Subject: ON THE POLITICS OF VIOLENCE : FROM THE CENTER FOR THE ADVANCED
STUDY OF AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS.
24 May 2004
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
Our Research Center For the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements continues to receive articles and essays from America about the recent revelations of abuse and sadistic torture authorized by U.S. government officials as well as perspectives on the history of American aggression.
In item A. our graduate student Tanguy Pichetto called to our attention the investigative report on the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal by Seymour Hersh, which was recently published in The New Yorker Magazine.
Item B. is an interview with Greg Palast, another world-class investigative reporter and author of, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. The interview is conducted by Guerrilla News Network (GNN) correspondent Jenn Bleyer in New York.
Item C. is an essay sent to us by Professor Ed Herman, on the white propaganda coming out of the American establishment on the theme of violence, as a tactic for turning public attention away from the U.S.-supported practice of "genocide" in third-world nations.
Item D. is an analysis of the U.S.-NATO crisis, written last year by Gabriel Kolko, which outlines the fearsome decline of American influence in the world, and the almost hysterical response to replace this faltering political/economic influence with military force and the permanent threat of violence.
If you have any comments on these essay or others we have sent you,
please contact us with your comments, for distribution and wider discussion.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
The University of Grenoble 3
from Tanguy Pichetto
15 May 2004
I came across this article by Seymour Hersh while doing my research on U.S.-Israeli relations. I thought you might be interested in it.
P.S. Another reliable source of information I have discovered on the
internet is : http://newstandardnews.net/content/?action=show_item&itemid=198
TORTURE AT ABU GHRAIB
by SEYMOUR M. HERSH
American soldiers brutalized Iraqis. How far up does the responsibility go?
In the era of Saddam Hussein, Abu Ghraib, twenty miles west of Baghdad, was one of the world’s most notorious prisons, with torture, weekly executions, and vile living conditions. As many as fifty thousand men and womenno accurate count is possiblewere jammed into Abu Ghraib at one time, in twelve-by-twelve-foot cells that were little more than human holding pits.
In the looting that followed the regime’s collapse, last April, the huge prison complex, by then deserted, was stripped of everything that could be removed, including doors, windows, and bricks. The coalition authorities had the floors tiled, cells cleaned and repaired, and toilets, showers, and a new medical center added. Abu Ghraib was now a U.S. military prison. Most of the prisoners, howeverby the fall there were several thousand, including women and teen-agerswere civilians, many of whom had been picked up in random military sweeps and at highway checkpoints. They fell into three loosely defined categories: common criminals; security detainees suspected of “crimes against the coalition”; and a small number of suspected “high-value” leaders of the insurgency against the coalition forces.
Last June, Janis Karpinski, an Army reserve brigadier general, was named commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade and put in charge of military prisons in Iraq. General Karpinski, the only female commander in the war zone, was an experienced operations and intelligence officer who had served with the Special Forces and in the 1991 Gulf War, but she had never run a prison system. Now she was in charge of three large jails, eight battalions, and thirty-four hundred Army reservists, most of whom, like her, had no training in handling prisoners.
General Karpinski, who had wanted to be a soldier since she was five, is a business consultant in civilian life, and was enthusiastic about her new job. In an interview last December with the St. Petersburg Times, she said that, for many of the Iraqi inmates at Abu Ghraib, “living conditions now are better in prison than at home. At one point we were concerned that they wouldn’t want to leave.”
A month later, General Karpinski was formally admonished and quietly suspended, and a major investigation into the Army’s prison system, authorized by Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez, the senior commander in Iraq, was under way. A fifty-three-page report, obtained by The New Yorker, written by Major General Antonio M. Taguba and not meant for public release, was completed in late February. Its conclusions about the institutional failures of the Army prison system were devastating. Specifically, Taguba found that between October and December of 2003 there were numerous instances of “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” at Abu Ghraib. This systematic and illegal abuse of detainees, Taguba reported, was perpetrated by soldiers of the 372nd Military Police Company, and also by members of the American intelligence community. (The 372nd was attached to the 320th M.P. Battalion, which reported to Karpinski’s brigade headquarters.) Taguba’s report listed some of the wrongdoing:
Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.
There was stunning evidence to support the allegations, Taguba added “detailed witness statements and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence.” Photographs and videos taken by the soldiers as the abuses were happening were not included in his report, Taguba said, because of their “extremely sensitive nature.”
The photographsseveral of which were broadcast on CBS’s “60 Minutes 2” last weekshow leering G.I.s taunting naked Iraqi prisoners who are forced to assume humiliating poses. Six suspectsStaff Sergeant Ivan L. Frederick II, known as Chip, who was the senior enlisted man; Specialist Charles A. Graner; Sergeant Javal Davis; Specialist Megan Ambuhl; Specialist Sabrina Harman; and Private Jeremy Sivitsare now facing prosecution in Iraq, on charges that include conspiracy, dereliction of duty, cruelty toward prisoners, maltreatment, assault, and indecent acts. A seventh suspect, Private Lynndie England, was reassigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, after becoming pregnant.
The photographs tell it all. In one, Private England, a cigarette dangling from her mouth, is giving a jaunty thumbs-up sign and pointing at the genitals of a young Iraqi, who is naked except for a sandbag over his head, as he masturbates. Three other hooded and naked Iraqi prisoners are shown, hands reflexively crossed over their genitals. A fifth prisoner has his hands at his sides. In another, England stands arm in arm with Specialist Graner; both are grinning and giving the thumbs-up behind a cluster of perhaps seven naked Iraqis, knees bent, piled clumsily on top of each other in a pyramid. There is another photograph of a cluster of naked prisoners, again piled in a pyramid. Near them stands Graner, smiling, his arms crossed; a woman soldier stands in front of him, bending over, and she, too, is smiling. Then, there is another cluster of hooded bodies, with a female soldier standing in front, taking photographs. Yet another photograph shows a kneeling, naked, unhooded male prisoner, head momentarily turned away from the camera, posed to make it appear that he is performing oral sex on another male prisoner, who is naked and hooded.
Such dehumanization is unacceptable in any culture, but it is especially so in the Arab world. Homosexual acts are against Islamic law and it is humiliating for men to be naked in front of other men, Bernard Haykel, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at New York University, explained. “Being put on top of each other and forced to masturbate, being naked in front of each otherit’s all a form of torture,” Haykel said.
Two Iraqi faces that do appear in the photographs are those of dead men. There is the battered face of prisoner No. 153399, and the bloodied body of another prisoner, wrapped in cellophane and packed in ice. There is a photograph of an empty room, splattered with blood.
The 372nd’s abuse of prisoners seemed almost routinea fact of Army life that the soldiers felt no need to hide. On April 9th, at an Article 32 hearing (the military equivalent of a grand jury) in the case against Sergeant Frederick, at Camp Victory, near Baghdad, one of the witnesses, Specialist Matthew Wisdom, an M.P., told the courtroom what happened when he and other soldiers delivered seven prisoners, hooded and bound, to the so-called “hard site” at Abu Ghraibseven tiers of cells where the inmates who were considered the most dangerous were housed. The men had been accused of starting a riot in another section of the prison. Wisdom said:
SFC Snider grabbed my prisoner and threw him into a pile. . . . I do not think it was right to put them in a pile. I saw SSG Frederic, SGT Davis and CPL Graner walking around the pile hitting the prisoners. I remember SSG Frederick hitting one prisoner in the side of its [sic] ribcage. The prisoner was no danger to SSG Frederick. . . . I left after that.
When he returned later, Wisdom testified:
I saw two naked detainees, one masturbating to another kneeling with its mouth open. I thought I should just get out of there. I didn’t think it was right . . . I saw SSG Frederick walking towards me, and he said, “Look what these animals do when you leave them alone for two seconds.” I heard PFC England shout out, “He’s getting hard.”
Wisdom testified that he told his superiors what had happened, and assumed that “the issue was taken care of.” He said, “I just didn’t want to be part of anything that looked criminal.”
The abuses became public because of the outrage of Specialist Joseph M. Darby, an M.P. whose role emerged during the Article 32 hearing against Chip Frederick. A government witness, Special Agent Scott Bobeck, who is a member of the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, or C.I.D., told the court, according to an abridged transcript made available to me, “The investigation started after SPC Darby . . . got a CD from CPL Graner. . . . He came across pictures of naked detainees.” Bobeck said that Darby had “initially put an anonymous letter under our door, then he later came forward and gave a sworn statement. He felt very bad about it and thought it was very wrong.”
Questioned further, the Army investigator said that Frederick and his colleagues had not been given any “training guidelines” that he was aware of. The M.P.s in the 372nd had been assigned to routine traffic and police duties upon their arrival in Iraq, in the spring of 2003. In October of 2003, the 372nd was ordered to prison-guard duty at Abu Ghraib. Frederick, at thirty-seven, was far older than his colleagues, and was a natural leader; he had also worked for six years as a guard for the Virginia Department of Corrections. Bobeck explained:
What I got is that SSG Frederick and CPL Graner were road M.P.s and were put in charge because they were civilian prison guards and had knowledge of how things were supposed to be run.
Bobeck also testified that witnesses had said that Frederick, on one occasion, “had punched a detainee in the chest so hard that the detainee almost went into cardiac arrest.”
At the Article 32 hearing, the Army informed Frederick and his attorneys, Captain Robert Shuck, an Army lawyer, and Gary Myers, a civilian, that two dozen witnesses they had sought, including General Karpinski and all of Frederick’s co-defendants, would not appear. Some had been excused after exercising their Fifth Amendment right; others were deemed to be too far away from the courtroom. “The purpose of an Article 32 hearing is for us to engage witnesses and discover facts,” Gary Myers told me. “We ended up with a c.i.d. agent and no alleged victims to examine.” After the hearing, the presiding investigative officer ruled that there was sufficient evidence to convene a court-martial against Frederick.
Myers, who was one of the military defense attorneys in the My Lai prosecutions of the nineteen-seventies, told me that his client’s defense will be that he was carrying out the orders of his superiors and, in particular, the directions of military intelligence. He said, “Do you really think a group of kids from rural Virginia decided to do this on their own? Decided that the best way to embarrass Arabs and make them talk was to have them walk around nude?”
In letters and e-mails to family members, Frederick repeatedly noted that the military-intelligence teams, which included C.I.A. officers and linguists and interrogation specialists from private defense contractors, were the dominant force inside Abu Ghraib. In a letter written in January, he said:
I questioned some of the things that I saw . . . such things as leaving inmates in their cell with no clothes or in female underpants, handcuffing them to the door of their celland the answer I got was, “This is how military intelligence (MI) wants it done.” . . . . MI has also instructed us to place a prisoner in an isolation cell with little or no clothes, no toilet or running water, no ventilation or window, for as much as three days.
The military-intelligence officers have “encouraged and told us, ‘Great job,’ they were now getting positive results and information,” Frederick wrote. “CID has been present when the military working dogs were used to intimidate prisoners at MI’s request.” At one point, Frederick told his family, he pulled aside his superior officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Phillabaum, the commander of the 320th M.P. Battalion, and asked about the mistreatment of prisoners. “His reply was ‘Don’t worry about it.’”
In November, Frederick wrote, an Iraqi prisoner under the control of what the Abu Ghraib guards called “O.G.A.,” or other government agenciesthat is, the C.I.A. and its paramilitary employeeswas brought to his unit for questioning. “They stressed him out so bad that the man passed away. They put his body in a body bag and packed him in ice for approximately twenty-four hours in the shower. . . . The next day the medics came and put his body on a stretcher, placed a fake IV in his arm and took him away.” The dead Iraqi was never entered into the prison’s inmate-control system, Frederick recounted, “and therefore never had a number.”
Frederick’s defense is, of course, highly self-serving. But the complaints
in his letters and e-mails home were reinforced by two internal Army reportsTaguba’s
and one by the Army’s chief law-enforcement officer, Provost Marshal Donald
Ryder, a major general.
Last fall, General Sanchez ordered Ryder to review the prison system in Iraq and recommend ways to improve it. Ryder’s report, filed on November 5th, concluded that there were potential human-rights, training, and manpower issues, system-wide, that needed immediate attention. It also discussed serious concerns about the tension between the missions of the military police assigned to guard the prisoners and the intelligence teams who wanted to interrogate them. Army regulations limit intelligence activity by the M.P.s to passive collection. But something had gone wrong at Abu Ghraib.
There was evidence dating back to the Afghanistan war, the Ryder report said, that M.P.s had worked with intelligence operatives to “set favorable conditions for subsequent interviews”a euphemism for breaking the will of prisoners. “Such actions generally run counter to the smooth operation of a detention facility, attempting to maintain its population in a compliant and docile state.” General Karpinski’s brigade, Ryder reported, “has not been directed to change its facility procedures to set the conditions for MI interrogations, nor participate in those interrogations.” Ryder called for the establishment of procedures to “define the role of military police soldiers . . .clearly separating the actions of the guards from those of the military intelligence personnel.” The officers running the war in Iraq were put on notice.
Ryder undercut his warning, however, by concluding that the situation had not yet reached a crisis point. Though some procedures were flawed, he said, he found “no military police units purposely applying inappropriate confinement practices.” His investigation was at best a failure and at worst a coverup.
Taguba, in his report, was polite but direct in refuting his fellow-general. “Unfortunately, many of the systemic problems that surfaced during [Ryder’s] assessment are the very same issues that are the subject of this investigation,” he wrote. “In fact, many of the abuses suffered by detainees occurred during, or near to, the time of that assessment.” The report continued, “Contrary to the findings of MG Ryder’s report, I find that personnel assigned to the 372nd MP Company, 800th MP Brigade were directed to change facility procedures to ‘set the conditions’ for MI interrogations.” Army intelligence officers, C.I.A. agents, and private contractors “actively requested that MP guards set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of witnesses.”
Taguba backed up his assertion by citing evidence from sworn statements to Army C.I.D. investigators. Specialist Sabrina Harman, one of the accused M.P.s, testified that it was her job to keep detainees awake, including one hooded prisoner who was placed on a box with wires attached to his fingers, toes, and penis. She stated, “MI wanted to get them to talk. It is Graner and Frederick’s job to do things for MI and OGA to get these people to talk.”
Another witness, Sergeant Javal Davis, who is also one of the accused, told C.I.D. investigators, “I witnessed prisoners in the MI hold section . . . being made to do various things that I would question morally. . . . We were told that they had different rules.” Taguba wrote, “Davis also stated that he had heard MI insinuate to the guards to abuse the inmates. When asked what MI said he stated: ‘Loosen this guy up for us.’‘Make sure he has a bad night.’‘Make sure he gets the treatment.’” Military intelligence made these comments to Graner and Frederick, Davis said. “The MI staffs to my understanding have been giving Graner compliments . . . statements like, ‘Good job, they’re breaking down real fast. They answer every question. They’re giving out good information.’”
When asked why he did not inform his chain of command about the abuse, Sergeant Davis answered, “Because I assumed that if they were doing things out of the ordinary or outside the guidelines, someone would have said something. Also the wing”where the abuse took place“belongs to MI and it appeared MI personnel approved of the abuse.”
Another witness, Specialist Jason Kennel, who was not accused of wrongdoing, said, “I saw them nude, but MI would tell us to take away their mattresses, sheets, and clothes.” (It was his view, he added, that if M.I. wanted him to do this “they needed to give me paperwork.”) Taguba also cited an interview with Adel L. Nakhla, a translator who was an employee of Titan, a civilian contractor. He told of one night when a “bunch of people from MI” watched as a group of handcuffed and shackled inmates were subjected to abuse by Graner and Frederick.
General Taguba saved his harshest words for the military-intelligence officers and private contractors. He recommended that Colonel Thomas Pappas, the commander of one of the M.I. brigades, be reprimanded and receive non-judicial punishment, and that Lieutenant Colonel Steven Jordan, the former director of the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center, be relieved of duty and reprimanded. He further urged that a civilian contractor, Steven Stephanowicz, of CACI International, be fired from his Army job, reprimanded, and denied his security clearances for lying to the investigating team and allowing or ordering military policemen “who were not trained in interrogation techniques to facilitate interrogations by ‘setting conditions’ which were neither authorized” nor in accordance with Army regulations. “He clearly knew his instructions equated to physical abuse,” Taguba wrote. He also recommended disciplinary action against a second CACI employee, John Israel. (A spokeswoman for CACI said that the company had “received no formal communication” from the Army about the matter.)
“I suspect,” Taguba concluded, that Pappas, Jordan, Stephanowicz, and Israel “were either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuse at Abu Ghraib,” and strongly recommended immediate disciplinary action.
The problems inside the Army prison system in Iraq were not hidden from senior commanders. During Karpinski’s seven-month tour of duty, Taguba noted, there were at least a dozen officially reported incidents involving escapes, attempted escapes, and other serious security issues that were investigated by officers of the 800th M.P. Brigade. Some of the incidents had led to the killing or wounding of inmates and M.P.s, and resulted in a series of “lessons learned” inquiries within the brigade. Karpinski invariably approved the reports and signed orders calling for changes in day-to-day procedures. But Taguba found that she did not follow up, doing nothing to insure that the orders were carried out. Had she done so, he added, “cases of abuse may have been prevented.”
General Taguba further found that Abu Ghraib was filled beyond capacity, and that the M.P. guard force was significantly undermanned and short of resources. “This imbalance has contributed to the poor living conditions, escapes, and accountability lapses,” he wrote. There were gross differences, Taguba said, between the actual number of prisoners on hand and the number officially recorded. A lack of proper screening also meant that many innocent Iraqis were wrongly being detainedindefinitely, it seemed, in some cases. The Taguba study noted that more than sixty per cent of the civilian inmates at Abu Ghraib were deemed not to be a threat to society, which should have enabled them to be released. Karpinski’s defense, Taguba said, was that her superior officers “routinely” rejected her recommendations regarding the release of such prisoners.
Karpinski was rarely seen at the prisons she was supposed to be running, Taguba wrote. He also found a wide range of administrative problems, including some that he considered “without precedent in my military career.” The soldiers, he added, were “poorly prepared and untrained . . . prior to deployment, at the mobilization site, upon arrival in theater, and throughout the mission.”
General Taguba spent more than four hours interviewing Karpinski, whom he described as extremely emotional: “What I found particularly disturbing in her testimony was her complete unwillingness to either understand or accept that many of the problems inherent in the 800th MP Brigade were caused or exacerbated by poor leadership and the refusal of her command to both establish and enforce basic standards and principles among its soldiers.”
Taguba recommended that Karpinski and seven brigade military-police officers and enlisted men be relieved of command and formally reprimanded. No criminal proceedings were suggested for Karpinski; apparently, the loss of promotion and the indignity of a public rebuke were seen as enough punishment.
After the story broke on CBS last week, the Pentagon announced that Major General Geoffrey Miller, the new head of the Iraqi prison system, had arrived in Baghdad and was on the job. He had been the commander of the Guantánamo Bay detention center. General Sanchez also authorized an investigation into possible wrongdoing by military and civilian interrogators.
As the international furor grew, senior military officers, and President Bush, insisted that the actions of a few did not reflect the conduct of the military as a whole. Taguba’s report, however, amounts to an unsparing study of collective wrongdoing and the failure of Army leadership at the highest levels. The picture he draws of Abu Ghraib is one in which Army regulations and the Geneva conventions were routinely violated, and in which much of the day-to-day management of the prisoners was abdicated to Army military-intelligence units and civilian contract employees. Interrogating prisoners and getting intelligence, including by intimidation and torture, was the priority.
The mistreatment at Abu Ghraib may have done little to further American intelligence, however. Willie J. Rowell, who served for thirty-six years as a C.I.D. agent, told me that the use of force or humiliation with prisoners is invariably counterproductive. “They’ll tell you what you want to hear, truth or no truth,” Rowell said. “‘You can flog me until I tell you what I know you want me to say.’ You don’t get righteous information.”
Under the fourth Geneva convention, an occupying power can jail civilians who pose an “imperative” security threat, but it must establish a regular procedure for insuring that only civilians who remain a genuine security threat be kept imprisoned. Prisoners have the right to appeal any internment decision and have their cases reviewed. Human Rights Watch complained to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that civilians in Iraq remained in custody month after month with no charges brought against them. Abu Ghraib had become, in effect, another Guantánamo.
As the photographs from Abu Ghraib make clear, these detentions have had enormous consequences: for the imprisoned civilian Iraqis, many of whom had nothing to do with the growing insurgency; for the integrity of the Army; and for the United States’ reputation in the world.
Captain Robert Shuck, Frederick’s military attorney, closed his defense
at the Article 32 hearing last month by saying that the Army was “attempting
to have these six soldiers atone for its sins.” Similarly, Gary Myers,
Frederick’s civilian attorney, told me that he would argue at the court-martial
that culpability in the case extended far beyond his client. “I’m going
to drag every involved intelligence officer and civilian contractor I can
find into court,” he said. “Do you really believe the Army relieved a general
officer because of six soldiers? Not a chance.”
from Francis Feeley
Guerrilla News Network
Monday, May 10, 2004
Guerrilla of the Week
by Jenn Bleyer
Greg Palast is back with an updated, expanded edition of the bestseller that won't die, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy. GNN's Jenn Bleyer caught up with America's most prolific muckraker at a recent New York event. Palast was in rare form, pulling no punches as he explained how we're headed for another election debacle, the connection between Iraq and America's African-American community, and why Michael Moore is allowed to get away with what he does.
GNN: What's new in this edition of your book?
Palast: Well, there's nothing new in the sense that it's the same old thieving shits that have been walking away with everything in our nation that isn't bolted down, plus hunks of Mesopotamia. That ain't new. What's new is the information that I have on exactly how they do it. What's new on the election story? It's grim. Our president has signed the Help America Vote Act. When George W. Bush is going to help me vote, I'm concerned.
They're pushing it to go digital, and I think a lot of people are getting distracted worrying about the hacking. The real game is what the Civil Rights Commission calls the "no count," which is machines that don't work, power failures, machines that lock up. Hey, you have a laptop, right? Your presidency is hanging on it. This isn't about whether the machines work or not-they work perfectly. That's where I investigated. I went into Broward County's white precinct where touch screen voting works just wonderful, like a coconut oil massage. Real smooth. And you go into the black precincts and it's like plantation whips brought out in digital form. Precincts were shut down for hours while they told people, come back tomorrow. Power failures. You name it. In the black community, thousands of votes were lost in Broward County with the touch screen vote.
In the new edition of the book, I am revealing something that was discovered by the Civil Rights Commission in their raw data. 1.9 million votes were cast and never counted in the last election. Thrown in the friggin' garbage cans. Half of those were cast by African-Americans. And it's state after state after state, with all kinds of different machines. The biggest game they play is saying "blacks don't have education, they can't figure out the ballot." That's a wonderful little racist out. If you give black people the same machines, they have the same vote count as white people. Election supervisors told me they told the Jebster about it beforehand. You can't find this stuff in mainstream newspapers. Ted Koppel runs this story and it's, "blacks is too dumb to figure out how to vote." Dig: You're one thousand times more likely to lose your vote if you're black than if you're white.
GNN: Have you seen concrete evidence of this happening in other black counties in the country?
Sure. Chicago, Illinois is the worst place in the country. I watched as the machine totals on the back of the lever machines were simply read off differently in the black precincts. Chicago has the worst spoilage rate-that's what they call it, the "spoilage rate." That's because the Daly machine can't allow a black majority of the Democratic Party to take back their party from the white folks who maintain the political plantation in Chicago. Basically it's like political cotton pickin' out there. That's an old one.
GNN: So what's the solution?
Palast: Kill the white people, we know that. But since that's not going to happen, we have to say that we know. And we have to say we're not buying this jive ass bullshit they're doing with the Help America Vote Act.
GNN: Has there been any mainstream coverage of this story?
Palast: Absoluteely none. The L.A. Times ran this big story about Greg Palast, one of the world's greatest investigative reporters. Big story. Whoa, I can send that to my mom! But then I go to the editor and say, if I'm such a great investigative reporter, why don't you run my story? "Well, what story?" A million black votes missing. "Oh, we've run that story." You've run that story? What, in the invisible ink edition? See, when you defend black people, you suddenly became an invisible man, like black people are. You're invisible. You're behind the glass.
That's not unrelated to what I found on Iraq. What I found on Iraq was a document that's the Iraq strategy, post-conflict plan for the economy. These little weasels had been working on it, as far as I can tell, since before they returned the rented tuxes from the inaugural. This is why we're there. Why are kids there getting their asses shot off? Saddam's gone. What the fuck are we still doing there? That's a simple question and nobody's answering it. The Left is still arguing about whether we should have gone in. Forget all that bullshit. The reason we're still there is to "sell off all the state assets, especially in the oil industry"- that's a quote. They don't want you to know that when your kid comes home in a box, it's because of Appendix B, which says we need 360 days to grab their oil. Big problem. In those 360 days, there's a lot of angry Iraqis. We can call them old Baathists. We can call them Al Qaeda agents. But I'd call them Vietnamese. It's coming.
GNN: If Iraq really does devolve into a modern Vietnam, how will they maintain popular support for it?
Palast: They don't give a shit about popular support. Bush is running on fear. He's the fear candidate. He's the "you better get scared cuz those guys with the towels on their heads, they're coming to git you" candidate. People have to understand what the game is: pump the fear. His daddy created Osama bin Laden, who came back for us. His daddy created Saddam. And now he's creating Musharraf and all the other crazy bastards, and it's going to be a very fucking dangerous world. They're going to make it so goddamn dangerous that then they'll turn around and say, see, you need us. They're selling fear. That's their commodity.
GNN: You seem pretty convinced that this administration is coming back for a sequel.
Palast: No. The way I read it is that Bush is running unopposed. The only hope for regime change is that Kerry is acceptable to the elite. I've been talking to the oil guys behind the plans to take over Iraq, and they're not unhappy with Kerry at all. Obviously, Bush is their guy. He lets them drill in the Oval Office. Right now we've established a puppet government in Iraq, and the Saudis have established a puppet government here. That's what we're talking about. But the puppets have started playing with their own strings, and that's a problem. That's why Jim Baker moved his office right into the White House. And now they're worried that Bush is creating too many problems. The big fear of the oil companies is not Iraqis. It's that the neo cons are going to try to undercut OPEC. So they have to control George.
GNN: And you think they have the same likelihood of controlling Kerry's puppet strings?
Palast: Kerry says we should have more troops there, and we should stay there until it's stabilized. Well. Iraq hasn't been stabilized since 1911. I have one question for Kerry. What the hell do you mean by "stabilized?" Is California stabilized? Think about this: Timothy McVeigh was our homegrown terrorist. And where did we train him? Gulf War I. He was part of the troops that buried Iraqi soldiers alive when they tried to surrender in their trenches in the Gulf. So he learned that you can murder unarmed people-the Iraqis were surrendering, they were unarmed-you can murder unarmed people if your cause is just. And he took that home from the Gulf War. People would say, how could a Gulf War hero with all these medals kill innocent people? Excuse me, how could a man who killed all these innocent people, kill more innocent people?? So those guys that were having Iraqis rape each other, they're going to come back, and they're going to be your cops on the south side of Los Angeles. Welcome home! The war will come back home. Forget the terrorists, we're creating our own.
GNN: So what's a lefty or progressive or just a mildly skeptical person to do?
Palast: Dance all night. I think the Left is too fucking stiff. The Left hasn't had an erection in years. We are not approaching people in a normal manner. I mean, these weird words like "imperialism." You go to the corner bodega, the average asshole in America isn't an "imperialist." They're just scared like everyone else, or they don't give a shit. In America we run between falling asleep, going to Disneyworld, and fear.
GNN: Can you tell yet which are the next Enrons and Global Crossings coming up the pike?
Palast: Well, people look in terms of collapse. What I look at is who's ripping off the public, who's stealing the public blind. Unfortunately, there was too much weeping over the Enron stockholders, who certainly didn't mind when the casino was running hot. I don't give a shit about people who lost money on Enron stock. Who are the next ones? The rip-off industry is coming back. We have Reliance Energy. The Koch Brothers-I'm deeply concerned about their little scams. Bass brothers. These are the barbeque billionaires who Bush hangs out with. I would look to Wackenhut Corporation, which is going from Prisons-R-Us to Spy-for-Hire. They're all dangerous. Plus, when they're not dangerous, they are, as Jello Biafra says, clownocrats. They're complete fuck-ups. It's like Castro and the exploding cigar.
GNN: What has Michael Moore's impact been on disseminating your work?
Palast: He's wonderful. He takes my stuff and he turns it into something that he can get past the censors, because he's a clown. If I can't get it into The New York Times, give it to the fat man in the chicken suit and you get it through as a joke. Which is fine, as long as it's done right. We don't have many choices. I don't mind doing skywriting. I have a dance track out, Silence of the Lambs. We're got a CD out with Jello Biafra. We've got DVD's. Larry Flynt is putting us in between the beaver shots. This weekend I was doing gospel with Jesse Jackson and the choir. Whatever we can do to get the word out.
GNN: Your detractors seem to go after you with pretty low-blow character attacks. Do they ever challenge the actual substance of your work?
Palast: Well, I must say I've been accused of being bald, and there's
some substance to that. They never go after the substance. It's these whisper
campaigns. I had that in England a lot-even worse in England. Everything
from my sex life, or lack thereof, to that I'm twisted and maniacal, as
Katherine Harris said. And the IMF said that I'm the master of misinformation.
I like it cuz it's like, zing! The arrow hit. If anyone has information
to counter what I've said, I'm going to publish it. I'll be the first guy
to take back a story and correct it. I correct stories all the time. I
have to work on the information that I've got. We're not talking papal
infallibility here-we're talking journalism. Shit, it ain't the Magna Carta.
On the other hand, most of the people who complain are whiners, bellyachers,
and guilty as charged.
from Ed Herman
May 17, 2004
THE CRUISE MISSILE LEFT (Part 5): SAMANTHA POWER AND
THE GENOCIDE GAMBIT
by Edward S. Herman
Establishment politicians, media, and intellectuals use the word genocide with great abandon, but with a hugely politicized selectivity. It is an invidious word, like terrorism, so that attaching it to an enemy and target is helpful in demonizing, thereby setting up the target for bombing and invasion, and establishing a case for pursuit of its leaders via assassination squads or tribunals. Genocide was used often to describe the killing fields of Pol Pot, but not the killing fields of Vietnam where the United States ravaged the country, killed many more people than did Pol Pot, and left a destroyed country and chemical warfare heritage of hundreds of thousands of children with birth defects. The word was never used in the U.S. mainstream to describe Indonesian operations in East Timor, where the invasion of 1975 and murderous occupation killed off between a quarter and a third of the population, a larger fraction than in Cambodia and not attributable, at least in part, to a prior war and its after-effects (as in Cambodia). But in the one mention of the word genocide in reference to East Timor in the New York Times (February 15, 1981), veteran reporter Henry Kamm explained that this was unwarranted hyperbole --that the situation was complex and there were multiple causes of all those deaths (presumably in contrast with Cambodia, where Kamm and the Times never found any complexity or causes other than Pol Pot s policies).
The word genocide is rarely if ever applied to Turkish ethnic cleansing and massacres of its Kurds, and in fact Turkey was mobilized to participate in the 78-day NATO (de facto U.S.) bombing war against Yugoslavia in 1999, supposedly to terminate genocide in Kosovo, although Turkey s attacks on its local Kurds were far more deadly than any pre-bombing-war Yugoslav violence against the Kosovo Albanians. The obvious explanation of the varying word usage is that Turkey was a U.S. ally, and its ethnic cleansing and killings were facilitated by greatly increased U.S. (Clinton administration) military aid, just as Indonesia s violence in East Timor was greatly helped by greater U.S. (Carter administration) aid to the killer state. Yugoslavia, on the other hand, was a U.S. target. Amusingly, as Noam Chomsky points out in Hegemony or Survival, when Turkey failed to cooperate in the invasion-occupation of Iraq, suddenly the U.S. media began to report on Turkey s ghastly record of torturing, killing, and disappearing Turkish Kurds that had previously been kept under the rug, although they continued to keep under the rug the fact of massive Clinton administration aid facilitating that ghastly record. .
The word genocide has been used often by establishment politicos, media and intellectuals to describe Saddam Hussein s behavior in the 1980s, notably his resort to chemical warfare to kill Iraqi Kurds; but it is never used in the mainstream to describe the sanctions of mass destruction that are credibly estimated to have killed over a million Iraqis. The establishment institutions have avoided all but passing mention of the numbers dead, and they suppress even more completely the evidence that the killings were a consequence of deliberate actions, including the U.S. and British use of the sanctions system to block the import of medicines and equipment to repair water and sanitation systems that were destroyed with full recognition of the disease-threatening consequences.
Genocide was applied frequently to describe Serb actions in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s, actions supposedly the basis of humanitarian intervention and a major tribunal operation to bring Serbs to book. The link here between Western target, invidious word usage, focus of attention of the cruise missile left and mainstream news and commentary, and dedicated, long-lasting and expensive tribunal pursuit of the chosen villains, is dramatic. The intellectual apologists for Western imperialism have pretended that the Yugoslavia Tribunal is not fully politicized, but is rather pursuing justice, as they skirt by the facts that nothing happened to Tudjman, Izetbegovic, or any other non-Serb high officials guilty of war crimes in the Balkans. (These would properly include Clinton, Blair and their top associates, guilty of aggression, and whose bombing tactics even Human Rights Watch, a notorious apologist for NATO policies in the Balkans, condemned as violations of international humanitarian law ). The apologists claimed that the global reach of justice was approaching institutionalization in the 1990s that human rights has taken hold not just as a rhetorical but as an operating principle in all the major Western capitals (David Rieff)--pointing beyond the Yugoslavia Tribunal to the Spanish effort to bring Pinochet to book, the Belgian case brought against Ariel Sharon, and the installation of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). They slighted the facts that nothing happened to Pinochet, that the case against Sharon was ended by a change in Belgian law (under U.S. pressure), that no tribunal was organized to deal with triple genocidist Suharto, and that the ICJ is repudiated by the United States despite groveling and compromising efforts to accommodate U.S. demands for assured exemption from ICJ jurisdiction.
So it remains a power-out-of-the-gun truth that only a U.S. target can commit genocide or even engage in ethnic cleansing, while the United States can commit blatant aggression with only slightly delayed UN accommodation, and it and its clients don t aggress, ethnically cleanse, or commit genocide. (In ratifying the Genocide Convention, with a 40-year time lag, the U.S. Senate wrote in a U.S. exemption to its application; the U.S. insistence on an above-the-law status is long-standing.)
It is truly Orwellian to see the Yugoslavia Tribunal struggling to pin the genocide label on Milosevic, and to have done that already against Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic. In Milosevic s case, the prosecutor, sensing that only 4-5,000 bodies from all causes and on all sides--having been found in Kosovo after a bloody war, would not sustain a charge of genocide, decided to try to make him responsible for all Bosnian Serb killings in Bosnia, something the Tribunal had forgotten to do over the five previous years. This effort has been a notorious failure.
In the Krstic case, the genocide charge was based on the Srebrenica events of July 1995, where some substantial but uncertain number of Bosnian Muslims were killed, some in fighting and some executed. Here again the number of bodies in the discovered grave sites in the Srebrenica area is under 5,000, and certainly includes large numbers killed in the fighting during July. The Tribunal court claimed a Bosnian Serb plan and intent to kill all military age Srebrenica males, although no document or credible witness statement was found sustaining this charge, although thousands of Bosnian Muslim soldiers were allowed passage to safety, although many wounded Bosnian Muslims were allowed repatriation, and although the Bosnian Serbs made a number of actual deals and broader proposals for a prisoner exchange.
The alternative view, that there was no such plan, only a vengeance motive and an intent to locate and execute the Bosnian Muslim cadres responsible for the killing of several thousand Serbs in the Srebrenica vicinity over the prior three years, was quickly dismissed by the Tribunal court. Vengeance as a motive is only acceptable for Western-backed killers (and David Rieff and company have relied on this to explain away the massive ethnic cleansing in Kosovo under NATO auspices). It is also well-known and conceded by the court that all the Bosnian Muslim women and children in Srebrenica were helped to safety in Bosnian Muslim territory, strange behavior with a genocidal intent. The Tribunal reasoning is that in a patriarchal society, the removal of males is especially important for making community survival difficult. Of course, the idea of genocide in one small town is also a pathbreaking idea, perhaps to be followed by genocide in one household. But for such a noble enterprise as putting the Serbs in their place, and making humanitarian intervention palatable, creative thought is useful.
The contrast between the treatment of Yugoslavia and Israel-Palestine remains truly dramatic. For one thing, Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the promised land has been going on for half a century, and it is clear that the steady expropriations, demolitions, and killings of the Palestinians is for the benefit of Jewish settlements, not for security. So this is as pure an illustration of ethnic cleansing as can be found on the face of the earth; Israeli historian Benny Morris, in his recent acknowledgement of this ethnic purification, complained only that it hadn t gone far enough. By contrast, the Serb attacks on Kosovo Albanians before and during the 1999 bombing war were never to provide room for Serb settlements, they were a feature of an ongoing civil war (stoked by outsiders), so that this wasn t true ethnic cleansing at all. There was ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Croatia, but it was carried out by all parties, struggling to establish land control in an externally encouraged civil war. Nevertheless, the phrase ethnic cleansing was used lavishly to describe Serb actions in Kosovo, as well as Bosnia, but it is rarely applied to Israeli behavior.
In the Genocide Convention of 1948, the word genocide was defined loosely, as any act committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such. Genocidal acts included causing serious mental harm or inflicting conditions of life aimed at such destruction. Can anything be clearer than that the Sharon government is trying to destroy the Palestinians as a national group by creating intolerable conditions of life ? Under Operation Defensive Shield Israel carried out a systematic process of demolition of Palestinian public and private property, and mass expropriation of Palestinian land on behalf of settlers (Appeal by 153 Israeli academics); the Israeli army deliberately trashed the inside of every Palestinian institution that it did not entirely destroy schools, charities, health organizations, banks, radio and TV stations, even a puppet theatre (Gila Svirsky). As Rania Awwad has said, Sharon s solution is to depopulate as much as possible the Occupied Palestinian Territories by making life for its citizens unbearable. And what could be more unbearable than watching your children cry themselves to sleep from hunger, night after night? The Israeli leadership is not trying to exterminate all Palestinians, but they are prepared to kill them freely, take away their land, and make life so harsh that they will die off or leave. That this is a genocidal process is sometimes suggested in the Israeli media, but not in the Free Press.
The cruise missile left also adheres closely to the party line on genocide, which is why its members thrive in the New York Times and other establishment vehicles. This is true of Paul Berman, Michael Ignatieff and David Rieff, but I will focus here on Samantha Power, whose large volume on genocide, A Problem From Hell : America and the Age of Genocide won a Pulitzer prize, and who is currently the expert of choice on the subject in the mainstream media (and even in The Nation and on the Bill Moyers show).
Power never departs from the selectivity dictated by the establishment party line. That requires, first and foremost, simply ignoring cases of direct U.S. or U.S.-sponsored (or otherwise approved) genocide. Thus the Vietnam war, in which millions were directly killed by U.S. forces, does not show up in Power s index or text. Guatemala, where there was a mass killing of as many as 100,000 Mayan Indians between 1978 and 1985, in what Amnesty International called A Government Program of Political Murder, but by a government installed and supported by the United States, also does not show up in Power s index. Cambodia is of course included, but only for the second phase of the genocide the first phase, from 1969-1975, in which the United States dropped some 500,000 tons of bombs on the Cambodian countryside and killed vast numbers, she fails to mention. On the Khmer Rouge genocide, Power says they killed 2 million, a figure widely cited after Jean Lacouture gave that number; his subsequent admission that this number was invented had no effect on its use, and it suits Power s purpose.
A major U.S.-encouraged and supported genocide occurred in Indonesia in 1965-66 in which over 700,000 people were murdered. This genocide is not mentioned by Samantha Power and the names Indonesia and Suharto do not appear in her index. She also fails to mention West Papua, where Indonesia s 40 years of murderous occupation would constitute genocide under her criteria, if carried out under different auspices. Power does refer to East Timor, with extreme brevity, saying that In 1975, when its ally, the oil-producing, anti-Communist Indonesia, invaded East Timor, killing between 100,000 and 200,000 civilians, the United States looked away (146-7). That exhausts her treatment of the subject, although the killings in East Timor involved a larger fraction of the population than in Cambodia, and the numbers killed were probably larger than the grand total for Bosnia and Kosovo, to which she devotes a large fraction of her book. She also misrepresents the U.S. role it did not look away, it gave its approval, protected the aggression from any effective UN response (in his autobiography, then U.S. Ambassador to the UN Daniel Patrick Moynihan bragged about his effectiveness in protecting Indonesia from any UN action), and greatly increased its arms aid to Indonesia, thereby facilitating the genocide.
Power engages in a similar suppression and failure to recognize the U.S. role in her treatment of genocide in Iraq. She attends carefully and at length to Saddam Hussein s use of chemical warfare and killing of Kurds at Halabja and elsewhere, and she does discuss the U.S. failure to oppose and take any action against Saddam Hussein at this juncture. But she does not mention the diplomatic rapproachement with Saddam in the midst of his war with Iran in 1983, the active U.S. logistical support of Saddam during that war, and the U.S. approval of sales and transfers of chemical and biological weapons during the period in which he was using chemical weapons against the Kurds. She also doesn t mention the active efforts by the United States and Britain to block UN actions that might have obstructed Saddam s killings.
The killing of over a million Iraqis via the sanctions of mass destruction, more than were killed by all the weapons of mass destruction in history, according to John and Karl Mueller ( Sanctions of Mass Destruction, Foreign Affairs, May/June 1999), was one of major genocides of the post-World War 2 era. It is unmentioned by Samantha Power. Again, the correlation between exclusion, U.S. responsibility, and the view that such killings were, in Madeleine Albright s words, worth it from the standpoint of U.S. interests, is clear. There is a similar political basis for Power s failure to include Israel s low-intensity genocide of the Palestinians and South Africa s destructive engagement with the frontline states in the 1980s, the latter with a death toll greatly exceeding all the deaths in the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Neither Israel nor South Africa, both constructively engaged by the United States, show up in Power s index.
Samantha Power s conclusion is that the U.S. policy toward genocide
has been very imperfect and needs reorientation, less opportunism, and
greater vigor. For Power, the United States is the solution, not the problem.
These conclusions and policy recommendations rest heavily on her spectacular
bias in case selection: She simply bypasses those that are ideologically
inconvenient, where the United States has arguably committed genocide
(Vietnam, Cambodia 1969-75, Iraq 1991-2003), or has given genocidal processes
positive support (Indonesia, West Papua, East Timor, Guatemala, Israel,
and South Africa). Incorporating them into an analysis would lead to sharply
different conclusions and policy agendas, such as calling upon the United
States to simply stop doing it, or urging stronger global opposition to
U.S. aggression and support of genocide, and proposing a much needed
revolutionary change within the United States to remove the roots of its
imperialistic and genocidal thrust. But the actual huge bias, nicely leavened
by admissions of imperfections and need for improvement in U.S. policy,
readily explains why Samantha Power is loved by the New York Times and
won a Pulitzer prize for her masterpiece of evasion and apologetics for
our genocides and call for a more aggressive pursuit of theirs.
from Gabriel Kolko
The crisis in NATO: A geopolitical earthquake?
Introduction by Margo Kingston
February 21, 2003
NATO is just one of the world's power blocs under enormous strain over
war on Iraq. Webdiary's international relations expert Scott Burchill has
just received an analysis of the NATO crisis his friend Gabriel Kolko,
Professor Emeritus at York University, Toronto. "He is arguably the world's
most distinguished war historian, author most recently of Another Century
of War? (The New Press, New York 2002) and a leading political analyst
of NATO and US foreign policy," Scott says.
Just yesterday, Tony Blair warned France and Germany that undermining the transatlantic alliance was the most dangerous game of all in world politics. John Howard, in hiding from the quality media, told talk-back radio: "If the world walks away from this, the damage to the authority of the United Nations will be incalculable, the damage to the United States will be huge."
Professor Kolko's piece was written just before NATO papered over the cracks and backed preparations to defend Turkey, and Turkey - faced with almost 100 percent opposition to war from its people - demanded more aid money in return for allowing a US attack on Iraq from Turkey. The wild swings in this 'game' never end. Turkey wants NATO to defend it from retaliation from Iraq, NATO says no, then yes, then Turkey says maybe no to the US! What is happening here? Over to Professor Kolko.
The crisis in NATO: A geopolitical earthquake?
by Gabriel Kolko
The next weeks [after February 2003] should reveal whether we are experiencing
the equivalent of a geopolitical earthquake.
Washington intended that NATO, from its very inception, serve as its instrument for maintaining its political hegemony over Western Europe, forestalling the emergence of a bloc that could play an independent role in world affairs. Charles DeGaulle, Winston Churchill, and many influential politicians envisioned such an alliance less as a means of confronting the Soviet army than as a way of containing a resurgent Germany as well as balancing American power.
Publicly, the reason for creating NATO in 1949 was the alleged Soviet
military menace, but the US always planned to employ strategic nuclear
weapons to defeat the USSR - for which it did not need an alliance. But
no one in Washington believed a war with Russia was imminent or even likely,
a view that prevailed most of the time until the USSR finally disappeared.
There was also the justification of preventing the Western Europeans from being obsessed with fear at reconstructing Germany's economy, and American military planners were concerned with internal subversion.
When the Soviet Union capsized over a decade ago, NATO's nominal rationale for existence died with it. But the principal reason for its creation - to forestall European autonomy - remains.
For Washington, the problem of NATO is linked to the future of Germany, which since 1990 has been undecided about the extent to which it wishes to work through that organisation or, more importantly, to conform to US' initiatives in East Europe. Germany's unilateral recognition of Croatia in December 1991 was crucial in triggering the war in Bosnia and revealed its potentially dangerous and destabilising capacity for autonomous action. Its power over the European Monetary Union and European Union understandably causes other Europeans to fear the revival of German domination.
But for the US, the issue of Germany is also a question of the extent
to which it can constrain America's ability to play the same decisive role
in Europe in the future as it has in the past. Such grand geopolitical
questions have been brewing for over a decade.
NATO provided a peacekeeping force in Bosnia to enforce the agreement that ended the internecine civil war in that part of Yugoslavia, but in 1999 it ceased being a purely defensive alliance and entered the war against the Serbs on behalf of the Albanians in Kosovo. The US employed about half the aircraft it assigns for a full regional war but found the entire experience very frustrating. Targets had to be approved by all 19 members, any one of which could veto American proposals. The Pentagon's after-action report of October 1999 conceded that America needed the cooperation of NATO countries, but "gaining consensus among 19 democratic nations is not easy and can only be achieved through discussion and compromise."
But Wesley Clark, the American who was NATO's supreme commander, regarded the whole experience as a nightmare - both in his relations with the Pentagon and NATO's members. "[W]orking within the NATO alliance," American generals complained, "unduly constrained U.S. military forces from getting the job done quickly and effectively." A war expected to last a few days instead took 78-days. The Yugoslav war taught the Americans a grave lesson.
Long before September 11, 2001, Washington was determined to avoid the serious constraints that NATO could impose. The only question was of timing and how the United States would escape NATO's clear obligations while maintaining its hegemony over its members. It wanted to preserve NATO for the very reason it had created it; to keep Europe from developing an independent political as well as military organisation.
Coordinating NATO's command structure with that of any all-European military organization that may be created impinges directly on America's power over Europe's actions and reflects its deep ambiguity. Some of its members wanted NATO to reach a partial accord with Russia, a relationship on which Washington often shifted, but Moscow remains highly suspicious of its plans to extend its membership to Russia's very borders.
When the new administration came to power in January 2001, NATO's fundamental
role was already being reconsidered.
President Bush is strongly unilateralist, and he repudiated the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, opposes further restrictions on nuclear weapons tests or land mines, and is against a host of other existing and projected accords. He also greatly accelerated the development of Anti-Ballistic Missile system, which will ostensibly give the U.S. a first-strike capacity and which China and Russia justifiably regard as destabilising - thereby threatening to renew the nuclear arms race.
Downgrading the United Nations, needless to say, was axiomatic.
The war in Afghanistan was fought without NATO but on the US' terms by a "floating" coalition "of the willing," a model for future conflicts "that will evolve and change over time depending on the activity and circumstances of the country". It accepted the small German, French, Italian, and other contingents that were offered only after it became clear that the war, and especially its aftermath, would take considerably longer than the Pentagon expected. But it did not consult them on military matters or crucial political questions.
Washington has decided that its allies must now accept its objectives and work solely on its terms, and it has no intention whatsoever of discussing the merits of its actions in NATO conferences. This applies, above all, to the imminent war against Iraq - a war of choice.
This de facto abandonment of NATO as a military organisation was made explicit during 2002 when Washington proposed a simultaneous enlargement of its membership to include the Baltic states and to allow Russia to have a voice, but no veto, on important matters. The nations along Russia's borders regard NATO purely as protection against Russia, and are therefore eager to please the US - which wants no constraints on its potential military actions.
The crisis in NATO was both overdue and inevitable, the result of a decisive American reorientation, and the time and ostensible reason for it was far less important than the underlying reason it occurred: The US' growing realisation after the early 1990s that while the organisation was militarily a growing liability it remained a political asset.
That the United Nations and Security Council are today also being strained in ways too early to estimate is far less important because the U.S. never assigned the UN the same crucial role as it did its alliance in Europe.
Today, NATO's original raison detre of imposing American hegemony is now the core of the controversy that is now raging. Washington cannot sustain this grandiose objective because a reunited Germany is far too powerful to be treated as it was a half-century ago, and Germany has its own interests in the Middle East and Asia to protect.
Germany and France's independence is reinforced by inept American propaganda on the relationship of Iraq to Al-Qaeda (from which the CIA and British MI6 have openly distanced themselves), overwhelming antiwar public opinion in many nations, and a great deal of opposition within the US establishment and many senior military men to a war with Iraq.
The furious American response to Germany, France, and Belgium's refusal, under article 4 of the NATO treaty, to protect Turkey from an Iraqi counterattack because that would prejudge the Security Council's decision on war and peace is only a contrived reason for confronting fundamental issues that have simmered for many years.
The dispute was far more about symbolism than substance, and the point has been made: Some NATO members refuse to allow the organisation to serve as a rubber stamp for American policy, whatever it may be.
Turkey's problem is simple: The US is pressuring it, despite overwhelmingly antiwar Turkish public and political opinion, to allow American troops to invade Iraq from Turkey and to enter the war on its side. The US wants NATO to aid Turkey in order to strengthen the Ankara government's resolve to ignore overwhelmingly antiwar domestic opinion, for the arms it is to receive are superfluous.
But the Turks are far more concerned with Kurdish separatism in Iraq rekindling the civil war that Kurds have fought in Turkey for much of the past decade, and the conditions they are demanding on these issues have put Washington in a very difficult position from which - as of this writing - it has not extricated itself. Turkey's best - and most obvious - defense is to stay out of the war, which the vast majority of Turks want. It may end up doing so.
America still desires to regain the mastery over Europe it had during
the peak of the Cold War but it is also determined not to be bound by European
desires - r indeed by the overwhelming European public opposition to a
war with Iraq. Genuine dialogue or consultation with its NATO allies is
out of the question. The Bush Administration, even more than its predecessors,
simply does not believe in it - nor will it accept NATO's formal veto structure;
NATO's division on Turkey has nothing to do with it.
Washington cannot have it both ways. Its commitment to aggressive unilateralism is the antithesis of an alliance system that involves real consultation. France and Germany are now far too powerful to be treated as obsequious dependents. They also believe in sovereignty, as does every nation which is strong enough to exercise it, and they are now able to insist that the United States both listen to and take their views seriously. It was precisely this danger that the U.S. sought to forestall when it created NATO over 50 years ago.
The controversy over NATO's future has been exacerbated by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's attacks on "Old Europe" and the disdain for Germany and France that he and his adviser, Richard Perle, have repeated, but these are but a reflection of the underlying problems that have been smoldering for years.
Together, the nations that oppose a preemptive American war in Iraq and the Middle East - an open-ended, destabilizing adventure that is likely to last years - can influence Europe's future development and role in the world profoundly. If Russia cooperates with them, even only occasionally, they will be much more powerful, and President Putin's support for their position on the war makes that a real possibility.
Eastern European nations may say what Washington wishes today, but economically they are far more dependent on Germany and those allied with it. When the 15 nations in European Union met on February 17 their statement on Iraq was far closer to the German-French position than the American, reflecting the antiwar nations' economic clout as well as the response of some prowar political leaders to the massive antiwar demonstrations that took place the preceding weekend in Italy, Spain, Britain and the rest of Europe.
There is every likelihood that the U.S. will emerge from this crisis
in NATO more belligerent, and more isolated and detested, than ever. NATO
will then go the way of SEATO and all of the other defunct American alliances.
The reality is that the world is increasingly multipolar, economically and technologically, and that the US' desire to maintain absolute military superiority over the world is a chimera. Russia remains a military superpower, China is becoming one, and the proliferation of destructive weaponry should have been confronted and stopped 20 years ago.
The US has no alternative but to accept the world as it is, or prepare
for doomsday. The conflict in NATO, essentially, reflects this diffusion
of all forms of power and the diminution of American hegemony, which remains
far more a dream than a reality.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research at CEIMSA
Université de Grenoble-3