) but also from China (to the East) and Iran and Iraq (to the South). The SRS is also intended to prevent the former Soviet republics from developing economic, political and defence ties with China, Iran, Turkey and Iraq. (p. 71).

The 1991 Gulf War advanced American military-geopolitical and oil interests in a very significant manner: it permitted the U.S. to establish military and naval bases in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. During the 1990s, in pursuit of what in 1999 was formalized as the Silk Road Strategy, the U.S. was able to expand this presence in the Eurasian corridor by establishing military links with the GUAAM countries, and by securing permission to construct air bases in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. Since the overthrow of the Taliban regime, these forward positions have been supplemented by air bases in Afghanistan. The military conquest of Iraq will leave Iran, which figured with Iraq and North Korea in George Bush’s inane “axis of evil,” surrounded by countries containing garrisons of American troops.

For further evidence of U.S. geopolitical strategic thinking, see the articles listed under “Oil in Iraq,” at http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/oil/irqindx.htm.



9. The “War on Terrorism”

This section contains excerpts from writings by Gordon Barthos, Noam Chomsky, Robert Fisk, Alex Jones, Media Lens, James Petras, John Pilger, Milan Rai, Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert, and Antonia Zerbisias.


(a) Ethical ironies of the “War on Terrorism”


What is the “new war on terrorism”? The goal of the civilised world has been announced very clearly in high places. We must “eradicate the evil scourge of terrorism,” a plague spread by “depraved opponents of civilisation itself” in a “return to barbarism in the modern age,” and so on. Surely a noble enterprise!

To place the enterprise in proper perspective, we should recognise that the Crusade is not new, contrary to what’s being said. In fact, the phrases just quoted are from President Ronald Reagan and his Secretary of State, George Shultz, twenty years ago. They came to office at that time—Reagan, and shortly after, Schultz—proclaiming that the struggle against international terrorism would be the core of U.S. foreign policy. And they responded to the plague by organising campaigns of international terrorism of unprecedented scale and violence, even leading to a condemnation by the World Court of the United States for what the Court called “the unlawful use of force,” meaning international terrorism. This was followed by a U.N. Security Council Resolution calling on all states to observe international law, which the United States vetoed. It also voted alone, with one or two client states, against successive similar U.N. General Assembly Resolutions.

So the “New War on Terrorism” is, in fact, led by the only state in the world that has been condemned by the International Court of Justice for international terrorism and has vetoed a resolution calling on states to observe international law….

The World Court order to terminate the crime of international terrorism and to pay substantial reparations was dismissed with contempt across the spectrum. The New York Times informed the public that the Court was a “hostile forum” and therefore we need pay no attention to it. Washington reacted at once to the Court’s orders by escalating the economic and the terrorist wars. It also issued orders to the mercenary army attacking from Honduras to attack “soft targets”—those are the official orders: Attack “soft targets,” undefended civilian targets like health clinics, agricultural cooperatives and so on. [….]

Prevailing Western attitudes are revealed with great clarity by the appointment of the new U.N. Ambassador to lead today’s “New War against Terrorism,” John Negroponte. Negroponte’s record includes his service as Pro-Consul in Honduras in the 1980s, where he was the local supervisor of the international terrorist war for which his government was condemned by the World Court and the Security Council—irrelevantly of course in a world that’s governed by the rule of force.

Noam Chomsky, “September 11th and Its Aftermath: Where is the World Heading?” Public Lecture at the Music Academy, Chennai (Madras), India, November 10, 2001, http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl1824/nc.htm.


Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter has suggested that a US-led war on Iraq “will effectively mean that Osama bin Laden will have won. Whatever the faults of Saddam Hussein, and he is a brutal dictator, his regime is also secular. If Saddam does indeed fall, which Bush and Blair want, it is highly likely that an Islamist regime will take over after US troops leave, which they will sooner or later.” This could have knock-on effects on Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and even Egypt: “The invasion of Iraq is the quickest path to losing the war on terror and giving legitimacy to the criminal who attacked the US and the entire freedom of the world on 11 September.” While few other commentators are predicting a fundamentalist regime in Iraq, many informed observers share Mr Ritter’s belief that al Qaeda’s political base would be enlarged considerably by US/UK military action.

Milan Rai, War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq (London and New York: Verso, 2002), p. 201.


There is no “war on terrorism”. No such war is possible when the “coalition” waging it consists of some of the leading terrorist states in the world—Algeria, Turkey, Russia, China, Indonesia—falling in with the United States. The search for Osama bin Laden is circus spectacle. The goal is the control, through vassals, of former Soviet Central Asia, a region rich in oil and minerals and of great strategic importance to competing powers, Russia and China. By February 2002, the United States had established permanent military bases in all the Central Asian republics, and in Afghanistan, whose post-Taliban government is American approved. “America will have a continuing interest and presence in Central Asia of a kind that we could not have dreamed of before [September 11],” said Secretary of State Colin Powell. This is just a beginning. The ultimate goal is a far wider American conquest, military and economic, that was planned during the Second World War and which, as Vice-President Cheney says, “may not end in our lifetimes”.

John Pilger, The New Rulers of the World (London: Verso, 2002), pp. 104-05.


(b) Consequences of the “War on Terrorism”


In [George Orwell's] novel [Nineteen Eighty-Four], three slogans dominate society: war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength. Today’s slogan, ‘war on terrorism’, also reverses meaning. The war is terrorism. The most potent weapon in this war is pseudo-information, different only in form from that Orwell described, consigning to oblivion unacceptable truths and historical sense. Dissent is permissible within ‘consensual’ boundaries, reinforcing the illusion that information and speech are ‘free’.

The attacks of September 11, 2001 did not ‘change everything’, but accelerated the continuity of events, providing an extraordinary pretext for destroying social democracy. The undermining of the Bill of Rights in the United States and the further dismantling of trial by jury in Britain and a plethora of related civil liberties are part of the reduction of democracy to electoral ritual: that is, competition between undistinguishable parties for the management of a single-ideology state.

John Pilger, The New Rulers of the World (London: Verso, 2002), pp. 1-2.


So far the “war on terrorism” has been a massacre, as in Afghanistan and as proposed for Iraq, rather than a fight with two armed combatants battling one another. [….]

Alternatively, the “war on terrorism” has been a campaign, not a violent struggle, aiming to reduce civil liberties, expand arms trade and production, and legitimate assaults on any targets deemed unfriendly. In this regard it is like the earlier Cold War. The idea is to name an enemy, generate fear of it, and then employ that fear and associated anger to justify all kinds of government actions that would otherwise be rejected—arms deals, taxes, repressive laws, etc.

The massacres and policy alterations that together constitute the “war on terrorism” haven’t been about reducing terrorism, by and large. First, the largest number of civilians killed since 9-11 have been Afghanis and Iraqis (the latter, victims of U.S.-backed sanctions). Reducing a phenomenon [i.e. the terrorist killing of civilians] rarely includes overtly expanding it. Second, the actions undertaken, even in the view of the FBI, are not only unlikely to reduce even that portion of terrorism that is directed at the United States. They are likely, instead, to fuel the resentment and grievances that lead to such attacks.

So rather than a just war, the “war on terrorism” is a means of rationalizing illegitimate interventions abroad and repressive and predatory policies at home, without reducing terrorism.

Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert, “Intervention in General: Part A of 45 Questions and Answers Regarding U.S. Foreign Policy,” ZNet (October 8, 2002), http://zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2446.


In totalitarian states, the supreme leader seizes dictatorial powers, suspends constitutional guarantees (citing “emergency powers”), empowers the secret police, and handpicks tribunals to arbitrarily arrest, judge, and condemn the accused to prison or execution. On November 13 [2001], President Bush took the fatal step toward assuming dictatorial powers. Without consulting Congress, Bush decreed an emergency order. The order permits the government to arrest non-citizens who they have “reason to believe” are terrorists to be tried by military tribunal. The trials are secret and the prosecutors do not have to present evidence if it is “in the interests of national security.”

The condemned can be executed even if one-third of the military judges disagree. Dictatorial powers to jail or execute suspects without due process is the essence of totalitarian rulers.

In mid-November, the Department of Justice refused to disclose the identities and status of more than 1,100 persons arrested since September 11. As in totalitarian regimes, political prisoners are constantly interrogated without lawyers and without charges by the FBI in the hope of forcing confessions.

On October 26 Bush signed the USA/Patriot Act, which vastly strengthened the powers of the police over civil society. The extension of secret police powers was approved almost unanimously by Congress (most of whose members never read the law). Every clause of this law violated the U.S. Constitution. Under this law: (a) any federal law enforcement agency may secretly enter any home or business, collect evidence, not inform the citizen of the entry, and then use the evidence (seized or planted) to convict the occupant of a crime; (b) any police agency has the power to monitor all Internet traffic and emails, intercept cell phones without warrant of millions of “suspects”; (c) any Federal police agency can invade any business premises and seize all records on the basis that it is “connected” to a terrorist investigation. Citizens who publicly protest these arbitrary, invasive police actions can be arrested.

The USA/Patriot Act, like its totalitarian counterparts, has a vague, loose definition of “terrorism” that allows it to repress any dissident organization and protest activity. According to section 802 of the Act, terrorism is defined as “activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States … [and] appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population [or] … to influence the policy of the government by intimidation or coercion.” Any anti-globalization protest, such as occurred in Seattle, can now be labeled “terrorist,” its leaders and participants arrested, their homes and offices searched, documents seized, and, if they are not citizens, shipped to military tribunals. These “emergency” decrees and laws are in place until 2005 and beyond if the investigations began prior to the terminal year.

James Petras, “Signs of a Police State Are Everywhere,” Z Magazine (January 2002), http://www.zmag.org/Zmag/Articles/jan02petras.htm.


On February 7, 2003 the Center for Public Integrity, a non-partisan public interest think-tank in [Washington] DC, revealed the full text of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act [or Patriot Act II] of 2003. The classified document had been leaked to them by an unnamed source inside the Federal government.

[….] The intentions of the White House and Speaker [Dennis] Hastert concerning Patriot Act II appear to be a carbon copy replay of the events that led to the unprecedented passage of the first Patriot Act. [….] The fact that Dick Cheney publicly managed the steamroller passage of the first Patriot Act, ensuring that no one was allowed to read it and publicly threatening members of Congress that if they didn’t vote in favor of it they would be blamed for the next terrorist attack, is by the White House’s own definition terrorism. [….]

Here is a quick thumbnail sketch of just some of the draconian measures encapsulated within this tyrannical legislation:

SECTION 501 (Expatriation of Terrorists) expands the Bush administration’s “enemy combatant” definition to all American citizens who “may” have violated any provision of of Section 802 of the first Patriot Act. (Section 802 is the new definition of domestic terrorism, and the definition is “any action that endangers human life [or] that is a violation of any Federal or State law.”) [….]

SECTION 201 of the second Patriot Act makes it a criminal act for any member of the government or any citizen to release information concerning the incarceration or whereabouts of detainees. It also states that law enforcement does not even have to tell the press whom they have arrested […].

SECTION 312 gives immunity to law enforcement engaging in spying operations against the American people and would place substantial restrictions on court injunctions against Federal violations of civil rights across the board. [….]

SECTION 103 allows the Federal government to use wartime martial law powers domestically and internationally without Congress declaring that a state of war exists. [….]

SECTION 109 allows secret star chamber courts to issue contempt charges against any individual or corporation who refuses to incriminate themselves or others. This section annihilates the last vestiges of the Fifth Amendment. [….]

SECTION 402 is entitled “Providing Material Support to Terrorism.” The section reads that there is no requirement to show that the individual ever had the intent to aid terrorists. [….]

SECTION 411 expands crimes that are punishable by death. Again, they point to Section 802 of the first Patriot Act and state that any terrorist act or support of terrorist acts can result in the death penalty. [….]

[….] The second Patriot Act dwarfs all police state legislation in modern world history.

Alex Jones, “Total Police State Takeover: The Secret Patriot Act II Destroys What Is Left of American Liberty. A Brief Analysis of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act 2003, also known as Patriot Act II,” Infowars (February 10, 2003), http://www.infowars.com/print_patriotact2_analysis.htm.


Imagine a society where people can be stripped of their citizenship overnight. Or be made to disappear into police gulags without trace. Where very book they read and purchase they make is known to the powers that be. And where they can be executed for protesting against the governing regime.

Saddam Hussein’s Iraq? You bet. But the United States of America may also become this kind of society if U.S. president George Bush presses his “war on terror” much further.

In a commentary for Global Viewpoint/Tribune Media Services International this week novelist Norman Mailer warned that “a pre-fascist atmosphere” pervades the U.S. as it moves “in an imperial direction” led by intrusive government, corporations and the military. [….]

The American Civil Liberties Union took out a full-page ad in the New York Times this week to warn that “core American values” are under attack.

A leaked copy of Attorney-General John Ashcroft’s proposed Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003—dubbed the Patriot Act II—confirms that Washington is weighing sweeping new laws that impinge on long-established freedoms. If enacted by Congress, the measures would let government:

* Create 15 new death penalties including one that could cover protesters engaged in civil disobedience, if someone dies, even accidentally, during a protest.

* Strip Americans of their cherished citizenship if they support groups deemed to be “terrorist” by the administration—even if they are unaware of the groups’ links to terror.

* Shelter federal agents from prosecution for carrying out unlawful surveillance, if they are acting on orders from Bush or other high-ranking members of the executive branch. This would have made Richard Nixon-era Watergate prosecutions impossible.

* Permit secret arrests in immigration and other cases where the detainees are not charged with crimes.

* Authorize a wider range of home searches and wiretaps without warrant.

To be fair, the Americans don’t have a lock on unhealthy legislation. Here in Canada, federal Privacy Commissioner George Radwanski has been warning that similar anti-terror laws assault our own rights.

There’s something dreadfully wrong when democratic, open societies like the United States and Canada feel driven to “protect” themselves by enacting legislation that would not be out of place in Baghdad today.

Gordon Barthos, “Carrying a torch for Liberty,” Toronto Star (February 27, 2003): A24.


(c) 9/11 as an “opportunity” for the U.S. government: the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) Report


The threat posed by US terrorism to the security of nations and individuals was outlined in prophetic detail in a document written more than two years ago and disclosed only recently. What was needed for America to dominate much of humanity and the world’s resources, it said, was “some catastrophic and catalysing event—like a new Pearl Harbor”. The attacks of 11 September 2001 provided the “new Pearl Harbor”, described as “the opportunity of ages”. The extremists who have since exploited 11 September come from the era of Ronald Reagan, when far-right groups and “think-tanks” were established to avenge the American “defeat” in Vietnam. In the 1990s, there was an added agenda: to justify the denial of a “peace dividend” following the cold war. The Project for the New American Century was formed, along with the American Enterprise Institute, the Hudson Institute and others that have since merged the ambitions of the Reagan administration with those of the current Bush regime.

One of George W Bush’s “thinkers” is Richard Perle. I interviewed Perle when he was advising Reagan; and when he spoke about “total war”, I mistakenly dismissed him as mad. He recently used the term again in describing America’s “war on terror”. “No stages,” he said. “This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq… this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don’t try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war… our children will sing great songs about us years from now.”

Perle is one of the founders of the Project for the New American Century, the PNAC. Other founders include Dick Cheney, now vice-president, Donald Rumsfeld, defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, deputy defence secretary, I. Lewis Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff, William J Bennett, Reagan’s education secretary, and Zalmay Khalilzad, Bush’s ambassador to Afghanistan. These are the modern chartists of American terrorism. The PNAC’s seminal report, Rebuilding America’s Defences: strategy, forces and resources for a new century, was a blueprint of American aims in all but name. Two years ago it recommended an increase in arms-spending by $48bn so that Washington could “fight and win multiple, simultaneous major theatre wars”. This has happened. It said the United States should develop “bunker-buster” nuclear weapons and make “star wars” a national priority. This is happening. It said that, in the event of Bush taking power, Iraq should be a target. And so it is.

As for Iraq’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction”, these were dismissed, in so many words, as a convenient excuse, which it is. “While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification,” it says, “the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.” How has this grand strategy been implemented? A series of articles in the Washington Post, co-authored by Bob Woodward of Watergate fame and based on long interviews with senior members of the Bush administration, reveals how 11 September was manipulated.

On the morning of 12 September 2001, without any evidence of who the hijackers were, Rumsfeld demanded that the US attack Iraq. According to Woodward, Rumsfeld told a cabinet meeting that Iraq should be “a principal target of the first round in the war against terrorism”. Iraq was temporarily spared only because Colin Powell, the secretary of state, persuaded Bush that “public opinion has to be prepared before a move against Iraq is possible”. Afghanistan was chosen as the softer option. If Jonathan Steele’s estimate in the Guardian is correct, some 20,000 people in Afghanistan paid the price of that debate with their lives.

Time and again, 11 September is described as an “opportunity”. In last April’s New Yorker, the investigative reporter Nicholas Lemann wrote that Bush’s most senior adviser, Condoleezza Rice, told him she had called together senior members of the National Security Council and asked them “to think about ‘how do you capitalise on these opportunities’”, which she compared with those of “1945 to 1947”: the start of the cold war. Since 11 September, America has established bases at the gateways to all the major sources of fossil fuels, especially central Asia. The Unocal oil company is to build a pipeline across Afghanistan. Bush has scrapped the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions, the war crimes provisions of the International Criminal Court and the anti-ballistic missile treaty. He has said he will use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states “if necessary”. Under cover of propaganda about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, the Bush regime is developing new weapons of mass destruction that undermine international treaties on biological and chemical warfare.

In the Los Angeles Times, the military analyst William Arkin describes a secret army set up by Donald Rumsfeld, similar to those run by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger and which Congress outlawed. This “super-intelligence support activity” will bring together the “CIA and military covert action, information warfare, and deception”. According to a classified document prepared for Rumsfeld, the new organisation, known by its Orwellian moniker as the Proactive Pre-emptive Operations Group, or P2OG, will provoke terrorist attacks which would then require “counter-attack” by the United States on countries “harbouring the terrorists”.

In other words, innocent people will be killed by the United States. This is reminiscent of Operation Northwoods, the plan put to President Kennedy by his military chiefs for a phoney terrorist campaign—complete with bombings, hijackings, plane crashes and dead Americans—as justification for an invasion of Cuba. Kennedy rejected it. He was assassinated a few months later. Now Rumsfeld has resurrected Northwoods, but with resources undreamt of in 1963 and with no global rival to invite caution. You have to keep reminding yourself this is not fantasy: that truly dangerous men, such as Perle and Rumsfeld and Cheney, have power. The thread running through their ruminations is the importance of the media: “the prioritised task of bringing on board journalists of repute to accept our position”.

“Our position” is code for lying. Certainly, as a journalist, I have never know official lying to be more pervasive than today. We may laugh at the vacuities in Tony Blair’s “Iraq dossier” and Jack Straw’s inept lie that Iraq has developed a nuclear bomb (which his minions rushed to “explain”). But the more insidious lies, justifying an unprovoked attack on Iraq and linking it to would-be terrorists who are said to lurk in every Tube station, are routinely channelled as news. They are not news; they are black propaganda.

John Pilger, “America’s Bid for Global Dominance,” The New Statesman (December 12, 2002), http://zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2744.


For further information about the Project for a New American Century, see the following:

Abrams, Elliott (and 24 others). “Statement of Principles,” PNAC (June 3, 1997), http://www.newamericancentury.org/statementofprinciples.htm.

Donnelly, Thomas, Donald Kagan and Gary Schmitt. “Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century,” PNAC (September 2000), http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf.

Kristol, William (and 40 others). “Letter to President Bush on the War on Terrorism,” PNAC (September 20, 2001), http://www.newamericancentury.org/Bushletter.htm.

---- (and 32 others). “Letter to President Bush on Israel, Arafat and the War on Terrorism,” PNAC (April 3, 2002), http://www.newamericancentury.org/Bushletter-040302.htm.

Escobar, Pepe. “This war is brought to you by…,” Asia Times Online (March 20, 2003), http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EC20Ak07.html.

Johnson, Chalmers Johnson. “Iraq Wars,” www.tomdispatch.com, also available at ZNet, http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2869.

Shavit, Ari. “White man’s burden,” Ha’aretz (April 6, 2003), http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jtml?itemNo=280279&%20contrassID=2&subContrassID=14&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y.


(d) Manipulations of public fear


On November 7, the day before the United Nations Security Council voted on a resolution that made an American and British attack on Iraq more than likely, Downing Street began issuing warnings of imminent terrorist threats against the United Kingdom.

Cross-Channel ferries, the London Underground and major public events were all said to be “targeted”.

The anonymous Government sources described “emergency security measures” that included a “rapid reaction force of army reservists” and a squadron of fighter jets “on constant standby”. Plans were being drawn up to “evacuate major cities and deal with large numbers of contaminated corpses”. Police snipers were being trained “to kill suicide bombers” and anti-radiation pills were being distributed to hospitals. By November 11, Tony Blair himself was telling the British public to be “on guard” against an attack that could lead to “maximum carnage”.

Curiously, the national state of alert for a likely attack, colour-coded amber, which such a grave warning would require, was never activated. It remains on “black special”, which is just above normal. Why?

That was more than two weeks ago, and urgent questions remain unanswered. Now health service teams are to have smallpox vaccinations to “meet the threat of a germ warfare attack”; and the Foreign Office has produced a remarkable video suggesting that Britain is about to attack Iraq because of its concern for that country’s human rights record. (This must mean Britain will soon attack other countries because of their human rights records, such as China, Russia and the United States.) [….]

Where is the evidence, any evidence, for a national “alert” that borders on such orchestrated hysteria? And what explains its uncanny timing with the latest American and British machinations at the UN on Iraq?

Lying as government strategy is known as black propaganda. [….] Since September 11, 2001, every attempt by black propagandists in Whitehall and Washington to justify an unprovoked attack on Iraq by linking the regime in Baghdad with al-Qaeda terrorism has failed.

First, there was the charge that Iraq was responsible for last year’s anthrax scare in the United States, then it was claimed that Mohammed Atta, one of the alleged September 11 hijackers, had made contact with Iraqi intelligence in Prague. Both claims have been proven false, along with stories planted in newspapers by American intelligence that Iraq has been training al-Qaeda terrorists at a secret base.

John Pilger, “Lies, Damned Lies, and Terror Warnings,” ZNet (December 5, 2002), http://zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2710.


In the United States, the Bush administration is busy terrorising Americans. There will be nuclear attacks, bombs in high-rise apartment blocks, on the Brooklyn bridge, men with exploding belts—note how carefully the ruthless Palestinian war against Israeli colonisation of the West Bank is being strapped to America’s ever weirder “war on terror”—and yet more aircraft suiciders. If you read the words of President Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney and the ridiculous national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, over the past three days, you’ll find they’ve issued more threats against Americans than Mr bin Laden.

But let’s get back to the point. The growing evidence that Israel’s policies are America’s policies in the Middle East—or, more accurately, vice versa—is now being played out for real in statements from Congress and on American television. First, we have the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee announcing that Hizbollah—the Lebanese guerrilla force that drove Israel’s demoralised army out of Lebanon in the year 2000—is planning attacks in the US. After that, we had an American television network “revealing” that Hizbollah, Hamas and al-Qa’ida—Mr bin Laden’s organisation—have held a secret meeting in Lebanon to plot attacks on the US.

American journalists insist on quoting “sources” but there was, of course, no sourcing for this balderdash, which is now repeated ad nauseam in the American media. Then take the “Syrian Accountability Act” that was introduced into the US Senate by Israel’s friends on 18 April. This includes the falsity uttered earlier by Israel’s Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, that Iranian Revolutionary Guards “operate freely” on the southern Lebanon border. Now there haven’t been Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon—let alone the south of the country—for 18 years. So why is this lie repeated yet again?

Iran is under threat. Lebanon is under threat. Syria is under threat—its “terrorism” status has been heightened by the State Department—and so is Iraq. But Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister held personally responsible by Israel’s own inquiry for the Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1,700 Palestinians in Beirut in 1982, is—according to Mr Bush—“a man of peace”.

Robert Fisk, “A Firestorm is Coming,” The Independent (May 25, 2002).


With the convenient discovery of a deadly poison in Wood Green, London, Tony Blair has again made explicit reference to the “related” threats of international terrorism and Iraq—threats that will sooner or later, Blair insists, unite against us.

As anyone who has glanced even briefly at the subject knows, there is no evidence whatever that Iraq has any links with international terrorism— Saddam’s sworn enemy, al Qaeda, included—despite probably the most intense and sophisticated monitoring, investigation and surveillance programme in all history. Attempts were made to establish a link in the immediate aftermath of September 11 but were soon abandoned, even by the Bush administration. Nevertheless, with Blair giving the green light, ITN [Independent Television News] is happy to suggest a connection, moving from the report of the discovery of the poison, ricin, to Iraq thus:

“Well while the hunt for the ricin goes on, so do the preparations for war—more military hardware was committed today to targeting Iraq.” (Mark Austin, ITV 6:30 News, January 8, 2003)

Media Lens, “The Great Betrayal,” ZNet (January 10, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=21&ItemID=2849.


Last Friday’s National Post front couldn’t have been more chilling if it had run a nude family photo of Michael Jackson.

“Triple Crisis Fuels Alarm in U.S.” dominated a page filled with horrifying headlines such as “North Korea: Its nuclear missiles could reach the West Coast,” “Spies warn of wave of assassins,” “Bush administration fears Saddam in ‘nightmare’ alliance with al-Qaeda,” and, spookiest of all, “The four horsemen are saddling up.”

While we here in the Big Pink aren’t being urged to stock up on duct tape—hardly necessary since the country seems to be actually held together by the stuff—we can’t avoid the spill-over scare-mongering from south of the border. [….]

“Are you ready?” demanded ABC, introducing a Martha Stewart moment which showed how to convert a laundry room into a fallout shelter with tape and tarps.

Interestingly, they never discuss how this do-it-yourself homeland improvement scheme compares with the gabillions of tax dollars worth of military and materiel that will rain down on the people of Iraq.

“If seeing a ‘Terror Alert: High’ sign on your TV screen makes you feel edgy, imagine what it’s like to be living in Baghdad or Basra,” wrote media critic Norman Solomon (www.fair.org) last Thursday. “For people in the United States, the odds that terrorism will strike close to home are very small compared to the chances that any particular Iraqi family will be decimated before summer.”

Antonia Zerbisias, “Why networks are fuelling the fear,” Toronto Star (February 16, 2003): D10.



10. The attack on Afghanistan and its consequences

This section contains excerpts from writings by Robert Fisk, Marc Herold, James Ingalls, Michele Landsberg, Geov Parrish, Milan Rai, Stephen Shalom and Michael Abert, Stefan Steinberg, Alan Thompson, and Thomas Walkom.


(a) Was the war legitimate?


“Didn’t the U.S. in fact get Security Council endorsement for its war in Afghanistan?”

No. The United States went to the Security Council twice and both times the resolution that emerged did not authorize U.S. military action against Afghanistan. Resolution 1368 did call “on all States to work together urgently to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of these terrorist attacks,” but this is a far cry from authorizing the United States to decide unilaterally to wage a war against Afghanistan.

Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert, “9/11 and Afghanistan: Part B of 45 Questions on U.S. Foreign Policy,” ZNet (Oct. 9, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2447.


The argument for making war on Afghanistan rested on two propositions: firstly, that there was incontrovertible evidence that the atrocities of 11 September were organised by Osama bin Laden; and, secondly, that there was no nonviolent means of apprehending the al Qaeda leader. In fact, these two propositions do not amount to a justification for the use of force, but let us keep to establishment assumptions.

On 4 October 2001, two interesting things happened in Britain. Prime Minister Tony Blair produced a dossier of ‘evidence’ against Mr bin Laden, which was rubbished throughout the British media—described by the Independent on Sunday, for example, as “conjecture, supposition and assertions of fact”. Hardly incontrovertible evidence.

Also on 4 October 2001, the Daily Telegraph carried a story under the heading “Pakistan halts secret plan for bin Laden trial”. According to this report, leaders of two Pakistani Islamic parties, the Jamaat-i-Islami and the Jamaat Ulema-e-Islam, negotiated Mr bin Laden’s extradition to Pakistan to stand trial for the 11 September attacks. The agreement was that Mr bin Laden would be held under house arrest in Peshawar, and tried before an international tribunal under Islamic shar’ia law. [….]

One key element of the agreement was that the international tribunal could decide either to try him on the spot or to hand Mr bin Laden over to America. This was a new departure for the Taliban. Up until 1 October, the Taliban had been offering to negotiate bin Laden’s extradition to a third country, but had refused to contemplate the possibility of handing him over to Washington.

Why did the extradition break down? It was not blocked by the head of the Taliban, Mullah Omar. According to the Daily Telegraph, the extradition was vetoed by Pakistan’s military leader, “President” Musharraf. The ostensible stumbling block “was that he [Musharraf] could not guarantee bin Laden’s safety”. This is rather implausible.

It is intriguing to read that the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Wendy Chamberlain, was notified in advance of the mission to meet Mullah Omar. During the war on Afghanistan, a US official was quoted as saying that “casting the objectives too narrowly would risk a premature collapse of the international effort if by some lucky chance Mr bin Laden were captured”. It is at least conceivable—in my view it is likely—that it was a US veto that killed the extradition agreement, just as US hostility had rebuffed previous extradition offers from the Taliban….

Milan Rai, War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq (London and New York: Verso, 2002), pp. 37-38.


(b) Has the war been a “success” in U.S. terms?


The links of [Afghan president] Hamid Karzai to the UNOCAL company (and the C.I.A., Britain’s M16 and the U.S. Army’s 5th Special Forces Group) are well known—Karzai having served as a well paid consultant to UNOCAL when it was negotiating with the Taliban. The man who spotted Karzai’s “leadership potential” and recruited him to “the fold” was then RAND program director, Zalmay Khalilzad. The Bush Administration’s special envoy to Afghanistan, appointed nine days after Karzai took office, is Zalmay Khalilzad, graduate of the University of Chicago, another UNOCAL consultant and whose father was an aide to King Zahir, who actually drew up the risk analysis of the proposed $2 billion CentGas pipeline from Turkmenistan through western Afghanistan to Multan, Pakistan.

Khalilzad was undersecretary of defense for George Bush I, during the war against Iraq. After a stint at the Rand Corporation think tank, he headed the Bush-Cheney transition team for the Defense Department and advised Donald Rumsfeld. But he was not rewarded with any promotions. The required Senate confirmation would raise extremely uncomfortable questions about his role as UNOCAL adviser and one-time staunch Taliban defender. He was assigned instead to the Security Council—no Senate confirmation required—where he reports to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (who was a board member of another oil giant, Chevron).

The Enron Corporation, a major political contributor to the Bush campaign, conducted the feasibility study for the CentGas deal. Bush Administration support for the Taliban into August 2001 was guided by energy considerations, in particular wresting control from Russia of the still largely unexploited oil and gas reserves of Central Asia. Russia has kept Central Asia’s vast oil and gas reserves bottled up by restricting access to export pipelines—all of which run over Russian territory. The famous UNOCAL pipeline would go directly from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan—so long as an Afghan Government—whether Taliban or Karzai—can guarantee its safety.

Marc Herold, “Karzai & Associates’ Trickle-Down Reconstruction,” Cursor (May 12, 2002), http://www.cursor.org/stories/karzai.htm.


The Americans take them shackled and hooded on to transport aircraft to Kandahar. They live in pens of eight or 10 men. They are given cots with blankets but no privacy. They are forced to urinate and defecate publicly because the Americans want to watch their prisoners at all times.

But United States forces have not only failed to hunt down Osama bin Laden while they are preparing for war in Iraq: they are finding it almost impossible to crack the al-Qa’ida network because Bin Laden’s men have resorted to primitive means of communication that cut individual members of al-Qa’ida off from all information.

This extraordinary, grim scenario comes from an American intelligence officer just back from Afghanistan who agreed to talk to The Independent—and to supply his own photographs of prisoners—on condition of anonymity. [….]

The officer, who spent at least six months in Afghanistan this year, was scathing in his denunciation of General Abdul Rashid Dostam, the Uzbek warlord implicated in the suffocation of up to a thousand Taliban prisoners in container trucks. “Dostam is totally culpable and the US believes he’s guilty but he’s our guy and so we won’t say so.”

Robert Fisk, “With Runners and Whispers, Al-Qa’ida Outfoxes US Forces,” The Independent (December 6, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2712.


Today [October 2002], many of the forward bases of the U.S. Special Forces are under intermittent guerilla attack. Rockets, self-propelled grenades, mortar fire hit the bases at night. U.S. troops scamper out to search in vain for the attackers. [….]

[….] Just as in the Soviet case, it took a year for the mujahideen opposition to regroup and coalesce—this is now happening as the forces of Hekmatyar, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban cooperate. The gradual strengthening of the mujahideen was followed by attacks on the Soviets’ Afghan allies, who were easier targets. These attacks then forced the Soviets to take charge of security operations themselves, undermining the illusion of partnership with a local regime. Precisely this has been happening as the U.S. provides protection to Karzai and as it moves the 82nd Airborne Division units into southeastern and western Afghanistan. [….]

Yet, for all their numerical and technological advantages, the Americans and their allies have not figured out how to confront a foe so skilled at concealment. The Soviets referred to their Afghan adversaries as dukhi, the Russian word for ghosts, invisible spirits who attacked out of nowhere only to disappear into nowhere. Russian observers have noted that the United States is at roughly the same stage where they were in 1981, supporting a weak central government, faced with a bubbling opposition.

Ambushes, hit-and-run, rising popular resentment, coalescing opposition forces and an invisible enemy all point to a Vietnam redux.

Marc Herold, “U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan: Vietnam Redux,” Cursor (October 31, 2002), http://www.cursor.org/stories/vietnam_redux.htm.


The Chrétien government has committed Canadian infantry to Afghanistan on what is supposed to be a peacekeeping mission.

Almost precisely at the moment when it seemed obvious that Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s government had long since decided to throw its support behind a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq—with or without a United Nations Security Council resolution explicitly authorizing an attack—the government revealed plans to commit up to 2,000 troops to Afghanistan this summer on a one-year peace-keeping mission.

With war on everyone’s mind this week, Defence Minister John McCallum praised the new mission as befitting of Canadian tradition. McCallum said Canada will send a brigade headquarters and battle group to Kabul for two six-month rotations to jointly command the international stabilization force in Afghanistan.

After making the announcement in the House of Commons—in response to a staged question from a Liberal backbench MP—McCallum met with reporters to defend the new peacekeeping endeavour.

“This is a tough and dangerous mission, but it’s also in the peacekeeping tradition of Canadians,” McCallum said.

Alan Thompson, “Call to arms: Canada will take part in a U.S.-led war on Iraq—just not with ground forces. The decision to return to Afghanistan as peacekeepers is seen as a compromise,” Toronto Star (February 15, 2003): E1.

McCallum’s coded language (“a tough and dangerous mission”), coupled with the fact that a senior Canadian army officer resigned in protest over the decision to send troops to Afghanistan, suggests that the Canadian government must be aware that Canadian troops posted to Kabul will be engaged in a counter-insurgency operation rather than in peacekeeping work. The Canadian public, however, has been given no notion of the situation into which our troops will be inserted. Even a journalist as habitually astute as Thomas Walkom anticipates that their function will be a “janitorial” one.

[…] Afghanistan is now a side-show. U.N. peacekeeping, which in the time of Pearson was designed to cool international hot spots, has become a clean-up. Canadian troops going into Kabul will act as a kind of janitorial service, to sort out the mess left after the war against Afghanistan’s former Taliban government.

Thomas Walkom, “As the old world order passes away, Canada can only sit and watch,” Toronto Star (February 15, 2003): E5, http://www.thestar.com.


(c) What have its political and humanitarian consequences been?


One year after the Americans promised a return to democracy, most of Afghanistan remains carved up among a collection of opulently thievish warlords, many of them the same commanders of armies of mass rape, torture, and murder from whom the country fled to the Taliban as an antidote six years ago.

Geov Parrish, “Match Game,” ZNet (November 16, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2633.


As to what happened regarding starvation, we have virtually no idea. No one in the West with the means to count cares to do so. There is some suggestive data, however, that indicates that there were serious humanitarian consequences. Medicine Without Frontiers reported a doubling of the child mortality rate between August 2001 and January 2002 (see the MSF report, 2/21/02 […]). Michael Finkel reported in the New York Times Magazine that in the single Afghan district of Abdulgan out of 15,000 residents, the total number of dead during the war “has to run into the 1,000s.” An estimate in the Guardian (Jonathan Steele, 5/20/02) puts the indirect death toll at 20,000. Nakamura Tetsu, a Japanese doctor who heads an NGO that has worked in Afghanistan and Pakistan for 19 years, has said that “tens of thousands” starved to death as a result of the bombing […].

Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert, “9/11 and Afghanistan: Part B of 45 Questions on U.S. Foreign Policy,” ZNet (October 9, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2447.


President Bush asserted in his “State of the Union” speech in January [2002] that the United States had “saved a people from starvation, and freed a country from brutal oppression,” but the facts show that the US bombing actually exacerbated many of the dangers that existed in pre-Sept 11 Afghanistan. On September 6 2001, the World Food Program described “widespread pre-famine conditions.” They were just about to start a new project to provide food aid to 5.5 million people, but [ten] days later (Sept [16]), all aid convoys were stopped at the borders to prevent “terrorists” from escaping. This put at risk the millions of Afghans who were in danger of starvation, since refugees could no longer leave, and aid couldn’t get in. A month after Bush’s State of the Union announcement that we “saved a people from starvation,” Doctors without Borders reported (21 Feb) that “The food crisis in northern Afghanistan is reaching alarming proportions.” Mortality rates in one Northern camp have doubled since August. That is, twice as many people are dying per day now compared to before the US bombing.

The relief agency CARE has just issued a policy brief (end of September 2002) entitled, “Rebuilding Afghanistan: A little less talk, a lot more action,” in which they complain that “promises [to rebuild the country] now look increasingly suspect.” This is what is called “nation building.” Reconstruction needs in Afghanistan are, according to the report, “significantly higher” than in Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, or East Timor, where international donations averaged $250 per person per year.

And yet, in Afghanistan only $75 has been pledged per person for 2002, and $42 per person per year over the next five years. CARE estimates that Afghanistan needs at least $10 billion over the next 5 years to rebuild, which is not at all forthcoming.

Over $10 billion has been spent on Afghanistan since October 7 2001, mostly by the US government; 84% of it was spent to bomb the country and to finance anti-Taliban fighters. Part of the US plan included a “regime change” shifting the balance of power away from the Taliban and towards the “Northern Alliance.” That meant paying warlords $100,000 each and supplying them with truckloads of weapons. “We were reaching out to every commander that we could,” an intelligence official told the Wall Street Journal (15 Apr 02). Presently the warlords that we supported are “the greatest threats to stability in Afghanistan,” according to CARE. [….]

The United States has eliminated the Taliban, but what is in its place? The president Hamid Karzai has little popular support. He relies on the backing of the US (even his bodyguards are mostly US Special Operations soldiers) and is at the mercy of various warlords, also backed by the US. Peter Singer of the Brookings Institution calls him “basically the mayor of Kabul during daylight hours.” So the US has eliminated one source of instability in Afghanistan, and replaced it with another, which it (partially) controls. The prospects are just as bleak for Iraq, if the US decides to engage in the kind of “regime change” and “nation building” it implemented in Afghanistan.

James Ingalls, “Afghanistan: The First Puppet Regime in the Post Sept 11 World” (Talk given at the Afghan Women’s Mission Conference, October 30, 2002), ZNet, http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=49&ItemID=2565. [Date of border closing corrected.]


Remember Afghanistan? U.S. President George Bush was going to go in there, bomb the Taliban out of existence, catch Osama bin Laden, install a brand-new democracy and make sure that “all the boys and girls could go to school.”

Not only that: By routing the Taliban, Bush could enjoy the rare pleasure of draping himself in the silken mantle of a fighter for women’s rights. During his post-war January, 2002 state of the union speech, he introduced leading Afghan feminist and cabinet minister Dr. Sima Samar (“Today, women are free,” he said) and basked in the applause of Congress. If you’d like to check up on the progress of those grand promises, you can do so tonight [March 2, 2003] when The Passionate Eye (CBC Newsworld at 10 p.m.) shows The Daughters of Afghanistan, a new documentary featuring journalist and activist Sally Armstrong, who has visited that country dozens of times since she began crusading [sic] for Afghan women’s rights in 1996.

The state of Afghanistan is especially relevant right now—though little-reported—because the chaos and misery there give us a glimpse of just how difficult it is to reform a country by means of aerial bombardment. Armstrong says that only about 30 per cent of Afghan girls attend school today, due to lack of resources and a Taliban-like fundamentalist grip on the country outside the capital. The warlords are still running the country, and their rule is cruel, violent and deeply misogynist. Outside of Kabul, girls and women are still jailed for trying to escape forced marriages. They are forced to wear the burqa, attacked by fanatic vice squads, and even seized and subjected to demeaning gynecological “chastity” exams if caught anywhere near a man. Schools are firebombed; warlords troops rape with impunity.

Dr. Samar, so admired by President Bush, was forced out of government by a vicious hoked-up fundamentalist plot a mere six months after becoming deputy prime minister. Reduced to a human rights commissioner, she is left without protection or funds by an indifferent U.S. [….]

The United States has utterly failed to keep its promises to Afghanistan, and especially its promises to reinstate democracy (as though democracy could ever be imposed by outsiders, from above…as it were). It’s worth watching this compelling documentary, just to taste the courage and resilience of the women, and the depth of their betrayal by American power.

The Washington Post says that American hamburger joints are springing up everywhere in Kabul. There might be post-war hamburgers in Baghdad too, but there will be no fast-food version of democracy.

Michele Landsberg, “Afghanistan documentary exposes Bush’s promises,” Toronto Star (March 2, 2003), http://www.thestar.com.


Marc Herold of the University of New Hampshire has studied in detail the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan and its humanitarian and political consequences. His essays on the subject include the following:

Marc Herold, “An Average Day: 65 Afghan Civilians Killed by U.S. Bombs on December 20th,” Cursor (December 29, 2001), http://www.cursor.org/stories/ontarget.htm.

----, “A Dossier on Civilian Victims of United States; Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Accounting [revised],” Cursor (March 2002), http://www.cursor.org/stories/civilian_deaths.htm.

----, “Karzai and Associates’ Trickle-Down Reconstruction,” Cursor (May 12, 2002), http://www.cursor.org/stories/karzai.htm.

----, “The Bombing of Afghanistan as Reflection of 9/11 and Different Valuations of Life,” Cursor (September 11, 2002), http://www.cursor.org/stories/heroldon911.htm.



(d) War crimes committed against Taliban prisoners of war

The United States is alleged to have been implicated in at least two large-scale massacres of prisoners of war in November 2001. After the surrender of the Taliban forces in Kunduz in late November, the Afghani Taliban were released, but between 400 and 800 foreign-born troops (Pakistanis, Uzbeks, Chechens, and Arabs), who had apparently believed they would also be released after their surrender, were trucked to the Qalai-i-Janghi fortress on the outskirts of Mazar-i-Sharif, which the Northern Alliance warlord General Dostum was using as his headquarters. On the night of November 24, several prisoners committed suicide with concealed hand grenades (one of the explosions also killing two of Dostum's men). On November 25, Northern Alliance troops tied the hands of some 250 prisoners behind their backs, and two American CIA agents began to interrogate them. These actions sparked off a revolt of the prisoners, who appear to have thought they were about to be executed. In the ensuing fighting, which involved heavy U.S. bombing of the fortress and the use of U.S. and British special forces soldiers, most of the Taliban soldiers were killed. All who escaped from the fortress were shot, and an Associated Press photographer stated that up to 50 of the corpses he saw had their hands bound. A total of 86 Taliban survived the massacre by hiding in tunnels under the fort.

Shortly after the massacre at Qalai-i-Janghi, a further 3,000 of the 8,000 Taliban troops who had surrendered at Kunduz were locked into closed and unventilated containers and taken by truck to a prison compound in Shibarghan; according to the drivers, 150 to 160 of the 200-300 prisoners in each container died in transit. Witnesses claim that an American officer gave orders to fire into the containers, and that survivors were tortured and summarily executed by American troops. The prisoners were then dumped in the desert, where with some thirty to forty American soldiers looking on, those still alive were shot. In June 2002, the Irish director Jamie Doran’s film Massacre in Mazar, which documents these crimes, was shown in Berlin to members of the German parliament, and in Strasbourg to deputies and members of the press at the European Parliament. This film aroused widespread calls in Europe for an investigation of war crimes; in the United States, news of its existence was suppressed by the corporate media.


Doran’s new film includes interviews with eyewitnesses to torture and the slaughter of some 3,000 POWs. It also contains footage of the desert scene where the alleged massacre took place. Skulls, clothing and limbs still protrude from the mound of sand, more than six months after the event.

The film has received widespread coverage in the European press, with articles featured in some of the main French and German newspapers (Le Monde, Suddeutsche Zeitung, Die Welt). Jamie Doran has also given interviews to two of the main German television companies.

While the documentary has become a major news story in Europe, it has been virtually blacked out by the American media. The UPI released a dispatch on the screenings last week, yet the existence of the film has not even been reported by such leading newspapers as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. The film and its allegations of US war crimes have been similarly suppressed by the television networks and cable news channels.

Stefan Steinberg, “Afghan war documentary charges US with mass killings of POWs,” World Socialist Web Site (June 17, 2002), http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/jun2002/afgh-j17.shtml.


The account provided above of alleged war crimes against Taliban prisoners of war is based upon Steinberg's article, and upon the following articles:

White, Jerry. “After US massacre of Taliban POWs: the stench of death and more media lies,” World Socialist Web Site (November 29, 2001), http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/nov2001/mass-n29.shtml.

----. “More evidence of US war crimes in Afghanistan: Taliban POWs suffocated inside cargo containers,” World Socialist Web Site (December 13, 2001), http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/des2001/pows-d13.shtml.

WSWS Editorial Board, “The Geneva Convention and the US massacre of POWs in Afghanistan,” World Socialist Web Site (December 7, 2001), http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/dec2001/pows-d07.shtml.



11. War crimes in Palestine

This section contains excerpts from writings by Noam Chomsky and Michael Albert, Pepe Escobar, Kristen Ess, Robert Fisk, Amira Hass, Justin Huggler, John Pilger, Mitchell Plitnick, Tanya Reinhart, and Norman Solomon.

It is by no means obvious to most North Americans what direct connections there might be between the American-led attack on Iraq and the ongoing violence inflicted by the Israeli government upon the Palestinian population of the territories which Israel has occupied, in defiance of international law and of repeated UN Security Council resolutions, since 1967.

Since the 1960s, Israel has been used by the United States as a surrogate, a means of indirectly exercising a destabilizing American power over potentially hostile Arab states which are also an essential source of oil. Israel is clearly a key U.S. ally: it has for many years been the primary recipient of U.S. military aid (to the tune of well over $3 billion every year); its policies of settlement and ethnic cleansing in the occupied territories have also received steady U.S. diplomatic and financial support. Israel has in turn provided open and covert assistance to American geopolitical goals in Africa and in Central and South America as well as in the Middle East, and has a long record of hostilities with Iraq.

However, the direct connection between the crises in Iraq and Palestine arises out of the fact that, in their present forms, both crises are a consequence of a single policy vision enunciated and now applied by the right-wing ideologues who in 1997 formed the Project for the New American Century (see section 9[c] above for information about the PNAC—and who are now in effective control of U.S. foreign policy. (The members of the PNAC group include Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle, who was recently obliged by charges of conflict of interest to resign his position of chairman of the Defense Policy Board, but remains a prominent spokesman for the Bush regime.)

The role of the PNAC group in formulating a Middle East policy in which the continuing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq are directly linked is analyzed by Pepe Escobar in the following excerpts from an important article published in Asia Times on March 20, 2003.


It’s no surprise that Bush, on February 26 [2003], chose to unveil his vision of a new Middle Eastern order at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a right-wing Washington think-tank. The PNAC’s office is nowhere else than on the 5th floor of the AEI Building on 17th St, in downtown Washington. The AEI is the key node of a collection of neoconservative foreign policy experts and scholars, the most influential of whom are members of the PNAC.

The AEI is intimately linked to the Likud Party in Israel—which for all practical purposes has a deep impact on American foreign policy in the Middle East, thanks to the AEI’s influence. In this mutually-beneficial environment, AEI stalwarts are known as Likudniks. It’s no surprise, then, how unparalleled is the AEI’s intellectual Islamophobia. [….]

The AEI’s foreign policy agenda is presided over by none other than Richard Perle. As Perle is a longtime friend and advisor to Rumsfeld, he was rewarded with the post of chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board: its 30-odd very influential members include former national security advisers, secretaries of defense and heads of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Perle is also a very close friend of Pentagon number two Wolfowitz, since they were students at the University of Chicago in the late 1960s. Perle now reports to Wolfowitz.

On September 20, 2001, Perle went on overdrive, fully mobilizing the Defense Policy Board to forge a link between Saddam and al-Quaeda. The PNAC sent an open letter to Bush detailing how a war on terrorism should be conducted. The letter says that Saddam has to go “even if evidence does not link him to the attack”. The letter lists other policies that later were implemented—like the gigantic increase of the defense budget and the total isolation of the Palestinaian Authority (PA), as well as others that may soon follow, like striking Hezbollah in Lebanon and yet-to-be-formulated attacks against Iran and especially Syria if they do not stop support for Hezbollah.

The Bush administration strategy in the past few months of totally isolating the PA’s Yasser Arafat and allowing Israeli premier Ariel Sharon to refuse as much as a handshake, was formulated by the PNAC. Another PNAC letter states that “Israel’s fight is our fight … for reasons both moral and strategic, we need to stand firm with Israel in its fight against terrorism”. The PNAC detested the Camp David accords between Israel and the Palestinians. For the PNAC, a simmering, undeclared state of war against Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Iran is a matter of policy.

Perle, a former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs under Reagan, is also a member of the board of the Jerusalem Post. He wrote a chapter—“Iraq: Saddam Unbound”—in Present Dangers, a PNAC book. He is very close to ultra-hawk Douglas Feith, who was his special counsel under Reagan and is now assistant secretary of defense for policy (one of the Pentagon’s four most senior posts) and also a partner in a small Washington law firm that represents Israeli suppliers of munitions seeking deals with American weapons manufacturers. It was thanks to Perle—who personally defended his candidate to Rumsfeld—that Feith got his current job. He was one of the key people responsible for strategic planning in the war against the Taliban and is also heavily involved in planning the war against Iraq.

David Wurmser, former head of Middle Eastern projects at the AEI, is now special assistant to PNAC founder John Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control and a fierce enemy of multilateralism. Wurmser wrote Tyranny’s Ally: America’s failure to defeat Saddam Hussein, a book published by the AEI. The forward is by none other than Perle. Meyrav Wurmser, David’s wife, is a co-founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute.

In July 1996, Perle, Feith and the Wurmser couple wrote the notorious paper for an Israeli think tank charting a roadmap for Likud superhawk and then-incoming Israeli prime minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu. The paper is called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm”. Perle, Feith and the Wurmsers tell Bibi that Israel must shelve the Oslo Accords, the so-called peace process, the concept of “land for peace”, go for it and permanently annex the entire West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The paper also recommends that Israel must insist on the elimination of Saddam, and the restoration of the Hashemite monarchy in Baghdad. This would be the first domino to fall, and then regime change would follow in Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Saudi Arabia. This 1996 blueprint is nothing else than Ariel Sharon’s current agenda in action. In November last year, Sharon took the liberty to slightly modify the domino sequence by growling on the record that Iran should be the next after Iraq.

Bush’s speech on February 26 [2003] at the AEI claimed that the real reason for a war against Iraq is “to bring democracy”[….]. The AEI and the PNAC shaped the now official Bush policy of introducing democracy—by bombing Iraq—and then “successfully transforming the lives of millions of people throughout the Middle East”, in the words of AEI scholar Michael Ledeen. At his AEI speech, Bush did nothing else but parrot the idea.

Pepe Escobar, “This war is brought to you by…,” Asia Times Online (March 20, 2003), http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EC20Ak07.html.


…80 percent of the Palestinians killed in recent months by the Israeli Defense Force during curfew enforcement were children, according to an October report from the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. Twelve people under the age of 16 had been killed, with dozens more wounded by Israeli gunfire in occupied areas, during a period of four months. “None of those killed endangered the lives of soldiers,” B’Tselem said.

Norman Solomon, “Decoding Some Top Buzzwords,” ZNet (December 13, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=21&ItemID=2746.


There are about 9,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails. Last night Israeli soldiers abducted 14 more. Since Sharon was re-elected Israeli soldiers have killed 28 Palestinians. This is just in the past eight days. In the last two months Israeli soldiers have murdered 72 Palestinians. This means that the Israeli military kills four Palestinians a day. [….]

My phone rang all night. [….] Friends are calling from the hospital in Gaza where I live, telling me more about the devastation there. The other night Israeli soldiers shot two nurses in Al-Awda Hospital […]. Friends are calling from Rafah, more houses are demolished, the Israelis won’t stop shooting. Two more kids are dead. My friends in the water municipality tell me that more pump stations are destroyed and more wells are contaminated. Just in Rafah it’s at 60 percent without water.

This is ethnic cleansing and in all cases of ethnic cleansing a great deal of effort goes into making the public think those being cleansed are bad, are evil, deserve it, are terrorists. I saw the little boy whom Israeli soldiers shot in one of the camps. He is on permanent crutches, no more than 50 pounds. He and his friend threw stones at a heavily armoured Israeli tank. He is permanently maimed, his friend is dead. The kids in the camp don’t have school again today. Only 50 percent of the entire last year was not under curfew in this area.

Kristen Ess, “Occupied Palestine Report,” ZNet (February 8, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=3004.


A senior officer was asked last week if he thought the IDF [Israel Defence Force] could prevent a provocation by supporters of the “transfer” idea in the army and among the settlers of the West Bank, and foil any attempt at a mass expulsion of Palestinians. [….]

The officer admitted he had doubts whether the army could, or would even try, to prevent such an expulsion.

“The army failed when it did not prevent the settlers from sabotaging the Palestinian olive harvest in the West Bank, or prevent the settlers from stealing the olives. The state failed, because as far as we know, those settlers who did sabotage the olive harvest have not been dealt with, although their identities are known to the authorities.” [….]

Every day between five and twenty Palestinians are arrested in the territories. Every few days the IDF invades some place and demolishes something. Every other day, in addition to armed Palestinians, and Palestinians plotting terror attacks being killed, Palestinian civilians are accidentally killed, including children and the elderly. [….]

There are checkpoints with soldiers who scold the elderly and the young or deliberately delay them for no reason; the travel restrictions; the iron gates that turn villages and towns into detention centers; the summons to the Shin Bet, which tries to recruit collaborators and get information about a neighbor or cousin; the curfews and the children locked up at home; the roads that the IDF bulldozers crush and crumble; the houses that are demolished because a terrorist lived in them; the tool and die shops that are destroyed; the water and electricity grids that are damaged during raids; the paving of another road for Jews only; the tear gas grenades at “rioters”; the destruction of more farmland under tank treads.

Amira Hass, “Terror as a Natural Phenomenon,” Ha’aretz (January 15, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=2871.


The question hung over the concrete rubble and twisted iron support rods, the ruined buildings where Palestinians said three young men were killed when the Israeli army demolished them this week.

Is the Israeli military taking advantage of a time when the world is not paying attention to what is going on here, when media coverage is focusing on Iraq, to step up its campaign in the occupied territories?

In the past week, while the world’s press focused on the UN security council and Baghdad, the violence has suddenly surged. In six days, at least 30 Palestinians have been killed in a series of Israeli operations, chiefly in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Nablus.

The dead have been a combination of unarmed civilians, armed militants, members of the legitimate Palestinian security forces and one a medic trying to reach a sick patient.

Justin Huggler, “Bodies Piling Up in Gaza and the Apartheid Wall in Bethlehem,” The Independent (February 22, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=3103.


When we read about political assassinations and murder of civilians by Israeli helicopters, we should understand, as the victims do, that these are U.S. helicopters with Israeli pilots, provided in the full knowledge that that is how they are going to be used. The point generalizes, and extends to the diplomatic arena as well. To give one example, consider the Fourth Geneva Convention, established immediately after World War II to formally criminalize Nazi atrocities. The U.S. is among the High Contracting Parties that are bound by solemn treaty obligations to enforce the Convention. Apart from the U.S. and Israel, the world has repeatedly insisted that the Convention applies to the territories that Israel occupies with U.S. support. The same conclusion has been forcefully enunciated by the ICRC, which has the responsibility to oversee application of the Convention. The government of Switzerland is the responsible state authority. In that capacity, it called a conference on the matter for December 5 [2001]. The conference was boycotted by the U.S. and Israel, and—more surprisingly—Australia, under U.S. pressure, according to the Australian press. The report on the conference in the London Financial Times opened by stating that “The European Union’s 15 member states were among 114 countries that yesterday agreed an unprecedented declaration reaffirming the illegality of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories and calling on Israel to respect international humanitarian law.” A database search the next day found no reports in the U.S. media […].

Noam Chomsky and Michael Albert, “Extending U.S. Dominance By Any Means Possible,” ZNet (January 2, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/Zmag/articles/jano2albertchomsky.htm.


Noam Chomsky has commented elsewhere on the blatant illegalities of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip, from the early period following the 1967 war through to the Oslo “peace process.”

The plan for the Palestinians under military occupation was described frankly to his cabinet colleagues by Moshe Dayan, one of the Labor leaders more sympathetic to the Palestinian plight. Israel should make it clear that “we have no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave, and we will see where this process leads.” Following that recommendation, the guiding principle of the occupation has been incessant and degrading humiliation, along with torture, terror, destruction of property, displacement and settlement, and takeover of basis resources, crucially water. [….]

The goal of the Oslo process was accurately described in 1998 by Israeli academic Shlomo Ben-Ami just before he joined the Barak government, going on to become Barak’s chief negotiator at Camp David in summer 2000. Ben-Ami observed that “in practice, the Oslo agreements were founded on a neo-colonialist basis, on a life of dependence of one on the other forever.” With these goals, the Clinton-Rabin-Peres agreements were designed to impose on the Palestinians “almost total dependence on Israel,” creating “an extended colonial situation,” which is expected to be the “permanent basis” for “a situation of dependence.” The function of the Palestinian Authority (PA) was to control the domestic population of the Israeli-run neocolonial dependency. That is the way the process unfolded, step by step, including the Camp David suggestions. The Clinton-Barak stand (left vague and ambiguous) was hailed here [in the U.S.] as “remarkable” and “magnanimous,” but a look at the facts made it clear that it was—as commonly described in Israel—a Bantustan proposal; that is presumably the reason why maps were carefully avoided in the US mainstream. It is true that Clinton-Barak advanced a few steps towards a Bantustan-style settlement of the kind that South Africa instituted in the darkest days of Apartheid. Just prior to Camp David, West Bank Palestinians were confined to over 200 scattered areas, and Clinton-Barak did propose an improvement: consolidation to three cantons, under Israeli control, virtually separated from one another and from the fourth canton, a small area of east Jerusalem, from the center of Palestinian life and communications in the region. And of course separated from Gaza, where the outcome was left unclear.

But now that plan has apparently been shelved in favor of demolition of the PA. That means destruction of the institutions of the potential Bantustan […]. The prominent Israeli scholar Ze’ev Sternhell writes that the government “is no longer ashamed to speak of war when what they are really engaged in is colonial policing, which recalls the takeover by the white police of the poor neighborhoods of the blacks in South Africa during the apartheid era.” This new policy is a regression below the Bantustan model of South Africa 40 years ago to which Clinton-Rabin-Peres-Barak and their associates aspired in the Oslo “peace process.”

Noam Chomsky and Michael Albert, “Interview with Chomsky,” Z Magazine / Znet (April 3, 2002).


Israel is asking the United States for $8bn (£5bn) in loan guarantees—and has sent to Washington one of the former army officers implicated in the 1982 Sabra and Chatila massacre of Palestinian civilians to persuade the Bush administration to grant the money.

Amos Yaron, who is now director general of the Israeli Ministry of Defence, was the military commander in Beirut when Lebanese Phalangist militiamen entered the refugee camps and slaughtered up to 1,700 Palestinian refugees. He ordered flares to be dropped over the camps, at the request of the Phalange, and Israeli soldiers blocked the exits to prevent civilians from leaving the area.. Israel is pleading for the money—along with an additional $4bn in military aid—on the grounds that a US invasion of Iraq will provoke further attacks against Israel.

Robert Fisk, “Israeli at US Loan Talks Is Implicated In Massacre,” The Independent (January 13, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticled.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=2857.


I believe that even much before its present atrocities, Israel has followed the South-African Apartheid model. Behind the smoke screen of the Oslo "Peace process", Israel has been pushing the Palestinians in the occupied territories into smaller and smaller isolated enclaves—a direct copy of the Bantustans model. Unlike South Africa, however, Israel has managed so far to sell its policy as a big compromise for peace. Aided by a battalion of cooperating 'peace-camp' intellectuals, they managed to convince the world that it is possible to establish a Palestinian state without land-reserves, without water, without a glimpse of a chance of economic independence, in isolated ghettos surrounded by fences, settlements, bypass roads and Israeli army posts—a virtual state which serves one purpose: separation (Apartheid).

But what Israel is doing under Sharon far exceeds the crimes of South Africa's white regime. It has been taking the form of systematic ethnic cleansing, which South Africa never attempted. Since April last year (following the Jenin "operation") we are witnessing the daily invisible killing of the sick and wounded being deprived of medical care, the weak who cannot survive in the new poverty conditions, and those who are bound to reach starvation.

Since the US is backing Israel and the European governments are silent, it is the moral right and duty of the people of the world to do whatever they can on their own to stop Israel and save the Palestinians.

Tanya Reinhart (Professor of Linguistics, Tel Aviv University), “Academic Boycott: In Support of Paris VI” (February 4. 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=2961.


The Palestinian writer Ghada Karmi has described “a deep and unconscious racism [that] imbues every aspect of western conduct toward Iraq”. She wrote: “I recall that a similar culture prevailed in the UK during the 1956 Suez crisis and the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, when Nasser was the arch-villain and all Arabs were crudely targeted. Today, in Britain, such overt anti-Arabness is unacceptable, so it takes subtler forms. Saddam-bashing, a sport officially sanctioned since 1991, has made him the perfect surrogate for anti-Arab abuse.”

[…] veiled racism [has] propel[led] every western attack on Arabs, from Churchill's preference in 1921 for “using poison gas on uncivilised tribes” to the use of depleted uranium in the 1991 Gulf slaughter. This racism applies, quintessentially, to [Ghada Karmi’s] homeland, Palestine. While the Iraq pantomime plays, America's proxy, Israel, has begun the next stage of its historic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. On 21 January, the town of Naziat ‘Iza in the northern West Bank was invaded by a force of armoured personnel carriers, tanks and 60-ton, American-made Israeli bulldozers. Sixty-three shops were demolished, along with countless homes and olive groves. Little of this was reported outside the Arab world. Some parts of the West Bank have been under curfew for a total of 214 days. Whole villages are under house arrest. People cannot get medical care; ambulances have been prevented from reaching hospitals; women have lost their newborn babies in agony and pools of blood at military checkpoints. Fresh water is permanently scarce, and food; in some areas, more than half the children are seriously undernourished. One image unforgettable to me is the sight of children's kites flying from the windows and yards of their prison-homes.

Then there is the slaughter. During the month of November, more than 50 Palestinian civilians were killed by the Israelis—a record by one calculation. These included a 95-year-old woman, 14 young children and a British UN worker, shot in the back by an Israeli sniper. Human rights groups say the deaths occurred mostly in circumstances in which there was no exchange of gunfire. “The Israelis have killed 16 Palestinians within 49 hours,” said Dr Mustafa Barghouti in Ramallah on 27 January. “That’s an average of one Palestinian every three hours. The silence about this is simply unconscionable.”

While Blair damns Iraq for the chemical weapons that a swarm of inspectors cannot find, he has quietly approved the sale of chemical weapons to Israel, a terrorist and rogue state by any dictionary meaning of those words. While he accuses Iraq of defying the United Nations, he is silent about the 64 UN resolutions Israel has ignored—a world record.

The Israeli terrorists, who subjugate and brutalise a whole nation, demolishing homes and shops, expelling and killing and “systematically torturing” (Amnesty) day after day, are not mentioned in the Observer editorial [of January 19, 2003, in which that newspaper announced its support for an attack on Iraq]. No “decisive action” (the Observer's words) is required against the prima facie war criminals Ariel Sharon and General Shaul Mofaz, who, along with their predecessors, have caused a degree of suffering of which Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda can only dream. There is no suggestion that the British force heading for the Middle East should “intervene” in the “republic of fear” that Israel has created in Palestine in defiance of the world, and “displace” them. There is not a word about the weapons of mass destruction that Sharon repeatedly flaunts (“the Arabs may have the oil, but we have the matches”).

To most people in Europe, and across the world, these double standards offend common decency.

John Pilger, “Betrayal of a Noble Legacy,” ZNet (February 1, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=11&ItemID=2943.


The only road to a decent future for everyone in the region is paved with the recognition that their future is one. Israeli leaders must recognize that the occupation has not only spilled a river of blood, the majority of it Palestinian; has not only destroyed what was left of Palestinian infrastructure, and many Palestinian homes and families; it has also done enormous damage to the Israeli economy and the Israeli social fabric. It is Israel, as the occupier, that must recognize that the only peaceful and just future is one where they are living with the Palestinians, as part of the Middle East, as a neighbor among equals, rather than as a dominating force and military base for the United States. And it is Israel that must realize that the only way to start toward that future is to end the occupation.

Mitchell Plitnick, “Scandalous Diversions,” Jewish Voice for Peace Newsletter (January 14, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=2865.



12. Larger Contexts of the Attack on Iraq: Some Recent Studies

The titles listed here can serve as a reminder that the monstrous events that are now under way cry out for forms of historical explanation that can be both alert to patterns of cultural and material causation and also, in the deepest sense, ethically responsible.

Ali, Tariq. The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity. London: Verso, 2002.

Arnove, Anthony, ed. Iraq Under Siege: The Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War. 2nd ed., London: Pluto, 2003.

Brenner, Robert. “The Continuing Collapse of the US Economy.” London Review of Books, vol. 25, no. 3 (February 6, 2003): 18-23.

Chomsky, Noam. Class Warfare: Noam Chomsky in Conversation, 1992-1996. Interviewed by David Barsamian. Vancouver: New Star Books, 1997.

----. 9-11. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2001.

----. Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky. Ed. Peter R. Mitchell and John Schoeffel. New York: The New Press, 2002.

----. Power and Terror: Post-9/11 Talks and Interviews. Ed. John Junkerman and Takei Masakazu. New York: Seven Stories Press, Tokyo: Little More, 2003.

Chossudovsky, Michel. War and Globalisation: The Truth Behind September 11. Shanty Bay, Ontario: Global OutlookTM, 2002.

Cockburn, Andrew, and Patrick Cockburn. Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein. 1999; rpt. New York: HarperPerennial, 2000.

----. Saddam Hussein: An American Obsession. London: Verso, 2002.

Dyer, Gwynne. Ignorant Armies: Sliding into War in Iraq. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2003.

Fisk, Robert. “Tired of being lied to.” The Independent (February 15, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=51&ItemID=3502.

Hiro, Dilip. Iraq: In the Eye of the Storm. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press/Nation Books, 2002.

McMurtry, John. The Cancer Stage of Capitalism. London: Pluto Press, 1999.

----. Value Wars: The Global Market Versus the Life Economy. London: Pluto Press, 2002.

Miller, Mark Crispin. The Bush Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder. New York: Norton, 2002.

Mokhiber, Russell, and Robert Weissman. “Corporations, War, You.” ZNet (February 7, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2992.

Monbiot, George. “Too much of a good thing: Underlying the US drive to war is a thirst to open up new opportunities for surplus capital.” The Guardian (February 18, 2003): 17.

----. “Left Behind to Starve: A humanitarian disaster is engulfing Africa as cash is poured into the war with Iraq and its aftermath.” ZNet (March 18, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3259.

Nitzan, Jonathan, and Shimson Bichler. The Global Political Economy of Israel. London: Pluto Press, 2002.

Parenti, Michael. America Besieged. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1998.

Petras, James, and Henry Veltmayer. Globalization Unmasked: Imperialism in the 21st Century. New York and London: Zed Books; Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 2001.

Petras, James. “Nine Eleven: One year of empire building.” Rebelión (August 12, 2002). http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/1yrEmpBlding.html.

Pilger, John. The New Rulers of the World. London: Verso, 2002.

Pitt, William Rivers, with Scott Ritter. War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know. New York: Context Books, 2002.

Rai, Milan. War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq. London: Verso, 2002.

Ritter, Scott. Endgame: Solving the Iraq Crisis. 2nd ed., New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.

Solomon, Norman, and Reese Erlich. Target Iraq: What the News Media Don't Tell You. New York: Context Books, 2003.

Stich, Rodney. Drugging America: A Trojan Horse. Alamo, California: Diablo Western Press, 1999.

Vidal, Gore. Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got To Be So Hated. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press/Nation Books, 2002.

----. “The Enemy Within.” The Observer (October 27, 2002), Review Section, 1-4, http://burningbush.netfirms.com/Vidal.html.



13. What Is To Be Done?

The excerpts here are from writings by Michael Albert, Michael Albert and Stephen Shalom, Noam Chomsky, Subcomandante Marcos, Ken Nichols O’Keefe, John Pilger, Justin Podur, and Arundhati Roy.


Resolution 1441 [of the UN Security Council] shows that the US has the diplomatic support it needs to go to war. But diplomatic support from governments and elites will not be enough if there is enough resistance and protest from ordinary people. In September 2002, George W Bush threatened the United Nations with ‘irrelevance’ if it didn’t support his war. The reverse is true: the UN demonstrates its irrelevance when it takes decisions that the people of the world are against. Whatever the UN Security Council does, the people of the world are not irrelevant.

People who cannot be persuaded to trade human lives for oil concessions, who won’t accept a slaughter of civilians simply because the elites of the states who vote in the United Nations were bribed and threatened into signing off on the war, can mobilize to stop the war. If US plans have been slowed at all, it is because of them—the tens of thousands mobilizing in the US, the hundreds of thousands mobilizing in Europe and all over the world.

Justin Podur, “Resolution 1441,” Znet (Nov. 11, 2002), http://zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItenID=2613.


[T]he intellectual responsibility of the writer, or any decent person, is to tell the truth. [….] it is a moral imperative to find out and tell the truth as best one can, about things that matter, to the right audience. [….]

To speak truth to power is not a particularly honorable vocation. One should seek out an audience that matters—and furthermore (another important qualification), it should not be seen as an audience, but as a community of common concern in which one hopes to participate constructively.

Noam Chomsky, “Writers and Intellectual Responsibility,” in Perspectives on Power (Montréal: Black Rose Books, 1997), pp. 55, 61.


Effective activism raises the social cost to elites of policies that activists wish to reverse. When that cost is raised high enough, elites begin to switch their positions to try to reduce the social costs, no longer favoring but now opposing the policy. If enough members of elite corporate and political sectors switch their priority, the policy changes.

During the war on Vietnam, many elite figures—including politicians, prominent media people, intellectuals, CEOs, and so on—moved from being advocates of the war to opponents of it. Of course working people and students also switched sides, for moral reasons. But with very few exceptions (such as Daniel Ellsberg or William Fulbright) when these elite figures switched from support to opposition, they did so for reasons of social cost. [….]

That change of mind due to rising social costs is the aim of critical dissent. We need a movement broad and committed enough so its continued growth is sufficiently threatening that elites decide it is better to give in and hope that doing so dissolves the impetus to movement growth, rather than to continue with their war risking what the movement might unleash. To switch from pro- to antiwar in sufficient numbers to cause a policy change, elites must be more threatened by the movement than they are in love with their war.

Michael Albert and Stephen R. Shalom, “Ten Q & A On Antiwar Organizing” (October 24, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?sectionID=15&ItemID=2527.


Day by day, the latest headlines tell us that we are moving ever closer to war with Iraq. So many people around the world are ashamed and outraged by this prospect and yet feel powerless to make their voices heard. Large rallies for peace have been held in cities around the world. Yet the bulletins quickly return to the war drums beating ever faster for what must be one of the most choreographed and longest-planned wars in history.

Those who suffer most will of course be the innocent and victimized men, women and children in Iraq who are set to endure yet another war and unknown loss of life. Their crime? Simply to be the powerless citizens of an oil rich nation with a violent dictator who no longer fulfils the needs of Western powers who supported and armed him in the past.

Yet we need not be powerless. Gandhi said that “peace will not come out of a clash of arms but out of justice lived and done by unarmed nations in the face of odds.” So what would happen if several thousand Western citizens migrated to Iraq to stand side by side with the Iraqi people? Along with at first just a few hundred people—from hundreds of millions in the West—I will be going to Iraq to volunteer to act as a human shield in the interests of protecting human life. We will join our fellow citizens of the world in Iraq to bear witness for peace and justice.

We will run the risk of being maimed or killed—but it is simply the same risk that innocent Iraqis will themselves face. I would rather die in defense of justice and pace than “prosper” in complicity with mass murder and war. This not about supporting Saddam Hussein, as our governments did in the past. It is about saving the lives of those in our human family. We will be expressing to the Iraqi people the reality that most people in the West do not support this criminal war. [….]

For me, this is also an act of personal penance. In 1989, at the age of nineteen I committed the most ignorant act of my life, I joined the United States Marine Corps. In 1991 I went beyond ignorance into criminal participation in a war against the Iraqi people which ultimately included the use of depleted uranium against the civilian population. My reward as an “American Hero” was to be used by Bush Sr. as a human guinea pig along with several hundred thousand other “heroes”. We have still not been told the full story about “Gulf War syndrome” or how many of my fellow soldiers died as a result, but we do know the value our leaders put on our lives. When a nation’s leaders do not even respect the lives of their own “sons and daughters,” the enemy will never enter into the realm of consideration. The hundreds of thousands killed by sanctions against Iraq are seen as a price worth paying. The human costs of another war in Iraq barely seem to register with our political leaders. [….]

This “War on Terror” is becoming the ultimate “War on Freedom”, in the United States and around the world. George Bush has said that “every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make: either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”

But we do not only have two choices. For the record, I am not with George Bush or with the terrorists. And that is why, when this war finally begins, I will be in Iraq—with the people of Iraq. I invite everybody to join me in declaring themselves not citizens of nations but world citizens prepared to act in solidarity with the most wretched on our planet and join us or to support our efforts in other ways.

Ken Nichols O’Keefe, “Back to Iraq as a Human Shield,” The Observer (December 29 (2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=51&ItemID=2806.


In 1946, Justice Robert Jackson, chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, said: “The very essence of the Nuremberg charter is that individuals have international duties which transcend national obligations of obedience imposed by the state.”

With an attack on Iraq almost a certainty, the millions who filled London and other capitals on the weekend of 15-16 February, and the millions who cheered them on, now have these transcendent duties. The Bush gang, and Tony Blair, cannot be allowed to hold the rest of us captive to their obsessions and war plans. Speculation on Blair’s political future is trivia; he and the robotic Jack Straw and Geoff Hoon must be stopped now, for the reasons long argued in these pages and on hundreds of platforms.

And, incidentally, no one should be distracted by the latest opportunistic antics of [international development minister] Clare Short, whose routine hints of “rebellion”, followed by her predictable inaction, have helped to give Blair the time he wants to subvert the UN.

There is only one form of opposition now: it is civil disobedience leading to what the police call civil unrest. The latter is feared by undemocratic governments of all stripes.

The revolt has already begun. In January, Scottish train drivers refused to move munitions. In Italy, people have been blocking dozens of trains carrying American weapons and personnel, and dockers have refused to load arms shipments. US military bases have been blockaded in Germany, and thousands have demonstrated at Shannon which, despite Ireland's neutrality, is being used by the US military to refuel its planes en route to Iraq.

“We have become a threat, but can we deliver?” asked Jessica Azulay and Brian Dominick of the American resistance movement. “Policy-makers are debating right now whether or not they have to heed our dissent. Now we must make it clear to them that there will be political and economic consequences if they decide to ignore us.”

My own view is that if the protest movement sees itself as a world power, as an expression of true internationalism, then success need not be a dream. That depends on how far people are prepared to go. The young female employee of the Gloucestershire-based top-secret Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), who was charged this month with leaking information about America's dirty tricks operation on members of the Security Council, shows us the courage required.

In the meantime, the new Mussolinis are on their balconies, with their virtuoso rants and impassioned insincerity. Reduced to wagging their fingers in a futile attempt to silence us, they see millions of us for the first time, knowing and fearing that we cannot be silenced.

John Pilger, “Civil disobedience is the sole path left for those who cannot support the Bush-Blair act of aggression. Only then will politicians on both sides of the Atlantic be forced to recognise the folly of their ways” (March 13, 2003), http://pilger.carlton.com/print/132798.


[…] I intend to reply to the demand to support our troops by saying that yes, I too “support our troops.”

I will reply that I support our troops not having to kill people in Iraq.

I support our troops not being ordered to assault defenseless populations, towns, farms, and the infrastructural sinews of life that sustain a whole country's citizenry.

I support our troops not having to carry out orders from Commander in Chief George Bush and then having to live the rest of their lives wondering why they obeyed such a barbaric buffoon rather than resisting his illegitimate, immoral authority. [….]

I support our troops not dying in Iraq figuratively or literally, physically or psychologically. I support our troops coming home with their hearts not broken, retaining humanity and compassion essential to feeling true solidarity with those who confront tyrannical behaviour abroad, or right here in the U.S. with its 30 million tyrannized poor.

I support our troops coming home with their minds ravenous to comprehend what is wrong with war for empire, what is wrong with war to obliterate international law, what is wrong with war to control oil and use it as a bludgeon against allies and enemies alike, what is wrong with war for profit, what is wrong with war to intimidate whole nations and continents, what is wrong with war to subordinate a planet and even to test and trumpet the tools of war. [….]

I support our troops refusing to kill on behalf of politicians and profiteers. I support our troops rebelling against orders, not obeying them. I support our troops rejecting reasons of state. And I support our troops coming home to where their real battle is. [….]

What should we do about the U.S.? We should curtail its belligerency, change its regime, and fundamentally revolutionize its centers of wealth and power.

Support our troops, bring them home.

Support our troops, provide them housing.

Support our troops, provide them health care.

Support our troops, provide them socially valuable jobs. [….]

Support our troops, and one day they will join the fight for unlimited justice for all.

Michael Albert, “Support our Troops,” ZNet (March 17, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3255.


For us there is but one dignified word and one conscientious action in the face of this war. The word “NO” and the rebel action.

That is why we must say “NO” to war.

A “NO” without conditions or excuses.

A “NO” without half measures.

A “NO” untarnished by gray areas.

A “NO” with all the colors which paint the world.

A “NO” which is clear, categorical, resounding, definitive, worldwide.

What is at stake in this war is the relationship between the powerful and the weak. The powerful is powerful because he makes us weak. He lives off our work, off our blood. That is how he grows fat while we languish.

The powerful have invoked God at their side in this war, so that we will accept their power and our weakness as something that has been established by divine plan.

But there is no god behind this war other than the god of money, nor any right other than the desire for death and destruction.

The only strength of the weak is their dignity. That is what inspires them to fight in order to resist the powerful, in order to rebel.

Today there is a “NO” which shall weaken the powerful and strengthen the weak: the “NO” to war.

Some might ask whether the word which has convened so many throughout the world will be capable of preventing the war or, once it has begun, of stopping it.

But the question is not whether we can change the murderous march of the powerful. No. The question we should be asking is: could we live with the shame of not having done everything possible to prevent and stop this war?

No honest man or woman can remain silent and indifferent at this moment.

Subcomandante Marcos, “No to war: A Letter to Rebel Italy,” ZNet (February 16, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=51&ItemID=3057.


The time has come, the Walrus said. Perhaps things will become worse and then better. Perhaps there’s a small god up in heaven readying herself for us. Another world is not only possible, she’s on her way. Maybe many of us won’t be here to greet her, but on a quiet day, if I listen very carefully, I can hear her breathing.

Arundhati Roy, “Come September,” Lensic Performing Arts Center (September 29, 2002), ZNet, http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2404.





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