After all that, the memo sets out points under the heading ‘how start?’, which clearly detail various schemes to start a war under false pretenses, including baiting Saddam into an attack on the Kurds in the north, or breathlessly announcing from the White House that a firm connection had been found between Saddam and Usama Bin Laden. That several such possibilities were listed showed that Rumsfeld did not really care how the war was started, he just wanted that war. And it shows he was entirely willing to manufacture the pretense once it was decided on.
The memo clearly was developed in close consultation with deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz and his subordinate Douglas Feith, both of them part of the Israel Lobby in the Bush administration, whose obsession with Iraq derived from their right-Zionist commitments.
(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).
The Nuremberg Tribunal declared that “To initiate a war of aggression . . . is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
That the United States has failed to come to terms with its war crimes in Iraq only sets us up for a repeat performance. For a nation that lives by laws and the esteem of allies to act like an outlaw will ultimately undermine its own foundation. It is like playing golf in a bathroom– you’re going to end up with a lot of self-inflicted bruises.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s outrageous speech at the United Nations, in which he blamed the US government for staging the September 11 attacks against itself, was not aimed at an American audience. Ahmadinejad is a populist, and wants to whip up loyalty to himself among a dwindling stratum of true believers in Iran. The speech was shown on Iranian television, and he was almost certainly actually playing to the audience back home. He wanted to be on television on the world stage, poking America in the eye.
Ahmadinejad deliberately missed a chance to improve relations with the US. One of the suspects in Wednesday’s bombing in the largely Kurdish city of Mahabad is Ansar al-Islam, or radical Sunnis of the al-Qaeda type. (Kurdish separatist movements don’t typically target Kurdish civilians, as this bombing did). Iran’s president could have taken advantage of that tragedy to declare solidarity with the US in fighting radical Sunnism. He was more wedded to getting some guffaws in the workplaces of Iran.
He has good reason to want to take the focus off himself. He is involved in a conflict with the parliament (Majles) over who has more power, and some in parliament are firing back (see below).
The USG Open Source Center translated an article on MP Ali Motahhari’s attack on Ahmadinejad as wanting to weaken the separation of powers and move to a presidential dictatorship. The translation has been slightly revised, below, with the Persian word for parliament, Majles, removed in favor of the English term, and the spelling of Ahmadinejad’s name standardized.
“Tehran MP Rejects President’s Remarks on Parliament, Warns Against ‘Dictatorship’
Unattributed report from the “Politics” column: ” Ali Motahhari: If Parliament Is Not at Helm of Affairs, Dictatorship Will Be Established”
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Document Type: OSC Translated Text
As a reaction to recent remarks by the president, who has said that the Parliament is not at the helm of affairs, a Tehran M P[member of Parliament] regards the guardianship of the supreme jurisconsult and the Parliament as two factors for preventing autocracy. He said: “The late Imam Khomeyni considered that a tendency toward individualism creates autocracy and dictatorship and a branch called the Parliament should exist so that the tendency toward autocracy does not increase in the government.”
In his interview with a Mehr (News Agency) journalist, Tehran MP Ali Mottahari explained the president’s recent remarks, indicating that the period of the orders by the revolution leader (Ayatollah Khomeyni), who stated that the Parliament is at the helm of all affairs, has passed. This MP added: “Ahmadinejad’s argument indicating that the Parliament is not at the helm of all affairs is not right. The late imam’s (Khomeyni’s) order that the Parliament is at the helm of all affairs was not based on the reasoning that the prime minister was elected by the Parliament, and now that the president is elected through the people’s direct votes the Parliament has no power any longer.
Parliament Still Has Power To Dismiss President
Mottahari added: “The Parliament is at the helm of all affairs now as well, and has power because the authority to dismiss the president is with the Parliament. It can dismiss the president from power by questioning him, through impeachment, or by making a decision on his political non-qualification. Therefore, the Parliament is more powerful and is at the helm of all affairs.” …
The poor Palestinians of East Jerusalem have few assured human or civil rights. Anyone may do anything to them at any time, and they have little recourse. They can be thrown out of property they legally purchased after 1948, and made to live in tents in front of their former residences; and then the tents can be demolished by Israeli police. Aggressive, larcenous Jewish squatters continually attempt to effect a slow-motion ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, using fraud and sometimes force.
It is as though hundreds of armed men showed up in front of your house and demanded you take your family and leave and give it to them because their ancestor was a king and he is buried deep under its foundations. But you have the same ancestors that they do! (Jerusalem was founded some 5000 years ago by the common ancestors of most Jews and Palestinians).
The use of excessive force (live fire versus stone-throwing) angered the aggrieved Palestinians further, and they began demonstrating in the thousands in Silwan as the funeral was held Wednesday evening. The funeral procession, 1,000 strong, headed for a cemetery near the Wailing Wall and the al-Aqsa Mosque. Stone throwing broke out in that area and Israeli troops accosted the Palestinians driving them into the mosque.
The USG Open Source Center translates: ‘State-funded, independent Jerusalem Voice of Israel Network B in Hebrew adds at 1300 GMT: “Riots continue in East Jerusalem in the wake of last night’s killing of a Silwan resident by a security guard. Five civilians and four policemen were slightly injured. Young Arabs hurled rocks at two vehicles in which three Jews were driving in the vicinity of the Augusta Victoria Hospital. The three sustained slight injuries and were rescued by police. In Wadi al-Jawz, two bus passengers were injured as the bus was pelted with rocks. They were evacuated to Hadassah-En Kerem Hospital.
Earlier, four policemen were injured in riots in Silwan and in the course of the slain man’s funeral procession near Temple Mount. The rioters set on fire two Israeli cars parked near the Muslim cemetery.
“Left-wing activists report that police have dismantled a protest sukkah they had put up in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Al-Shaykh Jarrah and detained an activist.”
Network B updates at 1400 GMT: “A short time ago, police forces entered the Temple Mount compound in the wake of the violent incidents that started after a Silwan resident was shot dead by a security guard last night and during his funeral. Our correspondent Efrat Weiss reports that the troops are deployed near Al-Aqsa Mosque but have not entered the mosque. ‘
The al-Aqsa mosque is sacred to Muslims worldwide, and the clashes could easily spin out of control and provoke much more trouble among Muslims than mere repression of Palestinians would. Remember that it was only when Sunni Arabs in Iraq destroyed the Shiite Golden Dome shrine in Samarra in February 2006 that the civil war began in earnest in Iraq. Attacking holy sites can provoke massive reprisals because of their deep symbolic significance to millions of individuals.
Some observers are worried that the violence in Jerusalem may derail the current peace talks between the Israeli government and the Palestine Authority. That would be irrational. The point of peace talks is to resolve ongoing conflicts, so of course this stuff is going on while talks proceed. If the talks are canceled, it will be because the Israelis don’t really want to make peace with the Palestinians, or because the Palestinians decline to talk while being actively stolen from.
‘ Another settlement flash point is the Palestinian village of Silwan (pop. 55,000), which lies south of the Dung Gate of the Old City. . .
Silwan is one of the poorest parts of East Jerusalem. Its [Palestinian] residents pay the same taxes as Israeli citizens but receive few municipal services in return. There are no playgrounds, green parks, public libraries, sports facilities or public medical clinics. The dearth of public services depresses private investment — there are no cafés or cinemas, either. The settler takeover of tourist-related economic activities has further impoverished Silwan. An estimated 75 percent of its children live under the poverty line. . .
There, ancient claims of ownership based on archaeology are being used to dispossess the Arab inhabitants. The Elad Association, whose name is a Hebrew acronym for “To the City of David,” has been subsidizing excavations conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority in Silwan since the late 1990s. . . Some Israeli archaeologists contest this biblical version of the area’s history, and to date no archaeological evidence of King David’s presence in the area or of the existence of a Temple on the scale described in the Bible has been found.
A videotape of a guided tour of the dig shows that Elad admits it is undermining the structural integrity of the homes of the Arab residents of Silwan. . .
Other[ Palestinians] who have lived continually in Silwan expanded their homes or built new ones for their growing families. Since the Jerusalem municipality rarely gives permits for construction by Arabs, they had to build illegally. Demolition orders have been issued for 88 homes sheltering some 3,600 people in the Bustan neighborhood to make room for the expanding settler presence. Elad has also used fraudulent deeds and purchases conducted through front men to acquire property. In 1992 an Israeli government investigation concluded that Jewish settler organizations had acquired Arab property in East Jerusalem using false affidavits, misapplication of the Absentee Property Law, illegal transfers of public property to private, ideologically motivated associations and illegal transfers of tens of millions of shekels in public monies to settler organizations.’
Ussama Makdisi writes in a guest column for Informed Comment:
In the tragic story of U.S-Arab relations, no era has been as violent as our own. And yet when President Obama began his presidency, he initiated a series of highly-anticipated gestures to the Muslim world. His interview with the Arabic satellite channel Al-Arabiyya was followed by positive speeches in Turkey and Egypt. He insisted there was no clash of civilizations; he alluded to America’s long-standing philanthropic and cultural engagement with the Arab world, and he acknowledged that American actions in Iraq and inaction regarding Palestinian-Israeli peace had undermined faith in America. Above all, he spoke frankly of having to be judged on his actions and not his words. If nothing else, it was a hopeful beginning. Yet midway through his presidential term, the signs are ominous. Rather than signaling a bold change of direction, Obama has chosen half-measures to tweak an untenable status quo. Rather than securing a legacy based upon undoing George W. Bush’s calamitous wars, Obama has ironically deepened his predecessor’s imprint on the Middle East.
On Iraq, President Obama is ostensibly reversing the decision made by Bush to invade a sovereign nation. His address on Iraq to an American public tired of the Iraq war sought to make that clear. The infamous phrase “weapons of mass destruction” was not once mentioned, nor the indecent pretext of spreading democracy in a region rife with American supported and sustained autocrats (including Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak who was in the United States recently with his son and heir-apparent Gamal).
Obama did, however, declare that “we [Americans] have met our responsibility.” But several million Iraqi civilians have been displaced and countless hundreds of thousands Iraqi civilians have been killed and maimed over the past seven years of U.S. occupation, during which sectarianism reached a paroxysm of murderous violence—to say nothing of the terrible consequences of the U.S.-led sanctions regime and U.S. bombings of Iraqi infrastructure during the decade that preceded the invasion. The partial relaxation of overt U.S. domination of Iraqi politics and society cannot simply erase responsibility, nor can the disingenuous, patronizing notion that it is now up to the Iraqis to take up their own responsibilities as if the war had been waged for them in the first instance.
But Obama has at least acknowledged that the Iraq war was the wrong war. Rather than end it outright, however, his solution has been to withdraw many but not all U.S. troops for Iraq—some 50,000 remain in addition to thousands of private military contractors. Far more dangerously, he has expanded another unwinnable war in Afghanistan. And just like Bush who began the Afghan campaign in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Obama insists that terrorism and national security considerations are paramount as he lurches forward in Afghanistan and bombs parts of Pakistan. He has “surged” in Afghanistan as Bush had done in Iraq.
The logic that Obama has used to withdraw combat troops from Iraq could also have been applied to Afghanistan: a war without end serves neither Americans nor Afghanis. It alienates far more people than it pacifies and it will undoubtedly end in an American withdrawal without any appreciable gains for America. The real question is at what point and at what cost. How many more innocent lives are to be wasted before reality sets in? In any event, it should be clear by now that the resolution of anti-Americanism in the region lies in politics, not military conquests.
Obama, therefore, is making a show of kick-starting the moribund Palestinian-Israeli “peace process” to resolve the problem that has haunted America’s standing in the Middle East longer than any other issue. Far more than Bush or Clinton, Obama appears to understand that a resolution to the Palestinian question is important to American national security—for that was one of the principal messages that General David Petraeus conveyed in his recent congressional testimony and that is why Obama spent so much time at the outset of his presidency criticizing Israeli settlement construction.
But rather than move forward on the issue with new ideas, Obama now seems determined to recycle old failed ones from the Clinton era. He has already capitulated to the rightwing Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the issue of settlements. And for the second time in recent memory, a U.S. president is attempting to browbeat a corrupt, weak and now illegitimate Palestinian Authority (Mahmoud Abbas’s presidential term expired in 2009) into surrendering Palestinian rights in the name of a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The same dynamic that was at work during the failed Camp David Summit of 2000 is again evident: an Israeli leadership openly unwilling to make peace on the basis of genuine reciprocity, let alone justice or equality is meeting a Palestinian leadership utterly dependent on an American ability to pressure Israel into significant concessions, under the aegis of an American administration with the same kind of pro-Israel mentality and frame of reference that oversaw the last failed round.
One wonders why Obama is orchestrating this futile exercise at all—for the outcome of such lack of imagination will surely not be a strengthening of the U.S. position in the Middle East. Let us recall President Dwight Eisenhower’s famous stand on the Suez crisis of 1956. Taken by surprise by the British, French and Israeli invasion of Egypt, Eisenhower then faced considerable domestic pressure to go easy on Israel. He also faced strident British appeals for solidarity during the Cold War. Yet Eisenhower compelled the invading nations to withdraw, not for the sake of Egypt, but because he understood that U.S. interests could not be served by ill-conceived colonial wars and by a rigidly pro-Israel policy. Obama seems unable and unwilling to level with the American people about the need to delink Israel’s putative interests from America’s real ones. Without such a delinking, and in the context of ongoing war in Afghanistan that is fast becoming Obama’s war, Obama will surely snuff out what little hope there was when he first came to power, and when he addressed the Muslim world directly.
Obama’s presidency is shaping up to be another missed opportunity to rebuild America’s broken relationship to the Middle East. Americans may be tired of the Middle East, but they can’t afford to ignore it. The status quo no longer afflicts the people of the Middle East alone. It costs Americans as well.
While it is true that the troop casualties in Afghanistan and the scale of the insurgency are much less than in Iraq at the height of the war there, it is also indisputable that the depth, breadth and violence of the insurgency in Afghanistan is far great in summer 2010 than it had been in summer 2009. You want to look at trends, not just snapshots. Moreover, many US troops have suffered through multiple rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and are fatigued. That is, looking at the current Afghanistan statistics in a vacuum disregards the lived experience of US troops and the toll that multiple long rotations are taking on them and their families.
Pajhwok News Agency reports that there are still an estimated 1,000 illegal armed cells in Afghanistan, five years after the Afghanistan government formed a Ministry of Defense unit, the Disarmament of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG). Although it has captured 50,000 weapons and rolled up 730 major and twice that many small militant cells, DIAG still faces 1000 armed outlaw bands. DIAG says that 100 districts had been pacified, though its spokesman could not guarantee that any of those rendered peaceful had not been subject to backsliding.
Meanwhile, the NYT says it has seen an advance copy of Bob Woodward’s new book on Obama’s wars. It reports that special envoy Richard Holbrooke does not believe that the big counter-insurgency strategy can succeed. There is also an allegation that President Hamid Karzai may suffer from bipolar disorder. Finally, the book argues that Obama is deadly serious about withdrawing from AFghanistan beginning summer 2011, and that Gen. David Petraeus is fooling himself if he thinks he can convince Obama to give him more time. Obama is said to have remarked, “I can’t lose the whole Democratic Party.” He thought he had two years to wrap up Afghanistan before the public turned against him. He probably miscalculated.
‘ “The door is open to them [Iran] having a better relationship with the United States and with the international community,” White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said.
“However, in order to walk through that door, Iran is going to have to demonstrate its commitment to show its peaceful intent around its nuclear program, and meet its obligations to the international community,” he told reporters in a briefing.’
‘ “Iran having a nuclear weapon would be a real problem. We passed the toughest sanctions against Iran, ever. They are having an effect. We continue to be open to diplomatic solutions to resolve this, we don’t think that a war between Israel and Iran, or military options, would be the ideal way to solve this problem. But we are keeping all our options on the table. “
That is about as categorical as a president can get with regard to a thorny, evolving problem. Those so critical now of Obama should remember that John McCain actually sang a ditty about bombing Iran, and that it was entirely possible that had he won, he and Mama Grizzly would have recklessly opened a third front, further destroying our economy and what is left of our civil liberties.
The only one in the administration who doesn’t seem to be on the engagement page at the moment is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She told ABC News on Sunday,
“And I can only hope that there will be some effort inside Iran, by responsible civil and religious leaders, to take hold of the apparatus of the state . . . When you empower a military as much as they have to rely on them to put down legitimate protests and demonstrations, you create a momentum and unleash forces that you do not know where they will end up.”
Clinton sounded an awfully lot like she was calling for regime change. In fact, the comment reminded me of George H.W. Bush’s call for responsible Iraqis to remove Saddam Hussein, made during the Gulf War in 1991. Iraqis, emboldened, staged a revolution in 16 of Iraq’s 18 provinces, with the Shiite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, then based in Iran, leading the charge in the south, and Kurds rebelling in the north. Bush senior then stood by and allowed Saddam to viciously suppress this rebellion, which he had seemed to call for, with, allegedly, 60,000 killed by the Baath army.
That is, if Clinton is going to say things like that, she should be prepared for them to have significant consequences in Iran, and should be prepared to stand by any “responsible leaders” who answer her call.
Philip Crowley, a State Department spokesman, asked if she intended to call for regime change, replied, “No.”
“She was simply questioning the relationship between some elements of the regime and the growing importance of the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) and military elements within the Iranian hierarchy … The military elements, security elements have taken a more prominent role in terms of the suppression of people’s ability to assemble, to demonstrate, to engage in political activity . . .”
In other words, Crowley interprets her as wanting to see Iran’s civilian leadership push back against what she characterizes as a creeping soft coup by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. But since the IRGC is among the main pillars of the presidency of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it is a little disingenuous to suggest that Clinton wasn’t calling for him to be unseated.
I am suspicious of the trope of Iran as a military dictatorship, since demonization of a country on those grounds is typical of American war propaganda. Iran has been hard to depict in that light, given that it is ruled by civilian ayatollahs and an elected president and legislature. While it may be that the IRGC has grown in power in recent years, I think it is certainly the case that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei could dismiss the present Revolutionary Guards commander, Mohammad Ali Jafari, and install someone else at the top, and the other officers and the rank and file would acquiesce in it. Ergo, no military coup has taken place.
Obama’s careful statement at the CNBC town hall on Monday may have been intended to do damage control, as administration members prepare to try to open a back channel to Tehran at the UN.
Obama’s statement came a day after this exchange on NBC’s “Meet the Press” with former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who seems determined to redeem himself for helping launch the Iraq War on false intelligence by haunting the Republican Party with his keen sense of conscience, a specter party leaders thought they had long since banished to the netherworld.
‘ MR. GREGORY: In Iran, a path toward confrontation is possible, and I wonder what you think is worse — an Iran with a nuclear weapon, or the fallout of an attack on Iran by either the U.S. or Israel to prevent it having a nuclear weapon?
GEN. POWELL: I don’t think the stars are lining up for an attack on Iran, either by Israel alone or Israel in concert with the United States or the United States alone. I don’t think that’s going to happen. I’ve heard nothing to suggest that we would be interested in doing that or think it will be useful, even though the option is always on the table.
I think eventually we will have to deal with the reality that sanctions may not change the views of the Iranians on these issues and, therefore, let’s see if we can find a way to see if Iran can have a nuclear program that is fixed on power production — low level enrichment of their materiel so that is not on a track to become a weapon.
Now, people will say that’s naive. Once you know how to do that, you can then enrich up to weapons capability. But I think if you take them at their word, “trust but verify,” Reagan’s old sign — if you take them at their word, and they say they are not interested in the weapon, just power.
Then put in place a set of sanctions that would be devastating to them if they violate that agreement and then put in place an IAEA inspection regime and the National Atomic Energy Administration inspection regime that will keep them below that. And get Russia and China and everybody else to agree to it, then you might have to live with an Iran, and you might be able to live with an Iran that has a nuclear power capability but rigid enforcement constraints have been put in so they can’t move up to a weapons-grade program and the production of a nuclear weapon.
Now at the same time, what can they do with a nuclear weapon compared to what we could do in return? I don’t think it is — you know, they are interested in remaining in power. The easiest way for them to lose power is to seriously threaten or use such a weapon.’
Powell, as former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has numerous contacts among serving officers in the Pentagon and at CENTCOM HQ in Tampa, and when he says he’s “heard nothing” it likely means that the generals don’t want a war with Iran and haven’t been instructed to prepare for one (hint: Obama would do the instructing). If Powell is acting as a spokesman for significant elements in the officer corps, they could be trying to signal through him that they are prepared to live with a nuclear Iran, just as they had lived with a nuclear Soviet Union– in preference to opening yet another front with a military that is already over-stretched.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, contrary to what The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Golberg recently attempted to imply, likely doesn’t have the cojones to attack Iran on his own, without a green light from Washington. He thinks Bill Clinton eased him out of power the last time he was prime minister, for obstructing the Oslo peace process and for trying to poison Khaled Mashaal to death. Moreover, Israel does not have the technical ability to strike Iran and get its pilots back.
The Neocons will just have to wait a few years for their war, if they get it at all. If they get it, the rest of us won’t like what it does to our country and our lives.