War Against Iraq: Critical Resources

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

 

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Contents

 

Preface   3

1. The principle of “universalism”   4-7

2. What is Terrorism?   7-10

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

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

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

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

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

8. War for Oil   63-67

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

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

11. War crimes in Palestine   85-92

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

13. What Is To Be Done?   94-98

 

Preface

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Keefer
Toronto, February 28, 2003

 

1. The principle of “universalism”

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

2. What is Terrorism?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

3. Western War Crimes, 1991-2003

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

(b) The use of depleted uranium munitions was criminal

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

(c) Sanctions against Iraq constituted a war crime

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

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

The sanctions also violated the following charters of international law:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Why try to distort the plain meaning of Resolution 1441?

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

(b) The bombing of civilians is a war crime

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There will be investigations I am sure.”

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

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

But the pattern in Hilla was completely different.

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

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

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

The city is no longer accessible, he added.

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

(d) The responsibilities of occupying powers

 

The Iraqi people are protected by a substantial body of law

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

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

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

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

Sharing of Financial and Penal Responsibilities

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

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

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

 

For further information on this issue, see the following:

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

(a) The evidence of Iraq’s disarmament

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

(b) Responses to Bush and Powell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

(c) Responses to Blair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

(d) The scandal of Blair’s plagiarized Dossier

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

(e) Another British forgery: uranium from Niger

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

(h) Recent fictions: Iraqi links with al Qaeda

 

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

Although administration officials say they are still trying to develop a case linking Saddam Hussein to global terrorism, the CIA has yet to find convincing evidence, according to senior intelligence officials and outside experts with knowledge of discussions within the US Government.

Analysts who have scrutinised photographs, communications intercepts and information from foreign informants say they cannot validate two prominent allegations made by the government: links between President Saddam and al Qaeda members who have taken refuge in northern Iraq, and an April, 2001, meeting in Prague between September 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence agent.

Dana Priest, “CIA fails to find Iraqi link to terror,” The Age [Australia] (September 11, 2002), http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2002/09/10/1031608245289.html.

 

For a concise discussion of the repeated—and futile—attempts of the U.S. government to establish links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, see Milan Rai, War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq (London: Verso, 2002), pp. 129-32.

 

(i) Recent fictions: the ‘threat’ of Iraq’s weaponry

One of the more grotesque features of the American and British propaganda campaign has been the insistent attempts of Bush and Blair and their subordinates to terrorize their own populations with claims—in defiance of all available evidence—that they are in imminent danger of chemical, biological, or even nuclear attack from a demonized Saddam Hussein, working hand in hand with Osama bin Laden (who, because he has also been demonized, can on theological if not evidentiary grounds be asserted to be in cahoots with the Iraqi dictator).

Typical of this propaganda rhetoric are George W. Bush’s (groundless) assertions in his Cincinnati speech of October 7, 2002: “We’ve learned that Iraq has trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and deadly gases. [….] Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof—the smoking gun—that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”

The following texts, which include Glen Rangwala’s scrupulous and exhaustive assessment of all available evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, reveal the increasing desperation of American attempts to find the desired evidence.

Joseph Curl, “Agency disavows report on Iraq arms,” The Washington Times (September 27, 2002), http://www.washtimes.com/printarticle.asp?action=print&ArticleID=20020927-500715.

Paul Reynolds, “CIA undermines propaganda war,” BBC News: World Edition (October 10, 2002). http://www.news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2315967.stm.

Greg Miller and Bob Drogin, “CIA Feels Heat on Iraq Data,” Los Angeles Times (October 11, 2002), http://www.latimes.com/la-na-cia11oct11,0,2360915.story.

William Rivers Pitt, “The Pure Essence of Stupid,” Truthout (December 12, 2002), http://www.truthout.org/docs_02/12.12A.wrp.stupid.htm

Riras Al-Atraqchi, “The U.S. will not release vital evidence against Iraq,” Yellow Times (January 21, 2003), http://yellowtimes.org/article.php?sid=1007.

Glen Rangwala, “Claims and evaluations of Iraq’s proscribed weapons” (February 18, 2003), http://www.traprockpeace.org/weapons.html.

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

Seymour M. Hersh, “Annals of National Security: Who Lied to Whom? Why did the Administration endorse a forgery about Iraq's nuclear program?” The New Yorker (March 31, 2003), http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?030331fa_fact1.

 

(j) Attempts to manipulate and distort the weapons inspectors’ reports

American officials, most notably Bush’s National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, appear to have made strenuous attempts first to manipulate, and subsequently to distort, the reports of the UN weapons inspectors.

Agence France-Presse, “Iraq Largely Cooperating with Inspectors, UN Security Council Hears,” Truthout (January 28, 2003), http://www.truthout.org/docsa_02/012903B.irq.jan27.htm.

Judith Miller and Julia Preston, “US is misquoting my Iraq report, says Blix,” Sydney Morning Herald (February 1, 2003), http://www.smh.com,au/articles/2003/01/31/1043804520548.html.

Colum Lynch, “Rice, Blix Confer on Iraq Briefing: Acknowledgment of Violation Urged,” The Washington Post (February 12, 2003), http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A59530-2003Feb11.html.

 

 

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

This section contains excerpts from writings by Noam Chomsky, David Corn, David Greenberg, Seymour Hersh, Saul Landau, Russell Mokhiber, John Pilger, and Yifat Susskind.

 

The relevant legal framework is formulated in the Charter of the United Nations, a “solemn treaty” recognized as the foundation of international law and order, and under the U.S. Constitution, “the supreme law of the land.”

The Charter states that “The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression, and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42,” which detail the preferred “measures not involving the use of armed force” and permit the Security Council to take further action if it finds such measures inadequate. The only exception is Article 51, which permits the “right of individual or collective self-defense” against “armed attack … until the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.” Apart from these exceptions, member states “shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force.”

Noam Chomsky, “Rogue States,” Z Magazine (Apr. 1998), http://www.zmag.org/Zmag/articles/chomskyapr98.htm.

 

Contempt for the rule of law is deeply rooted in U.S. practice and intellectual culture. Recall, for example, the reaction to the judgment of the World Court in 1986 condemning the U.S. for “unlawful use of force” against Nicaragua, demanding that it desist and pay extensive reparations, and declaring all U.S. aid to the contras, whatever its character, to be “military aid,” not “humanitarian aid.” The court was denounced on all sides for having discredited itself. The terms of the judgment were not considered fit to print, and were ignored. The Democrat-controlled Congress immediately authorized new funds to step up the unlawful use of force. Washington vetoed a Security Council resolution calling on all states to respect international law—not mentioning anyone, though the intent was clear. When the General Assembly passed a similar resolution, the U.S. voted against it, effectively vetoing it, joined only by Israel and El Salvador; the following year, only the automatic Israeli vote could be garnered. Little of this received mention in the media or journals of opinion, let alone what it signifies.

Secretary of State George Shultz meanwhile explained (April 14, 1986) that “Negotiations are a euphemism for capitulation if the shadow of power is not cast across the bargaining table.” He condemned those who advocate “utopian, legalistic means like outside mediation, the United Nations, and the World Court, while ignoring the power element of the equation”—sentiments not without precedent in modern history.

The open contempt for Article 51 is particularly revealing. It was demonstrated with remarkable clarity immediately after the 1954 Geneva accords on a peaceful settlement for Indochina, regarded as a “disaster” by Washington, which moved at once to undermine them. The National Security Council secretly decreed that even in the case of “local Communist subversion or rebellion not constituting armed attack,” the U.S. would consider the use of military force, including an attack on China if it is “determined to be the source” of the “subversion” (NSC 5429/2; my emphasis). The wording, repeated verbatim annually in planning documents, was chosen so as to make explicit the U.S. right to violate Article 51. The same document called for remilitarizing Japan, converting Thailand into “the focal point of U.S. covert and psychological operations in Southeast Asia,” undertaking “covert operations on a large and effective scale” throughout Indochina, and in general, acting forcefully to undermine the Accords and the UN Charter. [….]

The U.S. proceeded to define “aggression” to include “political warfare, or subversion” (by someone else, that is)—what Adlai Stevenson called “internal aggression” while defending JFK’s escalation to a full-scale attack against South Vietnam. When the U.S. bombed Libyan cities in 1986, the official justification was “self defense against future attack.” [….] The U.S. invasion of Panama was defended in the Security Council by Ambassador Thomas Pickering by appeal to Article 51, which, he declared, “provides for the use of armed force to defend a country, to defend our interests and our people,” and entitles the U.S. to invade Panama to prevent its “territory from being used as a base for smuggling drugs into the United States.” Educated opinion nodded sagely in assent.

In June 1993, Clinton ordered a missile attack on Iraq, killing civilians and greatly cheering the president, congressional doves, and the press, who found the attack “appropriate, reasonable and necessary.” Commentators were particularly impressed by Ambassador Albright’s appeal to Article 51. The bombing, she explained, was in “self-defense against armed attack”—namely, an alleged attempt to assassinate former president Bush two months earlier, an appeal that would have scarcely risen to the level of absurdity even if the U.S. had been able to demonstrate Iraqi involvement; “Administration officials, speaking anonymously,” informed the press “that the judgment of Iraq’s guilt was based on circumstantial evidence and analysis rather than ironclad intelligence,” the New York Times reported, dismissing the matter. [….]

The record lends considerable support to the concern widely voiced about “rogue states” that are dedicated to the rule of force, acting in the “national interest” as defined by domestic power; most ominously, rogue states that anoint themselves global judge and executioner.

Noam Chomsky, “Rogue States,” Z Magazine (Apr. 1998), http://www.zmag.org/ZMag/articles/chomskyapr98.htm.

 

What are the odds that the people in leading positions in a “rogue state” will themselves be “rogues”—or, let’s be frank, criminals? Set aside the records of George W. Bush and his vice-president Dick Cheney, both of whom have been plausibly accused of insider trading and other corporate crimes. Recent senior appointments in Bush’s administration are symptomatic of a rogue administration’s contempt for international as well as domestic law.

John Poindexter, appointed in February 2002 “to run a Big Brother-like Pentagon operation called Total Information Awareness that promises—if news reports can be believed—to harvest all known information about everybody into a searchable Internet database” (Greenberg, B1), was previously Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser. In that capacity he ran the secret arms-for-hostages deal with Iran that was used, in direct violation of US law, to fund the mercenary contra armies used to attack Nicaragua. When he was found out, he “concealed his activities, destroyed evidence and lied to Congress” (Greenberg, B4); he was “convicted of five felonies involving conspiracy, obstruction of Congress, and making false statements” (Landau).

Elliott Abrams, appointed in December 2002 to the senior Middle East position on Bush’s National Security Council, was also up to his neck in the Iran-Contra scandal as Reagan’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of State to Central America, and was convicted on two accounts of lying to Congress; his Congressional testimony included the immortal declaration that “I never said I had no idea about most of the things you said I had no idea about” (quoted by Landau).

Though Poindexter’s conviction was overturned on a technicality by conservative appellate judges, and though Abrams was given a presidential pardon by George Bush I, there is no doubt that they committed the crimes they were convicted of—as well as violations of international law which were of no interest to the U.S. courts.

Other returned rogues are Otto Reich (special White House adviser for Latin America) and John Negroponte (Ambassador to the UN), both of them veterans of the Iran-Contra period. As Saul Landau writes, “Reich was minister of lying to the public from his Office of Public Diplomacy and Negroponte as US Ambassador to Honduras had to cover up—now he has forgotten—the dreadful behavior of our allies.”

But for sheer audacity, Bush’s (briefly accepted) appointment of Henry Kissinger to conduct an inquiry into intelligence and security failings prior to September 11, 2001 takes the cake. This was, as David Corn wrote, “a screw-you affront to any American who believes the public deserves a full accounting of government actions or lack thereof.”

As Nixon’s national security adviser and Secretary of State, Kissinger shares responsibility for the secret bombing of Cambodia in 1969-70, and for the overthrow of democratically elected governments in Bangladesh (1971) and Chile (September 11, 1973). As Gerald Ford’s Secretary of State, he shares responsibility for the appalling war crimes committed by Indonesia in East Timor in 1975 and after, and for the large-scale torture, kidnapping and murder carried out by the fascistic Argentinian junta in 1976 and after. Kissinger is accused of direct implication in the support and financing of the assassins of Chilean General René Schneider in 1970; he is accused of supporting the terrorist murder of Orlando Letelier in Washington in 1976. He is also wanted for questioning by judges in France and Spain as well as by the Chilean Supreme Court in relation to crimes against humanity.

Sources: David Corn, “Kissinger’s Back…,” The Nation (Dec. 1, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2685; David Greenberg, “Back, But Not By Popular Demand: Rogues Rise Again,” The Washington Post (Dec. 8, 2002), B1, B4; and Saul Landau, “The Bush Vision and the Culture of Power,” ZNet (Dec. 12, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2740.

 

Mokhiber: Ari, other than Elliot Abrams, how many convicted criminals are on the White House staff? 
Ari Fleischer: You tell me, Russell. 
Mokhiber: Could you give a list of convicted criminals on the White House staff, other than Elliot Abrams? 
Ari Fleischer: I’ll go right to the convicted criminals division and ask them. 
Mokhiber: Seriously, why isn’t being convicted of a crime a disqualifier for being on the White House staff? 
Ari Fleischer: Russell, this is an issue that you like to repeat every briefing— 
Mokhiber: But you don’t answer it Ari.

Russell Mokhiber, “Ari & I: White House Press Briefing with Ari Fleischer” (Monday, January 6, 2003 12:30 pm), http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0106-08.htm.

 

Another important Bush gang rogue is Richard Perle, Assistant Secretary of Defense under Ronald Reagan, who was one of the founders of the Project for the New American Century (see section 9 [c] of this dossier), and is now the chairman of the Defense Policy Board, a U.S. Defense Department advisory group “composed primarily of highly respected former government officials, retired military officers, and academics” (Hersh, 76). As he revealed in a statement quoted by John Pilger in speaking about America's “war on terror,” Perle nurtures his warmongering with sick fantasies of figuring in some future epic poem of American imperialism:

“No stages,” he said. “This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq … this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don't try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war … our children will sing great songs about us years from now.”

John Pilger, “Neocons and their plans for war” (January 10, 2003), http://sf.indymedia.org/news/2003/01/1559346.php.

If total war holds out to Richard Perle the posthumous promise of a minor role in some yet-to-be-written epic celebration of the Bush regime’s conquests—let us call it The Bushiad—it also offers him more immediate prospects of personal enrichment. As chairman of the Defense Policy Board, Perle is a “special government employee,” and therefore subject to a federal code of conduct which bars any special employee “from participating in an official capacity in any matter in which he has a financial interest” (Hersh, 77). However, as Seymour Hersh has revealed in The New Yorker, “Perle is also a managing partner in a venture-capital company called Trireme Partners L.P., which was registered in November, 2001, in Delaware.” In November 2002, a Trireme representative wrote to the notorious Saudi-born arms dealer Adnan Kashoggi (who was a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal of the late 1980s), to explain that Trireme’s main business

… is to invest in companies dealing in technology, goods, and services that are of value to homeland security and defense. The letter argued that fear of terrorism would increase the demand for such products in Europe and in countries like Saudi Arabia and Singapore.

The letter mentioned the firm's government connections prominently: “Three of Trireme's Management Group members currently advise the U.S. Secretary of Defense by serving on the U.S. Defense Policy Board, and one of Trireme's principals, Richard Perle, is chairman of that Board.” (Hersh, 76)

In December 2003, Kashoggi arranged a meeting in Paris between two Trireme representatives and Saudi industrialist Harb Saleh al-Zuhair to discuss “the possibility of a large investment in Trireme,” and on January 3, 2003, Kashoggi arranged a private lunch in Marseilles in the south of France between Perle and al-Zuhair. Seymour Hersh writes that “Kashoggi and Zuhair told me that they understood that one of Trireme’s objectives was to seek the help of influential Saudis to win homeland-security contracts with the Saudi royal family for the businesses it financed. The profits for such contracts could be substantial. Saudi Arabia has spent nearly a billion dollars to survey and demarcate its eight-hundred-and-fifty-mile border with Yemen, and the second stage of the process will require billions more” (Hersh, 79).

Perle is thus at one and the same time a major ideologue of total war and also, in intention if not yet in fact, a large-scale war profiteer. No beans this time: in fact, Perle’s undiplomatic detestation of the Saudi government appears to have upset his lunch companions to the extent that they decided to embarrass him by making his Trireme manoeuverings public. It seems nonetheless that Perle is giving a new twist to the art—highly developed already among the members of the Bush gang—of insider trading.

Source: Seymour M. Hersh, “Annals of National Security: Lunch with the Chairman: Why was Richard Perle meeting with Adnan Kashoggi?” The New Yorker (March 17, 2003): 76-81.

 

Yifat Susskind of the human rights organization MADRE responds as follows to Bush’s declaration to the UN that “The conduct of the Iraqi regime is a threat to the authority of the United Nations and a threat to peace.”

Here’s what Bush thinks of the authority of the United Nations: Since taking office, he scrapped more international treaties and violated more UN conventions than the rest of the world has in 20 years. Under Bush, the US has opposed the Kyoto protocol on global warming, boycotted a conference to promote the comprehensive (nuclear) test ban treaty and ripped up the anti-ballistic missile treaty. Bush refuses to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child or sign the treaty to ban landmines. The US walked out of the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism and virtually ignored the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. And Bush is the only President in history to “unsign” a UN treaty—the Rome Treaty creating the International Criminal Court.

As for being a “threat to peace,” there’s little doubt that Bush’s “war on terror,” which violates international law, the US Constitution, international human rights instruments and principles of international cooperation and collective security, is the single greatest threat to peace in the world today.

In light of the grave and gathering danger posed by the Bush Administration, we hereby call on the United Nations to declare the United States to be a “threat to peace” under Article 39 of the United Nations Charter. The Security Council, acting under Article 7 of the Charter, must countermand this threat.

In the event of a US veto of the Council’s “enforcement action,” we call on the UN General Assembly to invoke its Uniting for Peace Resolution of 1950 and assume the Security Council’s mandate of enforcing international peace and security.

To quote the “president” of the United States, “Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?”

Yifat Susskind, “MADRE Factsheet: analysis of Bush’s Speech to UN,” ZNet, http://zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=11&ItemID=2359.

 

For further reflections on the “rogue state” behaviour of the U.S., the following books can be consulted:

Blum, William. Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II. Boston: Common Courage, 1995.

----. Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower. Boston: Common Courage, 2000.

Chomsky, Noam, and Edward Herman. The Political Economy of Human Rights, Volume I: The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism. Montréal: Black Rose Books, 1979.

----. The Political Economy of Human Rights, Volume II: After the Cataclysm: Postwar Indochina and the Reconstruction of Imperial Ideology. Montréal: Black Rose Books, 1979.

Scowen, Peter. Rogue Nation: The America the Rest of the World Knows. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2003.

Stich, Rodney. Drugging America: A Trojan Horse. Alamo, California: Diablo Western Press, 1999.

 

 

8. War for Oil

This section contains excerpts from texts by Michel Chossudovsky, Robert Fisk, John Pilger, Hans von Sponeck, and the U.S, House of Representatives Committee on International Relations.

 

When the Taliban took Kabul in 1996, Washington said nothing. Why? Because Taliban leaders were soon on their way to Houston, Texas, to be entertained by executives of the oil company, Unocal.

With secret US government approval, the company offered them a generous cut of the profits of the oil and gas pumped through a pipeline that the Americans wanted to build from Soviet central Asia through Afghanistan.

A US diplomat said: “The Taliban will probably develop like the Saudis did.” He explained that Afghanistan would become an American oil colony, there would be huge profits for the West, no democracy and the legal persecution of women. “We can live with that,” he said.

Although the deal fell through, it remains an urgent priority of the administration of George W. Bush, which is steeped in the oil industry. Bush’s concealed agenda is to exploit the oil and gas reserves in the Caspian basin, the greatest source of untapped fossil fuel on earth and enough, according to one estimate, to meet America’s voracious energy needs for a generation. Only if the pipeline runs through Afghanistan can the Americans hope to control it.

John Pilger, “This War is a Farce,” The Mirror (October 29, 2001).

 

During the 31 july / 1 august [2002] hearings on Iraq in the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the ranking representative of the Republican Party, Senator Richard Lugar (R-In) stated: “… we are going to run the oil business. We are going to run it well, we are going to make money; and it’s going to help pay for the rehabilitation of Iraq because there is money there!”

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

 

America burns a quarter of all the oil consumed by humanity. A study sponsored by the US Council on Foreign Relations says that “the American people continue to demand plentiful and cheap energy without sacrifice or inconvenience”. Transport in the United States alone burns 66 per cent of America’s petroleum.

One estimate is that the world’s oil reserves will begin to decline within five to ten years at the rate of about two million barrels a day. In the Middle East, the only country capable of significantly increasing its production is Iraq, once described by Vice President Cheney as “the great prize”.

At present, America depends on Iraq’s neighbour Saudi Arabia, not just for oil but for keeping the price of oil down. However, Saudi Arabia is the home of al-Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden and 15 of the alleged September 11 hijackers.

The grievance against the Americans for their imperial interventions in the Middle East is said to be deepest in the country that was invented by British imperialism and has since been maintained by the US as an oil colony.

If America installs a colonial regime in Baghdad, certainly its dependence on Saudi Arabia will be dramatically eased, and its grip on the world’s greatest oil market will be tightened. The price, for the people of the region, for Americans and the rest of us, will be an enduring turmoil similar to that of Palestine, exemplified by last week’s terror bombing of an Israeli hotel in Kenya.

This is the hidden agenda of the “war on terrorism”—a term that is no more than a euphemism for the Bush administration’s exploitation of the September 11 attacks and America’s accelerating imperial ambitions. In the past 14 months, on the pretext of “fighting terror”, US military bases have been established at the gateways to the greatest oil and gas fields on earth, especially in Central Asia, which is also coveted as a “great prize”.

In Afghanistan, the president, Hamid Karzai, guarded by 46 American special forces troops, was employed by a subsidiary of Unocal, the American oil company. The post-Taliban US ambassador is a senior executive of Unocal, and a pipeline to carry lucrative oil and gas across the country from the Caspian Sea will be built by Unocal.

The majority of Bush’s cabinet are from the oil industry, which has made them extremely rich. Bush’s father is still a consultant for the huge oil services company, the Carlyle Group, and his personal clients include the family of Osama bin Laden. One of the reasons the Americans attacked Afghanistan was not to liberate women but to liberate the pipeline deal. [….]

John Pilger, “Lies, Damned Lies, and Terror Warnings,” ZNet (December 5, 2002), http://zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2710.

 

Once an American regime is installed in Baghdad, our oil companies will have access to 112 billion barrels of oil. With unproven reserves, we might actually end up controlling almost a quarter of the world's total reserves. And this forthcoming war isn’t about oil?

The US Department of Energy announced at the beginning of this month that by 2025, US oil imports will account for perhaps 70 per cent of total US domestic demand. (It was 55 per cent two years ago.) As Michael Renner of the Worldwatch Institute put it bleakly this week, “US oil deposits are increasingly depleted, and many other non-OPEC fields are beginning to run dry. The bulk of future supplies will have to come from the Gulf region.” [….] Some 70 per cent of the world's proven oil reserves are in the Middle East. And this forthcoming war isn’t about oil?

Take a look at the statistics on the ratio of reserve to oil production—the number of years that reserves of oil will last at current production rates—compiled by Jeremy Rifkin in Hydrogen Economy. In the US, where more than 60 per cent of the recoverable oil has already been produced, the ratio is just 10 years, as it is in Norway. In Canada, it is 8:1. In Iran, it is 53:1, in Saudi Arabia 55:1, in the United Arab Emirates 75:1. In Kuwait, it's 116:1. But in Iraq, it’s 526:1. And this forthcoming war isn’t about oil?

Robert Fisk, “This Looming War Isn't About Chemical Warheads or Human Rights: It's About Oil,” The Independent (January 18, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2882.

 

The oil politics involved in the American and British assault upon Iraq are nakedly obvious. The connections between this act of aggression and the economic and geopolitical motives of the American-led attack on Afghanistan, which may be somewhat less evident, are helpfully clarified by Michel Chossudovsky’s analysis of the informing context of the attack on Afghanistan in chapters five and six of his book War and Globalisation: The Truth Behind September 11 (Shanty Bay, Ontario: Global OutlookTM, 2002). Proposing that “The ‘Anglo-American axis’ in defence and foreign policy is the driving force behind the military operations in Central Asia and the Middle East,” Chossudovsky suggests that “The merger [in August 1998] of British Petroleum (BP) and the American Oil Company (AMOCO) into the world's largest oil conglomerate has a direct bearing on the pattern of Anglo-American relations and the close relationship between the American President and the British Prime Minister” (p. 64; see pp. 89-90).

He notes that on March 19, 1999 “the U.S. Congress adopted the Silk Road Strategy Act, which defined America’s broad economic and strategic interests in a region extending from the Mediterranean to Central Asia” (p. 66). The geopolitical thinking underlying this Silk Road Strategy is expounded in documents of the Congressional Committee on International Relations.

One hundred years ago, Central Asia was the arena for a great game played by Czarist Russia, Colonial Britain, Napoleon's France, and the Persian and Ottoman Empires. [….] One hundred years later, the collapse of the Soviet Union has unleashed a new great game, where the interests of the East India Trading Company have been replaced by those of Unocal and Total [oil companies], and many other organizations and firms. Today [we are seeing] the interests of a new contestant in this new great game, the United States. The five [former Soviet republics] which make up Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan … are anxious to establish relations with the United States. Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan possess large reserves of oil and natural gas, both on-shore and off-shore in the Caspian Sea, which they urgently seek to exploit. Uzbekistan [also] has oil and gas reserves. [….]

Stated U.S. policy goals regarding energy resources in this region include fostering the independence of the States and their ties to the West; breaking Russia's monopoly over oil and gas transport routes; promoting Western energy security through diversified suppliers; encouraging the construction of east-west pipelines that do not transit [through] Iran; and denying Iran dangerous leverage over the Central Asian economies….

[….] Japan, Turkey, Iran, Western Europe, and China are all pursuing economic development opportunities and challenging Russian dominance in the region. It is essential that U.S. policymakers understand the stakes involved in Central Asia as we seek to craft a policy that serves the interests of the United States and U.S. business.

U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific, Committee on International Relations, “Hearing on U.S. Interests In The Central Asian Republics” (February 12, 1998), http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/intlrel/hfa48119.000/hfa48119_0f.htm (quoted by Chossudovsky, pp. 67-68).

This Silk Road Strategy is clearly aimed both at undermining Russian control of the Caspian Basin oil and gas reserves and at preventing other competitors (among them the French-Belgian conglomerate Elf-Total-Fina) from gaining access to them. One step towards its implementation was taken when the heads of state of Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova met in Washington to sign GUAAM, a regional military alliance under NATO protection. Chossudovsky writes that GUAAM is dominated by Anglo-American oil interests, and its formation “ultimately purports to exclude Russia from the oil and gas deposits in the Caspian area, as well as isolating Moscow politically” (p. 66).

The relationship in GUAAM between planned pipeline routes and diplomatic-military alliances is very clear. Azerbaijan, governed since the military coup of 1993 by a pro-U.S. regime led by former KGB official and Communist Party politburo member President Heydar Aliyevich Aliyev, signed an agreement in 1994 with an oil consortium led by BP-AMOCO. This contract, “involving the development of the Charyg oil fields near Baku,” provides for Azeri oil to be moved west by pipeline through Georgia to the port of Supsa on the east coast of the Black Sea, and thence by tanker to the Pivdenny terminal near Odessa in Ukraine, from where it can be moved by a pipeline linking up to an existing pipeline which runs through Slovakia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. The entire length of this route, which of course bypasses Russian territory, is under the protection of NATO (pp. 72-74).

Afghanistan is of major strategic importance in relation to this Silk Road Strategy. As Chossudovsky writes,

It not only borders the ‘Silk Road Corridor’ linking the Caucasus to China's Western border, it is also at the hub of five nuclear powers: China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Kazakhstan. [….] Afghanistan is at the strategic crossroads of the Eurasian pipeline and transport routes. It also constitutes a potential landbridge for the southbound oil pipeline from the former Soviet republic of Turkmenistan to the Arabian Sea across Pakistan, which had initially been negotiated by Unocal with the Taliban government….” (p. 69)

Chossudovsky notes that the Silk Road Strategy Act “designates Israel as America's ‘partner’ in the Silk Road corridor” (p. 69), and argues that

the successful implementation of the SRS requires the concurrent ‘militarization’ of the Eurasian corridor as a means of securing control over extensive oil and gas reserves, as well as ‘protecting’ the pipeline routes on behalf of the Anglo-American oil companies. [….] Under the SRS Act, Washington commits itself to “fostering stability in this region, which is vulnerable to political and economic pressures from the South, North and East,” suggesting that “the threat to stability” is not only from Moscow (to the North) but also from China (to the East) and Iran and Iraq (to the South). The SRS is also intended to prevent the former Soviet republics from developing economic, political and defence ties with China, Iran, Turkey and Iraq. (p. 71).

The 1991 Gulf War advanced American military-geopolitical and oil interests in a very significant manner: it permitted the U.S. to establish military and naval bases in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. During the 1990s, in pursuit of what in 1999 was formalized as the Silk Road Strategy, the U.S. was able to expand this presence in the Eurasian corridor by establishing military links with the GUAAM countries, and by securing permission to construct air bases in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan. Since the overthrow of the Taliban regime, these forward positions have been supplemented by air bases in Afghanistan. The military conquest of Iraq will leave Iran, which figured with Iraq and North Korea in George Bush’s inane “axis of evil,” surrounded by countries containing garrisons of American troops.

For further evidence of U.S. geopolitical strategic thinking, see the articles listed under “Oil in Iraq,” at http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/oil/irqindx.htm.

 

 

9. The “War on Terrorism”

This section contains excerpts from writings by Gordon Barthos, Noam Chomsky, Robert Fisk, Alex Jones, Media Lens, James Petras, John Pilger, Milan Rai, Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert, and Antonia Zerbisias.

 

(a) Ethical ironies of the “War on Terrorism”

 

What is the “new war on terrorism”? The goal of the civilised world has been announced very clearly in high places. We must “eradicate the evil scourge of terrorism,” a plague spread by “depraved opponents of civilisation itself” in a “return to barbarism in the modern age,” and so on. Surely a noble enterprise!

To place the enterprise in proper perspective, we should recognise that the Crusade is not new, contrary to what’s being said. In fact, the phrases just quoted are from President Ronald Reagan and his Secretary of State, George Shultz, twenty years ago. They came to office at that time—Reagan, and shortly after, Schultz—proclaiming that the struggle against international terrorism would be the core of U.S. foreign policy. And they responded to the plague by organising campaigns of international terrorism of unprecedented scale and violence, even leading to a condemnation by the World Court of the United States for what the Court called “the unlawful use of force,” meaning international terrorism. This was followed by a U.N. Security Council Resolution calling on all states to observe international law, which the United States vetoed. It also voted alone, with one or two client states, against successive similar U.N. General Assembly Resolutions.

So the “New War on Terrorism” is, in fact, led by the only state in the world that has been condemned by the International Court of Justice for international terrorism and has vetoed a resolution calling on states to observe international law….

The World Court order to terminate the crime of international terrorism and to pay substantial reparations was dismissed with contempt across the spectrum. The New York Times informed the public that the Court was a “hostile forum” and therefore we need pay no attention to it. Washington reacted at once to the Court’s orders by escalating the economic and the terrorist wars. It also issued orders to the mercenary army attacking from Honduras to attack “soft targets”—those are the official orders: Attack “soft targets,” undefended civilian targets like health clinics, agricultural cooperatives and so on. [….]

Prevailing Western attitudes are revealed with great clarity by the appointment of the new U.N. Ambassador to lead today’s “New War against Terrorism,” John Negroponte. Negroponte’s record includes his service as Pro-Consul in Honduras in the 1980s, where he was the local supervisor of the international terrorist war for which his government was condemned by the World Court and the Security Council—irrelevantly of course in a world that’s governed by the rule of force.

Noam Chomsky, “September 11th and Its Aftermath: Where is the World Heading?” Public Lecture at the Music Academy, Chennai (Madras), India, November 10, 2001, http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl1824/nc.htm.

 

Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter has suggested that a US-led war on Iraq “will effectively mean that Osama bin Laden will have won. Whatever the faults of Saddam Hussein, and he is a brutal dictator, his regime is also secular. If Saddam does indeed fall, which Bush and Blair want, it is highly likely that an Islamist regime will take over after US troops leave, which they will sooner or later.” This could have knock-on effects on Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and even Egypt: “The invasion of Iraq is the quickest path to losing the war on terror and giving legitimacy to the criminal who attacked the US and the entire freedom of the world on 11 September.” While few other commentators are predicting a fundamentalist regime in Iraq, many informed observers share Mr Ritter’s belief that al Qaeda’s political base would be enlarged considerably by US/UK military action.

Milan Rai, War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq (London and New York: Verso, 2002), p. 201.

 

There is no “war on terrorism”. No such war is possible when the “coalition” waging it consists of some of the leading terrorist states in the world—Algeria, Turkey, Russia, China, Indonesia—falling in with the United States. The search for Osama bin Laden is circus spectacle. The goal is the control, through vassals, of former Soviet Central Asia, a region rich in oil and minerals and of great strategic importance to competing powers, Russia and China. By February 2002, the United States had established permanent military bases in all the Central Asian republics, and in Afghanistan, whose post-Taliban government is American approved. “America will have a continuing interest and presence in Central Asia of a kind that we could not have dreamed of before [September 11],” said Secretary of State Colin Powell. This is just a beginning. The ultimate goal is a far wider American conquest, military and economic, that was planned during the Second World War and which, as Vice-President Cheney says, “may not end in our lifetimes”.

John Pilger, The New Rulers of the World (London: Verso, 2002), pp. 104-05.

 

(b) Consequences of the “War on Terrorism”

 

In [George Orwell's] novel [Nineteen Eighty-Four], three slogans dominate society: war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength. Today’s slogan, ‘war on terrorism’, also reverses meaning. The war is terrorism. The most potent weapon in this war is pseudo-information, different only in form from that Orwell described, consigning to oblivion unacceptable truths and historical sense. Dissent is permissible within ‘consensual’ boundaries, reinforcing the illusion that information and speech are ‘free’.

The attacks of September 11, 2001 did not ‘change everything’, but accelerated the continuity of events, providing an extraordinary pretext for destroying social democracy. The undermining of the Bill of Rights in the United States and the further dismantling of trial by jury in Britain and a plethora of related civil liberties are part of the reduction of democracy to electoral ritual: that is, competition between undistinguishable parties for the management of a single-ideology state.

John Pilger, The New Rulers of the World (London: Verso, 2002), pp. 1-2.

 

So far the “war on terrorism” has been a massacre, as in Afghanistan and as proposed for Iraq, rather than a fight with two armed combatants battling one another. [….]

Alternatively, the “war on terrorism” has been a campaign, not a violent struggle, aiming to reduce civil liberties, expand arms trade and production, and legitimate assaults on any targets deemed unfriendly. In this regard it is like the earlier Cold War. The idea is to name an enemy, generate fear of it, and then employ that fear and associated anger to justify all kinds of government actions that would otherwise be rejected—arms deals, taxes, repressive laws, etc.

The massacres and policy alterations that together constitute the “war on terrorism” haven’t been about reducing terrorism, by and large. First, the largest number of civilians killed since 9-11 have been Afghanis and Iraqis (the latter, victims of U.S.-backed sanctions). Reducing a phenomenon [i.e. the terrorist killing of civilians] rarely includes overtly expanding it. Second, the actions undertaken, even in the view of the FBI, are not only unlikely to reduce even that portion of terrorism that is directed at the United States. They are likely, instead, to fuel the resentment and grievances that lead to such attacks.

So rather than a just war, the “war on terrorism” is a means of rationalizing illegitimate interventions abroad and repressive and predatory policies at home, without reducing terrorism.

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

 

In totalitarian states, the supreme leader seizes dictatorial powers, suspends constitutional guarantees (citing “emergency powers”), empowers the secret police, and handpicks tribunals to arbitrarily arrest, judge, and condemn the accused to prison or execution. On November 13 [2001], President Bush took the fatal step toward assuming dictatorial powers. Without consulting Congress, Bush decreed an emergency order. The order permits the government to arrest non-citizens who they have “reason to believe” are terrorists to be tried by military tribunal. The trials are secret and the prosecutors do not have to present evidence if it is “in the interests of national security.”

The condemned can be executed even if one-third of the military judges disagree. Dictatorial powers to jail or execute suspects without due process is the essence of totalitarian rulers.

In mid-November, the Department of Justice refused to disclose the identities and status of more than 1,100 persons arrested since September 11. As in totalitarian regimes, political prisoners are constantly interrogated without lawyers and without charges by the FBI in the hope of forcing confessions.

On October 26 Bush signed the USA/Patriot Act, which vastly strengthened the powers of the police over civil society. The extension of secret police powers was approved almost unanimously by Congress (most of whose members never read the law). Every clause of this law violated the U.S. Constitution. Under this law: (a) any federal law enforcement agency may secretly enter any home or business, collect evidence, not inform the citizen of the entry, and then use the evidence (seized or planted) to convict the occupant of a crime; (b) any police agency has the power to monitor all Internet traffic and emails, intercept cell phones without warrant of millions of “suspects”; (c) any Federal police agency can invade any business premises and seize all records on the basis that it is “connected” to a terrorist investigation. Citizens who publicly protest these arbitrary, invasive police actions can be arrested.

The USA/Patriot Act, like its totalitarian counterparts, has a vague, loose definition of “terrorism” that allows it to repress any dissident organization and protest activity. According to section 802 of the Act, terrorism is defined as “activities that involve acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States … [and] appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population [or] … to influence the policy of the government by intimidation or coercion.” Any anti-globalization protest, such as occurred in Seattle, can now be labeled “terrorist,” its leaders and participants arrested, their homes and offices searched, documents seized, and, if they are not citizens, shipped to military tribunals. These “emergency” decrees and laws are in place until 2005 and beyond if the investigations began prior to the terminal year.

James Petras, “Signs of a Police State Are Everywhere,” Z Magazine (January 2002), http://www.zmag.org/Zmag/Articles/jan02petras.htm.

 

On February 7, 2003 the Center for Public Integrity, a non-partisan public interest think-tank in [Washington] DC, revealed the full text of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act [or Patriot Act II] of 2003. The classified document had been leaked to them by an unnamed source inside the Federal government.

[….] The intentions of the White House and Speaker [Dennis] Hastert concerning Patriot Act II appear to be a carbon copy replay of the events that led to the unprecedented passage of the first Patriot Act. [….] The fact that Dick Cheney publicly managed the steamroller passage of the first Patriot Act, ensuring that no one was allowed to read it and publicly threatening members of Congress that if they didn’t vote in favor of it they would be blamed for the next terrorist attack, is by the White House’s own definition terrorism. [….]

Here is a quick thumbnail sketch of just some of the draconian measures encapsulated within this tyrannical legislation:

SECTION 501 (Expatriation of Terrorists) expands the Bush administration’s “enemy combatant” definition to all American citizens who “may” have violated any provision of of Section 802 of the first Patriot Act. (Section 802 is the new definition of domestic terrorism, and the definition is “any action that endangers human life [or] that is a violation of any Federal or State law.”) [….]

SECTION 201 of the second Patriot Act makes it a criminal act for any member of the government or any citizen to release information concerning the incarceration or whereabouts of detainees. It also states that law enforcement does not even have to tell the press whom they have arrested […].

SECTION 312 gives immunity to law enforcement engaging in spying operations against the American people and would place substantial restrictions on court injunctions against Federal violations of civil rights across the board. [….]

SECTION 103 allows the Federal government to use wartime martial law powers domestically and internationally without Congress declaring that a state of war exists. [….]

SECTION 109 allows secret star chamber courts to issue contempt charges against any individual or corporation who refuses to incriminate themselves or others. This section annihilates the last vestiges of the Fifth Amendment. [….]

SECTION 402 is entitled “Providing Material Support to Terrorism.” The section reads that there is no requirement to show that the individual ever had the intent to aid terrorists. [….]

SECTION 411 expands crimes that are punishable by death. Again, they point to Section 802 of the first Patriot Act and state that any terrorist act or support of terrorist acts can result in the death penalty. [….]

[….] The second Patriot Act dwarfs all police state legislation in modern world history.

Alex Jones, “Total Police State Takeover: The Secret Patriot Act II Destroys What Is Left of American Liberty. A Brief Analysis of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act 2003, also known as Patriot Act II,” Infowars (February 10, 2003), http://www.infowars.com/print_patriotact2_analysis.htm.

 

Imagine a society where people can be stripped of their citizenship overnight. Or be made to disappear into police gulags without trace. Where very book they read and purchase they make is known to the powers that be. And where they can be executed for protesting against the governing regime.

Saddam Hussein’s Iraq? You bet. But the United States of America may also become this kind of society if U.S. president George Bush presses his “war on terror” much further.

In a commentary for Global Viewpoint/Tribune Media Services International this week novelist Norman Mailer warned that “a pre-fascist atmosphere” pervades the U.S. as it moves “in an imperial direction” led by intrusive government, corporations and the military. [….]

The American Civil Liberties Union took out a full-page ad in the New York Times this week to warn that “core American values” are under attack.

A leaked copy of Attorney-General John Ashcroft’s proposed Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003—dubbed the Patriot Act II—confirms that Washington is weighing sweeping new laws that impinge on long-established freedoms. If enacted by Congress, the measures would let government:

* Create 15 new death penalties including one that could cover protesters engaged in civil disobedience, if someone dies, even accidentally, during a protest.

* Strip Americans of their cherished citizenship if they support groups deemed to be “terrorist” by the administration—even if they are unaware of the groups’ links to terror.

* Shelter federal agents from prosecution for carrying out unlawful surveillance, if they are acting on orders from Bush or other high-ranking members of the executive branch. This would have made Richard Nixon-era Watergate prosecutions impossible.

* Permit secret arrests in immigration and other cases where the detainees are not charged with crimes.

* Authorize a wider range of home searches and wiretaps without warrant.

To be fair, the Americans don’t have a lock on unhealthy legislation. Here in Canada, federal Privacy Commissioner George Radwanski has been warning that similar anti-terror laws assault our own rights.

There’s something dreadfully wrong when democratic, open societies like the United States and Canada feel driven to “protect” themselves by enacting legislation that would not be out of place in Baghdad today.

Gordon Barthos, “Carrying a torch for Liberty,” Toronto Star (February 27, 2003): A24.

 

(c) 9/11 as an “opportunity” for the U.S. government: the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) Report

 

The threat posed by US terrorism to the security of nations and individuals was outlined in prophetic detail in a document written more than two years ago and disclosed only recently. What was needed for America to dominate much of humanity and the world’s resources, it said, was “some catastrophic and catalysing event—like a new Pearl Harbor”. The attacks of 11 September 2001 provided the “new Pearl Harbor”, described as “the opportunity of ages”. The extremists who have since exploited 11 September come from the era of Ronald Reagan, when far-right groups and “think-tanks” were established to avenge the American “defeat” in Vietnam. In the 1990s, there was an added agenda: to justify the denial of a “peace dividend” following the cold war. The Project for the New American Century was formed, along with the American Enterprise Institute, the Hudson Institute and others that have since merged the ambitions of the Reagan administration with those of the current Bush regime.

One of George W Bush’s “thinkers” is Richard Perle. I interviewed Perle when he was advising Reagan; and when he spoke about “total war”, I mistakenly dismissed him as mad. He recently used the term again in describing America’s “war on terror”. “No stages,” he said. “This is total war. We are fighting a variety of enemies. There are lots of them out there. All this talk about first we are going to do Afghanistan, then we will do Iraq… this is entirely the wrong way to go about it. If we just let our vision of the world go forth, and we embrace it entirely and we don’t try to piece together clever diplomacy, but just wage a total war… our children will sing great songs about us years from now.”

Perle is one of the founders of the Project for the New American Century, the PNAC. Other founders include Dick Cheney, now vice-president, Donald Rumsfeld, defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, deputy defence secretary, I. Lewis Libby, Cheney’s chief of staff, William J Bennett, Reagan’s education secretary, and Zalmay Khalilzad, Bush’s ambassador to Afghanistan. These are the modern chartists of American terrorism. The PNAC’s seminal report, Rebuilding America’s Defences: strategy, forces and resources for a new century, was a blueprint of American aims in all but name. Two years ago it recommended an increase in arms-spending by $48bn so that Washington could “fight and win multiple, simultaneous major theatre wars”. This has happened. It said the United States should develop “bunker-buster” nuclear weapons and make “star wars” a national priority. This is happening. It said that, in the event of Bush taking power, Iraq should be a target. And so it is.

As for Iraq’s alleged “weapons of mass destruction”, these were dismissed, in so many words, as a convenient excuse, which it is. “While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification,” it says, “the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.” How has this grand strategy been implemented? A series of articles in the Washington Post, co-authored by Bob Woodward of Watergate fame and based on long interviews with senior members of the Bush administration, reveals how 11 September was manipulated.

On the morning of 12 September 2001, without any evidence of who the hijackers were, Rumsfeld demanded that the US attack Iraq. According to Woodward, Rumsfeld told a cabinet meeting that Iraq should be “a principal target of the first round in the war against terrorism”. Iraq was temporarily spared only because Colin Powell, the secretary of state, persuaded Bush that “public opinion has to be prepared before a move against Iraq is possible”. Afghanistan was chosen as the softer option. If Jonathan Steele’s estimate in the Guardian is correct, some 20,000 people in Afghanistan paid the price of that debate with their lives.

Time and again, 11 September is described as an “opportunity”. In last April’s New Yorker, the investigative reporter Nicholas Lemann wrote that Bush’s most senior adviser, Condoleezza Rice, told him she had called together senior members of the National Security Council and asked them “to think about ‘how do you capitalise on these opportunities’”, which she compared with those of “1945 to 1947”: the start of the cold war. Since 11 September, America has established bases at the gateways to all the major sources of fossil fuels, especially central Asia. The Unocal oil company is to build a pipeline across Afghanistan. Bush has scrapped the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions, the war crimes provisions of the International Criminal Court and the anti-ballistic missile treaty. He has said he will use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states “if necessary”. Under cover of propaganda about Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, the Bush regime is developing new weapons of mass destruction that undermine international treaties on biological and chemical warfare.

In the Los Angeles Times, the military analyst William Arkin describes a secret army set up by Donald Rumsfeld, similar to those run by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger and which Congress outlawed. This “super-intelligence support activity” will bring together the “CIA and military covert action, information warfare, and deception”. According to a classified document prepared for Rumsfeld, the new organisation, known by its Orwellian moniker as the Proactive Pre-emptive Operations Group, or P2OG, will provoke terrorist attacks which would then require “counter-attack” by the United States on countries “harbouring the terrorists”.

In other words, innocent people will be killed by the United States. This is reminiscent of Operation Northwoods, the plan put to President Kennedy by his military chiefs for a phoney terrorist campaign—complete with bombings, hijackings, plane crashes and dead Americans—as justification for an invasion of Cuba. Kennedy rejected it. He was assassinated a few months later. Now Rumsfeld has resurrected Northwoods, but with resources undreamt of in 1963 and with no global rival to invite caution. You have to keep reminding yourself this is not fantasy: that truly dangerous men, such as Perle and Rumsfeld and Cheney, have power. The thread running through their ruminations is the importance of the media: “the prioritised task of bringing on board journalists of repute to accept our position”.

“Our position” is code for lying. Certainly, as a journalist, I have never know official lying to be more pervasive than today. We may laugh at the vacuities in Tony Blair’s “Iraq dossier” and Jack Straw’s inept lie that Iraq has developed a nuclear bomb (which his minions rushed to “explain”). But the more insidious lies, justifying an unprovoked attack on Iraq and linking it to would-be terrorists who are said to lurk in every Tube station, are routinely channelled as news. They are not news; they are black propaganda.

John Pilger, “America’s Bid for Global Dominance,” The New Statesman (December 12, 2002), http://zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2744.

 

For further information about the Project for a New American Century, see the following:

Abrams, Elliott (and 24 others). “Statement of Principles,” PNAC (June 3, 1997), http://www.newamericancentury.org/statementofprinciples.htm.

Donnelly, Thomas, Donald Kagan and Gary Schmitt. “Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century,” PNAC (September 2000), http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf.

Kristol, William (and 40 others). “Letter to President Bush on the War on Terrorism,” PNAC (September 20, 2001), http://www.newamericancentury.org/Bushletter.htm.

---- (and 32 others). “Letter to President Bush on Israel, Arafat and the War on Terrorism,” PNAC (April 3, 2002), http://www.newamericancentury.org/Bushletter-040302.htm.

Escobar, Pepe. “This war is brought to you by…,” Asia Times Online (March 20, 2003), http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EC20Ak07.html.

Johnson, Chalmers Johnson. “Iraq Wars,” www.tomdispatch.com, also available at ZNet, http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2869.

Shavit, Ari. “White man’s burden,” Ha’aretz (April 6, 2003), http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jtml?itemNo=280279&%20contrassID=2&subContrassID=14&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y.

 

(d) Manipulations of public fear

 

On November 7, the day before the United Nations Security Council voted on a resolution that made an American and British attack on Iraq more than likely, Downing Street began issuing warnings of imminent terrorist threats against the United Kingdom.

Cross-Channel ferries, the London Underground and major public events were all said to be “targeted”.

The anonymous Government sources described “emergency security measures” that included a “rapid reaction force of army reservists” and a squadron of fighter jets “on constant standby”. Plans were being drawn up to “evacuate major cities and deal with large numbers of contaminated corpses”. Police snipers were being trained “to kill suicide bombers” and anti-radiation pills were being distributed to hospitals. By November 11, Tony Blair himself was telling the British public to be “on guard” against an attack that could lead to “maximum carnage”.

Curiously, the national state of alert for a likely attack, colour-coded amber, which such a grave warning would require, was never activated. It remains on “black special”, which is just above normal. Why?

That was more than two weeks ago, and urgent questions remain unanswered. Now health service teams are to have smallpox vaccinations to “meet the threat of a germ warfare attack”; and the Foreign Office has produced a remarkable video suggesting that Britain is about to attack Iraq because of its concern for that country’s human rights record. (This must mean Britain will soon attack other countries because of their human rights records, such as China, Russia and the United States.) [….]

Where is the evidence, any evidence, for a national “alert” that borders on such orchestrated hysteria? And what explains its uncanny timing with the latest American and British machinations at the UN on Iraq?

Lying as government strategy is known as black propaganda. [….] Since September 11, 2001, every attempt by black propagandists in Whitehall and Washington to justify an unprovoked attack on Iraq by linking the regime in Baghdad with al-Qaeda terrorism has failed.

First, there was the charge that Iraq was responsible for last year’s anthrax scare in the United States, then it was claimed that Mohammed Atta, one of the alleged September 11 hijackers, had made contact with Iraqi intelligence in Prague. Both claims have been proven false, along with stories planted in newspapers by American intelligence that Iraq has been training al-Qaeda terrorists at a secret base.

John Pilger, “Lies, Damned Lies, and Terror Warnings,” ZNet (December 5, 2002), http://zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2710.

 

In the United States, the Bush administration is busy terrorising Americans. There will be nuclear attacks, bombs in high-rise apartment blocks, on the Brooklyn bridge, men with exploding belts—note how carefully the ruthless Palestinian war against Israeli colonisation of the West Bank is being strapped to America’s ever weirder “war on terror”—and yet more aircraft suiciders. If you read the words of President Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney and the ridiculous national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, over the past three days, you’ll find they’ve issued more threats against Americans than Mr bin Laden.

But let’s get back to the point. The growing evidence that Israel’s policies are America’s policies in the Middle East—or, more accurately, vice versa—is now being played out for real in statements from Congress and on American television. First, we have the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee announcing that Hizbollah—the Lebanese guerrilla force that drove Israel’s demoralised army out of Lebanon in the year 2000—is planning attacks in the US. After that, we had an American television network “revealing” that Hizbollah, Hamas and al-Qa’ida—Mr bin Laden’s organisation—have held a secret meeting in Lebanon to plot attacks on the US.

American journalists insist on quoting “sources” but there was, of course, no sourcing for this balderdash, which is now repeated ad nauseam in the American media. Then take the “Syrian Accountability Act” that was introduced into the US Senate by Israel’s friends on 18 April. This includes the falsity uttered earlier by Israel’s Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, that Iranian Revolutionary Guards “operate freely” on the southern Lebanon border. Now there haven’t been Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon—let alone the south of the country—for 18 years. So why is this lie repeated yet again?

Iran is under threat. Lebanon is under threat. Syria is under threat—its “terrorism” status has been heightened by the State Department—and so is Iraq. But Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister held personally responsible by Israel’s own inquiry for the Sabra and Shatila massacre of 1,700 Palestinians in Beirut in 1982, is—according to Mr Bush—“a man of peace”.

Robert Fisk, “A Firestorm is Coming,” The Independent (May 25, 2002).

 

With the convenient discovery of a deadly poison in Wood Green, London, Tony Blair has again made explicit reference to the “related” threats of international terrorism and Iraq—threats that will sooner or later, Blair insists, unite against us.

As anyone who has glanced even briefly at the subject knows, there is no evidence whatever that Iraq has any links with international terrorism— Saddam’s sworn enemy, al Qaeda, included—despite probably the most intense and sophisticated monitoring, investigation and surveillance programme in all history. Attempts were made to establish a link in the immediate aftermath of September 11 but were soon abandoned, even by the Bush administration. Nevertheless, with Blair giving the green light, ITN [Independent Television News] is happy to suggest a connection, moving from the report of the discovery of the poison, ricin, to Iraq thus:

“Well while the hunt for the ricin goes on, so do the preparations for war—more military hardware was committed today to targeting Iraq.” (Mark Austin, ITV 6:30 News, January 8, 2003)

Media Lens, “The Great Betrayal,” ZNet (January 10, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=21&ItemID=2849.

 

Last Friday’s National Post front couldn’t have been more chilling if it had run a nude family photo of Michael Jackson.

“Triple Crisis Fuels Alarm in U.S.” dominated a page filled with horrifying headlines such as “North Korea: Its nuclear missiles could reach the West Coast,” “Spies warn of wave of assassins,” “Bush administration fears Saddam in ‘nightmare’ alliance with al-Qaeda,” and, spookiest of all, “The four horsemen are saddling up.”

While we here in the Big Pink aren’t being urged to stock up on duct tape—hardly necessary since the country seems to be actually held together by the stuff—we can’t avoid the spill-over scare-mongering from south of the border. [….]

“Are you ready?” demanded ABC, introducing a Martha Stewart moment which showed how to convert a laundry room into a fallout shelter with tape and tarps.

Interestingly, they never discuss how this do-it-yourself homeland improvement scheme compares with the gabillions of tax dollars worth of military and materiel that will rain down on the people of Iraq.

“If seeing a ‘Terror Alert: High’ sign on your TV screen makes you feel edgy, imagine what it’s like to be living in Baghdad or Basra,” wrote media critic Norman Solomon (www.fair.org) last Thursday. “For people in the United States, the odds that terrorism will strike close to home are very small compared to the chances that any particular Iraqi family will be decimated before summer.”

Antonia Zerbisias, “Why networks are fuelling the fear,” Toronto Star (February 16, 2003): D10.

 

 

10. The attack on Afghanistan and its consequences

This section contains excerpts from writings by Robert Fisk, Marc Herold, James Ingalls, Michele Landsberg, Geov Parrish, Milan Rai, Stephen Shalom and Michael Abert, Stefan Steinberg, Alan Thompson, and Thomas Walkom.

 

(a) Was the war legitimate?

 

“Didn’t the U.S. in fact get Security Council endorsement for its war in Afghanistan?”

No. The United States went to the Security Council twice and both times the resolution that emerged did not authorize U.S. military action against Afghanistan. Resolution 1368 did call “on all States to work together urgently to bring to justice the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of these terrorist attacks,” but this is a far cry from authorizing the United States to decide unilaterally to wage a war against Afghanistan.

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

 

The argument for making war on Afghanistan rested on two propositions: firstly, that there was incontrovertible evidence that the atrocities of 11 September were organised by Osama bin Laden; and, secondly, that there was no nonviolent means of apprehending the al Qaeda leader. In fact, these two propositions do not amount to a justification for the use of force, but let us keep to establishment assumptions.

On 4 October 2001, two interesting things happened in Britain. Prime Minister Tony Blair produced a dossier of ‘evidence’ against Mr bin Laden, which was rubbished throughout the British media—described by the Independent on Sunday, for example, as “conjecture, supposition and assertions of fact”. Hardly incontrovertible evidence.

Also on 4 October 2001, the Daily Telegraph carried a story under the heading “Pakistan halts secret plan for bin Laden trial”. According to this report, leaders of two Pakistani Islamic parties, the Jamaat-i-Islami and the Jamaat Ulema-e-Islam, negotiated Mr bin Laden’s extradition to Pakistan to stand trial for the 11 September attacks. The agreement was that Mr bin Laden would be held under house arrest in Peshawar, and tried before an international tribunal under Islamic shar’ia law. [….]

One key element of the agreement was that the international tribunal could decide either to try him on the spot or to hand Mr bin Laden over to America. This was a new departure for the Taliban. Up until 1 October, the Taliban had been offering to negotiate bin Laden’s extradition to a third country, but had refused to contemplate the possibility of handing him over to Washington.

Why did the extradition break down? It was not blocked by the head of the Taliban, Mullah Omar. According to the Daily Telegraph, the extradition was vetoed by Pakistan’s military leader, “President” Musharraf. The ostensible stumbling block “was that he [Musharraf] could not guarantee bin Laden’s safety”. This is rather implausible.

It is intriguing to read that the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Wendy Chamberlain, was notified in advance of the mission to meet Mullah Omar. During the war on Afghanistan, a US official was quoted as saying that “casting the objectives too narrowly would risk a premature collapse of the international effort if by some lucky chance Mr bin Laden were captured”. It is at least conceivable—in my view it is likely—that it was a US veto that killed the extradition agreement, just as US hostility had rebuffed previous extradition offers from the Taliban….

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

 

(b) Has the war been a “success” in U.S. terms?

 

The links of [Afghan president] Hamid Karzai to the UNOCAL company (and the C.I.A., Britain’s M16 and the U.S. Army’s 5th Special Forces Group) are well known—Karzai having served as a well paid consultant to UNOCAL when it was negotiating with the Taliban. The man who spotted Karzai’s “leadership potential” and recruited him to “the fold” was then RAND program director, Zalmay Khalilzad. The Bush Administration’s special envoy to Afghanistan, appointed nine days after Karzai took office, is Zalmay Khalilzad, graduate of the University of Chicago, another UNOCAL consultant and whose father was an aide to King Zahir, who actually drew up the risk analysis of the proposed $2 billion CentGas pipeline from Turkmenistan through western Afghanistan to Multan, Pakistan.

Khalilzad was undersecretary of defense for George Bush I, during the war against Iraq. After a stint at the Rand Corporation think tank, he headed the Bush-Cheney transition team for the Defense Department and advised Donald Rumsfeld. But he was not rewarded with any promotions. The required Senate confirmation would raise extremely uncomfortable questions about his role as UNOCAL adviser and one-time staunch Taliban defender. He was assigned instead to the Security Council—no Senate confirmation required—where he reports to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (who was a board member of another oil giant, Chevron).

The Enron Corporation, a major political contributor to the Bush campaign, conducted the feasibility study for the CentGas deal. Bush Administration support for the Taliban into August 2001 was guided by energy considerations, in particular wresting control from Russia of the still largely unexploited oil and gas reserves of Central Asia. Russia has kept Central Asia’s vast oil and gas reserves bottled up by restricting access to export pipelines—all of which run over Russian territory. The famous UNOCAL pipeline would go directly from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan—so long as an Afghan Government—whether Taliban or Karzai—can guarantee its safety.

Marc Herold, “Karzai & Associates’ Trickle-Down Reconstruction,” Cursor (May 12, 2002), http://www.cursor.org/stories/karzai.htm.

 

The Americans take them shackled and hooded on to transport aircraft to Kandahar. They live in pens of eight or 10 men. They are given cots with blankets but no privacy. They are forced to urinate and defecate publicly because the Americans want to watch their prisoners at all times.

But United States forces have not only failed to hunt down Osama bin Laden while they are preparing for war in Iraq: they are finding it almost impossible to crack the al-Qa’ida network because Bin Laden’s men have resorted to primitive means of communication that cut individual members of al-Qa’ida off from all information.

This extraordinary, grim scenario comes from an American intelligence officer just back from Afghanistan who agreed to talk to The Independent—and to supply his own photographs of prisoners—on condition of anonymity. [….]

The officer, who spent at least six months in Afghanistan this year, was scathing in his denunciation of General Abdul Rashid Dostam, the Uzbek warlord implicated in the suffocation of up to a thousand Taliban prisoners in container trucks. “Dostam is totally culpable and the US believes he’s guilty but he’s our guy and so we won’t say so.”

Robert Fisk, “With Runners and Whispers, Al-Qa’ida Outfoxes US Forces,” The Independent (December 6, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2712.

 

Today [October 2002], many of the forward bases of the U.S. Special Forces are under intermittent guerilla attack. Rockets, self-propelled grenades, mortar fire hit the bases at night. U.S. troops scamper out to search in vain for the attackers. [….]

[….] Just as in the Soviet case, it took a year for the mujahideen opposition to regroup and coalesce—this is now happening as the forces of Hekmatyar, Al-Qaeda and the Taliban cooperate. The gradual strengthening of the mujahideen was followed by attacks on the Soviets’ Afghan allies, who were easier targets. These attacks then forced the Soviets to take charge of security operations themselves, undermining the illusion of partnership with a local regime. Precisely this has been happening as the U.S. provides protection to Karzai and as it moves the 82nd Airborne Division units into southeastern and western Afghanistan. [….]

Yet, for all their numerical and technological advantages, the Americans and their allies have not figured out how to confront a foe so skilled at concealment. The Soviets referred to their Afghan adversaries as dukhi, the Russian word for ghosts, invisible spirits who attacked out of nowhere only to disappear into nowhere. Russian observers have noted that the United States is at roughly the same stage where they were in 1981, supporting a weak central government, faced with a bubbling opposition.

Ambushes, hit-and-run, rising popular resentment, coalescing opposition forces and an invisible enemy all point to a Vietnam redux.

Marc Herold, “U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan: Vietnam Redux,” Cursor (October 31, 2002), http://www.cursor.org/stories/vietnam_redux.htm.

 

The Chrétien government has committed Canadian infantry to Afghanistan on what is supposed to be a peacekeeping mission.

Almost precisely at the moment when it seemed obvious that Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s government had long since decided to throw its support behind a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq—with or without a United Nations Security Council resolution explicitly authorizing an attack—the government revealed plans to commit up to 2,000 troops to Afghanistan this summer on a one-year peace-keeping mission.

With war on everyone’s mind this week, Defence Minister John McCallum praised the new mission as befitting of Canadian tradition. McCallum said Canada will send a brigade headquarters and battle group to Kabul for two six-month rotations to jointly command the international stabilization force in Afghanistan.

After making the announcement in the House of Commons—in response to a staged question from a Liberal backbench MP—McCallum met with reporters to defend the new peacekeeping endeavour.

“This is a tough and dangerous mission, but it’s also in the peacekeeping tradition of Canadians,” McCallum said.

Alan Thompson, “Call to arms: Canada will take part in a U.S.-led war on Iraq—just not with ground forces. The decision to return to Afghanistan as peacekeepers is seen as a compromise,” Toronto Star (February 15, 2003): E1.

McCallum’s coded language (“a tough and dangerous mission”), coupled with the fact that a senior Canadian army officer resigned in protest over the decision to send troops to Afghanistan, suggests that the Canadian government must be aware that Canadian troops posted to Kabul will be engaged in a counter-insurgency operation rather than in peacekeeping work. The Canadian public, however, has been given no notion of the situation into which our troops will be inserted. Even a journalist as habitually astute as Thomas Walkom anticipates that their function will be a “janitorial” one.

[…] Afghanistan is now a side-show. U.N. peacekeeping, which in the time of Pearson was designed to cool international hot spots, has become a clean-up. Canadian troops going into Kabul will act as a kind of janitorial service, to sort out the mess left after the war against Afghanistan’s former Taliban government.

Thomas Walkom, “As the old world order passes away, Canada can only sit and watch,” Toronto Star (February 15, 2003): E5, http://www.thestar.com.

 

(c) What have its political and humanitarian consequences been?

 

One year after the Americans promised a return to democracy, most of Afghanistan remains carved up among a collection of opulently thievish warlords, many of them the same commanders of armies of mass rape, torture, and murder from whom the country fled to the Taliban as an antidote six years ago.

Geov Parrish, “Match Game,” ZNet (November 16, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2633.

 

As to what happened regarding starvation, we have virtually no idea. No one in the West with the means to count cares to do so. There is some suggestive data, however, that indicates that there were serious humanitarian consequences. Medicine Without Frontiers reported a doubling of the child mortality rate between August 2001 and January 2002 (see the MSF report, 2/21/02 […]). Michael Finkel reported in the New York Times Magazine that in the single Afghan district of Abdulgan out of 15,000 residents, the total number of dead during the war “has to run into the 1,000s.” An estimate in the Guardian (Jonathan Steele, 5/20/02) puts the indirect death toll at 20,000. Nakamura Tetsu, a Japanese doctor who heads an NGO that has worked in Afghanistan and Pakistan for 19 years, has said that “tens of thousands” starved to death as a result of the bombing […].

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

 

President Bush asserted in his “State of the Union” speech in January [2002] that the United States had “saved a people from starvation, and freed a country from brutal oppression,” but the facts show that the US bombing actually exacerbated many of the dangers that existed in pre-Sept 11 Afghanistan. On September 6 2001, the World Food Program described “widespread pre-famine conditions.” They were just about to start a new project to provide food aid to 5.5 million people, but [ten] days later (Sept [16]), all aid convoys were stopped at the borders to prevent “terrorists” from escaping. This put at risk the millions of Afghans who were in danger of starvation, since refugees could no longer leave, and aid couldn’t get in. A month after Bush’s State of the Union announcement that we “saved a people from starvation,” Doctors without Borders reported (21 Feb) that “The food crisis in northern Afghanistan is reaching alarming proportions.” Mortality rates in one Northern camp have doubled since August. That is, twice as many people are dying per day now compared to before the US bombing.

The relief agency CARE has just issued a policy brief (end of September 2002) entitled, “Rebuilding Afghanistan: A little less talk, a lot more action,” in which they complain that “promises [to rebuild the country] now look increasingly suspect.” This is what is called “nation building.” Reconstruction needs in Afghanistan are, according to the report, “significantly higher” than in Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, or East Timor, where international donations averaged $250 per person per year.

And yet, in Afghanistan only $75 has been pledged per person for 2002, and $42 per person per year over the next five years. CARE estimates that Afghanistan needs at least $10 billion over the next 5 years to rebuild, which is not at all forthcoming.

Over $10 billion has been spent on Afghanistan since October 7 2001, mostly by the US government; 84% of it was spent to bomb the country and to finance anti-Taliban fighters. Part of the US plan included a “regime change” shifting the balance of power away from the Taliban and towards the “Northern Alliance.” That meant paying warlords $100,000 each and supplying them with truckloads of weapons. “We were reaching out to every commander that we could,” an intelligence official told the Wall Street Journal (15 Apr 02). Presently the warlords that we supported are “the greatest threats to stability in Afghanistan,” according to CARE. [….]

The United States has eliminated the Taliban, but what is in its place? The president Hamid Karzai has little popular support. He relies on the backing of the US (even his bodyguards are mostly US Special Operations soldiers) and is at the mercy of various warlords, also backed by the US. Peter Singer of the Brookings Institution calls him “basically the mayor of Kabul during daylight hours.” So the US has eliminated one source of instability in Afghanistan, and replaced it with another, which it (partially) controls. The prospects are just as bleak for Iraq, if the US decides to engage in the kind of “regime change” and “nation building” it implemented in Afghanistan.

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

 

Remember Afghanistan? U.S. President George Bush was going to go in there, bomb the Taliban out of existence, catch Osama bin Laden, install a brand-new democracy and make sure that “all the boys and girls could go to school.”

Not only that: By routing the Taliban, Bush could enjoy the rare pleasure of draping himself in the silken mantle of a fighter for women’s rights. During his post-war January, 2002 state of the union speech, he introduced leading Afghan feminist and cabinet minister Dr. Sima Samar (“Today, women are free,” he said) and basked in the applause of Congress. If you’d like to check up on the progress of those grand promises, you can do so tonight [March 2, 2003] when The Passionate Eye (CBC Newsworld at 10 p.m.) shows The Daughters of Afghanistan, a new documentary featuring journalist and activist Sally Armstrong, who has visited that country dozens of times since she began crusading [sic] for Afghan women’s rights in 1996.

The state of Afghanistan is especially relevant right now—though little-reported—because the chaos and misery there give us a glimpse of just how difficult it is to reform a country by means of aerial bombardment. Armstrong says that only about 30 per cent of Afghan girls attend school today, due to lack of resources and a Taliban-like fundamentalist grip on the country outside the capital. The warlords are still running the country, and their rule is cruel, violent and deeply misogynist. Outside of Kabul, girls and women are still jailed for trying to escape forced marriages. They are forced to wear the burqa, attacked by fanatic vice squads, and even seized and subjected to demeaning gynecological “chastity” exams if caught anywhere near a man. Schools are firebombed; warlords troops rape with impunity.

Dr. Samar, so admired by President Bush, was forced out of government by a vicious hoked-up fundamentalist plot a mere six months after becoming deputy prime minister. Reduced to a human rights commissioner, she is left without protection or funds by an indifferent U.S. [….]

The United States has utterly failed to keep its promises to Afghanistan, and especially its promises to reinstate democracy (as though democracy could ever be imposed by outsiders, from above…as it were). It’s worth watching this compelling documentary, just to taste the courage and resilience of the women, and the depth of their betrayal by American power.

The Washington Post says that American hamburger joints are springing up everywhere in Kabul. There might be post-war hamburgers in Baghdad too, but there will be no fast-food version of democracy.

Michele Landsberg, “Afghanistan documentary exposes Bush’s promises,” Toronto Star (March 2, 2003), http://www.thestar.com.

 

Marc Herold of the University of New Hampshire has studied in detail the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan and its humanitarian and political consequences. His essays on the subject include the following:

Marc Herold, “An Average Day: 65 Afghan Civilians Killed by U.S. Bombs on December 20th,” Cursor (December 29, 2001), http://www.cursor.org/stories/ontarget.htm.

----, “A Dossier on Civilian Victims of United States; Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Accounting [revised],” Cursor (March 2002), http://www.cursor.org/stories/civilian_deaths.htm.

----, “Karzai and Associates’ Trickle-Down Reconstruction,” Cursor (May 12, 2002), http://www.cursor.org/stories/karzai.htm.

----, “The Bombing of Afghanistan as Reflection of 9/11 and Different Valuations of Life,” Cursor (September 11, 2002), http://www.cursor.org/stories/heroldon911.htm.

 

 

(d) War crimes committed against Taliban prisoners of war

The United States is alleged to have been implicated in at least two large-scale massacres of prisoners of war in November 2001. After the surrender of the Taliban forces in Kunduz in late November, the Afghani Taliban were released, but between 400 and 800 foreign-born troops (Pakistanis, Uzbeks, Chechens, and Arabs), who had apparently believed they would also be released after their surrender, were trucked to the Qalai-i-Janghi fortress on the outskirts of Mazar-i-Sharif, which the Northern Alliance warlord General Dostum was using as his headquarters. On the night of November 24, several prisoners committed suicide with concealed hand grenades (one of the explosions also killing two of Dostum's men). On November 25, Northern Alliance troops tied the hands of some 250 prisoners behind their backs, and two American CIA agents began to interrogate them. These actions sparked off a revolt of the prisoners, who appear to have thought they were about to be executed. In the ensuing fighting, which involved heavy U.S. bombing of the fortress and the use of U.S. and British special forces soldiers, most of the Taliban soldiers were killed. All who escaped from the fortress were shot, and an Associated Press photographer stated that up to 50 of the corpses he saw had their hands bound. A total of 86 Taliban survived the massacre by hiding in tunnels under the fort.

Shortly after the massacre at Qalai-i-Janghi, a further 3,000 of the 8,000 Taliban troops who had surrendered at Kunduz were locked into closed and unventilated containers and taken by truck to a prison compound in Shibarghan; according to the drivers, 150 to 160 of the 200-300 prisoners in each container died in transit. Witnesses claim that an American officer gave orders to fire into the containers, and that survivors were tortured and summarily executed by American troops. The prisoners were then dumped in the desert, where with some thirty to forty American soldiers looking on, those still alive were shot. In June 2002, the Irish director Jamie Doran’s film Massacre in Mazar, which documents these crimes, was shown in Berlin to members of the German parliament, and in Strasbourg to deputies and members of the press at the European Parliament. This film aroused widespread calls in Europe for an investigation of war crimes; in the United States, news of its existence was suppressed by the corporate media.

 

Doran’s new film includes interviews with eyewitnesses to torture and the slaughter of some 3,000 POWs. It also contains footage of the desert scene where the alleged massacre took place. Skulls, clothing and limbs still protrude from the mound of sand, more than six months after the event.

The film has received widespread coverage in the European press, with articles featured in some of the main French and German newspapers (Le Monde, Suddeutsche Zeitung, Die Welt). Jamie Doran has also given interviews to two of the main German television companies.

While the documentary has become a major news story in Europe, it has been virtually blacked out by the American media. The UPI released a dispatch on the screenings last week, yet the existence of the film has not even been reported by such leading newspapers as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. The film and its allegations of US war crimes have been similarly suppressed by the television networks and cable news channels.

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

 

The account provided above of alleged war crimes against Taliban prisoners of war is based upon Steinberg's article, and upon the following articles:

White, Jerry. “After US massacre of Taliban POWs: the stench of death and more media lies,” World Socialist Web Site (November 29, 2001), http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/nov2001/mass-n29.shtml.

----. “More evidence of US war crimes in Afghanistan: Taliban POWs suffocated inside cargo containers,” World Socialist Web Site (December 13, 2001), http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/des2001/pows-d13.shtml.

WSWS Editorial Board, “The Geneva Convention and the US massacre of POWs in Afghanistan,” World Socialist Web Site (December 7, 2001), http://www.wsws.org/articles/2001/dec2001/pows-d07.shtml.

 

 

11. War crimes in Palestine

This section contains excerpts from writings by Noam Chomsky and Michael Albert, Pepe Escobar, Kristen Ess, Robert Fisk, Amira Hass, Justin Huggler, John Pilger, Mitchell Plitnick, Tanya Reinhart, and Norman Solomon.

It is by no means obvious to most North Americans what direct connections there might be between the American-led attack on Iraq and the ongoing violence inflicted by the Israeli government upon the Palestinian population of the territories which Israel has occupied, in defiance of international law and of repeated UN Security Council resolutions, since 1967.

Since the 1960s, Israel has been used by the United States as a surrogate, a means of indirectly exercising a destabilizing American power over potentially hostile Arab states which are also an essential source of oil. Israel is clearly a key U.S. ally: it has for many years been the primary recipient of U.S. military aid (to the tune of well over $3 billion every year); its policies of settlement and ethnic cleansing in the occupied territories have also received steady U.S. diplomatic and financial support. Israel has in turn provided open and covert assistance to American geopolitical goals in Africa and in Central and South America as well as in the Middle East, and has a long record of hostilities with Iraq.

However, the direct connection between the crises in Iraq and Palestine arises out of the fact that, in their present forms, both crises are a consequence of a single policy vision enunciated and now applied by the right-wing ideologues who in 1997 formed the Project for the New American Century (see section 9[c] above for information about the PNAC—and who are now in effective control of U.S. foreign policy. (The members of the PNAC group include Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle, who was recently obliged by charges of conflict of interest to resign his position of chairman of the Defense Policy Board, but remains a prominent spokesman for the Bush regime.)

The role of the PNAC group in formulating a Middle East policy in which the continuing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and the destruction of Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq are directly linked is analyzed by Pepe Escobar in the following excerpts from an important article published in Asia Times on March 20, 2003.

 

It’s no surprise that Bush, on February 26 [2003], chose to unveil his vision of a new Middle Eastern order at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a right-wing Washington think-tank. The PNAC’s office is nowhere else than on the 5th floor of the AEI Building on 17th St, in downtown Washington. The AEI is the key node of a collection of neoconservative foreign policy experts and scholars, the most influential of whom are members of the PNAC.

The AEI is intimately linked to the Likud Party in Israel—which for all practical purposes has a deep impact on American foreign policy in the Middle East, thanks to the AEI’s influence. In this mutually-beneficial environment, AEI stalwarts are known as Likudniks. It’s no surprise, then, how unparalleled is the AEI’s intellectual Islamophobia. [….]

The AEI’s foreign policy agenda is presided over by none other than Richard Perle. As Perle is a longtime friend and advisor to Rumsfeld, he was rewarded with the post of chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board: its 30-odd very influential members include former national security advisers, secretaries of defense and heads of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Perle is also a very close friend of Pentagon number two Wolfowitz, since they were students at the University of Chicago in the late 1960s. Perle now reports to Wolfowitz.

On September 20, 2001, Perle went on overdrive, fully mobilizing the Defense Policy Board to forge a link between Saddam and al-Quaeda. The PNAC sent an open letter to Bush detailing how a war on terrorism should be conducted. The letter says that Saddam has to go “even if evidence does not link him to the attack”. The letter lists other policies that later were implemented—like the gigantic increase of the defense budget and the total isolation of the Palestinaian Authority (PA), as well as others that may soon follow, like striking Hezbollah in Lebanon and yet-to-be-formulated attacks against Iran and especially Syria if they do not stop support for Hezbollah.

The Bush administration strategy in the past few months of totally isolating the PA’s Yasser Arafat and allowing Israeli premier Ariel Sharon to refuse as much as a handshake, was formulated by the PNAC. Another PNAC letter states that “Israel’s fight is our fight … for reasons both moral and strategic, we need to stand firm with Israel in its fight against terrorism”. The PNAC detested the Camp David accords between Israel and the Palestinians. For the PNAC, a simmering, undeclared state of war against Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Iran is a matter of policy.

Perle, a former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs under Reagan, is also a member of the board of the Jerusalem Post. He wrote a chapter—“Iraq: Saddam Unbound”—in Present Dangers, a PNAC book. He is very close to ultra-hawk Douglas Feith, who was his special counsel under Reagan and is now assistant secretary of defense for policy (one of the Pentagon’s four most senior posts) and also a partner in a small Washington law firm that represents Israeli suppliers of munitions seeking deals with American weapons manufacturers. It was thanks to Perle—who personally defended his candidate to Rumsfeld—that Feith got his current job. He was one of the key people responsible for strategic planning in the war against the Taliban and is also heavily involved in planning the war against Iraq.

David Wurmser, former head of Middle Eastern projects at the AEI, is now special assistant to PNAC founder John Bolton, the undersecretary of state for arms control and a fierce enemy of multilateralism. Wurmser wrote Tyranny’s Ally: America’s failure to defeat Saddam Hussein, a book published by the AEI. The forward is by none other than Perle. Meyrav Wurmser, David’s wife, is a co-founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute.

In July 1996, Perle, Feith and the Wurmser couple wrote the notorious paper for an Israeli think tank charting a roadmap for Likud superhawk and then-incoming Israeli prime minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu. The paper is called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm”. Perle, Feith and the Wurmsers tell Bibi that Israel must shelve the Oslo Accords, the so-called peace process, the concept of “land for peace”, go for it and permanently annex the entire West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The paper also recommends that Israel must insist on the elimination of Saddam, and the restoration of the Hashemite monarchy in Baghdad. This would be the first domino to fall, and then regime change would follow in Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Saudi Arabia. This 1996 blueprint is nothing else than Ariel Sharon’s current agenda in action. In November last year, Sharon took the liberty to slightly modify the domino sequence by growling on the record that Iran should be the next after Iraq.

Bush’s speech on February 26 [2003] at the AEI claimed that the real reason for a war against Iraq is “to bring democracy”[….]. The AEI and the PNAC shaped the now official Bush policy of introducing democracy—by bombing Iraq—and then “successfully transforming the lives of millions of people throughout the Middle East”, in the words of AEI scholar Michael Ledeen. At his AEI speech, Bush did nothing else but parrot the idea.

Pepe Escobar, “This war is brought to you by…,” Asia Times Online (March 20, 2003), http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/EC20Ak07.html.

 

…80 percent of the Palestinians killed in recent months by the Israeli Defense Force during curfew enforcement were children, according to an October report from the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. Twelve people under the age of 16 had been killed, with dozens more wounded by Israeli gunfire in occupied areas, during a period of four months. “None of those killed endangered the lives of soldiers,” B’Tselem said.

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

 

There are about 9,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails. Last night Israeli soldiers abducted 14 more. Since Sharon was re-elected Israeli soldiers have killed 28 Palestinians. This is just in the past eight days. In the last two months Israeli soldiers have murdered 72 Palestinians. This means that the Israeli military kills four Palestinians a day. [….]

My phone rang all night. [….] Friends are calling from the hospital in Gaza where I live, telling me more about the devastation there. The other night Israeli soldiers shot two nurses in Al-Awda Hospital […]. Friends are calling from Rafah, more houses are demolished, the Israelis won’t stop shooting. Two more kids are dead. My friends in the water municipality tell me that more pump stations are destroyed and more wells are contaminated. Just in Rafah it’s at 60 percent without water.

This is ethnic cleansing and in all cases of ethnic cleansing a great deal of effort goes into making the public think those being cleansed are bad, are evil, deserve it, are terrorists. I saw the little boy whom Israeli soldiers shot in one of the camps. He is on permanent crutches, no more than 50 pounds. He and his friend threw stones at a heavily armoured Israeli tank. He is permanently maimed, his friend is dead. The kids in the camp don’t have school again today. Only 50 percent of the entire last year was not under curfew in this area.

Kristen Ess, “Occupied Palestine Report,” ZNet (February 8, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=3004.

 

A senior officer was asked last week if he thought the IDF [Israel Defence Force] could prevent a provocation by supporters of the “transfer” idea in the army and among the settlers of the West Bank, and foil any attempt at a mass expulsion of Palestinians. [….]

The officer admitted he had doubts whether the army could, or would even try, to prevent such an expulsion.

“The army failed when it did not prevent the settlers from sabotaging the Palestinian olive harvest in the West Bank, or prevent the settlers from stealing the olives. The state failed, because as far as we know, those settlers who did sabotage the olive harvest have not been dealt with, although their identities are known to the authorities.” [….]

Every day between five and twenty Palestinians are arrested in the territories. Every few days the IDF invades some place and demolishes something. Every other day, in addition to armed Palestinians, and Palestinians plotting terror attacks being killed, Palestinian civilians are accidentally killed, including children and the elderly. [….]

There are checkpoints with soldiers who scold the elderly and the young or deliberately delay them for no reason; the travel restrictions; the iron gates that turn villages and towns into detention centers; the summons to the Shin Bet, which tries to recruit collaborators and get information about a neighbor or cousin; the curfews and the children locked up at home; the roads that the IDF bulldozers crush and crumble; the houses that are demolished because a terrorist lived in them; the tool and die shops that are destroyed; the water and electricity grids that are damaged during raids; the paving of another road for Jews only; the tear gas grenades at “rioters”; the destruction of more farmland under tank treads.

Amira Hass, “Terror as a Natural Phenomenon,” Ha’aretz (January 15, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=2871.

 

The question hung over the concrete rubble and twisted iron support rods, the ruined buildings where Palestinians said three young men were killed when the Israeli army demolished them this week.

Is the Israeli military taking advantage of a time when the world is not paying attention to what is going on here, when media coverage is focusing on Iraq, to step up its campaign in the occupied territories?

In the past week, while the world’s press focused on the UN security council and Baghdad, the violence has suddenly surged. In six days, at least 30 Palestinians have been killed in a series of Israeli operations, chiefly in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Nablus.

The dead have been a combination of unarmed civilians, armed militants, members of the legitimate Palestinian security forces and one a medic trying to reach a sick patient.

Justin Huggler, “Bodies Piling Up in Gaza and the Apartheid Wall in Bethlehem,” The Independent (February 22, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=3103.

 

When we read about political assassinations and murder of civilians by Israeli helicopters, we should understand, as the victims do, that these are U.S. helicopters with Israeli pilots, provided in the full knowledge that that is how they are going to be used. The point generalizes, and extends to the diplomatic arena as well. To give one example, consider the Fourth Geneva Convention, established immediately after World War II to formally criminalize Nazi atrocities. The U.S. is among the High Contracting Parties that are bound by solemn treaty obligations to enforce the Convention. Apart from the U.S. and Israel, the world has repeatedly insisted that the Convention applies to the territories that Israel occupies with U.S. support. The same conclusion has been forcefully enunciated by the ICRC, which has the responsibility to oversee application of the Convention. The government of Switzerland is the responsible state authority. In that capacity, it called a conference on the matter for December 5 [2001]. The conference was boycotted by the U.S. and Israel, and—more surprisingly—Australia, under U.S. pressure, according to the Australian press. The report on the conference in the London Financial Times opened by stating that “The European Union’s 15 member states were among 114 countries that yesterday agreed an unprecedented declaration reaffirming the illegality of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories and calling on Israel to respect international humanitarian law.” A database search the next day found no reports in the U.S. media […].

Noam Chomsky and Michael Albert, “Extending U.S. Dominance By Any Means Possible,” ZNet (January 2, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/Zmag/articles/jano2albertchomsky.htm.

 

Noam Chomsky has commented elsewhere on the blatant illegalities of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip, from the early period following the 1967 war through to the Oslo “peace process.”

The plan for the Palestinians under military occupation was described frankly to his cabinet colleagues by Moshe Dayan, one of the Labor leaders more sympathetic to the Palestinian plight. Israel should make it clear that “we have no solution, you shall continue to live like dogs, and whoever wishes may leave, and we will see where this process leads.” Following that recommendation, the guiding principle of the occupation has been incessant and degrading humiliation, along with torture, terror, destruction of property, displacement and settlement, and takeover of basis resources, crucially water. [….]

The goal of the Oslo process was accurately described in 1998 by Israeli academic Shlomo Ben-Ami just before he joined the Barak government, going on to become Barak’s chief negotiator at Camp David in summer 2000. Ben-Ami observed that “in practice, the Oslo agreements were founded on a neo-colonialist basis, on a life of dependence of one on the other forever.” With these goals, the Clinton-Rabin-Peres agreements were designed to impose on the Palestinians “almost total dependence on Israel,” creating “an extended colonial situation,” which is expected to be the “permanent basis” for “a situation of dependence.” The function of the Palestinian Authority (PA) was to control the domestic population of the Israeli-run neocolonial dependency. That is the way the process unfolded, step by step, including the Camp David suggestions. The Clinton-Barak stand (left vague and ambiguous) was hailed here [in the U.S.] as “remarkable” and “magnanimous,” but a look at the facts made it clear that it was—as commonly described in Israel—a Bantustan proposal; that is presumably the reason why maps were carefully avoided in the US mainstream. It is true that Clinton-Barak advanced a few steps towards a Bantustan-style settlement of the kind that South Africa instituted in the darkest days of Apartheid. Just prior to Camp David, West Bank Palestinians were confined to over 200 scattered areas, and Clinton-Barak did propose an improvement: consolidation to three cantons, under Israeli control, virtually separated from one another and from the fourth canton, a small area of east Jerusalem, from the center of Palestinian life and communications in the region. And of course separated from Gaza, where the outcome was left unclear.

But now that plan has apparently been shelved in favor of demolition of the PA. That means destruction of the institutions of the potential Bantustan […]. The prominent Israeli scholar Ze’ev Sternhell writes that the government “is no longer ashamed to speak of war when what they are really engaged in is colonial policing, which recalls the takeover by the white police of the poor neighborhoods of the blacks in South Africa during the apartheid era.” This new policy is a regression below the Bantustan model of South Africa 40 years ago to which Clinton-Rabin-Peres-Barak and their associates aspired in the Oslo “peace process.”

Noam Chomsky and Michael Albert, “Interview with Chomsky,” Z Magazine / Znet (April 3, 2002).

 

Israel is asking the United States for $8bn (£5bn) in loan guarantees—and has sent to Washington one of the former army officers implicated in the 1982 Sabra and Chatila massacre of Palestinian civilians to persuade the Bush administration to grant the money.

Amos Yaron, who is now director general of the Israeli Ministry of Defence, was the military commander in Beirut when Lebanese Phalangist militiamen entered the refugee camps and slaughtered up to 1,700 Palestinian refugees. He ordered flares to be dropped over the camps, at the request of the Phalange, and Israeli soldiers blocked the exits to prevent civilians from leaving the area.. Israel is pleading for the money—along with an additional $4bn in military aid—on the grounds that a US invasion of Iraq will provoke further attacks against Israel.

Robert Fisk, “Israeli at US Loan Talks Is Implicated In Massacre,” The Independent (January 13, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticled.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=2857.

 

I believe that even much before its present atrocities, Israel has followed the South-African Apartheid model. Behind the smoke screen of the Oslo "Peace process", Israel has been pushing the Palestinians in the occupied territories into smaller and smaller isolated enclaves—a direct copy of the Bantustans model. Unlike South Africa, however, Israel has managed so far to sell its policy as a big compromise for peace. Aided by a battalion of cooperating 'peace-camp' intellectuals, they managed to convince the world that it is possible to establish a Palestinian state without land-reserves, without water, without a glimpse of a chance of economic independence, in isolated ghettos surrounded by fences, settlements, bypass roads and Israeli army posts—a virtual state which serves one purpose: separation (Apartheid).

But what Israel is doing under Sharon far exceeds the crimes of South Africa's white regime. It has been taking the form of systematic ethnic cleansing, which South Africa never attempted. Since April last year (following the Jenin "operation") we are witnessing the daily invisible killing of the sick and wounded being deprived of medical care, the weak who cannot survive in the new poverty conditions, and those who are bound to reach starvation.

Since the US is backing Israel and the European governments are silent, it is the moral right and duty of the people of the world to do whatever they can on their own to stop Israel and save the Palestinians.

Tanya Reinhart (Professor of Linguistics, Tel Aviv University), “Academic Boycott: In Support of Paris VI” (February 4. 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=2961.

 

The Palestinian writer Ghada Karmi has described “a deep and unconscious racism [that] imbues every aspect of western conduct toward Iraq”. She wrote: “I recall that a similar culture prevailed in the UK during the 1956 Suez crisis and the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, when Nasser was the arch-villain and all Arabs were crudely targeted. Today, in Britain, such overt anti-Arabness is unacceptable, so it takes subtler forms. Saddam-bashing, a sport officially sanctioned since 1991, has made him the perfect surrogate for anti-Arab abuse.”

[…] veiled racism [has] propel[led] every western attack on Arabs, from Churchill's preference in 1921 for “using poison gas on uncivilised tribes” to the use of depleted uranium in the 1991 Gulf slaughter. This racism applies, quintessentially, to [Ghada Karmi’s] homeland, Palestine. While the Iraq pantomime plays, America's proxy, Israel, has begun the next stage of its historic ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. On 21 January, the town of Naziat ‘Iza in the northern West Bank was invaded by a force of armoured personnel carriers, tanks and 60-ton, American-made Israeli bulldozers. Sixty-three shops were demolished, along with countless homes and olive groves. Little of this was reported outside the Arab world. Some parts of the West Bank have been under curfew for a total of 214 days. Whole villages are under house arrest. People cannot get medical care; ambulances have been prevented from reaching hospitals; women have lost their newborn babies in agony and pools of blood at military checkpoints. Fresh water is permanently scarce, and food; in some areas, more than half the children are seriously undernourished. One image unforgettable to me is the sight of children's kites flying from the windows and yards of their prison-homes.

Then there is the slaughter. During the month of November, more than 50 Palestinian civilians were killed by the Israelis—a record by one calculation. These included a 95-year-old woman, 14 young children and a British UN worker, shot in the back by an Israeli sniper. Human rights groups say the deaths occurred mostly in circumstances in which there was no exchange of gunfire. “The Israelis have killed 16 Palestinians within 49 hours,” said Dr Mustafa Barghouti in Ramallah on 27 January. “That’s an average of one Palestinian every three hours. The silence about this is simply unconscionable.”

While Blair damns Iraq for the chemical weapons that a swarm of inspectors cannot find, he has quietly approved the sale of chemical weapons to Israel, a terrorist and rogue state by any dictionary meaning of those words. While he accuses Iraq of defying the United Nations, he is silent about the 64 UN resolutions Israel has ignored—a world record.

The Israeli terrorists, who subjugate and brutalise a whole nation, demolishing homes and shops, expelling and killing and “systematically torturing” (Amnesty) day after day, are not mentioned in the Observer editorial [of January 19, 2003, in which that newspaper announced its support for an attack on Iraq]. No “decisive action” (the Observer's words) is required against the prima facie war criminals Ariel Sharon and General Shaul Mofaz, who, along with their predecessors, have caused a degree of suffering of which Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda can only dream. There is no suggestion that the British force heading for the Middle East should “intervene” in the “republic of fear” that Israel has created in Palestine in defiance of the world, and “displace” them. There is not a word about the weapons of mass destruction that Sharon repeatedly flaunts (“the Arabs may have the oil, but we have the matches”).

To most people in Europe, and across the world, these double standards offend common decency.

John Pilger, “Betrayal of a Noble Legacy,” ZNet (February 1, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=11&ItemID=2943.

 

The only road to a decent future for everyone in the region is paved with the recognition that their future is one. Israeli leaders must recognize that the occupation has not only spilled a river of blood, the majority of it Palestinian; has not only destroyed what was left of Palestinian infrastructure, and many Palestinian homes and families; it has also done enormous damage to the Israeli economy and the Israeli social fabric. It is Israel, as the occupier, that must recognize that the only peaceful and just future is one where they are living with the Palestinians, as part of the Middle East, as a neighbor among equals, rather than as a dominating force and military base for the United States. And it is Israel that must realize that the only way to start toward that future is to end the occupation.

Mitchell Plitnick, “Scandalous Diversions,” Jewish Voice for Peace Newsletter (January 14, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=22&ItemID=2865.

 

 

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

The titles listed here can serve as a reminder that the monstrous events that are now under way cry out for forms of historical explanation that can be both alert to patterns of cultural and material causation and also, in the deepest sense, ethically responsible.

Ali, Tariq. The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity. London: Verso, 2002.

Arnove, Anthony, ed. Iraq Under Siege: The Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War. 2nd ed., London: Pluto, 2003.

Brenner, Robert. “The Continuing Collapse of the US Economy.” London Review of Books, vol. 25, no. 3 (February 6, 2003): 18-23.

Chomsky, Noam. Class Warfare: Noam Chomsky in Conversation, 1992-1996. Interviewed by David Barsamian. Vancouver: New Star Books, 1997.

----. 9-11. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2001.

----. Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky. Ed. Peter R. Mitchell and John Schoeffel. New York: The New Press, 2002.

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

Chossudovsky, Michel. War and Globalisation: The Truth Behind September 11. Shanty Bay, Ontario: Global OutlookTM, 2002.

Cockburn, Andrew, and Patrick Cockburn. Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein. 1999; rpt. New York: HarperPerennial, 2000.

----. Saddam Hussein: An American Obsession. London: Verso, 2002.

Dyer, Gwynne. Ignorant Armies: Sliding into War in Iraq. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2003.

Fisk, Robert. “Tired of being lied to.” The Independent (February 15, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=51&ItemID=3502.

Hiro, Dilip. Iraq: In the Eye of the Storm. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press/Nation Books, 2002.

McMurtry, John. The Cancer Stage of Capitalism. London: Pluto Press, 1999.

----. Value Wars: The Global Market Versus the Life Economy. London: Pluto Press, 2002.

Miller, Mark Crispin. The Bush Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder. New York: Norton, 2002.

Mokhiber, Russell, and Robert Weissman. “Corporations, War, You.” ZNet (February 7, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=40&ItemID=2992.

Monbiot, George. “Too much of a good thing: Underlying the US drive to war is a thirst to open up new opportunities for surplus capital.” The Guardian (February 18, 2003): 17.

----. “Left Behind to Starve: A humanitarian disaster is engulfing Africa as cash is poured into the war with Iraq and its aftermath.” ZNet (March 18, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3259.

Nitzan, Jonathan, and Shimson Bichler. The Global Political Economy of Israel. London: Pluto Press, 2002.

Parenti, Michael. America Besieged. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1998.

Petras, James, and Henry Veltmayer. Globalization Unmasked: Imperialism in the 21st Century. New York and London: Zed Books; Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 2001.

Petras, James. “Nine Eleven: One year of empire building.” Rebelión (August 12, 2002). http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/1yrEmpBlding.html.

Pilger, John. The New Rulers of the World. London: Verso, 2002.

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

Rai, Milan. War Plan Iraq: Ten Reasons Against War on Iraq. London: Verso, 2002.

Ritter, Scott. Endgame: Solving the Iraq Crisis. 2nd ed., New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.

Solomon, Norman, and Reese Erlich. Target Iraq: What the News Media Don't Tell You. New York: Context Books, 2003.

Stich, Rodney. Drugging America: A Trojan Horse. Alamo, California: Diablo Western Press, 1999.

Vidal, Gore. Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got To Be So Hated. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press/Nation Books, 2002.

----. “The Enemy Within.” The Observer (October 27, 2002), Review Section, 1-4, http://burningbush.netfirms.com/Vidal.html.

 

 

13. What Is To Be Done?

The excerpts here are from writings by Michael Albert, Michael Albert and Stephen Shalom, Noam Chomsky, Subcomandante Marcos, Ken Nichols O’Keefe, John Pilger, Justin Podur, and Arundhati Roy.

 

Resolution 1441 [of the UN Security Council] shows that the US has the diplomatic support it needs to go to war. But diplomatic support from governments and elites will not be enough if there is enough resistance and protest from ordinary people. In September 2002, George W Bush threatened the United Nations with ‘irrelevance’ if it didn’t support his war. The reverse is true: the UN demonstrates its irrelevance when it takes decisions that the people of the world are against. Whatever the UN Security Council does, the people of the world are not irrelevant.

People who cannot be persuaded to trade human lives for oil concessions, who won’t accept a slaughter of civilians simply because the elites of the states who vote in the United Nations were bribed and threatened into signing off on the war, can mobilize to stop the war. If US plans have been slowed at all, it is because of them—the tens of thousands mobilizing in the US, the hundreds of thousands mobilizing in Europe and all over the world.

Justin Podur, “Resolution 1441,” Znet (Nov. 11, 2002), http://zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItenID=2613.

 

[T]he intellectual responsibility of the writer, or any decent person, is to tell the truth. [….] it is a moral imperative to find out and tell the truth as best one can, about things that matter, to the right audience. [….]

To speak truth to power is not a particularly honorable vocation. One should seek out an audience that matters—and furthermore (another important qualification), it should not be seen as an audience, but as a community of common concern in which one hopes to participate constructively.

Noam Chomsky, “Writers and Intellectual Responsibility,” in Perspectives on Power (Montréal: Black Rose Books, 1997), pp. 55, 61.

 

Effective activism raises the social cost to elites of policies that activists wish to reverse. When that cost is raised high enough, elites begin to switch their positions to try to reduce the social costs, no longer favoring but now opposing the policy. If enough members of elite corporate and political sectors switch their priority, the policy changes.

During the war on Vietnam, many elite figures—including politicians, prominent media people, intellectuals, CEOs, and so on—moved from being advocates of the war to opponents of it. Of course working people and students also switched sides, for moral reasons. But with very few exceptions (such as Daniel Ellsberg or William Fulbright) when these elite figures switched from support to opposition, they did so for reasons of social cost. [….]

That change of mind due to rising social costs is the aim of critical dissent. We need a movement broad and committed enough so its continued growth is sufficiently threatening that elites decide it is better to give in and hope that doing so dissolves the impetus to movement growth, rather than to continue with their war risking what the movement might unleash. To switch from pro- to antiwar in sufficient numbers to cause a policy change, elites must be more threatened by the movement than they are in love with their war.

Michael Albert and Stephen R. Shalom, “Ten Q & A On Antiwar Organizing” (October 24, 2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?sectionID=15&ItemID=2527.

 

Day by day, the latest headlines tell us that we are moving ever closer to war with Iraq. So many people around the world are ashamed and outraged by this prospect and yet feel powerless to make their voices heard. Large rallies for peace have been held in cities around the world. Yet the bulletins quickly return to the war drums beating ever faster for what must be one of the most choreographed and longest-planned wars in history.

Those who suffer most will of course be the innocent and victimized men, women and children in Iraq who are set to endure yet another war and unknown loss of life. Their crime? Simply to be the powerless citizens of an oil rich nation with a violent dictator who no longer fulfils the needs of Western powers who supported and armed him in the past.

Yet we need not be powerless. Gandhi said that “peace will not come out of a clash of arms but out of justice lived and done by unarmed nations in the face of odds.” So what would happen if several thousand Western citizens migrated to Iraq to stand side by side with the Iraqi people? Along with at first just a few hundred people—from hundreds of millions in the West—I will be going to Iraq to volunteer to act as a human shield in the interests of protecting human life. We will join our fellow citizens of the world in Iraq to bear witness for peace and justice.

We will run the risk of being maimed or killed—but it is simply the same risk that innocent Iraqis will themselves face. I would rather die in defense of justice and pace than “prosper” in complicity with mass murder and war. This not about supporting Saddam Hussein, as our governments did in the past. It is about saving the lives of those in our human family. We will be expressing to the Iraqi people the reality that most people in the West do not support this criminal war. [….]

For me, this is also an act of personal penance. In 1989, at the age of nineteen I committed the most ignorant act of my life, I joined the United States Marine Corps. In 1991 I went beyond ignorance into criminal participation in a war against the Iraqi people which ultimately included the use of depleted uranium against the civilian population. My reward as an “American Hero” was to be used by Bush Sr. as a human guinea pig along with several hundred thousand other “heroes”. We have still not been told the full story about “Gulf War syndrome” or how many of my fellow soldiers died as a result, but we do know the value our leaders put on our lives. When a nation’s leaders do not even respect the lives of their own “sons and daughters,” the enemy will never enter into the realm of consideration. The hundreds of thousands killed by sanctions against Iraq are seen as a price worth paying. The human costs of another war in Iraq barely seem to register with our political leaders. [….]

This “War on Terror” is becoming the ultimate “War on Freedom”, in the United States and around the world. George Bush has said that “every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make: either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”

But we do not only have two choices. For the record, I am not with George Bush or with the terrorists. And that is why, when this war finally begins, I will be in Iraq—with the people of Iraq. I invite everybody to join me in declaring themselves not citizens of nations but world citizens prepared to act in solidarity with the most wretched on our planet and join us or to support our efforts in other ways.

Ken Nichols O’Keefe, “Back to Iraq as a Human Shield,” The Observer (December 29 (2002), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=51&ItemID=2806.

 

In 1946, Justice Robert Jackson, chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, said: “The very essence of the Nuremberg charter is that individuals have international duties which transcend national obligations of obedience imposed by the state.”

With an attack on Iraq almost a certainty, the millions who filled London and other capitals on the weekend of 15-16 February, and the millions who cheered them on, now have these transcendent duties. The Bush gang, and Tony Blair, cannot be allowed to hold the rest of us captive to their obsessions and war plans. Speculation on Blair’s political future is trivia; he and the robotic Jack Straw and Geoff Hoon must be stopped now, for the reasons long argued in these pages and on hundreds of platforms.

And, incidentally, no one should be distracted by the latest opportunistic antics of [international development minister] Clare Short, whose routine hints of “rebellion”, followed by her predictable inaction, have helped to give Blair the time he wants to subvert the UN.

There is only one form of opposition now: it is civil disobedience leading to what the police call civil unrest. The latter is feared by undemocratic governments of all stripes.

The revolt has already begun. In January, Scottish train drivers refused to move munitions. In Italy, people have been blocking dozens of trains carrying American weapons and personnel, and dockers have refused to load arms shipments. US military bases have been blockaded in Germany, and thousands have demonstrated at Shannon which, despite Ireland's neutrality, is being used by the US military to refuel its planes en route to Iraq.

“We have become a threat, but can we deliver?” asked Jessica Azulay and Brian Dominick of the American resistance movement. “Policy-makers are debating right now whether or not they have to heed our dissent. Now we must make it clear to them that there will be political and economic consequences if they decide to ignore us.”

My own view is that if the protest movement sees itself as a world power, as an expression of true internationalism, then success need not be a dream. That depends on how far people are prepared to go. The young female employee of the Gloucestershire-based top-secret Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), who was charged this month with leaking information about America's dirty tricks operation on members of the Security Council, shows us the courage required.

In the meantime, the new Mussolinis are on their balconies, with their virtuoso rants and impassioned insincerity. Reduced to wagging their fingers in a futile attempt to silence us, they see millions of us for the first time, knowing and fearing that we cannot be silenced.

John Pilger, “Civil disobedience is the sole path left for those who cannot support the Bush-Blair act of aggression. Only then will politicians on both sides of the Atlantic be forced to recognise the folly of their ways” (March 13, 2003), http://pilger.carlton.com/print/132798.

 

[…] I intend to reply to the demand to support our troops by saying that yes, I too “support our troops.”

I will reply that I support our troops not having to kill people in Iraq.

I support our troops not being ordered to assault defenseless populations, towns, farms, and the infrastructural sinews of life that sustain a whole country's citizenry.

I support our troops not having to carry out orders from Commander in Chief George Bush and then having to live the rest of their lives wondering why they obeyed such a barbaric buffoon rather than resisting his illegitimate, immoral authority. [….]

I support our troops not dying in Iraq figuratively or literally, physically or psychologically. I support our troops coming home with their hearts not broken, retaining humanity and compassion essential to feeling true solidarity with those who confront tyrannical behaviour abroad, or right here in the U.S. with its 30 million tyrannized poor.

I support our troops coming home with their minds ravenous to comprehend what is wrong with war for empire, what is wrong with war to obliterate international law, what is wrong with war to control oil and use it as a bludgeon against allies and enemies alike, what is wrong with war for profit, what is wrong with war to intimidate whole nations and continents, what is wrong with war to subordinate a planet and even to test and trumpet the tools of war. [….]

I support our troops refusing to kill on behalf of politicians and profiteers. I support our troops rebelling against orders, not obeying them. I support our troops rejecting reasons of state. And I support our troops coming home to where their real battle is. [….]

What should we do about the U.S.? We should curtail its belligerency, change its regime, and fundamentally revolutionize its centers of wealth and power.

Support our troops, bring them home.

Support our troops, provide them housing.

Support our troops, provide them health care.

Support our troops, provide them socially valuable jobs. [….]

Support our troops, and one day they will join the fight for unlimited justice for all.

Michael Albert, “Support our Troops,” ZNet (March 17, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=3255.

 

For us there is but one dignified word and one conscientious action in the face of this war. The word “NO” and the rebel action.

That is why we must say “NO” to war.

A “NO” without conditions or excuses.

A “NO” without half measures.

A “NO” untarnished by gray areas.

A “NO” with all the colors which paint the world.

A “NO” which is clear, categorical, resounding, definitive, worldwide.

What is at stake in this war is the relationship between the powerful and the weak. The powerful is powerful because he makes us weak. He lives off our work, off our blood. That is how he grows fat while we languish.

The powerful have invoked God at their side in this war, so that we will accept their power and our weakness as something that has been established by divine plan.

But there is no god behind this war other than the god of money, nor any right other than the desire for death and destruction.

The only strength of the weak is their dignity. That is what inspires them to fight in order to resist the powerful, in order to rebel.

Today there is a “NO” which shall weaken the powerful and strengthen the weak: the “NO” to war.

Some might ask whether the word which has convened so many throughout the world will be capable of preventing the war or, once it has begun, of stopping it.

But the question is not whether we can change the murderous march of the powerful. No. The question we should be asking is: could we live with the shame of not having done everything possible to prevent and stop this war?

No honest man or woman can remain silent and indifferent at this moment.

Subcomandante Marcos, “No to war: A Letter to Rebel Italy,” ZNet (February 16, 2003), http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=51&ItemID=3057.

 

The time has come, the Walrus said. Perhaps things will become worse and then better. Perhaps there’s a small god up in heaven readying herself for us. Another world is not only possible, she’s on her way. Maybe many of us won’t be here to greet her, but on a quiet day, if I listen very carefully, I can hear her breathing.

Arundhati Roy, “Come September,” Lensic Performing Arts Center (September 29, 2002), ZNet, http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2404.

 

 

 

 

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Forging Freedom: Critical Humanist Strategies of Resistance to Corporatism, the Munro Beattie Lecture, 1999-2000, Carleton University

[This essay was delivered on 11 February 2000 as the invited Munro Beattie Lecture, 1999-2000 at Carleton University. The version that appears here incorporates revisions made in 2003 for a projected volume, to be published by Carleton University Press, that was to have brought together the four most recent Munro Beattie lectures, but that never appeared. Abbreviated versions of this paper were delivered as invited lectures to the Miedzywydzialowy Zaklad Studiow Amerykanskich of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland (18 April 2000), and at the conference on Italy and Canadian Culture: Nationalisms in the New Millennium at the University of Udine, Italy (18-20 May 2000), but it has not previously been published.]

 

1. Inventing crises

I wonder whether the widespread failure of North Americans to notice that we are living in the midst of a social and political revolution stems more distinctly from inattention, from diffidence, or from incredulity. In the United States, one might incline toward the former explanation: our southern neighbours have a well-nurtured capacity (not seriously dented by the events of September 11, 2001 and their aftermath) for remaining sublimely unaware of much that goes on in the world. Diffidence, on the other hand, is supposed to be a national characteristic of Canadians: have we perhaps noticed the transformations taking place all around us, but all-too-tactfully refrained from giving them a name? Or have we simply been unable to credit what is happening, either because we think of revolutions as events that occur, by definition, elsewhere and in other times, or else because the very notion of a revolution has been so debased by its application in advertising to everything from automotive styling to men's toiletries that we greet fresh deployments of the term with a yawn?

Whatever else we might fault them for, the corporatist revolutionaries of our time cannot be accused of having failed to disclose their intentions—and their strategies as well. Ronald Reagan campaigned for the American presidency in 1980 as the bringer of something he called “the Reagan Revolution”; a year into his first term his budget director, David Stockman, revealed with surprising candour the way in which Reagan’s handlers (if not the president himself) understood what they were up to. All the talk about balanced budgets and prosperity through “trickle-down” economics was hot air, Stockman confessed. The real goal was a radical redirection of resources away from social spending, and a deliberate amassing of huge budget deficits that would make this redirection irreversible by depriving future governments of the wherewithal to restore the welfare and civil rights entitlements cut away by the Reaganites.1 A liberal welfare-state future, should the opposition to this radical conservatism ever sufficiently reassert itself to the point of contemplating such a thing, would be discovered to have been pre-emptively, already and for ever, bankrupted.

The anxiously proleptic temporality disclosed by Stockman’s indiscretions, this desire to constrain succeeding generations by bankrupting any possible alternative to the future that is being envisioned and announced, is one early sign—despite all the obvious continuities with prior forms of capitalist governance—of the radically transformative nature of what I will be calling the corporatist revolution. There is, of course, a large disjunction between the Reaganite rhetoric of economic and military rejuvenation, which implied the opening out of an expanding field of choices for the American polity, and the force of negation revealed in this desire for a foreclosure of all futures but one—beneath which may be detectable a more deeply rooted readiness to cancel human futures altogether. It was, after all, a colleague of David Stockman in Reagan’s first cabinet, Environment Secretary James Watt, who justified the issuing of mining permits in national parks by remarking that Jesus expects us to have exhausted all of the planet’s resources before he returns to earth.2 The strip-mining of national parks would, in this view, accelerate the Second Coming, the end of time, the cancellation of futurity in a blessed eternal present.

Brian Mulroney, Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin, Preston Manning, Stockwell Day, Stephen Harper, and the other politicians who since 1984 have collaborated in hitching the Canadian caboose ever more tightly onto the tail end of the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush Express have, on the whole, been less forthcoming about their motives than David Stockman was. But the inhabitants of Ontario, our most populous and economically most powerful province, have had in Premier Mike Harris another self-proclaimed revolutionary—and in the figure of John Snobelen, Harris’s first Education Minister, one of the philosophers not just of Harris’s “Common Sense Revolution,” but also of the larger corporatist revolution of which it was a part. Shortly after taking office in 1995, Snobelen had himself videotaped explaining his plans for change to senior education ministry bureaucrats—one of whom had the decency to share a copy with the media. Despite the informal looseness of his syntax, Snobelen’s meaning is clear:

“[We must] bankrupt the actions and activities that aren’t consistent with the future we’re committed to. But there are a couple of things we need to get done properly along the way. One of those is ... to declare the future.

“.... It’s not a very collaborative process. That needs to be done before what needs bankrupting and how to bankrupt it occurs.

“I like to think of it as creating a useful crisis.... Creating a useful crisis is what part of this will be about. So the first bunch of communications that the public might hear might be more negative than I might be inclined to talk about [otherwise].

“Yeah, we need to invent a crisis. And that’s not an act just of courage—there’s some skill involved.”3

Snobelen’s words were dismissed by some commentators as mere “bafflegab”—an interpretation he encouraged when he responded to calls for his resignation by claiming that he did not mean to “invent a crisis” in any normal sense, but had been using a management-consultant jargon in which these plain words signified something else altogether. But with due allowances made for differences in historical context and in the scale of the bankrupting at hand, Snobelen’s project is quite obviously a development of the Reagan Revolution, and his posturings provide a glimpse of the mental workings that underlie and correspond to the radical material transformations being organized by contemporary capitalist corporatism.4 The strategy Snobelen enunciated was promptly followed by the Harris government, with invented crises in public housing, welfare, environmental regulation, labour legislation, municipal restructuring, primary and secondary education, health care, urban transportation, and public utilities, including water supply and the generation and distribution of electricity. Higher education has also come in for its share of attention.

 

2. Defunding criticism

With cuts of 25 percent during the 1990s to university budgets that in the late 1980s stood at little more than two-thirds of the funding per student provided to equivalent state universities in the northern United States, Ontario had by the beginning of the new millennium sunk to a level of per capita funding of post-secondary education that put the province last or second-last among the sixty jurisdictions with post-secondary systems north of the Rio Grande. But in this case the invented crisis is being compounded by demographic factors. University administrations have belatedly woken up to the fact that the demographic bulge known as the “baby-boom echo,” which will produce a ten to fifteen percent increase in the annual student cohort, is currently moving up through the Canadian school system, and will arrive at the college and university level at approximately the same time as the “double cohort” that Ontario’s elimination of Grade 13, the final year of secondary school, will produce in 2003.5 In anticipation of an overall enrollment increase of forty percent by 2010, the Council of Ontario Universities in October 1999 urgently requested the commitment of at least $1 billion per year in additional base funding, in addition to the $742 million that the government had announced would be allocated to capital funding.6 The Harris government promptly slapped the universities away from the cookie-jar with a further $30-million cut, and then in February 2000 initiated a reduced $660-million program of capital spending on universities and community colleges. Targeting this funding to such areas as information technology, engineering and the health sciences, the Ontario government also made it available only in cases where matching funds could be raised from outside sources, thus ensuring corporate control of a remodeled higher education infrastructure. As finance minister Ernie Eves declared, “The private sector ... believes it’s best to have some input on the ground floor of the postsecondary education system.... They know what skills are required in the marketplace.”7 Any shortfall in the capacity of the post-secondary education system is to be met by recourse to this same private sector, through an invitation to private degree-granting institutions to establish themselves in the province—presumably in the form of what historian David Noble has called “digital diploma mills”: low-overhead distance education operations employing ill-paid faculty on revolving door contracts to provide job-market training to large numbers of students in a manner that maximizes the institution’s profits.8

Having informed Ontario’s universities that capital funding could be requested from the provincial government only for expanded programs in the applied sciences, Premier Harris subsequently declared that the universities’ proposals for funding showed there to be student demand and institutional need for new money in these areas alone, and not in the humanities and social sciences: “The demand for new programs is not in liberal arts. The demand is in the areas where the universities have made applications for significant expansion [to prepare students] for jobs in the future.”9 When the Ontario university chancellors reacted to this maneuver by issuing a statement defending liberal arts programs, Harris simply repeated his claim: “We haven’t had very many universities saying they need to expand history and Latin and English departments. We have a lot of universities saying they have a huge demand for engineering, for mathematics, for a lot of these new programs. So we’re responding to their requests.”10

The deception is childishly transparent. As the premier and his policy advisers must have been aware, there had in fact been “a significant increase” since 1998 in student applications to Bachelor of Arts programs in Ontario universities, and at the same time “a decrease in applications to professional programs such as Engineering, and a slight decrease in applications to the sciences.”11 Setting aside the premier’s evident contempt for facts, it is interesting to see a discourse of “free-market” supply and demand applied to a policy system that more closely resembles a Stalinist command economy.

As with the invented crisis that our federal government has created by its withdrawal of support for the Canadian health care system, the current crisis in higher education seems designed to convince the public that a once very satisfactory arrangement—a publicly-funded sector that has fulfilled an essential social function with (in comparison to the American parallels) high efficiency, high quality and low cost—needs to be replaced by an increasingly privatized system run by private corporations for private profit.12 In this light the Ontario Conservative government’s deep tax cuts—44 percent between 1995 and 2000, with further cuts enacted in 2001,13 and additional corporate tax cuts promised for 2002-03—can be seen to have served the double function of rewarding the high-income supporters whom they disproportionately favour, and of preventing the economic boom of the late 1990s from pushing the government into budget surpluses that would have made it hard to justify continued cuts to essential public services in the name of deficit reduction.14

It would be naïve to suppose that Premier Harris’s repeated dismissals of the human sciences as useless and unwanted implied any claim to knowledge of some actual state of affairs. What these speech acts displayed was rather an ideologically formed intention, a will to bring about irrevocable change. Despite its grammatical form, Harris’s declaration that there is no new public demand for liberal arts programs was performative rather than constative in nature: a statement not of what he took to be the case but of what he intended should become the case.15 The agenda of the Ontario Conservative government, and of its imitators in British Columbia and elsewhere, involves a systematic defunding of those sectors of the universities and colleges within which a critical understanding of sociocultural structures and forces can be produced, and a transfer of resources to those sectors that are most purely instrumental in orientation and most clearly aligned with the profit nexus of corporate interests.

Harris’s sneering anti-intellectualism—“We seem to be graduating more people who are great thinkers,” he declared in February 2000, “but they know nothing about math or science or engineering or the skill sets that are needed”16—earned him an editorial cartoon in The Globe and Mail which revised Jacques-Louis David’s painting of “The Death of Socrates” to show a blandly smiling Ontario Premier handing Socrates the cup of hemlock.17 But Harris’s attitudes seem in fact to be widely shared among Canada’s political elites, for although the Ontario government has been more vociferous than its federal counterpart in valuing “skill sets” above critical intelligence, its instrumentalism and its drive towards privatization dovetail neatly with the higher education agenda of Jean Chrétien’s neo-Liberal national government.

In October 1998, federal Trade Minister Sergio Marchi took part in the Second Annual Canadian Education Industry Summit, a conference which energetically promotes privatization at all levels of the education system and enthuses over the huge profits available within the “education for profit industry.” The Summit’s aim, according to its own promotional literature, is “to create a platform for the education industry leaders and the investment community to discuss the unique opportunities in this new .... $700 billion growth industry.” Marchi’s participation in the event signalled, in the words of Summit organizer Charles Ivey, the “clear support and involvement of Canada’s Federal Government.”18

This and similar signals have been accompanied by action. Federal finance minister Paul Martin’s February 28, 2000 budget denied any funding increase to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Medical Research Council, while lavishing $900-million (a fraction of the sum withdrawn by the federal government from higher education funding since 1993) upon the recently established Canadian Foundation for Innovation. Louise Forsyth, president of the Humanities and Social Science Federation of Canada, noted that because CFI funding is restricted to the areas of technology and applied science, and because the federal government made no provision for the infrastructures needed to support a revival of research activity, this initiative can “only exacerbate the pressures on universities to sacrifice humanities and social sciences scholarship.”19 To obtain CFI funding, moreover, researchers must be able to match each forty cents of public money with sixty cents from other sources. Jim Turk, the executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, noted that this “partnership” arrangement (which closely parallels the Ontario government’s provisions for capital funding) gives the corporate sector “effective veto power over who gets public money, renewing ongoing questions about the implications for the integrity and independence of university research.”20

It may be naïve to think that debate over such issues is still “ongoing,” when for corporatist organizations like the Canadian Agri-Food Research Council the matter is already settled. That body’s “national strategy” for 1997-2002 declares that Canada must focus research funding on

those areas with highest value and return on investment.... Priorities for applied research are set by the marketplace via partnerships, e.g., industry funds research that fits their priorities.... Augmented private-sector participation in research priority-setting will ... ensure scientists have access to the appropriate market signals, are aware of the technology requirements of industry and can focus their research appropriately.21

Scientific researchers who fail to focus their work “appropriately,” who work on subjects that do not hold out the prospect of a quick return on investment, or who adhere to antiquated notions of a public good that may not in every case be congruent with the maximizing of profits for Monsanto, Nortel, Microsoft, or General Foods, will have increasing difficulty in obtaining research funding. While their more compliant colleagues publish, they will perish.

Thus, while underfunded liberal arts faculties are exposed ever more completely to the proletarianizing processes acerbically analyzed by Cary Nelson and Stephen Watt in Academic Keywords, the sciences and applied sciences are ever more completely handed over to corporate interests and to a wholesale instrumentalizing that reduces scientific inquiry to what Sheila Slaughter and Larry Leslie call “academic capitalism.”22 As Bill Readings noted in The University in Ruins, the corporatist university defines and assesses itself in terms of “excellence,” a notion which “is like the cash-nexus in that it has no content….” The vacuous appeal to “excellence” at one and the same time “exposes the pre-modern traditions of the University to the force of market capitalism” and “marks the fact that there is no longer any idea of the University, or rather that the idea has now lost all content.”23

But we need to understand these developments in their widest (shall we say their global?) context.

 

3. Global corporatism

Beyond the domestic boundaries of its Reaganite or Harrisite manifestations, and beyond the confines of the higher education sector, the most conspicuous effects of the widely celebrated process of “globalization” include an accelerating transfer of wealth from already desperately poor countries in Africa, Central and South America, and southern Asia to the “developed” economies of North America, Europe and Japan. This transfer was already well under way by the 1960s and 70s, thanks to neocolonial political and economic relations that involved the routine subversion of democratic governments and their replacement by dictatorships which fostered high levels of corruption and bribery, cut labour standards and gave transnational corporations unfettered access to natural resources.24 At the same time, existing agricultural economies were being displaced by the “Green Revolution,” with an ensuing pattern of mono-crop export, concentration of land ownership and dependence on first-world loans.25

In recent decades the transfer of wealth and the ruination of traditional agriculture have been accelerated by the widespread imposition of World Bank and International Monetary Fund loan-repayment austerity plans, which dismantle any structures within debtor nations that might impede the maximizing and repatriation of the profits of transnational corporations, and at the same time accentuate social class divisions by reducing the infrastructures of civil society to a skeletal remnant. The concurrent imposition of an international trade regime that gives unprecedented global mobility to finance capital has made possible such events as the 1995 devastation of the Mexican economy and the so-called “meltdown” of East Asian economies two years later. A recognition that these developments have produced monstrous injustices has not been confined to thinkers on the left: Michel Camdessus, who as Managing Director of the IMF contributed in no small way to the internationalizing of the corporatist revolution, declared recently that “the widening gaps between rich and poor within nations, and the gulf between the most affluent and most impoverished nations, are morally outrageous, economically wasteful, and potentially socially explosive.”26

Within the “developed” countries—especially those that have most completely followed the recipes of Chicago School economics—there has been a correspondingly relentless transfer of wealth from poor to rich, with a resulting surge in immiseration and homelessness. Skilled (and once well-paying) jobs have been exported to foreign low-wage autocracies, or else have disappeared in a frenzy of down-sizing, the CEO instigators of which are rewarded with salaries that may be hundreds of times those of their remaining shop-floor employees.27 Once-progressive personal taxation structures have come increasingly to favour the rich; and U.S. Republicans, followed by their Canadian clones in the Reform and Alliance parties, have pressed for a truly regressive “flat” income tax and for further reductions of corporate tax rates, even though these have already shrunk to a fraction of their 1950s levels.

Growing disparities in wealth have been accompanied by an escalation of political corruption. Episodes such as the kickback scandals of the Mulroney era, the Reaganite Savings and Loan scandal (involving the transfer of approximately one trillion dollars from the public purse into private pockets), or the still-unfolding Enron scandal may invite one to suspect a shift from something distantly resembling democracy, government by the people, to kleptocracy, government by thieves. But the context of systemic corruption out of which these scandals have arisen is still more disquieting. International business deals resting on public-sector purchases commonly involve bribery and kickbacks of the kind that ex-Prime Minister Mulroney’s associate Karl-Heinz Schreiber has been accused of, and it has become generally accepted that corporate interests should be able to shape legislative agendas through campaign financing and through a lobbying industry whose sole purpose, as John Ralston Saul notes, is that of converting “elected representatives and senior civil servants to the particular interest of the lobbyist”—or in other words, “corrupting the people’s representatives and servants away from the public good.”28

The so-called “liberalizing” of trade which is the most conspicuous feature of the movement towards a “globalized” economy might be more accurately described as a formalizing and legitimizing of the power of corporate capital to maximize transnational profits at the expense not just of democratic governance, but also, more directly, of labour rights and environmental protection. Jeff Faux has written of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that

If the leaders of the United States, Canada, and Mexico wanted simply to lower tariffs, the agreement could have been written on one page. Instead, it is one thousand pages of detailed rules, most of which are aimed at protecting the interests of U.S. and Canadian investors seeking cheap Mexican labor. Intellectual property rights for corporations, repatriation of capital, and deregulation of foreign business are not only spelled out, specific punishments and penalties are described. In contrast, the protections for labor and the environment—core elements in any modern social contract—are for all practical purposes non-existent....29

The basic asymmetry of NAFTA—as also of the World Trade Organization’s adjudication panels and the temporarily defeated Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI)—is explained by Tony Clarke and Maude Barlow as stemming from an extension into international law of the U.S. constitutional principle known as the “takings” rule, which prohibits governments “from taking private property ‘without adequate compensation’ and ‘valid public purpose’.” This principle,

used to protect transnational corporations from any government intervention or regulation that inhibits the free flow of capital and profitable investment, ... has the effect of “taking” away the power of governments to serve and protect the democratic rights of their citizens. There are no corresponding rules to protect governments from the takings of transnational corporations.30

Transnational corporations thus emerge as strangely hybrid—or protean—entities. They have all the legal rights of human personhood (including, astonishingly, the right to free speech, which was the basis of the tobacco industry’s successful appeal in the Canadian Supreme Court against the federal law banning tobacco advertising). And yet they manage to evade most of the human condition's liabilities, remaining largely immune, it would seem, to those two fixities of human experience, death and taxes.

Should the clauses of the MAI become law, whether through inclusion in the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) or through some more devious means, transnational corporations would also acquire the status of nationhood, though in a similarly hybrid or doubled manner. They would be the equals in law of the nation-states that make up the membership of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), while at the same time enjoying free access to signatory countries for their key personnel, treatment no less favourable than that accorded to domestic companies, and exemption from labour and environmental standards.31 And since the new international trade regime enshrined in the regulations of NAFTA, the WTO and the MAI prohibits nation-states from considering “extra-jurisdictional” matters in relation to trade—that is to say, from discriminating in any way against imports produced (for example) by child labour, slave labour, or under conditions of systematic torture or mass-murder—transnational corporations are already effectively exempted from compliance with international law on human rights.32

Although the protean corporate entity has at once no fixed address and many shifting addresses, it thus claims equality with the spatially delimited nation-state—and indeed establishes itself within its household, claiming a key to the front door, the same (or better) rights of bed, board and access to the house’s contents that its citizen-residents enjoy, the right to bring in material of whatever kind obtained by whatever means, and finally the right to depart unmolested with whatever portion of the household goods it has been able to appropriate.

The extension and legitimizing of corporate power through what amounts to a slow-motion global coup d’état has of course had political as well as economic repercussions. John Ralston Saul argued in 1995 that contemporary corporatism is well on the way to fulfilling the primary aspirations of the fascist corporatism of the early twentieth century: these were to transfer political power from elected parliamentary bodies to hierarchically and corporately-organized socio-economic interest groups, to intrude entrepreneurship into previously public domains, and to “obliterate the boundaries between public and private interest....”33 A parallel recognition of a threat to the structures of representative democracy is evident in billionaire currency speculator George Soros's 1997 expression of his “fear that the untrammelled intensification of laissez-faire capitalism and the spread of market values into all areas of life is endangering our open and democratic society. The main enemy of the open society,” he went on to propose, “is no longer the communist but the capitalist threat.”34

 

4. The “civil commons” and “the tragedy of the commons”

The nature of the threat perceived by Saul and by Soros can be readily defined. The corporatist revolution operates through a diversion of professedly democratic state power into ever more complete subservience to the interests of transnational corporations—thereby making any claim of governments to be (in Lincoln’s words) “by the people” and “for the people” seem increasingly fraudulent. What is occurring, philosopher John McMurtry has argued, is a mutation of governments “to become more and more dominantly coercive debt collectors on behalf of banks and foreign bond-holders from citizens who have received little or no benefit from the debts, and international trade agents and deal-makers for transnational corporations against the most basic interests of domestic workers and businesses....”35

If we remind ourselves that one of the goals of transnationals is unrestrained access not just to the oil reserves of the Persian Gulf and the Caspian basin, but also to resources like the forests of the Lubicon Cree or the Coast Salish and the Nis’gah, or, on a larger scale, to the diminishing remains of the Amazonian rainforest and to the fresh water of the Great Lakes and the Canadian Shield, it will be evident that something more significant even than political freedoms is at stake. What governments are collaborating in is, in McMurtry’s words, a “stripping of society’s shared life-ground,”36 an attack upon what he calls the “civil commons,” and defines as “human agency in personal, collective or institutional form which protects and enables the access of all members of a community to basic life goods.” This “civil commons” includes, at the same time, those aspects of our life-ground in nature which we can work to preserve through “conscious human acts and social constructions (for example, effective laws against environmental pollutants that destroy the ‘global commons’ of the atmosphere or oceans)”37—but which under unregulated market conditions are subject to what Garrett Hardin in a famous essay, first published in 1968, called “the tragedy of the commons.”38

McMurtry’s concept of the civil commons differs significantly from Hardin’s much more limited understanding of the commons. The things we define as “commons”—including, for example, the Grand Banks cod fishery, the “crown land” rain forests of the Pacific coast, or the St. Lawrence River, in its capacity as an open sewer—are all finite in nature. Hardin’s view of unrestrained freedom in a commons as tragic, in the sense of resulting in inexorable degradation, stems from this recognition. However, McMurtry finds reason for a more hopeful analysis in the fact that many different cultures have articulated their sense of interdependence with the natural life-ground in the form of a practical and institutionally embodied social ethic that offers alternatives to Hardin’s grim conclusions. 

Taking the example of common grazing land, Hardin argues that in conditions of social stability (which rule out wars or cattle-raids) its destruction is inevitable. For if the marginal benefit of adding an additional animal to each cattleherd’s share of a herd supported by common land accrues to the single owner alone, while the marginal deficit caused by overgrazing is communally shared among all users of the common land, it will always be in the private interest of every cattleherd to increase the number of grazing animals he or she owns. Claiming that each cattleherd “is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit—in a world that is limited,” Hardin declares that “Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons.”39

I have italicized the word “compels” because it so conspicuously does not follow from any of the stated assumptions of this case. If Hardin’s logic of marginal private advantage had occurred to medieval English cattleherds, it would have done so in the form of temptation rather than compulsion, because their common land was in fact regulated—and protected—by the requirement that each commoner could graze only as many animals on it as could be fed in his or her own corral over the winter.40 Only when the economic agencies in question are behaving in the same way as capitalized corporate bodies—operating, that is, in accordance with the demands of modern equity and commodity markets—can it be said that participants in a commons are compelled, on penalty of loss of market share, reduced equity value, and absorption by competing corporations, to maximize profits by following the logic of marginal private advantage (and marginal communal disadvantage) in relation to whatever in the commons can be appropriated for productive use or employed for the disposal of wastes. Hardin acknowledges this to be his guiding assumption when, in writing of waste disposal, or of what he called “the tragedy of the commons as a cesspool,” he remarks that “The rational man [sic] finds that his share of the cost of the wastes he discharges into the commons is less than the cost of purifying his wastes before releasing them. Since this is true for everyone, we are locked into a system of ‘fouling our own nest,’ for so long as we behave only as independent, rational, free-enterprisers.”41

Hardin’s analysis of the commons is thus premised upon a quite specific economic logic, that of “free enterprise.” This makes it all the more compelling as a refutation of the claims made in support of deregulation and market “liberalization” by the ideologues of the corporatist revolution. Whether we think of the commons in terms of production, as the natural basis of all life-sustaining activities, or in terms of waste disposal, as providing sites for the absorption and dispersal of human wastes, Hardin argues that it is only through one or another form of social regulation that the tragedy of freedom in a commons can be averted. He proposes, for example, that “our particular concept of private property” contributed, as one such form of regulation, to a closing of the commons in relation to productive land use. However, he is at the same time aware that the rule of private property obstructs contemporary struggles to “close the commons to pollution by automobiles, factories, insecticide sprayers, fertilizing operations, and atomic energy installations.”42

The apologists of corporatism are seeking, in Hardin’s sense, to “re-open” the commons—for this is what it means to insist on the abolition of environmental regulation, and on unconstrained access by transnational corporations to natural resources. Corporatist attacks on labour legislation, union rights, welfare entitlements, public education and medicare add up to a parallel attempt to return human labour to the status—closely resembling that of an unregulated commons—that it occupied in the slums of the industrial revolution and in the thought of “classical” political economists like Adam Smith and David Ricardo.

In the rhetoric of the corporatist revolution, “free competition” is described as the model and the basis of all other human freedoms. But this hoary orthodoxy is no truer now than it was a century and a half ago, when Karl Marx proposed that “The analysis of what free competition really is, is the only rational reply to the middle-class prophets who laud it to the skies or to the socialists who damn it to hell”—and when, having made such an analysis, he heaped scorn on the insipid view “that free competition is the ultimate development of human freedom,” concluding rather that “It is not individuals who are set free by free competition; it is, rather, capital which is set free.”43 Contemporary evidence of the continuing validity of this conclusion (and, at the same time, of the corporatist perversion of governments noted by McMurtry) is provided by Shell Oil’s unconstrained polluting of Ogoniland, aided and abetted by the Nigerian government's violent repression of the Ogoni people and judicial murder of their leaders; by the ecological and behavioural sinks of the maquiladora wastelands along the Mexico-U.S. border, constructed in collaboration with a Mexican government that has routinely stolen elections and collaborated in the elimination of opposition journalists by death squads; and, in Canada, by Daishowa Corporation’s ongoing despoliation of the homeland of the Lubicon Cree, a process enabled and facilitated by the Alberta and federal governments.

In these cases, and many others, one might respond to the rhetoric of the free marketers with Garrett Hardin’s observation that “Individuals locked into the logic of the commons are free only to bring on universal ruin....”44 In their rush to re-open the commons, the ideologues of the corporatist revolution may be drawing us into a more radical bankrupting of future possibilities than even they intend.

What Hardin calls “the logic of the commons”—a logic of marginal private advantage and communal disadvantage most evident at present in the operations of transnational corporations—is diametrically opposed to the ethics and to the actuality of the “civil commons” as these are analyzed by John McMurtry. Let us consider the implications of this opposition. I have compared the labour market of the industrial revolution to an unregulated commons—one that might appropriately be called tragic, since it engulfed innumerable human lives in misery and despair. This unregulated commons developed in England as a direct consequence of the appropriation and enclosure of communally regulated village common-land for use as sheep-pasture by the landlords and merchants who participated in the emergent international wool-trade. Village commons seized for use as private pasture were simultaneously opened to exploitation as part of a nascent capitalist system of cloth-manufacture, and closed to use by the community, a large proportion of whose members were thereby driven off the land. Toward the end of the first great wave of enclosures, Thomas More wrote with bitter irony in his Utopia (1516) that English sheep, “that were wont to be so meek and tame, and so small eaters, now, as I hear say, be become so great devourers and so wild, that they eat up and swallow down the very men themselves.” Rural people began to drift into the cities, deprived, More says, by “fraud, or by violent oppression…, or by wrongs and injustices”45 both of their own small-holdings and of access to lands which for centuries they had communally shared.

There were currents of resistance: around 1549 the anonymous author of “Jack of the North” declared his intention to restore common land to the common people “[w]herever it hath been yet common before”; a century later, Gerard Winstanley’s Diggers denounced the gentry with “their wisdoms so profound, to cheat us of our ground.”46 But by the early nineteenth century, after subsequent waves of enclosures, the once numerous class of yeoman freeholders had effectively disappeared from England, and a new urban industrial working class was beginning its long struggle to organize itself against unconstrained exploitation by employers in an “open” labour market.47

Historians have long recognized connections between the enclosure movement, which reached its height in England during the late eighteenth century, and the developing corporate organization of trade and manufacture.48 John McMurtry follows them in seeing a historical continuity between the privatizing tendency launched in England by the international wool trade, “the progenitor of the global market from the fifteenth century on,” and the movement towards the “clearance and appropriation of communal lands,” with a concomitant production of a landless urban labouring class and a growing “assault on the environment,” that has subsequently swept across the world.49

Central to McMurtry’s concept of the “civil commons” is its incorporation both of the natural life-ground that sustains human society, and also of the human institutions and the web of social and discursive interactions by which this natural life-ground is itself preserved and sustained.50 Insofar as this concept proposes an understanding of nature as suffused with and sustained by discursive terms that appear also in political, ethical and other discourses, it might be said to resemble traditional doctrines of “natural law” enunciated by thinkers like St. Thomas Aquinas and Richard Hooker.51 However, McMurtry’s view of the civil commons differs from these in its recognition that the interactive co-dependence of social life and its basis in nature is the expression of human rather than of divine agency, that it is the product and material embodiment of human histories, and that it is a matter of the utmost importance to any human future. As he argues,

the progression or decline of the civil commons is the most fundamental social fact there is, though like the sea to the fish not recognized…. [T]he question of whether a society's civil commons is intact, falling or gaining in the life goods all its members have access to, is a real-world issue and of life-and-death reality for all on a practical level.52

 

5. Critical humanism and the civil commons

I have argued that we are living through a corporatist social and political revolution whose goal is the destruction, through strategies of deliberate bankrupting and invented crises, of what John McMurtry calls the civil commons. (Consider again the objects of the corporate revolutionaries’ attack: progressive labour codes, environmental regulations, redistributive taxation of private income and corporate profits, international law governing human rights, laws restricting the movement of corporate capital, civil rights entitlements, welfare and public housing programs, state-owned corporations and utilities, public non-profit health care, public education and, in particular, the potentially critical as opposed to instrumental functions of public higher education. The list amounts to a good first approximation of the institutional embodiments of the civil commons.)

Certain aspects of the corporatist attack on public higher education have been emphasized here: first, because this sector’s role in the reproduction, re-creation and transformation of the social order makes it an important part of the civil commons; and secondly, because this is a sector in which there has recently been a growing awareness of the need to defend the human values, institutional structures and forms of life threatened by the corporatist revolution. Public higher education is a strategic (if already seriously compromised) site in the defence of the civil commons and the resistance to corporatism.53

But what does it mean to speak of “critical humanism” as one way of defining the forms such resistance might take in my own discipline of literary studies, and possibly more widely across the human sciences? The term may well seem an oxymoron. Many of the self-identified humanists of the past century, in addition to leaning more in the direction of dogmatism than of an open or unconstrained criticism, were also dubiously, if at all, interested in formulating or supporting projects of a democratic tendency (it should suffice to name Irving Babbitt, B. F. Skinner and H. J. Eysenck as examples)54—while on the other hand, some of the most strenuous and most influential critical thinkers of the late twentieth century (among them Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida) defined themselves as anti-humanists. But although any deployment of “humanism” might seem controversial (not least one that would take the critical and emancipatory orientation of much of Renaissance humanism as exemplary for our time), outright dismissal of the term entails another kind of risk. Such at least is implied by Robert Young’s reflections on the dilemma faced by literary theorists who sought to resist the “‘technologico-Thatcherite’ assault on the humanities,” the British form of the corporatist attack on the critical functions of higher education:

[T]he terms by which their subject was established historically, and the only effective terms with which it could still be defended, were those of the cultural conservatism and humanist belief in literature and philosophy that ‘literary theory’ has, broadly speaking, been attacking since the 1970s. When theorists found themselves wanting to defend their discipline against successive government cuts they discovered that the only view with which they could vindicate themselves was the very one which, in intellectual terms, they wanted to attack…. In short, for theorists the problem has been that in attacking humanism they have found themselves actually in consort with government policy.55

A brief glance at the history of the term “humanism,” and at the cultural phenomena it was coined to describe, may help to dissipate confusions of this sort. Among cultural historians of early modern Europe, the word usually refers to a particular phase in the development of what we now call the humanities—that surge of critical, scholarly and creative energies that shaped the cultural forms of the western European Renaissance of the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries. Late fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italians had a word, umanista, for those who were engaged in restoring or emulating the textual remains of ancient Greece and Rome; this word passed into French (1552), English (1589), and Spanish (1614) usages.56 But rather surprisingly, the abstract noun dates only from early nineteenth-century Germany, where Humanismus was coined as the name of a traditional or conservative theory of education in the classics and Christian doctrine which opposed itself both to progressive Rousseauistic or Enlightenment pedagogies, and also to practical or utilitarian tendencies.57 The teaching practices of what we would now call Renaissance humanism were no doubt the source of this German pedagogical Humanismus,58 and yet the new term seems to have referred to current practices rather than to those of the Renaissance.

Subsequent appropriations of the term have likewise often been both ‘presentist’ and politically conservative in nature, even when professedly referring to the humanism of Renaissance scholars and writers. Detailed analysis would be required to show that this was the case in Jacob Burckhardt’s influential 1860 interpretation of the Italian Renaissance as the moment at which “man became a spiritual individual, and recognized himself as such,” and of Renaissance humanism as the ideology of autonomous selfhood;59 but a reactionary ‘presentism’ is clearly evident in Douglas Bush’s claim, first published in 1939, that sixteenth-century humanism amounted to a proleptic echo of Matthew Arnold’s conservative mid-Victorian “orthodoxy of sweetness and light.”60

More recent and more historically adequate interpretations of Renaissance humanism include Hiram Haydn’s recognition of an antagonism in Renaissance Europe between divergent strains of Christian and “naturalistic” humanism;61 Michel Foucault’s proposal that humanism invented what he called “subjected sovereignties,” structures within which human subjectivity claims a restricted, usually internal rule or control, at the cost of a fuller subjection to external powers, both social and metaphysical;62 Anthony Grafton’s and Lisa Jardine’s argument that humanist pedagogy, “foster[ing] in all its initiates a properly docile attitude towards authority,” served the needs of an emergent Europe of “closed governing élites, hereditary offices and strenuous efforts to close off debate on vital political and social questions”;63 Donald Kelley’s analysis of Renaissance humanism as embodying complementary motifs of institutio (individual and collective self-fashioning) and restitutio (the recovery, encyclopedic reintegration, and reanimation of antiquity);64 and Charles Nauert’s argument that whatever Renaissance humanists may have thought themselves to be doing, humanism’s historical function was “to act as an intellectual solvent, striking at traditional beliefs of all kinds.”65

Lest we fall ourselves into the ‘presentism’ of supposing that recent writers on the subject, despite the fault lines that separate some of them, might be approaching a consensual understanding of the diverse tendencies that together constituted Renaissance humanism, let us end this brief list of interpretations with a mention of John Carroll’s neoconservative sermonizing in a book whose subtitle indicates with sufficient clarity the nature of its argument: Humanism: The Wreck of Western Culture.66

The “ism” termination of “humanism,” which would seem to identify it as the name of an ideology, may be one source of the debates that have swirled around this term. Yet the tendencies in early modern culture to which “humanism” refers are perhaps better described, in the manner of contemporary scholars like Kelley and Nauert, in terms of the cultural practices they involved. (As they are both aware, Paul Oskar Kristeller insisted that umanista carried no specific doctrinal or ideological sense, but referred simply to a professor or student of the studia humanitatis, “a well-defined cycle of teaching subjects listed as grammar, rhetoric, poetry, history and moral philosophy.…”)67

Renaissance exponents of the studia humanitatis, obsessed with what Donald Kelley calls restitutio, the project of giving a “re-naissance” to the discursive, artistic, architectural and social forms of the cultures of ancient Rome and Greece, coined the term “Middle Ages” to speak of that which stood between them and the forms they wanted to re-vivify. The nineteenth-century term “humanism” likewise came to confer upon a previous age meanings that it did not find in itself: as Burckhardt’s classic study makes evident, this later restitutio developed into an appropriation of early modern traditions in the service of a Romantic ideology of essentialist autonomous subjectivity.68 But if, setting aside this and subsequent primarily ideological deployments of the term, we focus instead on Renaissance humanism as a set of cultural practices rooted in a particular sequence of western European social contexts, it may be possible to draw different consequences from the emergence of humanism out of the interactions of a nascent (or re-nascent) Italian civic culture with the remains of ancient Roman and Hellenistic literary, rhetorical, juristic, philosophical, and historiographic writings.

Social practices, even without constituting a coherent ideology, can have large transformative effects, at once discursive and material. The crucial contribution of the humanist practices of the Italian Renaissance, as I proposed in Lunar Perspectives, was that they opened out within the civic culture of cities like Florence and Venice

a discursive space, which the advent of printing subsequently made accessible across Western Europe under the name of “the republic of letters.” Within this space various forms of writing (among them the highly wrought epistles with which humanists flattered, cajoled, and bombarded one another) could acquire a previously unknown degree of autonomy, and thoroughgoing critiques of constituted authority and authoritative dogma could be envisaged and undertaken.69

While conceding to Michel Foucault that humanist subjectivities commonly incorporated a duplicitous conflation of supposed autonomy and actual subjection, we may perhaps uncover a deeper historical significance to humanism if, focusing on the literary and critical productions of humanists, we understand the movement out of which these texts emerged as

a collection of enabling strategies, which is also to say, a rhetoric (Renaissance humanism was, if anything, rhetorical)—but a rhetoric whose general tendency and function was to bring into being and to sustain a discursive space, a public sphere, within which the power of established authority no longer retained its previously overwhelming position as a criterion of judgment, and within which the goal of legitimizing established authority no longer exercised a determinative influence upon the various forms of writing which at one and the same time constituted and were enabled by this newly opened discursive space or public sphere.70

In this emergence of a public sphere we can identify an essential precondition for the fully conscious development of the civil commons. John McMurtry makes a point of distinguishing “between ‘the commons’ as nature-given land or resource and ‘the civil commons’ which effectively protects it, and ensures access of all members of the community to its continuing means of existence.” The latter “is ‘civil’ insofar as the common life-good it embodies is protected by conscious and co-operative human agency,” and “what was once the ‘commons’ of nature becomes ‘civil commons’ as it is preserved by conscious human acts and social construction….”71

In reconstituting the republic of letters, a res publica or “public thing” that had been a distinctive feature of certain phases of classical culture but had wholly disappeared after the collapse of the western Roman empire, Renaissance humanism reinvented, as a social possibility, public debate about a public good. The respublica litterarum of the humanists amounts therefore to the social space within which a reflexive awareness of the common good could develop. It would not be an exaggeration to describe it as the emergent—if also fragile and perpetually endangered—matrix of the civil commons in its modern form.

Satirical discourses flourished within this social space, many of them belonging to the mixed genre or anti-genre of Menippean satire or anatomy that was epitomized for Renaissance readers by the second-century writings of Lucian of Samosata: More’s Utopia, Erasmus’s Praise of Folly, and Cornelius Agrippa’s Of the Vanity and Uncertainty of All Arts and Sciences are prominent examples of the type. These works contain wide-ranging critiques of social injustice, misgovernment, corruption, religious dogmatism and clerical tyranny—and display, in addition, a very interesting willingness to contemplate alternative arrangements. Within the humanist public sphere to which they contributed it became possible to undertake, as Machiavelli did in The Prince and The Discourses, a wholly disabused analysis of political power; to declare, as Agrippa did in his Declamation on the Nobility and Preeminence of the Female Sex, that the inferior social status of women results from masculine bad faith and violence, “without reason or necessity natural or divine, but under the pressure of custom, education, chance, or some occasion favorable to tyranny”;72 and to offer unstinted praise to fearless social critics, as Thomas Nashe did to the memory of Pietro Aretino in a text that has been described as an important late work of “humanist poetics”:

If out of so base a thing as ink there may be extracted a spirit, he writ with nought but the spirit of ink, and his style was the spirituality of arts, and nothing else; whereas all others of his age were but the lay temporalty of inkhorn terms. For indeed they were mere temporizers, and no better. His pen was sharp pointed like a poinyard; no leaf he wrote on but was like a burning glass to set on fire all his readers.… No hour but he sent a full legion of devils into some herd of swine or other.... He was no timorous servile flatterer of the commonwealth wherein he lived. His tongue and his invention were foreborne; what they thought, they would confidently utter. Princes he spared not, that in the least point transgressed. His life he contemned in comparison of the liberty of speech. 73

 

6. Exposing forgery, forging freedom

In what ways, then, might a contemporary critical humanism affiliated to certain practices of Renaissance humanists and, more widely, to the social function of Renaissance humanism as the emergent matrix of the civil commons, be of strategic relevance to the multiple invented crises brought on us by the corporatist revolution?

Etymology may provide one clue. I am thinking of the cognate Greek and Latin verbs krino and cerno and their declinations and derivatives. The Greek krino (meaning “to separate, distinguish, choose, or pick out”) is part of a semantic field that includes the adjective kritikos (“able to discern”), which moved into Latin as criticus (“critic”), as well as the nouns kriterion (“a tribunal, standard or test”) and krisis (“a choice, separating, a power of distinguishing, or the result of a trial or contest, a decision or judgment”). The Latin cerno (meaning “to sift, separate, distinguish, to decide or determine, and also to see distinctly or perceive”) is the root both of the English verb “to discern” and also, through the past participle certus, of our adjective “certain.”

With this semantic field in mind, Glyn P. Norton has understood Renaissance humanism as showing that “Criticism and crisis are etymological friends”:

Throughout history, literary criticism and cultural crisis have tended to follow convergent trajectories. Renaissance humanism, above all, was responsible for generating a language that would not only reflect the cultural crisis at hand, but base that crisis in its own distinctiveness as a period. The deepest, most central impulses of humanism are thus critical.... The critical temper, in its cultural as well as literary dimension, fixes the Renaissance view of time squarely within the Greek concept of krisis as designating a moment both of separation and of decision.74

Taking a hint from these etymologies, I would propose that a contemporary critical humanism should understand the present crisis or crises as a trial or contest that calls upon us to exercise our powers of distinguishing across the whole field of the civil commons, and in so doing to separate ourselves decisively from the business-as-usual of placid orthodoxy.

Let me be explicit. I am talking about taking sides against corporatism, and repelling its incursions with all the resources of critical analysis, rhetoric and public mobilization that may be at our command.

If such language seems hortatory beyond the norms of academic discourse, then it may be time we subjected those norms as well to thorough criticism. For those who value intellectual freedom, there is not, I think, any large choice to be made: when the whole system of the civil commons is at stake, so also is the free critical thinking that is one of its constituent parts.

But what particular forms of discernment could a critical humanism, as opposed to other kinds of critical thinking, contribute to this struggle? Anthony Grafton has argued persuasively that the critical methods of humanist scholars in the Renaissance, based on a growing awareness both of historical contexts and of dialectal differences and changes in linguistic usage within the texts they studied, arose out of the need to distinguish between genuinely ancient texts and documents and the large numbers of pseudepigraphic writings and outright forgeries that had accompanied them in ancient Greece and Rome and in early Judaeo-Christian traditions—as well as the vast quantity of more recent forgeries.75 As Grafton writes,

Forgery and philology fell and rose together, in the Renaissance as in Hellenistic Alexandria…. And in all cases criticism has been dependent for its development on the stimulus that forgers have provided. Criticism does not exist simply because the condition of the sources creates a need for it. The existence of so many sources created with a conscious intention to deceive, and the cleverness of so many of the deceptions, played a vital role in bringing criticism into being.76

One of the most celebrated humanist exposures of forgery was Lorenzo Valla’s demonstration in 1440 that the Donation of Constantine, which documented the Emperor Constantine’s supposed transfer of the western half of his empire to the papacy, contained “elements that are contradictory, impossible, foolish, strange, and ridiculous….” When Valla at the same time criticized this text as having fraudulently legitimized papal corruption, war-making, and “spiritual wickedness in high places,”77 he knew very well that he was not just correcting a false understanding of the past, but was also, at serious risk to his own safety, delegitimizing a contemporary structure of political power.78

Grafton’s reference to “the existence of so many sources created with a conscious intention to deceive” may strike one as evoking a not unfamiliar contemporary situation. Any critical watcher of CNN or Fox News, or any critical reader of the corporate press, cannot help but be aware of some of the principal causes of that widespread American ignorance of the world at large to which I alluded at the outset—and of course the structures of deception and mystification by means of which news media under highly concentrated corporate ownership induce the population to acquiesce in policies which are manifestly against its interests have been lucidly analyzed by (among others) Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky.79 The processes by which governments and the media collaborate in the manufacture of consent commonly involve fabricated evidence: it would, for example, be difficult to find any recent publicly acknowledged act of war on the part of the United States that was not accompanied and justified by a cloud of deliberate falsehoods.80 In this context, the metaphor of “mind-forged manacles”81 by which William Blake explained the perpetuation of bondage and oppression can be understood as carrying a double sense.

The primary purposes of the critical work I am proposing—to unmask and discredit falsehoods circulated by the apologists of corporate power and to delegitimize the agencies responsible for them—resemble those of Lorenzo Valla’s critical labours. Yet what is involved, I would emphasize, is not just the philological detective work required to expose forgeries, plagiarisms, or impostures, but also, perhaps more importantly, a critical deployment of contextual and historical analyses capable of showing up those larger processes of distortion-through-selective-omission that I have elsewhere termed “subtractive politicizing.”82

Beyond this defensive work there lies the further constructive labour of what I would call forging freedom: the consolidation of our civil commons, and the extension of the civil commons into domains where the necessity of preservation through public stewardship has not previously been acknowledged. If in the present political climate such a project seems utopian, I can only say in response that utopianism is one of the native dialects of critical humanism.

Let me admit that the key question of how to get there from here is not going to be answered in this paper. I am inclined to agree with Noam Chomsky’s off-the-cuff remark, when asked what might be a good strategy for organizing against the harm caused by imperialism and such international agencies as the World Trade Organization, that “Everything is a good strategy.”83 Within my own sphere of work, I would therefore support any movement towards a de-corporatizing of universities, and towards a corresponding enhancement of the emancipatory potential of their social function as institutions of social reproduction; more widely, I would support any movement towards restoring the primacy of human and life values over money values and profits.84

I want to conclude, however, with a reminder of the odds which any project of taking past practices and traditions as a guide to present struggles must face. Sixty years ago, in 1940, the year of his death, Walter Benjamin wrote in his great meditation on history that

Articulating the past historically does not mean recognizing it “the way it really was.” It means appropriating a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger.... The danger threatens both the content of the tradition and those who inherit it. For both, it is one and the same thing: the danger of becoming a tool of the ruling classes.... The only historian capable of fanning the spark of hope in the past is the one who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he is victorious.85

 

 

NOTES

1  See Stockman’s interview with William Greider in the Atlantic Monthly (November 1981). As George Clark has observed, “Stockman's candour cost him his job, but mentioning his name in the mainstream media is politically and journalistically incorrect” (“Brian Segal on the University: A Response,” ACCUTE Newsletter [June 1994]: 8).

2  Astonishingly, this statement did not cost Watt his job; only after he had scornfully summed up a congressional committee to which he had to report as consisting of a black, a woman, a Jew and a cripple (the latter being Senator Daniel Inouye, who lost a leg in military service) was President Reagan persuaded to replace him.

3  These excerpts from Snobelen’s talk are derived from the linked quotations given by Richard Brennan, “Minister plotted ‘to invent a crisis’,” The Toronto Star (September 13, 1995): A3; Lisa Wright, “Apologize for remarks Harris tells Snobelen,” and Thomas Walkom, “Snobelen scales windy heights of bafflegab,” The Toronto Star (September 14, 1995): A3, A25. A slightly different transcription of the concluding sentences quoted here appeared in an unsigned article, “Harris Mainly Mum on Plans for Post-Secondary Education in Ontario,” in the CAUT/ACPPU Bulletin (November 1995): 6.

4  James Watts’s apocalyptic ramblings deserve our close attention for the same reason; however bizarre they may seem, similar forms of thought appear both among the leaders of the Canadian Reform/Alliance Party and among the members of George Bush Jr.’s cabinet.

5  The “baby boom” was a dramatic and sustained rise in birth rates in Canada from the years immediately following World War Two until the end of the 1950s. Demographic statistics revealing a significant surge in numbers among the offspring of the baby boomers, available since the early 1990s, and showed that in 2006-07, at a time when the postsecondary education system would still be coping with the “double cohort,” the number of Canadian students graduating from secondary school would be about ten percent higher than in the preceding year.

6  “Multi-Year Commitment Needed, Says COU,” At Guelph (October 13, 1999): 1, 5.

7  John Ibbitson, “Universities and colleges get big boost from Ontario,” The Globe and Mail (February 23, 2000): A1, A7.

8  See David Noble, “Digital Diploma Mills: The Automation of Higher Education,” Toronto: distributed by OCUFA, October 1997; and “Digital Diploma Mills, Part II: The Coming Battle Over Online Instruction,” Toronto: distributed by OCUFA, March 1998. For some historical context to the developments outlined here, see Janice Newson and Howard Buchbinder, The University Means Business (Toronto: Garamond Press, 1988); and Neil Tudiver, Universities for Sale: Resisting Corporate Control over Canadian Higher Education (Toronto: James Lorimer, 1999). Parallel developments in the U.S. have been analyzed by Sheila Slaughter and Larry L. Leslie, Academic Capitalism: Politics, Policies, and the Entrepreneurial University (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997).

9  Richard Mackie, “Postsecondary-education reforms support job-related courses,” The Globe and Mail (February 24, 2000): A9. In the same press conference Harris declared, no less disingenuously, that “We’re very supportive of liberal arts and continue to fund them to the same levels that students wish to take those programs and the same levels as they have been in the past.” The guiding assumption of such statements as this is clearly that the electorate has a very short memory.

10  See Chris Wattie, “University chancellors back liberal arts studies,” National Post (March 1, 2000): A21; and Richard Mackie, “Harris denies bias against liberal arts: Universities sought science funds, Premier says,” The Globe and Mail (March 2, 2000): A6.

11  Communication from Charles Cunningham, Registrar of the University of Guelph, March 2000.

12  This agenda has been pressed with increasing insistence over the past two decades. In a 1992 address to the Canadian Corporate Higher Education Forum, John H. Panabaker, former CEO of the Mutual Life Assurance Company of Canada and former Chancellor of McMaster University, advocated the development of “alternative privately-financed and customer-driven institutions,” but felt that although “individual programmes and functions” might be privatized, it would not yet be “possible to ‘privatize’ a major Canadian university.” See Panabaker, “The University for Tomorrow,” Canadian Federation for the Humanities Bulletin 15.2 (Autumn 1992): 4-5, and my comments in Lunar Perspectives: Field Notes from the Culture Wars (Toronto: Anansi, 1996), pp. 34-35.

13  See Richard Mackie, “Harris ponders steeper tax cuts,” The Globe and Mail (February 7, 2001): A6.

14  The recession of 2001 may in this sense have been welcome to the provincial government, as helping to push any question of substantial social reinvestment beyond the horizon of acknowledged possibilities. The manipulative use of budget deficits is of course a well-established feature of recent attacks upon social programs. In 1995 Dean Neu and David Cooper (professors of accountancy at the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta) analyzed the Klein government’s calculations of debt and deficit and argued that “the provincial Conservatives [had] inflated deficit figures by about 30 per cent to justify deep cuts in program spending....” See Linda Goyette, “We Don’t Want Cheeky Professors Questioning Our Oil Barons, Do We?” CAUT/ACPPU Bulletin (March 1996): 9. The political economy of deficit hysteria has been lucidly analyzed by Linda McQuaig in Shooting the Hippo: Death by Deficit and Other Canadian Myths (Toronto: Viking, 1995).

15  The Council of Ontario Universities’ attempts to inform Premier Harris of (for example) the evidence that humanities and social sciences graduates do as well on the job market as the graduates of job-oriented programs were consistently futile. The performative nature of his statements shows him to have been interested not in such facts, but rather in establishing a new set of facts.

16  Richard Mackie, “Ontario’s colleges get more cash to cope with growing enrollment,” The Globe and Mail (February 22, 2000): A7.

17  The Globe and Mail (March 3, 2000).

18  I am quoting from a press release, “The Canadian Education Industry” (October 7, 1998), issued by a coalition including the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Canadian Health Coalition, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the National Anti-Poverty Organization, the Ontario Federation of Labour, and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union.

19  Quoted in Perspectives 3.7, ed. Wayne Kondro (7 March 2000), http://www.hssfc.ca/Pub/PublicationsEng.html).

20  Virginia Galt, “Students, faculty worry that private sector's campus presence tainting the ivy,” The Globe and Mail (March 2, 2000): A3.

21  Quoted by John McMurtry, “Accountability and openness to whom?”, At Guelph (November 24, 1999): 4. For an account of the bizarre inefficiencies as well as the alarming epidemiological consequences of agri-business pseudo-science, as applied to cattle-raising, see Edward Luttwak, “Sane Cows, or BSE isn’t the worst of it,” London Review of Books (8 February 2001): 26-27.

22  See Nelson and Watt, Academic Keywords: A Devil’s Dictionary for Higher Education (New York and London: Routledge, 1999), and Slaughter and Leslie, Academic Capitalism: Politics, Policies, and the Entrepreneurial University (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997). Nelson and Watt observe that under this regime, scientific departments commonly become no more than product-testing laboratories: “The most thoroughly degraded corporatized university program is one that no longer does any original thinking; it simply tests products developed elsewhere by the corporation” (p. 87).

23  Bill Readings, The University in Ruins (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996), pp. 13, 38, 39.

24  See Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, The Political Economy of Human Rights, vol. 1: The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1979).

25  Essential reading on this subject is still Susan George’s How the Other Half Dies: The Real Reasons for World Hunger (1976; 2nd ed., Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977).

26  This statement by Camdessus, made at the Tenth UN Conference on Trade and Development in Bangkok, February 13, 2000, is quoted by Immanuel Wallerstein, “The Head of the IMF: A Secret Radical?” Comment, 34 (February 15, 2000; email forwarded by the Council of Canadians). For analysis of the issues noted in this paragraph, see Jerry Mander and Edward Goldsmith, eds., The Case Against the Global Economy (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1996); Paul Smith, Millennial Dreams: Contemporary Culture and Capital in the North (London and New York: Verso, 1997); Graham Dunkley, The Free Trade Adventure: The WTO, the Uruguay Round and Globalism—A Critique (London and New York: Zed Books, 1997); Biplab Dasgupta, Structural Adjustment, Global Trade and the New Political Economy of Development (London and New York:Zed Books, 1998); Ronaldo Munck and Denis O’Hearn, eds., Critical Development Theory: Contributions to a New Paradigm (London and New York: Zed Books, 1999); Jim Yong Kim, Joyce V. Mullen, Alec Irwin, and John Gershman, eds., Dying for Growth: Global Inequality and the Health of the Poor (Lonroe, Maine: Common Courage, 2000); Sarah Anderson, ed., Views from the South: The Effects of Globalization and the WTO on Third World Countries (Chicago: Food First Books and International Forum on Globalization, 2000); and Linda McQuaig, All You Can Eat: Greed, Lust, and the New Capitalism (Toronto: Penguin, 2001), pp. 40-93.

27  The previous business strategy of “vertical integration” (in which corporations sought control-through-ownership of as many levels as possible of the processes of production, distribution and sales) has been supplanted by a strategy of “branding” and “out-sourcing” (which depends on saturation advertizing of brand-name goods which are manufactured under contract, and at a small fraction of the final sales price, in off-shore free-trade zones where working conditions are no less brutal and destructive than those of the early nineteenth-century industrial revolution). For a brilliant analysis of this pattern, see Naomi Klein, No logo: taking aim at the brand bullies (Toronto: Knopf, 2000), pp. 195-229.

28  John Ralston Saul, The Unconscious Civilization (Toronto: Anansi, 1995), p. 93.

29  Jeff Faux, “Jeff Faux Replies” [“Jay Mandle and Jeff Faux on free trade and the left”], Dissent 45.2 (Spring 1998): 81.

30  Tony Clarke and Maude Barlowe, MAI: The Multilateral Agreement on Investment and the Threat to Canadian Sovereignty (Toronto: Stoddart, 1997), pp. 32-33.

31  Clarke and Barlow, pp. 33-38.

32  John McMurtry, The Cancer Stage of Capitalism (London: Pluto Press, 1999), pp. 232-37.

33  Saul, p. 87. Saul here acknowledges Traute Rafalski, “Social Planning and Corporatism; Modernization Tendencies in Italian Fascism,” International Journal of Political Science 18 (1988):10; Rafalski is in turn quoting from Paolo Ungari, Alfredo Rocca e l'ideologia giuridica des fascismo (Brescia, 1963).

34  George Soros, “The Capitalist Threat,” Atlantic Monthly (February 1997): 45, quoted by McMurtry, Cancer, p. 202.

35  McMurtry, Cancer, p. 219. See Eduardo Galeano’s acerbic discussion of “the power of kidnappers” and of what he calls “globalitarian power” in Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World, trans. Mark Fried (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2000), pp. 148-56.

36  Ibid., p. 192.

37  McMurtry, Cancer, pp. 204-5.

38  Garrett Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons,” Science 162 (December 13, 1968); rpt. in Mary Elizabeth Bowen and Joseph A. Mazzeo, eds., Writing About Science (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), pp. 331-48. I am concerned here only with Hardin’s analysis of the logic of the commons; the principal argument of his essay, a neo-Malthusian proposal of a need for coercive population-control measures, does not interest me; it rests upon sociological and anthropological assumptions that are naive in the extreme.

39  Hardin, p. 336.

40  See Gary Snyder, “Understanding the Commons,” in Susan J. Armstrong and Richard G. Botzler, eds., Environmental Ethics: Convergence and Divergence (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1993), pp. 227-30 (cited by John McMurtry in Unequal Freedoms: The Global Market as an Ethical System [Toronto: Garamond Press, 1998], p. 399).

41  Ibid., p. 338.

42  Ibid., pp. 338, 347.

43  Karl Marx, Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy (Rough Draft), trans. Martin Nicolaus (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973), pp. 651-52, 650.

44  Ibid., p. 347.

45  Sir Thomas More, Utopia, trans. Ralph Robinson, ed. Edward Arber (London: Murray, 1869), pp. 40-41. (I have modernized Robinson’s mid sixteenth-century spelling and punctuation.) For a summary account of changes to the landscapes of England, Wales and Scotland brought about by enclosures during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, see Michael Reed, The Age of Exuberance 1500-1700 (1986; rpt. London: Paladin, 1987), pp. 69-98.

46  David Norbrook and W.R. Woudhuysen, eds., The Penguin Book of Renaissance Verse (London: Penguin, 1993), pp. 389, 465. (I have modernized the spelling.)

47  Linda McQuaig offers a lucid analysis both of the enclosure movement and also of the popular resistance to it in All You Can Eat: Greed, Lust, and the New Capitalism, pp. 161-93.

48  In the early 1920s, for example, Arthur J. Ireland noted that the enclosure movement of the late eighteenth century “marked the appearance of the trust system in operation, although it was still in the embryo stage” (“English Life in the Eighteenth Century,” in J. A. Hammerton, ed., Universal History of the World [10 vols.; London: Educational Book Co., c. 1925], vol. 7, p. 4219). See also G. M. Trevelyan, English Social History (1942; rpt. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974), pp. 391-95.

49  McMurtry, Unequal Freedoms, p. 399.

50  In this he differs from Hardin, who assumes human society to be an aggregate of atomistic individuals motivated by considerations of immediate self-interest, and gives no consideration to the social and discursive interactions (themselves constitutive of the complex subjectivities of members of the society) which in any functional social order also include countervailing suasions and sanctions that have the effect of subordinating private to public interest. For detailed expositions of the civil commons, and its rootedness in communal discursive practice, see McMurtry, Unequal Freedoms, pp. 368-95, and Cancer, pp. 190-254.

51  See, for example, Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I-II, Q. 94, art. 1-6, in Anton C. Pegis, ed., Basic Writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas (2 vols.; New York: Random House, 1945), vol. 2, pp. 772-81; and Richard Hooker, Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, ed. Christopher Morris (2 vols.; 1907; rpt. London: Dent, 1963), Book I. iii, vol. 1, pp. 154-61.

52  McMurtry, Cancer, p. 212.

53  The public status of Canadian public universities has been compromised by the government policies described above—which, as David Noble writes, have resulted in “an intensified web of interlocking directorates between the boards of universities and private corporations, a plethora of largely secret contracts with private companies, and the establishment of an intellectual property regime throughout the institutions, which include[s] unprecedented emphasis on confidentiality and non-disclosure…” (“How Public Are Our Public Universities?” CAUT/ACPPU Bulletin [January 2003]: A3). Noble also exposes at his own institution, York University, moves by the administration to re-define it as “a private, charitable corporation, which is ‘publicly assisted’”—while at the same time withholding from public disclosure “any information regarding student enrollment, which is the chief criterion for government funding, and course offerings, the educational grounds for charitable status,” by declaring these matters to be “commercial” in nature (ibid., A13).

54  For a brief indication of the reactionary and anti-Enlightenment orientation of Babbitt’s “New Humanism,” see William V. Spanos, The End of Education: Toward Posthumanism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), pp. 79-93, and my Lunar Perspectives, pp. 146-47. Skinner and Eysenck were both involved with the British Humanist Association (see their essays in A.J. Ayer, ed., The Humanist Outlook [London, 1968]); Kate Soper has described their behaviourist stance as a “'technical fix' humanism” which “approaches human affairs on the model of the industrial enterprise, where all can be set to rights provided we adopt the more efficient management techniques afforded by scientific and technological development” (Soper, Humanism and Anti-Humanism [London: Hutchinson, 1986], p. 14).

55  Robert Young, “The Idea of a Chrestomathic University,” in Richard Rand, ed., Logomachia: The Conflict of the Faculties (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992), p. 113.

56  See Nicolas Walter, Humanism: What’s in the Word (London: Rationalist Press Association, 1997), pp. 13-14.

57  Walter briefly discusses Friedrich Niethammer’s Der Streit des Philanthropinismus und Humanismus in der Theorie des Erziehungs-Unterrichts unsrer Zeit (1808) in Humanism, pp. 17-19.

58  See Anthony Grafton and Lisa Jardine, From Humanism to the Humanities: Education and the Liberal Arts in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Europe (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986). On the basis of a fascinating study of Renaissance humanist pedagogy, Grafton and Jardine make what seem to me unacceptable generalizations about the orientation of humanism as a whole.

59  Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy [1860], trans . S.G.C. Middlemore (2 vols., 1958; rpt. New York: Harper & Row, 1965), vol. 1, p. 143; Burckhardt characterizes the exponents of humanism as “the advance guard of an unbridled individualism” (vol. 2, p. 479).

60  Douglas Bush, The Renaissance and English Humanism (1939; rpt. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962), p. 83. Bush argued that the biblical, patristic and classical texts with which Erasmus and his predecessors worked were seen by them as offering “a working ideal of a universal state in which reason and the will of God should prevail” (p. 65). “Sweetness and light” and “making reason and the will of God prevail” are Arnoldian catch-phrases: see Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy, ed. Samuel Lipman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994), pp. 31-32, 37-39, and my comments in Lunar Perspectives, pp. 203-07. Bush maintained that “sceptical and naturalistic doctrines” were the “two great philosophic enemies of religion and morality, and hence of Christian humanism” (p. 85)—thus with the stroke of a pen banishing from the ambit of humanism such figures as Valla, Agrippa, Rabelais and Montaigne, not to mention Erasmus himself. He claimed that, like “the great body of continental humanists,” English humanists were “unanimous in their defence of established authority”—a defence which appears, however, to have been an anxious matter. For as Bush immediately added, “this solid, all-embracing orthodoxy is a dyke which the smallest stream of water may undermine, and every hole must be stopped.” But reinforcements are available: Shakespeare himself “is no less attached than the most orthodox humanist to constituted authority, is no less scornful of the mob” (pp. 88-89, 95).

61  Hiram Haydn, The Counter-Renaissance (1950; rpt. New York: Grove Press, 1960), pp. 27-67.

62  Michel Foucault, “Revolutionary Action: ‘Until Now’,” Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, trans. Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon, ed. Donald F. Bouchard (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977), pp. 221-22.

63  Grafton and Jardine, From Humanism to the Humanities, p. xiv.

64  Donald R. Kelley, Renaissance Humanism (Boston: Twayne, 1991), pp. 23-33.

65  Charles G. Nauert, Jr., Humanism and the Culture of Renaissance Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), p. 197.

66  Carroll, Humanism: The Wreck of Western Culture (London: Fontana, 1993). For other more responsible contemporary interpretations, see the essays assembled in The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Humanism, ed. Jill Kraye (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

67  Kristeller, Renaissance Thought and the Arts: Collected Essays (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), p. 3.

68  For an argument to this effect, see Jonathan Dollimore, Radical Tragedy: Religion, Ideology and Power in the Drama of Shakespeare and his Contemporaries (2nd ed., 1989; rpt. Durham: Duke University Press, 1993). As Dollimore notes, one famous Renaissance text, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola’s Oration on the Dignity of Man, does assert a radical human autonomy—while at the same time inverting the traditional relationship between being and acting: in Pico’s rewriting of the creation myth, Adam has the freedom to fashion his own nature into a vegetative, animalistic, angelic, or divine nature. Dollimore (p. 169) quotes Ernst Cassirer’s recognition that this text is existentialist rather than essentialist in implication: “It is not being that prescribes once and for all the lasting direction which the mode of action will take; rather, the original direction of action determines and places being” (Cassirer, The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy, trans. Mario Domandi [1963; rpt. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1972], p. 84). While Burckhardt’s study gave a particular view of humanist subjectivity its canonical late-nineteenth-century form, it seems no accident that the coinage of Humanismus in the early nineteenth century coincided with von Humboldt’s formation, in Berlin, of the first modern university, an institution dedicated to the producing of autonomous subjectivities—or perhaps, as Foucault would say, of “subjected sovereignties.” See Readings, The University in Ruins, pp. 7, 46, 66-69; and Walter, Humanism, pp. 17-20.

69  Lunar Perspectives, p. 148. Major contributions to an understanding of the cultural impact of printing include Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980), and The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), and Adrian Johns, The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998).

70  Ibid., pp. 148-49. Jürgen Habermas identified the development of the public sphere of civil society as an eighteenth-century phenomenon; see his classic study The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society [1962], trans. Thomas Burger and Frederick Lawrence (1989; rpt. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1991). More recent scholarship has shown that various forms of public sphere were decisively active at least a century earlier; see for example David Zaret, “Religion, Science, and Printing in the Public Spheres of Seventeenth-Century England,” in Craig Calhoun, ed., Habermas and the Public Sphere (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1992), pp. 212-35. Emergent forms of a public sphere are evident in the humanist mobilization during the Reuchlin affair (1510-20) as well as in subsequent Reformation controversies.

71  McMurtry, The Cancer Stage of Capitalism, p. 205.

72  Henricus Cornelius Agrippa, Declamation on the Nobility and Preeminence of the Female Sex, trans. and ed. Arthur Rabil, Jr. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), p. 95. As I noted in Lunar Perspectives, Agrippa’s feminism was not merely theoretical: “At a time when such interventions were dangerous, he mocked the theological faculty of the University of Cologne for having given its approval to that notorious handbook of witch-hunters, the brutally misogynist Malleus maleficarum. And when in 1518 he served as municipal advocate in the city of Metz, he put his life and career on the line by intervening in the case of a woman who had been arrested and tortured by the inquisition on a charge of witchcraft. Agrippa secured her release and the return of her property—and made the inquisitor answer to a charge of heresy” (pp. 145-46).

73  Thomas Nashe, The Unfortunate Traveller, in The Works of Thomas Nashe, ed. R. B. McKerrow, revised by F. P. Wilson (5 vols., 1957; rpt. Oxford: Blackwell, 1966), vol. 2, pp. 264-65. I have modernized Nashe’s spelling. The identification of this fiction as an important late statement of humanist poetics is Arthur F. Kinney’s, in Humanist Poetics: Thought, Rhetoric, and Fiction in Sixteenth-Century England (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1986), p. 329. Aretino was not quite the sixteenth-century Noam Chomsky that Nashe makes him seem—but Nashe, whose books were burned and banned by the Bishop of London five years after he wrote this passage, and who subsequently disappears from history, had good reason to admire Aretino’s success in negotiating the literary patronage systems of the period.

74  The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, vol. 3: The Renaissance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 1.

75  Ancient forgeries and pseudepigrapha include at least thirteen of the forty-six surviving works ascribed to Aristotle, most of the Hippocratic canon, the complete works of the Egyptian sage Hermes Trismegistus, several of the canonical letters of the apostle Paul and his entire correspondence with Seneca, all of the writings of Paul’s disciple Dionysius the Areopagite, and large numbers of other literary, historical, medical and religious texts. The scale of more recent forgeries, many of them in the domain of law, is indicated by Grafton’s remark that “perhaps half the legal documents we possess from Merovingian times, and perhaps two-thirds of all documents issued to ecclesiastics before A.D. 1100, are fakes. And the volume swelled enormously as scientific jurisprudence established itself firmly in the West, and every practice and possession needed written documentation; the basic code of canon law, Gratian’s Decretum, contained some five hundred forged legal texts” (Grafton, Forgers and Critics: Creativity and Duplicity in Western Scholarship [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990], pp. 24-25).

76  Grafton, p. 123.

77  The Falsely-Believed and Forged Donation of Constantine, ii.6 and xxii.19; quoted from Lorenzo Valla, The Profession of the Religious and the principal arguments from The Falsely-Believed and Forged Donation of Constantine, ed. and trans. Olga Zorzi Pugliese (Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 1985), pp. 65, 71. In the second passage Valla is quoting Ephesians 6:12.

78  See Valla, i.1, p. 63: “… how eagerly and hastily would they drag me off to torture, if they only could, now that I am writing not just against the dead but against the living too, not just against this or that individual but against a multitude of men, not merely private citizens but even public officials? And which officials? Why, even the Supreme Pontiff who is armed not only with a temporal sword, like kings and rulers, but with a spiritual one too….”

79  See Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (New York: Pantheon, 1988), and also, as samples of other critical perspectives on the media, Joyce Nelson, The Perfect Machine: TV in the Nuclear Age (Toronto: Between the Lines, 1987), and Linda McQuaig, Shooting the Hippo: Death by Deficit and Other Canadian Myths (Toronto: Penguin, 1995).

80  Some salient examples: the American invasion of Vietnam was justified by fraudulent claims of a North Vietnamese invasion of the south and by the fabricated Gulf of Tonkin naval incident; U.S. aggression against Nicaragua in the 1980s (condemned by a judgment of the World Court) was justified by fraudulent claims of Sandinista subversion of neighbouring countries; the U.S. refusal to contemplate a negotiated withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait in 1991 was supported by fabricated atrocity claims and the lie that Iraq was preparing to invade Saudi Arabia; in 1993, a cruise missile attack on Baghdad was justified by fraudulent claims that the Iraqi dictatorship had attempted to assassinate ex-President George Bush; in 1999, the NATO attack on Serbia was justified by false claims of massacres in Kosovo; and finally, in 2003 the U.S./U.K. invasion of Iraq was justified by multiple falsehoods, including outright forgeries and plagiarisms, which were exposed by critical analysts almost as quickly as they were launched (for evidence, see Michael Keefer, ed., War on Iraq: Critical Resources, available at this website.

81  The Poems of William Blake, ed. W. B. Yeats (London: Lawrence & Bullen; N.Y: Scribner’s, 1893), “London,” p. 77.

82  See Lunar Perspectives, pp. 86-95, 122-24, 205-06. Since subtractive politicizing is a practice thoroughly embedded in the formative history of my own discipline of English Literature, my closest colleagues and I may have a head start in work of this kind.

83  Quoted by Milan Rai, Chomsky’s Politics (London: Verso, 1995), p. 121.

84  See John McMurtry, Unequal Freedoms, pp. 330-31.

85  Walter Benjamin, “On the Concept of History,” VI, in Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, ed. Michael W. Jennings et al. (4 vols.; Cambridge. Mass: Harvard University Press, 1996-2003), vol. 4, p. 391.