3 December 2007

Fourth Annual Brass Crescent Awards

This blog has been nominated twice for the Fourth Annual Brass Crescent Awards, "an annual awards ceremony that honors the best writers and thinkers of the emerging Muslim blogosphere". The Cutting Edge appears in two categories, "Most Deserving of Wider Recognition" and "Best Ijtihad", among several other blogs many of which I've never heard of but look extremely interesting.

Votes are currently continuing to select the final award winners until Friday 14th December 07.

If you would like to support this blog and help raise awareness of the issues I write about, please consider voting for it at www.brasscrescent.org, where you'll be able to select The Cutting Edge from the two above-mentioned categories. Also, please check out and give fair consideration to the other blogs listed there.

The Hidden Holocaust--Our Civilizational Crisis PART 2: EXPORTING DEMOCRACY

1. The Real NWO

In part 1, we reviewed the emergence of the modern world system through a process of systematic genocidal violence conducted across disparate continents, killing in total thousands of millions of indigenous peoples in Africa, Asia and America.

But this “hidden holocaust” didn’t end with the demise of colonization: Because colonization never underwent a genuine demise. Rather, it underwent a fundamental re-configuration, prompted by rising demands for freedom and independence from around the world.

By 1945, the end of the Second World War, the contours of a new international order were in place. According to US professors Lawrence Shoup and William Minter its design was being prepared several years earlier. It was known as the “Grand Area Strategy”, drawn up by US State Department policy-planners in liaison with experts from the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington DC.

If you want evidence for a plan for empire, you won’t get better than this. The planners identified a minimum “world area” control over which was deemed to be “essential for the security and economic prosperity of the United States and the Western Hemisphere.” This “world area” included the entire Western Hemisphere, the former British Empire and the Far East.

Grand Area Strategy saw that US policy was “to secure the limitation of any exercise of sovereignty by foreign nations that constitutes a threat” to this world area. But this policy could only be pursued on the basis of “an integrated policy to achieve military and economic supremacy for the United States.” So the concept of “security interests” had to be extended beyond traditional notions of territorial integrity to include domination of these regions “strategically necessary for world control.” Sounds strangely familiar, right (think "PNAC" or "Defense Planning Guidance")?

In other words, national security, economic security and imperial consolidation were interconnected components of Grand Area Strategy. State Department planners had no illusions about what this meant. Indeed, they candidly recognized that “the British Empire as it existed in the past will never reappear”, and that therefore “the United States may have to take its place.” Grand Area planning was about fulfilling the “requirement[s] of the United States in a world in which it proposes to hold unquestioned power.” [War and Peace Studies Project of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Cited in Lawrence H. Shoup and William Minter, Imperial Brain Trust: The Council on Foreign Relations and US Foreign Policy (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1977). This edition is now out of print but I believe it is available in print-on-demand format.]

2. The Problem of “Freedom”

So what next? The contradiction between revamped American plans for the extension of a new imperial order, and the struggles for national independence breaking out across Africa and Asia, to be resolved. American and British policy planners recognized the need to subvert the process of decolonization, to sustain control. D. K. Fieldhouse, Professor Emeritus in Imperial History at Oxford University, notes that the economic dependence of the colonies was “the intended result of decolonialism.” [D. K. Fieldhouse, Black Africa 1945-80: Economic Decolonization and Arrested Development, (London: Allen & Unwin, 1986), p. 5]

Similarly, Robert Winks, Randolph W. Townsend Professor of History and chair of the Department of History at Yale University, explains that “the imperial nation controlled the process [of decolonization] to the end.” [Robin W. Winks, ‘On Decolonization and Informal Empire’, American Historical Review (Vol. 18, No. 3, June 1976), p. 540-42]

Part of the plan to subvert decolonization was implemented through direct force. Since 1945, the United States, with routine support from Britain, has conducted military interventions into more than 70 nations in the South. Many of these were conducted in the context of the Cold War, supposedly to fight off the Soviet Union, which, we were told, was intent on imminent invasion of Western Europe and possibly even the American mainland.

But in truth, the vast majority of interventions conducted had nothing to do with the Soviet Union, but were indeed fought to put down nationalist independence movements across the Third World. The paranoia and fear over the USSR allowed Western policymakers to label anything that threatened Western domination as Communist. According to former State Department official Richard J Barnet:

“Even the word ‘communist’ has been applied so liberally and so loosely to revolutionary or radical regimes that any government risks being so characterised if it adopts one or more of the following policies which the State Department finds distasteful: nationalization of private industry, particularly foreign-owned corporations, radical land reform, autarchic trade policies, acceptance of Soviet or Chinese aid, insistence upon following an anti-American or non-aligned foreign policy, among others.” [Intervention and Revolution: The United States in the Third World (1968)]

3. 1945-1990: Third World Holocaust?

The scale of the death toll from these interventions is staggering. William Blum, another ex-State Department official, describes the vast loss of life resulting from post-1945 military interventionism in the Third World as a full-scale “American holocaust.” [Killing Hope: CIA and US Military Interventions Since World War II (London: Zed, 2003)]

How many innocent civilians died as a consequence of these military interventions? A detailed break-down of figures can be found in Unpeople (Random House), by the British historian Mark Curtis, a former research fellow at the Royal Institute for International Affairs. Curtis’ conservative calculations confirm that Britain has been complicit in the deaths of over 10 million “unpeople”, expendable people from far-off foreign lands whose lives are worthless compared to the significance of a specific set of overriding strategic and economic interests.

Here’s another overall estimate from the American development expert, Dr J. W. Smith, director of the Institute for Economic Democracy in Arizona:

“No society will tolerate it if they knew that they... were responsible for violently killing 12 to 15 million people since WW II and causing the death of hundreds of millions more as their economies were destroyed or those countries were denied the right to restructure to care for their people. Unknown as it is, and recognizing that this has been standard practice throughout colonialism, that is the record of the Western imperial centers of capital from 1945 to 1990.” [J. W. Smith, Economic Democracy: The Political Struggle of the 21st Century (Arizona: Institute for Economic Democracy, 2003)]

Dr. Smith’s figures, it should be noted, point not only to a core of up to 15 million deaths directly due to Western military interventions, but a further unknown 100 million plus who died as an indirect consequence of the destruction and reconfiguration of peripheral economies.

We do not recognize the post-war period as a “holocaust.” But it was only a few years after the appalling genocide against the Jews was revealed to the world that the dictum “never again” was forgotten, a pointless platitude by which to ignore the pleas of millions. The reasons we do not recognize this period as a “holocaust” are several. Firstly, our political culture does not really acknowledge the scale of the interventions that our military intelligence services conducted across the South. Secondly, consequently, such figures are totally unheard of. Thirdly, our political culture is not equipped to comprehend these 70 plus military interventions as manifestations of a single expanding system. Rather, we are accustomed to thinking about our history, about these events, about politics, in a fragmented and disjointed manner. Yet it is precisely this political culture that means that our history, perhaps even our historical complicity in this “hidden holocaust”, remains invisible to the majority of citizens.

4. Covering Iraq

The same political culture that mystifies and obscures the systematization and globalization of genocidal violence in the emergence, expansion and consolidation of the modern world system -- not only since 1492, but even continuing past 1945 until now -- means that even current events are difficult for us to truly assimilate and understand. This is particularly true of our involvement in Iraq. A fragmented and disjointed method of analysis ingrained in our political culture, incapable of serious or sustained self-critique and self-reflection, prevents us from envisioning the Iraq Holocaust as it truly is.

For the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq was by no means the beginning of the Anglo-American imperial turn. Western pundits, politicians and political analysts routinely debate the emergence of a new form of American empire after 9/11, particularly in relation to Iraq. On the contrary, the 2003 Iraq War constituted merely a new phase in a series of prolonged regional interventions from which the 2003 trajectory of Anglo-American power cannot be abstracted if it is to be fully understood.

A broader historical perspective permits us to conceive the 2003 Iraq War as only the end-point of a continuum of genocidal catastrophe wrought by British interventionism, beginning early in the twentieth century. The British state has conducted military interventions in Iraq on and off for 90 years or so, continuing to do so under the leadership of the United States since 1991. With this in mind, we will begin by reviewing Western engagement with Iraq as a continuous historical process consisting of considerable instances of systematic imperial violence, which frequently included episodes that some scholars consider to be genocidal. While not attempting to actually resolve the questions here, if this argument is accurate in highlighting 1) the continuity of imperial relations between the early twentieth and twenty-first centuries 2) the potentially genocidal impact of Anglo-American military and social policies in Iraq; then we have established the case for a fundamental re-think of our understanding of contemporary international relations in the context of a renewed exploration of the history and theory of imperialism and genocide.

5. Iraq Holocaust: Phase 1 – The “Arab Façade”

Shortly after the First World War, a number of European powers including England turned their eyes toward the Middle East, with a view to weaken the regional hegemony of Ottoman Turkey, the Muslim caliphate for four centuries. The region encompassed by the Ottoman caliphate included the areas of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan and much of Saudi Arabia. Amidst a plethora of ethnic, linguistic, cultural and even religious differences, Islam provided the basis of political unity sustaining the caliphate. [Aburish, Said K., A Brutal Friendship: The West and the Arab Elite, Indigo, London, 1998] The Ottomans were hardly saints, and had their own fair share of violence and repression. Among other things, they were complicit in the 1915-17 Armenian Genocide.

Yet that doesn't absolve the British for what they planned and did in the Middle East, which has now amounted to the continuation of relations of violence and even genocide. British officers in the Arab Bureau in Cairo improvised plans to sponsor local uprisings. According to Sir Arthur Hirtzel of the India Office, British aims were explicitly to divide, and thus weaken, the Arabs, not unify them. Despite public overtures of support for Arab unity and independence, the British secretly signed the 1916 Sykes-Pikot Agreement with France, which made official the task of controlling Middle East oil by exploiting internal divisions. Under the Agreement, Iraq was to be carved-up between France and Britain. Thus, Britain invaded southern Iraq as soon as war with the Ottomans had been declared, taking Baghdad in 1917, and Mosul in November 1918. Iraq was not the only innovation. British, French, American and other European manoeuvres saw the creation of twelve new fictional Middle East nation-states from the ashes of the Ottoman empire. The contents of the Sykes-Pikot agreement were revealed in 1921 when the Bolsheviks retrieved a copy. Oil was, of course, a major factor in its formulation, as was officially recognised in the 1920 San Remo Treaty, and in the illegal 1928 Red Line Agreement, involving the British and French sharing of the oil wealth of former Turkish territories originally under Ottoman rule. Here, percentages of future oil production were allocated to British, French and American oil companies. [Aburish, ibid.]

In the aftermath of the war, what remained of the Ottoman empire was divided among the colonial powers in the mandate system established under the League of Nations, by which formerly Ottoman territories were to be governed by the European powers to guide them toward self-government. Britain managed to obtain the mandate for Iraq, even threatening war to keep the oil-rich Mosul province in the country. The announcement of British mandate rule in Iraq in 1920 led to widespread indigenous revolts, which were ruthlessly suppressed by British forces. That year, then Secretary of State for War and Air, Winston Churchill, proposed that Mesopotamia “could be cheaply policed by aircraft armed with gas bombs, supported by as few as 4,000 British and 10,000 Indian troops.” His proposal was formally adopted the next year at the Cairo conference, and Iraqi villages were bombed from the air. [Edward Greer, ‘The Hidden History of the Iraq War,’ Monthly Review, May 1991]

Subsequently, emir Faysal I - who belonged to the Hashemite family of Mecca – was appointed by the British High Commissioner as the King of Iraq. Faysal immediately signed a treaty of alliance with Britain that virtually re-instated the British mandate. To counter the widespread nationalist protests to this continuation of colonial rule by proxy, the British High Commissioner forcefully deported nationalist leaders, while establishing an Iraqi constitution granting King Faysal dictatorial powers over the Iraqi parliament. Iraqi popular unrest, however, was intolerable enough to make this state of affairs increasingly unsustainable, forcing Britain to grant Iraq formal independence in 1932 as part of the process of decolonisation. The gesture, however, was only token. Britain had already signed a new treaty with Iraq establishing a “close alliance” between the two countries and a “common defence position.” With King Faysal still in charge and British bases remaining in Basra and west of the Euphrates, British rule was rehabilitated in an indirect form. When elements of the Iraqi army and political parties toppled King Faysal in 1941, Britain invaded and occupied Iraq again to re-install him.

This policy in Iraq -- which included both the colonial phase of direct rule and the transition to effective indirect rule under decolonisation -- was candidly described by Lord George Curzon, then British Foreign Secretary, who noted that what the UK and other Western powers desired in the Middle East was an:

“Arab facade ruled and administered under British guidance and controlled by a native Mohammedan and, as far as possible, by an Arab staff.... There should be no actual incorporation of the conquered territory in the dominions of the conqueror, but the absorption may be veiled by such constitutional fictions as a protectorate, a sphere of influence, a buffer state and so on.” [William Stivers, Supremacy and Oil: Iraq, Turkey, and the Anglo-American World Order, 1918-1930, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1982, p. 28, 34]

Lord Curzon had defined in explicit terms the regional framework of political order as a network of surrogate client-regimes. Hence, in attempting to ensure that these client-regimes remain fundamentally compliant with the overall parameters of “British guidance”, regional policy was designed to sustain their internal stability at all costs. As the global hegemony of the British empire faded, virtually eclipsed after the Second World War by the United States, the same policy was pursued. As one US State Department official stated in 1958:

“Western efforts should be directed at… the gradual development and modernisation of the Persian Gulf shaikhdoms without imperiling internal stability or the fundamental authority of the ruling groups.”

And similarly, the US National Security Council noted in 1958:

“Our economic and cultural interests in the area have led not unnaturally to close US relations with elements in the Arab world whose primary interest lies in the maintenance of relations with the West and the status quo in their countries.” [Mark Curtis, The Great Deception, (London: Pluto) p. 147, 127] Yet a further secret British document from the same year concurs, detailing other relevant strategic considerations:

“The major British and other Western interests in the Persian Gulf [are] (a) to ensure free access for Britain and other Western countries to oil produced in States bordering the Gulf; (b) to ensure the continued availability of that oil on favourable terms and for surplus revenues of Kuwait; (c) to bar the spread of Communism and pseudo-Communism in the area and subsequently to defend the area against the brand of Arab nationalism.” [File FO 371/132 779. ‘Future Policy in the Persian Gulf’, 15 January 1958, FO 371/132 778. Cited in Nafeez Ahmed, Behind the War on Terror: Western Secret Strategy and the Struggle for Iraq (New Society/Clairview, 2003)]

6. Iraq Holocaust: Phase 2 – Our “Policeman”

The period after the Second World War saw renewed imperial overtures from both Britain and the United States to regain hegemony over Iraq. After taking power in 1958, Iraqi president Abdul Qarim Qassem was tolerated by the Eisenhower administration as a counter to the pan-Arab nationalist aspirations of Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt. [Roger Morris, ‘A Tyrant 40 Years in the Making,’ New York Times, 14 March 2003] But by 1961, he challenged US-led Western interests again by nationalising part of the concession of the British-controlled Iraq Petroleum company. He also declared that Iraq had a legitimate historical claim to the oil-rich Western client regime Kuwait. [Aburish, op. cit.]

He thus became “regarded by Washington as a dangerous leader who must be removed.” Consequently, plans were laid to overthrow him enlisting the assistance of Iraqi elements hostile to Kassim’s administration, with the CIA at the helm.” In Cairo, Damascus, Tehran and Baghdad, American agents marshalled opponents of the Iraqi regime,” notes the NY Times. “Washington set up a base of operations in Kuwait, intercepting Iraqi communications and radioing orders to rebels. The United States armed Kurdish insurgents.” Former Ba’athist leader Hani Fkaiki has confirmed that Saddam Hussein – then a 25-year-old who had fled to Cairo after attempting to assassinate Kassim in 1958 – was colluding with the CIA at this time. [Aburish, op. cit.]

Aburish collects together official documents and testimony showing that the CIA had even supplied the lists of people to be eliminated once power was secured. Approximately 5,000 people were killed in the 1963 coup, including doctors, teachers, lawyers, and professors, resulting in the decimation of much of the country’s educated class. Iraqi exiles such as Saddam assisted in the compilation of the lists in CIA stations throughout the Middle East. The longest list, however, was produced by an American intelligence agent, William McHale. None were spared from the subsequent butchery, including pregnant women and elderly men. Some were tortured in front of their children. Saddam himself “had rushed back to Iraq from exile in Cairo to join the victors [and] was personally involved in the torture of leftists in the separate detention centres for fellaheen [peasants] and the Muthaqafeen or educated classes.” [Aburish, op. cit.]

US intelligence was integrally involved in planning the details of the operation. According to the CIA’s royal collaborator: “Many meetings were held between the Ba’ath party and American intelligence - the most critical ones in Kuwait.” Although Saddam’s Ba’ath party was then only a minor nationalist movement, the party was chosen by the CIA due to the group’s close relations with the Iraqi army. Aburish reports that the Ba’ath party leaders had agreed to “undertake a cleansing programme to get rid of the communists and their leftist allies” in return for CIA support. He cites one Ba’ath party leader, Hani Fkaiki, confessing that the principal orchestrator of the coup was William Lakeland, the US assistant military attache in Baghdad. [Aburish, op. cit.]

In 1968, another coup granted Ba’athist general Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr control of Iraq, bringing to the threshold of power his kinsman, Saddam Hussein. The violent coup was also supported by the CIA. Roger Morris, formerly of the US National Security Council under Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon in the late 1960s, recalls that he had “often heard CIA officers — including Archibald Roosevelt, grandson of Theodore Roosevelt and a ranking CIA official for the Near East and Africa at the time — speak openly about their close relations with the Iraqi Baathists.” [Morris] Thus, two gruesome CIA military coups brought the genocidal Ba’ath party, and with it Saddam Hussein, to power, in order to protect US strategic and economic interests.

Gideon Polya, a retired senior biochemist at Le Trobe University working on a scientific analysis of global mortality, has put together a staggering overview of some of most reliable estimates of the number of Iraqi civilians who have died as a consequence of the direct and indirect impact of these Anglo-American interventions and occupations. Using United Nations data and the concept of “excess mortality” – “the difference between actual deaths in a country and the deaths expected for a peaceful, decently run country with the same demographics” -- Polya calculates that since 1950, 5.2 million Iraqis died during the period in which the CIA and MI6 were fostering coups, installing and re-installing dictators, until Saddam himself obtained power [Gideon Polya, “Iraq Death Toll Amounts to a Holocaust”, Australasian Science (June 2004, p. 43); Polya, Body Count: Global avoidable mortality since 1950 (Melbourne: LaTrobe, 2007)]

Western sponsorship of Saddam Hussein, now well-documented, continued through to the eve of the 1991 Gulf War. During that period, funds and technologies supplied by the US, Britain, France, to name only three major powers, served to support Saddam during his war with Iran (1980-88) -- killing 1.7 million people on both sides; and his internal repression such as the genocidal Anfal campaign (1987-89) against the Kurds -- killing 100,000 people including the gassing of 5,000 at the village of Halabja in 1988. Although the US Senate passed a bill to impose sanctions on Iraq for the Anfal atrocities, the Reagan administration pressured the House of Representatives to block the bill. In 1989, a year after the attacks, the US government doubled its annual Commodity Credit Corporation aid to Saddam to more than US$1 billion. A declassified National Security directive issued by then President Bush Snr. in October that year prioritised the provision of funds and technology to Saddam’s regime, describing it as the “West’s policeman in the region.” The international community, in other words, under US leadership, was complicit in Saddam’s acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing [Anthony Burke, “Iraq: Strategy’s Burnt Offering”, Global Change, Peace & Security (June 2005, Vol 17, No 2) p. 206; Curtis, p. 129]

7. Iraq Holocaust: Phase 3 – “Paying the Price”

Finally, of course, we have the scale of deaths resulting from direct Western interventions in the post-1991 period until today. According to a demographic study by Beth Daponte, formerly of the US Commerce Department’s Census Bureau of Foreign Countries, Iraqi deaths due to the 1991 Gulf War totalled 205,500. Out of these, 148,000 civilians were killed as a direct or indirect consequence of the war, including due to adverse health effects resulting from the destruction of Iraq’s infrastructure during the Allied bombing campaign. [Beth Osborne Daponte, “A Case Study in Estimating Casualties from War and its Aftermath: The 1991 Persian Gulf War” Physicians for Social Responsibility Quarterly (1993)]

1991 is also the year in which the Allies imposed via the United Nations comprehensive economic sanctions on Iraq, purportedly to prevent Saddam’s access to weapons of mass destruction, but which tended to entrench the power of his regime while fatally depriving the Iraqi people of essential items to survive. Thus, from 1991 to 2002 under the Anglo-American imposed UN sanctions regime, UN data confirms a death toll of 1.7 million Iraqi civilians, half of whom were children. In fact, officials had occasionally acknowledged that the Iraqi population was the primary target of the sanctions regime, a means of waging protracted war on Saddam. “Iraqis will pay the price while [Saddam] is in power”, warned Robert Gates, then presidential national security adviser and current Defense Secretary [Nafeez Ahmed, Behind the War on Terror: Western Secret Strategy and the Struggle for Iraq (New Society/Clairview, 2003)]

Arguments that the UN sanctions regime constituted a form of genocide are supported by multiple United Nations officials who were directly involved in the administration of the regime, such as Dennis Halliday, former UN Assistant Secretary-General; and Hans von Sponeck, former UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq. Generally, the argument has pointed not only at the immense scale, in terms of numbers of people who have died due to the sanctions, but has also highlighted direct evidence of Western intent at senior levels, by proving that officials responsible for sanctions policies were fully cognizant of their impact in the deaths of Iraqi civilians [George E. Bisharat, “Sanctions as Genocide,” Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems (2001, Vol. 11, No. 2) pp. 379-425; Thomas Nagy, “The Role of ‘Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities’ in Halting One Genocide and Preventing Others”, Association of Genocide Scholars (University of Minnesota, 12 July 2001)

8. Iraq Holocaust: Phase 4 – Exporting Democracy

Then we have the death toll of Iraqi civilians in the 2003 Gulf War. Of the several credible academic studies of civilian deaths in Iraq in the post-2003 invasion period, the most rigorous was the epidemiological study, published in Lancet, by John Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, which estimated 655,000 excess Iraqi civilian deaths due to the war. Although the study employed standard statistical methods widely used in the scientific community, critics argued that the numbers of bodies being discovered did not match Lancet figures, which were more than 5 times greater than the Iraqi health ministry’s figures. Yet even the Ministry of Defence’s chief scientific adviser described the survey’s methods as “close to best practice” and its results “robust”, advising ministers not to criticise the study in public. [Paul Reynolds, “Huge gaps between Iraq death estimates”, BBC News (20 October 2006) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/6045112.stm; Owen Bennett-Jones, “Iraqi deaths survey ‘was robust’” BBC News (26 March 2007) http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6495753.stm].

Indeed, Lancet’s figures could be empirically verified if journalists visited several locations at random in Iraq and discovered local reports of 4 or 5 times more deaths. This is exactly what was subsequently done by the British polling agency, Opinion Business Research (ORB), which has tracked public opinion in Iraq since 2005. Working with an Iraqi fieldwork agency, ORB conducted face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,720 adults aged 18 plus. Interviewees were asked how many members of their household had died as a result of the Iraq conflict since 2003. The ORB poll found that 1.2 million Iraqi civilians had been murdered since the invasion. [Tina Susman, “Poll: Civilian Death Toll in Iraq May Top 1 Million”, Los Angeles Times (14 September 2007)]

These are staggering figures. They suggest that since 1991, the total civilian death toll in Iraq as a consequence of Anglo-American invasions, socio-economic deprivation and occupation amount to a total of 3 million.

The ORB findings tally with those of the John Hopkins team, whose data-set, according to independent experts such as Australia biochemist Dr. Gideon Polya, calculated for a year later confirms at least one million post-2003 Iraqi deaths due to the war.

9. Conclusions

The “hidden holocaust in history” thus continues now. It erupts directly from the unjust political and economic structure of the global system, and intensifies against target populations in the process of the system’s attempts to expand and consolidate its interests and activities, to eliminate resistance to its rule.

Hand on his heart, Tony Blair told the world before his resignation that he “believed” what he did in Iraq was “right”. No doubt, so did Hitler with regard to his exterminatory campaigns in Europe.

We may well believe that what the Anglo-American centres of imperial power are doing in Iraq is right. But the truth is that some of the worst crimes in history were committed by people who truly believed that what they were doing was right. If we have any semblance of humanity left in us as we stand and stare pathetically, immobile, at the scale of the horror our governments have wrought, then our most urgent task must be to discover why our global system, as it has expanded not only during the era of traditional modern “colonization” but even moreso in the era of postmodern “globalization”, systematically generates genocidal violence against hundreds of millions of people across the South; and systematically finds ways to legitimize this violence as normal, functional, necessary… for us to live, breathe and prosper.

25 November 2007

The Hidden Holocaust--Our Civilizational Crisis Part 1: The Holocaust in History

1. “Hidden Holocaust”

As we are all aware, the term “Holocaust” is traditionally used to refer to the “systematic, bureaucratic state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime”, during the Second World War. The word “Holocaust” is a Greek word, which means “sacrifice by fire.” It conveys an event, the scale and horror of which, transformed the course of world history. Moreover, it’s often seen as a crime against humanity that is unparalleled and unique.

This, we cannot dispute. The Nazi Holocaust was, indeed, a uniquely horrific genocide, whose enormity and systematic character is barely imaginable, designed to exterminate wholly the Jewish people, physically, socially, culturally, from the face of the Earth.

But what then, do we mean by a “hidden holocaust”? This term conveys the reality of a campaign of global homicide, murder, whose scale and enormity is such that one feels that the word “holocaust” does, certainly loosely speaking, apply. It is “hidden”, in the sense that, although experienced by millions of people around the world both historically and today, it remains invisible, officially unacknowledged.

This “hidden holocaust”, is escalating, accelerating, intensifying; according to all expert projections from the social and physical sciences, it may culminate in the extinction of the human species, unless we take immediate drastic action, now.

2. “Civilizational Crisis”

We often hear the word “civilization”. It’s often been used to explain the dynamics of the “War on Terror”, as a clash between two civilizations, the advanced, developed and progressive civilization of the West, and the backward, reactionary civilization of Islam.

As is well known, the man who first formulated this idea as an academic theory of international relations was the Harvard professor and US government adviser, Samuel Huntington.

In early 2007, then Prime Minister Tony Blair described the War on Terror as “a clash not between civilizations”, but rather “about civilization.” The War on Terror is, he proclaimed, a continuation of “the age-old battle between progress and reaction, between those who embrace the modern world and those who reject its existence.” [“A Battle for Global Values”, Foreign Affairs (January/February 2007) http://www.foreignaffairs.org/20070101faessay86106/tony-blair/a-battle-for-global-values.html]

But the “hidden holocaust” is not an aberration from our advanced civilization that represents the peak of human development, requiring only some reforms. Rather, the “hidden holocaust” is integral to the very structure, values and activities of our civilization. It is part and parcel of the “global values” of the international political and economic order that underpins industrial civilization. And unless we attempt to transform the nature of our civilization, we will all perish in a holocaust of our own making.

3. The Conception of Civilization: Immaculate or Genocidal?

The hidden holocaust associated with our modern civilization, began at the beginning of modern civilization itself.

The origins of modern civilization can be found partly in the pivotal voyages for European colonial expansion and trade from the 15th century to the 19th centuries. Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, English and other explorers ventured out from their home countries in search of new wealth and new land in all corners of the globe. They went to the continents of America, Africa and Asia and set up colonies and trading outposts.

Colonists and settlers had all sorts of intentions. Some of them had capital, and were simply looking for new investment opportunities. Others were trying to escape lives of hardship at home to make new lives for themselves with a fresh start by settling in the colonies. Others wanted to deliver the message of Christianity to native populations. Almost all of them saw themselves as part of the inevitable historical momentum of progress, bringing the fruits of European civilization to backward peoples.

Whatever the intentions, European expansion involved massive, systematic violence. Violence of all kinds. Wholesale massacres, forced labour camps, disease, malnutrition due to the imposed conditions of economic deprivation, mass suicides due to depression and cultural alienation. As Irving Louis Horowitz argues, for example, “the conduct of classic colonialism was invariably linked with genocide.” [Genocide: State Power and Mass Murder, (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1976), p. 19-20.] Below we review some salient examples.

4. American Holocaust

Starting from 1492, when Christopher Columbus is said to have discovered the Americas, the deadly conquest commenced. The complex civilizations of native Americans, over the next few centuries, were devastated. British historian Mark Cocker has reviewed reliable estimates of the death toll:

“[E]leven million indigenous Americans lost their lives in the eighty years following the Spanish invasion of Mexico. In the Andean Empire of the Incas the figure was more than eight million. In Brazil, the Portuguese conquest saw Indian numbers dwindle from a pre-Columbian total of almost 2,500,000 to just 225,000. And to the north of Mexico… Native Americans declined from an original population of more than 800,000 by the end of the nineteenth century. For the whole of the Americas some historians have put the total losses as high as one hundred million.” [Mark Cocker, Rivers of Blood, Rivers of Gold: Europe’s Conquest of Indigenous Peoples (New York: Grove Press, 1998), p. 5]

Although the majority of these deaths occurred due to the impact of European diseases, disease alone does not explain the variations of death toll rates in different parts of the Americas. The key factors in which diseases operated were ultimately the kinds of repressive colonial social formations imposed on natives by European invaders, consisting of different matrices of forced labour regimes in mines and plantations, mass enslavement for personal domestic use of colonists, religious and cultural dislocation, and so on.

As David Stannard concludes in his extensive study of the genocide, which he describes as an “American Holocaust”, these factors accelerated and intensified the mere impact of disease. He further describes the colonists’ strategic thinking:

“At the dawn of the fifteenth century, Spanish conquistadors and priests presented the Indians they encountered with a choice: either give up your religion and culture and land and independence, swearing allegiance ‘as vassals’ to the Catholic Church and the Spanish Crown, or suffer ‘all the mischief and damage’ that the European invaders choose to inflict upon you.” [David Stannard, American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 255]

This binary choice, put to the Native Americans five centuries ago, bears an unnerving resemblance to the rhetoric underpinning the “War on Terror” today, “you are either with us or against us.”

5. African Holocaust

In Africa, the slave trade contributed substantially to the protracted deaths of vast numbers of people. While slave structures had already existed locally, it certainly did not exist on the vast scale it adopted in the course of European interventions. English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Danes, and Portuguese slave-traders started out by raiding villages off the West African coast. The transatlantic slave trade, lasting from the 1450s to the 1860s, consisted of “a series of exchanges of captives reaching from the interior of sub-Saharan Africa to final purchasers in the Americas.” An observer at the time, British journalist Edward Morel wrote: “For a hundred years slaves in Barbados were mutilated, tortured, gibbeted alive and left to starve to death, burnt alive, flung into coppers of boiling sugar, whipped to death.” [The Black Man’s Burden: The White Man in Africa from the Fifteenth Century to World War I (New York: Modern Reader, 1969)]

From the 16th to 19th centuries, the total death toll among African slaves being in transhipment to America alone was as high as 2 million. Although the many millions who died “in capture and in transit to the Orient or Middle East” is unknown, among the slaves “kept in Africa some 4,000,000 may have died.” Overall, in five centuries between nearly 17,000,000 - and by some calculations perhaps over 65,000,000 - Africans were killed in the transatlantic slave trade. [R. J. Rummel, Death by Government (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1994)].

University of Essex sociologist Robin Blackburn has demonstrated convincingly the centrality of capitalism to the growth of new world slavery, arguing that the profits of slavery accumulated in the “triangular trade” between Europe, Africa and America contributed fundamentally to Britain’s industrialization. For instance, the profits from triangular trade for 1770 would have provided from 20.9 to 55 per cent of Britain’s gross fixed capital formation. [Robin Blackburn, The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern, 1492-1800 (London: Verso), p. 572.] The question of capital formation, however, is only part of the story. The trans-atlantic slave trade was an indispensable motor in an emerging capitalist world system under the mantle of the British empire. The mechanization of cotton textiles, originally produced in American plantations manned by African slaves, was overwhelmingly the driving force in British industrialization. [CK Harley and NFR Crafts, “Cotton Textiles and Industrial Output Growth”, Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (1994, no. 420)]

6. Indian Holocaust

In his landmark study, Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World (London: Verso, 2001), historian Mike Davis shows how British imperial policy systematically converted droughts in South Asia and South Africa into foreseeable but preventable deadly famines.

In India, between 5.5 and 12 million people died in an artificially-induced famine, although millions of tonnes of grains were in commercial circulation. Rice and wheat production had been above average for the previous three years, but most of the surplus had been exported to England. “Londoners were in effect eating India’s bread.” Under “free market” rules, between 1877 and 1878, grain merchants exported a record 6.4 million hundredweight of wheat to Europe while millions of Indian poor starved to death.

Crucially, Davis argues that these people died “not outside the modern world system, but in the very process of being forcibly incorporated into its economic and political structures. They died in the golden age of liberal capitalism; many were murdered by the application of utilitarian free trade principles.”

7. Division of the World

This violence was, therefore, not merely accidental to the European imperial project. It was integral, systematic, as a solution to the problem of native resistance.

Between about 1870 and 1914, European imperial policies received a new lease of life, resulting in the intense scramble for control over eastern Asian and African territories. Almost the entire world was divided up under the formal or informal political rule of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, the USA, and Japan. Between themselves, in Africa for instance they acquired 30 new colonies and 110 million subjects. African resistance was brutally crushed. Consider, for example, the 1904 uprising of the Hereros, a tribe in southwest Africa, against German occupation. The German response was to drive all 24,000 of them into the desert to starve to death; others who surrendered were worked to death in forced labour camps. [Thomas Pakenham, The Scramble for Africa: White Man’s Conquest of the Dark Continent, 1876-1912 (London: Random House, 1991).]

During this period, we can already see drastic inequalities in the international system. By 1880, the per capita income in the developed countries was approximately double that of the ‘Third World’. By 1913, it was three times higher, and by 1950, five times higher. Similarly, the per capita share of GNP in the industrialized countries of the developed core was in 1830 already twice that of the Third World, becoming seven times as high by 1913. [E. J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire, 1875-1914 (London: Abacus, 1987), p. 15]

In summary, for five hundred years, hundreds of millions of indigenous peoples were slaughtered, decimated, deported, enslaved, starved, exterminated, impoverished, and forcibly assimilated into an emerging world system dominated by Western Europe. This was how the global values and politico-economic structures of our civilization came into being. Globalization... the bloody legacy of a 500-year killing machine.

Part 2. Coming soon...

4 November 2007

More pontification, more propaganda on Iraq: Notes on John Ware's BBC Iraq fiasco

Dissecting the disinformation on Western secret strategy in the new Middle East wars

[Sorry for the absurd delay in posting. Finally managed to get round to do this, and hopefully will have some more material soon]

Weary of Ware’s wares

Watching journalist John Ware’s two-part BBC television documentary aired on Sunday and Monday, 28th and 29th October 2007, “No plan, no peace in Iraq”, one came away with the impression that the entire invasion and occupation of Iraq was nothing more than one incredibly inept debacle after another. Stupidity, incompetence, and arrogance are about the only factors that explain the overwhelming reality of Anglo-American role in Iraq by Ware’s depiction: total and utter mismanagement.

Enforced by the spate of testimonials from British military leaders, such as retired General Sir Mike Jackson, or Major General Tim Cross, this has now become the standard conventional critique of our role in Iraq. John Ware’s ruminations and interviews fleshed out the contours of this critique, which has been so entrenched in mainstream discourse that it sorely requires a systematic counter-critique. Hence, John Ware’s BBC programme on Iraq offers an ideal opportunity to do this.

Writing on the BBC News website, Ware explained that:

“… it’s now clear that Mr Blair knew before the invasion that America’s planning for post-war recovery was woefully inadequate - and so was Britain’s. There was no properly worked-out strategy for the key longer term objective of transforming it into a stable, prosperous nation that the Blair-Bush vision held out.” [John Ware, “No Peace, No Plan in Iraq”, BBC News (27 October 2007)]

He goes on to blame “the rush to war” and “the blur of ideology” for the apparent lack of postwar planning. Ware takes it as given that “the Bush-Blair vision” for postwar Iraq was indeed to build a stable, prosperous democratic nation. Having accepted this as his starting assumption, all and any evidence that what happened in Iraq departed from this vision becomes obvious evidence, for Ware, of how incompetent and bumbling the Americans and British were in failing to plan properly for how to effect this noble vision. Although officials across the Atlantic are eager to blame the other side, he concludes that they’re both at fault:

“The truth is both governments got just about everything wrong in their assumptions as to what would follow the fall of Saddam. ... The evidence suggests that in the rush to war, planning for what came afterwards was not a first order priority in either Washington - or London.” [Ware, “UK and US Play Iraq 'Blame Game'” BBC News (29 October 2007)]

Ineptitude, lack of foresight and mismanagement no doubt played a role. Ware would have us believe they played the only role. Seemingly critical of Anglo-American policymaking, it’s important to note that Ware’s BBC investigation rarely attempts to actually subject any of the individuals he interviews to meaningful scrutiny. The entire programme assumes that Anglo-American objectives in Iraq were, and are, fundamentally to create a stable, democratic country; that officials were genuine and sincere in their intentions, but were so pre-occupied by rushing to war and some unspecified “ideology”, that they simply “recklessly” failed to plan properly. This failure then, while worthy of harsh criticism, was still a matter of sheer stupidity on the part of our governments.

The outcome of Ware’s analysis is, in many ways, one of moral relief. We’re able to feel satisfied that whatever horrendous disasters and loss of life have occurred in Iraq, it was all the result of unfortunate miscalculations and lack of foresight; nothing to do with our politico-economic institutions, nothing to do with actual government planning, but rather simply to do with lack of such planning.

The implication is obvious. The Americans and British, bearing the heavy (white man’s?) burden of responsibility for Iraq – having now occupied the beleaguered nation for the last 4 years – have a moral responsibility to rectify the unfortunate consequences, all totally regretful, of our governmental recklessness. Although Ware doesn’t spell it out, there is a solution logically implicit in his narrative: to have not less Anglo-American interventionism, by for instance withdrawing troops, but rather to have more and better full-on planning and involvement to ensure that Iraq returns to the course of stability, prosperity and democratization -- as undoubtedly originally intended.

In the ensuing discussion, we will discuss how badly John Ware’s BBC television project serves the public interest, by completely ignoring documented facts, all in the public record for the last few years. The result is a programme that is partial, inaccurate, and untruthful; rather like much of the official justifications for intervention and occupation. In preparing this response to Ware, and the trend of thinking he represents, I draw liberally from my book on the Iraq War, Behind the War on Terror: Western Secret Strategy and the Struggle for Iraq (Clairview, 2003), which critiques the record of Anglo-American intervention in the Middle East since the collapse of the Ottoman empire all the way up to the 2003 Iraq War. For some reason this book is not very well known, but it provides, if I do say so myself, the most comprehensive and properly documented treatment of the lead-up to the 2003 invasion so far.

The Bush-Blair Vision for Iraq and the Middle East

If we are to believe John Ware, the Anglo-American vision for Iraq was to develop a stable, prosperous and democratic nation. But it has long been clear that this was never the real agenda in Iraq. Ware avoids all mention of the abundance of evidence that shows, to the contrary, that the Bush-Blair vision for Iraq was part of a wider grand strategy of American expansionism in the Middle East, motivated by extremely dubious interests.

This was not a plan about Iraq. The Iraq War plan was only one stage in a wider strategy to re-configure and thereby dominate the entire Middle East. According to former CIA political analyst Kathleen Christison and former Director of the CIA’s Office of Regional and Political Analysis Bill Christison:

“… [T]wo strains of Jewish and Christian fundamentalism have dovetailed into an agenda for a vast imperial project to restructure the Middle East, all further reinforced by the happy coincidence of great oil resources up for grabs and a president and vice president heavily invested in oil. All of these factors -­ the dual loyalties of an extensive network of policymakers allied with Israel, the influence of a fanatical wing of Christian fundamentalists, and oil - probably factor in more or less equally to the administration’s calculations on the Palestinian-Israeli situation and on war with Iraq.” [Kathleen and Bill Christison, “The Bush Administration's Dual Loyalties: A Rose By Any Other Name,” Counterpunch (13 December 2003)]

Ware seems utterly oblivious to all this, and indeed to the fact that numerous American military intelligence experts have confirmed the role of the Iraq War as part of a wider regional strategy.
According to Vincent Cannistraro, former chief of counter-terrorism operations of the CIA: “Clearly Iraq is not the last phase of what the administration tends to do in the Middle East.”

Former State Department and CIA counter-terrorism expert Larry Johnson similarly agreed that: “The administration may be working on the theory that by taking care of a secondary target like Syria, you bring tremendous pressure on primary targets” such as Iran, which may force changes in behaviour “without resorting to force.” Johnson continues that “By rights [Iran] should be the next target.”

Former CIA official Robert Baer, who worked in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations for over two decades spending most of his career in the Middle East, further observed that the Bush administration wants “to divide up Syria, give part of Iraq to Turkey, overthrow the monarchy in Saudi Arabia, restore the Hashemites to the Hijaz,” a very center of Saudi Arabian culture. “The underlying motivation” for this “is Israel. They think the demographics are going badly for Israel, for the US.”

[CIA sources cited in Richard Sale and Nicholas M. Morris, “War talk sweeps city,” United Press International, 11 February 2003; reprinted in Washington Times, 12 February 2003, http://www.washtimes.com/upi-breaking/20030211-065953-3776r.htm/]

Democracy? Security? Naah, it’s Oil and Power, Stupid!

That democracy was far removed from the intentions of the war-planners is indisputable. John Ware echoes the government’s own justifications for the war in the form of Saddam himself. He points out that Tony Blair displayed a consistently unhealthy interest in trying to prove that Saddam was “uniquely evil”. The thrust of this, in hindsight, was clearly that Saddam was supposed to be a “uniquely evil” threat to both his own Iraqi people, as well as to the security of the international community. Thus, sincere concern for democracy and human rights meant that the Americans and British had to act against Saddam.

As Ware ought to know, this absurd story was refuted as long ago as one year before 9/11, four years before the Iraq invasion, by the notorious neo-conservative think-tank, Project for the New American Century (PNAC), whose sponsors were ranking members of the Bush administration at that time, including Vice-President Dick Cheney; I. Lewis Libby, the Vice-President’s Chief of Staff; Elliott Abrams, Middle East director at the National Security Council; Zalmay Khalilzad, White House liaison to Iraqi opposition groups; Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Defense Secretary; John Bolton, Ambassador to the UN; and so on. In September 2000, PNAC published a document, Rebuilding America’s Defenses, which dismissed the relevance of Saddam’s tyrannical security threats to the need for military involvement in Iraq:

The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

So Saddam’s anti-democratic regime provided an immediate justification for a military intervention in Iraq that was motivated by other more transcendental issues. Issues like control of one of the world’s largest oil reserves. In 2001, a report on “energy security” - commissioned by Vice-President Dick Cheney and sponsored by two leading government-influenced U.S. think-tanks, the Council on Foreign Relations and the James Baker Institute for Public Policy, concluded ominously that: “The world, is currently precariously close to utilizing all of its available global oil production capacity.” The impending crisis is increasing “US and global vulnerability to disruption” and now leaves the US facing “unprecedented energy price volatility,” One of the key “consequences” of the fact that “the United States remains a prisoner of its energy dilemma” is the “need for military intervention.” The report thus recommends that energy and security policy be integrated to prevent “manipulations of markets by any state.”

The principal source of disruption to the existing energy system, the report concludes, lies in “Middle East tension”, due to which “chances are greater than at any point in the last two decades of an oil supply disruption.” The threat posed by Iraq is highlighted. In 2000, Iraq had “effectively become a swing producer, turning its taps on and off when it has felt such action was in its strategic interest to do so.” There is a “possibility that Saddam Hussein may remove Iraqi oil from the market for an extended period of time” in order to damage prices.

“Iraq remains a destabilising influence to... the flow of oil to international markets from the Middle East. Saddam Hussein has also demonstrated a willingness to threaten to use the oil weapon and to use his own export programme to manipulate oil markets.

“This would display his personal power, enhance his image as a pan-Arab leader... and pressure others for a lifting of economic sanctions against his regime. The United States should conduct an immediate policy review toward Iraq including military, energy, economic and political/diplomatic assessments.

“The United States should then develop an integrated strategy with key allies in Europe and Asia, and with key countries in the Middle East, to restate goals with respect to Iraqi policy and to restore a cohesive coalition of key allies.”

[Neil Mackay, “Official: U.S. oil at the heart of Iraq crisis,” Sunday Herald, 6 October 2002, http://www.sundayherald.com/print28285; Neil Mackay, “The West’s battle for oil,” Sunday Herald, http://www.sundayherald.com/28224. For full text see Report of an Independent Task Force, Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century, James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy / Council on Foreign Relations, April 2001, available online at the Baker Institute website, http://www.rice.edu/projects/baker/Pubs/workingpapers/cfrbipp_energy/energytf.htm]

In all of this general evidence of strategic planning behind the 2003 Iraq War, we find that there is no evidence whatsoever of concern for stability, prosperity and democracy in Iraq. What we do find is abundant evidence for an overarching concern with geostrategic ambitions rooted in a questionable neo-conservative ideology tied to the goals of sustaining US pre-eminence through both control of oil and manipulation of Israel.

It never occurs to Ware that stability, prosperity and democracy in Iraq were never factored into postwar planning in Iraq because the postwar planning was never intended to secure stability, prosperity or democracy. Contrary to Ware’s argument, backed up only by a list of illustrious looking talking heads, postwar planning in Iraq did exist, and it was concerned fundamentally with these other regional strategic, political and economic objectives; those objectives obliterated all other concerns, and this is precisely why Anglo-American leaders remained studiously uninterested in postwar planning for stability, prosperity and democracy.

Er, Lots of Plans, None Involving Peace, in Iraq

Let’s now examine John Ware’s overriding theme: There were no serious plans whatsoever for what would happen after the war. This has virtually become established dogma, particularly here in the UK; and the main basis of conventional "criticism" of the war.

All the evidence, Ware suggests, shows that the Americans wanted to conduct a quick operation permitting the immediate removal of US forces after the successful removal of Saddam. He reports that Donald Rumsfeld, “The hawkish defence secretary had required his generals to give America a ‘lite’ footprint - a small invasion force that could be rapidly withdrawn afterwards.” He also interviews Sir Christopher Meyer, then British Ambassador to Washington, who tells Ware that he warned Prime Minister Tony Blair that “there was a black hole in American planning for the aftermath.”

Ware even gets some American talking heads to confirm that any planning that was being done, was in fact not actual planning at all. Longstanding State Department planning, for instance, was “never intended as a post-war plan”, insisted Ryan Crocker, US Ambassador to Iraq. Based on Crocker’s opinion, Ware concludes that whatever the State Department planning was, it only amounted to “a series of expert study groups whose purpose was to engage Iraqi Americans in thinking about their country’s future.” This explains the failure to get off the ground serious reconstruction efforts to help the Iraqi people.

Hmmm. Not quite. Extensive evidence in the public record, evidence that Ware failed to acknowledge let alone address, shows that the Bush administration was indeed working on a very specific postwar plan for Iraq. Such as the State Department’s detailed “reconstruction” plan, designed to rob the country of its resources.

American investigative journalist Greg Palast, who has reported for BBC Newsnight, the Observer and the Guardian, obtained a State Department document, “Moving the Iraqi Economy from Recovery to Growth,” in February 2003. In 101-pages, the document detailed the Bush administration’s plans for a complete rewrite of Iraq’s “policies, laws and regulations”, based on low taxes on big business, and quick sales of Iraq’s banks and bridges, “all state enterprises” to foreign investors.

Among other things, the document stipulates that Iraq would have to “privatize” its “oil and supporting industries.” Annex D of the document set out, Palast reports, “a strict 360-day schedule for the free-market makeover of Iraq.” Under the tutelage of Paul Bremer, the Coalition Provisional Authority imposed in the aftermath of the invasion issued “exactly 100 orders that remade Iraq in the image of the Economy Plan.” Palast lists several major examples, but one is worth citing here by way of illustration:

“Order 12, ‘Trade Liberalization’, permitted the tax- and tariff-free import of foreign products. One big winner was Cargill, the world’s largest grain merchant, which flooded Iraq with hundreds of thousands of tons of wheat. For Iraqi farmers, already wounded by sanctions and war, this was devastating. They could not compete with the US and Australian surpluses dumped on them. But ‘the import plan’ carried out the letter of the Economy Plan.”

It is no surprise then that Palast quotes a disgruntled US government insider who worked on the State Department plan, noting that it conflicted fundamentally with real Iraqi democracy.

“They have [Deputy Defense Secretary Paul] Wolfowitz coming out saying it’s going to be a democratic country’ but we’re going to do something that 99 percent of the people of Iraq wouldn’t vote for.” [Greg Palast, "Adventure Capitalsism: the hidden 2001 plan to carve-up Iraq", 27 October 2004, http://www.gregpalast.com/adventure-capitalism-the-hidden-2001-plan-to-carve-up-iraq/]

From the very beginning, reports from high-level sources indicated that the Americans and British were not very interested in facilitating Iraqi democratization. They originally wanted a “regime change” that focused on the removal of Saddam himself and his top associates, without a fundamental restructuring of the regime itself. This had been the strategy as early as the 1991 Gulf War, during which Richard Haas, then Senior Director of Near East Affairs at the US National Security Council, confirmed that: “Our policy is to get rid of Saddam, not his regime.” Haas, of course later became Director of Policy Planning in the State Department under the administration of President George W Bush. [Andrew and Patrick Cockburn, Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein, HarperCollins, 1999, p. 37]

Daniel Neep - head of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies in London – reported in late 2002 on the postwar thinking going in Anglo-American policymaking circles:

"The ideal scenario is someone within Iraq, preferably within the army, killing Saddam and taking control. That would mean that entering Baghdad would not be necessary and would also solve the problem of who will govern once he has gone.”
[Observer, 17 November 2002, p. 20]

As the New York Times elaborated in late February 2003:

“... outraged Iraqi exiles report that there won’t be any equivalent of postwar de-Nazification, in which accomplices of the defeated regime were purged from public life… Instead the Bush administration intends to preserve most of the current regime: Saddam Hussein and a few top officials will be replaced with Americans, but the rest will stay. You don’t have to be an Iraq expert to realize that many very nasty people will therefore remain in power” [Paul
Krugman, “The Martial Plan,” New York Times, 21 February 2003, http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/21/opinion/21KRUG.html?ex=1046832072&ei=1&en=b9794179c1952ba0]

Independent correspondent Patrick Cockburn, Visiting Fellow at Washington DC’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), further commented that:

“Kurdish leaders who recently met American officials... are enraged by an American plan to occupy Iraq but largely retain the government in Baghdad. The only changes would be the replacement of President Saddam and his lieutenants with senior US military officers. It undercuts the argument by George Bush and Tony Blair that war is justified by the evil nature of the regime in Baghdad…” [Patrick Cockburn, “Kurdish leaders enraged by ‘undemocratic’ American plan to occupy Iraq,” The Independent, 17 February 2003, http://news.independent.co.uk/low_res/story.jsp?story=379060&host=3&dir=508]

Furthermore, superimposed over the entrenched Ba’athist military-political structure, the US had already been drawing up extensive plans to establish a colonial-style administration of direct control. The Independent in February 2003 described documents summarising the conclusions of 17 State Department working groups – the same groups that John Ware suggests were “never intended as a post-war plan” and only designed to help “Iraqi Americans” do some “thinking” about their country of origin.

That’s not how it was reported at the time, but Ware displays little interest in the boring details of recent history. “Britain and America have been working for months on detailed proposals on how to rebuild Iraq after President Saddam”, reported The Independent. “In the initial aftermath of any war, Iraq would be governed by a senior US military officer, probably General Tommy Franks, with a civilian administrator.” General Franks would be expected to “initially impose martial law,” while Iraqis would be relegated to the sidelines as “advisers” to the US administration. [Andrew Buncombe, “US sees ‘someone like Jimmy Carter’ to oversee administration after overthrow of Saddam,” The Independent, 13 February 2003]

And what of Ware’s reiteration of belated official claims that Dick Cheney only wanted a “small invasion force” that would be “rapidly withdrawn” after Saddam’s removal?

Again, this is just plain false. The Washington Post also reported on the postwar planning performed by the State Department, noting that the “blueprints for Iraq’s future… outline a broad and protracted American role in managing the reconstruction of the country.” Particularly, US forces are expected to control Iraq’s oil reserves, something that Ware obviously sees as bearing little relevance to understanding the occupation.

The [Bush] administration’s plans, which are nearing completion, envision installing a civilian administration within months of a change of government, US officials said. But the officials said that even under the best of circumstances, US forces likely would remain at full strength in Iraq for months after a war ended, with a continued role for thousands of US troops there for years to come... Among key roles for US forces would be the preservation of Iraq’s borders against any sudden claims by neighbours and the defence of the country’s oil fields.” [Washington Post, 17 January 2003]

Indeed, White House plans outlined in late February 2003 revealed that the US intended to take “complete control of post-Saddam Iraq ‘for an indefinite period.’” [Ian Bruce, “General Franks ‘to run Iraq after war,’” The Herald, 24 February 2002] So why does Ware, four years later, take seriously Bush administration officials claiming that the original idea all along was to deploy a small invasion force with a view to pull out almost immediately?

The Carve-Up Strategy

One doesn’t need to be a historian of empire to know that divide-and-rule is a rather standard strategy of imperial domination. It was deployed by the British, for example, to great effect in key colonies in North America and India against natives who, once divided along artificially exacerbated ethnic, religious and tribal classifications, were far easier to play off against one another, and thus control to the benefit of the colonial regime.

From the very beginning, American planners envisaged that in the long-term, Iraq would be divided up to facilitate the Anglo-American military occupation. Fragments of a plan to fracture Iraq along ethnic and religious lines to facilitate control of the oil reserves and allow population control emerged in September 2002.

Richard Perle, who then chaired the prominent Pentagon advisory group, the Defense Policy Board, issued a briefing for Pentagon officials that month. Ha’aretz reported from a “top official in the Israeli security services” that Perle:

“... showed two slides to the Pentagon officials. The first was a depiction of the three goals in the war on terror and the democratisation of the Middle East: Iraq – a tactical goal, Saudi Arabia – a strategic goal, and Egypt - the great prize. The triangle in the next slide was no less interesting: Palestine is Israel, Jordan is Palestine, and Iraq is the Hashemite Kingdom.”
[Akiva Eldar, Perles of wisdom for the Feithful, Ha’aretz,1 October
2002, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=214635]

This outrageous idea advocates a fundamental reconfiguration of power across the Middle East, with a number of highly dubious parameters, including a greatly expanded Israel fully encompassing the Occupied Territories; the expulsion of the Palestinians to Jordan; and the incorporation of the Sunni areas of Iraq with Jordan to form a wider pro-US Sunni Arab Hashemite Kingdom. How influential was this plan? Extremely.

According to the private American intelligence firm, Stratfor, the United States was “working on a plan to merge Iraq and Jordan into a unitary kingdom to be ruled by the Hashemite dynasty headed by King Abdullah of Jordan.” The plan was “authored by US Vice President Dick Cheney” as well as “Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz”, and was first discussed at “an unusual meeting between Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan and pro-US Iraqi Sunni opposition members in London in July” that year. Now under this plan, Stratfor reported, Iraq would be de facto ethnically partitioned into three autonomous cantons: The central and largest part of Iraq that is populated by the Sunni Arabs would be joined with Jordan, and would include Baghdad, which would no longer be the capital. The Kurdish region of northern and northwestern Iraq, including Mosul and the vast Kirkuk oilfields, would become its own autonomous state. The Shia Region in southwestern Iraq, including Basra, would make up the third state, or more likely it would be joined with Kuwait. Why did Cheney and Wolfowitz, the architects of this postwar plan for Iraq in the Bush Cabinet, think this sort of partition would be a good idea? And did their plans have anything to do with facilitating Iraq’s emergence as a democratic sovereign state? Not according to Stratfor, who outlined the advantages for the US as follows:

“First, the creation of a new pro-US kingdom under the half-British Abdullah [king of Jordan] would shift the balance of forces in the region heavily in the US favor. After eliminating Iraq as a sovereign state, there would be no fear that one day an anti-American government would come to power in Baghdad, as the capital would be in Amman [Jordan]. Current and potential US geopolitical foes Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria would be isolated from each other, with big chunks of land between them under control of the pro-US forces.

“Equally important, Washington would be able to justify its long-term and heavy military presence in the region as necessary for the defense of a young new state asking for US protection -- and to secure the stability of oil markets and supplies. That in turn would help the United States gain direct control of Iraqi oil and replace Saudi oil in case of conflict with Riyadh.”

[Stratfor, Uniting Jordan and Iraq Might Be Prime Post-War Strategy, 26 September 2002; Stratfor Press Release, “US plan to merge Iraq, Jordan after war”, 26 September 2002, http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/KHA209A.html; Gary D. Hallbert, “US Considers Dividing Iraq into Three Separate States after Saddam is Gone”, Forecasts & Trends, 1 October 2002, http://www.profutures.com/article.php/91/.]

Yet none of this seems remotely interesting to John Ware who remains adamant, based on the reassurances from either ill-informed or unscrupulous American and British officials, that the allies were well and truly planless.

It is not a coincidence, of course, that a few years later a large number of American politicians and security experts, not to mention the US Senate itself, began popping out of the woodwork, seemingly at random, all advocating that the best way forward for Iraq was to undergo partition. When this happened, the public was led to believe that the partition proposal was a radically new idea that could solve Iraq’s entrenched problems. But we know that the partition lobby didn’t come out of the blue at all. It was inspired directly by the original architects of the 2002 postwar plan, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle.

There is no conceivable way that such tripartite partitioning of an entire country could be achieved peacefully. Violence, conflict, civil war, along sectarian lines, would be inevitable if this was to be achieved. The task of “eliminating Iraq as a sovereign state” by fracturing the country along ethnic and religious lines, in other words, was precisely the postwar strategy being explored by Dick Cheney as the most effective means of securing American control over the country, and the wider region. It is not simply some sort of accident of Anglo-American stupidity.

Fostering Internal Conflict in Iraq

It is no surprise then to find that at the core of the escalating sectarian violence in Iraq one consistently finds the involvement of the United States. Although systematically ignored by the vast majority of mainstream media, that US strategy has deliberately attempted to foster internal conflict between various Iraqi factions as a tool to consolidate the occupation has been officially acknowledged. In the November 2005 edition of the US Joint Special Operations University Report, Professor Thomas H. Henriken, a senior fellow at the US Joint Special Operations University and a former member of the US Army Science Board, reported that:

The post-invasion stage in Iraq also is an interesting case study of fanning discontent among enemies, leading to ‘red-against-red’ firefights (this color-coding derives from US training exercises, in which red designates enemy combatants and blue designates friendly forces). Like their SOG predecessors in Vietnam, US elite forces in Iraq turned to fostering infighting among their Iraqi adversaries on the tactical and operational level…

Events during fall 2004 within the central Iraqi city of Fallujah showcased the wily machinations required to set insurgents battling insurgents. ... But Fallujah was hardly a unified camp—the city seethed with internecine tensions. Zarqawi’s strict Salafi beliefs clashed with the more moderate Sufi views of the Sunni residents. Additionally, the Zarqawi jihadis and nationalistic Fallujans disagreed over the use of terror tactics. Both wanted the Americans out of Fallujah and out of Iraq, but they differed on the methods.... Evidence of factional fighting between the residents came to light with nightly gun battles not involving coalition forces. US psychological warfare (PSYOP) specialists took advantage of the internal warring by tapping into Fallujans’ revulsion and antagonism to the Zarqawi jihadis. The PSYOP warriors crafted programs to exploit Zarqawi’s murderous activities—and to disseminate them through meetings, radio and television broadcasts, handouts, newspaper stories, political cartoons, and posters—thereby diminishing his folk-hero image. Battles among anti-coalition forces killed enemy combatants and heightened factionalism. Thus, red-on-red battles enhanced the regular blue-on-red engagements by eliminating many insurgents.”

[Thomas H. Henriken, “The War: Divide et Impera”, Hoover Digest, 2006, No. 1, http://www.hoover.org/publications/digest/2904886.html.]

I’ve documented some of the evidence confirming a US strategy of tension in Iraq two years ago for Raw Story [here http://rawstory.com/news/2005/CAUGHT_RED__0923.html], and that evidence is still relevant now; I also updated it somewhat here [http://nafeez.blogspot.com/2006/08/four-frontal-war-covert-operations.html] and in the latter half of a piece put up earlier this year by Dissident Voice [here http://www.dissidentvoice.org/2007/07/whose-bombs/].


The BBC programme portrays itself as a work of solid, investigative journalism, one that takes a thoroughly critical perspective of our governments’ involvement in Iraq. The truth of the matter, however, is that John Ware’s narrative is mired in a set of unquestioned assumptions that systematically misrepresents the reality of the Iraq War 2003 by taking at face value the claims of various British and American officials.

Throughout his investigation, Ware consistently refrains from doing any serious research into his subject. He ignores overwhelming evidence that the grave humanitarian, military and political crisis in Iraq is not simply a regrettable consequence of insufficient planning by well-meaning but hasty politicians; it was a direct consequence of a set of plans prepared before and during the war designed fundamentally to secure Anglo-American strategic and economic interests at the expense of the Iraqi people.

These criticisms of John Ware and the BBC by no means stop there. They are prominent facets of an edifice of disinformation endorsed by a mainstream media that uncritically swallows official government claims all too routinely, as part of its normal functioning.

Throughout, one finds in the Bush administration's plans for Iraq no evidence whatsoever that the impact on the Iraqi people was ever genuinely factored into the strategic and economic equation. Thus, the catastrophe that currently wracks Iraq was not simply a result of the paucity of planning due to lack of foresight; it is the result of a deliberate set of plans to consolidate Anglo-American political, economic and strategic interests in the region, plans which advocated social, political and economic policies that systematically marginalized and slaughtered Iraqis in the hundreds of thousands.

Yes, in this context, there was indeed a paucity of planning to make Iraq a stable, prosperous and democratic, sovereign state. But that paucity didn’t issue forth from some inexplicably bumbling incompetence. It came from carefully thought-out, properly-mapped, conscious decisions that were fully cognizant of the ramifications of the policies being proposed, but derived from a wilful and reckless indifference to the lives and rights of the Iraqi people. We are dealing here with war crimes, crimes against humanity and violations of international law -- issues that Ware didn't see fit to mention.

This is the line of inquiry that the BBC should have explored in uncovering the reasons for "no peace" in Iraq. Instead, the BBC ended up spouting what amounted to propaganda, by taking for granted the ill-informed nonsense and carefully contrived claims of Ware's chosen talking heads, in effect concealing from public understanding the ongoing course of the Anglo-American strategy of tension in the Middle East. And that is exactly where the anti-war movement needs to focus its efforts in educating the public if we want to turn the tide of "national security" hysteria, on the back of which Western states are rushing through increasingly repressive policies of domestic and international militarization.

13 October 2007

CNJ: "Report on 7/7 raises questions over role of security services"

A little bit more media coverage of our 7/7 report launch event. This is a pretty decent piece printed in a popular local newspaper, the Camden New Journal.

Report on 7/7 raises questions over role of security services

Camden New Journal (11 October 2007)

COLLABORATION with Islamic extremists led British intelligence officers to ignore explicit warnings of a terrorist attack at least six months before the 7/7 London bombings, a new parliamentary briefing has claimed. The report supports calls by Rachel North, a survivor of the King’s Cross bombing that killed 26 people on the Piccadilly line Tube train, for a public inquiry into the events leading up to the attacks.

Barrister at Garden Court Chambers Frances Webber, Fahad Ansari of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, and Les Levidow of the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities, attended the launch at Garden Court Chambers at Lincoln’s Inn Fields last Wednesday. The report questions how much was known by British security services about the suicide bombers prior to the bombings in King’s Cross, Tavistock Square, Edgware Road and Aldgate in 2005.

MI5 has said that it was impossible for the agency to conclude that the bombers posed a terrorist threat even though, as the briefing documents, they were being monitored by the agency as early as mid-August 2004. One suspect linked to the fertiliser bomb plot arrested in Operation Crevice, Abu Faraj al-Libbi – who continues to be held in US custody – had explicitly warned his US interrogators that London’s public transport system was a “likely target of imminent attack” two months before 7/7, according to the report.

The report also suggests that plans to intensify the investigation, in particular into Moham­med Sidique Khan’s activities, were thwarted by senior officials bec­ause of a politicisation of the security agenda. Groups such as notorious Islamist extremist organisation al-Muhajiroun, now known as Al-Sabiqoon Al-Awwaloon, whose members received explosives training in Jundallah camps in Pakistan, were protected by the “covenant of security” between British authorities and Muslim leaders.

It is claimed that the US armed small Sunni militias in Lebanon to carry out attacks inside Shiite Iran with Pakistan-manufactured weapons. MI6 informant Haroon Rashid Aswat, formerly Osama Bin Laden’s bodyguard and Abu Hamza al Masri’s right-hand man at the Finsbury Park mosque, is named as the mastermind “fifth man” who had fled Britain after speaking to Mr Khan hours before the attacks.

Another point made in the report is that an influx of new inexperienced officers has meant the “MI5 has not been able to keep up with its own growth”.The report’s author Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed said: “The problem is there’s a huge bureaucracy. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a lot of closed doors.” He added: “There’s no doubt that the government has lied about 7/7 and exaggerated the problem in Muslim communities. It has become a community problem because of excessive protection of specific extremist networks.”

The report states: “Police indifference toward Abu Hamza, who presided over verbal and physical abuse at Finsbury Park mosque, permitted him to radicalise mostly impressionable young Muslims despite demands from the majority Muslim community to arrest him. The British Muslim community is neither an enemy to be confronted, nor a passive or silent voice that must be awakened – it is a powerful, majority force opposed to terrorism, whose insight, resources and vision must be drawn on.”

Ms North, who lives in Finsbury Park said: “The report indicates that what we originally thought about the bombers is not the full picture. We now know there are many more questions to be answered that have so far gone unanswered.” The report, which was sent to over 100 MPs over a month ago, has so far only received three responses.

10 October 2007

Cynical Distortion around 7/7 and Operation Crevice

The following is a report by Paul Donovan on last week's 7/7 report launch event printed in this Monday's Morning Star

Morning Star - 8/10/2007

The author of a new report has accused the government of cynical manipulation of the July 7 bombings to bring about more restrictive anti-terror legislation. Report author Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed of the Institute for Policy Research and Development calls for a full public inquiry into the London bombings after providing evidence that MI5 had a number of the bombers under surveillance beforehand and were warned by the Saudi and French governments of thedangers of an attack.

The Sussex University academic's comprehensive report 'Inside the Crevice: Islamist terror networks and the 7/7 intelligence failure' catalogues how the government first of all said the bombers were 'clean skins' meaning that they had not been involved in any previous terrorist activity, only to later reveal that two of the bombers Mohammed Sidique Khan and Shahzad Tanweer were on the periphery of the surveillance operation under Operation Crevice.

Operation Crevice led to the arrest in March 2004 of 10 individuals, including nine Britons and a tenth Canadian suspect. Five were convicted on 30 April 2007 of planning terrorist attacks. It later emerged that the Crevice plotters and London bombers were all part of the same network.

Mr Ahmed also talks of damaging intelligence tactics that formed the background leading up to the London bombings. The first of these was the 'covenant of security' between the British Government and extremist Islamism whereby the extremists were allowed to use the UK as "a base of operations for recruitment, financing and planning of terrorist attacks abroad, as long as they did not target British interests at home."

The second element amounted to following the US policy of using "Islamism to promote US interests in the Balkans, Central Asia and Eastern Europe by countering Russian and Chinese influence in these regions." Mr Ahmed argues that the evidence he has found about the inefficient way the intelligence services have operated, often at the behest of political masters, makes a full inquiry into the events of July 7, 2005 essential.

"The solution therefore is not merely to haphazardly escalate the arsenal of anti-terror laws available to the state in reactionery fashion, as the Brown government is now doing, but to carefully and impartially evaluate thespecific police and intelligence policy failures that disallowed the security services from preventing the 7/7 attacks, in order to develop the more focused, effective and consistent deployment of law-enforcement powers," said Ahmed. "An independent public inquiry offers the only mechanism by which the relevant police and intelligence policies can be subjected to impartial scrutiny without government interference and obfuscation. Until policy is properly scrutinized in an independent public policy inquiry, the British national security system will not only remain open to another attack, but will end up increasing the likelihood of such an attack."

Mr Ahmed's analysis has been supported by the former deputy head of the Hampshire Constabulary CID Des Thomas who claimed that much of the removal of civil liberties at the behest of security following the London bomb attacks may be exactly what the bombers wanted from the outset.

"The principal and political purpose of the 7/7 attacks may have been to facilitate the introduction of repressive legislation and oppressive policing resulting in the frightening and alienation of the Muslim community, which in turn would be conducive to allowing insurgents to establish an area from which they would be free to move, recruit and mount further attacks," Mr Thomas said. "Laws of this kind are often impossible to implement and the trying may itself act as a recruiting sergeant for extremist organisations," he added.

3 October 2007

Report Supported by 7/7 Victims Calls for Major Security Reforms

We are launching our major 7/7 report today at Garden Court Chambers, London, 6:30pm. See press release below for further details...

For immediate release

Report Supported by 7/7 Victims Calls for Major Security Reforms
Backs case for independent public inquiry into London bombings and govt anti-terror strategies

A new report being launched this Wednesday, 3rd Oct., argues that Britain remains open to another attack, due to a defunct and dangerous intelligence paradigm that has paralysed this country’s national security system.

The report published by the Institute for Policy Research & Development (IPRD) with the support of law firm Garden Court Chambers criticises the government’s refusal to investigate the July 7th bombings in London two years ago, noting that unresolved loopholes in the way security services operate are increasing the likelihood of such an attack in the near future. The IPRD is an independent think-tank for interdisciplinary security studies based in London.

The IPRD report is supported by a former senior police official, Detective Superintendent Des Thomas, who last month told Sean O’Neill at The Times that an inquiry into 7/7 could be conducted quickly and efficiently. In his foreword to the report, Thomas, former Deputy Head of Hampshire CID, writes that it:

“… represents a splendid and very well researched attempt to turn back the tide of incompetent repression that may lead us to wage war against our own people, a war which may cost us dearly in life, treasure and liberty.”

The report, which underwent academic peer-review, is being used by Oury Clark Solicitors in their Application on behalf of the 7/7 Inquiry Group for Judicial Review of the government’s refusal to hold an inquiry. It analyses contradictory accounts from British, French and American officials about prior intelligence on the attacks and the four bombers, particularly information relating to Operation Crevice. It states that MI5’s official explanation of events leading up to 7/7 contradicts evidence from Western security sources in the public record.

Garden Court Chambers is hosting this Wednesday’s launch event, co-sponsored by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, and the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC).

“Moral and professional standards amongst our intelligence services have declined as a direct consequence of politicization. Urgent reforms are needed, not simply in terms of resources, but in terms of policy: collaboration with Islamist extremists in the UK for domestic and international intelligence purposes has been so extensive, it has obstructed security services from shutting down terror networks in this country even now”, said the report’s author, IPRD executive director Nafeez Ahmed.

“MI5, afraid of change, does not want the public to understand this, while the government fears it might mean the end of New Labour’s domination of parliament. We can keep extending the anti-terror laws as much as we like, but this won’t make us any safer until such policy is scrutinized and reformed,” he added.

Ahmed, who also teaches international relations, politics and history at Sussex and Brunel Universities, is the author of The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry (Duckworth, 2006). His previous work on international terrorism was used by the 9/11 Commission.

In addition to Nafeez Ahmed and Des Thomas, supporting and addressing the report’s themes at the Wednesday launch event will be Rachel North (7/7 survivor, author Out of the Tunnel); Oury Clark (solicitors representing the 7/7 Inquiry Group); Frances Webber (barrister, Garden Court Chambers); Asad Rehman (Jean Charles De Menezes Family Campaign); Les Levidow (CAMPACC) and Fahad Ansari (Islamic Human Rights Commission).

In August 2007, the report was circulated to members of several UK parliamentary committees -- including the Intelligence and Security Committee, Home Affairs Committee, Defence Committee, Foreign Affairs Committee, Joint Committee on Human Rights, and Communities & Local Government Committee -- as well as ministers and officials with responsibility for security issues.

Notes for Editors

Inside the Crevice: Islamist terror networks and the 7/7 intelligence failure (London: Institute for Policy Research & Development, 2007) by Nafeez Ahmed. Foreword by Detective Superintendent (ret.) Des Thomas. Full electronic copies are available for free download, and hard copies can be ordered for £3 from the IPRD website www.globalcrisis.org.uk. Free hard copies are available for journalists, please send requests to IPRD on info@globalcrisis.org.uk.

The report will be launched on Wednesday 3rd October, 6:30pm-9:00pm at Garden Court Chambers, 57-60 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2A 3LS (Holborn Station). Copies will be sold at the launch for £2.

Media are welcome and should make contact to register attendance. Free copies will be available for accredited journalists.

Contact: Toufic Machnouk, toufic@globalcrisis.org.uk +44(0)7799 313 264; Estella Schmidt, estella24@tiscali.co.uk +44(0)207 586 5892

11 September 2007

9/11, Six Years On and Only Burning Questions with No Answers

Questioning the official narrative of international terrorism, or of events like 9/11 or 7/7, is widely perceived as evidence of an irrational, paranoid, delusional mindset, that automatically necessitates some totally bizarre "truth" purporting to explain "what really happened."

I'm not interested in that, and most people aren't. But it's now becoming increasingly difficult to avoid the fact that what really happened on 9/11 remains unknown. The 9/11 Commission Report was denounced as a comprehensive "whitewash" by one of the very 9/11 widows, Lorie van Auken, who played a leading role in the 9/11 Families Steering Committee whose incessant lobbying forced the Bush administration to set-up the Commission.

Unfortunately, although there are some journalists in the mainstream media who are beginning to recognize, and belatedly voice their questions, about aspects of the 9/11 official story, the media continues to really fail to pick up on some of the most explosive expert testimonials that continue to emerge, discrediting the official narrative.

It was therefore with great surprise that I read the piece by veteran Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk in The Independent, noting some of the extant anomalies with the 9/11 official narrative. Fisk, one of the few Western journalists to have personally interviewed Osama bin Laden three times (all printed in The Independent in 1993, 1996, and, 1997), begins by establishing clearly that he has no regard for conspiracy theories about 9/11. He points out that "the Bush administration has screwed up everything – militarily, politically diplomatically – it has tried to do in the Middle East; so how on earth could it successfully bring off the international crimes against humanity in the United States on 11 September 2001?" Emphasising that he still holds to that view, Fisk nevertheless goes on to not that questions about the anomalies surrounding the 9/11 terrorist attacks, from physical evidence to intelligence issues, are perfectly legitimate:

"I am talking about scientific issues. If it is true, for example, that kerosene burns at 820C under optimum conditions, how come the steel beams of the twin towers – whose melting point is supposed to be about 1,480C – would snap through at the same time? (They collapsed in 8.1 and 10 seconds.) What about the third tower – the so-called World Trade Centre Building 7 (or the Salmon Brothers Building) – which collapsed in 6.6 seconds in its own footprint at 5.20pm on 11 September? Why did it so neatly fall to the ground when no aircraft had hit it? The American National Institute of Standards and Technology was instructed to analyse the cause of the destruction of all three buildings. They have not yet reported on WTC 7. Two prominent American professors of mechanical engineering – very definitely not in the 'raver' bracket – are now legally challenging the terms of reference of this final report on the grounds that it could be 'fraudulent or deceptive'.

"Journalistically, there were many odd things about 9/11. Initial reports of reporters that they heard 'explosions' in the towers – which could well have been the beams cracking – are easy to dismiss. Less so the report that the body of a female air crew member was found in a Manhattan street with her hands bound. OK, so let's claim that was just hearsay reporting at the time, just as the CIA's list of Arab suicide-hijackers, which included three men who were – and still are – very much alive and living in the Middle East, was an initial intelligence error.

"But what about the weird letter allegedly written by Mohamed Atta, the Egyptian hijacker-murderer with the spooky face, whose 'Islamic' advice to his gruesome comrades – released by the CIA – mystified every Muslim friend I know in the Middle East? Atta mentioned his family – which no Muslim, however ill-taught, would be likely to include in such a prayer. He reminds his comrades-in-murder to say the first Muslim prayer of the day and then goes on to quote from it. But no Muslim would need such a reminder – let alone expect the text of the 'Fajr' prayer to be included in Atta's letter.

"Let me repeat. I am not a conspiracy theorist. Spare me the ravers. Spare me the plots. But like everyone else, I would like to know the full story of 9/11, not least because it was the trigger for the whole lunatic, meretricious 'war on terror' which has led us to disaster in Iraq and Afghanistan and in much of the Middle East."

And Fisk is right. Six years after the event, asking hard questions about 9/11 is not simply rational; it is a matter of political urgency. Admitting that the official story is riddled with absurdities, contradictions, outright fabrications and inexplicable holes is merely to acknowledge what is in the public record. Yet doing so, is not the same as endorsing a specific theory about what actually happened -- because in truth, we simply don't really know what happened.

The biggest mistake of many in what passes for a 9/11 "truth" movement is it's claim to "know" the "truth" of 9/11. But this is a grave error that fails to appreciate the nuances and complexities in the little that we do know. For example, take the question of the collapse of the WTC towers, that Fisk also raises without any fear of being labelled a conspiraloon. Fisk recognizes that asking questions about the collapses does not automatically a conspiracy theory by itself. The interpretation of the new data requires a whole new analysis in itself. So we have some pertinent data, some disturbing questions, and some serious lines of inquiry. But any case that we build at this stage is purely circumstantial and liable to change in the event of introduction of new credible evidence. So while we should be outspoken and confident in highlighting very real anomalies and contradictions in the official narrative, we should be a little less hasty in endorsing full-fledged alternative narratives of what really happened. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try -- but that we should be prudent, pragmatic, and ultimately as close to the available data as we can be.

On the other hand, we have an equally fundamentalist theology emerging from the so-called icons of the "Left", claiming to "know", with a matching fervour, that 9/11 was certainly not an inside job; and moreover, that any attempt to question the official narrative of 9/11 is inherently an endorsement of insane conspiracy theories; and further that questioning the official narrative of 9/11 is, thereby de facto an intrinsically useless and fruitless pursuit, particularly by the lofty standards of the "Left".

In reality, I see no genuine equation between authentic and credible leftwing thought and such bizarre propositions that purport to close-off asking questions and pursuing inquiries into the historic event that opened and defined the politics of the 21st century, all in the name of "truth". And more and more experts are coming out who are vindicating those, 9/11 families, activists, and researchers alike, who have condemned the official story as worthless whitewash. Yet curiously, their stories don't make the news.

Here's a small sample of what you might've missed:

On 4th September, Joel S. Hirschhorn, Ph.D., who served for 12 years as a Senior Staff Member of the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and later as Director of Environment, Energy and Natural Resources for the National Governors Association, called for a new investigation of 9/11, saying "First, let the technical truth emerge. Then, if necessary, cope with the inevitable political, conspiracy and other questions."

On 27th August, Lynn Margulis, Ph.D., member of the National Academy of Sciences and world renowned scientist, characterized the official account of 9/11 as "a fraud" and called for a new investigation, "I suggest that those of us aware and concerned demand that the glaringly erroneous official account of 9/11 be dismissed as a fraud and a new, thorough, and impartial investigation be undertaken."

On 21st August, it was reported that James Quintiere, Ph.D., former Chief of the Fire Science Division of the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) that investigated the WTC collapses, called for an independent review of the World Trade Center Twin Tower collapse investigation. "I wish that there would be a peer review of this," he said, referring to the NIST investigation. "I think all the records that NIST has assembled should be archived. I would really like to see someone else take a look at what they've done; both structurally and from a fire point of view. ... I think the official conclusion that NIST arrived at is questionable."

Similarly, on 16th July, J. Marx Ayres, former member of the National Institute of Sciences Building Safety Council and former member of the California Seismic Safety Commission called for a new investigation of 9/11, and even went so far as endorse the specific line of inquiry being pursued by physicist Steve Jones: "Steven Jones' call for a serious investigation of the hypothesis that the WTC 7 and the Twin Towers were brought down, not just by impact damage and fire, but through the use of pre-positioned 'cutter-charges' must be the rallying cry for all building design experts to speak out."

Now these are not the only people to have spoken out in some form or other, based on their own expertise, calling into question the fundaments of everything we think we know about 9/11. There are hundreds of others, physicists, engineers, architects, ex-government, military, Air Force, intelligence officers, members of Congress, and so on, who have dismissed various elements of the official narrative as a fairy tale. Some of these people have their own interpretations, others articulate no particular overall viewpoint. Some are clearly close to suggesting some kind of collusion on the part of the state and/or its agencies; others are forthright in saying this; and still others are very cautious. But none of them are deluded, paranoid maniacs. In fact, most of them are leading experts in their respective fields, who are trying to offer a sincere and careful analysis.

How do I know about them? Well, we have one man to thank, Allan Miller, a US citizen who off his own back decided to set up a non-partisan non-theoretical website, Patriots Question 9/11 showcasing the testimonials of experts, whose own words were allowed to speak for themselves. Allan offers no theories, no explanations, and no speculations of his own. He merely lets hundreds of experts speak for themselves.

This data, these testimonials, show that the 9/11 case remains, very much, open. That's all I wanted to emphasise. That we don't know.

Check it out. It might just open your mind.

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