What must be said

Günter Grass's poem “Was gesagt werden muss,” published in the Süddeutschen Zeitung on April 4, 2012, was greeted in the German and international media with howls of execration. As he had anticipated in his fourth verse paragraph, Grass was widely denounced as an antisemite—and also as a political naïf with a dubious political past of his own, and a poetic incompetent.

I thought, in contrast, that Grass's text was courageous, carefully nuanced, and moving. I thought he was quite right to draw attention to the shameful complicity of his own country in building up Israel's stock of nuclear weapons and delivery systems, and right as well to denounce the hypocrisy of the West, and to note that Israeli and American threats of nuclear attacks on Iran have been based on no more than “suspicion” that Iran might be developing a nuclear weapon.

Nowhere among the outcries prompted by this text did I see any acknowledgment that Grass's reputation as a writer had included early international recognition of his talents as a poet (translations of a selection of poems from his first three collections of verse were published in the mid-1960s in the Penguin Modern European Poets series).

Many of the journalists who denounced Grass's poem had clearly not read it, and by April 6 the only English translation available was a wretched error-laden version published on the website of The Guardian.

Nica Mintz and I tried in our rendering to achieve both literal accuracy and a sense of the cadences of Grass's poem. Our version was published on April 7, 2012 at the websites of PULSE Media, http://pulsemedia.org/2012/04/07/what-must-be-said/, and of Mondoweiss. It was subsequently reproduced at twenty-five other websites. 


Günter Grass

"What Must Be Said"


Why have I kept silent, silent for too long
over what is openly played out
in war games at the end of which we
the survivors are at best footnotes.

It’s that claim of a right to first strike
against those who under a loudmouth’s thumb
are pushed into organized cheering— 
a strike to snuff out the Iranian people
on suspicion that under his influence
an atom bomb’s being built.

But why do I forbid myself
to name that other land in which
for years—although kept secret— 
a usable nuclear capability has grown
beyond all control, because
no scrutiny is allowed.

The universal silence around this fact, 
under which my own silence lay, 
I feel now as a heavy lie, 
a strong constraint, which to dismiss
courts forceful punishment: 
the verdict of “Antisemitism” is well known.

But now, when my own country, 
guilty of primal and unequalled crimes
for which time and again it must be tasked— 
once again, in pure commerce, 
though with quick lips we declare it
reparations, wants to send
Israel yet another submarine— 
one whose speciality is to deliver
warheads capable of ending all life
where the existence of even one
nuclear weapon remains unproven, 
but where suspicion serves for proof— 
now I say what must be said.

But why was I silent for so long? 
Because I thought my origin, 
marked with an ineradicable stain, 
forbade mention of this fact
as definite truth about Israel, a country
to which I am and will remain attached.

Why is it only now I say, 
in old age, with my last drop of ink, 
that Israel’s nuclear power endangers
an already fragile world peace? 
Because what by tomorrow might be
too late, must be spoken now, 
and because we—as Germans, already
burdened enough—could become
enablers of a crime, foreseeable and therefore
not to be eradicated
with any of the usual excuses.

And admittedly: I’m silent no more
because I’ve had it with the West’s hypocrisy
—and one can hope that many others too
may free themselves from silence, 
challenge the instigator of known danger
to abstain from violence, 
and at the same time demand
a permanent and unrestrained control
of Israel’s atomic power
and Iranian nuclear plants
by an international authority
accepted by both governments.

Only thus can one give help
to Israelis and Palestinians—still more, 
all the peoples, neighbour-enemies
living in this region occupied by madness
—and finally, to ourselves as well.


“Was gesagt werden muss” published in Süddeutschen Zeitung (4 April 2012)

Translation by Michael Keefer and Nica Mintz  

A Double Bouquet for Catherine Chatterley

The first short piece reproduced here appeared in the Winnipeg Jewish Review (23 November 2010), http://www.winnipegjewishreview.com/article_detail.cfm?id=558&sec=4. The two footnotes in the present version have been added to the text. The first of these provides information about the Ottawa conference, hosted by the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA), at which the article by Catherine Chatterley to which I objected was first presented, and about my participation in the press conference held at the same time on Parliament Hill by Independent Jewish Voices to protest against that conference.

In August 2010, my book Antisemitism Real and Imagined, which assembled an array of texts by human rights activists and human rights organizations as well as my own contributions, had been praised by Gerald Caplan in the Globe and Mail as “important,” “timely,” and “indispensable.” It is perhaps not surprising that Chatterley's article attempted to smear me as exemplifying what she called “Antisemitism Denial” (a concept that chimes obliquely with “Holocaust Denial”).

Together with my response, the WJR printed a rejoinder by Chatterley that contained another much nastier oblique smear. But the WJR's response to a letter from Professor Joanne Naiman reproaching Chatterley for the tone and content of her second text—it printed two absurd letters from hardcore Zionists in Canada and Israel, together with a shrill editorial—dissuaded me from wasting any further time in attempting to reason with such people.

In August 2014, however, the exposure by the American website Common Dreams of hasbara smear tactics reminiscent of Chatterley's behaviour prompted me to write a sequel analyzing her reply to me. This text, the second one provided here, has not previously been published.


1. Right of Reply: A Response to Catherine Chatterley (2010)

I applaud Dr. Catherine Chatterley’s statement (in her November 15, 2010 article on “Campus Antisemitism”) that debates over subjects like antisemitism, Israel, and Palestine “must be self-reflexive, reasoned, and accurate,” and that we need to avoid ad hominem attacks, so as to “encourage intelligent discussion and debate that employs meaningful, ethical, and accurate language”—the italics are Dr. Chatterley’s—“to describe what are truly difficult, complex, and contested histories.”1

But Dr. Chatterley abandons her own standards of ethics and accuracy when she refers to me as exemplifying what she calls “Antisemitism Denial.” It is not unduly sensitive to hear in these words a deliberate echo of “Holocaust Denial”—and therefore a vicious ad hominem attack. Dr. Chatterley’s claim that I have “gone on the assault against antisemitism as a contemporary problem, arguing that there is no such thing and comparing this so-called phantom to the ‘real’ antisemitism of the past,” goes beyond mere inaccuracy: it is a flagrant falsehood.

In addition to my work in other fields, I am the editor and part-author of Antisemitism Real and Imagined: Responses to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (Waterloo: The Canadian Charger, 2010). This book includes texts by eleven Canadian scholars and human rights activists (a majority of whom, as it happens, are Jewish), and by the leaders of seven human rights organizations. Far from minimizing the reality of contemporary antisemitism, these texts recurrently express concern that uncritical support for the state of Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinian human rights could feed a renewal of antisemitic prejudice and hatred in this country.

My own contributions, which make up just over half of the book, include an extended analysis of the statistical evidence relating to antisemitic incidents and hate crimes. My study of UK government figures, Statistics Canada data, the annual incident-report tallies published by the Community Security Trust (CST) in Britain, and B’nai Brith Canada’s annual audits of antisemitic incidents, led me to conclude that the CPCCA’s claims of an alarming resurgence of antisemitism in Canada are untrue, and B’nai Brith’s figures seriously inflated.2 But after noting that police statistics show a declining trend in hate crimes, I wrote that “I am not suggesting that we should find anything very reassuring about the data analyzed in this chapter: Jews are indeed being disproportionately targeted by hatemongers.”3

Readers of my contributions to the book will find many further examples of a lively concern over real present-day antisemitism—together with a strong critique of the deceptions practiced by those who imagine that they can get away with smearing advocates of international human rights law by labelling their criticisms of Israeli policies as instances of a “new antisemitism.”

As for Dr. Chatterley: If she genuinely wishes to earn a reputation for responsible, accurate, and ethical scholarship, she will have to begin by making some effort to live up to her own ideals.

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


2. Dr. Chatterley's Scurrilous Sequel: A Further Response, August 2014

A reply by Catherine Chatterley which appeared in the same November 23, 2010 issue of the Winnipeg Jewish Review made it clear that the scurrilous overtones of her first reference to me were not accidental—and that her commitment to the ethics of scholarly discussion is, as one might already have suspected, a pious fraud.

Dr. Chatterley began by quoting, to no obvious effect, from comments I had made about my book Antisemitism Real and Imagined in an interview with Mordecai Briemberg on the Redeye program of Vancouver Public Radio,4 in one of my public lectures during a book tour across western Canada in September-October 2010,5 and in an interview with Jack Etkin on a community television program in Victoria, BC.6 “In your public discussions about this book,” she wrote,

you make a distinction between what you view as real antisemitism and the new antisemitism, which you call a “rhetorical shell game” and rhetorical trickery.” You say that real antisemitism is a “toxic prejudice,” now largely on the wane in Canada, and that the new antisemitism is “not new and it's not antisemitism” but it makes “use of this history of suffering, this history of martyrdom, in a way that is at the service of unacceptable political positions.” You argue that in 1973, when “real antisemitism was in rapid decline ... leading figures in the Anti-Defamation League [tried to] redefine antisemitism to incorporate criticism of the State of Israel, and to use that as a way for providing public support ... to hold on to the conquered territories, the occupied [Palestinian] territories.”7

The point of this unfocused sequence of quotations may seem opaque: the matters alluded to are all exhaustively documented in the final three chapters of Antisemitism Real and Imagined. The only distortion appears in the last sentence, which alludes not to any argument originated by me, but rather (as anyone doing scholarship in the field should know) to my repetition of plain facts that had been laid out five years previously by Norman G. Finkelstein in his book Beyond Chutzpah,8 and that have remained unchallenged since then.

However, Dr. Chatterley's purpose became clear when, having provided links to the lecture and the interviews from which she quoted, she wrote (in italics) that “The two public comments below your discussion on the last site clearly illustrate the consistencies between old and new, or classic and contemporary, antisemitism.”

Following the link that Dr. Chatterley gave, which takes the reader, not to the original online posting of the television interview I did with Jack Etkin of ICTV Victoria in early October 2010, but rather to an unauthorized reproduction of it at Wide Eye Cinema,9 one discovers that the first two comments on my interview which appear at this internet site are vehemently antisemitic—indeed, neo-Nazi—in tone. These semi-literate rants, posted on October 24 and November 1, 2010, by 'paschn' and 'Annie Ladysmith' respectively, attribute the murder of “tens of millions” (in the second comment, “60 millions of white Christains” [sic], plus a further “10 millions of the same in the Ukraine, hung up to trees after torture”) to the “Jew treachery” of the “Bolshevik Revolution.” In the words of 'Annie Ladysmith', capitalized by herself for emphasis, this was “HOLOCAUST BY THE JEWS.”10 There's none of the “sophistication” here that Chatterley and other Zionist ideologues—among them, Prime Minister Stephen Harper11—have ascribed to the so-called “new antisemitism.” As the commenters' linking of Jews and Bolsheviks makes plain, this is “old” or “classic” antisemitism of the Joseph Goebbels variety.12

Dr. Chatterley's point was obvious enough. She was implying (with what she perhaps believed to be cunning indirection) that if these comments represent the old antisemitism, then my television interview exemplifies the new antisemitism whose actuality I was challenging. It need hardly be said that in asserting the existence of “consistencies” between my interview and the deranged ranting of neo-Nazis, Dr. Chatterley was not trying to “encourage intelligent discussion and debate that employs meaningful, ethical, and accurate language.

For her polemical purposes, neo-Nazis like these two commenters are useful idiots. In some instances, however, comment posters of this sort turn out to be useful idiots of another kind: hasbara agents whose deliberate function is to litter the internet with antisemitic filth, for the precise purpose of enabling slander tactics like those of Catherine Chatterley.

Such a pattern might seem improbable. But in August 2014, an investigation conducted by the news website Common Dreams revealed that more than a thousand inflammatory antisemitic comments posted at the site during the preceding two years, under dozens of different screen names, had all been authored “by a Jewish Harvard graduate in his thirties who was irritated by the website's discussion of issues involving Israel.”13 One of the masks this man adopted, the African-American identity of 'DeShawn S. Williams', cemented his antisemitic street creds by posting not just at Common Dreams, but also at the white-supremacist Vanguard News Network, where his more than 1,400 posts included over 200 comment-thread exchanges in which 'Williams' “encouraged the malevolence of Frazier Glenn Miller, the neo-Nazi [who is] accused of killing three people whom he believed were Jews outside a Jewish community centre and retirement home in Kansas in April [2014].”14

This hyperactive Harvard man, now a graduate student at a midwestern university, appears to have devoted more effort to sleazy hasbara work than to his studies. When he was not inciting Vanguard's antisemites to acts of violence, he was posting neo-Nazi rants in the comments sections of the Common Dreams site, most frequently under the screen name 'HamBaconEggs'—and at the same time, entering into earnest debates with that persona under the screen name 'JewishProgressive'.

The aim of this shadow-boxing was of course to show up Common Dreams as a website that had itself to blame for attracting antisemitic commenters, for the simple reason that it published articles that were themselves antisemitic. In one exchange, 'JewishProgressive' wrote:

I stopped posting on this site and others like it a long time ago, as it became increasingly clear to me that genuine anti-Semitism and their purveyors were becoming tolerated and, at worst, embraced by so-called progressive communities [....]
I would challenge anyone to find a Common Dreams article relating to African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, or LBGT people containing the volume of hateful, venomous garbage found in the comments section of this article. Sadly, I would offer the additional challenge of finding any CD article relating to Israel that doesn't contain copious amounts of Jew-hatred.15

In another posting, once again in debate with his alter ego 'HamBaconEggs', 'JewishProgressive' declared more emphatically:

Common Dreams and Stormfront: the web's foremost hubs of unapologetic anti-Semitism. True progressives don't support this sort of rank Jew-hatred, even though it's become increasingly conflated with legitimate criticism of Israel.16

What then about the comments on my interview to which Dr. Chatterley referred readers of the Winnipeg Jewish Review? One might well suspect that the “hateful, venomous garbage” of 'paschn' and 'Annie Ladysmith' came from a single keyboard and IP address. I do not mean to imply that Catherine Chatterley—'Lady Chatterley', I am tempted to call her, in ironic deference to her less than flawless manners—and 'Annie Ladysmith' could be one and the same person. The neo-Nazi author of both comments could well be someone from Ladysmith, South Africa, or the Gulf Islands village of Ladysmith, BC—or possibly even someone actually named 'Annie Ladysmith'.

But while Dr. Chatterley has, one must hope, been spared the multiple-personality disorder that afflicts 'HamBaconEggs', a.k.a. 'JewishProgressive' and 'DeShawn S. Williams', she is playing a less elaborate form of the same dirty game. Someone else may have written the neo-Nazi filth that she found posted at a site that reproduced my interview, but she is the one who turned it into a smear by claiming to find “consistencies” between my interview and comments that at no point intersected with anything I had said. 

* * * *

Two other features of Dr. Chatterley's response might also be of passing interest. She of course did not acknowledge, much less apologize for, the initial misrepresentation to which I drew attention. But her rejoinder exposed a derisory lack of scholarship when, to display her understanding of “the global resurgence of antisemitism, which is in fact a very serious problem,” she wrote:

The most obvious example is the leader of Iran, who routinely threatens the nuclear destruction of the Jewish State, which constitutes incitement to genocide and is a clear violation of international law.17

This sentence drew a rebuke from Joanne Naiman, Professor Emerita of Sociology at Ryerson University, who wondered politely what sources Chatterley might be relying on, and quoted recent news reports which make it clear that “the Israelis and Americans know full well that Iran does not yet have nuclear weaponry,” and that “it is Israel and the U.S. that are routinely threatening Iran militarily, not the reverse.”18

The Winnipeg Jewish Review promptly published stern but foolish rejoinders from David Matas, B'nai Brith Canada's Senior Honorary Legal Counsel,19 from Professor Elihu Richter of the Hebrew University-Hadassah in Jerusalem, who is also active in an organization called Genocide Prevention Now,20 and from the WJR's editor, Rhonda Spivak:21 these contributed some heat to the discussion, but no light.

Despite the rhetoric of Matas, Richter, and Spivak, Dr. Chatterley's sentence does indeed contain compounded stupidities. Although there's evidence that the former President of Iran to whom she was referring, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is indeed an antisemite, he was not the leader of that country (a position held rather by the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei). Akbar Ganji wrote in Foreign Affairs in 2008 that “Despite all the attention he receives, Ahmadinejad does not even rank among Iran's top 100 leaders over the past 30 years [...]. Ahmadinejad is only as powerful as he is devoted to Khamenei and successful in advancing his aims.”22

Moreover, the statement that Dr. Chatterley was remembering—made in a speech Ahmadinejad delivered in October 2005, and subsequently repeated in variant forms—was mistranslated in the Western press, and misrepresented as a threat of military action, a threat to literally wipe Israel off the map. It was in fact no such thing, but rather a re-statement of a supposed prophecy.

Ahmadinejad reminded his audience that the Imam Khomeini, the founding leader of Iran's theocracy, had said that the Shah of Iran's “regime must go,” had predicted the end of “the rule of the East” (the USSR), and had said that the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein “must go” amid unprecedented humiliation. To this sequence of fulfilled prophecies of regime changes Ahmadinejad added a fourth as yet unfulfilled one: “The Imam said (Imam ghoft) this regime (een rezhim-e) occupying Jerusalem (ishghalgar-e qods) must vanish from (bayad [...] mahv shavad) the page of time (az safheh-ye ruzgar).”23

Arash Norouzi, whose transliteration and translation of the Farsi I have borrowed, noted that “Ahmadinejad would seem to be calling for regime change, not war.”24 Jonathan Steele of The Guardian, who is well enough informed to know that Ahmadinejad had misquoted Khomeini, saying “page” instead of “stage of time” (the Farsi words safheh and sahneh also rhyme),25 likewise judged that the sentence is not a military threat,26 and found support in the reference to the fall of the Shah's regime for the view that Ahmadinejad was talking “about regime change, not the end of Israel.”27 University of Michigan Middle East scholar Juan Cole was of the same opinion, remarking that the Khomeini quotation “does not imply military action, or killing anyone at all.”28

Given Dr. Chatterley's taste for ad hominem smears, it is perhaps necessary to remark that Arash Norouzi and Juan Cole, my main sources on this translation issue, are not supporters of the Iranian regime. Cole has written that he despises “everything Ahmadinejad stands for, not to mention the odious Khomeini, who had personal friends of mine killed”; while Norouzi, after citing a statement of the Iranian president to the effect that “History shows us that oppressive and cruel governments do not survive,” commented that “With this statement, Ahmadinejad has also projected the outcome of his own backwards regime, which will likewise 'vanish from the page of time'.”29 But along with their contempt for the Iranian theocracy, both writers also share a commitment to truth.

As Karim Sadjadpour has observed, the consistent position of the Ayatollah Khamenei has been “that Iran's goal is not the military destruction of the Jewish state or the Jewish people....” In Khamenei's own words, in June 2005, “[the] solution to the issue of Palestine [...] is to hold a referendum with the participation of all native Palestinians, including Muslims, Jews and Christians, the Palestinians who live both inside and outside the occupied territories. Any government that takes power as a result of this referendum [...] will be an acceptable government....”30 In his speech at Columbia University in September 2007, Ahmadinejad echoed this position: “What we say is that to solve this 60-year problem, we must allow the Palestinian people to decide about its future for itself. [....] We must allow Jewish Palestinians, Muslim Palestinians and Christian Palestinians to determine their own fate themselves through a free referendum.”31 But to supporters of the Zionist project who believe that full rights of citizenship in Israel must continue to be reserved for Jews alone, a democratic solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict is anathema.

However unpleasant some of Iran's public discourse may be, and however violent its suppression of internal dissidence, Dr. Chatterley was wrong in claiming that Ahmadinejad threatened Israel with war, or with “nuclear destruction.” Any such threat, moreover, would have been toothless, for as U.S. intelligence agencies have repeatedly acknowledged, Iran has no nuclear weapons and (whatever its ambitions may have been more than a decade ago) no nuclear weapons program.32 

* * * *

One last issue raised by Dr. Chatterley's rejoinder remains to be discussed. In 2010 she became the founding director of the Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism (CISA)—from which position she declared, in a 2011 op-ed on disputes over the allocation of exhibition space in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, that “Subjective feelings are influencing [the Museum's] content and design choices rather than objective historical and legal reality and this does not bode well for the international reputation of this institution.”33 She rightly reproached the Ukrainian Civil Liberties Association for its interventions in that debate, which included the distribution of antisemitic postcards. But it does not bode well for the future of CISA, as a centre whose professed aim is to support research, that its director has shown so little respect for the ethics of scholarship in her own public pronouncements—and that in the closing paragraphs of her rejoinder to me she revealed a strangely deficient understanding of the very issues CISA was founded to study.

Dr. Chatterley objected there to my statement that the texts by scholars and human rights activists that I had published in Antisemitism Real and Imagined “recurrently express concern that uncritical support for the state of Israel's systematic violations of Palestinian human rights could feed a renewal of antisemitic prejudice and hatred in this country.”

Her first reason for objecting is a foolish and dishonest non sequitur: “First, I do not know anyone who actually supports human rights violations in the Palestinian territories or anywhere else.”34 The range of Dr. Chatterley's acquaintanceships was not a matter I had raised—but she is mistaken. A moment's attentiveness to the Socratic injunction Gnothi seauton35 would show her that she knows one such person rather well.

In a situation in which Jews were being violently persecuted, with the facts authenticated by human rights organizations and agencies of the United Nations, we would not hesitate to declare that any scholar or public intellectual who denied that human rights violations were taking place was by that act lending support to their continuation.

Consider, in this light, the essay on “Campus Antisemitism” in which, while accusing me of “Antisemitism Denial,” Dr. Chatterley argued that

The seriously flawed accusations that underpin IAW [Israeli Apartheid Week] events must be addressed head on by reasoned academic presentations given by leading scholars. [....] What we need [...] is high quality academic programming that both unpacks and counters the Israel Apartheid propaganda that we see on our campuses and actually engages with the difficult and contested reality of the conflict.

[....] Students care about racism and human rights [...]. As a result, they are easily and actively mobilized against those labeled racists and human rights violators, for whom there is little sympathy in our contemporary culture. IAW relies on the lack of public and student knowledge about Israel and the complex history of the Middle East, and it also depends upon the widespread ignorance about the system of Apartheid and the history of South Africa.36

She is claiming, in an essay whose title implies that IAW events foment antisemitism,37 that only people befuddled by propaganda and false labelling could believe Palestinians to be victims of systematic policies of racism and human rights violations. It follows that she is a supporter of and apologist for Israeli policies of internal discrimination and of violent oppression in the occupied territories—policies that have been correctly identified, by South African legal scholars among others, as involving the crime of apartheid, defined under international law as a crime against humanity.38

Secondly, Dr. Chatterley says,

antisemitism is not a form of normal human hostility or even a function of normal human outrage, both of which are inevitable human reactions to war and conflict. This is precisely why criticism of Israel is not by definition antisemitic.

Antisemitism is never a legitimate reaction to the behaviour of Jews, either as a collective or as individuals. Antisemitism is the product of a conspiratorial ideological way of thinking about Jews that relies on a belief in the actual existence of “Jewish power and its evil machinations for control.” To understand the nature and motives of antisemitism one does not study Jews or their behavior but those who manifest this antisemitic mindset.39

Let's be clear: no form of racism is ever legitimate; and whatever the boundaries of “normal” hostility or outrage might be, most of the manifestations of antisemitism that go beyond sullen prejudice into hurtful action fall outside them. But Chatterley's thinking here is coarse, and tells against the point she would like to make.

Set aside the fact that serious historians and sociologists study all aspects of such matters, perpetrators and victims alike. Set aside the fact that throughout nearly all of the long and atrocious history of antisemitism it has been obvious to even the most blinkered antisemites that, whatever fantasies they might entertain about “the synagogue of Satan” or some demonic conclave of Jewish Elders, the Jewish communities they were assaulting were largely powerless and unable to defend themselves, whether against judicial persecution or mob violence.

Delusions about Jewish power and machinations did become a significant part of antisemitic discourse during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries;40 and as the historian Tom Segev has shown, Chaim Weizmann made astute use of such beliefs prior to and during World War I in the maneuverings that culminated in the 1917 Balfour Declaration.41 During recent decades, however, Jewish elites have come to exercise a very considerable degree of actual power, in the United States especially.

That power may to a considerable degree be permissive or derivative in nature—based, that is, on a combination of geopolitical calculations by Western political elites which find Israel useful as a proxy and assistant in their own imperial ventures; of religious beliefs, ranging from the colonial impulses of Christian Zionists since the mid-nineteenth century to the apocalyptic fanaticism of present-day Christian fundamentalists; and of guilt, stemming from memories of institutionalized antisemitism and of the failure during World War II to mitigate the Shoah by any timely intervention.

Western political elites have found it convenient to have an Israel that is also a Spartan garrison-state, militarized to the hilt, nuclear-armed, and bristling with advanced weaponry. They are happy to make use of Israeli technologies of surveillance, policing, and population control. They don't seriously object to Israel's seizure and colonization of Palestinian land and resources, or to its increasingly bloody-minded treatment of the rightful owners of that land and those resources. If anything, they find the political interventions of Zionist organizations, pressure groups and ideologues congenial, because these prod their populations, for the most part, in directions they have already decided upon themselves.

If I am right in thinking of the power exercised by Western Jewish elites in support of the actions of the state of Israel as at least partially permissive or derivative, that doesn't make it any the less real as power, any less dangerous to its primary victims, the Palestinians42—or for that matter, any less dangerous, in a secondary manner, to Jewish communities worldwide.

Among people who have studied such matters, it is patently obvious that there is a direct connection between the recurrent surges of violence against Palestinian civilians by the state of Israel—let us call it the “behaviour” of the Jewish elites who govern that state—and corresponding surges in antisemitic incidents acts in Western countries.43

Dr. Chatterley's apparent denial of any such connection is a further sign that her scholarship is no less shoddy than her ethics.




1  Catherine Chatterley, “Campus Antisemitism: Combating Israel Apartheid Week on Campus—Thoughtful Engagement Required,” Winnipeg Jewish Review (15 November 2010), http://www.winnipegjewishreview.com/article_detail.cfm?id=518&sec=1&title=_CAMPUS_ANTISEMITISM:_COMBATING_ISRAEL_APARTHEID_WEEK_ON_CAMPUS_-_THOUGHTFUL_ENGAGEMENT_REQUIRED. That article offers the text of a paper Dr. Chatterley delivered at the Ottawa conference of the Interparliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA), November 7-9, 2010, an event hosted by the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA). I was in Ottawa at the same time, and as I said in my “Statement at the Independent Jewish Voices Press Conference” on Parliament Hill (8 November 2010): “The conference is being held under false pretences because the CPCCA and the ICCA are not so much concerned with real and actual antisemitism as they are with extending the definition of antisemitism to encompass any systematic criticism of the state of Israel's systematic violations of international law in its oppressive occupation and colonization of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. [....] [T]he CPCCA is attempting to create a climate of opinion in which Canadian defenders of Palestinian human rights and exponents of the universal principles of international law can be smeared as antisemites and disseminators of hatred.” For an account of the origins of the ICCA and CPCCA, see my Introduction to Antisemitism Real and Imagined: Responses to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition for Combatting Antisemitism (Waterloo: The Canadian Charger, 2010), pp. 12-18.

2  See Michael Keefer, ed., Antisemitism Real and Imagined, pp. 165-77, 185-205. Prior to the publication of this book, suspicions that B'nai Brith Canada's annual tallies of antisemitic incidents are significantly inflated had been voiced by Gerald Caplan in the Globe and Mail and by Jonathan Kay in the National Post. Their suspicions are understandable, given such statements by B'nai Brith as that the eighteen-fold increase in the number of antisemitic incidents recorded since the organization first began to tally them in 1982 reflects a corresponding worsening of antisemitic hatred in Canada (rather than, for example, a substantially increased effort devoted to tracking such incidents). My conclusion that B'nai Brith's figures are inflated arose primarily out of comparative study of the parallel tallies of antisemitic incidents kept since the early 1980s by the Community Security Trust (CST) in the UK.

3  Ibid., p. 191.

4  Interview with Mordecai Briemberg, “Antisemitism: Real and Imagined,” Redeye (Vancouver Community Radio), 14 September 2010. posted at Rabble.ca, http://rabble.ca/podcasts/shows/redeye/2010/09/antisemitism-real-and-imagined.

5  Public lecture at the Nanaimo Harbourfront Library, 25 September 2010, http://www.pasifik.ca/2010/09; Chatterley's link is to a reproduction of this video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5g4xQdnqLk.

6  Interview with Jack Etkin, “Face to Face with Jack Etkin: #46. Professor Michael Keefer: Criticize Israel—Go To Jail?” ICTV Victoria, 7 October 2010, http://www.vimeo.com.15655804. Chatterley provided a link to the reproduction of this interview at Wide Eye Cinema, http://wideeyecinema/?p=9534, where it is followed by three comments. The first two, posted on October 24 and November 1, 2010, are discussed below. The third comment, posted much later, in September 2011, is likewise antisemitic, but in a tone of arrogant pseudo-erudition rather than of neo-Nazi ranting.

7  “Dr. Chatterley's Response to Professor Keefer's Right of Reply,” Winnipeg Jewish Review (25 November 2010), http://www.winnipegjewishreview.com/article_detail.cfm?id=558&sec=4.

8  Norman G. Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), pp. 21-27. Finkelstein devotes the entire first part of this book (pp. 21-85) to an incisive demolition of the ideology of the “new antisemitism.” My own critique of this ideology (which includes detailed citations of Finkelstein's work) can be found in the final two chapters of Antisemitism Real and Imagined (pp. 165-259).

9  See note 6 above.

10  Wide Eye Cinema, http://wideeyecinema/?p=9534.

11  In his address to the Israeli Knesset on January 20, 2014, Prime Minister Harper proposed that serious criticism of the policies and structures of governance of the state of Israel must be understood as impelled by “a mutation of the old disease of anti-Semitism and the emergence of a new strain,” a translation into “more sophisticated language for use in polite society” of the “old hatred” that “led to the horrors of the [Nazi] death camps.” See “Read the full text of Harper's historic speech to Israel's Knesset,” Globe and Mail (20 January 2014), http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/read-the-full-text-of-harpers-historic-speech-to-israels-knesset/article16406371/?page=1.

12  The reference in these comments to supposed genocidal atrocities committed in Ukraine and blamed on Jews might suggest some connection to the organized and institutionally supported antisemitism now widely disseminated in Ukraine: see Per Anders Rudling, “Organized Anti-Semitism in Contemporary Ukraine: Structure, Influence and Ideology,” Canadian Slavonic Papers/Revue canadienne des slavistes 48.102 (March-June 2006): 81-119; available online at http://www.academic.edu/380652/_Organized_Anti_Semitism_in_Contemporary_Ukraine_Structure_Influence_and_Ideology_Canadian_Slavonic_Papers-Revue-candienne_des_slavistes_XLVIII_1-2_March_June_2006_81-119. The accusation, together with the Jew/Bolshevik motif, of hallucinatory numbers of Ukrainians “hung up to trees after torture,” is a marker of the historical layering of antisemitic hatred: in many medieval and more recent Christian devotional texts, the cross on which Jesus was crucified (after torture) is spoken of as a tree. The wording of the comments thus evokes the original blood libel of the canonical gospels (in which the Jews were said to accept guilt for the shedding of Jesus's blood), while also alleging a multiplication of that original crime that is suggestive of the reign of Antichrist prophesied in a long tradition of commentaries on the New Testament book of Revelations. A demonizing of Jews in apocalyptic speculations forms a consistent part of patristic, medieval, and more recent forms of antisemitism.

13  Lance Tapley, “The Double Identity of an 'Anti-Semitic' Commenter: Smearing a Progressive Website to Support Israel,” Common Dreams (20 August 2014), http://www.commondreams.org/hambaconeggs.

14  Ibid.

15  Ibid.

16  Ibid. Stormfront is a white supremacist and neo-Nazi website that describes itself as “the voice of the new, embattled White minority.”

17  “Dr. Chatterley's Response to Professor Keefer's Right of Reply.”

18  Joanne Naiman, “RE: Catherine Chatterley's Response to Dr. Michael Keefer,” Winnipeg Jewish Review (27 November 2010), http://www.winnipegjewishreview.com/editorial.cfm?pg=32. Professor Naiman also described Chatterley's response as “shoddy” and “a weak piece of propaganda masquerading as academic analysis.”

19  David Matas, “To the Editor,” Winnipeg Jewish Review (1 December 2010), http://www.winnipegjewishreview.com/article_detail.cfm?id=616&sec=1. Matas declared that “Independent intelligence sources consistently over years have reported that Iran is developing nuclear weaponry.” Since this is the precise inverse of the truth, and U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies have in fact come to the opposite conclusion, “independent intelligence sources” must mean something like “PR flaks of Dick Cheney and Benjamin Netanyahu.” Matas proposed as authoritative an article by Gregory S. Gordon, “From Incitement to Indictment? Prosecuting Iran's President for Advocating Israel's Destruction and Piecing Together Incitement Law's Emerging Analytical Framework,” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 98.3 (2008): 853-920. This article, an exemplary instance of “lawfare,” the deliberate perversion of international law in the interests of U.S. and Israeli political goals, fails to distinguish between critically established evidence and journalistic or governmental propaganda. Noting the judgment of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimates that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, Gordon attempts to counter this with the opinions of “Henry Kissinger and other experts” (864), and states, without further evidence, that Iran “is attempting to develop nuclear weapons for the ostensible purpose of annihilating Israel” (900). His treatment of translation issues (896-99) is comparably slipshod. And nowhere, in his concern with possible or prospective genocide, does he ask why legal precedents in the field should apply to the Iranian president—but not to U.S. and Israeli leaders, who have threatened to use nuclear weapons in first-strike attacks on Iran (with obviously genocidal consequences), and who actually possess such weapons.

20  Elihu D. Richter, “To the Editor,” Winnipeg Jewish Review (1 December 2010), http://www.winnipegjewishreview.com/article_detail.cfm?id=616&sec=1. Richter referred readers to the website of Genocide Prevention Now, where one finds, from 2012, his open letter, “Israeli Genocide Scholar Protests Israeli President Shimon Peres Opposing Military Action Against Iran,” http://www.genocidepreventionnow.org/Home/tabid/39/ctl/DisplayArticle/mid/1144/aid/645/Default.aspx. This might seem an odd position for a scholar concerned to prevent genocide to take. In one of the footnotes in Antisemitism Real and Imagined (p. 258 n. 142), I commented on another genocide scholar who in 2009 recommended putting an end to what he called “Gaza's extreme demographic armament” by de-funding UNRWA and thereby starving the people of Gaza: see Gunnar Heinsohn, “Ending the West's Proxy War Against Israel,” Wall Street Journal Europe (12 January 2009), http://online.wsj.com/article/SB12317117974341961.html. One would think scholars in this field ought to understand the difference between researching genocide and helping to provoke it.

21  On the same page, Rhonda Spivak provided several paragraphs of irrelevancies, focusing largely on the fact, revealed by Wikileaks, that authoritarian Arab states allied to the U.S. (Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Jordan, and Egypt) have also advocated pre-emptive war against Iran. What bearing she thought this might have on the issues raised by Professor Naiman is anyone's guess.

22  See Akbar Ganji, “The Latter-Day Sultan: Power and Politics in Iran,” Foreign Affairs 87.6 (2008): 46, available online at http://content.akbarganji.org/docs/foreign_affairs.pdf.

23  See Arash Norouzi, “'Wiped off the Map'—The Rumor of the Century,” The Mossadegh Project (18 January 2007), http://www.mohammadmossadegh.com/news/rumor-of-the-century/. I have altered slightly the Farsi word order to conform with the word order of the English translation; the original is as follows: “Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad.” Claims that the Farsi verb rendered as “vanish” is active and transitive and hence deserves a more forceful translation (see Gordon, “From Incitement to Indictment?” 897-98) do not alter the fact that the sentence does not identify any agency that is to produce this effect of the vanishing of a regime—unless perhaps the divine will with which Khomeini was supposedly in touch.

24  Ibid.

25  Jonathan Steele, “Lost in translation,” The Guardian (14 June 2006), http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2006/jun/14/post155.

26  Jonathan Steele, “If Iran is ready to talk, the US must do so unconditionally,” The Guardian (2 June 2006), http://www.theguardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2006/jun/02/comment.usa.

27  Steele, “Lost in translation.”

28  Juan Cole, “Hitchens the Hacker; And, Hitchens the Orientalist,” Informed Comment (3 May 2006), http://www.juancole.com/2006/05/hitchens-hacker-and-hitchens.html.

29  Cole, “Hitchens the Hacker”; Norouzi, “'Wiped off the Map'.” (The name of Norouzi's website, The Mossadegh Project, is indicative of a commitment to secular democracy.)

30  Karim Sadjadpour, Reading Khamenei: The World View of Iran's Most Powerful Leader (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2009), p. 20; available online at http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/sadjadpour_iran_final2.pdf.

31  “President Ahmadinejad Delivers Remarks at Columbia University,” Washington Post (24 September 2007), http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/24/AR2007092401042.html.

32  See Rory McCarthy, “Israel considering strike on Iran despite US intelligence report,” The Guardian (7 December 2007), http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,,2224052,00.html; Gareth Porter, “Iran Nuke Laptop Data Came from Terror Group,” Antiwar.com (1 March 2008), http://www.antiwar.com/porter/?articleid=12443; “US believes Iran not trying to build a nuclear bomb,” Ynet News.com (24 February 2012), http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4194307,00.html; John Glaser, “US, Europe, Israel Agree on Solid Intel: Iran Nuke Threat Far Off: Solid, in depth intelligence confirms with high confidence Iran has no weapons program, but peace is still rejected,” Antiwar.com (23 March 2012), http://www.news.antiwar.com/2012/03/23/the-us-europe-israel-agree-.... See also Ed Cropley, “Massive Diplomatic Leak Exposes Israel Claims on Iran: Mossad Contradicted Netanyahu 'Red Line' Speech,” Forward: The Jewish Daily (24 February 2015), http://forward.com/articles/215378/massive-diplomatic-leak-exposes-israel-claims-on-i/?.

33  Catherine Chatterley, “The war against the Holocaust,” Winnipeg Free Press (2 April 2011), http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/analysis/the-war-against-the-holocaust-119110699.html.

34  “Dr. Chatterley's Response to Professor Keefer's Right of Reply.”

35  “Know thyself!”

36  Chatterley, “Campus Antisemitism.”

37  My own experience goes counter to this claim. I have been an invited speaker at Israeli Apartheid Week events on four occasions at three different Canadian universities. On those occasions anyone who spoke in defence of Israel was given a courteous hearing, and the organizers made it clear that any expression of antisemitism or any other form of racism would not be tolerated.

38  See Antisemitism Real and Imagined, pp. 231-32. Israeli behaviour in the occupied territories has been denounced as not merely answering to the legal definition of the crimes of apartheid and of colonizing, but also as being genocidal in intention and effect: see, for example, Kathleen and Bill Christison, Palestine in Pieces: Graphic Perspectives on the Israeli Occupation (London: Verso, 2009), pp. 136-37. For discussion of this and similar opinions, see Antisemitism Real and Imagined, pp. 234-38; and for indications of the increasing willingness of Israeli politicians, state agencies, and a large part of the Israeli public to accept genocidal discourse and implicitly genocidal treatment of the Palestinians as normative, see Max Blumenthal, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel (New York: Nation Books, 2013), pp. 250-60, 278-84, 303-29, 353-64.

39  “Dr. Chatterley's Response.”

40  Close analogues to these delusions are provided by some of the Sherlock Holmes fictions of Conan Doyle, in which all of the criminal activity in London is ascribed to a single mastermind, Moriarty, “the Napoleon of crime”; and by a similarly conspiratorial mindset evident in the spy fictions of John Buchan, such as Greenmantle (1916).

41  Tom Segev, One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate, trans. Haim Watzman (New York: Henry Holt, 2000), pp. 38-50.

42  Middle Eastern Muslims in other countries have also been victims of the power exercised by organizations like AIPAC in the U.S. The Israel lobby was strongly supportive of the George W. Bush regime's invasion of Iraq, supported the bombing campaign that reduced Libya to chaos, continues to support the proxy war that has devastated Syria, and has agitated for a war of aggression against Iran.

43  See, for example, “Anti-Semitic attacks reach record UK high, Israel's Gaza offensive blamed—study,” RT (5 February 2015), http://rt.com/uk/229555-jewish-antisemitism-hate-crime/. Robert Cohen is one of many who have stated the obvious fact: “What's clearly nonsense is to claim that Israel's behavior plays no part in the political and cultural dynamic that is provoking growing racism against Jews. When things kick off in Israel and the Occupied Territories anti-Semitic attacks spike in Western Europe. When peace is being talked about, with real plausibility, anti-Semitism in Europe dies down.” Robert Cohen, “#JeSuisUnJuifBritannique,” Mondoweiss: The War of Ideas in the Middle East (18 January 2015), http://mondoweiss.net/2015/01/jesuisunjuifbritannique.   

Smear Tactics of the National Post: Correspondence with Paul Russell and Jonathan Kay, February 17-21, 2010

On February 14, 2010 I gave an invited lecture on “Media Self-Censorship and the Threat of Government Censorship” at the Islamic Society of York Region's Crescent Centre in Richmond Hill, a suburb of Toronto. My talk received hostile coverage in the National Post in an article by Joseph Brean published on February 16—to which I responded in a letter to the editor, sent very early the next morning.

My ensuing correspondence with two National Post editors is of some interest for what it reveals about the ethics of this newspaper. Letters editor Paul Russell stated on February 17 that he would print my letter (though not until after the 18th), and Jonathan Kay agreed that I was owed a right of reply. In the interim, the National Post printed on February 17 a letter which attributed to me an opinion Brean's article had snidely insinuated must be part of my belief system—and on that basis made a direct accusation of antisemitism. On the afternoon of February 21, by which time it was obvious that my original letter had been flushed down the memory hole, I wrote again to Paul Russell and Jonathan Kay. The last text here is Paul Russell's two-sentence message of apology (if that's what it is).

Cyril Connolly wrote in The Unquiet Grave that “Imprisoned in every fat man a thin man is wildly signalling to be let out.” One might say, by analogy, that within each of these two editors of the National Post a person of some decency was making rather pallid efforts—not, alas, sustained—to make himself visible.


Smear Tactics of the National Post: Correspondence with Paul Russell and Jonathan Kay, February 17-21, 2010


1. Michael Keefer to Paul Russell (Letters editor), February 17, 2010

From: Michael Keefer
Sent: Wed 17/02/2010 1:42 a.m. 
To: Letters (National Post
Subject: Letter to the editor (responding to Joseph Brean's Feb. 16 comments on me)


Joseph Brean's report on my talk at the Islamic Society of York Region's Crescent Centre illustrates very neatly some of the points I made about systematic omission, distortion, and deception in the news.

Mr. Brean wished elsewhere in his article to insinuate that an Iranian video shown earlier in the evening had stupidly exposed warlike nuclear ambitions on Iran's part. Naturally, then, he avoided mentioning that one of my examples of media falsehood was the deployment against Iran of the same lies about WMDs that were used to legitimize the invasion of Iraq in 2003—this despite the 2006 US National Intelligence Estimates, which declared that Iran was at least a decade away from being able to produce key components of a nuclear weapon. (The IAEA's rigorous inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities have of course never found any sign of a weapons program.)

I referred also to scientific analyses, published in the online Journal of 9/11 Studies, which show unequivocally that the World Trade Center towers were brought down by planned demolition—and noted, as one of my examples of deception-by-omission, that the corporate media have avoided mentioning these very newsworthy studies. Mr. Brean also managed not to mention their existence.

As for the Toronto 18 group, its only two or three members who had dangerously fanatical ideas had been under close surveillance for years. The group as such was assembled by one police agent, given the idea of making bombs by a second, and provided with expertise, financial assistance, and materials by a third. Until Mr. Brean can propose a better name for this pattern of events, “police frame-up” will do just fine.

Michael Keefer


2. Paul Russell to Michael Keefer (and replies), February 17

Letters (National Post) wrote (Feb 17, 6:10 a.m.):

Thanks for your letter. It will be considered for upcoming editions
Paul Russell
Letters editor


Michael Keefer wrote (Feb 17, 12:04 p.m.):

Dear Paul,

Thanks for your quick reply. 

My text is perhaps longer than you normally print in the letters column. However, I do think the National Post owes me the right to respond to Mr. Brean's remarks about me.

Would that fall more under Jonathan Kay's editorial responsibilities than yours? I'll send him a copy of my letter.

Michael Keefer

p.s. I note that for some reason the apostrophes have dropped out of my text in the form you have it. I'm re-sending it to you as an attachment to this message.


Letters (National Post) wrote:

I'm planning to run your letter, so no concerns. 


Michael Keefer wrote (Feb 17, 2:32 p.m.):

Dear Paul, 
Many thanks. 


Letters (National Post) wrote:

Thanks, and FYI, there is no room tomorrow. 


3. Michael Keefer to Jonathan Kay (and replies)

Michael Keefer wrote (Feb 17, 12:22 p.m.):

Dear Jonathan,

I'm attaching a copy of a letter I wrote in response to Joseph Brean's February 16 column, in which I received his unflattering attentions at some length.

I sent the letter last night to the Post's letters page, and received a very prompt response from Paul Russell. I've replied to him saying that I would guess my text is longer than the Post usually publishes on its letters page—but that I do think the Post owes me a right of reply.

I also guessed that right-of-reply issues might be your editorial responsibility, and said I'd send my letter to you: I've attached it to this message. (For some reason, all the apostrophes dropped out of the version that Paul has.

Best wishes, 


Kay, Jonathan (National Post) wrote (Feb 17, 12:30 p.m.):

Let me talk to the letters editor
I think you should have the right to respond ...


4. Michael Keefer to Paul Russell and Jonathan Kay (and reply), February 21

From: Michael Keefer
Sent: Sun 21/02/2010 4:29 p.m. 
To: Letters (National Post); Kay, Jonathan (National Post
Subject: Re: Letter to the editor (responding to Joseph Brean's Feb. 16 comments on me)

Dear Paul and Jonathan,

Unless I've been more than usually unobservant, the National Post hasn't run my letter. I would guess now, since we'll soon be five days on from the time I sent it in, that it's not going to be published in the Post. So much, then, for the right to reply.

I don't reproach either of you, but I do reproach whoever countermanded the good intentions you expressed in your notes to me.

In my letter, dated on the 16th but actually sent very early on the morning of the 17th, I replied just to Joseph Brean's article.

But let me draw your attention to the little twist the Post gave to the story by publishing on the 17th a letter from a person in Thornhill who asserted that Brean “quotes Michael Keefer as saying 9/11 was a planned demolition run by Americans (which was obviously a product of the all-powerful Zionist lobby in Washington).”

Most if not all readers will understand that sentence to mean that everything after “as saying” was actually quoted by Joseph Brean from the talk I gave. Not so: Brean didn't quote the bracketed words from me, for the very good reason that I said nothing of the sort.

Of course, without the implication that I blamed 9/11 on “the all-powerful Zionist lobby in Washington,” the direct accusation of antisemitism in the person-from-Thornhill's last sentence wouldn't work quite as smoothly. (Unless one has something plausibly antisemitic to start with, it's a long jump to the blood libel.)

The profound indecency here isn't Joseph Brean's—he was just doing his job, which seems to consist of repeated exercises in what I've termed “subtractive politicizing.” Nor should it be laid at the door of the letter writer with the Passover-Seder-hymn name, who's probably no more than a clever schoolboy.

The real indecency is on the part of a newspaper that amuses itself by dancing in the waltz-time of Two Smears-No Reply.



Letters (National Post) wrote:


I'm sorry, but while Jonathan and I generally supported the idea of running your letter, other senior editors had concerns with it, and hence its lack of publication. But thanks for your note and your observations about the other letter.

Paul Russell
NP letters editor


The So-Called War on Terror is a Criminal Fraud: Interview with Kourosh Ziabari, Fars News Agency

The so-called War on Terror is a criminal fraud, designed to frighten Americans and the citizens of its allies into supporting systematic violations of international law. It was from the outset Islamophobic both in intention and in the wars of aggression it has been used to justify,” said Prof. Michael Keefer in an exclusive interview with Fars News Agency.

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Petrodollars and Nuclear Weapons Proliferation: Understanding the Planned Attack on Iran

This essay was first published by the Centre for Research on Globalization (10 February 2006), http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=KEE20060210&articleid=1936; it was also published online at twenty-four other websites in 2006. In the version provided here, typographical errors have been corrected, references to multiple sources have been moved into footnotes, and one small change has been made to the text (accompanied by an explanatory note).


Iran has been in the gun-sights of George W. Bush and his entourage from the moment that he was parachuted into the presidency in November 2000 by his father's Supreme Court.

A year ago there were signs, duly reported by Seymour Hersh and others, that the United States and Israel were working out the targeting details of an aerial attack on Iran that it was anticipated would occur in June 2005.1 But as Michel Chossudovsky wrote in May 2005, widespread reports that George W. Bush had “signed off on” an attack on Iran did not signify that the attack would necessarily occur during the summer of 2005: what the 'signing off' suggested was rather “that the US and Israel [were] 'in a state of readiness' and [were] prepared to launch an attack by June or at a later date. In other words, the decision to launch the attack [had] not been made” (Chossudovsky, May 2005).

Since December 2005, however, there have been much firmer indications both that the planned attack will go ahead in late March 2006, and also that the Cheney-Bush administration intends it to involve the use of nuclear weapons.

It is important to understand the nature and scale of the war crimes that are being planned—and no less important to recognize that, as in the case of the Bush regime's assault on Iraq, the pretexts being advanced to legitimize this intended aggression are entirely fraudulent. Unless the lurid fantasies of people like former Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security and now Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton count as evidence—and Bolton's pronouncements on the weaponry supposedly possessed by Iraq, North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela show him to be less acquainted with truth than Jean Harlow was with chastity—there is no evidence that Iran has or has ever had any nuclear weapons development program. Claims to the contrary, however loudly they may have been trumpeted by Fox News, CNN, or the New York Times, are demonstrably false.

Nor does there appear to be the remotest possibility, whatever desperate measures the Iranian government might be frightened into by American and Israeli threats of pre-emptive attacks, that Iran would be able to produce nuclear weapons in the near future. On August 2, 2005, the Washington Post reported that according to the most recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which represents a consensus arrived at among US intelligence agencies, “Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years” (Linzer, quoted by Clark, 28 Jan. 2006).

The coming attack on Iran has nothing whatsoever to do with concerns about the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Its primary motive, as oil analyst William Clark has argued, is rather a determination to ensure that the US dollar remains the sole world currency for oil trading. Iran plans in March 2006 to open a Teheran Oil Bourse in which all trading will be carried out in euros. This poses a direct threat to the status of the US dollar as the principal world reserve currency—and hence also to a trading system in which massive US trade deficits are paid for with paper money whose accepted value resides, as Krassimir Petrov notes, in its being the currency in which international oil trades are denominated. (US dollars are effectively exchangeable for oil in somewhat the way that, prior to 1971, they were at least in theory exchangeable for gold.)

But not only is this planned aggression unconnected to any actual concern over Iranian nuclear weapons. There is in fact some reason to think that the preparations for it have involved deliberate violations by the Bush neo-conservatives of anti-proliferation protocols (and also, necessarily, of US law), and that their long-term planning, in which Turkey's consent to the aggression is a necessary part, has involved a deliberate transfer of nuclear weapons technology to Turkey as a part of the pay-off.

Prior to her public exposure by Karl Rove, Lewis 'Scooter' Libby, and other senior administration officials in July 2003, CIA agent Valerie Plame was reportedly involved in undercover anti-proliferation work focused on transfers of nuclear technology to Turkey that were being carried out by a network of crooked businessmen, arms dealers, and 'rogue' officials within the US government. The leaking of Plame's identity as a CIA agent was undoubtedly an act of revenge for her husband Joseph Wilson's public revelation that one of the key claims used to legitimize the invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein's supposed acquisition of uranium ore from Niger, was known to the Bush regime to be groundless. But Plame's exposure also conveniently put an end to her investigative work.

Some of the senior administration officials responsible for that crime of state have long-term diplomatic and military connections to Turkey, and all of them have been employed in what might be called (with a nod to ex-White House speechwriter David Frum) the Cheney-Bolton Axis of Aggression. Thanks to the courage and integrity of former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, there is evidence dating from 2002 of high-level involvement in the subversion of FBI investigations into arms trafficking with Turkey. The leaking of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA agent may therefore have been not merely an act of revenge for her husband's contribution to the delegitimizing of one war of aggression, but also a tactical maneuver in preparation for the next one.

George W. Bush made clear his aggressive intentions in relation to Iran in his 2002 State of the Union address; and his regime's record on issues of nuclear proliferation has been, to put it mildly, equivocal. If, as seems plausible, Bush's diplomats had been secretly arranging that Turkey's reward for connivance in an attack on Iran should include its future admission into the charmed circle of nuclear powers, then the meddling interference of servants of the state who, like Plame and Edmonds, were putting themselves or at least their careers at risk in the cause of preventing nuclear weapons proliferation, was not to be tolerated.

The ironies are glaring. The US government is contemplating an unprovoked attack upon Iran that will involve “pre-emptive” use of nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear-weapons-holding state. Although the pretext is that this is necessary to forestall nuclear weapons proliferation, there is evidence to suggest that planning for the attack has involved, very precisely, nuclear weapons proliferation by the United States.

It would appear that this sinister complex of criminality involves one further twist. There have been indications that the planned attack may be immediately preceded (and of course 'legitimized') by another 9/11-type event within the US.

Let us review these issues in sequence.


1. Plans for a conventional and 'tactical' nuclear attack on Iran

On August 1, 2005, Philip Giraldi, an ex-CIA agent and associate of Vincent Cannistraro (the former head of the CIA's counter-intelligence operations and former intelligence director at the National Security Council), published an article entitled “Deep Background” in The American Conservative. The first section of this article carried the following headline: “In Washington it is hardly a secret that the same people in and around the administration who brought you Iraq are preparing to do the same for Iran.” I quote the first section of Giraldi's article in its entirety:

The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney's office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more that 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing—that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack—but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections. (Giraldi)

The implications of this report are breathtaking. First, it indicates on the part of the ruling Cheney faction within the American state a frank in-house acknowledgment that their often-repeated public claims of a connection between Saddam Hussein's regime and the 9/11 attacks are the rubbish that informed people have long known them to be.

At a deeper level, it implies that “9/11-type terrorist attacks” are recognized in Cheney's office and the Pentagon as appropriate means of legitimizing wars of aggression against any country selected for that treatment by the regime and its corporate propaganda-amplification system. (Though the implicit acknowledgment is shocking, the fact itself should come as no surprise, since recent research has shown that the Bush regime was deeply implicated not merely in permitting the attacks of September 11, 2001 to happen, but in actually organizing them.)2

And finally, Giraldi's report suggests that the recent US development of comparatively low-yield nuclear weapons specifically designed to destroy hardened underground facilities, and the recent re-orientation of US nuclear policy to include first-strike or pre-emptive nuclear attacks on non-nuclear powers, were both part of long-range planning for a war on Iran.

Articles published by William Arkin in the Washington Post in May and October 2005 reported on what the US military's STRATCOM calls CONPLAN 8022, a global plan for bombing and missile attacks involving “a nuclear option” anywhere in the world that was tested in an exercise that began on November 1, 2005; the scenario for this exercise scripted a dirty-bomb attack on Mobile, Alabama to which STRATCOM responded with nuclear and conventional strikes on an unnamed east-Asian country that was transparently meant for North Korea.

Jorge Hirsch has outlined the deployment of key administrative personnel and of ideological legitimations in preparation for an attack on Iran (Hirsch, 16 Dec. 2005). And Michel Chossudovsky has described the command structure that has been set up to implement STRATCOM's current plans for pre-emptive 'theatre' nuclear warfare (see Chossudovsky 2006). But it must be emphasized that these plans, as tested in November 2005 in the exercise referred to by Arkin, involve the creation of an impression of what theorists of nuclear war call “proportionality.” An attack on Iran, which would presumably involve the use of significant numbers of extremely 'dirty' earth-penetrating nuclear bombs, might well be made to follow a dirty-bomb attack on the United States, which would be represented in the media as having been carried out by Iranian agents.

Yet as Giraldi indicates, although the bombing of Iran would follow and be represented as a response to “another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States,” the planned pattern involves a cynical separation of appearance from reality: “the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in [this] act of terrorism....”


2. Earth-Penetrator 'dirty' bombs

Talk about “low-yield” nuclear weapons, by the way, means simply that the most recent US nuclear weapons can be set to detonate with much less than their maximum explosive force. The maximum power of the B61-11 earth-penetrating “bunker-buster” bomb ranges, by different accounts, from 300 to 340 or 400 kilotons.3 (By way of comparison, the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in August, 1945, killing some 80,000 people outright, and a further 60,000 over the next several months due to radiation poisoning and other injuries, had a yield of 15 kilotons.) The lowest yield setting of the BL61-11 is reportedly 0.3 kilotons—equivalent, that is to say, to the detonation of 300 tons of TNT.

But since these new weapons are designed as earth-penetrating “bunker-buster” rather than air-burst bombs, each one can be expected to produce large volumes of very 'dirty' radioactive fallout. Robert Nelson of the Federation of American Scientists writes that even at the low end of the BL61-11 bomb's yield range, “the nuclear blast will simply blow out a huge crater of radioactive material, creating a lethal gamma-radiation field over a large area.” The very intense local fallout will include both “radioactivity from the fission products” and also “large amounts of dirt and debris [that] has been exposed to the intense neutron flux from the nuclear detonation”; the blast cloud produced by such a bomb “typically consists of a narrow column and a broad base surge of air filled with radioactive dust which expands to a radius of over a mile for a 5 kiloton explosion.”

Yet wouldn't the “tactical” and “low-yield” nature of these weapons mean that civilian casualties could be kept to a minimum? A study published in 2005 by the National Research Council on the Effects of Nuclear Earth-Penetrator and Other Weapons offers estimates of the casualties that could be caused by these weapons. According to Conclusion 6 of this report, an attack on or near a densely populated urban area could be expected, depending on the B61-11's yield setting, to kill from several thousand to over a million people. An attack in a remote, lightly populated area might kill as few as several hundred people—or, with a high-yield setting and unfavourable winds, hundreds of thousands.

But what kinds of yield settings might the US military want to use? Conclusion 5 of the NRC report would seem to suggest that genuinely low-yield settings might be possible: the yield required “to destroy a hard and deeply buried target is reduced by a factor of 15 to 25 by enhanced ground-shock coupling if the weapon is detonated a few meters below the surface.” Conclusion 2, however, is more sobering. To have a high probability of destroying a facility 200 meters underground, an earth-penetrating weapon with a yield of 300 kilotons would be required—that is to say, a weapon with twenty times the explosive power of the Hiroshima bomb. Extrapolating from the information the report provides, one might guess that a weapon in the 7-8 kiloton range—with half the power of the Hiroshima bomb—could be deployed against a facility like Natanz, the sensitive parts of which are buried 18 meters underground and protected by reinforced concrete (Beeston). A similar or smaller weapon might be used against the uranium fuel enrichment facility at Esfahan—a city of two million people which is also, by the way, as UNESCO World Heritage City.

The NRC report, it should be noted, was written by a committee, and one that on the issue of civilian casualties seems to have had some difficulty in making up its collective mind. Conclusion 4 of the report informs us that “For the same yield and weather conditions, the number of casualties from an earth-penetrator weapon detonated at a few meters depth is, for all practical purposes, equal to that from a surface burst of the same weapon yield.” But Conclusion 7 tells a different story: “For urban targets, civilian casualties from nuclear earth-penetrator weapons are reduced by a factor of 2 to 10 compared with those from a surface burst having 25 times the yield.”

The most charitable interpretation I can give to Conclusion 7 is that it was composed for a readership of arithmetical illiterates—who the authors assume will be unable to deduce that what is actually being said (assuming a linear relation between yield and casualties) is that an earth-penetrating weapon will cause from 2.5 to 12.5 times more casualties than a surface-burst weapon of the same explosive power.

In light of the fact that the NRC report was commissioned by the United States Congress, we can ourselves conclude that the US government is contemplating, open-eyed, a war of aggression that American planners are fully aware will kill—at the very least—many tens of thousands, and perhaps many hundreds of thousands of civilians.


3. The pretexts

The principal reason being advanced for an attack upon Iran is the claim that Iran is on the verge of becoming a nuclear threat with the capacity and presumably the intention of launching nuclear ballistic-missile attacks upon Israel and even western Europe and the United States.

Iran does possess ballistic missiles, including the Shahab-3, which with a range of 1,300 kilometers is capable of striking Israel, as well as US forces throughout the Middle East. (Why Iran would dream of initiating military aggression against the US or against Israel, which possesses an arsenal of some 200 nuclear warheads, together with multiple means of delivering them, including ballistic missiles, is not explained.)

A fear-mongering article published by The Guardian on January 4, 2006 included the information that the next generation of the Shahab missile “should be capable of reaching Austria and Italy.” The leading sentence of this same article declares that “The Iranian government has been successfully scouring Europe for the sophisticated equipment needed to develop a nuclear bomb, according to the latest western assessment of the country's weapons programmes” (Cobain and Traynor). But neither this article nor a companion piece (Traynor and Cobain) published the same day provides any evidence that Iran actually has a nuclear weapons program, even though both articles were based upon a “report from a leading EU intelligence service,” a “55-page intelligence assessment, dated July 1 2005, [that] draws upon material gathered by British, French, German and Belgian agencies.”

There is in fact very good evidence, in the form of exhaustive inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency since 2003, that Iran does not have and has never had any such program. As the physicist Gordon Prather wrote in September 2005, “after two years of go-anywhere, see-anything inspections, [the IAEA] has found no indication that any special nuclear materials or activities involving them are being—or have been—used in furtherance of a military purpose” (Prather, 27 Sept. 2005).

But what about intentions? The Guardian journalists inform us that “western leaders [...] have long refused to believe Tehran's insistence that it is not interested in developing nuclear weapons and is only trying to develop nuclear power for electricity” (Cobain and Traynor). Perhaps it is time these “western leaders”—George W. Bush, Tony Blair, and whatever rag-tag and bob-tail of lesser luminaries they are dragging after them—began to attend to the facts.

A good place to start might be with William Beeman's and Thomas Stauffer's assessment of the physical evidence for an Iranian nuclear weapons program. (Stauffer, by the way, is a former nuclear engineer and specialist in Middle Eastern energy economics; Beeman directs Brown University's Middle East Studies program; both have conducted research on Iran for three decades.)

Beeman and Stauffer note that Iran has three principal nuclear facilities. Of the first two, a uranium enrichment plant in Natanz and a deuterium research facility in Arak, they remark that “Neither is in operation. The only question of interest is whether these facilities offer a plausible route to the manufacture of plutonium-based nuclear bombs, and the short answer is: They do not.”

Beeman and Stauffer compare the third facility, the PWR pressurized “light-water” reactor under construction at Bushehr, with Israel's heavy-water graphite-moderated plant at Dimona. The Bushehr reactor is designed to maximize power output through long fuel cycles of 30 to 40 months; it will produce plutonium isotopes (PU240, 241 and 242) that are “almost impossible to use in making bombs”; and “the entire reactor will have to shut down—a step that cannot be concealed from satellites, airplanes and other sources—in order to permit the extraction of even a single fuel pin.” Israel's Dimona plant, in contrast, produces the bomb-making isotope PU239; moreover, it “can be re-fueled 'on line,' without shutting down. Thus, high-grade plutonium can be obtained covertly and continuously.”

Claims emanating from the US State Department to the effect that Iran possesses uranium-enrichment centrifuges or covert plutonium-extraction facilities are dismissed by Beeman and Stauffer as implausible, since “the sources are either unidentified or are the same channels which disseminated the stories about Iraq's non-conventional weapons or the so-called chemical and biological weapons plant in Khartoum.”

As Michael T. Klare remarks, the US government's “claim that an attack on Iran would be justified because of its alleged nuclear potential should invite widespread skepticism.” But skeptical intelligence appears to be the last thing one can expect from the corporate media, whose organs report without blinking Condoleezza Rice's threat that “The world will not stand by if Iran continues on the path to a nuclear weapons capability” (see [Rice]), and George W. Bush's equally inane declaration, following the IAEA's vote to refer Iran to the UN Security Council, that “This important step sends a clear message to the regime in Iran that the world will not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons” (see [Bush]).

There is much to be said about the sorry process of propagandizing, diplomatic bullying, and behind-the-scenes blackmail and arm-twisting within the IAEA and in other forums—all of it strongly reminiscent of the maneuverings of late 2002 and early 2003—that has led to the present situation, where in early March the Security Council will be called upon, as in the case of Iraq three years ago, to accept and legitimize the falsehoods on which the new war of aggression is to be based. The early stages of this process were lucidly analyzed by Siddharth Varadarajan in three fine articles in September 2005. Its more recent phases have been assessed by Gordon Prather in a series of articles published since mid-September 2005, and also, with equal scrupulousness and ethical urgency, by another well-informed physicist, Jorge Hirsch, who has been publishing essays on the subject since mid-October. I will not repeat here the analyses developed in their articles (the titles of which are included in the list of sources which follows this text). But Varadarajan's recent summary judgment of the diplomatic process is worth quoting: “Each time it appeases Washington's relentless pressure on Iran, the international community is being made to climb higher and higher up a ladder whose final rungs can only be sanctions and war. This is precisely the route the U.S. followed against Iraq in its quest to effect regime change there” (Varadarajan, 1 Feb. 2006).

It is also worth saying something, however briefly, about the media campaign that has accompanied the diplomatic preparations for war. This has included, since mid-2005, accusations that Iran was involved in the terrorist attacks of 9/11, some of whose perpetrators are alleged (by members of the wholly discredited Kean Commission of inquiry into the events of 9/11) to have passed through Iran on their way to the US.4

A more relevant accusation surfaced in November 2005, when the New York Times reported that senior US intelligence officials had briefed IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei and his senior staff on information gleaned from a “stolen Iranian laptop computer” which they said demonstrated that Iran had developed nuclear weapons compact enough to fit onto its Shahab missiles. But as Gordon Prather wrote,

“sources close to the IAEA” said what they had been briefed on appeared to be aerodynamic design work for a ballistic missile reentry vehicle, which certainly couldn't contain a nuke if the Iranians didn't have any. Furthermore, according to David Albright, a sometime consultant to the IAEA, who has actually had access to the “stolen Iranian laptop,” the information on it is all about reentry vehicles and “does not contain words such [as] 'nuclear' and 'nuclear warhead'.” (Prather, 23 Nov. 2005)

Sorry boys: no biscuit.

And yet the object of the exercise was evidently not to persuade the IAEA people, who are not idiots, but rather to get the story into the amplification system of that Mighty Wurlitzer, the corporate media.

This strategy has evidently worked. The New York Times, for example, may have parted company with Judith Miller, the 'star' reporter whose sordid job was to serve as a conduit for Bush regime misinformation during the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, but in Elaine Sciolino they have a reporter who is no less skilled in passing off neocon propaganda as fact (see Prather, 7 Jan. 2006). The New York Times also gave front-page space in mid-January to an article by Richard Bernstein and Stephen Weisman proposing “that Iran has restarted 'research that could give it technology to create nuclear weapons'” (quoted by Whitney, 17 Jan. 2006). “Perhaps,” Mike Whitney suggests, “the NY Times knows something that the IAEA inspectors don't? If so, they should step forward and reveal the facts.”

The key facts, as Whitney wrote on January 17, are that there is no evidence that Iran has either a nuclear weapons program or centrifuges with which to enrich uranium to weapons-grade concentration. “These are the two issues which should be given greatest consideration in determining whether or not Iran poses a real danger to its neighbors, and yet these are precisely the facts that are absent from the nearly 2,500 articles written on the topic in the last few days.” Add to these the further fact, noted above, that the August 2005 National Intelligence Estimate doubled the time American agencies thought Iran would need to manufacture “the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon” from the previous estimate of five years to a full decade.

Why then is the American public being incited to ever greater anxiety in the face of a weapons program which—on the paranoid and unproven assumption that it actually exists—is if anything a receding rather than a gathering threat?

Fox News has led the way among the non-print media in drum-beating and misinformation—to the extent, as Paul Craig Roberts observes, that a Fox/Opinion Dynamics poll can plausibly report “that 60% of Republicans, 41% of Independents, and 35% of Democrats support using air strikes and ground troops against Iran in order to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.” Worse yet, an LA Times/Bloomberg poll apparently finds that 57% of the respondents “favor military intervention if Iran's government pursues a program that would enable it to build nuclear arms.” Any civilian nuclear power program opens up this possibility (Canada, had it so desired, could have become an independent nuclear-weapons power forty years ago)5—but the function of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is precisely to open the way to peaceful nuclear power generation, while preventing the further dissemination of nuclear weapons. What the LA Times/Bloomberg poll therefore means, Roberts says, is that “if Iran exercises its rights under the non-proliferation treaty, 57% of Americans support a US military attack on Iran!”

Numbers like these suggest that George W. Bush will indeed get the new war he so desires. And it appears that he will get it soon. As Newt Gingrich declared on Fox News in late January, the matter is so urgent that the attack must happen within the next few months. “According to Gingrich, Iran not only cannot be trusted with nuclear technology, but also Iranians 'cannot be trusted with their oil'” (Roberts).


4. The Euro-denominated Tehran Oil Bourse

Gingrich's wording may sound faintly ludicrous. However, it would appear to be a slanting allusion to the fact that the Iranian government has announced plans to open an Iranian Oil Bourse in March 2006. This Bourse will be in direct competition with the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) and London's International Petroleum Exchange (IPE)—and unlike them will do business not in US dollars, but in euros. What Gingrich evidently means is that the Iranians cannot be trusted to market their oil and natural gas in a manner that continues to benefit the United States.

Peter Phillips and his colleagues in Project Censored explained very clearly in 2003 how the current US dollar-denominated system of oil and gas marketing provides the US with a highly advantageous system of exchange. In 1971, “President Nixon removed U.S. currency from the gold standard”:

Since then, the world's supply of oil has been traded in U.S. fiat dollars, making the dollar the dominant world reserve currency. Countries must provide the United States with goods and services for dollars—which the United States can freely print. To purchase energy and pay off any IMF debts, countries must hold vast dollar reserves. The world is attached to a currency that one country can produce at will. This means that in addition to controlling world trade, the United States is importing substantial quantities of goods and services for very low relative costs. (Phillips)

As Krassimir Petrov has observed, this amounts to an indirect form of imperial taxation. Unlike previous empires, which extracted direct taxes from their subject-nations, the American empire has “distributed instead its own fiat currency, the U.S. dollar, to other nations in exchange for goods with the intended consequence of inflating and devaluing those dollars and paying back later each dollar with less economic goods—the difference capturing the U.S. imperial tax” (Petrov).

Oil, backed by military power, has provided the rest of the world with a reason for accepting depreciating US dollars and holding ever-increasing amounts of them in reserve. Petrov remarks that in 1972-73 the US made “an iron-clad arrangement with Saudi Arabia to support the power of the House of Saud in exchange for accepting only U.S. dollars for its oil. The rest of OPEC was to follow suit and accept only dollars. Because the world had to buy oil from the Arab oil countries, it had the reason to hold dollars as payment for oil. [....] Even though dollars could no longer be exchanged for gold, they were now exchangeable for oil” (Petrov).

But as Phillips notes, the economic reasons alone for switching to the euro as a reserve currency have been becoming steadily more persuasive: “Because of huge trade deficits, it is estimated that the dollar is currently [in late 2003] overvalued by at least 40 percent. Conversely, the euro-zone does not run huge deficits, uses higher interest rates, and has an increasingly larger share of world trade. As the euro establishes its durability and comes into wider use, the dollar will no longer be the world's only option.” The result will be to make it “easier for other nations to exercise financial leverage against the United States without damaging themselves or the global financial system as a whole.”

Prior to the invasion of Iraq, several analysts suggested that one very obvious motive for that war was the fact that, beginning in November 2000, Iraq had insisted on payment in euros, not dollars, for its oil. In mid-2003, by which time the US had made clear the intended terms of its occupation of Iraq, one such analyst, Coilin Nunan, remarked that it remained “just a theory” that American threats against Iraq had been made on behalf of the petro-dollar system—“but a theory that subsequent U.S. actions have done little to dispel: the U.S. has invaded Iraq and installed its own authority to rule the country, and as soon as Iraqi oil became available to sell on the world market, it was announced that payment would be in dollars only” (Phillips). William Clark writes, more directly, that the invasion was principally about “gaining strategic control over Iraq's hydrocarbon reserves and in so doing maintain[ing] the US dollar as the monopoly currency for the critical international oil market” (Clark, 28 Jan. 2006).

There is currently some debate over the extent to which US war preparations against Iran are motivated by concern for the continued hegemony of the petrodollar (see Nunan). I find the analyses of William Clark and Krassimir Petrov persuasive.

Clark notes that an important obstacle to any major shift in the oil marketing system has been “the lack of a euro-denominated oil pricing standard, or oil 'marker' as it is referred to in the industry.” (The current “oil markers,” in relation to which other internationally traded oil is priced, are Norway Brent crude, West Texas Intermediate crude [WTI], and United Arab Emirates [UAE] Dubai crude—all of them US dollar-denominated). In his opinion, “it is logical to assume the proposed Iranian bourse will usher in a fourth crude oil marker—denominated in the euro currency,” and will thus “remove the main technical obstacle for a broad-based petro-euro system for international oil trades.” This will have the effect of introducing “petrodollar versus petroeuro currency hedging, and fundamentally new dynamics to the biggest market in the world—global oil and gas trades. In essence, the US will no longer be able to effortlessly expand credit via US Treasury bills, and the US dollar's demand/liquidity value will fall” (Clark, 28 Jan. 2006).

An even partial loss of the US dollar's position as the dominant reserve currency for global energy trading would, as Petrov suggests, lead to a sharp decline in its value and an ensuing acceleration of inflation and upward pressure on interest rates, with unpleasant consequences.

At this point, the Fed will find itself between Scylla and Charybdis—between deflation and hyperinflation—it will be forced fast either to take its 'classical medicine' by deflating, whereby it raises interest rates, thus inducing a major economic depression, a collapse in real estate, and an implosion in bond, stock, and derivative markets [...], or alternatively, to take the Weimar way out by inflating, [...] drown[ing] the financial system in liquidity [...] and hyperinflating the economy. (Petrov)

Any attempt, on the other hand, to preserve what Mike Whitney calls the “perfect pyramid-scheme” of America's currency monopoly (Whitney, 23 Jan. 2006) by means of military aggression against Iran is likely to result in equal or greater disruptions to the world economy. American military aggression, which might conceivably include attempts to occupy Iran's oil-producing Khuzestan province and the coastline along the Straits of Hormuz (see Pilger), will not just have appalling consequences for civilians throughout the region; it may also place American forces into situations still more closely analogous than the present stage of the Iraqi resistance to the situation produced in Lebanon by Israel's invasion of that country—which ended in 2000 with Israel's first military defeat (see Salama and Ruster).


5. The involvement of Turkey

One significant difference between the warnings of a coming war circulating in early 2005 and those which have appeared in recent months is the current evidence of feverish diplomatic activity between Washington and Ankara. The NATO powers have evidently been co-opted into Washington's war plans: the so-called EU-3 (France, Germany, and Britain) presented Iran with a negotiating position on the nuclear fuel cycle for Iran's power plants that seemed designed to produce an indignant refusal. As Aijaz Ahmad writes, the European group “was not negotiating; it was relaying to Iran, and to all and sundry, what the U.S. was demanding and threatening to report Iran to the Security Council if the latter did not comply. Everyone knows that Iran had closed its Isphahan facility voluntarily, as a confidence-building measure, expecting some reciprocity, and then re-opened it, in retaliation, after having waited for reciprocity for many months and not getting it—indeed, receiving only escalated demands” (Ahmad).

But according to the well-connected Jürgen Gottslich, writing in Der Spiegel in late December, Iran was not discussed during the new German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung's recent visit to Washington. Gottslich wrote that “the speculation surrounding an American strike against Iran centers more on developments in Turkey. There has been a definite surge in visits to Ankara by high-ranking National Security personnel from the U.S. and by NATO officials. Within the space of just a few days, FBI Director Robert Mueller, [CIA] Director [Porter] Goss and then NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer visited Turkey.” Condoleezza Rice also flew to Turkey immediately after her December trip to Berlin.

The aim of these visits has quite obviously been to bring Turkey into line with a planned attack on Iran. As Gottslich writes, “On his Istanbul visit, Goss is alleged to have given Turkish security services three dossiers that prove Iranian cooperation with al-Qaeda. In addition, there was a fourth dossier focusing on the current state of Iran's nuclear weapons program.”

But why, beyond the obvious fact of Turkey's shared border with Iran, should Turkey be such an important factor in American war plans? The answer is suggested by an article published by an American academic, Robert Olson, in the June 2002 issue of Middle East Policy. According to Noam Chomsky, Olson “reports that 12 percent of Israel's offensive aircraft are to be 'permanently stationed in Turkey' and have been 'flying reconnaissance flights along Iran's border,' signaling to Iran 'that it would soon be challenged elsewhere by Turkey and its Israeli and American allies'” (Chomsky 159). These Israeli aircraft would evidently take part in any American and Israeli aerial attack on Iran, and Turkish consent would no doubt be necessary for their use in such an act.

What advantages might Turkey hope to gain from its consent? The collaboration of Britain, France and Germany in the cranking up of diplomatic pressure on Iran might suggest that Turkey's much-desired admission to the European Union could have been held out as one carrot—possibly with the argument that participation in an attack on a fundamentalist Islamic state could be one way of calming European fears over the entry of a Muslim nation into the Union. An equally persuasive advantage may have been a secret promise of future admission to the select group of nuclear powers.

Christopher Deliso has assembled evidence both of Turkey's persistent involvement in the smuggling and production of nuclear weapons technology, including centrifuge components and triggering devices (Deliso, 21 Nov. 2005)—and also of the very interesting fact that the key administration officials involved in the outing of Valerie Plame, who was investigating these murky operations, included people, among them Marc Grossman, former US Ambassador to Turkey, who give every appearance of having been centrally involved in the very network of nuclear arms proliferation that the CIA was working to uncover (Deliso, 24 Nov. 2005). Even when supplemented by Sibel Edmonds' indications of high-level collaboration in the frustration by Turkish agents of the FBI's parallel investigations of what appears to be the same network, the evidence remains at best suppositious. And yet despite the inaccessibility of details—which will no doubt remain inaccessible for as long as Dick Cheney, John Bolton and the rest retain the power to frustrate investigations into the activities of their close associates and subordinates—the larger pattern is, to say the least, intriguing. The same highly-placed neoconservatives who have been crying wolf over Iran's non-existent nuclear weapons appear to have been deeply—and lucratively—involved in the trafficking of restricted and forbidden weapons technology into Turkey.

Should this pattern turn out indeed to involve corruption, hypocrisy, and treachery on the grand scale that Deliso's investigative reporting would suggest, is there any reason one should be surprised?

What else, to be frank, would you expect from people such as these?




1  See Hersh; Gush Shalom; Jensen.

2  See Chossudovsky 2002: 51-63, 144-56; Chossudovsky 2005: 51-62, 135-46, 237-61; Griffin 2004: 127-46, 169-201; Griffin 2005: 115-35, 277-91; Marrs 134-37; and Ruppert 309-436.

3  See Nelson; Hirsch, 9 Jan. 2006.

4  See Coman; Hirsch, 28 Dec. 2005; and also, should you believe The 9/11 Commission Report to have any credibility, Griffin 2005.

5  I have added the word “independent” to this sentence in acknowledgment of the fact that for a brief period a half-century ago Canada was what one might call a “satellite nuclear power” (having been persuaded to cancel its domestically designed Mach 2 Avro Arrow interceptors and replace them with Bomarc air defence missiles, which were designed to carry nuclear warheads, and Lockheed Starfighter aircraft, for which nuclear ordnance was also available). My point about Canada's potential as a nuclear power is based on the fact that the Canadian-designed CANDU heavy-water electrical-generation reactors, in operation since the 1960s, are also useful for bomb-making: CANDU reactors sold to India provided that country with the fissile material for its nuclear warheads.   




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