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Cease fire! ...

Cease fire! ... pause ... consider accounts ... then move toward truce or regroup and trounce?

by Craig Rowley

Tonight seems to be the eve of the hoped for ceasefire in the conflict in southern Lebanon and northern Israel.  If all falls into place tomorrow there is a real opportunity to make a play for a greater peace, if only the pause in hostilities can be translated into something longer lasting and further reaching.  Will all those involved in the immediate conflict, and more importantly the war by proxy behind it, just give peace a chance? Or is hope in what is possible only false promise and do we face the prospect that, more probably, the parties will be taking us to the brink again before the year is out?

Comment on the recent post by Professor Jeffrey Sachs - The Middle East's Military Delusions  - has prompted me to look back over Should Iran be attacked? a post by Professor Joseph S Nye we published in May.

Professor Nye's post commenced with the question that reports had suggested was being explored by President George W Bush and his administration, and it becomes clear on reading the post that he sees how costly use of force against Iran would be (and he's not just talking about financial costs). Professor Nye concluded his post by offering some points to think about on policy alternatives the U.S. could take up and in the early part of our conversation thread we started exploring what could be done instead of attack, what the application of some clear thinking could come up with, and what might make up the steps on a better path to dealing with the potential threat represented by Iran's nuclear program.

Despite the promising start we didn't really build on the momentum. (It would be good if we could now, particularly as the translation of a ceasefire into truce can only come from new thinking by the parties involved.) I felt that in both the thread following Nye's post and that following Sachs' we didn't really bring the shift in U.S. foreign policy positions on Iran into focus and, from the basis of a better understanding of why such a shift occurred, develop ideas about how it could be shifted again to a position with better prospects for bringing about a little more peace.

That shift in U.S. foreign policy positions I speak of is evident in these quotes:

"...President Clinton and I welcomed the new Iranian President's call for a dialogue between our people.... Now we have concluded the time is right to broaden our perspective even further."

Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks Before the American-Iranian Council
March, 2000 

"Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom ... States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world ... "

President George W. Bush
The President's State of the Union Address
January, 2002

"I think it's best I just leave it that all options should be on the table, and the last option is the military option."

President George W. Bush
on CBS's "Face the Nation" program
January 2006

Now we can debate whether the shift has been substantial or otherwise. Some take the 'last option' emphasis to signify that U.S. policy toward Iran has not shifted to a totally militaristic stance. Some see a shift from a policy prescription based on the premise that a dialogue could be opened and diplomacy would work, to one where plans to attack are being (or have been) worked up.

I understand that at the beginning of George W. Bush's presidency there were two groups in the administration waging an intense struggle over policy on Iran. The U.S. government went month after month without an official policy at that time.

Then the attack on America on September 11, 2001 created an entirely new strategic context for U.S. relations with other nations and certainly this was true with respect to its approach to Iran. There was a choice to make and official U.S. policy on Iran had to be determined.  Within the broader response to September 11 - the global war on terrorism - there were (and there continues to be) a variety of strategic options, various opportunities.

One was the choice of immediate response focus and the Bush administration decided on destroying the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the al-Qaeda network it had harboured.  When you think about it selection of this option opened a choice about how to deal with Iran. Washington could begin a period of extraordinary strategic cooperation between America and Iran in order to support the action to be taken in Afghanistan, it could select a status quo strategy leaving Iran on the sidelines to wonder whether it would be drawn in at some stage, or it could plot the point when Iran would become the priority in prosecuting the long war on terrorism and start preparing for it.

Gareth Porter, a historian and journalist who writes regularly on U.S. policy in Iran and Iraq for Inter Press Service, has reported that as America began preparing for the military operation in Afghanistan, the then Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Ryan Crocker held a series of meetings with Iranian officials in Geneva. Iran offered search-and-rescue help, humanitarian assistance, and even advice on which targets to bomb in Afghanistan. The Iranians, who had been working for years with the main anti-Taliban coalition, the Northern Alliance, also advised the Americans about how to negotiate the major ethnic and political fault lines in the country.

By November 2001, the U.S. Office of Policy Planning had written a paper arguing that there was “a real opportunity” to work more closely with Iran on al-Qaeda. This would have been a smart strategy to take up if your interests were in genuinely separating terrorist organisations from the sponsorship of states.  You aim to gain the cooperation of states considered sponsors of terrorism and say, ‘We will take you off the state-sponsors-of-terrorism list if you do the following.’” 

What happened instead was that a State of the Union Address was being prepared for President George W. Bush to deliver in January 2002 that included Iran in the “axis of evil”.   In the weighing up of the carrot and stick balancing act some wanted the U.S. to come on strong with the stick.

In the weeks after 11 September 2001, President Bush had been sent this letter supporting a "broad and sustained campaign" of military action by the US.  How much influence the authors of that letter from the Project for a New American Century actually had on the President's decision-making is a matter of speculation.  It may have had more to do with a President going gaga over reports that Iran was the source of an arms cache intercepted on route to Gaza. Whatever the case, it is clear that President Bush, the Commander-in-Chief, champion of the Coalition of the Willing and leader of the free world, decided that to engage with any of those on the state-sponsors-of-terrorism list was a concession to terrorism, a reward for bad behaviour. There would be no deals done with naughty boys. U.S. policy would be that Iran could never be treated as a sovereign equal on any issue. Iran was in the "axis of evil".

President Bush’s axis-of-evil speech was followed by talk of Iran deliberately “harbouring” al-Qaeda cadres who had fled from Afghanistan and signals came from the Bush administration discrediting the promising prospect of cooperation between Tehran and Washington as a means for Iran to obtain U.S. concessions. By May 2002, the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced the idea of negotiations with the United States as useless.

From the perspective of some the "real opportunity", ripe for the taking, was left to wither. From the perspective of others, Bush administration saying no to negotiations and taking a hardline with Tehran was the right thing to do.  By September 2002, the U.S. was set on a security framework that shifted its foreign policy away from decades of deterrence and containment toward a more aggressive stance of attacking enemies before they attack America.  With momentum building for military action against Iraq's Saddam Hussein, with the White House setting out the Doctrine of Preemptive War, and saying it would never negotiate with terrorists (nowadays at term that seems all inclusive of organisations such as al-Qaeda and all nations on the state-sponsors-of-terrorism list), what other conclusion would Iran come to than that the path ahead might lead to more than the invasion of the neighbour it had even less love for than Afghanistan?

As the tension mounted amongst those searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq where they weren't located,  the only other member of the "axis of evil" without the bomb was feeling tense too.  What would the Iranians have made of President Bush telling the American people on 16 October 2002 that: "I have not ordered the use of force. I hope that the use of force will not become necessary"?  What would they then have made of what happened on 19 March 2003 when they witnessed the 'shock and awe' of the invasion of Iraq?  If they made haste in making the bomb, then perhaps it shows all the more what waste junking the "real opportunity" was.

Not everyone saw the "real opportunity" as totally wasted. The two contending camps within U.S. foreign policy setting circles struggled again in 2003 over a proposal by realists, like Colin Powell and Richard Armitage, to reopen the Geneva channel with Iran that had been used successfully on Afghanistan in 2001-2002.  It would not have been easy given that by June that year a number of 'experts' were saying Iran would have nuclear weapons by 2006, but somehow Richard Armitage was able by October to say in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

"Iran is a country in the midst of a tremendous transformation, and I believe American policy can affect the direction Iran will take ... United States policy is, therefore, to support the Iranian people in their aspirations for a democratic, prosperous country that is a trusted member of the international community ... As President Bush noted when talking about Iran last week, not every policy issue needs to be dealt with by force."

Though it was not really clear whether the American policy that would 'affect the direction Iran would take' included any carrot or just a thumping big "evil" regime changing stick. And by the end of 2003, Howard Dean (at that time the Democrat presidential frontrunner), was saying U.S. President George Bush has a "schizophrenic foreign policy" regarding Iran:

"Earlier this year, Bush said Iran was part of the Axis of Evil, now we're shipping food, medicine and other supplies to alleviate the suffering of ordinary Iranians. There seems to be a chronic disconnect in the Bush administration between the Iranian people and the actions of the Iranian government. The president needs to make up his mind -- is Iran evil or not?"

In January 2004, more of those shipments of food, medicine and other supplies would be much needed in Iran. Bush may not have made up his mind to use force to beat the bad guys and win out against "evil", but then Bam felt the brutal forces of nature that northern winter and the suffering people of Iran where to be in the Bush administration's thoughts and prayers. By the end of 2004, thoughts and prayers had once again turned to thoughts of bringing to bear that big stick. A new, more aggressive policy on Iran was said to have the backing of then secretary of state-designate Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser.

At the start of 2005, Dick Cheney had placed Iran at the top of Washington’s list of world trouble spots and said that he feared that Israel might strike Tehran in order to eliminate its nuclear threat. “We don’t want a war in the Middle East if we can avoid it,” said Mr Cheney in January 2005. 

A month later Senate Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid, was renewing criticism that Iran had been left on what he called 'a back burner' during the Bush administration. "Our policy on Iran has been a non-policy," he said. "The negotiating regarding the nuclear facilities in Iran have [sic] been conducted by other countries. We have not been a player in that, and I think that is too bad. As important as Iran is to a settlement of the problems we have in the Middle East the president should personally be involved. Certainly we shouldn't leave this to other countries."  California Democrat Bob Filner was echoing Howard Dean calling U.S. policy on Iran contradictory. "We have been going on this schizophrenic policy of preparing for war perhaps, which I think is a dangerous situation, just in a military fashion we seem to be overstrained to our limits just with Iraq and Afghanistan, and to try an even more problematic situation would be difficult for our nation," he said. 

At about the same time, John Bolton, the State Department's top international security official, was echoing Dick Cheney saying publicly that Israel might attack Iran's nuclear sites because the Jewish state has "a history" of such actions (referring to Israel's 1981 bombing raid on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor). 

President George W. Bush would later make 'clear' in his 2005 State of the Union address that he wanted a peaceful solution to the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.  In the UK, Tony Blair would echo Bush saying "I don't know of anybody planning military action against Iran", news of which would break on the same day as Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said his government 'has no intention' of launching a strike against Iranian nuclear installations and two days after U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he had never authorised sending reconnaissance planes over Iran to spy on it. 

By April 2005, state delegations of Iranian-Americans across the U.S. had come together for the first ever National Convention for a Democratic, Secular Republic in Iran was held in Washington. They declared their resounding support for democratic change in Iran and called for "third option" in policy toward Tehran, first introduced by Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, at the time the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.  The third option: 'No to Appeasement, No to War, Yes to Democratic Change by the Iranian People'.

By June 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hard-line mayor of Tehran who had invoked Iran's 1979 revolution and expressed doubts about rapprochement with the United States in his campaign to become President, was 'elected' under circumstances seen by the U.S. and most of the democratic world as far more controversial than a hanging chad ever could be. A month later, outgoing President Mohammad Khatami said the prospect of dialogue resuming between the United States and Iran was more distant. "We are further from it (a resumption of dialogue) today than we have been for some years," he said.  He couldn't see a "real opportunity" for dialogue arising again.

By the end of 2005, influential Republican congresswoman, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, a Bush loyalist who chairs a House of Representatives subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia, expressed frustration over President Bush's approach to Iran. She wasn't just saying pressure was building for a tougher U.S. policy. Ros-Lehtinen said she did not believe the administration had a clear idea of "what they want to do there and what is the end game". Get out the big stick in other words.

At the beginning of this year Iran’s new hard-line President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said the Islamic Republic’s 1979 Islamic revolution was a great movement and a stepping stone to a final “great event” in the world. And you can understand why those who dismissed the "real opportunity" would now want that big stick so bad. By June a growing chorus of critics on the American right were saying the Bush administration is being soft on Iran and other so-called "enemies of freedom." Events of the past month give them all the more reason to raise the volume. But if there were a way to get back to what were once "real opportunities", if a way could be found, a firm and fair way, to have Iran take those steps needed for it to be taken off the state-sponsors-of-terrorism list without anyone being wiped of any map, would they tune in? 


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Alan Curran wrote: "Don't these clowns watch TV? They must have seen the destruction in Lebanon where whole towns have been flattened. All I can say it's just as well they won this little skirmish, can you imagine what Lebanon would be like if they lost."

Alan, it depends on what the military objectives were.

Two of Israel's objectives were to get their two soldiers back and to demolish Hezbollah. Israel failed in those objectives.

Perhaps two of Hezbollah's objectives would have been to make Israel look immoral in the eyes of some and to increase support for Hezbollah. Hezbollah succeeded in those two objectives.

Mark, neat post and I'm sure most of your suggestions are in the plan. Regarding the dirtier tactics, it seems the people will let anything go (and even reelect you) when they are scared. I remember a woman on Insight (ABC TV) saying in regard to voting Labor or not in the next election, "I just want to be secure." Now this was a well-to-to woman living in Australia. She wasn't a little homeless orphaned child running from helicopter gunships in Sudan. The whole terrorism thing is a very successful beatup for the media, for armaments companies, for oil companies, and for reelection of political leaders. But sometimes I think Bush actually believes the good fight rhetoric.

Mark and Craig, Could nukes and the draft be part of the picture? I'm sure they were in the beginning but now that Bush is so unpopular it might be off the table. There again, even the democrats are continuing with the rave about the "ongoing Global War on Terror". Isn't it great how the phrase "Global War on Terror" succeeded in becoming part of the ongoing mainstream media vernacular?

Richard, I wonder if people like us were the intended readers for that classic PNAC letter? We are the only ones who quote it!


Martin Gifford, the increased support for Hezbollah is only going to bring more misery for the Lebanese people. Hezbollah and the fruitcake that is their leader is going to launch some more rockets and Israel is going to send in the planes again. How much rubble does Hezbollah want to pile up in Lebanon?

Halliburton Sacks Iranian Nationals

Without being sure of the credibility level of this site, if this story is true then the action may be perceived as an interesting "canary in the mineshaft":

Iran Press News: translation by Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi (from A Daily Briefing On Iran posted on Tuesday)

Regime-run news agency MEHR reported that the that American company Halliburton recently instructed its branch offices both in Iran and other countries that they refrain from renewing their contracts with all their employees of Iranian nationality. The management of this company has stated that they are unable to either employ or extended contracts with Iranian nationals and all those who are those in upper management employment echelons must settle their accounts for termination.

Could this be perceived by the Iranians as a "shot across the bow" by the US through its pet corporation?

Interesting to check their interests

It is possible the Iranians could perceive this as a sign that Cheney's Halliburton may soon pull back from its Persian interests, but then they may have noticed this interesting news item in the New York Times a few days ago: For Venezuela, as Distaste for U.S. Grows, So Does Trade.

Particularly this bit:

Most delicately, oil services companies like Halliburton, an emblem of the Venezuelan government’s distaste with American foreign policy, are at the forefront of the deepening interdependence.

“There’s rhetoric and there’s business,” said an official with the United States Commerce Department who closely follows trade with Venezuela, and asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of relations between the countries. “The Venezuelans can’t produce their oil without our equipment. It’s as simple as that.”

With 10 offices and 1,000 employees in Venezuela, Halliburton recently won a contract to assist Petrozuata, a venture between Venezuela’s national oil company and ConocoPhillips, in extracting oil from fields in eastern Venezuela.

Melissa Norcross, a Halliburton spokeswoman in Houston, declined to comment specifically on activities in Venezuela, but noted that the company had operated in the country for more than 50 years.

In its July filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Halliburton reported that its energy services group, which helps companies drill for oil, hit double-digit sales growth in Venezuela in the first six months of 2006, offsetting a decline in Mexico.

I can vouch for that long history of Halliburton interest in that part of the world. As you'll recall Richard (g'day), I was on their payroll in the '90s (sorry). Crikey, remember our first encounter mate!

That reminds me, Richard do you remember this Feb 2005 piece of mine in on Crikey.com.au that Christian Kerr published with his article looking Behind the Green Zone.  I wonder what happened to those Embassy construction projects in Baghdad? 

By the way, who do you reckon would be very much interested in reconstruct projects in Lebanon after so many vital bits of its infrastructure has been smashed to smithereens?

Has the West forgotten Sri Lanka?

“In the worst fighting since a 2002 cease-fire, ethnic rebels advanced toward Sri Lanka’s strategic Jaffna peninsula on Saturday as government jets bombed rebel positions and truce monitors were told to stay away. The military said it had lost 27 soldiers and killed 100 rebels.” Here.

 While WD has been focused on the Middle East, war has continued in Sri Lanka. Why does the Middle East take up so much of our news? Is it racist or is it the fact that the Middle East may affect our oil supplies? The UN should also broker a cease fire in this long running war.

Say you want a revolution ... well you know ...

“The need for military transformation was clear before the conflict in Afghanistan, and before September the 11th. . . . What’s different today is our sense of urgency – the need to build this future force while fighting a present war. It’s like overhauling an engine while you’re going at 80 miles an hour. Yet we have no other choice.”

President George W. Bush
at The Citadel, Charleston, SC,
December 11, 2001

That 'need' for military transformation was made 'clear' in the Project for the New American Century's report, Rebuilding America's Defenses (.pdf - 90 pages) released September 2000. 

PNAC "saw the project as building upon the defense strategy outlined by the Cheney Defense Department in the waning days of the [elder] Bush Administration." The old cold war warriors of PNAC wanted more than just to keep 'defense' spending high, they wanted to see it increasing, always increasing.   They called for a 'revolution in military affairs'.

Want to know what that revolution entails?  Think of the things listed in comments earlier today (g'day Mark). Then turn to the 90 pages of PNAC's report. You may find it an eerie and frightening read (g'day Martin), unless you see the dollar signs written between the lines (like these guys do). Then perhaps what you see is a 'sense of urgency'.

PNAC, PNAC, who's there ? Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, Libby and Wol

Craig, whenever I want to get grumpy I go back to PNAC's Statement and priniciples and read what was planned in '97


• we need to increase defense spending significantly if we are to carry out our global
responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future;

• we need to strengthen our ties to democratic allies and to challenge regimes hostile to our interests and values;

• we need to promote the cause of political and economic freedom abroad;

• we need to accept responsibility for America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.

Then, If I ywant to get really depressed, I reread the signatories to this philosophy.....

:Elliott Abrams    Gary Bauer    William J. Bennett    Jeb Bush

Dick Cheney    Eliot A. Cohen    Midge Decter    Paula Dobriansky  

Steve Forbes Aaron Friedberg    Francis Fukuyama    Frank Gaffney   

Fred C. Ikle Donald Kagan    Zalmay Khalilzad    I. Lewis Libby   

Norman Podhoretz  Dan Quayle    Peter W. Rodman   

Stephen P. Rosen    Henry S. Rowen Donald Rumsfeld    Vin Weber   

George Weigel    Paul Wolfowitz


Military Transformation

G'day Craig. I think we should be looking to the US wanting to create a leaner and dirtier fighting machine.

Guerrilla warfare is the only way that military conflicts have been fought recently, with the possible exception of the Iran/Iraq war. Traditional armies with their traditional tactics are next to useless against a highly mobile militia. I think the Cheney administration started to learn this lesson in Iraq and has now had it confirmed in Lebanon.This is illustrated by the absolute failure of Israel to achieve any of it's original military objectives against HisBollocks (g'day Malcolm). I say original objectives because, as things got worse, Israel revised downwards its ambitions to the point that they'd now be happy to go back to the way things were before the hostilities and let a reincarnated UNIFIL sort out the mess. At the end of the day, Israel will end up with a diplomatic, rather than military, solution.

So a necessary transformation would be one that emphasised skills relating to police actions and guerrilla warfare rather than having battalions squaring off at dawn. This would create a leaner fighting machine.

As for dirtier, well...think Abu Ghraib, rendition, secret prisons and Gitmo. Think of US papers running opinion pieces by Alan Dershowitz wherein he launches a comprehensive assault on some of the basic tenets of international law. Think of the Cheney administration defending the use of torture. Think of no courts and no rule of law, just enemy combatants and Military Commissions. Think of the US wanting nothing to do with the International Criminal Court (along with Israel, China and Zimbabwe) and even going so far as to pass the Hague Invasion Act. Think of all this, and more, and then think of what other 'transformations' the Neocons are itching for.

Bush is delusional, and his supporters are deluded

Craig, unfortunately the answer is "more probably the parties will be taking us to the brink again before the year is out." Condi allowing Israel to continue destroying Lebanon early on meant that the classic right wing military approach of destroying infrastructure etc was in play.

Your link to Bush's remarks on foreign policy provides an eerie and frightening read. He is clearly going full steam ahead. Today, I heard Senator Clinton and co raving about continuing the "war on terror", so things do not look good. Bush wanted Iran and Syria to be next in the war. A war requires attack by definition. What has Bush got to lose now? His comments show that he is either evil or in dreamland.

As Bob wrote, "The remarks again displayed a total lack or a sense of irony and a shipload of hypocrisy as well as the marked dissociation from reality." It's downright weird that Bush has supporters. They must be brainwashed or hypnotised by "the light on the hill". They seem to think the terrorists are evil, and evil must be destroyed.


Did anybody read this gem in the SMH today?

"Iran's leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, hailed Hezbollah's "victory" over Israel in a message to its chief, Hassan Nasrallah, state television reported. "You imposed your military supremacy on the Zionist regime," he said.

Don't these clowns watch TV?  They must have seen the destruction in Lebanon where whole towns have been flattened.  All I can say it's just as well they won this little skirmish, can you imagine what Lebanon would be like if they lost.

Military transformation

The questions I asked yesterday are still on my mind. President Bush mentioning a need "to transform our military to meet the threats of the 21st century" has had me wondering what that means? What transformation? How will the US military be transformed?

Today the American Forces Information Service reports that the Department of Defense (DoD) is Working to Improve on High Recruiting Standards, following the findings of a Government Accountability Office study (.pdf released yesterday and containing allegations of serious recruiting violations within DoD).

I'll be watching change to recruitment practice and level in America more closely now. It may signal something about the 'transformation' needed to 'stay on the offense' despite the 'sacrifice' required.

Brazilians Bite Back

How can you kill a Brazilian?


By waiting for it to grow back?

There's something funny going down around here. Not sure what. But it is definitely something ...

"What ***hole said that?"

G'day Craig, Richard et M. le docteur Jacques Woodforde (love your work), I see the thread has taken a comical vein, preferable to slitting a vein which some might find a temptation when considering Bush's remarks and policies. Hide under the bed? Must be the modern equivalent to "duck and cover" as "adapt and win" is the latest spin instead of "stay the course", as Jon Stewart points out.

G'day Phil Kendall, I apologise to you and others with limitations that make viewing videos difficult. There is a summary of the clip to read.

Back to the Bush remarks Craig linked. The phrase "we create our own reality" springs to mind. Cosmologists contemplate numerous other dimension in addition to the four of the space-time continuum and with that the possibility of parallel universes. Bush could be used as evidence to support that contention as he does not seem to exist in our reality. The remarks again displayed a total lack or a sense of irony and a shipload of hypocrisy as well as the marked dissociation from reality. This have been discussed in detail in previous threads.

For a different take to the Bush view, here is an interview with Jimmy Carter.

This extract prefaces to my next link:

Carter: The fundamentalists believe they have a unique relationship with God, and that they and their ideas are God's ideas and God's premises on the particular issue. Therefore, by definition since they are speaking for God anyone who disagrees with them is inherently wrong. And the next step is: Those who disagree with them are inherently inferior, and in extreme cases -- as is the case with some fundamentalists around the world -- it makes your opponents sub-humans, so that their lives are not significant. Another thing is that a fundamentalist can't bring himself or herself to negotiate with people who disagree with them because the negotiating process itself is an indication of implied equality. And so this administration, for instance, has a policy of just refusing to talk to someone who is in strong disagreement with them -- which is also a radical departure from past history. So these are the kinds of things that cause me concern. And, of course, fundamentalists don't believe they can make mistakes, so when we permit the torture of prisoners in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib, it's just impossible for a fundamentalist to admit that a mistake was made.

Which is an item from DemocracyNow! on Christian Zionism in the US and its influence on the bush administration. Video and transcript.

MAX BLUMENTHAL: Well, we know in the past that Karl Rove and people in Karl Rove's shop, like Tim Goeglein and Elliott Abrams, who’s in the State Department, who’s traveling, you know, to Israel with Condoleezza Rice, have met with Christian Zionist groups, so this is not an anomaly. But this group has a much larger voice than any of the other groups that have met with the Bush administration, and they claim -- David Brog claimed to me that their principal achievement has been keeping a ceasefire off the table for the past month. So, their principal achievement has been essentially giving Israel a free hand and the IDF a free hand to kind of, you know, ramp up the war, and I think this has had catastrophic consequences for the Middle East and the peace process.

Not influences that bode well for a return to considered diplomacy.

The following item on the program is an interview with John Dean with his perspective on Bush, such as:

JOHN DEAN: Unbelievable. You know, I’ve thought about this. I thought, you know, Richard Nixon in his darkest day, in his worst mood, I can't imagine endorsing or recommending torture. He was in World War II. I watched him handle My Lai and how he felt about that and how he was horrified by it. And yet we have a presidency today that is indeed embracing and still pushing for torture as the norm for how we treat detainees. And it is to me just a classic example of a conservative without conscience. It's the authoritarian at his worst.

Not a promising picture - take the above with the previous posted material, not just on this but on other threads, and contemplate the prospect of changes to failed policies. More likely to be due external rather than internal factors. Note I said "more likely", it is possible that a reordering of the influences within the Administration could happen, and that the path to further adventures, such as attacks against Iran and/or Syria, will not be followed. If not, then other fears will be displaced by more immediate concerns.


G'day Bob, I suppose you saw these?

"Fear! Fear!" shouted hawks and profiteers By Brian Bogart via ICH.

In 1976, this split led to the first CPD-free administration in the office of President Carter, though CPD quickly regrouped to kill détente, oust Carter, and reestablish itself in the Reagan administration, using "Soviet-backed international terrorism" as the new fear factor.

Bogart references an earlier 'remainder' to this:

Constant Conflict (1997), by Major Ralph Peters:

“There will be no peace. The de facto role of the US armed forces will be to keep the world safe for our economy, and open to our cultural assault. To those ends, we will do a fair amount of killing.”

We now know that avarice trumps honesty, and fear trumps love.

But the sheer breadth of the deception is breath-taking.

Each of these criminals (is there a better word?) fakes 'Mr Nice Guy' but orders mass-murder for spoil, like a 'Mon Cherie' with a cyanide centre.

And anyone remarking on it gets the Luntzian 'conspiracy-nut' treatment from the rabid right-whingers.

We need a new 'label', "The Great Satan" looks like understatement.

What a system! How about "Theft-World?" Or the outright "Hell?"

The mind of Bush

Heard this one today:

Rumsfeld informs Bush that there was a Brazilian killied in Iraq today.  Bush looks aghast, before asking " A Brazilian...isn't that a lot? "

Poignant as pretzels.

A new twist on an old joke

Nice one Richard, made me think of this:

A guy walks in and asks the bartender, "Isn't that Bush and Rumsfeld sitting over there?" The bartender says, "Yep, that's them." So the guy walks over and says, "Wow, this is a real honor. What are you guys doing in here?"

Bush says, "We're planning WWIII.  And the guy says, "Really? What's going to happen?"

Bush says, "Well, we're going to kill a brazilian Iranians this time and one bicycle repairman."

The guy exclaimed, "A bicycle repairman!!! Why kill a bicycle repairman?"

Bush turns to Rumsfeld, punches him on the shoulder and says,  "See, dummy! I told you no one would worry about the brazilian Iranians!"

More on Bush remarks

I've now carefully read President George W Bush's remarks on US foreign policy today. The conventional press coverage is focused on his declaration of Israel as the winner, Hezbollah as the loser, and Iran/Syria the states most responsible for the suffering of the Lebanese people. But I notice something more interesting in the transcript.

After a pat on the back for 'Condi' and 'Don', the President set the stage by mentioning a need "to transform our military to meet the threats of the 21st century". What does he mean by this? What transformation? How will the US military be transformed?

President Bush does not go on to make a clear statement on what that opening statement actually means, and I can see only hints as to what it might mean. First, Bush says, "America will stay on the offense against al Qaeda." Then he says, "The way forward is going to be difficult. It will require more sacrifice."

Now the interesting thing is the context in which he talks about staying on the offense against al Qaeda. His very next sentence is "Iran must stop its support for terror." (And I agree that it must). The question is what means to use to achieve that end. What does offense requiring "more sacrifice" entail?

Another interesting line in President Bush's remark is this one: "we'll continue to support reformers inside and outside governments who are working to build the institutions of liberty." Again, what does this entail?  How does the US support reformers inside Iran today and how will they support those reformers in future?



I remember back when the USA was coming second in the Vietnam thing (we sunbronzed Aussies only took bronze), there was a Yank aphorism along the lines of “First we put all the good Vietnamese in a boat, then we bomb the country to smithereens, then we concrete it over.

“Then we sink the boat.”

They were worn to a frazzle and all the bombing they could muster couldn’t backfrazzle the foe which bounced back again and again like a springy clump of bamboo.

And when Robert J Lee Hawke was dragging us in to the Bush family’s Iraq War I, there was a beautiful snowy day in Dresden.

Not far away was a Canaletto, at the top of the stairs in the gallery; the living, marketplace painting which contributed so much to the godless communist rebuild of the city.

Nearby was pile of rubble, all that remained of the cathedral after what Bomber Harris proudly described as “terror.”

Bomber’s terrorist feat was the “area bombing” which blasted and incinerated the city, roasting more than 100,000 to death.

On that icy day in the early 90s, returned the same trudging Germans who had sung and prayed and stood en masse in Leipzig and Berlin and anywhere in East Germany where there were people game enough to have a go.

They planted the Frauenkirche rock-pile with thousands of small white crucifixes as a defiant gesture of solidarity and support and hope from one area-bombed people to another.

And to any people of the world who valued the strategic terrorism of area-bombing and concreting over, for that matter.

Or who valued sinking the boat.

So, whatever Hersh has discovered the other day, we've already had the raw spectacle of Condoleezza Rump flouncing into Tel Aviv to be greeted by Ehud panting: “Is that a Blockbuster in your Booty, or are you just pleased to se me?”

Should we area-bomb a country with a population greater than 65 million, or a city with more than 12 million just to zap various new-k’yulluh sites?

Or to zap a naughty man with an obvious and shameless beard who allegedly has said shocking things about the US and Israel (long his policy to say them, as we know).

If the dead kids or refugee pics from Lebanon, or the daily horrors of Iraq are bad “PR,” as opposed to any kind of morality, what are we to do with all those Persians?

Concrete them over? Or sink the boat? And is that any way to treat all that oil, when we have so many Humvees to run?

The US had the shits for years after they came second in Vietnam. God knows what we’ll have to put up with after this.

Probably a two-term I’m-as-mad-as-hell-and-I’m-not-gonna-take-it Condoleezza Rump on the throne, shrieking like a banshee, wielding thunderbolts and whistling blue murder.

The human race might start praying for that asteroid strike.

Time to hide under the bed.

Today's remarks by President Bush on Foreign Policy

Here is a link to the remarks made today by President Bush on Foreign Policy, the first he has made following the cease-fire.  I've not yet had time for critical thinking on these remarks so provide the link to encourage others who may have the time to look at them this afternoon.  I'll have something more to say on them this evening.

G'day Bob,  I'll look at those articles you linked this evening as well.  Thanks for pointing them out for consideration.

Trial run

G'day Craig Rowley, an interesting piece and a good question. The evidence indicates that the approach adopted by the Bush administration has not worked so it is time for a rethink.

Chris Shaw has referred to Sy Hersh's article on Lebanon being a trial run for Iran elsewhere. Here is the original New Yorker article and here is Sy on DemocracyNow! - video and transcript. Here is a telling extract:

So it's been an amazingly horrific performance by this White House, which is of par. You know, I don't think any of us -- I certainly won't breathe easy until we get to 2009, inauguration of a new president. But there's just no question that if we were to approach Syria right now, something else I didn't write at the time -- that's because I wasn't writing about it -- I don't think there's any question that Israel was interested in talking to Syria in ’03, even about the Golan Heights, which is a tough issue for them, and --

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, Sy --

SEYMOUR HERSH: Let me finish this. And we discouraged Israel from doing it.


SEYMOUR HERSH: I don't know. I guess we didn't want our friends to talk to our enemies.

Not a very constructive approach that last item.

The positive aspect of the purported "trial run" is that it was not successful and might allow those seeking a more diplomatic approach to issues to gain strength.

Here is an article by Robert Parry about Bush's games re Lebanon. The final section provides an analysis of the outcome:

For his part, Bush spent July and early August fending off international demands for an immediate cease-fire. Bush wanted to give Olmert as much time as possible to bomb targets across Lebanon and dislodge Hezbollah forces in the south.

But instead of turning the Lebanese population against Hezbollah - as Washington and Tel Aviv had hoped - the devastation rallied public support behind Hezbollah.

As the month-long conflict took on the look of a public-relations disaster for Israel, the Bush administration dropped its resistance to international cease-fire demands and joined with France in crafting a United Nations plan for stopping the fighting.

Quoting "a senior administration official" with Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, the New York Times reported that "it increasingly seemed that Israel would not be able to achieve a military victory, a reality that led the Americans to get behind a cease-fire." [NYT, Aug. 12, 2006]

But the repercussions from Israel's failed Lebanon offensive are likely to continue. Olmert must now confront the political damage at home and the chief U.S. adversaries in the Middle East may be emboldened by the outcome, more than chastened.

As in the Iraq War, Bush has revealed again how reliance on tough talk and military might can sometimes undercut - not build up - U.S. influence in the strategically important Middle East.

Max Hastings on Bush's approach.

There are aspects of this article I do not agree with but the following, imo, has much merit:

There is no chance that the west will get anywhere with the Muslim world until the US government is willing to disassemble a spread of grievances in widely diverse societies, examine them as separate components, and treat each on its merits. America cannot prevail through the mere deployment of superior wealth and military power, the failure of which is manifest. Judicious and discriminatory political judgments are fundamental, and today quite lacking.

The madness of Bush's policy is that he has made a wilful choice to amalgamate the grossly irrational, totalitarian and homicidal objectives of al-Qaida with the just claims of Palestinians and grievances of Iraqis. His remarks on Saturday invite Muslims who sympathise with Hamas or reject Iraq's occupation or merely aspire to grow opium in Afghanistan to make common cause with Bin Laden.

Perhaps dealing with such complexities is beyond the abilities of Bush and elements that support him, or there are delusions that blind them to the realities. Time to change course and perhaps there are signs of it beginning to happen - the next little while will indicate whether traditional diplomacy will reassert itself. There is also the prospect of a change in the balance in the US Congress in November which might affect the approach. Bush might have other matters to occupy himself with. But keep in mind a caution in Hersh's interview about how Bush sees himself.

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