Category Archives: Saddam Hussein

Messianic Failure: Pursuing the GWOT Jabberwock

Anniversaries can provide occasions for reflection and deep consideration.  Past errors and misjudgements can be considered soberly; historical distance provides perspective.  Mature reflections may be permitted.  But they can also serve the opposite purpose: to cake, cloak and mask the record.

The gooey name GWOT, otherwise known as the Global War on Terrorism, is some two decades old, and it has revealed little by way of benefit for anybody other than military industrialists, hate preachers and jingoes.  For its progenitors in the administration of President George W. Bush, motivated by the attacks of September 11, 2001 on US soil, few of its aims were achieved.

The central feature to the war, which deserves its place of failure alongside such disastrously misguided concepts as the war on drugs, was its school boy incoherence.  It remained, and to an extent remains, a war against tactics, a misguided search reminiscent of the hunt for Lewis Carroll’s nonsense beast, the Jabberwock.  As with any such wars, it demands mendacity, flimsy evidence if, in fact, it needs any evidence at all.

This perception was critical in placing the US, and its allies, upon a military footing that demanded false connections (a fictitious link of cooperation between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and al-Qaeda), false capabilities (Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction) and an exaggeration of the threat to US security (all of the above).

With such evaluations of terroristic potential, a secular, domestic murderer such as Saddam could be transformed into a global threat armed with weapons of mass destruction, neither proposition being true as the attacks on 9/11 were executed.  In this hot house fantasy, the Iraqi leader was merely another pilot willing to steer a plane into an American target.

This narrative was sold, and consumed, by a vast number of press houses and media outlets, who proved indispensable in promoting the GWOT-Jabberwock crusade.  Calculated amnesia and hand washing has taken place since then, pinning blame on the standard crew of neoconservatives, various Republicans and New York Times reporter Judith Miller.  “It’s been forgotten this was actually a business-wide consensus,” Matt Taibbi points out, “which included the enthusiastic participation of a blue-state intelligentsia.”

War sceptics such as Phil Donahue and Jesse Ventura were removed from MSNBC while war cheerleaders thickened the airwaves with ghoulish delight.  The New York Times ran sympathetic columns and reviews for the war case, praising such absurd works as Kenneth M. Pollack’s The Threatening Storm. “The only prudent and realistic course of action left to the United States,” wrote the grave Pollack, “is to mount a full-scale invasion of Iraq to smash the Iraqi armed forces, depose Saddam’s regime and rid the country of weapons of mass destruction.”

The New Yorker also joined in the pro-war festivities.  David Remnick made his case in “Making a Case” by praising Pollack and dismissing containment as “a hollow pursuit” that would be “the most dangerous option of all.”  Jeffrey Goldberg, now at The Atlantic, was even more unequivocal in a staggeringly inexpert contribution headlined, “The Great Terror.” On his own hunt for the Jabberwock, Goldberg interviewed alleged terrorist detainees in a prison operated by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, an anti-Saddam Kurdish group in Iraq’s northern Kurdish area.  Having been permitted to interview the prisoners by the Union’s intelligence service (no conflict of interest there), Goldberg was informed that Saddam Hussein’s own spooks had “joint control, with al-Qaeda operatives, over Ansar al-Islam [a local jihadist group]”; that the Iraqi leader “hosted a senior leader of Al Qaeda in Baghdad in 1992”; that members of Al Qaeda escaping Afghanistan had “been secretly brought into the territory controlled by Ansar al-Islam” and that Iraq’s intelligence service had “smuggled conventional weapons, and possibly even chemical and biological weapons, into Afghanistan.”  And so rests the case for the prosecution.

In March 2003, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting examined 393 on-camera sources who featured in nightly news stories on Iraq across a range of programs – ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News and PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.  Of those 267 were from the United States; of the US official sources, only Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy from Massachusetts, registered his doubts.  Even then, he could hardly be said to be a firebrand contrarian, telling NBC Nightly News that he worried about exit plans, the extent of US troop losses and “how long we’re going to be stationed there”.

Many of these outlets would be the same who obsessed about President Donald Trump’s attacks upon them as peddlers of “fake news” during his time in office.  Trump, drip-fed on conspiracy theories and fictions, knew who he was talking to.

The security propagandists have not done much better.  With pious conviction, the vast security apparatus put in place to monitor threats, the warrantless surveillance regime exposed by Edward Snowden in 2013, and the persistent interventions in the Middle East, have all been seen as beneficial.  “Terrorism of many sots continues domestically and internationally,” claims Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counterterrorism Centre, “but the data is unmistakable that in most cases – and especially in the United States – it is both manageable and not nearly of the scale feared in 2001.”

A. Trevor Thrall and Erik Goepner advance a rather different proposition. “Even if one believes American efforts have made the nation marginally safer, the United States could have achieved far greater improvements in safety and security at far less cost through other means.”

The issue of what is marginal is a point of contention.  Former chiefs of the Department of Homeland Security, a monster created in direct response to the 9/11 attacks, are guarded in their assessments.  Bush’s Secretary Michael Chertoff admits to being “hesitant” in saying “we are safer, or less”.  He prefers focusing on scale.  “We haven’t had an attack of that scale since 9/11, and we’ve also been very good about keeping dangerous people out of the country.”  Alas, domestic threats had emerged, notably on the Right, while jihadi sympathisers lurk.

Janet Napolitano, who occupied the office under the Obama administration, waffles in her reading.  “Are there some things that we’re safer on now than we were on 9/11?  Absolutely.  Are there new risks that have evolved or multiplied or grown since 9/11?  Absolutely.   To put it shortly, on some things, we’re definitely safer.”  Napolitano is up with a jargon that says nothing at all: “risks are not static”; the environment is “constantly changing”. “DHS needs to continue to be agile and to adapt.”

The smorgasbord of modern terrorism, a good deal of it nourished by cataclysmic US-led interventions, is richer than ever.  “We have more terrorists today than we did on 9/11,” Elizabeth Neumann, DHS assistant secretary for counterterrorism during the Trump administration, told a Senate panel last month.  “That’s very sobering, as a counterterrorism person.”  Preparing the grounds for the imminent exit from Afghanistan, President Joe Biden reasoned that keeping US troops in the country as a permanent counter-terrorist force was no longer a tenable proposition.  Terrorism as a threat had “become more dispersed, metastasising around the globe”.  The folly of pursuing the GWOT jabberwock shows no sign of abating.

The post Messianic Failure: Pursuing the GWOT Jabberwock first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Paul Wolfowitz: Deluded and At Liberty

It was all marvellous for Paul Wolfowitz to get on Australian television (why bother?) to brusquely discuss those attacks on US soil in September 2001 and criticism of the invasion of Iraq by US-led forces.  After two decades, the former US deputy secretary of defense has not mellowed.

With each show, interview and podium performance Wolfowitz gives, there is a sense that the hole he has dug for himself has become an oasis of reassuring delusion.  Iraq’s despot Saddam Hussein, executed at the behest of authorities sponsored and propped by the US, gave Wolfowitz an ecstatic excuse to explain the rationale of American power: he was a threat, and worldly threat at that.  In 2003, there was little evidence to suggest that, but neoconservatism has always been a doctrine in search of cartoonish myths.

The fact that Weapons of Mass Destruction featured prominently as the reason for overthrowing Saddam became the necessitous outcome of bureaucratic sensibility: “for reasons that have a lot to do with the US government bureaucracy,” he told Vanity Fair in 2003, “we settled on the one issue everyone could agree on: weapons of mass destruction”.

When those elusive WMDs proved stubbornly elusive, PW shifted his emphasis from security rationales to one of liberation.  Along the way he blamed the “consensus judgment of the intelligence community” for not getting it right in the first place, an assessment verging on the mendacious.

While Saddam Hussein was a high grade butcher and villain to many of his people, it is hard to credit him with the Bond villain, pulp view Wolfowitz gives him.  Evidence chasers such as Ben Bonk at the Central Intelligence Agency were frustrated in being thrown at the fruitless effort to link Saddam to al-Qaeda.  Intelligence operatives were effectively being leaned upon to confect the record and find justifications.

In 2013, Wolfowitz was still insisting on uncertainty as a principle.  “We still don’t know how all of this is going to end.”  He accepted that the decapitation of the Iraqi leadership without an immediate substitute might have been unwise.  The “idea that we’re going to come in like [General Douglas] MacArthur in Japan and write the constitution for them” was erroneous.

That did not matter.  The threat was there and present, growing like a stimulated bacillus.  Depraved and disoriented, he takes the argument that invading Iraq at the time was appropriate because it would have had to happen in any case. Saddam was street store vendor, sponsor and patron of terrorism (he never defines the dimension of this, nor adduces evidence) and needed to be dealt with.  The sword would eventually have to be unsheathed.  “We would very likely either have had to go through this whole scenario all over but probably with higher costs for having delayed, or we’d be in a situation today where not only Iran was edging towards nuclear weapons but so was Iraq and also Libya.”

In 2003, the aptly named Jeffrey Record reflected his surname’s worth by taking a hatchet to the Wolfowitz view in a scathing assessment for the Strategic Studies Institute.  In declaring a global war on terrorism (GWOT), the Bush administration had identified a range of states, weapons of danger, terrorists and terrorism while conflating “them into a monolithic threat, and in so doing has subordinated strategic clarity to the moral clarity it strives for in foreign policy and may have set the United States on a course of open-ended gratuitous conflict with states and nonstate entities that pose no serious threat to the United States.”  Not sloppy, is Record.

He goes on to note, relevantly, the conflation premise: that al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were seen, amateurishly, “as a single, undifferentiated terrorist threat.”  This “strategic error of the first order” ignored “critical differences between the two in character, threat level, and susceptibility to US deterrence and military action” led to “an unnecessary preventive war of choice against a deterred Iraq.  The result: “a new front in the Middle East for Islamic terrorism” and the diversion of “attention and resources away from securing the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable al-Qaeda.”

The 9/11 Commission Report, despite noting “friendly contacts” between Osama bin Laden and Iraqi officials at various points, similarly found “no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative personal relationship.”  Nor was there “evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States.”

Critics suggest incompetence and bungling in the invasion of Iraq.  They exclude venality and calculation.  Wolfowitz, as if anticipating a prosecution in some faraway court, has been busy covering his tracks and pointing the finger at other decision makers further up the greased pole.  The top suspect: current retiree amateur painter President George W. Bush.  “I don’t think I ever met the president alone.  I didn’t meet him very often.  [Secretary of State Colin] Powell had access to him whenever he wanted it.  And if he was so sure it was a mistake why didn’t he say so?”  What a merry band they make.

Wolfowitz, for the defence, always has to play some useful (or useless) idiot card, proffered from the surrounds of the tired lecture circuit or the American Enterprise Institute.  He is ideologically inclined, evidentially challenged, and keen to accept material that confirms his prejudice rather than contradicts it.  When found wanting about his decisions on accepting, for instance, the bargain basement material of Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, he returned to common cultural themes.  “I don’t think anybody in that part of the world was completely straight with us.”

Perhaps, after two decades, it is time to sort the books, order the records and call forth those architects of war who, dismally deluded and acting with criminal intent and incompetence, plunged a good part of the globe into conflict, leaving a legacy that continues to pollute with tenacious determination.  Along the way, we can mourn the dead of 9/11 and all the dead that followed.

The post Paul Wolfowitz: Deluded and At Liberty first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Will Americans Who Were Right on Afghanistan Still Be Ignored?

Protest in Westwood, California 2002. Photo: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

America’s corporate media are ringing with recriminations over the humiliating U.S. military defeat in Afghanistan. But very little of the criticism goes to the root of the problem, which was the original decision to militarily invade and occupy Afghanistan in the first place.

That decision set in motion a cycle of violence and chaos that no subsequent U.S. policy or military strategy could resolve over the next 20 years, in Afghanistan, Iraq or any of the other countries swept up in America’s post-9/11 wars.

While Americans were reeling in shock at the images of airliners crashing into buildings on September 11, 2001, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld held a meeting in an intact part of the Pentagon. Undersecretary Cambone’s notes from that meeting spell out how quickly and blindly U.S. officials prepared to plunge our nation into graveyards of empire in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond.

Cambone wrote that Rumsfeld wanted “…best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H. (Saddam Hussein) at same time – not only UBL (Usama Bin Laden)… Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”

So within hours of these horrific crimes in the United States, the central question senior U.S. officials were asking was not how to investigate them and hold the perpetrators accountable, but how to use this “Pearl Harbor” moment to justify wars, regime changes and militarism on a global scale.

Three days later, Congress passed a bill authorizing the president to use military force “…against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons…”

In 2016, the Congressional Research Service reported that this Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) had been cited to justify 37 distinct military operations in 14 different countries and at sea. The vast majority of the people killed, maimed or displaced in these operations had nothing to do with the crimes of September 11. Successive administrations have repeatedly ignored the actual wording of the authorization, which only authorized the use of force against those involved in some way in the 9/11 attacks.

The only member of Congress who had the wisdom and courage to vote against the 2001 AUMF was Barbara Lee of Oakland. Lee compared it to the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution and warned her colleagues that it would inevitably be used in the same expansive and illegitimate way. The final words of her floor speech echo presciently through the 20-year-long spiral of violence, chaos and war crimes it unleashed, “As we act, let us not become the evil we deplore.”

In a meeting at Camp David that weekend, Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz argued forcefully for an attack on Iraq, even before Afghanistan. Bush insisted Afghanistan must come first, but privately promised Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle that Iraq would be their next target.

In the days after September 11, the U.S. corporate media followed the Bush administration’s lead, and the public heard only rare, isolated voices questioning whether war was the correct response to the crimes committed.

But former Nuremberg war crimes prosecutor Ben Ferencz spoke to NPR (National Public Radio) a week after 9/11, and he explained that attacking Afghanistan was not only unwise and dangerous, but was not a legitimate response to these crimes. NPR’s Katy Clark struggled to understand what he was saying:

Clark: …do you think that the talk of retaliation is not a legitimate response to the death of 5,000 (sic) people?

Ferencz: It is never a legitimate response to punish people who are not responsible for the wrong done.

Clark: No one is saying we’re going to punish those who are not responsible.

Ferencz:  We must make a distinction between punishing the guilty and punishing others. If you simply retaliate en masse by bombing Afghanistan, let us say, or the Taliban, you will kill many people who don’t believe in what has happened, who don’t approve of what has happened.

Clark:  So you are saying that you see no appropriate role for the military in this.

Ferencz: I wouldn’t say there is no appropriate role, but the role should be consistent with our ideals. We shouldn’t let them kill our principles at the same time they kill our people. And our principles are respect for the rule of law. Not charging in blindly and killing people because we are blinded by our tears and our rage.

The drumbeat of war pervaded the airwaves, twisting 9/11 into a powerful propaganda narrative to whip up the fear of terrorism and justify the march to war. But many Americans shared the reservations of Rep. Barbara Lee and Ben Ferencz, understanding enough of their country’s history to recognize that the 9/11 tragedy was being hijacked by the same military-industrial complex that produced the debacle in Vietnam and keeps reinventing itself generation after generation to support and profit from American wars, coups and militarism.

On September 28, 2001, the Socialist Worker website published statements by 15 writers and activists under the heading, “Why we say no to war and hate.” They included Noam Chomsky, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan and me (Medea). Our statements took aim at the Bush administration’s attacks on civil liberties at home and abroad, as well as its plans for war on Afghanistan.

The late academic and author Chalmers Johnson wrote that 9/11 was not an attack on the United States but “an attack on U.S. foreign policy.” Edward Herman predicted “massive civilian casualties.” Matt Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, wrote that, “For every innocent person Bush kills in this war, five or ten terrorists will arise.” I (Medea) wrote that ”a military response will only create more of the hatred against the U.S. that created this terrorism in the first place.”

Our analysis was correct and our predictions were prescient. We humbly submit that the media and politicians should start listening to the voices of peace and sanity instead of to lying, delusional warmongers.

What leads to catastrophes like the U.S. war in Afghanistan is not the absence of convincing anti-war voices but that our political and media systems routinely marginalize and ignore voices like those of Barbara Lee, Ben Ferencz and ourselves.

That is not because we are wrong and the belligerent voices they listen to are right. They marginalize us precisely because we are right and they are wrong, and because serious, rational debates over war, peace and military spending would jeopardize some of the most powerful and corrupt vested interests that dominate and control U.S. politics on a bipartisan basis.

In every foreign policy crisis, the very existence of our military’s enormous destructive capacity and the myths our leaders promote to justify it converge in an orgy of self-serving interests and political pressures to stoke our fears and pretend that there are military “solutions” for them.

Losing the Vietnam War was a serious reality check on the limits of U.S. military power. As the junior officers who fought in Vietnam rose through the ranks to become America’s military leaders, they acted more cautiously and realistically for the next 20 years. But the end of the Cold War opened the door to an ambitious new generation of warmongers who were determined to capitalize on the U.S. post-Cold War “power dividend“.

Madeleine Albright spoke for this emerging new breed of war-hawks when she confronted General Colin Powell in 1992 with her question, “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

As Secretary of State in Clinton’s second term, Albright engineered the first of a series of illegal U.S. invasions to carve out an independent Kosovo from the splintered remains of Yugoslavia. When U.K. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told her his government was “having trouble with our lawyers” over the illegality of the NATO war plan, Albright said they should just “get new lawyers.”

In the 1990s, the neocons and liberal interventionists dismissed and marginalized the idea that non-military, non-coercive approaches can more effectively resolve foreign policy problems without the horrors of war or deadly sanctions. This bipartisan war lobby then exploited the 9/11 attacks to consolidate and expand their control of U.S. foreign policy.

But after spending trillions of dollars and killing millions of people, the abysmal record of U.S. war-making since World War II remains a tragic litany of failure and defeat, even on its own terms. The only wars the United States has won since 1945 have been limited wars to recover small neocolonial outposts in Grenada, Panama and Kuwait.

Every time the United States has expanded its military ambitions to attack or invade larger or more independent countries, the results have been universally catastrophic. So our country’s absurd investment of 66% of discretionary federal spending in destructive weapons, and recruiting and training young Americans to use them, does not make us safer but only encourages our leaders to unleash pointless violence and chaos on our neighbors around the world.

Most of our neighbors have grasped by now that these forces and the dysfunctional U.S. political system that keeps them at its disposal pose a serious threat to peace and to their own aspirations for democracy. Few people in other countries want any part of America’s wars, or its revived Cold War against China and Russia, and these trends are most pronounced among America’s long-time allies in Europe and in its traditional “backyard” in Canada and Latin America.

On October 19, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld addressed B-2 bomber crews at Whiteman AFB in Missouri as they prepared to take off across the world to inflict misdirected vengeance on the long-suffering people of Afghanistan. He told them, “We have two choices. Either we change the way we live, or we must change the way they live. We choose the latter. And you are the ones who will help achieve that goal.”

Now that dropping over 80,000 bombs and missiles on the people of Afghanistan for 20 years has failed to change the way they live, apart from killing hundreds of thousands of them and destroying their homes, we must instead, as Rumsfeld said, change the way we live.

We should start by finally listening to Barbara Lee. First, we should pass her bill to repeal the two post-9/11 AUMFs that launched our 20-year fiasco in Afghanistan and other wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

Then we should  pass her bill to redirect $350 billion per year from the U.S. military budget (roughly a 50% cut) to “increase our diplomatic capacity and for domestic programs that will keep our Nation and our people safer.”

Finally reining in America’s out-of-control militarism would be a wise and appropriate response to its epic defeat in Afghanistan, before the same corrupt interests drag us into even more dangerous wars against more formidable enemies than the Taliban.

 

The post Will Americans Who Were Right on Afghanistan Still Be Ignored? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

US Foreign Policy Adrift: Why Washington is No Longer Calling the Shots

Jonah Goldberg and Michael Ledeen have much in common. They are both writers and also cheerleaders for military interventions and, often, for frivolous wars. Writing in the conservative rag, The National Review, months before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Goldberg paraphrased a statement which he attributed to Ledeen with reference to the interventionist US foreign policy.

“Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business,” Goldberg wrote, quoting Ledeen.

Those like Ledeen, the neoconservative intellectual henchman type, often get away with this kind of provocative rhetoric for various reasons. American intelligentsias, especially those who are close to the center of power in Washington DC, perceive war and military intervention as the foundation and baseline of their foreign policy analysis. The utterances of such statements are usually conveyed within friendly media and intellectual platforms, where equally hawkish, belligerent audiences cheer and laugh at the war-mongering muses. In the case of Ledeen, the receptive audience was the hardline, neoconservative, pro-Israel American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Predictably, AEI was one of the loudest voices urging for a war and invasion of Iraq prior to that calamitous decision by the George W. Bush Administration, which was enacted in March 2003.

Neoconservatism, unlike what the etymology of the name may suggest, was not necessarily confined to conservative political circles. Think tanks, newspapers and media networks that purport – or are perceived – to express liberal and even progressive thought today, like The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN, have dedicated much time and space to promoting an American invasion of Iraq as the first step of a complete US geostrategic military hegemony in the Middle East.

Like the National Review, these media networks also provided unhindered space to so-called neoconservative intellectuals who molded American foreign policy based on some strange mix between their twisted take on ethics and morality and the need for the US to ensure its global dominance throughout the 21st century. Of course, the neocons’ love affair with Israel has served as the common denominator among all individuals affiliated with this intellectual cult.

The main – and inconsequential – difference between Ledeen, for example, and those like Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, is that the former is brazen and blunt, while the latter is delusional and manipulative. For his part, Friedman also supported the Iraq war, but only to bring ‘democracy’ to the Middle East and to fight ‘terrorism’. The pretense ‘war on terror’, though misleading if not outright fabricated, was the overriding American motto in its invasion of Iraq and, earlier, Afghanistan. This mantra was readily utilized whenever Washington needed to ‘pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall’.

Even those who genuinely supported the war based on concocted intelligence – that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, possessed weapons of mass destruction, or the equally fallacious notion that Saddam and Al-Qaeda cooperated in any way – must, by now, realize that the entire American discourse prior to the war had no basis in reality. Unfortunately, war enthusiasts are not a rational bunch. Therefore, neither they, nor their ‘intellectuals’, should be expected to possess the moral integrity in shouldering the responsibility for the Iraq invasion and its horrific consequences.

If, indeed, the US wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan were meant to fight and uproot terror, how is it possible that, in June 2014, an erstwhile unknown group calling itself the ‘Islamic State’ (IS), managed to flourish, occupy and usurp massive swathes of Iraqi and Syrian territories and resource under the watchful eye of the US military? If the other war objective was bringing stability and democracy to the Middle East, why did many years of US ‘state-building’ efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, leave behind nothing but weak, shattered armies and festering corruption?

Two important events have summoned up these thoughts: US President Joe Biden’s ‘historic’ trip to Cornwall, UK, in June, to attend the 47th G7 summit and, two weeks later, the death of Donald Rumsfeld, who is widely depicted as “the architect of the Iraq war”. The tone struck by Biden throughout his G7 meetings is that ‘America is back’, another American coinage similar to the earlier phrase, the ‘great reset’ – meaning that Washington is ready to reclaim its global role that had been betrayed by the chaotic policies of former President Donald Trump.

The newest phrase – ‘America is back’ – appears to suggest that the decision to restore the US’ uncontested global leadership is, more or less, an exclusively American decision. Moreover, the term is not entirely new. In his first speech to a global audience at the Munich Security Conference on February 19, Biden repeated the phrase several times with obvious emphasis.

“America is back. I speak today as President of the United States, at the very start of my administration and I am sending a clear message to the world: America is back,” Biden said, adding that “the transatlantic alliance is back and we are not looking backward, we are looking forward together.”

Platitudes and wishful thinking aside, the US cannot possibly return to a previous geopolitical standing, simply because Biden has made an executive decision to ‘reset’ his country’s traditional relationships with Europe – or anywhere else, either.  Biden’s actual mission is to merely whitewash and restore his country’s tarnished reputation, marred not only by Trump, but also by years of fruitless wars, a crisis of democracy at home and abroad and an impending financial crisis resulting from the US’ mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately for Washington, while it hopes to ‘look forward’ to the future, other countries have already staked claims to parts of the world where the US has been forced to retreat, following two decades of a rudderless strategy that is fueled by the belief that firepower alone is sufficient to keep America aloft forever.

Though Biden was received warmly by his European hosts, Europe is likely to proceed cautiously. The continent’s geostrategic interests do not fall entirely in the American camp, as was once the case. Other new factors and power players have emerged in recent years. China is now the European bloc’s largest trade partner and Biden’s scare tactics warning of Chinese global dominance have not, seemingly, impressed the Europeans as the Americans had hoped. Following Britain’s unceremonious exit from the EU bloc, the latter urgently needs to keep its share of the global economy as large as possible. The limping US economy will hardly make the substantial deficit felt in Europe. Namely, the China-EU relationship is here to stay – and grow.

There is something else that makes the Europeans wary of whatever murky political doctrine Biden is promoting: dangerous American military adventurism.

The US and Europe are the foundation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) which, since its inception in 1949, was almost exclusively used by the US to assert its global dominance, first in the Korean Peninsula in 1950, then everywhere else.

Following the September 11 attacks, Washington used its hegemony over NATO to invoke Article 5 of its Charter, that of collective defense. The consequences were dire, as NATO members, along with the US, were embroiled in their longest wars ever, military conflicts that had no consistent strategy, let alone measurable goals. Now, as the US licks its wounds as it leaves Afghanistan, NATO members, too, are leaving the devastated country without a single achievement worth celebrating. Similar scenarios are transpiring in Iraq and Syria, too.

Rumsfeld’s death on June 29, at the age of 88, should serve as a wake-up call to American allies if they truly wish to avoid the pitfalls and recklessness of the past. While much of the US corporate media commemorated the death of a brutish war criminal with amiable non-committal language, some blamed him almost entirely for the Iraq fiasco. It is as if a single man had bent the will of the West-dominated international community to invade, pillage, torture and destroy entire countries. If so, then Rumsfeld’s death should usher in an exciting new dawn of collective peace, prosperity and security. This is not the case.

Rationalizing his decision to leave Afghanistan in a speech to the nation in April 2021, Biden did not accept, on behalf of his country, responsibility over that horrific war. Instead, he spoke of the need to fight the ‘terror threat’ in ‘many places’, instead of keeping ‘thousands of troops grounded and concentrated in just one country’.

Indeed, a close reading of Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan – a process which began under Trump – suggests that the difference between US foreign policy under Biden is only tactically different from the policies of George W. Bush when he launched his ‘preemptive wars’ under the command of Rumsfeld. Namely, though the geopolitical map may have shifted, the US appetite for war remains insatiable.

Shackled with a legacy of unnecessary, fruitless and immoral wars, yet with no actual ‘forward’ strategy, the US, arguably for the first time since the inception of NATO in the aftermath of World War II, has no decipherable foreign policy doctrine. Even if such a doctrine exists, it can only be materialized through alliances whose relationships are constructed on trust and confidence. Despite the EU’s courteous reception of Biden in Cornwall, trust in Washington is at an all-time low.

Even if it is accepted, without any argument, that America is, indeed, back, considering the vastly changing geopolitical spheres in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, Biden’s assertion should, ultimately, make no difference.

The post US Foreign Policy Adrift: Why Washington is No Longer Calling the Shots first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Reminder: The U.S. Gov’t Lies, Manipulates, and Kills Without Remorse

On July 25, 1990, Saddam Hussein entertained a guest at the Presidential Palace in Baghdad: U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie. She told the Iraqi president: “I have direct instructions from President (George H.W.) Bush to improve our relations with Iraq. We have considerable sympathy for your quest for higher oil prices, the immediate cause of your confrontation with Kuwait.” Glaspie then asked, point-blank: “Why are your troops massed so very close to Kuwait’s borders?”

“As you know, for years now I have made every effort to reach a settlement on our dispute with Kuwait,” replied Hussein, deploying his own rendition of wartime spin. “There is to be a meeting in two days; I am prepared to give negotiations only this one more brief chance.”

Eight days later, Iraq invaded Kuwait and provided the Land of the Free™ with the pretext it needed to commence a relentless onslaught in the name of keeping the world safe for petroleum. This brings me to a forgotten anniversary. While August 6, 2021, of course, marks the 76th anniversary of the willful nuking of civilians in Hiroshima by the Home of the Brave™, it also marks 31 years since the U.S. war against Iraq was initially launched. 

For most people — particularly willfully ignorant anti-war activists — the starting date for the war in Iraq is March 19, 2003. However, to accept that date is to put far too much blame on one party and one president. It also invalidates decades of intense suffering. A more accurate and useful starting date is August 6, 1990, when (at the behest of the U.S.) the United Nations Security Council imposed lethal sanctions upon the people of Iraq.

It is widely accepted that these sanctions were responsible for the deaths of at least 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in the mid-90s was Madeleine Albright. In 1996, Leslie Stahl asked her on 60 Minutes if a half-million dead Iraqi children was a price worth paying to pursue American foreign policy. Albright famously replied: “We think the price is worth it.”

Shortly afterward, Albright was named U.S. Secretary of State by noted liberal Democrat hero, Bill Clinton. Killing brown children by the hundreds of thousands, it seems, is a real boost for the resume in God’s Country™.

In the words of the immortal I.F Stone: “Every government is run by liars. Nothing they say should be believed.”

The post Reminder: The U.S. Gov’t Lies, Manipulates, and Kills Without Remorse first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Open Letter to George W. Bush

With the recent passing of your close associate Donald Rumsfield, we felt compelled to share with you our many thoughtful remembrances.  Many of us are also approaching our final years, and have already suffered the first indications of failing memory.  (In public figures of Rumsfeld’s and your high stature, the condition is termed “I do not recall syndrome.”)  Despite your outstanding impact on the state of the world as of 2021, you too, like any other 75-year-old, may already be experiencing the tragic signs of failing memory.  It is in this spirit of helpful remembrance that we write to you, determined to remind you of some of the highlights — notably in your first term — of your astonishing career.

Your carefully chosen collaborators were outstanding — in “enabling” you to realize your dreams regarding “preventive war.”  Does the date of August 26, 2002 ring a bell?  That was the day that your vice-president, armed with a speech that must have been fine-tuned by an army of P. R. geniuses, stood at the podium of the VFW Convention, solemnly declaring — to repeated applause and cheers — that “there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction…to use against our friends, against our allies, against us.”  This world-historic speech — packed with unusual facts-and-figures which had been uniquely re-arranged, modified, and interpreted in a highly original way — heralded the end of that halcyon summer.  Fall — the ideal time, according to your P.R. adviser, Andrew Card, to promote a “new product” — had officially begun.  And the product you were selling was War, war against Iraq, war against a sovereign state — its people already beaten down and impoverished by the first Gulf War and the draconian sanctions imposed in its aftermath.

Can you remember that time?  The moment in the Oval House when you made one of those terribly difficult decisions that presidents so often make.  (Did you decide that the people of Iraq had not suffered enough?)  In any event, you proceeded boldly, not to say impudently: soon the media was flooded with your voice, an urgent voice that became almost a chant that went something like this:  “Saddam Hussein!!…Weapons of Mass Destruction!!… Saddam!!…WMD!!”  Several months of this “sales campaign” ensued, climaxed by your order to invade and attack — on March 19 of the following year.

Can you even remember those hapless UN inspectors?  Or the ever-polite, ever-so-cautious Kofi Annan?  Probably not — and certainly Americans can’t.  (By now — and you no doubt confidently expected this — most can barely even remember the War itself!)  Anyway, as you might still recall, by 2002 or so the inspectors were coming up empty; it appeared, notwithstanding your innuendos, that Saddam had indeed complied with the Security Council Resolution 687.  What did you do then?  Was this one of your famous “decision points”?

Your advisors quickly offered an alternate (if wildly far-fetched) “reason” for invading Iraq.  Within the shadow of Israel’s large nuclear arms arsenal, and despite the terrible condition of his nation, Madman Saddam was nonetheless tirelessly at work 24/7 — feverishly building an Atomic Bomb!  In those months of 2003, you spoke with great urgency (if not logic) about the diabolical Saddam — a shadowy mastermind who by then had even eclipsed the devilish Osama bin Laden as the personification of pure evil!

Those few conscious, coolly sceptical Americans dimly recalled that an A-bomb requires a good supply of uranium “yellowcake,” which is refined using powerful centrifuges designed for that purpose.  Maybe you “don’t recall” the rather slipshod, forged sales documents involved.  Ambassador Joe Wilson, dispatched to Niger to confirm the sale, found no such thing, and — remarkably — refused to play along with your charade.  Too bad — and on top of that, the supposed centrifuge-arms Iraq had purchased were actually not designed for that purpose at all.

Are you beginning to remember?  It’s surprising how many elderly people, convinced that “it never happened,” are unpleasantly startled by the return of some (unwelcome) memories.  But we who write to you today are among your biggest admirers.  As a machiavellian, you outrank Machiavelli in history (and in notoriety).  Why try to truthfully educate confused Americans — your employers, if we recall the Constitution — when you could, with breathtaking mauvaise foi, ignite a wildfire of fear, hatred, and bellicose vengefulness?

You focused your heroic call-to-arms especially on young Americans, often out-of-work and looking to serve a Cause they could believe in.  Such young people, who were proud to “serve their country” and follow their president’s call, believed you — and why shouldn’t they have? — when you appealed to their patriotic duty to defend the nation against such an Imminent Threat.  But it’s more than a little sad that thousands later returned to the U.S.– under secrecy and at night — in body-bags.  And tens of thousands, maimed physically and/or emotionally by battlefield trauma, returned to the U.S. as shadows of what they once had been.  Tens of thousands more, depressed and despairing veterans, have already committed suicide — but maybe you overlooked that recent news item on your way to the golf course.

In the latter half of 2004, the Occupation Force — having bombed, ravaged, and vandalized Iraq (again) — nonetheless were unwilling to announce the discovery of any (non-existent) WMDs.  You found this absence of WMDs, as you later told a baffled journalist (Helen Thomas), “disappointing.”  But undaunted even by this, you boldly (shamelessly? insolently?) decided on another term.  One can only marvel, once more, at your reckless daring: once again, strutting your lying, boasting personage in front of the beleaguered electorate, you were re-elected!  And, on top of that, you even proved the sanctified Abraham LIncoln wrong: as you no doubt brilliantly predicted, it turns out that “you can fool (most of) the people all the time.”

Even in these benighted and morally confused times, very, very few persons could have mastered, to such a superlative degree, the fine art of being — a scoundrel.  To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, “patriotism is the first resort of a scoundrel.”  After the tragedy of 9/11, you were buoyantly energized in your eagerness for — revenge (no matter how misdirected).  You were, you proudly proclaimed, a “war president.”  Therefore, and in closing, we have formally nominated you to join the exclusive ranks of legendary commanders-in-chief, a truly select company of bold, impetuous conquerors — including Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, Julius Caesar, Cesare Borgia, Adolf Hitler, and, last but not least, our hero, George W. Bush!

The post Open Letter to George W. Bush first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Known Knowns of Donald Rumsfeld

“On the morning of September 11, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld ran to the fire at the Pentagon to assist the wounded and ensure the safety of survivors,” expressed a mournful George W. Bush in a statement.  “For the next five years, he was in steady service as a wartime secretary of defense – a duty he carried out with strength, skill, and honor.”

Long before Donald Trump took aim at irritating facts and dissenting eggheads, Donald Rumsfeld, two times defense secretary and key planner behind the invasion of Iraq in 2003, was doing his far from negligible bit. When asked at his confirmation hearing about what worried him most when he went to bed at night, he responded accordingly: intelligence.  “The danger that we can be surprised because of a failure of imagining what might happen in the world.”

Hailing from Chicago, he remained an almost continuous feature of the Republic’s politics for decades, burying himself in the business-government matrix.  He was a Congressman three times.  He marked the Nixon and Ford administrations, respectively serving as head of the Office of Economic Opportunity and Defense Secretary.  At 43, he was the youngest defense secretary appointee in the imperium’s history.

He returned to the role of Pentagon chief in 2001, though not before running the pharmaceutical firm G.D. Searle and making it as a Fortune 500 CEO.  It was under his stewardship that the US Food and Drugs Administration finally approved the controversial artificial sweetener aspartame.  A report by a 1980 FDA Board of Inquiry had claimed that the drug “might induce brain tumors.”  This did not phase Rumsfeld, undeterred by such fanciful notions as evidence.

With Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980, and Rumsfeld’s membership of the transition team, the revolving door could go to work. The new FDA Commissioner, Arthur Hull Hayes, Jr., was selected while Rumsfeld remained Searle’s CEO.  When Searle reapplied for approval of aspartame, Hayes, as the new FDA commissioner, appointed a 5-person Scientific Commission to review the 1980 findings.  When it became evident that a 3-2 outcome approving the ban was in the offing, Hayes appointed a sixth person.  The deadlocked vote was broken by Hayes, who favoured aspartame.

In responding to the attacks of September 11, 2001 on US soil, Rumsfeld laid the ground for an assault on inconvenient evidence.  As with aspartame, he was already certain about what he wanted.  Even as smoke filled the corridors of the Pentagon, punctured by the smouldering remains of American Airlines Flight 77, Rumsfeld was already telling the vice-chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff General Richard Myers to find the “best info fast … judge whether good enough [to] hit SH@same time – not only UBL.” (Little effort is needed to work out that SH was Saddam Hussein and UBL Usama/Osama Bin Laden.)

Experts were given a firm trouncing – what would they know?  With Rumsfeld running the Pentagon, the scare mongers and ideologues took the reins, all working on the Weltanschauung summed up at that infamous press conference of February 12, 2002.  When asked if there was any evidence as to whether Iraq had attempted to or was willing to supply terrorists with weapons of mass destruction, given “reports that there is no evidence of a direct link”, Rumsfeld was ready with a tongue twister.  “There are known knowns.  There are things we know we know.  We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.  But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”  This was being frightfully disingenuous, given that the great known for Rumsfeld was the need to attack Iraq.

To that end, he authorised the creation of a unit run by the under-secretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith, known as the Office of Special Plans, to examine intelligence on Iraq’s capabilities independently of the CIA.  Lt. Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, who served in the Pentagon’s Near East and South Asia (NESA) unit a year prior to the invasion, described the OSP’s operations in withering terms.  “They’d take a little bit of intelligence, cherry-pick it, make it sound much more exciting, usually by taking it out of context, often by juxtaposition of two pieces of information that don’t belong together.”

One of Rumsfeld’s favourite assertions – that Iraq had a viable nuclear weapons program – did not match the findings behind closed doors. “Our knowledge of the Iraqi (nuclear) weapons program,” claimed a report by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “is based largely – perhaps 90% – on analysis of imprecise intelligence.”

None of this derailed the juggernaut: the US was going to war.  Not that Rumsfeld was keen to emphasise his role in it.  “While the president and I had many discussions about the war preparations,” he notes in his memoirs, “I do not recall him ever asking me if I thought going to war with Iraq was the right decision.”

With forces committed to both Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States found itself in the situation Rumsfeld boastfully claimed would never happen.  Of this ruinously bloody fiasco, Rumsfeld was dismissive: “stuff happens.”  Despite such failings, a list of words he forbade staff from using was compiled, among them “quagmire”, “resistance” and “insurgents”.  Rumsfeld, it transpired, had tried regime change on the cheap, hoping that a modest military imprint was all that was necessary. The result: the US found itself in Iraq from March 2003 to December 2011, and then again in 2013 with the rise of Islamic State.  Afghanistan continues to be garrisoned, with the US scheduled to leave a savaged country by September.

Rumsfeld was not merely a foe of facts that might interfere with his policy objective.  Conventions and laws prohibiting torture were also sneered at.  On December 2, 2002, he signed a memorandum from General Counsel William J. Haynes II authorising the use of 20-hour interrogations, stress positions and the use of phobias for Guantanamo Bay detainees.  In hand writing scrawled at the bottom of the document, the secretary reveals why personnel should not be too soft on their quarry, as he would “stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?”  The results were predictably awful, and revelations of torture by US troops at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison in 2004 led him to offer his resignation, which President Bush initially rejected.

By November 2006, military voices had turned against him.  With the insurgency in full swing and Iraq sliding into chaos, the Army Times called for the secretary’s resignation.  “Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised.  And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear the brunt.”  Bush eventually relented.

It is interesting that so little of this was remarked upon during the Trump era, seen as a disturbing diversion from the American project.  When Trump came to office, Democrats and others forgave all that came before, ignoring the manure that enriched the tree of mendacity.  The administration of George W. Bush was rehabilitated.

In reflecting on his documentary on Rumsfeld Errol Morris found himself musing like his protagonist.  “He’s a mystery to me, and in many ways, he remains a mystery to me – except for the possibility that there might not be a mystery.”  The interlocutor had turned into his subject.

The post The Known Knowns of Donald Rumsfeld first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Saddamizing al-Assad

Donald Trump’s first action upon assuming the Presidential throne of the United States involved the re-location of a bust of Winston Churchill back into the Oval Office. Originally given to President Bush the Second in July, 2001, Churchill’s bust was removed by Barack Obama (January, 2009) in favor of a bust of Martin Luther King. If the symbolism in all of this changing of the bust business were a pinball machine, then lights and buzzers would be flashing and dinging like crazy!

Churchill, of course, like Dr. King, was well known for his rhetorical flourishes. Given recent events, I offer this extended Churchillian gem, a War Office Minute recorded on May 12, 1919, when Churchill was both Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air, for your consideration.

I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. We have definitely adopted the position at the Peace Conference (Versailles) of arguing in favor of the retention of gas as a permanent method of warfare. It is sheer affectation to lacerate a man with the poisonous fragments of a bursting shell and to boggle at making his eyes water by means of lachrymatory gas. I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes. The moral effect should be so good that the loss of life should be reduced to a minimum. It is not necessary to use only the most deadly gasses: gasses can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror and yet have no serious permanent effects on most of those affected.

Yes, that’s vintage Versailles-era Churchill promoting the “moral effect” of chemical weapons, with an eye to quelling the contentious “tribes” of soon-to-be British Mandate Iraq. Fast forward one century later, and the use of “poisoned gas” is back in the news, in connection with the Syrian conflict. In particular, the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, who does not possess a Churchill bust as far as we know, once again stands accused of using weaponized gas to attack his own citizens. A chorus of Western leaders chants “Gas! Gas! Gas!” at al-Assad, because Winston Churchill did not get his wish, since gas warfare has been considered illegal for almost a century, despite the former British Prime Minister’s obviously logical argument for it. Might as well ban War altogether! Except that, War is still entirely legal—only certain modes of warfare are not, such as chemical weapons.

In the meantime, Syrian President al-Assad flatly denies these allegations, blaming instead the rebel factions that are trying—at the moment unsuccessfully—to topple his regime. These rebel groups, whom Assad labels “terrorists,” include ISIS and al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliated militia or mercenary formation. In fact, despite President Trump’s inaugural cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase, no one knows who perpetrated the sarin gas attack on the village of Khan Sheikoun in April, 2017.

We do know, however, that 30 years ago the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein gassed between 3,000 and 5,000 Kurds to death in a town called Halabja, in Kurdish Iraq. That was March 16,1988, part of an anti-Kurdish campaign known as al-Anfal. In the face of universal condemnation, the Reagan Administration stood behind Saddam, shielding his regime from sanctions. There were even some fuzzy reports at the time that pinned the chemical blame on Iran, against whom Saddam had been waging a Kuwaiti, Saudi, and American assisted war since September of 1980. Indeed, those reports were ‘fuzzy’ because Saddam’s forces had been attacking the Iranians with chemical weapons since 1983, a fact entirely known to the Reagan Administration

Interestingly enough, when Saddam went rogue and invaded Kuwait in August of 1990, the first Bush Administration absolutely Hitlerized Saddam for his use of “poisoned gas” during the previous decade. Talk about policy pivots! Thus it came to pass that the useful genocidal tool Saddam became the useful genocidal villain Saddam. Ultimately, Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons became a major pretext for launching the Second Crusade against Iraq in 2003.

And now, we have “gas” in Syria, which has been floated as a “red line” since the Obama Administration. The United States, it should be noted, has no direct interest, or stake, in Syria. Nevertheless, we have conducted thousands of airstrikes in Syria since August of 2014, despite having no policy to accessorize our bombing campaign in that war-torn, Middle Eastern nation.

So far, Bashar al-Assad has not quite fit the neatly tailored line of villains used to sell undeclared wars to American taxpayers the last 30 years. This line includes: Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and, most recently, Moammar Qaddafi.

As of this reporting, the “Saddamizing” of Syria’s al-Assad remains incomplete; the portrait of Assad as another neo-Hitler, unfinished. Until then, we may not have a Syrian Policy beyond “Bombs Away!”, but at least we can rest assured that Winston Churchill’s bust is back in the Oval Office, symbolizing the continuing spread of a “lively terror” throughout the Middle East.

Addendum:  Nota bene. Currently, yet another American Regime is playing the demonization game, this time with Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro as the “Devil with the Red Dress on.” It is worth noting, in this connection, that the MLK bust in Obama’s Oval Office did not engender a foreign policy even remotely reflective of Dr. King’s worldview, as Obama Administration regime change operations in Honduras (2009), Libya (2011), and the stalled-out Syrian intervention, certainly attest. Indeed, it was Obama’s 2015 characterization of Venezuela as a “national security threat” that set the stage for the Trumpistanis’ would-be Bushwhacking of Venezuelan democracy, just as President Clinton laid the groundwork for the unusually disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003 by declaring “regime change” the official U.S. policy towards Iraq on Halloween, 1998 (in other words, Clinton let Al-Qaeda and the Neo-Cons — a very bad jazz band — in.). The American Regime names change, yet they keep playing the same tune, which perhaps only proves the old adage that absolute power is absolutely tone deaf.

However that may be, it should be emphasized that the Regime Changelings’ coup has not succeeded in Venezuela. Maduro, the former bus driver, has refused to be thrown under the bus by the unlawful firm of Pence, Pompeo, Bolton, and Rubio; their hand-picked usurper, Juan Guaido (“I’m a puppy, not a puppet!”), has failed to win Venezuelan hearts and minds. In Venezuela, it could very well be that we are witnessing a decisive break in the Regime Change tide.

The Filter Bubble: Owen Jones And Con Coughlin

There is something dreamlike about the system of mass communication sometimes described as ‘mainstream media’. The self-described ‘rogue journalist’ and ‘guerrilla poet’ Caitlin Johnstone tweeted it well:

The Iraq invasion feels kind of like if your dad had stood up at the dinner table, cut off your sister’s head in front of everyone, gone right back to eating and never suffered any consequences, and everyone just kind of forgot about it and carried on life like it never happened.

In a dream, the common sense rules and rationality of everyday life are, of course, suspended – we float to the top of the stairs, a cat smiles, a person is beheaded at the dinner table and the vegetables are served.

In similar vein, Iraq was destroyed in a nakedly illegal oil grab, more than one million human beings were killed, and the ‘mainstream’ continued to treat the criminals responsible as respectable statespeople, and to take seriously their subsequent calls for ‘humanitarian intervention’ in oil-rich Libya. With Libya reduced to ruins, the same journalists dreamed on, treating the same criminals with the same respect as they sought yet one more regime change in Syria.

This nightmare version of ‘news’ is maintained by a corporate ‘filter bubble‘ that blocks facts, ideas and sources that challenge state-corporate control of politics, economics and culture. It is maintained by a mixture of ruthless high-level control and middle- and lower-level compromise, conformity and self-serving blindness.

It stands to reason that anyone seeking employment within this bubble will have to accept an unwritten agreement not to challenge the integrity of the bubble by which they are granted wealth and fame. Any ingrate deciding to renege is attacked, reviled and cast out; treated almost as sub-human, not entirely real. Politicians like George Galloway challenging the bubble can be beaten up in broad daylight and it is of no concern. Idealistic hippies like Russell Brand preaching love can be torn to shreds and silenced by the press pack – it doesn’t matter. Whistleblowing activists like Julian Assange can be trapped, threatened with life imprisonment and death, and it is a laughing matter. Whole countries can be destroyed – it doesn’t matter. The climate can be destroyed – it doesn’t matter. The filter bubble has its own dream logic, follows its own cosmic laws as if the real world was none of its concern.

It is fine for one corporate bubble-head to criticise another bubble-head’s take on current affairs – boisterous, jovial, intra-bubble gossip is welcome. Anything that challenges the integrity of the bubble is forbidden, hated; tolerated in tiny doses, perhaps, to keep up appearances. It is just understood.

So what happens when a high-profile political commentator breaks the rules and thrusts a pin of Truth at the filter bubble? What happens when a fellow journalist is exposed in a way that has negative implications for all newspapers, all media outlets? How will the rest of journalism respond?

Owen Jones on Con Coughlin

On October 11, Guardian columnist Owen Jones broke the usual rules in an attack on the Telegraph’s defence correspondent, Con Coughlin, who, Jones noted, had attended a party at the Saudi embassy in London:

Hi @concoughlin. You left tonight’s Saudi Embassy bash at the @NHM_London safe and well. That’s more than can be said for your fellow journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who allegedly was chopped into pieces in Turkey’s Saudi Consulate. Any pangs of conscience?’

The following day, Jones tweeted a thread exposing Coughlin that included these comments:

A thread. The Telegraph’s Defence Editor churns out Saudi propaganda after going to a Saudi party.

He is married to Katherine Bergen who worked for Meade Hall & Associates, paid lobbyists for Bahrain’s dictatorship, which was propped up by a 2011 Saudi invasion.

Katherine Bergen is a former journalist who wrote pro-Bahrain propaganda for publications ranging from The Daily Mail to Standpoint Magazine.

Con Coughlin himself has a history of churning out pro-Bahrain propaganda. In a now deleted Telegraph blog headlined “Why is Britain harbouring Bahrain’s dissidents?” (referred to in the book Oil States in the New Middle East) he fawns over Bahrain’s ruling dictator.

Con Coughlin’s output on Saudi Arabia is ludicrously Pravda-esque fawning. Scan through the articles he’s written here: it is beyond belief. Seriously, have a sickbag ready.

Here is a fawning interview Coughlin conducted with Saudi dictator Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud in March, who he describes as a “human dynamo”. He concludes: “With this young royal at the helm, Saudi Arabia’s future prospects clearly know no bounds.”

All Coughlin does is churn out Saudi propaganda and Saudi talking points. Check this out when Saudi Arabia and its allies clashed with Qatar. Is this news reporting, or a de facto press release Saudi Arabia might as well have written?

Having described Coughlin’s role in promoting Saudi propaganda, Jones turned to other areas:

A 2000 article reveals Coughlin was fed material by MI6 for years, which he then turned into Telegraph news articles. One false story fed to him by MI6 about Saif Gaddafi led to the Sunday Telegraph apologising for libel ( …)

Stories published by Con Coughlin include a front page splash: ‘TERRORIST BEHIND SEPTEMBER 11 STRIKE WAS TRAINED BY SADDAM’. It was based on a forged letter which had been fed to him.’

Con Coughlin went on NBC to tell viewers that the (forged) letter was “really concrete proof that al-Qaeda was working with Saddam”. This false claim was invaluable: it justified one of the Bush administration’s false pretexts for the invasion of Iraq.

As his “story” fell apart, Coughlin said: there’s “no way of verifying it. It’s our job as journalists to air these things and see what happens.” Errrrr.

A book by Pulizter-winning journalist Ron Suskind claims the Bush administration forged the evidence.

Jones unsubtly hinted at Coughlin’s true role:

According to Suskind, Coughlin was “a journalist whom the Bush administration thinks very highly of” and was “a favourite of neoconservatives in the U.S. government.” Suskind says Coughlin got the letter from the former CIA and MI6 agent, former Iraqi exile Ayad Allawi.

Remember the discredited 45 minute claim? Conveniently after the invasion of Iraq Coughlin went to Iraq and found a source who claimed it was “200 per cent accurate.” I’m sure that the scandal-hit British intelligence services were delighted.

In our media alert of November 4, 2004, we noted that, having worked hard to pave the propaganda way to war on Iraq, Coughlin later worked hard to justify this terrible crime. In June 2003, under the title, ‘So what if Saddam’s deadly arsenal is never found? The war was just,’ he wrote in the Telegraph:

Another day and another mass grave is unearthed in Iraq.

He added:

So many of these harrowing sites have been uncovered in the two months since Saddam’s overthrow that even the experts are starting to lose count of just how many atrocities were committed by the Iraqi dictator’s henchmen… If this were Kosovo, the Government would be under fire for not having acted sooner to prevent the genocide.

His conclusion:

Having just returned from three weeks in post-liberation Iraq, I find it almost perverse that anyone should question the wisdom of removing Saddam from power.1

Commenting on Coughlin’s ‘reliance on unnamed intelligence sources in several far-fetched articles about Iran,’ the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII) identified key features in reports filed by the Daily Telegraph’s then foreign editor:

Sources were unnamed or untraceable, often senior Western intelligence officials or senior Foreign Office officials.

Articles were published at sensitive and delicate times where there had been relatively positive diplomatic moves towards Iran.

Articles contained exclusive revelations about Iran combined with eye-catchingly controversial headlines.2

Jones emphasised the significance of his tweets:

Read through this thread, and bear this mind. Con Coughlin was Foreign Editor, and is now Defence Editor of one of Britain’s main broadsheet newspapers. He is treated as a respected journalist. What does this tell us about the British media?

As The Canary website noted, ‘After the revelations Con Coughlin had so little credibility left, he deleted his Twitter account.’

On October 17, Jones tweeted:

Con Coughlin has just had another load of shameless Saudi propaganda published by the @Telegraph, it is utterly remarkable

We responded:

Even more remarkable from ProQuest UK newspaper database, last 30 days:

“Your search for (Owen Jones) AND (Con Coughlin) found 0 results.”

Silence across the media “spectrum”.

In other words, no UK journalist anywhere had picked up on Jones’ damning comments on Coughlin. They had been ignored. In possibly Jones’ first ever positive response to us, he replied confidently, indicating that a Guardian article was on the way:

about to change this.

We retweeted this, taking Jones at his word. One week later, on October 24, he published an article in the Guardian titled, ‘Britain has sold its soul to the House of Saud. Shame on us’. So how much of Jones’ criticism of Coughlin had survived the attentions of the Guardian editors? The answer is contained in this single paragraph:

Con Coughlin, the Telegraph’s defence correspondent, attended the National History Museum bash [hosted by the Saudi embassy], posting the next day an article accompanied by the tweet: “Was Jamal Khashoggi a liberal or a Muslim Brotherhood lackey who reviled the west?” He has written fawning interviews with Bin Salman, describing him as a “human dynamo” under whose rule “Saudi Arabia’s future prospects clearly know no bounds”.

Attending the Saudi bash was the least of the sins exposed by Jones, and the ‘fawning interviews’ are rather less damning than Coughlin acting as a conduit for MI6 propaganda. We wrote to Jones:

Owen, we absolutely loved your thread exposing Con Coughlin. But what happened to the promised Guardian article on this? I’m asking because you told us you were writing something on Oct 17. The piece then came out a week later on Oct 24 with almost all the meat missing. Did you run into internal opposition at the Guardian?3

We received no reply. Jones, of course, is not about to reveal what happened to his article. Perhaps the Guardian editors simply published what he submitted. One thing is clear: somehow, at some point, the filter bubble worked its magic and prevented a damning expose of a senior UK journalist reaching the Guardian’s readers.

In a tweet, Jones asked of the Coughlin case: ‘What does this tell us about the British media?’ Without the filter bubble, journalists would surely be asking exactly that question of ‘defence’ and ‘diplomatic’ journalism more generally.

The problem was indicated by one of the great Freudian slips of our time, supplied by a Fox News anchor on March 24, 1999, as Nato was preparing to wage war on Yugoslavia:

Let’s bring in our Pentagon spokesman – excuse me, our Pentagon correspondent.

In 2002, Michael Evans, The Times’ defence correspondent, reported:

Saddam Hussein has ordered hundred of his officials to conceal weapons of mass destruction components in their homes to evade the prying eyes of the United Nations inspectors.

This was fake news – Iraq’s WMD had been dismantled and destroyed by December 1998. In a guest media alert, ‘Hacks And Spooks’, Professor Richard Keeble, then Professor of Journalism at the University of Lincoln, described Evans’ comments as an example of ‘disinformation… spread by dodgy intelligence sources via gullible journalists’.

On the April 12, 2005 edition of the BBC’s Newsnight programme, diplomatic editor Mark Urban discussed the significance of a lessening of Iraqi attacks on US forces since January:

It is indeed the first real evidence that President Bush’s grand design of toppling a dictator and forcing a democracy into the heart of the Middle East could work.4

The claim that Bush aimed to create a democracy in the Middle East clashed impossibly with his actual grand design of controlling Iraq’s oil.

In 2011, the Guardian’s diplomatic editor, Julian Borger, anticipated a new report on Iran by the International Atomic Energy Agency, with a piece titled ‘Iran “on threshold of nuclear weapon”‘. The accompanying photograph depicted a giant mushroom cloud from a nuclear weapons test. In fact, Iran had no nuclear weapons, nor even a nuclear weapons programme.

Why are defence editors, defence correspondents, diplomatic editors and the like so often biased in favour of the Western defence and diplomatic establishment they are covering? And why are they allowed to demonstrate this bias without anyone so much as commenting?

The filter bubble ensures that these questions can never be asked, much less answered.

  1. Con Coughlin, ‘So what if Saddam’s deadly arsenal is never found? The war was just,’ The Sunday Telegraph, June 1, 2003.
  2. Campaign Iran, ‘Press Watchdog slammed by “Dont Attack Iran” Campaigners,’ May 1, 2007.
  3. Direct message, Twitter, November 8, 2018.
  4. Urban, Newsnight, BBC2, April 12, 2005.

The Rise and Rise of the Regime Renovators (Another Splendid Little Coup)

It has been a splendid little war, begun with the highest motives, carried on with magnificent intelligence and spirit, favored by that Fortune which loves the brave.

US Secretary of State John Hay, defining the Spanish-American War of 1898, in a letter to Theodore Roosevelt, July 27 of that year, the war ushering in America’s Imperial era and unequivocally heralding its hegemonic ambitions.

…I’ve seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate [people]….[We’re there] to conquer, not to redeem. It should be our pleasure and duty to make people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions their own way….I’m opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.

Comments by Mark Twain, anti-imperialist, reflecting on the real objectives of America’s war with Spain.

War is the continuation of politics by other means…

Carl von Clausewitz, Prussian general, military theorist

Politics is the continuation of war by other means…

—  Michel Foucault, French philosopher, social theorist

Synopsis

For those Americans au fait with their country’s fondness for engineering coups, ousting democratically elected leaders, and interfering in the political affairs of other nations – to all intents the perennial bedrock principle of U.S. foreign policy — Iran is a well-documented exemplar. Given the supreme ironies inherent in the political imbroglio in the U.S. attending Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential elections, along with America’s resolve to seek once again regime change in Russia’s ally Iran, it’s timely we revisit this slice of history. Doing so presents us an opportunity to view the so-called ‘Russia-gate’ furore, the Iran regime change ambitions, and the increasingly bloody war in Syria –- itself an ally of both Russia and Iran — within a broader, more nuanced historical context. From there we might derive a more informed perspective on the contemporary geopolitical zeitgeist and the hegemonic forces that have fashioned it. And attending that deeper perspective should be a sure sign of the existential dangers for civilization and humanity at large of allowing our leaders in the West to continue down this path unchallenged, one that is as well-worn as it’s fraught with peril.

In Regime Change, We Trust

For those folks with the requisite sense of irony and historical perspective, many will be rolling their eyes at the rampant hysteria over the as yet evidence-free accusations of interference by Russia in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Which is to say, one of the manifest realities attending this latest Beltway blockbuster soap opera is that of America’s own track record of interference in the affairs of other countries, comprising as it does so many forms. I say “realities” rather than ironies here as “irony” almost by definition is infused with a measure of nuance and subtlety, neither of which could it be said are in abundance in this utterly contrived, self-serving political fracas. (For a further measure of just how “contrived” and “self-serving” it is, see herehere, here, and here.)

Insofar as Russia’s alleged meddling in U.S. politics goes and the animus that attends the hysteria, as Oliver Stone discovered during his recent appearance on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert – itself hot on the heels of his much publicised four hour meet ‘n greet with Russian president Vladimir Putin wherein it was earlier raised – he was at pains to impress upon his host that Israel had a much bigger case to answer than did Russia.

Of course, Stone was on the money here. The unalloyed reality of the power and influence that Israel exerts within and across the morally and ethically desertified landscape that is the nation’s capital is a given, with the Middle East’s only ‘democratic’ settler-colonizer apartheid regime leaving few stones unturned – and exhibiting little discretion and subtlety but equal parts chutzpah and subterfuge — in how it wields then leverages that influence to its advantage and against the interests of its principal patron and benefactor.

But that’s clearly a narrative that doesn’t bode well in the Beltway at the best of times, and more rational, clear-eyed folks know the reasons why. For one, the corporate media, for the most part doesn’t entertain such verities. Even if they were inclined, the omnipotent Israel Lobby would cut them off at the knees. And for his part, the ever-smarmy Colbert, presumably aware which side his bread is buttered on, was reluctant to take Stone’s bait, much it seemed to his interviewee’s frustration.

Beyond just interfering in U.S. politics, along with the parent Empire la perfide Albion, one of America’s steadfast partners-in-crime in the regime renovation business are the ubiquitous and iniquitous Israelis, an observation underscored by Against our Better Judgment author Alison Weir on her blog If Americans Knew. Long targeted by Israel, for Weir, Iran especially provides an instructive example herein. With the Saudis as back-up, it is Israel — ably supported by its Praetorian Guard AIPAC and its ilk along with its shills in Congress – that’s been the hard-core driver of Washington’s seemingly irrational animus towards all things Iran. Along with underscoring Israel’s clout in Washington, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2015 Congressional dog ‘n pony show fiercely opposing the Iran Nuclear agreement then being negotiated by the Obama administration provides some of the best evidence for this.

And indeed, it’s another of Washington’s worst best-kept secrets that – the nuclear agreement aside — Iran remains a high priority on the ‘to do’ list for the Regime Renovators. (See also herehere, and here.) In addition to the relentless propaganda campaign pursued by Israel the aim of which is to paint Iran as the existential threat du jour, despite the fact that U.S. intelligence agencies and others in the know don’t support the allegations about its mythical nuclear weapons program, Weir had the following to say:

Israel and the U.S. deployed a computer virus against Iran in what’s been called the world’s first digital weapon. Iranian nuclear physicists [were] assassinated by Israel, and the U.S. instituted a blockade against Iran that caused food insecurity and mass suffering among the country’s civilians. (Such a blockade can be seen as an act of war.) Democratic Congressman and Israel partisan Brad Sherman admitted the objective of the sanctions: “Critics of sanctions argue that these measures will hurt the Iranian people. Quite frankly, we need to do just that.”

Most folks then who don’t dine out on the McDonald’s (‘would you like lies with that?’) media diet that is the corporate news are as well aware of Uncle Sam’s recidivistic predisposition towards meddling in the affairs of other nations, engineering coups and colour revolutions, and ousting democratically elected leaders as they are of the bespoke misinformation and disinformation – the ‘real’ fake news – that’s tailored to suit the official narrative that goes with it.

Along with the ongoing Syrian War, the 2014 Ukraine coup is one of the most egregious, more recent examples of this, with again Stone’s confab avec Putin providing an alternative perspective on both counts. Yet even here the majority of Americans would attribute the Ukraine crisis to “Russian aggression” and the Syrian War largely to Bashar Assads ‘despotism’; it’s simply what they are told by the MSM, and insofar as they’re concerned [they] have little reason to doubt this. Much the same goes for the Iran WMD narrative, despite the fact that we’ve heard that one before with Iraq around fifteen years ago.

And all of this mayhem and chaos is premised on exporting freedom, democracy, justice, liberty, human rights, and the rule of law, all of the things that America is purportedly so accomplished in embracing on the home front, albeit more so in the breach than in the observance. What makes U.S. transgressions so much more brazen in this respect is the hypocritical, fraudulent and existentially dangerous nature of the umbrage and pique being directed towards countries like Iran, Syria and, especially Russia and China.

And what makes the righteous animus being served up to the latter nations in particular so frightening and so portentous is that it’s wholly reminiscent of the hegemonic mindset directed towards Germany by the high-minded mandarins of the British Empire in the two decades leading up to the War to End all Wars. By 1914, even for that small cohort of folks who might’ve smelt the imperial rat, it was too late, of course, for them and for so many others. In this few other imperially motivated gambits have been more consequential or more far-reaching across time and space, a conclusion we can safely draw with all the benefit one hundred plus years of hindsight brings.

As for today’s “cohort” of news consumers, it is much the same: Such awareness is embraced only by a small minority of people with most blissfully ignorant of their country’s inability or unwillingness to, well, mind its own bloody business. They are as equally oblivious to the economic, social, physical and political havoc, mayhem, and destruction it creates in the process, sometimes catastrophically so. Whilst the events of 9/11 might’ve otherwise provided a visceral reality check in this regard for most Americans of the blowback that frequently attends its own country’s meddling, very few would’ve been prepared or motivated to engage in any ‘cause and effect’ reflection therein, much less act in sync with that.

Yet we might opine here that given the frenzied state of America’s own internal affairs – to say nothing of the hysterical incoherence and farcical irrationality of the public discourse that has seemingly become a permanent fixture of U.S. political and media forums, the Russia-gate affair being all the evidence ones needs to underscore this – there’d be numerous benefits to be gained from doing just that. Minding its own “bloody business” that is.

And let there be no mistaking it, what an assuredly “bloody business” regime renovation is. For the ‘cognitive dissidents’ disbelieving or doubtful of the extent or measure of this geopolitical mischief, in a recent PressTV interview focusing on America’s history of interfering in Iran’s political affairs in particular, former NSA intelligence linguist Scott Rickard is one amongst many of his professional ilk who dispels such scepticism or uncertainty with unadorned veracity:

[Americans] have been probably one of the most notorious nations behind the United Kingdom in manipulating not only elections but also overthrowing governments around the world for decades.

As Rickard observes, to this day the U.S. continues nation-building in other states, sells weapons in massive scales, and pours bombs on other nations in order to ‘carry out its regime-change policy throughout the world.’ This, to say little of the proxy wars and false-flag events to which errant countries are subject (such as in Syria), psy-ops and the like (in Venezuela), and the economic sanctions frequently applied by Washington, of which both Russia and Iran to this day are also subjected to, and which themselves are often part of the arsenal used against countries not complying with Washington’s diktats. On the latter, it’s enough to recall how the sanctions imposed during the 90s against Iraq after the Gulf War under the Clinton administration played out. For confirmation of this, one only needs ask Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton’s then Secretary of State, who in a ‘Kissingeresque’ display of imperial hubris as pitiless as it was asthma-inducing, averred [that], “[yes, we think] it was worth it”.

To be sure then, Uncle Sam’s “track record’ in this respect is as well documented and [as] well known as it’s abhorred by most commentators in the alternative media space and their more enlightened readers. At the same time it’s one subject that doesn’t raise an eyebrow much less a mention from those in the mainstream media (MSM) universe, no matter how pertinent it might be to the narrative in hand. It’s another of what I’ve come to calling the ‘no-fly-zones’ of conventional political discourse and public debate. Given the degree of complicity of the corporate media in facilitating these coups, proxy wars, false-flag attacks, and colour revolutions, then camouflaging them as something entirely different from what they really represent is, whilst reprehensible and indefensible, understandable.

Kermit’s ‘Sesame Street’ Coup

Interestingly, Rickard’s remark was prompted by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s most recent statements about the U.S. seeking regime change in Teheran as all but a matter of public policy with marginally less fervor than they are accusing Moscow of meddling in their own democratic processes in last year’s election.

Again, for those folks “in the know”, the very mention of the words “regime change” and “Iran” in the same breath will also summon pronto a profound sense of déjà vu. As with the little known 1975 Australian coup (the details of which to be unveiled in a future ‘episode’ of The Regime Renovators), it was Britain (MI6) and the U.S. (the CIA) in a tag team play that cut its teeth in a joint-venture partnership back in Iran in 1953.

Now the much-cited Iran experience is worthy of deeper exploration, if only because this exercise in regime change later turned out to be doubly ironic in a ‘reap what you sow’ kinda way, but not necessarily as the received wisdom would have us believe. We’ll return to this point shortly, but for context and perspective, the 1953 Iran adventure again begs for another trip down memory lane, especially given all the chatter about the U.S returning to the ‘scene of the crime’.

Placing to one side an early dress rehearsal in Syria in 1949, the 1953 Iran coup was the first post-War exercise in regime renovation upon the part of Anglo-American alliance — one which officially at least was only just admitted to by the CIA after decades of not so plausible denial – when they successfully conspired to relieve the democratically elected prime minister of Iran Mohammad Mosaddegh from the burdens of power. The CIA and MI6 jointly embarked on a plan to stage a coup that would ensure that the West maintained control over the country’s vast oil reserves (shades of things to come). This coup is widely believed to have provided the ‘business model’ and the bravado for future coups by the CIA during the Cold War, including in Guatemala in 1954, the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1961, and the ill-fated attempted coup in Cuba at the Bay of Pigs (BOP) in 1961, where the renovators’ business model came spectacularly unstuck.

In true CIA custom, in Iran not everything went according to plan. The man who would be Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, by all accounts something of a reluctant usurper, succumbed to ‘stage fright’ at the eleventh hour and did an unexpected runner to Italy. But the CIA quickly recovered its composure and schlepped their ‘under-study’ back in time for the opening night curtain raiser of the new regime. For both the CIA and the Shah, who went on to rule his country with an iron, bloody fist avec unerring American support for almost twenty-five years, in true show business fashion, everything was ‘all right on the night’; the Shah’s show went on to enjoy an extended run with generally positive reviews.

(That most of these “reviews” were written by the Iranian intelligence agency SAVAK, the Shah’s political and security muscle throughout his ‘regime’, is axiomatic, especially since writing was apparently one activity SAVAK agents both excelled at and enjoyed. Their torture manuals were as notorious for their meticulously detailed brutality as for their invention.)

Interestingly, the CIA’s Iranian operation was directed by none other than Kermit (Kim) Roosevelt, the grandson of former Republican president Teddy Roosevelt (he of the “walk softly, carry a big stick” fame), and a not too distant cousin of former Democratic president Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR). At the time Roosevelt was the senior spook in The Company’s Middle-East station (he’d been recruited by no less a personality than Frank “The Mighty Wurlitzer” Wisner), and was their point man on the ground in overseeing the Iranian adventure, dubbed Operation Ajax. Despite his name, for Teddy’s ‘grand-sprog’ this was no Sesame Street romp. No sirree, Bob! This was serious spy shit.

Notwithstanding the apparent success of the mission, the coup was to have profound, far-reaching, and plain scary, geopolitical, economic and national security consequences for the US and the West in general. For starters just ask Jimmy Carter for further confirmation of this, and for any still standing and in control of their metacognitive faculties, go from there president by president! (Although the execrable Albright sort of apologised to Iran in 2000 – possibly the closest thing to a mea culpa ever offered by the U.S. for their wayward imperial ways – it didn’t apparently count for much.)

Yet one of the most enlightening revelations about Kermit’s coup was the following. In his must-read book a Century of War, Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, F William Engdahl recounted the less familiar story that the demise of the Shah (aka the ‘Peacock Potentate’) was engineered by the same forces that brought him into power in the first place. As we know this went on to produce sizable blowback for the U.S. with the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The much reviled Shah had for a variety of reasons outlived his usefulness, with the onset of the 1979 oil crisis presenting said forces both the ideal opportunity and pretext – albeit according to Engdahl, one largely manufactured in this case — to proceed to the next phase of their (ahem) Persian renovation project.

From this then we might safely deduce the subsequent ‘79 Revolution, the storming of the U.S. embassy in Teheran, along with the kidnapping of the embassy personnel (a world changing event by any measure), was not what many have deemed an organic — nor an entirely predictable — development for those who’d decided the Shah has passed his use by date. Moreover, the reality (there’s that word again) of ‘client-dictators’ overstaying their ‘welcome’ will be one familiar to ‘buffs’ of Uncle Sam’s regime change history, with the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2002, again on prefabricated pretexts and for not dissimilar reasons, providing a most consequential exemplar thereof.

According to the author, in 1978 President Carter named diplomat George Ball to head a White House task force under the direction of Carter’s national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, the proud, now recently departed, father of Islamic terrorism and patron saint of jihadists. In doing so, Carter effectively gave Brzezinski the nod on opening another Pandora’s Box in the Greater Middle East, and as the Law of Moral Causation (trade name: ‘karma’) would have it, [this] brought about the president’s own political demise. As Engdahl explains it:

Ball recommended Washington drop support for the Shah and support the fundamentalist Islamic opposition of Ayatollah Khomeini…and the CIA led a coup against the man their covert actions had placed into power 25 years earlier. The coup against the Shah, like that against Mossadegh in 1953, was run by British and American intelligence, with the bombastic Brzezinski taking public ‘credit’ for getting rid of the ‘corrupt’ Shah, while the British characteristically remained safely in the background.

When You’re on a Good Thing (Stick to the Knitting)

Notwithstanding the blowback from the 1953 Iran coup and the later blowback from the removal of the Shah over a quarter century later, little has changed. The disastrous Bay of Pigs operation in 1961 and the subsequent, near catastrophic Cuban Missile Crisis the following year deriving from the failure of even that monumentally inept regime change manoeuvre evidently provided few lessons for the Renovators then or their political progeny since. At the same time it underscored in effect what had become the bedrock principle of American foreign policy and Great Power Projection. Which is to say, for its part the U.S. still engages in this tried and true, one-size-fits-all foreign policy gambit, bringing to mind that old adage ‘when you’re on a good thing, stick to it!’

Whilst the motivations for the Iranian coup were nominally economic (the government of the time was making noises about nationalizing the Iranian oil industry), there was also the strategic geopolitical considerations in the U.S. that Iran might come within the sphere of Soviet influence, thereby severely limiting the West’s hegemony in the region, an outcome one imagines would’ve delivered an unacceptable blow to America’s still incipient imperial id.

There was also a certain amount of fear that Iranian communists might gain control of the political situation, or even that the Soviets might overtake the country, either the stuff of American and British nightmares or over-egged paranoia. Certainly the Americans were never too keen on the Soviets crashing their party anywhere, especially so in this region. Like the British before them, the U.S. has always been quite territorial about other people’s territory, especially when said “territory” involved oil, or any other strategic commodity or geopolitical consideration. Whether this fear was rational given the reality at the time and the available intelligence is a subject many still debate.

As we’ve seen with this and so many others, the reasons for the coup were fueled less by the ostensibly lofty ideological concerns related to the Cold War (freedom versus tyranny anyone?) than they were to less lofty considerations such as greed, self-preservation and national pride and one or three other Deadly Imperial Sins. To be sure it seems reasonable to assume that the Soviets – cunning devils that they were – were ‘geeing’ the Iranians up to nationalize their oil industry in order to put the wind up the British and the Americans in turn. It’s clear now that the CIA and the British, along with their fellow travelers in the then (Harry) Truman administration in the years leading up to the coup, were leveraging the Cold War sentiment of the time in order to camouflage the real reasons for seeking regime change in Iran (shades of things.)

At all events, then president Truman evidently saw the Iranian plot coming from the bottom of the ‘too-risky’ basket and didn’t drag the chain on rejecting it. Whatever his achievements, for his part the former failed Missouri haberdasher was always going to be known as the man who nodded the dropping of the Big Ones on Japan, and rarely demurred in claiming the bragging rights. Now whether he was right or wrong in doing this is a ‘what-if’ moment for another time, but insofar as the Iran “moment” went, for this reason he might’ve had a keen eye on how said ‘mo’ in history might be judged. Either way, by deep-sixing the CIA’s plans we might surmise that in doing so it inspired his oft-quoted dictum ‘the buck stops here’. Because it only delayed the renovators’ momentum though, his ‘call’ was to no avail; said “buck” remained in play only as long as he was POTUS.

When Kermit (Kim) Roosevelt, became Republican president in 1953, all bets were off (or on, depending on your view) Ike was more simpatico than Truman to the Iran coup, and evidently got ‘jiggy’ with it without a lot of arm-twisting. This was especially after the plotters – principally Allen Dulles, the then CIA director, and his big brother Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, who was the Cabinet pitchman for the pro-coup team, played the ‘commie’ card with Ike. For his part the elder Dulles, who played a Richelieu-like role in U.S. affairs of the time, was once quoted as saying that “the USA doesn’t have friends, it has interests”, tantamount to a foreign policy positioning statement, and as we’ve seen one which these days – with the notable exception of Israel — still finds ample favour in and around the Beltway.

In any event, Ike didn’t just take the commie bait hook, line and sinker, by all accounts he swam upstream to chow down on it. With Joe McCarthy and his ilk riding high in the polls and anti-communist fervour at fever pitch, such was the temper of the Cold War times. It wasn’t the first time the ‘commie’ card was played in this game, and it certainly would not be the last; like the one-size-fits-all terrorist threat that followed the Cold War’s end, it was used as cover for a multitude of foreign policy sins and proved a remarkably flexible rationale for the various misadventures of the CIA’s on-going, flagship regime renovation program.

(Interestingly, like JFK was to do with Cuba eight years later, Ike inherited, and eventually agreed to, a CIA-inspired regime transition plot that was hatched during the previous administration, but for one reason or another never got off the ground, this being one of those spooky déjà vu moments in the overall narrative of The Company which is to say, when Ike came to power, the principal coup plot du jour was Iran. With JFK, it was Cuba. Needless to say, in a ‘same horse, different cowboy’ kinda way, it underscores how little changes from one administration to the next.)

Why Do they Hate US So Much? (What’s there Not to Like?)

As for the Iranian coup, it achieved the dubious distinction of being the first and best example of CIA intervention in the sovereign affairs of another country, an experiment that would be repeated over and over with wildly varying degrees of success (the measure of which depended as much on one’s definition of what “success” entailed in such matters as it did on one’s perspective on history and political inclinations). The coup not only ushered in almost three decades of despotic, oppressive rule by the Shah propped up by American arms, money and hand-holding. It belatedly ignited the fire of Islamic fundamentalism that itself provided the US with its next great foe after the Soviets eventually threw in the towel, leaving the Americans as the reigning superpower, much like Great Britain after Napolean’s 1815 defeat at Waterloo. That it also provided an answer to a question few people were asking themselves at the time, which was ‘why do they hate us so much?’, is axiomatic, and one which has since then become a recurring motif throughout the Grand American Narrative.

There are some other considerations vis a vis the Iranian coup. One is that it was Kermit Roosevelt – scion of one of America’s most famous political dynasties – who was a driving force behind the planning and execution of Ajax. In the process he contributed to one of the U.S.’s biggest foreign policy misadventures, eventually leading to one of its most disastrous national security crises. It’s uncertain what ‘grandpa’ Teddy or ‘cuzzin’ Franklin would’ve thought of the coup, and herein we can only guess. But the knowledge one of their kin had his fingerprints all over it, especially one which ushered in such dire, enduring consequences for the empire, would’ve possibly had at least one spinning furiously in his eternally designated bolthole.

Secondly, in using the ‘monstrous’ threat of communism as a pretext for the coup, the Americans ultimately created an even bigger monster (terrorism), although it was some time before the reality – if not the realisation – was to come home to roost for them and the rest of the world. (That this turned out to be a blessing in disguise is also a consideration we might address in future episode.) And for those who might wonder why the US became a pariah in Iran particularly, and in the Middle East generally, one might now begin to understand. To underscore this – the notoriously brutal, vicious, sadistic SAVAK – the Shah’s internal security, secret police and intelligence organization was both feared and hated in equal measure.

That SAVAK was like a franchise of the CIA was only part of the story, and on a ‘good day’ it would’ve rivaled the Stasi in East Germany, no mean feat apparently. In fact the Stasi was to the KGB what SAVAK was to the CIA in that both attempted to out-do their respective maestros. As with so many other regimes, juntas and assorted dictatorships, it was CIA (and Mossad) agents who midwifed the establishment of SAVAK, and trained their first generation of agents, including in surveillance, torture and interrogation techniques, and other security and intelligence trade craft. By all accounts, the CIA guys were very good teachers, or the SAVAK folk eager learners. Or both.

When they were eventually shut down, one of the most egregious examples of their sadistic savagery was to be found in their how-to manuals, handbooks and training videos highlighting techniques unique to torturing women. Readers can let their imaginations run wild here, but suffice it to say, the SAVAK spooks were indeed nasty, vile, brutal pieces of work. Iranians who survived the Shah’s wretched rule have long memories and it’s in large part because of the legacy of SAVAK. To this day, many of them understandably still have a huge hard-on for all things Uncle Sam (although surprisingly such animus to this day is more directed at the U.S. political establishment than at the American people, per se).

In any event, by 1979, the Shah’s standing with the long-suffering Iranian people was a train wreck just around the corner, and the anti-American vibe was at its most virulent. At this point, the U.S. left the Shah with his (ahem) plucked Persian peacock pecker swinging in the Mediterranean sea breeze. With little fanfare then, the despised potentate had his gold-leafed throne unceremoniously ‘pulled out’ from under his bling-laden ass which he then barely managed to haul out of Teheran just before the militant ‘mullahs’ surrounded him and presented their soon-to-be former leader with considerably less options than he was used to receiving, nearly all of which would’ve involved, at best, him getting a fleeting glimpse of Allah just outside jannah on his way to eternal damnation.

Following years then of rampant corruption, hubris, breathtaking extravagance, cronyism, human rights abuses, imperious contempt, political and religious oppression, kidnapping, torture, murder, culminating in increasingly deep-seated unpopularity, the Shah’s time had come, this being a pointer to the fate awaiting numerous other future CIA sponsored and US favoured tin-pot tyrants, deplorably demented despots, and cut-rate client-dictators, of whom there’s rarely been any shortage.

For his part, at the height of the crisis, the hapless Carter – who’d unwisely signed off on the hated Shah receiving medical treatment in the U.S. after a number of countries refused to accommodate his pleas for sanctuary — had his effigy burned in Tehran streets for his troubles. By the time the smoke coming out of the filmed wreckage on the six o’clock news of one of the Navy Rescue Team choppers that had crashed in the Iranian desert killing eight crewman after an audacious attempt to free the hostages went tragically wrong had cleared, the former Georgian peanut farmer turned Leader of the Free World was a lame duck, shit-out-of-luck, commander-in-chief. A Bay of Pigs Moment then? Almost certainly! But much worse, if one is inclined to measure “worse” by the blowback. And the BOP blowback was in itself considerable.

In announcing to the American public and the world at large the failure of the mission to free the hostages, Carter – according to the dictates of the unofficial Truman ‘doctrine’ vis a vis where the ‘buck’ stops – took responsibility for the disaster, and even used eerily similar wording to that of JFK when he publicly revealed the outcome of the BOP fiasco. From then on, The Gipper had Carter by the presidential short’n’curlies. In the view of many pundits at the time, the presidential election was ‘all over Rover’, well before a single vote was cast.

And though the Shah’s “ass” was no more with his death in a US hospital in mid-1980, it was ‘all over Rover’ for anyone else still standing. The Embassy ‘squatters’ in Tehran effectively held hostage Carter’s attempt to seek a second term, an outcome facilitated by Ronald Reagan’s campaign team engaging in treasonous back channel finagling with the new Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini’s henchmen to withhold release of the hostages until after the November presidential election. The objective herein was to preclude an “October Surprise” (an early release of the hostages) that would’ve guaranteed Carter’s re-election.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Burning Down the House (How to Roast a Pig)

With the Gipper’s inevitable victory then, it was one where not just America, but the rest of the world was never to be the same again. None of this is to suggest it ever is in these situations, of which there were few in this case anyway. The Iranian Revolution was more than a revolution then; it was a geopolitical tsunami that swamped a shit-load of people and nations in its wake. In so many respects, the waves are still rippling. And even at this point, one imagines the CIA struggled to understand that blowback of this kind was bad for business, and might continue to undermine its credibility, effectiveness, and morale if it persevered down this path.

As history would have it, this idea never really caught on though. For their part, the Islamic Revolutionaries and their ilk may or may not have had their own version of jihadist karma; if they did they doubtless weren’t averse to providing karma some earthly assistance in order for it to work its magic. The Hostage Crisis was ample evidence of that. And they (or at least their heirs apparent such as ISIS, Al Nusra, et al) still are apparently. That is, keen to give karma a helping hand where and whenever possible. Depending very much, of course, on who their paymaster(s) is/are. Allah be willing, of course!

In rounding things up herein, it is perhaps best to return to Bill Engdahl for some insight into the contemporary significance of the preceding narrative. In a recent interview wherein he addressed the developments taking place within and across the Greater Middle East, for him Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel wasn’t just about arms sales, shoring up their respective alliances, and reasserting America’s influence in the region. It was about, ‘setting events into motion in order to fundamentally alter the present balance of power in the entire Middle East to the greater advantage of the United States and US energy geopolitics.’ By any measure that’s a big call, and not just because it would seem that the U.S. has forfeited much of its prestige, influence, and power over the past decades of its political interventions, its wars of aggression (proxy, hybrid or direct), its bullying, imperious ways, and its unequivocal support of Israel, something that would be required in spades in order to achieve such lofty goals.

For Engdahl, Washington has already bitten off more than it can chew, without considering the ructions taking place between the Saudis, Egypt, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates in their Mexican standoff with Qatar. This latter development clearly resulted from discussions during Trump’s visit and is one whose significance few observers should underestimate, at least without some understanding of the real backstory, an “understanding” which should include first and foremost the following question: Which country did Trump visit right after Saudi Arabia? The answer speaks volumes!

And with Turkey lining up with Iran – the latter already a key ally of Syria, the former a key player in the efforts to relieve Syrian President al-Assad of the burdens of power for the past five years — on the side of Qatar, the standoff is creating some very strange geopolitical bedfellows. None of us should be fooled by the rhetoric to be sure, because at the heart of these Middle East machinations and manoeuvres is energy – both oil and, now more so, gas — as it always has been. It’s certainly not — nor has it ever been — about freedom, democracy, liberty or any any of the usual bromides (perish the thought), or America’s presumed and oft-cited “responsibility to protect”.

When it comes to the geopolitical players involved in the Great Game du jour, Engdahl notes:

No political power has been more responsible for launching the recent undeclared gas wars than the corrupt Washington cabal that makes policy on behalf of deep state interests….The Trump Administration policy in the Middle East – and there is a clear policy, rest assured – might be compared to that of the ancient Chinese fable about the farmer who burnt down his house in order to roast a pig. In order to control the emerging world energy market around “low-CO2″ natural gas, Washington has targeted not only the world’s largest gas reserve country, Russia. She is now targeting Iran and Qatar.

Nor is the “Game” about combatting terrorism, per se, as terrorism has always served the interests of the major power players, an observation one will never hear uttered in mainstream media and political discourse. Of course, one of the official pretexts for the demands being placed on Doha by the Saudis and the other Gulf states is Qatar’s support for terrorism, accusations which emanating from either country are as fatuous and as hypocritical as it gets. On this point Engdahl had the following to say:

We must keep in mind that all serious terrorist organizations are state-sponsored. All [of them]. Whether DAESH or Al Nusra or Mujahideen in Afghanistan or Maute Group in [the] Philippines. The relevant question is which states sponsor which terrorists[?] Today NATO is the one most complicit in sponsoring terrorism as a weapon of their geopolitical designs. And within NATO the United States is sponsor number one, often using Saudi money and until recently, ironically, Qatari funds.

There should be no surprises here for students of Deep History, as these factors have been the driving forces of ‘full spectrum dominance’ geopolitics and geo-economics forever and a day, with the 1953 Iran narrative as we’ve seen providing hard-core evidence of this reality. It is also about the Regime Renovators pressing on regardless, which in this instance translates to isolating and then destroying Iran (a la Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria et al), Washington’s, Riyadh’s, and Tel Aviv’s common bête noir. Of course, these considerations are not mutually exclusive by any means. On the Saudi-Qatari standoff, he had the following to say:

Washington wanted to punish Qatar for seeking natural gas sales with China priced not in US dollars but in Renminbi. That…alarmed Washington, as Qatar is the world’s largest LNG exporter and most to Asia.

But it’s even much more complex than that. The shape-shifting allegiances, mercurial strategic loyalties, and ‘handshakes under the table’ make for unpredictable scenarios going forward to be sure. Herein Engdahl offers us a summation of situation and circumstance that’s as lucid as it is frightening. After noting that the ‘real story” behind the rise of so-called Islamic Terrorism is the increasingly desperate attempt of the Anglo-American Deep State to control the rise of Eurasia, especially of China in combination now with Russia, and increasingly with Iran and Central Asian republics as well as South Asian, he continues with the following:

Without understanding this, none of the recent events in the Middle East make sense. Washington strategists today foolishly believe if they get choke point control of all Middle East oil and gas, they can, as Henry Kissinger stated back in the 1970’s “control the oil and thus, control entire nations,” especially China and Russia and also Germany and Europe. Their strategy has failed but Washington…refuse[s] to see the reasons for their repeated failed wars. The hidden reality of American global power is that the American “giant” today is a bankrupt superpower, much like Great Britain after their Great Depression of 1873 up to 1914. Britain triggered a world war in 1914 to desperately try to retain their global power. They failed, for reasons I discuss in my Century of War book. Today for much the same reasons – allowing the power of US financial conglomerates [to] supersede the interests of the national industrial economy – America’s debt, national, private, corporate, is out of control. Reagan and Cheney were dead wrong. Debt does matter’

All of this translates to one simple reality. And at some point in the not too distant future, Russia and China will – not might, not maybe — attempt to call a halt to all of Uncle Sam’s shenanigans. And it’s reasonable to assume they won’t be on their ‘Pat Malone’, with Iran and Syria to be sure seeking also to finally square the ledger with the “Great Satan” and its Middle East proxies Israel and Saudi Arabia. By then it’ll be on for young and old. Of that we can be sure. History has always been and remains our most reliable guide in this respect. Of this we can also be just as certain. Well might we say then that another “splendid little war” is in the offing.

Be that as it may, it almost certainly will qualify as the War to End all Wars.