Merger Mania in the Military Industry

Lockheed Martin’s government contracts rival the operating budget of the State Department, writes William D. Hartung. And now it’s about to have company.

By William D. Hartung
TomDispatch.com

When, in his farewell address in 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the “unwarranted influence” wielded by the “military-industrial complex,” he could never have dreamed of an arms-making corporation of the size and political clout of Lockheed Martin. In a good year, it now receives up to $50 billion in government contracts, a sum larger than the operating budget of the State Department. And now it’s about to have company.

Raytheon, already one of the top five U.S. defense contractors, is planning to merge with United Technologies. That company is a major contractor in its own right, producing, among other things, the engine for the F-35 combat aircraft, the most expensive Pentagon weapons program ever. The new firm will be second only to Lockheed Martin when it comes to consuming your tax dollars — and it may end up even more powerful politically, thanks to President Donald Trump’s fondness for hiring arms industry executives to run the national security state.

Just as Boeing benefited from its former Senior Vice President Patrick Shanahan’s stint as acting secretary of defense, so Raytheon is likely to cash in on the nomination of its former top lobbyist, Mike Esper, as his successor. Esper’s elevation comes shortly after another former Raytheon lobbyist, Charles Faulkner, left the State Department amid charges that he had improperly influenced decisions to sell Raytheon-produced guided bombs to Saudi Arabia for its brutal air war in Yemen. John Rood, third-in-charge at the Pentagon, has worked for both Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, while Ryan McCarthy, Mike Esper’s replacement as secretary of the Army, worked for Lockheed on the F-35, which the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) has determined may never be ready for combat.

And so it goes. There was a time when Donald Trump was enamored of “his” generals — Secretary of Defense James Mattis (a former board member of the weapons-maker General Dynamics), National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. Now, he seems to have a crush on personnel from the industrial side of the military-industrial complex.

As POGO’s research has demonstrated, the infamous “revolving door” that deposits defense executives like Esper in top national security posts swings both ways. The group estimates that, in 2018 alone, 645 senior government officials — mostly from the Pentagon, the uniformed military, and Capitol Hill — went to work as executives, consultants, or board members of one of the top 20 defense contractors.

Fifty years ago, Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire identified the problem when he noted that:

“the movement of high ranking military officers into jobs with defense contractors and the reverse movement of top executives in major defense contractors into high Pentagon jobs is solid evidence of the military-industrial complex in operation. It is a real threat to the public interest because it increases the chances of abuse… How hard a bargain will officers involved in procurement planning or specifications drive when they are one or two years away from retirement and have the example to look at of over 2,000 fellow officers doing well on the outside after retirement?”

In other words, that revolving door and the problems that go with it are anything but new. Right now, however, it seems to be spinning faster than ever — and mergers such as Raytheon-United Technologies are only likely to feed the phenomenon.

The Last Supper

The merger of Raytheon and United Technologies should bring back memories of the merger boom of the 1990s, when Lockheed combined with Martin Marietta to form Lockheed Martin, Northrop and Grumman formed Northrop Grumman, and Boeing absorbed rival military aircraft manufacturer McDonnell Douglas. And it wasn’t just a matter of big firms pairing up either. Lockheed Martin itself was the product of mergers and acquisitions involving nearly two dozen companies — distinctly a tale of big fish chowing down on little fish. The consolidation of the arms industry in those years was strongly encouraged by Clinton administration Secretary of Defense William Perry, who held a dinner with defense executives that was later dubbed the last supper.” There, he reportedly told the assembled corporate officials that a third of them would be out of business in five years if they didn’t merge with one of their cohorts.

The Clinton administration’s encouragement of defense industry mergers would prove anything but rhetorical. It would, for instance, provide tens of millions of dollars in merger subsidies to pay for the closing of plants, the moving of equipment, and other necessities. It even picked up part of the tab for the golden parachutes given defense executives and corporate board members ousted in those deals.

The most egregious case was surely that of Norman Augustine. The CEO of Martin Marietta, he would actually take over at the helm of the even more powerful newly created Lockheed Martin. In the process, he received $8.2 million in payments, technically for leaving his post as head of Martin Marietta. U.S. taxpayers would cover more than a third of his windfall. Then, a congressman who has only gained stature in recent years, Representative Bernie Sanders (I-VT), began to fight back against those merger subsidies. He dubbed them payoffs for layoffs because executives got government-funded bailouts, while an estimated 19,000 workers were laid off in the Lockheed Martin merger alone with no particular taxpayer support. Sanders was actually able to shepherd through legislation that clawed back some, but not all, of those merger subsidies.

According to one argument in favor of the merger binge then, by closing half-empty factories, the new firms could charge less overhead and taxpayers would benefit. Well, dream on. This never came near happening, because the newly merged industrial behemoths turned out to have even greater bargaining power over the Pentagon and Congress than the unmerged companies that preceded them.

Draw your own conclusions about what’s likely to happen in this next round of mergers, since cost overruns and lucrative contracts continue apace. Despite this dismal record, Raytheon CEO Thomas Kennedy claims that the new corporate pairing will — you guessed it! — save the taxpayers money. Don’t hold your breath.

Influence on Steroids

While Trump briefly expressed reservations about the Raytheon-United Technologies merger and a few members of Congress struck notes of caution, it has been welcomed eagerly on Wall Street. Among the reasons given: the fact that the two companies generally make different products, so their union shouldn’t reduce competition in any specific sector of defense production. It has also been claimed that the new combo, to be known as Raytheon Technologies, will have more funds available for research and development on the weapons of the future.

But focusing on such concerns misses the big picture. Raytheon Technologies will have more money to make campaign contributions, more money to hire lobbyists, and more production sites that can be used as leverage over members of Congress loathe to oppose spending on weapons produced in their states or districts. The classic example of this phenomenon: the F-35 program, which Lockheed Martin claims produces 125,000 jobs spread over 46 states.

When I took a careful look at the company’s estimates, I found that they were claiming approximately twice as many jobs as that weapons system was actually creating. In fact, more than half of F-35-related employment was in just two states, California and Texas (though many other states did have modest numbers of F-35 jobs). Even if Lockheed Martin’s figures are exaggerated, however, there’s no question that spreading defense jobs around the country gives weapons manufacturers unparalleled influence over key members of Congress, much to their benefit when Pentagon budget time rolls around. In fact, it’s a commonplace for Congress to fund more F-35s, F-18s, and similar weapons systems than the Pentagon even asks for. So much for Congressional oversight.

Theoretically, incoming defense secretary Mike Esper will have to recuse himself from major decisions involving his former company. Among them, whether to continue selling Raytheon-produced precision-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for their devastating air war in Yemen that has killed remarkable numbers of civilians.

No worries. Trump himself is the biggest booster in living memory of corporate arms sales and Saudi Arabia is far and away his favorite customer. The Senate recently voted down a package of “emergency” arms sales to the Saudis and the UAE that included thousands of Raytheon Paveway munitions, the weapon of choice in that Yemeni air campaign. A similar vote must now take place in the House, but even if it, too, passes, Congress will need to override a virtually guaranteed Trump veto of the bill.

The Raytheon-United Technologies merger will further implicate the new firm in Yemeni developments because the Pratt and Whitney division of United Technologies makes the engine for Saudi Arabia’s key F-15S combat aircraft, a mainstay of the air war there. Not only will Raytheon Technologies profit from such engine sales, but that company’s technicians are likely to help maintain the Saudi air force, thereby enabling it to fly yet more bombing missions more often.

When pressed, Raytheon officials argue that, in enabling mass slaughter, they are simply following U.S. government policy. This ignores the fact that Raytheon and other weapons contractors spend tens of millions of dollars a year on lobbyists, political contributions, and other forms of influence peddling trying to shape U.S. policies on arms exports and weapons procurement. They are, in other words, anything but passive recipients of edicts handed down from Washington. 

As Raytheon chief financial officer Toby O’Brien put it in a call to investors that came after the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, “We continue to be aligned with the administration’s policies, and we intend to honor our commitments.” Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson made a similar point, asserting that “most of these agreements that we have are government-to-government purchases, so anything that we do has to follow strictly the regulations of the U.S. government… Beyond that, we’ll just work with the U.S. government as they are continuing their relationship with [the Saudis].”

How Powerful Are the Military-Industrial Combines?

When it comes to lobbying the Pentagon and Congress, size matters. Major firms like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon can point to the jobs they and their subcontractors provide in dozens of states and scores of Congressional districts to keep members of Congress in line who might otherwise question or even oppose the tens of billions of dollars in government funding the companies receive annually.

Raytheon — its motto: Customer Success Is Our Mission — has primary operations in 16 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, and Virginia. That translates into a lot of leverage over key members of Congress and it doesn’t even count states where the company has major subcontractors. The addition of United Technologies will reinforce the new company’s presence in a number of those states, while adding Connecticut, Iowa, New York, and North Carolina (in other words, at least 20 states in all).

Meanwhile, if the merger is approved, the future Raytheon Technologies will be greasing the wheels of its next arms contracts by relying on nearly four dozen former government officials the two separate companies hired as lobbyists, executives, and board members in 2018 alone. Add to that the $6.4 million in campaign contributions and $20 million in lobbying expenses Raytheon clocked during the last two election cycles and the outlines of its growing influence begin to become clearer. Then, add as well the $2.9 million in campaign contributions and $40 million in lobbying expenses racked up by its merger partner United Technologies and you have a lobbying powerhouse rivaled only by Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense conglomerate.

Eisenhower’s proposed counterweight to the power of the military-industrial complex was to be “an alert and knowledgeable citizenry.” And there are signs that significant numbers of individuals and organizations are beginning to pay more attention to the machinations of the arms lobby. My own outfit, the Center for International Policy, has launched a Sustainable Defense Task Force composed of former military officers and Pentagon officials, White House and congressional budget experts, and research staffers from progressive and good-government groups. It has already crafted a plan that would cut $1.2 trillion from the Pentagon budget over the next decade, while improving U.S. security by avoiding unnecessary wars, eliminating waste, and scaling back a Pentagon nuclear-weapons buildup slated to cost $1.5 trillion or more over the next three decades.

The Poor People’s Campaign, backed by research conducted by the National Priorities Project of the Institute for Policy Studies, is calling for a one-year $350 billion cut in Pentagon expenditures. And a new network called Put People Over the Pentagon has brought together more than 20 progressive organizations to press presidential candidates to cut $200 billion annually from the Department of Defense’s bloated budget. Participants in the network include Public Citizen, Moveon.org, Indivisible, Win Without War, 350.org, Friends of the Earth, and United We Dream, many of them organizations that had not, in past years, made reducing the Pentagon budget a priority.

Raytheon and its arms industry allies won’t sit still in the face of such proposals, but at least the days of unquestioned and unchallenged corporate greed in the ever-merging (but also ever-expanding) arms industry may be coming to an end. The United States has paid an exorbitantly high price in blood and treasure, as have countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, for letting the military-industrial complex steer the American ship of state through this century so far. It’s long past time for a reckoning.

William D. Hartung, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.”

This article is from TomDispatch.com.




The Missing Three-Letter Word in the Iran Crisis

Michael T. Klare offers an overview of oil’s enduring sway in U.S. policy in the Middle East.

By Michael T. Klare 
TomDispatch.com

It’s always the oil. While President Donald Trump was hobnobbing with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the G-20 summit in Japan, brushing off a recent UN report about the prince’s role in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Asia and the Middle East, pleading with foreign leaders to support “Sentinel.” The aim of that administration plan: to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. Both Trump and Pompeo insisted that their efforts were driven by concern over Iranian misbehavior in the region and the need to ensure the safety of maritime commerce. Neither, however, mentioned one inconvenient three-letter word — O-I-L — that lay behind their Iranian maneuvering (as it has impelled every other American incursion in the Middle East since World War II).

Now, it’s true that the United States no longer relies on imported petroleum for a large share of its energy needs. Thanks to the fracking revolution, the country now gets the bulk of its oil — approximately 75 percent  — from domestic sources. (In 2008, that share had been closer to 35 percent.)  Key allies in NATO and rivals like China, however, continue to depend on Middle Eastern oil for a significant proportion of their energy needs. As it happens, the world economy — of which the U.S. is the leading beneficiary (despite Trump’s self-destructive trade wars) —relies on an uninterrupted flow of oil from the Persian Gulf to keep energy prices low. By continuing to serve as the principal overseer of that flow, Washington enjoys striking geopolitical advantages that its foreign policy elites would no more abandon than they would their country’s nuclear supremacy.

This logic was spelled out clearly by President Barack Obama in a September 2013 address to the UN General Assembly in which he declared that “the United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests” in the Middle East. He then pointed out that, while the U.S. was steadily reducing its reliance on imported oil, “the world still depends on the region’s energy supply and a severe disruption could destabilize the entire global economy.” Accordingly, he concluded, “We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world.”

To some Americans, that dictum — and its continued embrace by Trump and Pompeo — may seem anachronistic. True, Washington fought wars in the Middle East when the American economy was still deeply vulnerable to any disruption in the flow of imported oil. In 1990, this was the key reason President George H.W. Bush gave for his decision to evict Iraqi troops from Kuwait after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of that land. “Our country now imports nearly half the oil it consumes and could face a major threat to its economic independence,” he told a nationwide TV audience. But talk of oil soon disappeared from his comments about what became Washington’s first (but hardly last) Gulf War after his statement provoked widespread public outrage. (“No Blood for Oil” became a widely used protest sign then.) His son, the second President Bush, never even mentioned that three-letter word when announcing his 2003 invasion of Iraq. Yet, as Obama’s UN speech made clear, oil remained, and still remains, at the center of U.S. foreign policy. A quick review of global energy trends helps explain why this has continued to be so.

The World’s Undiminished Reliance on Petroleum

Despite all that’s been said about climate change and oil’s role in causing it — and about the enormous progress being made in bringing solar and wind power online — we remain trapped in a remarkably oil-dependent world. To grasp this reality, all you have to do is read the most recent edition of oil giant BP’s “Statistical Review of World Energy,” published this June. In 2018, according to that report, oil still accounted for by far the largest share of world energy consumption, as it has every year for decades. All told, 33.6 percent of world energy consumption last year was made up of oil, 27.2 percent of coal (itself a global disgrace), 23.9 percent of natural gas, 6.8 percent of hydro-electricity, 4.4 percent of nuclear power, and a mere 4 percent of renewables.

Most energy analysts believe that the global reliance on petroleum as a share of world energy use will decline in the coming decades, as more governments impose restrictions on carbon emissions and as consumers, especially in the developed world, switch from oil-powered to electric vehicles. But such declines are unlikely to prevail in every region of the globe and total oil consumption may not even decline. According to projections from the International Energy Agency (IEA) in its New Policies Scenario (which assumes significant but not drastic government efforts to curb carbon emissions globally), Asia, Africa, and the Middle East are likely to experience a substantially increased demand for petroleum in the years to come, which, grimly enough, means global oil consumption will continue to rise.

Concluding that the increased demand for oil in Asia, in particular, will outweigh reduced demand elsewhere, the IEA calculated in its 2017 World Energy Outlook” that oil will remain the world’s dominant source of energy in 2040, accounting for an estimated 27.5 percent of total global energy consumption. That will indeed be a smaller share than in 2018, but because global energy consumption as a whole is expected to grow substantially during those decades, net oil production could still rise — from an estimated 100 million barrels a day in 2018 to about 105 million barrels in 2040.

Of course, no one, including the IEA’s experts, can be sure how future extreme manifestations of global warming like the severe heat waves recently tormenting Europe and South Asia could change such projections. It’s possible that growing public outrage could lead to far tougher restrictions on carbon emissions between now and 2040. Unexpected developments in the field of alternative energy production could also play a role in changing those projections. In other words, oil’s continuing dominance could still be curbed in ways that are now unpredictable.

In the meantime, from a geopolitical perspective, a profound shift is taking place in the worldwide demand for petroleum. In 2000, according to the IEA, older industrialized nations — most of them members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) — accounted for about two-thirds of global oil consumption; only about a third went to countries in the developing world. By 2040, the IEA’s experts believe that ratio will be reversed, with the OECD consuming about one-third of the world’s oil and non-OECD nations the rest. More dramatic yet is the growing centrality of the Asia-Pacific region to the global flow of petroleum. In 2000, that region accounted for only 28 — of world consumption; in 2040, its share is expected to stand at 44 —, thanks to the growth of China, India, and other Asian countries, whose newly affluent consumers are already buying cars, trucks, motorcycles, and other oil-powered products.

Where will Asia get its oil? Among energy experts, there is little doubt on this matter. Lacking significant reserves of their own, the major Asian consumers will turn to the one place with sufficient capacity to satisfy their rising needs: the Persian Gulf. According to BP, in 2018, Japan already obtained 87 percent of its oil imports from the Middle East, India 64 percent, and China 44 percent. Most analysts assume these percentages will only grow in the years to come, as production in other areas declines.

This will, in turn, lend even greater strategic importance to the Persian Gulf region, which now possesses more than 60 percent of the world’s untapped petroleum reserves, and to the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow passageway through which approximately one-third of the world’s seaborne oil passes daily. Bordered by Iran, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates, the Strait is perhaps the most significant — and contested — geostrategic location on the planet today.

Controlling the Spigot

When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the same year that militant Shiite fundamentalists overthrew the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran, U.S. policymakers concluded that America’s access to Gulf oil supplies was at risk and a U.S. military presence was needed to guarantee such access. As President Jimmy Carter would say in his State of the Union Address on Jan. 23, 1980:

“The region which is now threatened by Soviet troops in Afghanistan is of great strategic importance: It contains more than two thirds of the world’s exportable oil… The Soviet effort to dominate Afghanistan has brought Soviet military forces to within 300 miles of the Indian Ocean and close to the Strait of Hormuz, a waterway through which most of the world’s oil must flow… Let our position be absolutely clear: an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

To lend muscle to what would soon be dubbed the “Carter Doctrine,” the president created a new U.S. military organization, the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force (RDJTF), and obtained basing facilities for it in the Gulf region. Ronald Reagan, who succeeded Carter as president in 1981, made the RDJTF into a full-scale “geographic combatant command,” dubbed Central Command, or CENTCOM, which continues to be tasked with ensuring American access to the Gulf today (as well as overseeing the country’s never-ending wars in the Greater Middle East). Reagan was the first president to activate the Carter Doctrine in 1987 when he ordered Navy warships to escort Kuwaiti tankers, reflagged with the stars and stripes, as they traveled through the Strait of Hormuz. From time to time, such vessels had been coming under fire from Iranian gunboats, part of an ongoing Tanker War,” itself part of the Iran-Iraq War of those years. The Iranian attacks on those tankers were meant to punish Sunni Arab countries for backing Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein in that conflict.  The American response, dubbed Operation Earnest Will, offered an early model of what Pompeo is seeking to establish today with his Sentinel program.

Operation Earnest Will was followed two years later by a massive implementation of the Carter Doctrine in Bush’s 1990 decision to push Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. Although he spoke of the need to protect U.S. access to Persian Gulf oil fields, it was evident that ensuring a safe flow of oil imports wasn’t the only motive for such military involvement. Equally important then (and far more so now): the geopolitical advantage controlling the world’s major oil spigot gave Washington.

When ordering U.S. forces into combat in the Gulf, American presidents have always insisted that they were acting in the interests of the entire West. In advocating for the “reflagging” mission of 1987, for instance, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger argued (as he would later recall in his memoir Fighting for Peace), “The main thing was for us to protect the right of innocent, nonbelligerent and extremely important commerce to move freely in international open waters — and, by our offering protection, to avoid conceding the mission to the Soviets.” Though rarely so openly acknowledged, the same principle has undergirded Washington’s strategy in the region ever since: the United States alone must be the ultimate guarantor of unimpeded oil commerce in the Persian Gulf.

Look closely and you can find this principle lurking in every fundamental statement of U.S. policy related to that region and among the Washington elite more generally. My own personal favorite, when it comes to pithiness, is a sentence in a report on the geopolitics of energy issued in 2000 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank well-populated with former government officials (several of whom contributed to the report): “As the world’s only superpower, [the United States] must accept its special responsibilities for preserving access to [the] worldwide energy supply.” You can’t get much more explicit than that.

Of course, along with this “special responsibility” comes a geopolitical advantage: by providing this service, the United States cements its status as the world’s sole superpower and places every other oil-importing nation — and the world at large — in a condition of dependence on its continued performance of this vital function.

Originally, the key dependents in this strategic equation were Europe and Japan, which, in return for assured access to Middle Eastern oil, were expected to subordinate themselves to Washington. Remember, for example, how they helped pay for Bush the elder’s Iraq War (dubbed Operation Desert Storm). Today, however, many of those countries, deeply concerned with the effects of climate change, are seeking to lessen oil’s role in their national fuel mixes. As a result, in 2019, the countries potentially most at the mercy of Washington when it comes to access to Gulf oil are economically fast-expanding China and India, whose oil needs are only likely to grow. That, in turn, will further enhance the geopolitical advantage Washington enjoyed as long as it remains the principal guardian of the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf. How it may seek to exploit this advantage remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that all parties involved, including the Chinese, are well aware of this asymmetric equation, which could give the phrase “trade war” a far deeper and more ominous meaning.

The Iranian Challenge and the Specter of War

From Washington’s perspective, the principal challenger to America’s privileged status in the Gulf is Iran. By reason of geography, that country possesses a potentially commanding position along the northern Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, as the Reagan administration learned in 1987-1988 when it threatened American oil dominance there. About this reality President Reagan couldn’t have been clearer. “Mark this point well: the use of the sea lanes of the Persian Gulf will not be dictated by the Iranians,” he declared in 1987 — and Washington’s approach to the situation has never changed.

In more recent times, in response to U.S. and Israeli threats to bomb their nuclear facilities or, as the Trump administration has done, impose economic sanctions on their country, the Iranians have threatened on numerous occasions to block the Strait of Hormuz to oil traffic, squeeze global energy supplies, and precipitate an international crisis. In 2011, for example, Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi warned that, should the West impose sanctions on Iranian oil, “not even one drop of oil can flow through the Strait of Hormuz.” In response, U.S. officials have vowed ever since to let no such thing happen, just as Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta did in response to Rahimi at that time. “We have made very clear,” he said, “that the United States will not tolerate blocking of the Strait of Hormuz.” That, he added, was a “red line for us.”

It remains so today. Hence, the present ongoing crisis in the Gulf, with fierce U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil sales and threatening Iranian gestures toward the regional oil flow in response. “We will make the enemy understand that either everyone can use the Strait of Hormuz or no one,” said Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, in July 2018. And attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman near the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz on June 13th could conceivably have been an expression of just that policy, if —as claimed by the U.S. — they were indeed carried out by members of the Revolutionary Guards. Any future attacks are only likely to spur U.S. military action against Iran in accordance with the Carter Doctrine. As Pentagon spokesperson Bill Urban put it in response to Jafari’s statement, “We stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce wherever international law allows.”

As things stand today, any Iranian move in the Strait of Hormuz that can be portrayed as a threat to the “free flow of commerce” (that is, the oil trade) represents the most likely trigger for direct U.S. military action. Yes, Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and its support for radical Shiite movements throughout the Middle East will be cited as evidence of its leadership’s malevolence, but its true threat will be to American dominance of the oil lanes, a danger Washington will treat as the offense of all offenses to be overcome at any cost.

If the United States goes to war with Iran, you are unlikely to hear the word “oil” uttered by top Trump administration officials, but make no mistake: that three-letter word lies at the root of the present crisis, not to speak of the world’s long-term fate.

Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is the five-college professor emeritus of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and a senior visiting fellow at the Arms Control Association. His most recent book is The Race for What’s Left.” His next book, All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change (Metropolitan Books) will be published in November.

This article is fromTomDispatch.com.




THE ANGRY ARAB: Maxime Rodinson & the Palestinian Question

A new book attacking the French scholar for his views on Israel and Zionism spurs As`ad AbuKhalil to provide his own assessment.

By As`ad AbuKhalil
Special to Consortium News

The French Orientalist Maxime Rodinson was by far one of the greatest scholars on Islam and the Arab world in the 20thcentury (if not ever).  His contributions belie the notion that all Orientalist production can be dismissed as purely ideological (and that was not the contention of Edward Said in his “Orientalism,” all distortions of Said’s work notwithstanding). I, for one, owe a great debt of gratitude to Rodinson for influencing me early on in my conception of, and education in, Middle East studies.  Rodinson wrote the best contemporary biography of the Prophet, and he examined him from a Marxist historical perspective (the book was translated into many languages, including Persian but not Arabic).

Rodinson’s “Islam and Capitalism” also powerfully debunked classical Orientalist myths about Islam and Muslims (including the thesis of Max Weber about capitalism and Protestantism) by showing that Muslims were able to go around the theoretical theological ban on usury in their financial transactions. Later, in “Europe and the Mystique of Islam,” Rodinson introduced the notion of “theologocentrism” to critically characterize the Western school of thought in academia that attributes all observable phenomena among Muslims to matters of theology.  Furthermore, refreshingly, Rodinson paid attention to Arab leftism and wrote about Lebanese and Syrian communists who he knew well in the seven years he spent between Syria and Lebanon during and after World War II.

Attention to Rodinson is prompted by the publication of Susie Linfield’s “The Lions’ Den: Zionism and the Left from Hannah Arendt to Noam Chomsky.”  The author is a professor of journalism at NYU and has no background in Middle East studies.  Yet, she uses her platform to launch an attack on critics of Israel and Zionism and situate them in the category of self-hating Jews.  But her method of handling Rodinson is not even honest: she accuses the author (who lost his parents in Auschwitz) of not talking about his Jewish background or even about Nazi atrocities when, in fact, he spoke at length about such matters.  She even accuses Rodinson of being silent about the crimes of Arab governments and misdeeds of the PLO when he was a harsh critic of them both.  And she makes up a story that Rodinson was accused by Arabs of “lacking respect for Islam (and worse)” without providing any evidence. Rodinson remains highly respected in the Arab world.

Rodinson was born to Jewish communist parents (his father played chess with Leon Trotsky), who were fierce anti-Zionists.  He grew up in a secular atheist family, and that rankled Linfield, who considered it a disqualifier in his writings on Palestine. Not identifying with an ancestral religion is anyone’s right, including Rodinson who became a communist early in his youth.  He also developed a keen interest in languages and Middle East studies.  Rodinson never tried to ignore the Palestinian question: in the West, talking about the Palestinian question from a non-Zionist, or anti-Zionist, perspective can result in enormous pressures and negative consequences.  To this very day, many Western academics choose to either champion Zionism or to ignore the Arab-Israeli conflict altogether (many of the Western academics who feigned concern for the Syrian people in recent years had never written or said a word about Palestinians).

‘Most Famous Anti-Zionist in France’

Rodinson became (in his own words) “the most famous anti-Zionist in France” (“Cult, Ghetto, and State,” p. 23).  His piece for Jean-Paul Sartre’s Les Temps Modernes in 1967 made Rodinson a target of Zionist forces worldwide.  His article (later published as a book, including in Arabic) was titled “Israel: A Colonial-Settler State?”  While Rodinson answered his question in a sophisticated argument in the affirmative, he qualified the answer with an attempt to provide Israeli founding with extenuating circumstances. In other words, Rodinson’s stance on the Palestinian question was not as radical as it was reputed to be although his arguments about the nature of the Zionist project were quite radical — and accurate.

Linfield finds Rodinson’s characterization of anti-Semitism among Arabs to be apologetic, while he was clearly critical of the plight of non-Muslims under Muslim rule historically.  But Rodinson lived among the Arabs, and was accepted by them, in the 1940s, when Jews (regardless whether they were practicing or not) were being exterminated in Europe.  Rodinson knows more about Arab attitudes toward Jews than Linfield. Rodinson rightly pointed out that the creation of Israel triggered the rise of anti-Semitism among Arabs and resulted in the translation of some Western works of anti-Semitism (even Bernard Lewis concedes that Arab anti-Semitism is political).

In May 1972, Rodinson gave an interview to Shu`un Filastiniyyah in which he gave an accounting of his views of the conflict (it was reprinted in “Cult, Ghetto, and State”).  In that interview, Rodinson (commenting on a remark by the late professor Ismail Faruqi to the effect that a Zionist state is objectionable even if it was established on the moon) said that he would not object to a Jewish state on the moon.  But should not a secular Marxist object to any state with a religious identify and which is founded on the principle of the juridical supremacy of one religious group over others?  Rodinson’s point was to remind readers that his objection to the Jewish state was not in principle but was due to the displacement of the native Palestinian population and the harm that Israel has inflicted on them.

Israel’s Founding 

Having said that, Rodinson in his book, “Israel: A Colonial-Settler State,” does not shy away from answering in the affirmative. The extenuating circumstances that he provides to the Zionist argument are that: No. 1) the immigration of Jews from Europe due to Nazi crimes was a matter of survival; No. 2) the socialist character of the Yishuv; No. 3) he talks about the sale of land to the Jews and says that it was “to the benefit of the seller and the agricultural development of the country” (p. 87). 

But the immigration of Jews into Palestine took place without the consent of the native population, and it was forced either by the British government or by illegal immigration of Jews: and Western governments that were generous with their support for Jewish immigration into Palestine were strict about their restriction on Jewish immigration into their lands.

Furthermore, the question of land sale is not really salient to the discussion of the creation of Israel because Israel became a Jewish state by force and not by legal transactions (the percentage of land sold to the Jews was minuscule in comparison to the forced theft of Palestinian land). 

Finally, the socialist character of the Yishuv should be irrelevant to a discussion of a colonial subjugation of a people: what does it matter to the victims if their oppressors and killers were socialist or capitalists?  (This while the socialist character of the Yishuv has been highly exaggerated and the experiment ended in an ultra-capitalist state, and Western socialists have never been free of racism and prejudice). Zionists began to abuse the natives and practice discrimination against them from early on. (The ideal of “Hebrew labor” referred to the deliberate exclusion of Arab workers from Jewish enterprises).

Rodinson agrees that Zionist settlement amounted to colonialism but then proceeds to suggest that Israel was a peculiar kind of colonialism because the occupiers wanted to rule over a territory but not a population. But how can you rule over a territory and not rule over a population, most of whom were expelled by force in 1948? And does that argument make a difference to the victims? To rule over a territory and not bother with the population is the worst kind of colonialism.

Rodinson makes a strong case against Israel but then provides weak solutions that are not commensurate with the crimes that he helped expose.  While he says that Arabs should determine the outcome of the struggle themselves, he advises against military solutions.  How did history treat those who called on the French living under Nazi occupation (or blacks under Apartheid South Africa) to practice pacifism?

Rodinson maintains that there are two distinct communities in Palestine that have to be represented in two separate political entities, i.e. two-state (non-solution).  It is ironic that Rodinson’s powerful refutation of Zionist claims concludes with a weak call for Palestinian accommodation of Zionist occupation over 78 percent of historic Palestine. But Rodinson also said (in “Israel and the Arabs”): “On the other hand, a total victory for the Arabs some day is not out of the question.  Israel’s military superiority will not last forever, or, at least, will not be absolute forever” (p. 352).  If only Rodinson had been around to watch the Israeli humiliation in South Lebanon in 2006.

As’ad AbuKhalil is a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of the “Historical Dictionary of Lebanon” (1998), “Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New War on Terrorism” (2002), and “The Battle for Saudi Arabia” (2004). He tweets as @asadabukhalil

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The ‘Unconstitutional Animus’ Against UK Labour Leader

Johanna Ross spoke with David Miller, a propaganda researcher, after the recent publicity of U.K. civil service murmurings about Jeremy Corbyn’s “fitness.”

By Johanna Ross
in Edinburgh, Scotland
Special to Consortium News

A couple of weeks ago, The Times of London published an article about senior civil servants fearing U.K. opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn was “too frail” to be prime minister.  Reportedly they also thought he “lacks both a firm grasp of foreign affairs and the domestic agenda.”

This is the same civil service that is supposed to maintain complete neutrality and according to its code “must not act in a way that unjustifiably favours or discriminates against particular individuals or interests.”

Corbyn fought back, arguing that it was unacceptable that civil servants were briefing newspapers on an elected politician. He demanded an independent inquiry into who was spreading such fabrications in the press and “compromising the integrity of the civil service.”

For David Miller, a professor of political sociology at the University of Bristol, who investigates concentrations of power and ways to hold them accountable,  the idea that the British civil service may not be impartial in its operations is hardly surprising. 

Far from ever being objective, he told Consortium News that the civil service now clearly has “an unconstitutional animus against a potential Corbyn government and has been briefing against it one way or another through various agencies for some time now.”

Catalog of Smears

Indeed, the anti-Corbyn bias within the establishment has been obvious in the catalog of smears on Corbyn and his team since he came to the Labour leadership; from allegations of being a “Soviet sleeper” to being “anti-Semitic” and now to questions about his overall fitness. 

Miller said most of the allegations were created by a number of organisations and individuals who are “involved in a faction fight with the Corbyn leadership.”

Noam Chomsky, a leading U.S. social critic, is among those who have spoken out against what he termed a “witch hunt” against the Labour leader and his supporters.

Whether or not anti-Semitism exists in the party, Miller said the accusations are out of hand.  “Almost everyone who says anything which is either critical of Israel or critical of the party’s response to the anti-Semitism crisis is denounced as an anti-Semite,” Miller said. “The question is how long will it be before everyone sees that the people who are involved in this have overreached themselves.”

Attempts to undermine potential socialist governments are of course, not new.

Miller gives the example of the Zinoviev case – when a fake letter was published in the Daily Mail in 1924 just prior to the general election, suggesting Communists in Britain were taking orders from Moscow. The goal was clearly to undermine the British Labour movement.

Miller also points to the case of former Prime Minister Harold Wilson. “Despite what may now be said by some elements of the security state,” Miller said that British agencies were engaged in an active plot to undermine Wilson’s elected government.

As another example, Miller offered the “Information Research Department,” first proposed in 1947 and sold to the cabinet as a bipartisan, anti-Communist and anti-American propaganda operation. In fact, Miller described it as a “secret, covert, anti-Communist propaganda operation which in the 70s was engaged in undermining the Wilson government.”

Today, Miller said, similar agencies in the U.K. government are doing the same thing.

Integrity Initiative

 As an example, Miller cites the Integrity Initiative; organized by the government’s Institute for Statecraft, which has a stated mission of countering “Russian disinformation and malign influence by harnessing existing expertise and establishing a network of experts, opinion formers and policy makers to educate national audiences in the threat and to help build national capacities to counter it.”  Its website is incidentally now empty pending an investigation into the “theft of its data” – after a hack exposed detail of the extent to which the government-funded program was itself engaged in disinformation. 

Miller, who runs the Bristol-based Organisation for Propaganda Studies, said the scheme was found to be spreading its own disinformation and openly criticizing opposition leader Corbyn and his party. 

“Corbyn has recently said in relation to the most recent criticism from the civil service that there are people in the establishment that are trying to undermine Corbyn, his office, his advisors and supporters of him,” Miller said. “And that’s what the Integrity Initiative was doing.”

Miller said this was clear from the very beginning of the Integrity Initiative when it was regularly engaged in tweeting or retweeting attacks on Corbyn and his closest advisors.

Miller calls the use of taxpayers’ money to interfere in domestic politics an affront to democracy.

“A government-funded project was engaged in attacking the leader of the opposition,” Miller said, “which is unconstitutional and something the U.K. civil service should not be involved in… they crossed the line when they started attacking Corbyn. And when we look back on this period, the Integrity Initiative, its funding by the Foreign Office and its base in British military intelligence will be one of the strands of the activities which will be seen to have been a secret state campaign against the elected leader of the Labour party.”

Miller would like to see an investigation into the attacks on Corbyn and whether they had been effectively funded by the Foreign Office, but doesn’t hold out much hope of that happening.

Six months ago, Shadow Home Secretary Emily Thornberry demanded answers to how this could have happened, with no result.

And Chris Williamson, a Labour MP and Corbyn supporter who was trying to investigate the Integrity Initiative, found himself suspended from the party after he was targeted with allegations of anti-Semitism.

Corbyn’s call for an independent investigation into the civil service leak to the press has also, as expected, been rejected by the government.

Johanna Ross is a freelance journalist based in the United Kingdom.

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Evangelical Christians Risk Setting Middle East on Fire

Jonathan Cook explains why the wave of pro-Zionist preachers taking an interest in Israel is bad news for Palestinians and loaded with ominous historic precedent.  

On Monday Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the annual summit of Christians United for Israel, espousing Christian Zionist support for the state of Israel.  Jonathan Cook takes a deep look into this phenomenon. 

By JonathanCook
in Nazareth

Jonathan-Cook.net

The recent arrival of Africa’s most popular televangelist preacher, TB Joshua, to address thousands of foreign pilgrims in Nazareth produced a mix of consternation and anger in the city of Jesus’s childhood.

There was widespread opposition from Nazareth’s political movements, as well as from community groups and church leaders, who called for a boycott of his two rallies. They were joined by the council of muftis, which described the events as “a red line for faith in religious values.”

Joshua’s gatherings, which included public exorcisms, took place in an open-air amphitheater on a hill above Nazareth that was originally built for papal masses. The site was used by Pope Benedict in 2009.

The Nigerian pastor, who has millions of followers worldwide and calls himself a prophet, aroused local hostility not only because his brand of Christianity strays far from the more traditional doctrines of Middle Eastern churches. He also represents a trend of foreign Christians, driven by apocalyptic readings of the Bible, interfering ever more explicitly in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories – and in ways that directly aid the policies of Israel’s far-right government.

Much-Needed Tourism Boost

Nazareth is the largest of the Palestinian communities in Israel that survived the Nakba, or catastrophe, of 1948, which forced most of the native population out of the bulk of their homeland and replaced it with a Jewish state. Today, 1-in-5 Israeli citizens are Palestinian.

The city and its immediate environs include the highest concentration of Palestinian Christians in the region. But it has long suffered from the hostility of Israeli officials, who have starved Nazareth of resources to prevent it from becoming a political, economic or cultural capital for the Palestinian minority.

The city has almost no land for growth or industrial areas to expand its income base, and Israel has tightly constrained its ability to develop a proper tourism industry. Most pilgrims pass through briefly to visit its Basilica of the Annunciation, the site where the angel Gabriel reputedly told Mary she was carrying Jesus.

Nazareth’s municipal officials leapt at the chance to exploit the publicity, and income, provided by Joshua’s visit. The municipality’s longer-term hope is that, if the city can attract even a small proportion of the more than 60 million Christian evangelicals in the U.S. and millions more in Africa and Europe, it will provide an enormous boost to the city’s economy.

Recent figures show evangelical tourism to Israel has been steadily rising, now accounting for about 1-in-7  of all overseas visitors.

Playing with Fire

But as the fallout over Joshua’s visit indicates, Nazareth may be playing with fire by encouraging these types of pilgrims to take a greater interest in the region. Most local Christians understand that Joshua’s teachings are not directed at them – and, in fact, are likely to harm them.

The Nigerian pastor chose Nazareth to spread his gospel, but faced vocal opposition from those who believe he is using the city simply as the backdrop to his bigger mission – one that appears entirely indifferent to the plight of Palestinians, whether those living inside Israel in places such as Nazareth, or those under occupation.

Political factions in Nazareth noted Joshua’s “ties to far-right and settlers circles in Israel.” He is reported to have had meetings about opening operations in the Jordan Valley, the reputed site of Jesus’ baptism but also the agricultural backbone of the West Bank. The area is being targeted by the far-right government of Benjamin Netanyahu for settlement expansion and possible annexation, thereby dooming efforts to create a Palestinian state.

A View of Armageddon

During his visits to Israel, Joshua has also enjoyed access to key government figures such as Yariv Levin, a close ally of Netanyahu’s, who has been in charge of two portfolios viewed as critical by the evangelical community: tourism, and the absorption into Israel of new Jewish immigrants from the U.S. and Europe.

Many in the evangelical community, including Joshua, believe it is their duty to encourage Jews to move from their home countries to the Promised Land to bring forward an end-times supposedly prophesied in the Bible.

This is the Rapture, when Jesus returns to build his kingdom on earth and righteous Christians take their place alongside him. Everyone else, including unrepentant Jews, it is implied, will burn in Hell’s eternal fires.

The cliff above the Jezreel Valley where Joshua and his disciples congregated offers views over Tel Megiddo, the modern name of the biblical site of Armageddon, where many evangelicals believe the end of the world will soon happen.

Speeding up the Second Coming

These Christians are not simply observers of an unfolding divine plan; they are active participants trying to bring the end-times closer.

In fact, the traumas of the Israel-Palestine conflict – the decades of bloodshed, violent colonization and expulsions of Palestinians – cannot be understood separately from the interference of Western Christian leaders in the Middle East over the past century. In many ways, they engineered the Israel we know today.

The first Zionists, after all, were not Jews, but Christians. A vigorous Christian Zionist movement – known then as “restorationism” – emerged in the early 19th century, predating and heavily influencing its subsequent Jewish counterpart.

The restorationists’ peculiar reading of the Bible meant that they believed the Messiah’s second coming could be accelerated if God’s chosen people, the Jews, returned to the Promised Land after 2,000 years of a supposed exile.

Charles Taze Russell, a U.S. pastor from Pennsylvania, travelled the world from the 1870s onwards imploring Jews to establish a national home for themselves in what was then Palestine. He even produced a plan for how a Jewish state might be created there.

He did so nearly 20 years before the Jewish Viennese journalist Theodor Herzl published his famous book outlining a Jewish state.

The secular Herzl didn’t much care where such a Jewish state was built. But his later followers – deeply aware of the hold of Christian Zionism in Western capitals – focused their attention on Palestine, the biblical Promised Land, in the hope of winning powerful allies in Europe and the U.S.

Rallying Cry for Herzl’s Followers

Imperial Britain’s support was especially prized. In 1840, Lord Shaftesbury, who was connected through marriage to Lord Palmerston, a later prime minister, published an advert in the London Times urging the return of Jews to Palestine.

Christian Zionism was an important factor influencing the British government in 1917 to issue the Balfour Declaration – effectively a promissory note from Britain that became the blueprint for creating a Jewish state on the ruins of the native population’s homeland.

Writing of the declaration, Israeli historian Tom Segev has observed: “The men who sired it were Christian and Zionist and, in many cases, anti-Semitic.” That was because Christian Zionism took as its premise that Jews should not integrate into their own countries. Rather, they should serve as instruments of God’s will, moving to the Middle East so that Christians could achieve redemption.

Edwin Montagu was the only British cabinet minister to oppose the Balfour Declaration, and he was also its sole Jewish member. He warned – for good reason – that the document would “prove a rallying ground for anti-Semites in every country in the world.”

‘Struggle Until the Rapture’

While Jewish Zionists looked to the imperial powerhouse of Britain for sponsorship a century ago, today, their chief patron is the U.S. The standard-bearers of Christian Zionism have been enjoying growing influence in Washington since the Six-Day War of 1967.

That process has reached its apotheosis under President Donald Trump. He has surrounded himself with a mix of extreme Jewish and Christian Zionists. His ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, and Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, are fervent Jewish supporters of the illegal settlements. But so too, it seems, are key Christians in the White House, such as Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Before he entered government, Pompeo was clear about his evangelical beliefs. Back in 2015, he told a congregation: “It is a never-ending struggle … until the Rapture. Be part of it. Be in the fight.”

This past March, he backed the idea that Trump might have been sent by God to save Israel from threats such as Iran. “I am confident that the Lord is at work here,” he told the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Pence, meanwhile, has said: “My passion for Israel springs from my Christian faith … It’s really the greatest privilege of my life to serve as vice-president to a president who cares so deeply for our most cherished ally.”

Sleeping Giant Awakens

Trump’s relocation last year of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, pre-empting any negotiated settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict, was designed to pander to his Christian Zionist base. Some 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for him in 2016, and he will need their support again in 2020 if he hopes to be re-elected.

Not surprisingly, the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem was consecrated by two prominent televangelist pastors, John Hagee and Robert Jeffress, known for their fanatical support for Israel – as well as occasional anti-Semitic outbursts.

More than a decade ago, Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel, told delegates at a conference organized by AIPAC, Israel’s main political lobby in Washington: “The sleeping giant of Christian Zionism has awakened. There are 50 million Christians standing up and applauding the state of Israel.”

The Hagee group’s activities include lobbying in Congress for hardline pro-Israel legislation, such as the recent Taylor Force Act that slashes U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinians’ government-in-waiting. The group is also active in helping to push through legislation at the state and federal levels, penalizing anyone who boycotts Israel.

For U.S. evangelicals, and those elsewhere, Israel is increasingly a key issue. A 2015 poll showed some three-quarters believe that developments in Israel were prophesied in the Bible’s Book of Revelation.

Many expect Trump to complete a chain of events set in motion by British officials a century ago – and more and more of them are getting directly involved, in hopes of speeding along that process.

Closer Ties to Settlers

Israel’s vision of an “ingathering of the exiles” – encouraging Jews from around the world to move to the region under the Law of Return – fits neatly with Christian Zionism’s beliefs in a divine plan for the Middle East.

The efforts of extremist Jewish settlers to colonize the West Bank, the bulk of any future Palestinian state, also chimes with Christian Zionists’ understanding of the West Bank as the “biblical heartland,” an area Jews must possess before Jesus returns.

For these reasons, evangelicals are developing ever-closer ties with Israeli Jewish religious extremists, especially in the settlements. Recent initiatives have included online and face-to-face Bible studies programs run by Orthodox Jews, often settlers, targeted specifically at evangelical Christians. The tutorials are designed to bolster the settlers’ narrative, as well as demonizing Muslims and, by extension, Palestinians.

The most popular course offered by Root Source, one such venture, is titled “Islam – Insights and Deceptions.” It uses the Old and New Testaments to make the case that Islam “is extremely dangerous.”

A few months ago, Haaretz, Israel’s leading liberal newspaper, published an investigation into the growing flow of evangelical volunteers and money into the West Bank’s illegal settlements – the chief obstacle to achieving a two-state solution.

One U.S. organization alone, Hayovel, has brought more than 1,700 Christian volunteers over the past 10 years to help in a settlement close to Nablus, in the heart of the West Bank.

Infusion of Evangelical Money

An increasing number of similar initiatives have been aided by new rules introduced last year by the Israeli government to pay Christian Zionist groups such as Hayovel to advocate abroad for the settlements.

It is much harder to know exactly how much evangelical money is pouring into the settlements, because of a lack of transparency regarding U.S. donations made by churches and charities. But the Haaretz investigation estimates that over the past decade, as much as $65 million has flowed in.

Ariel, a settler town sitting in the very center of the West Bank, received $8 million for a sports center from John Hagee Ministries a decade ago. Another evangelical outfit, J H Israel, has spent $2 million there on a national leadership center.

Other Christian charities that have historically funded projects inside Israel are reported to be increasingly considering assisting the settlements too.

Should a Trump peace plan – touted for publication later this year – back annexation of parts of the West Bank, as is widely expected, it would likely unleash a new and even greater wave of evangelical money into the settlements.

Immune to Reason

This is precisely the problem for Palestinians, and the wider Middle East. Christian Zionists are meddling yet again, whether they be government officials, church leaders or their congregations. Evangelical influence is to be found from the U.S. and Brazil to Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia.

Western governments typically have more practical and pressing concerns than realizing biblical prophecy to justify divide-and-rule policies in the Middle East. Chiefly, they want control over the region’s oil resources, and can secure it only by projecting military power there to prevent rival nations from gaining a foothold.

But the uncritical support of tens of millions of Christians around the world, whose passion for Israel is immune to reason, makes the job of these governments selling wars and resource grabs all the easier.

Both Israel and the West have benefited from cultivating an image of a plucky Jewish state surrounded by barbaric Arabs and Muslims determined to destroy it. As a result, Israel has enjoyed ever greater integration into a Western power bloc, while Western governments have been offered easy pretexts either to interfere in the region directly or delegate such interference to Israel.

The payoff for Israel has been unstinting support from the U.S. and Europe, as it oppresses and drives the Palestinians off their lands.

With an evangelical base behind him, Trump has no need to offer plausible arguments before he acts. He can move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, or approve the annexation of the West Bank, or attack Iran.

Standing Against Israel’s Enemies

Seen this way, any enemy Israel claims to have – whether the Palestinians or Iran – automatically becomes the sworn enemy of tens of millions of evangelical Christians.

Netanyahu understands the growing importance of this uncritical overseas lobby as his and Israel’s standing drops precipitously among liberal U.S. Jews, appalled by the rightward lurch of successive governments.

In 2017, Netanyahu told a crowd of evangelicals in Washington: “When I say we have no greater friends than Christian supporters of Israel, I know you’ve always stood with us.”

For Palestinians, this is bad news. Most of these evangelicals, such as T B Joshua, are largely indifferent or hostile to the fate of the Palestinians – even Palestinian Christians, such as those in Nazareth.

A recent editorial in Haaretz noted that Netanyahu and his officials were now “endeavoring to make evangelicals – who support Israel’s hawkish rejectionism regarding the Palestinians – the sole foundation of American support for Israel.”

The truth is that these Christian Zionists view the region through a single, exclusive prism: whatever aids the imminent arrival of the Messiah is welcomed. The only issue is how soon God’s “chosen people” will congregate in the Promised Land.

If the Palestinians stand in Israel’s way, these tens of millions of foreign Christians will be quite happy to see the native population driven out once again – as they were in 1948 and 1967.

Jonathan Cook is a freelance journalist based in Nazareth.

This article is from his blog at Jonathan Cook.net.




THE ANGRY ARAB: The First Elected Egyptian President? The Death of Mohammad Morsi

There were Egyptian elections before Mohammed Morsi, who underestimated the anti-democratic impulses of Arab tyrannies, and assumed Western governments wouldn’t stand for an overthrow of a democratically-elected president.

By As`ad AbuKhalil
Special to Consortium News

The death of Mohamed Morsi, former Egyptian President, in an Egyptian court two weeks ago focused attention—albeit briefly—on the nature of the tyrannical regime of Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi. El-Sisi’s coup in 2013 was largely the work of the UAE-Saudi alliance and was quickly blessed by the Obama administration.

el-Sisi has done everything possible to endear himself to the U.S.: he has brought his security coordination with Israel to an unprecedented level and has even allowed Israeli fighter jets to conduct raids on Egyptian territory (in the Sinai). He also has tightened the grip of his regime on Gaza, reinforcing the Israeli siege. Those are the priorities of the U.S. in Egypt, along with political subservience to U.S. dictates.

The Muslim Brotherhood is now the object of state and regional harassment in most countries under Saudi and UAE influence. Western governments, which for decades supported or indulged the Brotherhood in the long years of the Cold War, have come under pressure from the Saudi and UAE regimes to outlaw their organizations and declare them terrorist groups. Qatar and Turkey, who are now the official sponsors of the Brotherhood, lobby Western governments to keep the Brotherhood off the terrorism list.

But there is a paradox in the UAE-Saudi-Israeli campaign against the Brotherhood: the few cases where there were elections in the era of Arab uprisings (in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen), the Brotherhood proved that they are a powerful political force who command support from a substantial segment of the population. Banning the Brotherhood in the Gulf merely pushes them underground.

The bitter campaign against the Brotherhood in the UAE and Saudi Arabia is a testimony to their political salience, not to their irrelevance; both regimes are concerned that the domestic opposition prefers the Brotherhood to the ruling dynasties. A recent Arab public opinion survey (with very questionable methodology and phraseology conducted by the Arab Barometer, which is partly funded by the U.S. government) reveals a wide popularity for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an among the Arab population. (One notices in talking to Saudi students abroad that Turkey constitutes the most attractive model for young educated Saudis because its version of Islam is more palatable than the House of Saud’s).

Morsi’s Miracle Run

Morsi became president of Egypt in 2012, and lasted almost a year. It was a miracle that he lasted that long given the Gulf regimes’ insistence on imposing tight control over the Arab state system. The West, especially the U.S., learned to live with the Brotherhood, particularly its branches in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, who all proved willing to abandon past slogans in relation to Israel. Their economic policies were also congruent with Western lending agencies. But Morsi underestimated the anti-democratic impulses of Arab tyrannies, and he also assumed that Western governments would not stand for an overthrow of a democratically-elected president.

The era of Morsi in Egypt was an interesting one; it is said that he was the first democratically elected president of Egypt. But who can question that Gamal Abdul-Nasser (who ruled from 1952-1970), was the most popular Arab leader since Saladin, captuing the hearts and minds of Egyptians from at least 1956 until his death? Egyptians continued to be loyal to Nasser even after the 1967 defeat to Israel, and his funeral remains the most massive Arab funeral in history (and one of the biggest ever worldwide). There were elections in Egypt under Nasser and wide sections of the social classes were represented in ways that parliaments under capitalism aren’t. (Naser broke the monopoly of the upper classes over political representation).

Elections in Nasser’s time were not held in the context of a multiplicity of political parties, but that does not cast doubt on the legitimacy of the successive elections of Nasser as president. Even if the Brotherhood were allowed to field their own candidates during the 1950s and 1960s, they did not stand a chance in that secular era.

The election of Morsi took place in a different context. There was a multiplicity of political parties but the elections were not entirely free (assuming that you can have free elections per se, especially in developing countries where foreign money and foreign embassies play a big role in influencing and determining results). The state apparatus clearly intervened to support the candidacy of Ahmad Shafiq against Morsi, and Gulf and Western governments most likely funneled money to the campaign of Shafiq, just as Qatar and Turkey intervened on the side of Morsi, who probably won with a larger margin than the one announced by the state.

The year of Morsi was an interesting period in contemporary Egyptian history. It was by far the freest political era, where political parties and media flourished and the state tolerated more criticisms against the ruler than before or since. But young Egyptians who participated in the 2011 revolt stress the point that freedoms under Morsi were not so much a gift from the leader to the people as they were the result of insistence on their rights by the revolutionary masses. They had just managed to oust the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak and they were not going to settle for less than an open political environment.

But that also did not last, and the rise of el-Sisi was entirely an affair hatched by foreign governments and the security apparatus of the state. Secular, liberal, Nasserists, and even some progressives were accomplices of the coup of 2013; they were alarmed with the Islamic rhetoric of the Brotherhood and some even resented the political rise of poorer Egyptians with an Islamist bend. el-Sisi knew how to appeal to a large coalition and to pretend that he would carry on the democratization of Egypt. But the signs were on the wall: the blatant role of the Saudi and UAE regime in his coup were not disguised, and el-Sisi was an integral part of the Egyptian state military-intelligence apparatus, whose purpose is to maintain close relations with the Israeli occupation state, and to crush domestic dissent and opposition.

Morsi’s fate was sealed when he decided to coexist with the same military council that had existed in the age of Mubarak. He could have purged the entire top brass, and replaced them with new people who were not tainted with links to the Mubarak regime. Worse, Morsi made the chief of Egyptian military intelligence—the man who is in charge of close Israeli-Egyptian security cooperation—his minister of defense (that was el-Sisi himself). Morsi assumed that the military command would quickly switch their loyalty to the democratic order instead of the old tyrannical regime.

Not Dead Yet

It is too premature to write the obituary of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is still a force to be reckoned with in many Arab countries, and whenever the people are given a chance to express themselves in the ballot boxes, the Brotherhood will be represented. But it is tainted: in the experience of Tunisia and the brief experience of Egypt under Morsi, the Brotherhood proved to be quite unprincipled, in both foreign and domestic policies. It has also engaged in armed combat in Libya, Syria, and Yemen.

Morsi was mocked and condemned mercilessly for a formal congratulatory letter that the then Egyptian president wrote to then Israeli President Shimon Peres. The Brotherhood’s old rhetoric about “Jihad against Israel” was quickly discarded to win approval from the U.S. The Brotherhood had semi-formal deals with the Israel lobby in Washington and with the late Sen. John McCain to prove its good intentions if allowed to reach power.

The death of Morsi did not so much create sympathy for his person as much as it underlined the cruel repression under el-Sisi. Political satire flourished under Morsi and Bassem Yousef owed his career to him (Morsi was quite easy to mock). The Brotherhood in Egypt are not finished; they will come back, and their return will unlikely be peaceful.

As’ad AbuKhalil is a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of the “Historical Dictionary of Lebanon” (1998), “Bin Laden, Islam and America’s New War on Terrorism (2002), and “The Battle for Saudi Arabia” (2004). He tweets as @asadabukhalil

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Echoes of FDR in Trump’s Bid for Palestinian Surrender

There’s nothing new about a U.S. president assuming that Palestinians can be bribed into cooperating with Zionist ambitions, writes Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson 
TothePointAnalysis.com

President Donald Trump’s peace plan for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, or at least the economic side of it, was discussed at a meeting in Bahrain on June 25 and 26. The plan, euphemistically entitled “Peace to Prosperity” and the “Deal of the Century” is also, inaccurately, likened to a “Marshall Plan for Palestinians.” It is based on the assumption that money, ultimately the better part of $50 billion, can lure the Palestinian people into surrender — that is, the surrender of their right to a state of their own on their stolen ancestral land as well as the right of return for the 7.5 million Palestinians who have been forced into exile. Upon surrender, according to the plan, “an ambitious, achievable … framework for a prosperous future for the Palestinian people and the region” will be put into place. How this idealized future is to be integrated into the apartheid and Bantustan system of control that constitutes the Israeli government’s “facts on the ground” is left unexplained.  

This bit of gilded bait was put together by “senior White House adviser” Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law; Jason Greenblatt, chief lawyer of the Trump Organization and now U.S. envoy for international negotiations; and David Friedman, the president’s bankruptcy lawyer who is now the U.S. ambassador to Israel. All of these men are at once unqualified for their present positions as well as Zionist supporters of Israeli expansionism. It is not surprising then that the Israeli government has welcomed this effort. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he “would listen to the American plan and hear it fairly and with openness.” On the other hand, the Palestinian West Bank leader, Mahmoud Abbas, said, “As long as there is no political [solution], we do not deal with any economic [solution].”

There are, no doubt, some Palestinians who are upset at Abbas’s position: perhaps some business people, often-unpaid bureaucrats, and a portion of the frustrated middle-class, who will be dearly tempted by the promise of all that money. These are people who, given over a century of struggle, see no hope of a just political settlement.

Caution Signs 

Nonetheless, those tempted might consider these facts: (1) All those billions of dollars are, as yet, hypothetical. The money is not in the bank, so to speak. And, it is not a given that Trump can actually raise the funds. Thus, for all those ready to trade justice for dollars, it might be premature to actually make the leap. (2) There is a prevailing belief among the Trump cabal putting this plan together that the Palestinians themselves are incapable of running the proposed development programs. They are assumed to be too corrupt or tainted with “terrorist” backgrounds to be trusted. Thus, the question of who would run this effort (Israelis? American Zionists? anyone other than those dedicated to Palestinian interests?) is left unanswered. Relative to this question, it should be kept in mind that the Israelis have made something of a science of robbing the Palestinians of their resources. They are hardly likely to stop now. (3) The raising of money for the Trump plan is in competition with a UN effort to raise $1.2 billion for UNRWA (which Trump stopped funding), the agency that supports programs for Palestinian refugees. That fund-raiser was running at the same time as the Bahrain meeting. If the Trump plan gains traction, there might well be pressure to shut down UNRWA altogether. 

Is this really an honest proposal to provide the Palestinians with prosperity? The history of “third world” development efforts sponsored by and run under the guidance of “first world” powers, be they Western governments or institutions like the IMF, is largely one of failure. There is no reason to believe that the Trump plan will fare any better. While these problematic economic efforts may eventually fall short, the political conditions almost certain to be attached to the aid will probably require immediate cessation of all anti-Zionist activities, including the relatively successful ongoing boycott of Israel. 

The Precedent

It might come as a surprise, but this is not the first time that financial bribery to procure Arab cooperation with Zionist ambitions has been tried.

There is a historical precedent for Trump’s attempted “deal of the century” that is detailed my book, America’s Palestine (cheap used copies of which are available on line). Here is how that precedent went: Back in 1942, the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann told members of the U.S. State Department’s Division of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) that Winston Churchill wished to make the Saudi king, Ibn Saud, “the boss of bosses in the Arab World.” The only condition to this offer was that Ibn Saud must “be willing to work out with Weizmann to achieve a sane solution to the Palestine problem.” Weizmann further claimed that the U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt was “in accord on this subject.” 

The response of the head of the NEA, Wallace Murray, a man who knew the Middle East much better than did Chaim Weizmann, was one of skepticism. Murray noted that British influence over Ibn Saud was small and that he doubted the Saudi king wanted to be the Arab “boss of bosses.” Finally, he expressed doubt that anything the Zionists would consider a “solution” would be something Ibn Saud would consider to be “sane.”

Nonetheless, the Zionists persisted along these lines and soon came up with a plan where, in return for a Jewish Palestine, Ibn Saud would be made the “head of an Arab federation in control of a ‘development’ budget of 20 million British pounds.” 

At this point Murray became adamant that this would never work. He predicted that Ibn Saud would interpret the offer as a bribe — the offer of a throne in exchange for turning Palestine over to the Zionists. He would interpret the 20 million pounds as a “slush fund.” Consequently, there was every reason to believe that the Saudi ruler would see this whole plan as a personal insult. So Murray suggested that “the less we have to do with the … proposals of Dr. Weizmann the better.”

As it turned out Roosevelt disagreed with Murray and after a conversation with Weizmann in early June of 1943, authorized an approach to Ibn Saud along the lines of the Zionist plan. Why did he ignore Murray in favor of Weizmann? Because Murray’s accurate assessment of Ibn Saud conflicted with FDR’s stereotyped view of Arabs. This is revealed in the minutes of the June meeting with Weizmann wherein the president said that “he believes the Arabs are purchasable.” In other words, following a common Western view, the president saw the Arabs as a backward people who would do just about anything for the right amount of “bakshish.”

Subsequently, the entire scheme came to naught when, in the fall of 1943, Ibn Saud rejected it out of hand. He would subsequently tell FDR that the Jews should “be given the choicest lands and homes of the Germans who had oppressed them.” When the president replied that the Jews would not wish to stay in Germany after the war, Ibn Saud noted that the “allied camp” had “fifty countries” in it. Surely they could find enough open space (he even alluded to the underpopulated areas of the American West) to take in Europe’s Jewish refugees. Roosevelt came away from the exchange rather shaken. He finally understood from it that “the Arabs mean business” when it comes to Palestine.

Change and Continuity

The world has changed a lot since the 1940s. Ibn Saud has been replaced by the Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. This can be seen as real step down in terms of personal integrity and strategic judgment. Franklin Roosevelt has been replaced with Donald Trump. I will let readers make their own judgments on this change. Actually, the thing that has stayed constant, perhaps because it was always devoid of real empathy for the Palestinians, is the nature of Zionist leadership. Thus, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, has said that the only way the Palestinians can be economically liberated is through their political surrender. But as suggested above, Israel is now a confirmed apartheid state that feels its own “security” necessitates both military and economic control of the Palestinians. Given that reality, Danon’s notion of economic liberation means about as much as Weizmann’s promise of someone else’s (i.e., Britain’s) money. And then there is the replacement of Chaim Weizmann (the Zionist pre-state leader) with Benjamin Netanyahu. The former may have had more persuasive charm than the latter, but certainly their goals were, and continue to be, the same.

It is Zionism’s ambition to possess biblical Palestine that has reduced the Palestinians to destitution. Perfectly predictable and legal Palestinian resistance is the excuse the Israelis use to cover up the segregationist and impoverishing policies that are necessitated by their ideological worldview. And now Trump and his Zionist son-in-law come forward with their plan, fully expecting the Palestinians to trust the Americans and their Israeli allies to make them “developed” and prosperous? I wonder what Ibn Saud would say to that?

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history emeritus at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He has been publishing his analyses of topics in U.S. domestic and foreign policy, international and humanitarian law and Israel/Zionist practices and policies since 2010.

This article is from his website TothePointAnalysis.com.




Power Versus the Press: The Extradition Cases of Pinochet & Assange

With Julian Assange facing possible extradition from Britain to the U.S. for publishing classified secrets, Elizabeth Vos reflects on the parallel but divergent case of a notorious Chilean dictator.

By Elizabeth Vos

Eight months from now one of the most consequential extradition hearings in recent history will take place in Great Britain when a British court and the home secretary will determine whether WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange will be extradited to the United States to face espionage charges for the crime of journalism.

Twenty-one years ago, in another historic extradition case, Britain had to decide whether to send former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet to Spain for the crime of mass murder.

In October 1998, Pinochet, whose regime became a byword for political killings, “disappearances” and torture, was arrested in London while there for medical treatment.

A judge in Madrid,  Baltasar Garzón, sought his extradition in connection with the deaths of Spanish citizens in Chile.

Citing the aging Pinochet’s inability to stand trial, the United Kingdom in 2000 ultimately prevented him from being extradited to Spain where he would have faced prosecution for human rights abuses.

At an early point in the proceedings, Pinochet’s lawyer, Clare Montgomery, made an argument in his defense that had nothing to do with age or poor health.   

“States and the organs of state, including heads of state and former heads of state, are entitled to absolute immunity from criminal proceedings in the national courts of other countries,” the  Guardian quoted Montgomery as saying. She argued that crimes against humanity should be narrowly defined within the context of international warfare, as the BBC reported.

Montgomery’s immunity argument was overturned by the House of Lords. But the extradition court ruled that the poor health of Pinochet, a friend of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, would prevent him from being sent to Spain.

Same Participants

Though the cases of Pinochet and Assange are separated by more than two decades, two of the participants are the same, this time playing very different roles.

Montgomery reappeared in the Assange case to argue on behalf of a Swedish prosecutor’s right to seek a European arrest warrant for Assange.

Her argument ultimately failed. A Swedish court recently denied the European arrest warrant. But as in the Pinochet case, Montgomery helped buy time, this time allowing Swedish sexual allegations to persist and muddy Assange’s reputation.

Garzón, the Spanish judge, who had requested Pinochet’s extradition, also reappears in Assange’s case.  He is a well-known defender of human rights, “viewed by many as Spain’s most courageous legal watchdog and the scourge of bent politicians and drug warlords the world over,” as the The Independent described him a few years ago.

He now leads Assange’s legal team.

Friends and Enemies

The question that stands out is whether the British legal system will let a notorious dictator like Pinochet go but send a publisher such as Assange to the United States to face life in prison.

The tide of political sentiment has been running against Assange.

Before the U.K. home secretary signed the U.S. extradition request for Assange, leading to the magistrate’s court setting up a five-day hearing at the end of February 2020, British lawmakers publicly urged that the case against Assange proceed. Few elected officials have defended Assange (his image tainted by the unproven Swedish allegations and criticism about the 2016 U.S. election that have nothing to do with the extradition request).

Pinochet, by contrast, had friends in high places. Thatcher openly called for his release.

“[Pinochet] reportedly made a habit of sending chocolates and flowers to [Thatcher] during his twice-yearly visits to London and took tea with her whenever possible. Just two weeks before his arrest, General Pinochet was entertained by the Thatchers at their Chester Square address in London,” the BBC reported.  CNN reported on the “famously close relationship.”

Similar affection was also documented between Pinochet and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. The Nation reported on a declassified memo of a private conversation in Santiago, Chile, in June 1976, that revealed “Kissinger’s expressions of ‘friendship,’ ‘sympathetic’ understanding and wishes for success to Pinochet at the height of his repression, when many of those crimes – torture, disappearances, international terrorism – were being committed.”

Systematic, Widespread Abuse

Pinochet rose to power following a U.S.-backed, violent coup by the Chilean army on Sept. 11, 1973, which ousted the country’s democratically-elected president, the socialist Salvador Allende. The coup has been called “one of the most brutal in modern Latin American history.”

The CIA funded operations in Chile with millions of U.S. tax dollars both before and after Allende’s election, the 1975 U.S. Senate Church Committee reported. 

Although the Church Committee report found no evidence of the agency directly funding the coup, the National Security Archive noted that the CIA “actively supported the military Junta after the overthrow of President Allende. Many of Pinochet’s officers were involved in systematic and widespread human rights abuses. Some of these were contacts or agents of the CIA or US military.”

The violence Pinochet inflicted spilled over the borders of Chile. His orders for murder have been linked to the killing of an exiled Chilean dissident, Orlando Letelier, in a car bomb blast on U.S. soil. The attack also killed Ronni Moffitt, a U.S. citizen.

More than 40,000 people, many only tangentially tied to dissidents, were “disappeared,” tortured or killed during Pinochet’s 17-year reign of terror.

Pinochet’s Chile almost immediately after the coup became the laboratory for the Chicago School’s economic theory of neoliberalism, or a new laissez-faire, enforced at the point of a gun.  Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan championed a system of privatization, free trade, cuts to social services and deregulation of banking and business that has led to the greatest inequality in a century.

By contrast to these crimes and corruption, Assange has published thousands of classified documents showing U.S. and other nations’ officials engaged in the very acts of crime and corruption. 

Yet it is far from certain that Assange will receive the leniency from the British extradition process that Pinochet enjoyed.

After the dictator’s death, Christopher Hitchens wrote that the U.S. Department of Justice had an indictment for Pinochet completed for some time. “But the indictment has never been unsealed,” Hitchens reported in Slate.

Assange’s indictment, by contrast, was not only unsealed, more charges were heaped on.

Given the longstanding difficulties he has had accessing justice, it’s fair to say that the U.K. and the rest of the Western world are committing a slow-motion “enforced disappearance” of Assange.

Elizabeth Vos is a freelance reporter and regular contributor to Consortium News.

This is an updated version of an article that originally appeared on Disobedient Media.




Scenario Fulfillment: Why Should We Believe US on Location of Drone Shot Down By Iran?

Ann Wright recalls that a U.S. military warship shot down Iran Air Flight 655 in 1988 and Washington insisted afterwards that it was correct in doing so. 

By Ann Wright
Code Pink

The Iranian military shot down a U.S. spy drone last week, bringing the two countries to the brink of war.

Iran said the drone was over Iranian airspace, as the country’s foreign minister detailed in a tweet. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The U.S. says the drone, a $22 million RQ-4A Global Hawk, was in international airspace.  

But why should one believe the U.S. with its history of lying?  

Remember back to 1988, during the Iran-Iraq war, when the USS Vincennes, a guided missile cruiser, shot down Iran Air Flight 655 with all 290 people on board including 66 children.  The regularly scheduled passenger flight was over Iran’s territorial waters in the Persian Gulf on the routine flight path shortly after taking off from Bandar Abbas heading on the 28-minute flight to Dubai.  Its transponder was signaling it was a civilian aircraft.

The U.S. warship was in Iranian territorial waters after one of its helicopters drew warning shots from Iranian speedboats that were guarding Iranian waterways.

Yet, the U.S. maintained that it was correct in shooting down a civilian aircraft that it said the crew thought was a military aircraft.  It took years before the U.S. offered recompense through the International Court of Justice. 

When a group of us were on a citizens’ peace delegation to Iran in February we visited the Tehran Peace Museum. We knew from previous trips that the wound of the destruction of Iran Air Flight 655 was still raw.  This time we presented the director of the peace museum with a book made by a member of our delegation with the names of all of those killed on Flight 655, along with our apologies.

Scenario Fulfillment

In a 2000 BBC documentary titled “The Other Lockerbie,” and in an M.I.T. study  of the Flight 655 shoot-down, U.S. government officials stated in a written answer that they believed the shoot down of Iran Air 655 may have been caused by a simultaneous psychological condition among the 18 bridge crew of Vincennes, called “scenario fulfillment,” which is said to occur when people are under pressure. U.S. officials said that in such a situation, the crew will carry out a training scenario, believing it to be reality while ignoring sensory information that contradicts the scenario. In the case of this incident, the training scenario was an attack by a lone military aircraft when in fact, in reality, the aircraft was a civilian passenger plane on a regularly scheduled flight.

Let’s hope Bolton and Pompeo’s “scenario fulfillment” does not lead the White House to further military confrontation, much less an attack on Iran.

Ann Wright served 29 years in the U.S. Army/Army Reserves and retired as a colonel.   She was a U.S. diplomat for 16 years and served in U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia.  She resigned from the U.S. government in March 2003 in opposition to President George W. Bush’s war on Iraq. She is co-author of “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.”

This article first appeared on Code Pink.




Survey: Americans Have Remarkably Ignorant Attitude Toward Nukes & North Korea

Caitlin Johnstone says the correct response to North Korea having nuclear retaliatory capability is simple: leave it alone.

By Caitlin Johnstone
CaitlinJohnstone.com

Half of the responders to an innovative new survey of 3,000 Americans conducted by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and the British research firm YouGov reported that they would support a nuclear strike against North Korea if it tested a long-range missile capable of reaching the continental United States. A third said they’d actually prefer such a strike over other hypothetical responses.

“For example, while ‘only’ 33 percent of the U.S. public prefer a U.S. preventive nuclear strike that would kill 15,000 North Koreans, 50 percent approve,” the report reads.

The study found little change in preference for a preemptive nuclear strike whether the hypothetical scenario offered to respondents entailed the death of 15,000 North Korean civilians or one million. Preferences for a preemptive strike only dropped when the hypothetical scenario reduced the probability of success (meaning elimination of North Korea’s nuclear retaliatory capabilities) was reduced from ninety to fifty percent.

The survey found a large knowledge deficit in responders regarding nuclear weapons, with a majority reporting an unrealistic amount of confidence in both the U.S. military’s ability to eliminate all of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal in a preemptive strike and in its ability to shoot down North Korean missiles using current missile defense systems. This inaccurate perspective was significantly higher among supporters of President Donald Trump.

While the study found that a majority of Americans would prefer to de-escalate against North Korea if given the choice, a jarring number of them would be willing to use nuclear weapons at the drop of a hat, and believe it’s possible to do so at relatively little risk to Americans.

“As we have previously found, the U.S. public exhibits only limited aversion to nuclear weapons use and a shocking willingness to support the killing of enemy civilians,” write the report’s authors.

Why Expect Anything Else?

And really, why would we expect anything else? After all, Americans are taught the lie since they are children that their nation, the only nation ever to use nuclear weapons, did so with the goal of bringing a quick and painless end to a horrible world war. Like so much else, this ultimately boils down to the effects of propaganda.

“Most Americans have been taught that using atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 was justified because the bombings ended the war in the Pacific, thereby averting a costly U.S. invasion of Japan,” reads an excellent 2016 LA Times article on this subject by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznik. “This erroneous contention finds its way into high school history texts still today.”

In reality, the sole purpose of dropping nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 was not to end the war, but to show the rest of the world in general and the Soviets in particular that the United States had both the capability and the savagery to wipe out any city in the world with a single bomb. The war, in fact, had already been won, and the Japanese were already on the brink of surrender as the fearsome Soviet forces entered into the war in the Pacific. The narrative that the use of nuclear bombs was a tragic but necessary means to end World War II is a lie that the U.S. has used its cultural hegemony to circulate around the world, much like the lie that America was mostly responsible for Germany’s defeat and not the U.S.S.R.

I always get a lot of pushback from Americans when I point to this, not because I don’t have facts on my side but because it’s so glaringly different from the dominant narratives that Americans are spoon fed in school. If you don’t believe me, read the aforementioned LA Times article titled Bombing Hiroshima changed the world, but it didn’t end WWII,” or this article from The Nation, or this one from Mises Institute.

Seriously, read the articles if this is upsetting you. This is an established fact to which contemporary generals at the time have attested. The uncomfortable feeling you’re experiencing upon reading this is called cognitive dissonance. It’s what learning you’ve been lied to your whole life feels like.

This report on the American public’s widespread ignorance of and indifference to the consequences of nuclear weapons use comes shortly after the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff briefly published and then removed from public access an update on their position on the use of nukes which contains the alarming line, “Using nuclear weapons could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability. Specifically, the use of a nuclear weapon will fundamentally change the scope of a battle and create conditions that affect how commanders will prevail in conflict.”

So the people responsible for forming America’s nuclear strategies believe using nuclear weapons is not just acceptable, but potentially beneficial. The mass media have been completely ignoring this horrifying revelation, and the public are too awash in disinformation to do anything about it themselves.

The correct response to North Korea having nuclear retaliatory capabilities is the same as the response to any other nuclear power: leave them alone. The narrative that North Korea’s leadership is likely to launch an unprovoked attack is exactly as baseless and moronic as the narratives about Iraq or Iran launching an unprovoked attack. It’s not a thing.

The Warping Effect

As tensions continue to escalate between nuclear powers around the world while the faltering U.S. empire becomes increasingly desperate to maintain its global hegemony, human extinction via nuclear annihilation is just as real a possibility as it was at the height of the last Cold War.

But it isn’t just the use of nuclear weapons which threatens us. Their very existence warps us as a species. In her book “The Algebra of Infinite Justice,” Arundhati Roy writes:

“It is such supreme folly to believe that nuclear weapons are deadly only if they are used. The fact that they exist at all, their very presence in our lives, will wreak more havoc than we can begin to fathom. Nuclear weapons pervade our thinking. Control our behaviour. Administer our societies. Inform our dreams. They bury themselves like meathooks deep in the base of our brains… The nuclear bomb is the most anti-democratic, anti-national, anti-human, outright evil thing that man has ever made. Through it, man now has the power to destroy God’s creation.”

This needs to change. And it won’t be changed by those in power who benefit from the status quo. Humanity itself must awaken from the propaganda cages which have been built around our minds so that the people can use the power of their numbers to force a change. The time to wake up is now.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium. Follow her work on FacebookTwitter, or her website. She has a podcast and a new book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.” 

This article was re-published with permission from CaitlinJohnstone.com