Tag Archive for Iraq

Media gullibility or pure propaganda?

The media have again failed to live up to their reporting responsibilities on the crises in Libya and Syria. In particular, the media essentially accepted the claims put forward by the oppositions to Gaddafi in Libya and Assad in Syria. Despite the violent nature of the uprisings in both countries, the media initially portrayed them as being part of the nonviolent ‘Arab Spring’.

In Libya, the media widely disseminated the false claims about massacres by Gaddafi’s forces. These claims helped build support for the rebels and soon led to a UN Security Council resolution for a ‘no-fly’ zone. It was amazing that any attempts to negotiate a resolution were brushed aside throughout the crisis. Unsurprisingly, this resolution was quickly expanded to a wide-scale bombing campaign led by France, Britain and the U.S. on the side of rebels in a civil war.

The media’s focus on massacres that hadn’t occurred drew attention from the identity of the rebels and their foreign backers. The media generally also failed to point out what life was like in Libya before the war, for example, that Libyans had the highest standard of living and the longest life expectancy in Africa as well as free health care and education. In addition, Libya had no debt and had over $150 billion invested overseas, much of which was confiscated.

The length of the military campaign, despite thousands of bombing raids, suggested that many Libyans strongly appreciated the major improvements under Gaddafi’s rule. Now Libya, like Iraq, has been devastated, and Libyans are already paying a steep price for this foreign-backed civil war.

We are seeing a repeat of this one-sided coverage now in Syria. Certainly the Assad regime has committed some terrible and horrific crimes, and those acts must be condemned. However, the media fail to point out that most Syrians are not supporting the armed uprising there. Syria’s two largest population centers remain calm with little signs of opposition to the Assad regime. Perhaps these Syrians fear the devastation of a foreign-backed civil war and thus accept Assad. Disappointingly the opposition Syrian National Council says that it won’t enter into negotiations until Assad resigns.

Incredibly, the media and some politicians here are now talking about yet another war, this time against Iran. Hopefully the U.S. public remembers the disinformation campaign about Iraq and won’t support another unnecessary and illegal war.

You Will Comply or Else

First published Feb 18, 2012 at CounterCurrents.org republished by author.

18 February, 2012 Countercurrents.org

Wheels of war, once made, want to be turned.

Wheels of war, once made, want to be turned.

Madeleine Albright, former U.S. ambassador to the UN and former Secretary of State in the Clinton administration, once asked General Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

Albright’s statement nicely captures the U.S. approach to dealing with troublesome leaders. By troublesome, I mean those who have the temerity to oppose U.S. positions and who, at the same time, are far too weak to pose a real military threat to the U.S. Examples of nations that had such troublesome leaders include Panama, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. The leaders of Syria and Iran are also currently in the crosshairs.

Note the contrast between Albright’s words and those of President Eisenhower in his “Cross of Iron” speech in 1953. Eisenhower addressed the idea of regime change when he said: “Any nation’s right to a form of government and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable.” He added: “Any nation’s attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible.” Unfortunately the U.S., even under Eisenhower, did not base its actions on these words.

A pattern also emerges from examining the above one-sided conflicts that led to regime changes. The U.S. clearly feels no need for real diplomacy in these cases. For example, the U.S. often even refuses to talk with the other side. Instead, what passes for U.S. negotiation is the making of demands that the other side cannot accept. When the other side fails to accept all the U.S. demands, it faces U.S. action.

In general, the actions begin with a campaign by a compliant media here to frighten the U.S. population into supporting steps against the crazy leader who is a threat to his own people or to the U.S., covert acts including assassinations, creating and/or building up opposition leaders, threats of an attack against the enemy, the use of economic sanctions, and a military attack if the other steps haven’t worked. Sometime the U.S. attacks without going through most of the other steps. In the case of Iraq, even acceptance of U.S. demands was not enough to prevent the illegal and unwarranted U.S.-led attack.

The U.S. sometimes seeks to enlist the UN to provide a legal cover for its actions. For example, the U.S. often seeks the UN’s support for the sanctions. However, if the UN doesn’t accept the U.S. position, the U.S. and/or some of its allies apply the sanctions anyway. The U.S. also often attempts to gain the UN Security Council’s support for a military attack. However, if the UN doesn’t go along with an attack, the U.S. then turns to NATO or forms an ad hoc coalition of nations willing to join in military action.

Unsurprisingly, the compliant corporate-dominated U.S. media seldom, if ever, address the morality or legality of this approach that usually leads to a U.S. military attack on a far weaker nation. For example, the threat or use of force, except in self-defense against an armed attack or, unless taken by the UN Security Council, is prohibited under the UN Charter.

Sanctions have been in vogue for the last twenty years or so. However, more and more people today realize that harsh economic sanctions are, in effect, collective punishment of innocent populations. The devastation sanctions cause, particularly those wreaked on Haitians and Iraqis, has led to more frequent discussions about their appropriateness and legality. Some in-depth articles dealing with the legality of sanctions include:

The legality and morality of the U.S. approach should be discussed, especially given the U.S. campaigns regarding Syria and Iran. However, in the U.S. today, it seems to be outside the realm of polite discussion to point out that the threats to attack Iran by the U.S. and Israel are violations of the UN Charter. Few in the corporate-dominated U.S. media also challenge the idea of preemptive self-defense.

President Eisenhower also had some strong opinions on preventive war. He said: “I don’t believe there is such a thing; and, frankly, I wouldn’t even listen to anyone seriously that came in and talked about such a thing. …It seems to me that when, by definition, a term is just ridiculous in itself, there is no use in going any further.” Mary Ellen O’Connell’s article, The Myth of Preemptive Self-Defense, goes into much more detail about this issue.

When the US says that no options are off the table, it raises the awful possibility of the use of nuclear weapons. The threat of the use of nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear weapon state that has signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty clearly is an extreme violation of the UN Charter.

Instead of the U.S. approach that relies heavily on the threat of the use of its military, real negotiations without preconditions are the key to resolving conflicts, including those with Syria and Iran.

Ron Forthofer Ph.D. is retired Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Texas School of Public Health, Houston, Texas; former Green Party candidate for Congress and for Governor of Colorado rforthofer@comcast.net

Deja vu all over again

The above phrase from Yogi Berra, that great American sage, captures all too well the latest campaign against Iran. We are seeing a repeat of the ploy used against Iraq and its nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. Our leaders lied repeatedly and the subservient corporate media were complicit in building support for the U.S. attack on Iraq.

Aggressive wars are war crimes

Robert Jackson, the chief U.S. prosecutor at Nuremberg, said: “To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” The U.S. attack on Iraq, a war crime, eroded U.S. credibility and standing worldwide, and an attack on Iran would only worsen this situation.

Campaign against Iran

It is alarming that only Ron Paul, among all the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, has positions on Iran consistent with those of U.S. intelligence agencies and international law. Paul pointed out that Iran doesn’t threaten our national security and there is no proof that Iran is building a nuclear weapon. He also said that Western sanctions are “acts of war” that are likely to lead to an actual war. Paul added that if Iran did build a nuclear bomb, “What are the odds of them using it? Probably zero. They just are not going to commit suicide. The Israelis have 300 of them.”

Many supporters of an attack on Iran point to the recent International Atomic Energy Agency’s report as proof of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. However, Scott Peterson of the Christian Science Monitor started his Nov. 9 article with: “The latest United Nations report on Iran’s nuclear program may not be the “game changer” it was billed to be, as some nuclear experts raise doubts about the quality of evidence — and point to lack of proof of current nuclear weapons work.” Several informed critics of the report consider it as being more of a political document than a credible scientific analysis.

Seymour Hersch’s Nov. 18 New Yorker article also challenged mainstream reporting on the IAEA report, referring to, among other sources, an Arms Control Association’s assessment of the report. According to the ACA, the IAEA report suggested Iran “is working to shorten the timeframe to build the bomb once and if it makes that decision. But it remains apparent that a nuclear-armed Iran is still not imminent nor is it inevitable.”

Hersch added that Greg Thielmann, a former State Department and Senate Intelligence Committee analyst who was one of the authors of the ACA’s assessment, told him, “Those who want to drum up support for a bombing attack on Iran sort of aggressively misrepresented the report.”

Intelligence estimate

The National Intelligence Estimate of 2007, a consensus estimate from the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, expressed a high level of confidence that Iran had stopped work on its nuclear weapons program in 2003. The agencies also had a moderate level of confidence that the work remained frozen.

February 2011 testimony from James Clapper, director of the National Intelligence Agency, reiterated many of the key findings from the 2007 report. Clapper also said that the advancement of Iran’s nuclear capabilities strengthened the intelligence community’s assessment that Tehran has the capacity to produce nuclear weapons eventually, “making the central issue the political will to do so.”

Iran’s political will

In 2005 the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa against the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons and reiterated this idea in 2009 saying: “We fundamentally reject nuclear weapons.”

Conclusion

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. We cannot allow nor afford a much larger version of the unnecessary, illegal and costly Iraqi debacle that left a devastated and unstable Iraq.

Ron Forthofer, a retired professor of biostatistics, has lived in Longmont for 20 years. Mr. Forthofer’s article was also published in the Longmont Times-Call.