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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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Take a breather, please.

G'day Craig, more from Mohammed ElBaradei on Friday - calling for a timeout.

DAVOS, Switzerland (CNN) -- International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohammed ElBaradei said Friday he was calling for a timeout regarding the Iranian nuclear issue, hoping that talks on the matter can resume.

ElBaradei told CNN International that the timeout would mean Iran would freeze its nuclear program, while the United Nations would temporarily suspend the sanctions package against Iran that took effect last month.

"The key to the Iranian issue is a direct engagement between Iran and the U.S., similar to North Korea," ElBaradei told CNN International's Becky Anderson.

"North Korea is a good example. For years, things were not moving. Only when the U.S. talked directly with the North Koreans, we had a positive report. If we are able to talk to the North Koreans, we ought to be able to talk to the Iranians."

These calls for calm and negotiation seem eminently sensible to me but, apparently not to others. Would Cheney have changed his mind since rejecting the 2003 Iranian approach? Not likely given his responses to questions about Iraq I have linked elsewhere.

This move does not seem designed to ease the situation.

LT. Gen. William E. Odom (Ret.) proposes a different strategy for the ME.

Different from prior strategies as accurately defined by Iraq's vice president at Davos.

DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan 25 (Reuters) - The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was an "idiot decision" and Iraqi troops now need to secure Baghdad to ensure the country's future, Vice-President Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Thursday.

Back to the warmongers and Justin Raimondo fires up over Herzliya.

Some seem intent on catastrophe. There is a need to change course, but the problem is that those at the controls do not seem prone to do so.

Calm heads or catastrophe?

At the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos the former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, Reuters reports today, called for calm heads to reduce building tensions between the United States and his country over its nuclear programme.

"I hope that they would be good enough in managing the situation. We deeply need patience and understanding and not to get too emotional," Khatami said.

Also at the WEF meeting, Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said that an attack on Iran "would be absolutely counterproductive, and it would be catastrophic."

"I am convinced that the only way forward in Iran is engagement," ElBaradei said. "We have to invest in peace," he said, adding that if the international community failed to do that "the consequence will be 10 times worse."

"I hope we will stop speaking about a military option and focus on finding a solution," ElBaradei said.

Who would like to start a conversation about negotiated solutions?

The Plan.

G'day Craig, a question that crosses my mind about some of the statements by US politicians at the Herzliya Conference is how much of it is pandering and how much of it they actually believe. In the link you provided on John Edwards we see the "standard" version repeated which is selective and ignores the lack of evidence or doubt about some claims that a more complete and objective analysis reveals. Not surprisingly I find a lack of a sense of irony in the final paragraph of the link:

... But I think the American people are smart if they are told the truth, and if they trust their president. So Americans can be educated to come along with what needs to be done with Iran.

Another irony given the Nazi analogies previously referred to, is that Goebbels, a great refiner of propaganda techniques, would have been proud of at least some of the work being done.

Here is something I am sure will interest you.

The escalation of US military planning on Iran is only the latest chess move in a six-year push within the Bush Administration to attack Iran, a RAW STORY investigation has found.

While Iran was named a part of President George W. Bush’s “axis of evil” in 2002, efforts to ignite a confrontation with Iran date back long before the post-9/11 war on terror. Presently, the Administration is trumpeting claims that Iran is closer to a nuclear weapon than the CIA’s own analysis shows and positing Iranian influence in Iraq’s insurgency, but efforts to destabilize Iran have been conducted covertly for years, often using members of Congress or non-government actors in a way reminiscent of the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal.

Just the start and plenty of links to supporting material, including  this US policy.

Lots to digest in the above.

The US claims it has proof that Iran is interfering in Iraq. What do you think the odds are that proof can be found that the US is also interfering in Iraq? Oh! And they had to go so much further. Not to mind, have agenda, will travel.

Jim Lobe on public opinion in the US and Iran. A change from the rhetoric of political leaders.

We are all making Hitler analogies now

Is it a compulsory requirement for Republican presidential wannabes to go to Israel, address a local crowd at something like the Herzliya Conference, and evoke the Hitler analogy?

Hitler analogies

Craig, where are you getting this "Hitler analogy" stuff?

I just read the Herzliya Conference speeches of the two Republican Presidential candidates who spoke, John McCain and Mitt Romney. Neither one even uses the name "Hitler" in his speech. Democratic candidate John Edwards also spoke at the conference. Similarly he did use the name Hitler.

Romney says "Fundamentalism is the dark nightmare that follows the last century’s dark nightmare of Communism and Nazism" and "Iran’s leaders and ambitions represent the greatest threat the world has seen since Communism and Nazism before that." That's not a Hitler analogy; he's comparing the seriousness of the threat posed by Iran to the totalitarian ideologies of Nazism and Communism. Whether he is correct or not, time will tell.

But that's not a "Hitler analogy." Why didn't you call it a "Stalin analogy" since he gives equal time to  Communism?

McCain and Edwards don't even mention Nazism or Nazis.

Re: Hitler analogies

"Democratic candidate John Edwards also spoke at the conference. Similarly he did use the name Hitler."

Will, I think you may have erroneously omitted a word in that second sentence.

John Edwards did not use the name Hitler, at least as far as can be discerned by reading the lecture "summary" provided by Herzliya Conference organisers. 

Mitt Romney did evoke the Hitler analogy by making the comparison you pointed out. His rhetoric is designed to draw on the emotional response to the thought of Hitler's Nazis in the same way direct use of the Hitler analogy would.

Newt Gingrich evoked the analogy too, but he's not a runner in the next presidential race (or is he?). John McCain, who is a runner, did not.

So I guess the answer to my original question is what I expected it should be - No, it is not compulsory for Republican presidential wannabes to evoke that analogy.

So the next question is - Why did Romney choose to evoke it?

Analogies and Isseroff's Analysis

Craig, I did indeed omit a word in my posting about Edwards - he did not use the name Hitler. Why did Romney evoke an analogy between modern radical Islamism and the 20th-Century totalitarian ideologies Communism and Nazism? Perhaps it's because he thinks the analogy is valid. And on some levels I agree with him.

Isseroff's analysis is "excellent" IMO because of its comprehensiveness and balance. He also balances the "land cannot be acquired by aggressive force" principle usually used as a rhetorical weapon against Israel, by pointing out that Syria had grabbed land in the Golan in 1948 War. He also points out other Arab violations of this principle in the case of Jerusalem. (He could have brought up other examples such as the Etzion Bloc).

We are all Hezbollah now

Will Howard: "Maybe [Wallid Jumblatt is] just pissed off that his country has been hijacked and held hostage by a bunch of proxy (mainly of Iran) thugs, who have used his nation as launching-pad to start an illegal war against Israel, then have used Lebanon as one big human shield."

Well, yeah, that and yesterday's Hezbollah coup attempt.  Hey, remember those "peace rallies" during the Israel-Hezbollah war? My favourite was the big one in London with the banner saying 'We are all Hezbollah now'. As if we didn't already know.

Analysis of Syria-Israel "non-talks"

Commentator Ami Isseroff has an excellent summary and analysis of the non-results of the recent non-negotiations leading to a proposed non-peace deal being denied by the Israeli and Syrian governments in Syria and Israel: deniable peace non-negotiations.

Re: Analysis of Syria-Israel "non-talks"

Will, what exactly do you find "excellent" about Ami Isseroff's analysis?

I noticed his failure to mention certain facts. Take, for instance, the line: "It is not clear from the map if Syria would be allowed to keep the areas it conquered by aggression in the 1948 Israeli war of independence, such as Hamat Gader."

I wondered why Isseroff did not present a fuller account of the history of Hamat Gader/al-Hamma?

There are other points I paused at, though I did find Isseroff's concluding suggestion to have considerable merit:

The truth is that neither side has gone nearly far enough on the road to peace. Israel should have been willing to conduct open negotiations, with the cooperation and support of the EU and the United States, for peace with Syria. However, the settlement to be contemplated must include a package deal that would detach Syria from Iran, guarantee the sovereignty and integrity of Lebanon and end Syrian support for Iranian adventurism. Creative thinking about the Golan can also, for example, trade a corridor to the port of Haifa for Israeli territorial acquisitions in the Golan. Most important, Syria has to show the United States that it is really intent on peace and good relations in all areas, beginning with Lebanon.

Want to talk about what might go into such a "package deal"?

What Walid said...

Craig Rowley: "Will, the claim by Walid Jumblatt is interesting indeed..."

"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world."

- Walid Jumblatt.

Cooling it perhaps?

News this morning is that Lebanon's opposition began removing roadblocks across the country last night after suspending the general strike and halting protests aimed at toppling the government.

Rattling along.

G'day Craig, more to-ing and fro-ing and tit-for-tat between the US and Iran.

A second U.S. aircraft carrier strike group now steaming toward the Middle East is Washington's way of warning Iran to back down in its attempts to dominate the region, a top U.S. diplomat said here Tuesday.

Nicholas Burns, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, ruled out direct negotiations with Iran and said a rapprochement between Washington and Tehran was "not possible" until Iran halts uranium enrichment.

"The Middle East isn't a region to be dominated by Iran. The Gulf isn't a body of water to be controlled by Iran. That's why we've seen the United States station two carrier battle groups in the region," Burns said in an address to the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center, an influential think-tank.

"Iran is going to have to understand that the United States will protect its interests if Iran seeks to confront us," Burns continued.

Seems the US is willing to go a long way to be confronted - that far from home and one can wonder just who is confronting whom. Now if Iran was stationing carrier task groups off the US coast ...

And about those claims about Iranian assistance to Iraq ... 

Here is an article about Lebanon to follow your link about the strike.

Meanwhile, back in old DC, the Libby trial is under way, so it might be time to tend to the Irises again. The SOTU is coming up as well. The former matter might have some bearing on activities elsewhere, such as the ME. It is a matter of whether Cheney is distracted by the trial. He looks like being a very central figure.

Light blue touch paper

Thanks for that report Craig, there might be numerous parties willing to take advantage of the situation with all sorts of possible outcomes.

Speaking of which, here is K Gajendra Singh's take on the ME to mull over. Stand well clear if someone does light the blue touch paper. But where will clear be?

As long as the deck chairs are suitably arranged ....

An irony deficiency.

G'day Craig, the sabres are being rattled and we do hope they aren't taken out of their scabbards to see whose is bigger.

From your links to the Herzliya Conference, and others I have seen, it seems to be a gathering of the irony deficient. See earlier posts on the historical record versus rhetoric and legal rights and operating within treaties and safeguards as opposed to outside such oversight.

Let's hope for more increasingly bold Iranian criticism of Ahmadinejad and no "scorching hell" for anyone - not in the next few months; not ever.

We have reported signs of change within Iran and the external pressure, and in particular, increasing conjecture of military action would most likely be counterproductive.

Meanwhile, I saw this article yesterday about other matters and priorities.

Let us run that up the flagpole and see who salutes.

It's heating up

Things are indeed getting a bit overheated, Bob. And in more ways than one.

Today thousands of Lebanese demonstrators have blocked main roads of Beirut and elsewhere in the country. They've started a general strike that was called by the opposition, led by Hezbollah, and are demanding the formation of a national unity Government and the holding of early elections.

From The Guardian:

The turnout for Tuesday's strike is seen as a test of strength between the government and the opposition. Although both leaders sought to avoid violence, tension in the streets between their supporters is likely to be high.

Might it be a test of the ceasefire as well?

Re: It's Heating Up

Craig: update on the Israel-Syria secret talks story:

Switzerland says it mediated in informal Israel-Syria peace talks.

This story names Swiss diplomat Nicholas Lang as the go-between, and Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey confirms Switzerland's role in the secret talks.

Interestingly, the same story says Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt "accused Hezbollah of waging the summer war for Syria and Iran in order to improve the Syrian bargaining position". He said the Lebanese paid the price for talks that Syrian-American businessman Ibrahim Suleiman had conducted with Israelis.

'Does that not shame Hezbollah to be used at the expense of Lebanon and the Lebanese?' Jumblatt asked."

I doubt anything shames Hezbollah, but Jumblatt asks a very good question. And to think all this time I thought Hezbollah started that war to "liberate" Palestine. 

Jumblatt - July and January

Will, the claim by Walid Jumblatt is interesting indeed, especially given that he's seen by the BBC (at least) as Lebanon's political weathervane

The accusation by Jumblatt, repeated in the Haaretz article, was one he made during the initial days of Israeli strikes on Lebanon.  Back in July last year he'd raised the question of whether Hezbollah's abduction of two Israeli soldiers was carried out to free Lebanese prisoners from Israeli jails or rather for the sake of a person "whose palace was flown over by Israeli planes two weeks ago". 

Why might Jumblatt have repeated his accusation on Monday? 

Re: Jumblatt

Craig: "Why might Jumblatt have repeated his accusation on Monday?"

Maybe he's just pissed off that his country has been hijacked and held hostage by a bunch of proxy (mainly of Iran) thugs, who have used his nation as launching-pad to start an illegal war against Israel, then have used Lebanon as one big human shield.

It could be that simple. Or not.

Re: Jumblatt

Will, I've no doubt that he is pissed off. I think what really peeves him, more than anything, has more to do with Assad than anything else. 

Consider the quotes used in this article published by Lebanese and pro-Harriri Ya Libnan.

On Monday, just before the day of protest in Lebanon, Jumblatt re-stated his hypothesis that "Hezbollah was used by Iran and Syria to buttress Bashar's Assad bargaining with Dan Halutz."

Apparently, "[Jumblatt] described the opposition as 'the union of opposition tribes', that is carrying out a Syrian agenda to block the creation of an international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes.

"They want to defend Assad's subordinates," Jumblatt charged.

And also, though not included in that Haaretz report, Jumblatt rhetorically addressed Nasrallah, saying "I advise you to accelerate your party's approval of the international tribunal because in three weeks we have a major event. The third anniversary of the Hariri assassination."

Jumblatt appears to be, perhaps understandably, obsessed with Assad.

Drum beating, sabre rattling and such

With the USS Stennis Strike Group steaming toward the Persian Gulf to join the Ike Strike Group, Iran conducted missile tests yesterday as its leadership stepped up warnings of possible military confrontation with the US. 

Last Thursday, Mohsen Rezaei, a former head of the Revolutionary Guards, appeared on Iranian state television saying the Americans "have made their decision to attack Iran" - possibly in late February or early March - and Iranian hardliners are saying an American attack would spark "a scorching hell" for the US and Israel, with some threatening suicide attacks against US forces.

The drum-beating suggested Iran does not intend to back down in its standoff with the West. It could also aim to rally the public behind the government and silence increasingly bold criticism at home of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's antagonism toward the United States.

Let's hope for more increasingly bold Iranian criticism of Ahmadinejad and no "scorching hell" for anyone - not in the next few months; not ever.

Insurgency not "pristine" , but still "worthy of our support"

Two car bombs ripped through a busy market in Baghdad, killing 88 people in fresh violence of the kind that US and Iraqi forces plan to target in a new offensive in the lawless capital.

And...

Al-Qaeda's deputy leader has mocked US President George W Bush's plan to send 21,000 more troops to Iraq, challenging him to send "the entire army". He also vowed insurgents would defeat them in a new videotape, a US group that tracks al-Qaeda messages said today.

There you go David. The "insurgency".  Not "pristine" exactly, but obviously "worthy of our support".

CP - who is this for?

CP, I have no idea why you've directed this comment at me.  I sure as hell don't support the "unspeakable brutality of terrorism", and, as I conclusively demonstrated a couple of posts back, neither does Arundhati Roy.  Cheers. 

The solution? Serious shock!

Today Giora Shamis and Diane Shalemat at DEBKAfile focus on the IDF's ex-chief of staff Lt. Gen Moshe Yaalon's message to the Herzliya Conference:

He devoted a large part of his lecture to challenging as fallacious the proposition that the Israel-Arab dispute was caused by the “Israeli occupation,” or that Israeli concessions for creating a Palestinian state would end the dispute. On the contrary, he argued, this concept thwarts fresh thinking for a solution.

Like to know what his "fresh thinking" has offered up by way of a solution?

Regarding the threat from Iran, Gen. Yaalon is of the opinion that a confrontation with the Islamic regime is unavoidable. Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority and other nations will never achieve stability unless the Iranian regime is crushed. It is now riding how [sic], convinced of victory, because it has never had to pay the price for its rogue behavior. "I see no regime change in Iran without a serious shock being administered by an external force", he concluded.

The art of niche marketing to the bourgoise pseud

David Curry quoting Arundhati Roy:

"But remember that if the struggle were to resort to violence, it will lose vision, beauty and imagination. Most dangerous of all, it will marginalize and eventually victimize women. "

Gosh. Isn't that a lovely sentiment? But then she goes and ruins it all by saying:

“Like most resistance movements, [the Iraqis] combine a motley range of assorted factions. Former Baathists, liberals, Islamists, fed-up collaborationists, communists, etc. Of course, it is riddled with opportunism, local rivalry, demagoguery and criminality. But if we were to only support pristine movements, then no resistance will be worthy of our purity."

Our purity.

So, on the one hand, we are being vewwy, vewwy careful to cloak ourselves in the mantle of a profound, transcending piety complete with "vision" and even nodding to intrinsic virtue of womanhood - but in the next breath our "pristine purity" is whittled down for purely practical reasons to suit a "a motley range of assorted factions" who have no qualms at all about slitting the throats of Care International nurses and massacring female Uni students. In order to hold an elected government to ransom.

That's just choice. But you do have a point. Arundhati has been merely one of scores of prominent dupes to publicly rationalise their support for the racist fascist "resistance".

And at least her name didn't appear on a list of those benefiting from allocations under the Food for Oil programme, like George "Lickspittle" Galloway of the "Respect Party", so her open support for the "resistance" may have been the mere result of conceited stupidity and not outright corrupt greed at the expense of Iraqi mothers and babies being deliberately starved for the benefit of George's friends Uday and Tariq.

By the way, has Tariq been hanged yet? What's taking things so long?

David Curry: "Hi CP, the quote attributed to me in your comment is F Kendall's.  Cheers. "

My apologies.

Nothing succeeds like success - breaking hearts in Havana

Bob Wall: "G'day Craig, it is an obvious question is it not, ie., why continue on the current course?"

Well, Bob, if you read the Times On-line item you linked us to, it says this:

Alarmed by mounting US pressure and United Nations sanctions, officials close to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei favour the appointment of a more moderate team for international negotiations on the supervision of its nuclear facilities.

The move would be a snub to the bellicose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose threats to destroy Israel have left Iran increasingly isolated and facing a serious economic downturn.

There have been for weeks now reports of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's declining political stocks at home.  This could be a further indication.

If true, and let's hope so, this is clear evidence that as with its strategy to deal with the recent North Korean nuclear blackmail attempts, the US diplomatic efforts regarding Iran's illegal nuclear development programme are demonstrably correct, too.

And so from the point of view of the sane, and even in the case of the merely moderately insane such as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, it's probably time to review the policy of the completely insane Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Though this will doubtless break a few hearts in Caracas, Sadr City and Havana (and thus Leichhardt, Newtown and Glebe).

Read the transcript

Trevor Kerr: "My guess is the US military hasn't a hope of proving anything about Hicks' motives for being in Afghanistan, unless hearsay is allowed, because the chaps who brought him in are not available as witnesses."

Here's some evidence about his motives:

In his letters to his family, Hicks tells them his training in Pakistan and Afghanistan is designed to ensure "the Western-Jewish domination is finished, so we live under Muslim law again". He denounces the plots of the Jews to divide Muslims and make them think poorly of Osama bin Laden.

There you go.

So why continue?

G'day Craig, it is an obvious question is it not, ie., why continue on the current course? Some people must think it is a good idea despite the dangers and possible dire consequences. 

Meanwhile, Condi does her thing while there is another report of Iran taking measures towards moderation.

In the Rice article there is this:

"We are not trying to escalate this. Our plan is to try to respond to Iranian activity that is harming us," Rice said in Der Spiegel in an interview published on Sunday.

They could look a lot closer to home to see activity that is harming them (a mirror perhaps) and then consider this from Tom Engelhardt and Adam Hochschild.

Cringing for Jihad - bring David Hicks home now

F Kendall: "Well, C Parsons, I would be pleased to see David Hicks returned to Australia: -   if only to demonstrate that our government had a regard for their citizens and their treatment, as the UK government has demonstrated re British citizens.  A bit of national pride instead of the everlasting cultural cringe."

Okay, I'll resist the temptation to exploit the obvious potential for sarcastic retort in any sentence containing simultaneously the phrases "David Hicks" and "everlasting cultural cringe".  What was he doing in Afghanistan again?

F Kendall: "What is the problem with him having what we would regard as "a fair trial"?

None. Maybe his lawyers should stop all the delaying tactics and just get on with it. But you are right, the Americans are not the people to be trying him. He should be handed back to the authorities in his adopted homeland. Do they have the death penalty for treason in Afghanistan? Anyway, life in some Kabul prison would doubtless contrast markedly with conditions in Guantanamo. So here's hoping.

David Curry: "You have several times quoted him as "firing heavy calibre weapons at people across a national border in peace-time".  No one with any remote familiarity with these anarchic tribal regions, as described by many, such as William Dalrymple,  would find such actions at all unusual. "

Terrific. That makes it okay, then. He was delighted to boast of firing such weapons across the border at unspecified individuals, as likely civilians as not. Perhaps he killed a few of them. I hope anyone he killed was consoled at that moment to think William Dalrymple wouldn't have found their getting killed by some mercenary from Australia at all unusual. Personally, I find it quite odd, but that's just me. Hey? Was it particularly unusual, say, for Klansmen in the South to shoot black people? Or for Australians to shoot Aborigines in 19th century Queensland - as opposed to shooting Gujaratis today that is?

Anyone else you know bragging of such a thing need Kerry Nettle's support, do you think? Just wondering. I have to tell you, in my typically detestable neocon manner, I'm really beginning to hope the statute of limitations runs out on David Hicks and that he's repatriated to Australia soon.  Because the only thing regarding him that would give me more pleasure now than David Hicks standing in the dock in Kabul or New Delhi would be to see him get a  a hero's welcome at Mascot Airport by a mob of "peace activists" and "human rights campaigners".   Especially his old pal Mamdouh Habib.  I cannot wait.

CP - quote not mine

Hi CP, the quote attributed to me in your comment is F Kendall's.  Cheers. 

If we continue our current course

Richard Perle, aka "Prince of Darkness", was busy last night 'reassuring' those attending the Seventh Annual Herzliya Conference in Israel.

What did he say?

"If we continue on our current course, we have only a military option."

And if a strike on Iran required US participation for success, President Bush would agree to it.

Hicks may well be worse then a mercenary

Mark Sergeant, he certainly qualifies as a mercenary on all points except perhaps one. That being the motivated by money section. And I am not to sure any person has bothered to look that deeply into it.

The contractors in Iraq cannot be mercenaries in a technical sense. They are there on behalf of a recognised government. So in the event of capture this automatically qualifies them as POWs.

Also I believe the US should send him back to Afghanistan. They have him in custody, no?

Also the Taliban were never the recognised national army. The UN recognised the Northern Alliance as the offical government of Afghanistan. So that little avenue for Hicks is out right from the get-go.

One final thing on this whole sorry mess. I agree it would be fifty-fifty chance whether or not Hicks could be charged as a mercenary. The sticking point being whether he was motivated by monetary gain. I simply do not know, and neither does anyone else, if this were the case. Only a trial could find the answer and that in my book should take place in Afghanistan.

However if he were not motivated by this, what was he motivated by? I mean look deeply into it and it is quiet scary. Here you have a guy travelling from war to war that he could not possible have any links to. What the hell is that all about?

War is a horrible thing and normal people wish to avoid such things at all costs. Unfortunately it is a regular part of a lot of peoples lives in many parts of the world. A man picks up a weapon and kills for many reasons during a war. That man rightly or wrongly feels some form of attachment to the conflict. Whether as a soldier sent there, a local defending something, a person attacking something through hatred etc. So why would Hicks a Australian and not a member of the Defence force with no links to either Kosovo or Afganistan wish to get involved in something like that? What did a Serb or a Afghani (it was a civil war) ever do to him?

Imagine the pain a person feels with a loved one being killed in a war. Imagine how that must be multiplied by knowing your loved one was killed by somebody who neither had to be there and frankly had no reason to be there? At least with a mercenary you know it is through pure greed.

No, this Hicks fellow is not some type of "adventurer". An adventure for a young man is going white water rafting or some such. What we have here is some type of war junkie. If it wasn't for the dollars, was it for the enjoyment? I would be interested to know if Hicks ever applied for the army and was knocked back on certain grounds.

Legal or not, in the middle of a war if a outsider is caught taking up arms he deserves to be shot. Wars are horrible enough as it is without making them into some kind of extreme sport.

Packing it

The Gulf Times reports that Pakistan's former army chief Gen Mirza Aslam Beg has also expressed concerned about an attack on Iran ... and the "dangerous situation for the region". 

Beg says both Iran and Pakistan are on the "hit list" of the United States.  Recall the "back to the stone age" threat revealed by the President of Pakistan in a CNN interview last year? 

But the Pakistanis don't need to fear being made a direct target to be justifiably concerned about an attack on Iran. An understanding of the trouble with bunker busters would be reason enough.

Hearsay

David Hicks situation has been more obviously grave with enactment of the new rules, as reported in US terror trials to allow hearsay:

The US defense department has released new rules allowing terror suspects to be convicted and possibly executed on the basis of hearsay evidence and some coerced testimony.

My guess is the US military hasn't a hope of proving anything about Hicks' motives for being in Afghanistan, unless hearsay is allowed, because the chaps who brought him in are not available as witnesses.

If Hicks has said he wasn't there to face the US military and risk spilling his own blood, he is in a far worse predicament. He will find it very difficult to prove his intent was not to come back to the West as a trained subversive.

He's a convenient pawn at the right time, when Bush is struggling to convince with his argument that 'if we don't get them there, they will come here'. It's hard to decide which/who is in the deeper doo-doo - Hicks, or the US in setting him up for a lynching.

Hearsay -can you see by the dawn's early light ?

It's just occurred to me that Downer's using an unnamed person as take-it-or-leave it proof of Hick's well-being might have been a test of applied hearsay. 

I would not put it past the arrogance of His Lordship to try it out for himself.  Even if it polled badly the practice-time would be worth it.

Optimistically you'd like to think that the vox-pop was graded D because it wasn't accepted.  Pragmatically it's more likely that the story floated by under most people's noses, just like the mosque funding beat-up of the week before.

 

Like a butterfly?

On floating, Richard, do you have Jarvis Cocker in your repertoire?

Irfan had a pretty good piece in The Age - Lesson of loathing:

Meanwhile, Danny Nalliah can stand up in an Australian Parliament and call for the Christian right to take over Australian government and politics. When called upon to specifically condemn the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam, he can prevaricate and make excuses. And he can publish newsletters calling on his followers to pray for Hindu and Buddhist temples to be torn down. Politicians can support his organisation despite its links to anti-Semitic groups such as the League of Rights.

I suppose Downer and his type would have risen to the same prominence if Australia had been part of the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere.

The things that batter.

Just how much clout does Downer have in Baghdad?

I've just finished reading the Summer Edition of the Australian Army Journal and recommend you have a look.( pdf here )  There's an interesting essay on the false premise underpinning the War On Terror, being that it\s not fed by religious fundamentalism but chessmanlike manouvering to influence a foreign power to remove its armed forces from occupied territory.

The one on SECDET caught my eye, not so much for their conduct but for who they work for.   SECDET have been getting a bit of press in Texas this weekend for gunning down a  KBR contractor at a Green Zone checkpoint.  Nobody would release his nationality, then his San Antonio family came forward to say that he'd gone over to raise some retirement money.

I digress.  The point that was of real interest in the piece was that SECDET basically work for DFAT.    There's also Aussie security company Unity as security contractors, run by the bloke who looked after the athletes at Sydney 2000, but according to Downer quite low-grade when he responded to the company's checkpoint shooting of Agriculture Professor Kays Juma last year.  As I've said before, it's a shame the Professor wasn't around for the Cole Inquiry.  Sorry, digressing again.

Between the military and the contractors, Downer's got quite an army at his command, figuratively if not literally.   Thank Christ he didn't get the IAEA directorship as well.

I dunno, I guess I don't like the way the man likes to look as if he knows what's about to happen next....  not from somebody with so much clout.

 

When a mercenary is not really a mercenary

Mad Mike Hoare should have claimed a intense dislike of blacks and a need to keep the world white and right as his motivation.

I wonder if he would get letters to the editor day in and day out. Actually I wonder how the Luanda four fared in those days. They were shot as mercenaries by the Cuban backed MLPA. I cannot remember leftists flooding the streets in protest for their release.

Perhaps my memory is fading?

Motivation

Sorry I actually wrote in part instead of take part. The motivation part is the possible loophole. However I would argue fighting for seperate forces in different conflicts negates any problems with his "motivation".

So you have a billionaire like Bin Laden illegally in a nation fighting the recognised government of that nation and splashing around cash. And Hicks was not  "motivated" by any of this? Yes, pull the other one and it plays jingle bells.

A pity Hicks and co are not made examples of. Mercenary activity has been a major and ugly problem throughout the third world. The Apartied government of South Africa were experts at using this way of a proxy war without getting their hands dirty. I see no reason why this sort of thing will not continue.

The message is to essentially make up a "cause" outside of money.

Hicks should go back to Afganistan and test the waters

Mark Sergeant The word tried should have been in between caught and shot in the field. In previous posts I think you will find it. I will admit the caught and shot part sounds a little over dramatic.

Hicks though if classified as a mercenary would have little to no rights. He would be treated as a criminal and the Northern Alliance, at the time, the recognised government of Afganistan would be totally within their rights to shoot him.

A mercenary under protocol 1 article 47 of the Geneva convention is

1. A mercenary shall not have the right to be a combatant or a prisoner of war.

a)  is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict; 

(b)  does, in fact, take a direct part in the hostilities; 

(c)  is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a Party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party;

(d)  is neither a national of a Party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a Party to the conflict;

(e)  is not a member of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict; and

 (f)  has not been sent by a State which is not a Party to the conflict on official duty as a member of its armed forces.

Your argument would be against point C. However given that another mercenary one Jack Thomas took home the amount of two thousand dollars, it disproves that myth. One witness stating Hicks had accepted money is all that is needed. Secondly that Hicks had fought in previous conflicts namely Kosovo for a different non recognised force shows a pattern of behaviour. A tribunal would have little difficulty in coming to a decision on how he should be classified.

The precedent for treating mercenaries has already been set and accepted.  They are known as the "Luanda four". I would also remind you that since 1976 this international law has been beefed up.

Again I remind you that the only nation that could classify him as this is Afganistan. Because any crimes committed by the illegal forces he was apart of would be against the Afgani people. That is why he should be sent back there to be tried. And the later transcripts by Thomas merely add to his guilt.

My belief is that Hicks could very well be convicted and if so he rightly deserves to be shot.

One last thing regarding point C: note the words "motivated in part", very important. As I have said previous involvment in unrelated conflicts would go very, very much against Hicks.

Mercenaries

Jay White, you did say "tried" in that previous post. But then you said "caught and shot in the field", and the trial seemed to be forgotten.

If you look at the links I provided you'll see that I think that there are other grounds for thinking that Hicks does not qualify as a mercenary. I only addressed the money/motivation issue because you raised it.

Lets go through them, a to f:

a) Specially recruited. I seem to have come to different conclusions in each of those links. So here I'll just say it is not clear, but as far as I know he was a volunteer.

b) Takes part. I've agreed that this applies. But I may be wrong.

c) Motivated by private gain. I reckon that this is pretty clear. Proof that Hicks accepted money is not enough (and we haven't had even that) it has to be "compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions". Regarding Jack Thomas, I'm not aware on anyone (except you) asserting he is a mercenary. And I don't think that $2,000 travel expenses after more than 2 years is evidence for motivation by private gain.

d) Not a national of a Party. As an Australian citizen, he gets off on a technicality. You should be charging him with treason.

e) Not a member of the armed forces. The general understanding seems to be that he was fighting as part of the Taliban. The Taliban were the de facto government of Afghanistan, a party to the relevant treaties. It is certainly arguable, and probably correct, that he was a member of the armed forces of Afghanistan.

f) Not on official duty from a State not a Party to the conflict. It is very unlikely that he was on such official duty.

On what is publicly "known" of David Hicks he is not a mercenary either by the protocol or dictionary definitions. You may have your own private definition. He is certainly less a mercenary than the security contractors in Iraq, many of whom would qualify on all six points.

I did ask for a link, but you made me do the work on the Luanda Four. They also get mentioned in Wikipedia's article on mercenaries.

The treatment of mercenaries normally falls to domestic law, which may incorporate the protocol definition, use some other definitiion, or not deal with mercenaries as a class at all. Whatever the case, a detainee is entitled to a proper status determination, and if not a POW then trial under the ordinary criminal law. A person not entitled to POW status who has been engaging in the ordinary activities of a soldier is probably subject to quite a lot of criminal law.

One last point. One of the "usual conditions" for extradition that I referred to is that the defendant not be subject to the death penalty. It would be illegal (and rightly so) for Australia to send Hicks back to Afghanistan to be shot.

Semantics

Semantics of the Geneva Convention notwithstanding, why has Murdoch media been pushing a support groundswell since Christmas? Or is this just an Adelaide thing?

Hicks was front page on Christmas Day (a fairly hard day to sell papers you'd reckon) and the letters page has been flying since, with even such a luminary as Mr Ruddock contributing this week (and yes I've done a couple- can't be outdone by Phil).  Twenty-five days!  Bono said bugger-all here!

Something within the Newspolling must've indicated that the issue was a paper-seller.  Translation: there are strong sentiments out and about. 

My last little scribble was to politely accuse Downer of being as full of bull as usual.  Nobody swallowed that rubbish on Thursday, did they?  At any rate, if Ruddock's writing letters perhaps Howard's polling equates with Murdoch's.

I can't decide what Hicks has done.  That's the job of a judge and jury.  Speaking of executioners, does commutability of a death sentence still apply within the new "legal structure" ?

A matter of priorities.

G'day Craig, well, there is the saying "the business of America is business" and Limp Dick certainly does seem to like doing business. He and Halliburton have had a very mutually beneficial relationship, although I doubt not everyone could say they benefited.

The policy decisions are not helped by an apparent lack of knowledge in certain areas. Couple that with the interests you detailed and it is a concern. We can hope that pressure and reality can have an impact.

A past rejection and another offer?

G'day Craig, this report puts the 2003 rejection of an Iranian offer for talks down to Cheney. Now it is reported that Iran is ready to talk again.

Meanwhile, in Iran there are new alliances

We can but wait for developments to see who is interested in doing what.

Interests in Iran

G'day Bob, interesting news about Cheney's views on talking to the Iranians.  It's remarkable how they've changed over the past decade.

As CEO of Halliburton, he had lobbied the Clinton administration to ease sanctions on Iran. Back then he didn't seem to have such a problem with talking to the Iranians, at least not when it came to certain interests.

Recall that a Halliburton Group company had paid a pittance to settle Department of Commerce allegations that the company had broken anti-boycott provisions of the US Export Administration Act for an Iran-related transaction? I remember it well. It happened in 1997, which was the same year I met Mr Cheney in Sydney (and soon after decided I didn't want to keep working for his Australian acquisition). 

Halliburton continued to talk and do business with Iranians over the years (through Cayman registered subsidiaries naturally).  It meant profit for the company and dividends for its shareholders of course. 

In fact, the group took in $30-$40 million from Iranian operations in 2003 when Cheney was turning down talk that could have paid off and resulted in a peace dividend.  Perhaps he considered instead how much more than mere tens of millions can made in other lines of business.

Warcraft

With reference to Craig's other lines of business, how is it possible that a disgraceful creature like Dick Cheney is given high office in government, when his private interests seem to be in pursuing the profits that flow from war?

Leslie Cannold asked, a couple of weeks ago in In the new world of opinion and analysis, who minds the gate?

But like most others, I am defenceless in the face of well-written views on topics about which I am curious but largely uninformed. Editorial oversight is one of the processes that prevents the publication of well-packaged pseudo-knowledge — much of the time, anyway.

Another aspect of Cannold's dilemma is the work of our universities. In the old days, there was a (perhaps mistaken) idea that significant questions in the public sphere would be taken up by academia, so that thoughtful criticism would feed informed views and contribute to publicly accessible knowledge.

I wonder whether any of the recently endowed specialist groups devoted to Australia-US relationships bother to provide in-depth analysis of those areas of American democracy have gone wrong. Those observing the new era of Congress will have seen how the Democrats have put through legislation aimed at preventing corruption. Some of the spotlight has fallen on the process of earmarks.

One example of earmarks is in One University's Pork Is Another's Bomb Simulator:

Critics of academic earmarking, the funneling of federal money to individual universities or for research on specific issues, have long argued that it diverts needed funds from projects rigorously reviewed by panels of scientific experts. But the practice has exploded over the past decade, and nearly one-tenth of the estimated $30 billion in federal pork now goes to universities.

Note how the University of San Diego, a private Catholic campus, lobbied for and received earmarked funding. It's reasonable to suggest that the vehicles of the earmarking (lobbyists and legislators) would have been chosen on their dedication to sectarian interests.

Reading on:

For now, UCSD [University of California, San Diego]'s Jacobs School of Engineering is working on a request to expand its outdoor shaking table to more accurately simulate earthquakes. The facility is the only one of its kind in the country, so there is no merit-based federal program under which the university can get the money, said the school's dean, Frieder Seible.

Earmarks attached to the defense budget have allowed the Jacobs School to construct another first: A functioning blast simulator that allows engineers to study structures during an explosion. The structure is so novel, five different countries have asked for permission to study it.

I wouldn't expect any critical analysis of the corrupting power of earmarks, or of the armaments industry, from UCSD. Just like I wouldn't expect a firm of ambulance-chasers to give comprehensive advice on road safety to government.

Expansion of knowledge depends on freedom to pursue open-ended research and enquiry. The way forward, out of Iraq or any other mess, depends on citizens having full and open disclosure of private financial interests. Blog on.

Meanwhile the struggle continues

Meanwhile the struggle between various views on Iran continue within the Bush administration. 

Wayne White, who was a top Middle East analyst for the State Department's bureau of intelligence and research until March 2005 (and no relation to Jay White I'd guess) has expressed his concern   about the consequences of a US or Israeli attack against Iran's nuclear infrastructure.

"I've seen some of the planning ... You're not talking about a surgical strike," said White (the intelligence guy, not Jay).

He's not talking about an invasion of Iran either. He's talking about something akin to a re-run of the cluster bombing of Lebanon (bunker busters added of course) and the bloody mess likely to engulf the broader Mideast as a consequence.

Divine strake

From Planned 'Divine Strake' Bomb Test Incenses Locals:

The Defense Department is planning to detonate 700 tons of non-nuclear explosives at the Nevada Test Site. Called "Divine Strake," the test is part of the military's effort to design "bunker-busting" explosives. Many locals and "downwinders" in Nevada and Utah object to the test.

From Divine Strake gets blasted:

Mortensen was one of about 300 residents of southwestern Utah who gathered at the Dixie Center in St. George on Thursday night to ask questions, voice concerns and hear information from officials with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, which dreamed up the test. The proposed explosion would involve 700 tons of ammonium nitrate and cause a blast that many fear would throw into the atmosphere soil contaminated by earlier nuclear blasts at the test site. The tainted dust, critics say, would again blanket southwestern Utah with unacceptable amounts of radiation.

The DTRA has Proposed Divine Strake Experiment, but the links to the source documents at Dept of Energy (DOE) fall over because DOE is now at www.energy.gov. Search here turns up the pdf, but the link to it still has the URL. There must be a wealth of good scientific info here, if only they'd fix the links.

David sorry about that I

David sorry about that. I think I have it worked out.

Here you go Mark

Mark Sergeant Jay White

I am not going to post mountains of links. If you think I am wrong, post the links back at me.

Not in the case of Hicks it would not have been illegal. Though of course murder has always been illegal. This would be the case (illegal) without a reasonably (under the circumstances) and lawful trial. This trial would take place in the “field” because at that time all of Afghanistan was the “field”. Though you could make a argument against my use of the term.

The problem for Hicks is that a civilian (illegal) combatant is not clearly defined. However even taken to its extreme degree it is clear that Hicks is neither a citizen of that nation ( could not be construed as being part of any locally organised militia, just cause etc) nor a civilian. Having been paid to be there he is in fact an illegal mercenary (hired gun, criminal). This would allow Hicks in my view to be tried in the “Court” of that nation under local rules. Not under rules relating to warfare (excluded from the Geneva convention). And as such he would be entitled to be tried by that governments recognised judiciary, then executed by the UN legally recognised government for his crimes there.

And guess who that was? We now know them as the Northern Alliance. Lucky for him they needed that two large for a box of Kalashnikovs or some such.

, can you give us chapter and verse for "...caught and shot in the field as a civilian combatant. Quite a legal action"? You've made the claim a few times. I think, and nobody has asked you to substantiate it before. Can you?

David: Jay, I don't know what you are using to assemble comments with quotes from and replies to others, but whatever it is, what you submit comes in semi-random order, as above.

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