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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Fear of Iran: Root of the Next War

This is a double posting beginning with an article on the artificial atmosphere of fear and mistrust towards Iran.

US military options remain limited to punitive strikes, and incapable of triggering regime change. Destroying Iran's nuclear capacity appears impossible, short of a nuclear strike which would deplete US global stature and embolden rival leaders like Russia and China, not to mention invite nuclear retaliation.

Attached to my discussion of Iran and the US is an essay on the roots of war. A current update on Bush policy in Iraq follows the essay, along with some revealing information on the trial and execution of Saddam's co-defendants.

A Matter of Language

To many Americans, Iran is a country run by fervently anti-American mullahs bent on the destruction of Israel. Recently the Mainstream Media echoed a statement attributed to Iranian President Ahmadinejad where he said he wanted to "wipe Israel off the map."

In a direct translation, Ahmadinejad in fact said:
"The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time".

Clarifying the accurate translation, Arash Norouzi writes:

"...the word "map" was never used. The Persian word for map, "nagsheh", is not contained anywhere in his original farsi quote, or, for that matter, anywhere in his entire speech. Nor was the western phrase "wipe out" ever said. Yet we are led to believe that Iran's President threatened to "wipe Israel off the map", despite never having uttered the words "map", "wipe out" or even "Israel".

The erroneous mistranslation was allowed to profligate throughout the American Mainstream Media. No alternate translations were offered, nor was the translation's accuracy ever questioned.

As it turns out, the mistranslated quote attributed to Ahmadinejad was also not Ahmadinejad's at all, but rather something said by the late Ayatollah Khomeini.

Misquoting Ahmadinejad creates an environment of mistrust through which anti-Iranian elements can exaggerate the threat the Muslim nation poses.

* * *

Iran has been portrayed as a fundamentalist state in the Western Media. The average Iranian, however, is portrayed as less inclined to follow the medieval worldview of their theocratic leadership. Media fixate this schism between unpopular mullahs and their regressive sharia law and a younger, forward-leaning citizenry. Groups advocating regime change in Iran therefore propose the Iranians would welcome US liberators with open arms. In the lead-up to Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi made similar claims, which through the activities of advocates for war in Washington, resounded to the American public.

If the Iranian public is more receptive to the West, military intervention would be less needed, not more incumbent. Conversion would be a function of time, not the result of intervention. If Eastern Europe is any guide, a process called "articulation from below" (as it was called by a Polish political science professor of mine) should emerge "from within." Developed internally and over time, this voice of revolution will allow the will of the Iranian people to shape its government. Yet not everyone is willing to wait for the Iranian government to moderate, or cast off its present government without resorting to force.

Military Intervention

Those who are most impatient are also those who stand to gain by military intervention. As we see in Iraq, Big Oil sees regime change as a method for exploiting Middle East oil. Profitting in war, the military-industrial complex is eager to expand profits swollen from Iraq war spending. Right-wing advocates of military force and Isreali sympathizers naturally see the destruction of the Iranian regime they've labelled a sponsor of terror as an urgent priority.

Yet the strategical limitations imposed on military intervention show how vulnerable US forces are to counterattack, being on two sides of Iran. In retaliating, Iran could choose to rely on surrogates, as some war supporters now claim they are doing in Iraq. The evidence of direct Iranian involvement remains thin; why Shia Iranians would sponsor Sunni terror remains unclear.

Our military is stretched so thin that it is in no position to occupy Iran, much less hold any territory.

Iranian intervention appears unachievable on the strategic scale needed to force regime change (although some clamoring for action will likely say the toppling the regime requires nothing more then a big push). The military appears quite able to launch some form of punitive strike on Iran, yet this would likely expand the Iraq theatre and broaden the war. The US clearly has too few active duty troops to mount any sustained offensive.

Our force/strength deficiencies show the inadequacies of our current military policy govenrning Iraq. Limitations to the use of American military power naturally exists in plain sight for any would-be rogue state who dared to test us. North Korea showed the US could bark but could not bite. Unfortunately for US efforts to deter nuclear weapons development in Iran, the consequences of the use of force, particularly in Iraq, mean that the US can't strike on the scale needed to end weapons development. The military card may not be off the table, however. One report claims that an Israeli jet carrying a tactical nuclear weapon was intercepted by the US Air Force over Iraq in route to Iran.

Those calling for military intervention in Iran face an almost impossible uphill climb in the antiwar political climate dominating Washington. For any indicator of how far the divide is on Iraq, look at Bush State of the Union Address on the 23rd, where majority Democrats remained seated when Republicans clapped in response to Bush's plans for Iraq.

The Israelis have been making overtures that they would rush in where the US dares to tread. The punch behind their belief that they can interrupt Iranian development of nukes must in turn be nuclear. The Israelis may be willing to nuke the Iranians. Among Israeli hard-liners, a response in force may not be totally unwelcomed; if counterattacked, the Israelis could justify additional strikes, reardless of the international condemnation nuclear weapon use would generate. Still, paranoid minds can welcome military force, especially if the Israelis remain convinced Iran will use nuclear weapons against them once they've been acquired.

Will Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) work between nuclear-armed enemies in the Middle East? The philosophy that one side would avoid using nuclear weapons because of the likelihood of a cataclysmic response inhibits even the most ardent proponents of nuclear weapons use.

People have said that the Israeli tail controls the American dog. Still, the US clearly has a much wider field of interest in avoiding nuclear weapons use, even--or especially--by our allies. Unfortunately, recent changes to US military doctrine have liberalized the definition of nuclear weapons, defining tactical nukes more as less as no different from other weapons. This may mean that the US is trying to diminish the consequences of lower scale detonations--at least according to its own military standards.

From a position of strike capability, bunker busters may not be sufficient to do the job. Many of these massive bombs were used in the "shock-and-awe" opening salvo in Iraq in 2003, then again by Israel last summer. While some of these projectiles do contain nuclear material, it's in the form of undepleted uranium, which burns at high temperature, allowing the bomb to penetrate bunker walls or layers of earth before exploding. While undepleted uranium weapons are de facto Weapons of Mass Destruction, contamination is much more limited than a nuclear explosion. Nonetheless undepleted and depleted uranium weapons are nasty stuff. Iraq has experienced higher cancer rates, particularly among children, in areas where depleted weapons were used in the 1991 war. Over 1/3 of Gulf War veterans are on permanent disability.

The possibility of a strike remains. The lack of a robust conventional capacity limits options. Different constraints and policy goals for the US and Israeli complicate any potential response to nuclear weapons development in Iran. While nukes may be the only viable method for disrupting Iranian uranium enrichment facilities, the political damage would turn major powers like Russia and China--not to mention the world community--against Israel and US.

Some of Israel's "staunchest defenders" may believe a nuclear attack on them by Iran is imminent. Yet it is known throughout the Middle East that Israel would retaliate against Teheran and Damascus, regardless of who could be found responsible. With a strong MAD deterrent in place, no State would dare attack Israel, so Iran doesn't present a direct threat, only an indirect one. Faced with the arbirtrary retaliation for any act of nuclear terror directed against Israel, Iran and Syria have an interest in preventing the use of nukes on Israeli soil.

Still, much must happen in order to give Iran the ability to build nuclear weapons, much less hand them out to terrorists and invite retaliation should they be used.

Mutual Assured Destruction worked for the US, and Israel's nuclear stockpiles provide more than enough capacity for a counterstrike. Yet many would argue terrorists operate outside any conventions or controls, and would use the weapon should they have it. With a strong MAD deterrent in place, no State would dare attack Israel, so Iran doesn't present a direct threat, only an indirect one. So the real issue is how to influence the Iranians so that they don't feel compelled to sponsor terror.

Getting at the root of terror allows the US and Israel--likely the primary targets of terror--to create better relationships with their enemies: a process which has been shunned by Bush as negotiating with terrorists. Paradoxically, the use of military force by Israel and the US has worked to worsen the relationships, and cast their State enemies into the pariah's box of State sponsors of terror. So military force is completely counter-productive.

Conspiracists would even argue the main point of using military force is to eliminate non-violent policy options down the road. Isolation clearly does not work. And the Shanghai Cooperative Organization--a Sino-Russian alternative to Western leadership--gives Iran and Syria reason to align against the US and Israel. {Russia recently delivered anti-air missiles to Iran [source], which may trigger a serious response by the US and threaten to extend the potential conflict with Iran into one with the Russians.}

Unfortunately Bush has already made a case for intervention in Iraq on the ground that country would develop WMD, essentially "crying wolf." And in their lashing out at Lebanon for a cross-border skirmish, Israel has used force indiscriminately too often for its own good. Military methods cannot resolve the problems posed by terrorism, as interventions in Lebanon and Iraq show. Stopping nuclear weapon development in Iran may do little in the long-run to deter use of nuclear weapons by pan-Arab terrorists; other sources are available. If anything, military intervention could be ineffective--and embolden terrorism--or grossly undermine the longer-term cause of peace.

Removing support for terrorism requires moving away from military force, and using diplomatic tools to reconcile differences. And contrary to views dominant in US and Israeli governments, failing to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation is really a key motivator for terrorism. The Media's heartfelt duty to ignore the plight of Gaza and land seizures in the West Bank simply perpetuates the government's misperception concerning linkage to broader support for terror engendered by the occupation and treatment of Palestinians.

State support for terror is a political outgrowth of a gross military imbalance favoring the US and Israel, where terror is seen as the only viable alternative to the use of conventional armed forces which would be easily destroyed by the superior forces of the US and Israel.

Setting Up Iran

Dissidents in exile are a source of suspicious intelligence. Clearly there are inscrutable parties who can gain in the change of government; with Chalabi convicted of embezzlement in Jordan, he was clearly a man whose word could not be trusted. With Iraq we saw Chalabi frequently used as a source for intelligence despite clear evidence that he was an unreliable source. The Department of State and the CIA had the common sense to exclude Chalabi from any of their assessments and post-invasion planning. The Pentagon, however, run by Rumsfeld and propelled by neocon enthusiasm for the things Chalabi would say, leaned on Chalabi's every word because it helped make the case for war that their political leadership wanted made.

The desire to overlook intelligence contradictions that undermined the case for war was a small step down from manufacturing propaganda. Yet the end result of cherry picking intelligence was essentially the same as outright propaganda. People were led to believe Iraq posed a threat. Calmer heads and more veteran intelligence professionals knew the case for war was weak, as even President Bush criticized CIA director Tenet for not providing a slam-dunk on Iraq.

In some propaganda war similar to that used against Iraq, Iran is now targetted. Mention of Iranian belligerence is omnipresent in any Administration discussion of foreign policy. If Iraq was an accurate indicator of the accuracy of the Administration intelligence, its provocations concerning Iraq are largely forged evidence. If we can see how the stream of anti-Iraqi misinformation made its way from the inner cadre of the neocons to the public, through our government, we can identify the source of bias. We know the cost of believing Bush on Iraq, we don't know just how far he and his Administration went in promoting the war which is the source of so much pain.

In "Bush administration provokes open war on Iran", Larry Chin writes:

"Iran, according to the Bush administration’s Orwellian rubric, is "supplying sophisticated weapons" to forces within Iraq, and that these weapons are being used against US troops. Iranians, according to Bush-Cheney-Rice, are engaging in "violent activities", fomenting "terrorism" against the US in Iraq. Iran, according to the administration, has "ambitions" in Iraq that must be "contained". Iran is "al-Qaeda", and vice versa. The US is "defending itself". Meanwhile, the continuous Anglo-American destabilization of Iran, intense covert operations underway for years, is officially denied.

As was the case in the lead-up to the attack on Iraq, evidence supporting the Bush administration lie is being manufactured out of whole cloth, or cooked up from half-truths. Facts, words, and actions are being distorted, realities turned upside down. Lies are being repeated in drumbeat fashion, and cemented into war policy."[link]

The greatest challenge to US foreign policy today may be the loss of US credibility because of Iraq. If Iran really does pose a threat, what can the world do to stop them? We saw in North Korea that the US could do nothing; tied down in Iraq we can do little militarily. Diplomatically, the US has very low status. Our escalation in Iraq and the bloodshed in Lebanon, Gaza, and Afghanistan have turned global opinion against us. The US appears incapable of mobilizing any type of international coalition as seen under Bush I; unilateralism appears to be both a necessity for any potential action and source of ongoing alienation.

Media Manipulation

As with the build-up to Iraq, the Media is failing its duty in its reporting on Iran. The public remains underserved; accuracy in reporting is not a priority, government statements are swallowed as hard news, and the factual basis of claims made by proponents of Administration policy go unchallenged.

The majority of Americans have been made vulnerable to distortion and misinformation by the absence of due diligence. In a large way, Media has suffered as well; profitability dwindles as news departments are treated as profit cells and ruled by corporate overseers afraid to confront potential advertizers.

Rather than see its own vital role as servant-leaders, to provide the public with unvarnished truth, for too long the MSM has been sharing the corridors of power. Pundits and Media figures rely on strong relationships with those in power to provide information. It's also vital for the personal brands of prominent Media personalities to meld with conservative Media magnates whose networks control the flow of information. In a TV episode, the author hawks his book; more sales ensue.

The Bush Administration in particular has denied the press the right of access, but rather limit openness to the Media to privileged networks. Just last week, Condi Rice was caught on a mike praising Fox news.

As the Libby trial is now showing, the two-way flow of information from/to reporters reveals at a minimum the propensity for spreading false information and the potential for far greater abuse of the public trust. Claiming that he was told about Plame's covert status by reporters, Libby's role in revealing Plame's identity may have been obscured. But the obfuscating role of cozy relations with the press may also show the lengths to which the White House went to affect what went on in the Mainstream Press.

Like any crucial environment shaping the political environment, the Media is used by all Presidential handlers. As Karl Rove has shown, perception is reality; by altering what the Media says, politicans can control how they are perceived. Accuracy and justice are inconsequential to the political organ in its efforts to achieve a political purpose, and damage political opposition to that goal.

To politicans, the Media is a tool. The attitude that Media serves a purpose not to inform but as a vehicle to send political message is prevalent throughout all levels of our government, yet the White House is better positioned to control what is said, by limiting access to power. While most politicians have simply been eager to have their opinions heard, press management today by government is far more sophisticated as sound bites have become a valuable currency in winning the heart and minds of Americans.

Americans are also busy people; the lack of time available for performing due diligence on what they see in the Media has made the few minutes the networks devote to foreign policy issues that much more important.

In talking to people who support Bush--or at least don't oppose him--I often see a strong aversion to the political; people simple don't want to know the truth, especially if it differs with the impressions they've developed. Among those less trusting of what they're told, I tend to see more criticism of Bush, so the Media plays a huge role in shaping opinion or, more specifically, in minimizing criticism. In this sense, censorship-by-omission is far more effective than outright lies. Lacking the time to assemble a body of evidence of support or criticism, most people are quick to assume they know the truth, particularly if its parroted ceaselessly in the Media over an extended period.

Mainstream Media coverage and White House opinion on Iraq in 2002 and Iran in 2006-7 both use the same method to shape popular opinion: the cultivation of fear. Without fear, the US people are not afraid and thus not angry or worried. With fear, Americans are bothered, vulnerable to what's know as "agit-prop" (agitation/propaganda.) It's been frequently said that those who are afraid tend to accept violence as a necessary step to protect themselves.

Central to understanding Media manipulation is this question: was the intelligence we gathered on Iraq erroneous or did prowar people within the Administration pursue an agenda to make war inevitable? It is clear that the White House was pushing the Iraq war on 2 fronts. First, within the Pentagon, a group of neocon consultants (Office for Special Plans) was ordered to search for any information which supported the idea that Iraq 1) had WMD or 2) was connected to WMD. And at the White House, a group of neocons under Cheney called the White House Iraq Group steered the nation to war by dispensing a stream of half-truths to build up the threat and, through that, a case for war.

Perhaps more than failing the American people on Iraq, democratic Congress will perform an even greater dereliction of duty if it fails to fully investigate the case the Bush Administration made for war. Like Watergate, the willingness to launch a war on false pretenses may uncover a even darker tapestry of misconduct, which could not only degrade whatever credibility Bush the Lame Duck may have left, but also lead to criminal prosecution for lying the nation into war.

Changing tactics on Iraq is a political necessity born out of the need to justify past lies or exaggeration. New details are emerging continuously in how the President and war supporters used their positions of authority to create a threat where none existed. Much of one's inclination to judge the intentions of the President rests on their political affinity; one person's faulty intelligence is another's propaganda.

Fear: Coin of the Realm

Bush Administration propaganda expounding the threat Hussein posed has segued perfectly into building the case for war in Iraq. Now faced with a lack of support for the ongoing war, the Administration now cultivates of fear based on the basis of nightmare scenarios of what might happen if the US were to leave.

Endless war can be justified by an endless threat. And by not ending the threat of terror, the Bush Administration has forced us to continue the battle with a foe not of our chosing, a nation which may have little to do with the source of terror. By seeding an unwinnable war that must be won at all costs, the US commits itself to occupy hostile Iraq indefinitely because it cannot end the threat terrorism poses. Will terrorism ever not be a threat? As I've said, we are still waiting for victory in the war on drugs and on poverty.

The source of so much of our problems we now have with Iran are traced to fears. We fear terrorism; they fear our military. Fear essentially produces more fear, all of which can be illusory. Fear is based on the possibility of something bad happening, and thus is a premise based not on the certainty of a future event happening, but rather the possibility of its occurance.

In an article in Op-Ed News, Crockett describes the challenge thusly:
"The American military looks like a potential invasion threat by the Iranian leadership. The Iranian nuclear program looks like a response to the perceived American military threat. Bush worries the Iranian leadership because of his record of military adventures. Bush and his Neo-Con allies look like war-mongers to most of the world. Improvements between Iran and the United States are unlikely until after a new American Democratic President is installed in office."

Fear derives its power from the way it makes those whom we fear seem more fearsome than they might really be. Suspicion builds upon mistrust, and before long two groups of people manage to convince themselves that they are hated by the other. From this morass of mass delusion rises the need to use violence--now not just a matter of resolving a dispute between to people--into a mechanism to achieve a higher goals--like defending the group, or destroying the other.

Essay: The Roots of War

It's sad that violence is often sought as a remedy for our differences with others. And when used by the State, violence assumes a darker, indiscriminate form: war. Aside from the noble intentions of the Geneva Convention and other treaties, wars for the most part degenerate into odysseys of death and destruction, with each war creating the possibility of ever more retaliatory violence.

States cannot be murdered; governments can disappear bloodlessly but people cannot. States may assume a mantle of representing the will of the people, and protecting them, but governments don't do the fighting, people do. And it's no coincidence the State is so hellbent on using war; seeing its own survival put at risk, governments feel compelled to magnify the threat posed to its continue existence. Like the machines in Terminator 3, governments become sentient and in their first independent acts seek to destroy any rivals or threats to its control over the people.

War is incitement of violence by one State upon another. One state seeks to punish another, and inflict violence by which the innocent perish. Little is achieved, at the end we usually have neither victors nor defeated but survivors. The lives of participants are forevermore tainted by the violence that they've perpetuated or been victimized by. Terrority gained is eventually relinquished. In this sense taking up the sword leads only to death by the sword.

For those who've fired their weapons in anger, and seen the consequences of so many weapons fired in anger, war is to be avoided. Unfortunately for us, none in our present leadership in Washington have participated in war, up close and personal, only from far away. Is the present status of the war in Iraq an indicator of the absence of military experience among our leaders?

There is a saying common to practitioners of karate which holds that a battle is lost if it must be fought. Avoidance of war is often the most cherished ideal of those who've fought, for good reason. They've seen the death and destruction that comes from State-inflicted violence. It's in their minds from which images of ghastly horror cannot be shaken. And it's only through the very personal experience of loss that veterans and victims of war can realize the lack of benefit to it.

War is not an advancement of society, its virtues are a step backward. While I hope to provide a fact-based approach to deal with our differences with the rest of the world, even I must admit the cause of peace is rooted in belief. We must belief in the power of forgiveness, and in love, to be truly Christian. Yet I find it quite paradoxical that from the time of the Crusades, so many Christians are willing to advocate war, which is the opposite of peace, which is the state of existence attributable to love and forgiveness.

Perhaps John Lennon was right when he talked about "...no religion too" in his seminal Imagine. If religion is a dividing force, it's an instrument not of love and reconciliation but of mistrust. And if religion feeds and encourages violence, it serves not the cause of peace and good, but of evil.

So much of the violence we now see in the world in attributable to an absence of forgiveness. A cycle of retribution guarantees an ever-ending desire to seek vengeance. It could be said that the violence continues because the past recipients of violence areunwilling to forgive.

How easy it would be to blame non-Christians for the absence of forgiveness, yet we see Christians unwilling to forgive and forget. Yet perhaps Christians can claim a higher morale ground in place like Northern Ireland. And to look at Muslims and Jews, we see a perrenial hatred and mistrust feeding ever more violence. To truly end the cycle, people must be willing to put aside past transgressions, forgive, and love even their enemies.

The Present Case

The role of perception in formulating mistrust can be traced to our present war in Iraq. Since 9/11, Americans in general have become suspicious of Arabs. While we may ignore the inherent racism and bigotry of our mistrust, it can be found fermenting below the surface.

Terrorists have been described as "hijacking a Great Religion." We've gone to great lengths to hide the underlying racism and anti-Muslim fueling the War on Terror, but it is there--seeded by the atrocity of 9/11.

We as a nation have always prided ourselves on our openness to other cultures, and our history as a melting pot. Yet the medieval worldview held by many Muslims consterns us. We feel threatened by any alternative to a secular model. And we are most greatly enraged at the concept of fundamentalism, which restrict individual liberties which we as Americans cherish.

So the grounds for mistrust were in place long before 9/11, that act of terror merely provided a window for the mistrust to devolve into a thirst for revenge. We were eager for it, we sought it; like any true evil, hate and anger saw its chance to work its way into the collective national psyche. There it would dwell, waiting to emerge from its more visceral state into more orderly form, under the State, reborn as war.

Just who and what motivated us to attack Iraq? The Media created the atmosphere of fear. The Administration bears guilt for presenting false evidence for war, which is no less than a crime against humanity according to the Nuremberg trials (see a Beinhart article on the topic here.) But perhaps we bear some of the blame, for allowing our anger and revulsion over 9/11 to act on our fundamental mistrust of Arabs, and those whom we believe perpetuated it--along with their brothers and sisters, innocent though they must be.

Ultimately all Americans are guilty for the wars we launch. We can claim that our government and media are responsible, but we have failed to contain our desire for vengeance from 9/11. Unless we can purge the demon of mistrust from our collective conscience, we are bound to serve it.

War serves not a God of love but one of hate. The two are opposities. In acknowledging this difference, we claim to make war only as a last resort, but isn't war what we ultimately wanted, to lash out at those who we felt were responsible for 9/11?

If we can't control our impulses, and lower nature, we really do the Devil's work. If we seek violence as the means to an end, then we are in the end doomed to suffer by it. If our mistrust of other cultures is so profound as to engender a thirst for reprisal, on the acts of only a few, we are bound to be ruled not by our better nature but by its evil twin.

It's only by forgiving Arab culture that we can liberate ourselves from the burdens of hate and mistrust. We need to condition ourselves not to hate but to love, an act made especially hard to do with our enemies, but one vital in destroying the control evil has over our lives.

If we can think of nothing but vengeance, we will likely close our hearts to the possibility of any reconcilliation. Without the ability to change our attitude towards the Arab world, we will be perpetually set against it, not unlike the way Israel sees itself locked in a mortal struggle with the Arab world. The only result of such an approach is more violence. To end the violence, there must be a change in heart, where we are willing to forgive and in so doing, set ourselves free. The fruits of cooperation are many and could include economic benefits, cultural advancements, sociocultural liberalization, and strengthening of alternatives to violence.

We have often criticized other nations for cultural traits and religious affiliations where they differ from ours. But only recently has the American attitude towards Islam--its fear of it--been allowed to shape our collective values. For as long as we don't know the truth about our "enemy," we dwell in fear.

Fear as Motivator

Fear is fuel for hatred; thus love, being the opposite of hatred, ends fear. Hatred grows into violence; peace, the opposite of violence must be fueled by love.

Misperceptions are the heart of fear, as fear is ultimately an emotion which needs ignorance and mistrust to survive. In keeping our relationship with Iran in the dark, we let our imagination reign. We shut our minds to the possibility that the other is like us, or understands us. We de-humanize, we sow no seed of trust, goodwill, and friendship. Thus like some mold or cancer, fear grows.

Some of opinions held by some are correct, others are merely fear-based. Yet fear has some basis in truth, in the way stereotypes build on ethnic or racial characteristics or behaviors.

Based in truth or not, our collective assumptions about other groups of people and their intentions are very real. They affect how we see the other group and define our individual opinions. So there emerges a vital need for clarifying our assumptions and acknowledging differences we share in what we think of others.

Eliminate the superstition, and assess the truth in the clear light of knowledge and curiousity, and we can learn and peel away the layers of our ignorance. Increasing our understanding is the crucial step to overcoming fear. Once we begin to learn, we can challenge our own assumptions, and open a door of cross-cultural understanding.

Ultimately, for two peoples to live in peace, fear and mistrust must be stopped. I am no theologian. I don't know the state of religion in Iranian society, but I do know there's a superordinate emphasis on love in Christianity.

Our foreign policy, like those of other nations, cannot exist independent of a set of moral and cultural beliefs. Our foreign policy praises democracy and peace; our government claim to working on behalf of our American cultural values.

In the nuclear age, hope of a better world can only come to fruition if people are willing to manage their differences.

Update on Iraq

I came across "Embattled, Bush Held To Plan to Salvage Iraq," a Washington Post article posted on opednews.com.

The article clarifies the following key points:

1) Security Plan ultimately belongs to Bush.

Talk of bipartisanship in regard to Iraq has been a flagrant lie, meant to present an impression of openness and cooperation where none existed. All talk of reconciliation--emphasized in particular by the Iraq Studies Group--has apparently been designed to reduce criticism of Bush's plan for Iraq.

The Washington Post article summarizes the deception:
"While many Democrats dismissed such talks as a facade of consultation over a decision long since made, Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said when he told Hadley at a private meeting that the president needed to make clear that the U.S. commitment was not 'open-ended,' Hadley picked up the telephone and called an aide to make sure the speech included such language."

Masters of media manipulation, the Bush Administration has made managing the press more important than the actual message. In an atmosphere of complacency and consolidation, propaganda and distortion pave the way for war with enemies chosen by the Administration.

2) Bush committed to win.

In past posts I've analyzed Bush's motives and the role of belief in shaping Iraq War policy or, more accurately, his inability to recognize that his policies have failed. Nothing is more adverse to change than the idea of perfection.

In light of Bush's deceptions with the Congress, and the lies packaged to sell the war on Iraq, it's impossible to differentiate between what Bush says is PR and what are his fundamental beliefs. By believing victory is still possible, Bush can sustain the occupation. The Media croons on about this being Bush's "last chance" to salvage Iraq, but they've hardly held the President accountable in the past--another six months won't matter.

While potentially dangerous, belief does in fact offers a kind of moral strength which many people draw on in times of fear. Al Franken's book The Truth looks at focus groups of would-be voters whose fear was triggered by images of war and violence. Their emotions trigerred, Bush scored far higher than Kerry.

The PR which has always accompanied Presidential decisions is a set of dumbed-down rhetoric meant to appeal to the masses. Terms like victory and terrorism fit neatly into a rhetorical basket, where the American audience is almost completely ignorant of the details of geopolitics, geography, and military effectiveness, especially when the comforting shawl of nationalism and patriotism is so conveniently offered as an alternative to debate over complicated issues over which the public knows little.

Traditionally, rhetoric has been separated from the meaty work of congressional politics. What is fit for public consumption is by virtue of its audience unfit for Congress and the elite. Unfortunately for Bush, he actually believes in victory. So when his generals and advisers speak to Congress they cannot provide any evidence of Bush policy methods and formulation actually working. And when they disagree with Bush, they are simply removed, as we see with the generals deposed for opposing the surge.

No wonder Congress is so irritated. Many Republicans have abandoned the Bush ship on Iraq, partly because they don't like Bush policies, but more specifically because Bush's policies appear divorced from reality. Publicly, they remain unified in supporting the troops and the Iraq effort, judging by their unaminity in applause for Bush's war policy going forward during the Jan. 23 State of the Union. {Bush looked cheerily towards those on his left--Republicans--who clapped for his war policies, while those on his right--the Democrats--received a bitter look full of contempt. So much for partisanship...}

Privately, Republican opponents of the war must be seething. Yet there is no inner track dialogue reserved for Congress and the non-corporate elite by which they can influence Bush or affect his policy decisions. Mind made up, Bush speaks to the public, setting his positions dogmatically for all to follow.

Obviously Congress is sensitive the political message sent by the Democratic victory in November, so they must scutinize Bush policies. Also, they must face a crisis of confidence when their status grants them virtually no authority in setting policy.

3) US could have lowered profile

Presented to Bush in Amman, Jordan, an opportunity to let Iraqis "stand up" denied. According to a WaPo article, Maliki and his advisers presented a plan which would have let Americans leave the capital, to secure Iraq's borders and deal with Anbar Province.

Strategically, moving the US out of harm's way makes sense. Casualties would be lower. But as with Vietnam, politics have entered the military decision-making process. To let Baghdad fall to the Shia would be tantamount to eliminating any hopes of Iraq being a democracy.

As Saddam's execution showed, Shia militia have infiltrated Iraqi government. Judging by the way the execution was handled, the Shia have little sympathy for the manner of their government, its fairness, or its management of Sunni (and by proxy Kurd) issues. Might makes right.

So the US needs to maintain a military presence not to quell violence or help stabilize Baghdad, but to prevent Shia from taking over all control of Iraq's federal government. The Saudi and other Sunni groups have voiced their intention to intervene should the rights of their fellow Sunnis in Iraq be violated.

The US military has been tasked with an impossible assignment: to repress an insurgency while preventing the ruling faction from dominating a future Iraq.

The political cost of a Shia victory are immense. First, ethnic cleansing and other atrocities are virtually assured (as ruthless as the US may have been in fighting the Sunni insurgency, the Shia militia and death squads appear much more vicious.) Second, the US might face a more organized resistance to its presence through the institution of independent government. Legally, the Shia might simply demand the US leave.

Delaying the handoff by prolonging the occupation, the US must surely lack confidence in the capacity of the Shia to restore order, or provide an environment where multinational companies can extract Iraq's oil. This is the likely reason for the US presence, as democracy has been established and the more populous Shia have emerged on top. And the war on terror appears endless, regardless of whether the Shia rule Iraq, so the US needs bases as well and has constructed them with an intention to stay.

4) Bush, not generals, make determination of troop strength needed.

Rather than let generals determine how many we need--which has been Bush's consistent rhetoric--Bush simply replaced the generals (Abizaid) who didn't agree that a surge would help.

While Bush has paid lip service to Jim Baker and the ISG, his actions on policy changes have been unilateralist, quite the opposite of Baker's--and his father's--"globalist" worldview. Bush has aligned his "way forward" policy with neoconservatives in the AEI.

When offered reasonable bipartisan recommendations from the ISG, Bush ignored them. Instead the work of a retired general--Keane--and an analyst from a right-wing think tank were allowed to shape the President's policy in Iraq.

By going outside traditional channels--no new thing for the Bush Administration--Bush has empowered fringe neocons to paint his policies. Yet Bush appears incapable of recognizing the bad advice for what it is--imperialism buried in patriotism, containing a hidden agenda meant to popularize a war for the benefit of oil and military industrial patrons of the Right-wing.

In the sense that Iraq--and virtually all Administration--policy is designed to serve one particular corporate constituency or another, Iraq is already a victory, and will continue to pay handsome benefits through the Treasury for as long as it continues.

The PR spin on Iraq, buoyed with the popular misperception that war is patriotic and intrinsically masculine and empowering, maintains an illusion for popular consumption. Remarkably, the American people have essentially bought into the propaganda and lies until they've come to discover the truth: that Iraq did not pose a threat to us and was not a sponsor of terror.

Executions Continue

In my last post I touched on the brutal execution of Saddam's co-defendants. Unlike the crude taunting of Saddam, the more recent hangings may have been better controlled by the Iraq government. While no chants of "Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada" made their way into public hands with the new video, the latter executions had managed to craft the vile spectacle of one victim's head actually being severed from his body.

I'm not alone in presuming that the references to Muqtada al-Sadr attest that the Shia have achieved a breakthrough in their control over the Iraqi government. As the sources I provided in my last post indicated, other bloggers have been following story, perhaps as a matter of necessity since the Mainstream has utterly ignored the manner of execution or its political significance.

In his lefti.blogspot space, Eli Stephens looks into facts emerging from first the Saddam execution, then that of a former judge executed shortly after Saddam that "you simply aren't going to read in the corporate media."[link] In his post he spotlights the role of the US in the trial and transfer in custody of Judge Bandar.

The attorney for the judge, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, tried to prevent the execution from occuring by filing a petition in US court to stop the handover to Iraqi authorities. She writes:
Working with former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, we immediately turned to file an emergency Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus and a Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) by that evening in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeking to keep the U.S. from transferring custody of Judge Bandar to his certain death. We had an emergency TRO hearing the next day in which the United States acknowledged that it possessed custody of Judge Bandar.

The United States acknowledged that it had the defendants in their exclusive physical custody at Camp Cropper, including Judge Bandar. Only the U.S. military personnel had control over him. The prisoners could not be visited, touched, spoken to or seen--let alone murdered--without the direction and agreement of the United States.[link]

Hillard makes the argument that US is avoiding accepting legal responsibility for its occupation of Iraq. Hillard also alleges that the US exerted undue and illegal influence over the trial procedure.

She explains:
This "independent" and "sovereign" trial took place in the Green Zone, the U.S. government's garrisoned mini-state carved out of the middle of Baghdad. All participants had to rely on the U.S. government for their security—in other words, to stay alive. As such, three defense lawyers were murdered in the course of the trial, the first killed the night after the first day of trial. Another attorney was taken by men who said they were from the Ministry of the Interior. He was found the next day. He had holes drilled in his head. But this was asserted to be no impediment to a fair trial. Defense witnesses were reportedly tortured and killed. The IST ordered that such allegations not be raised at the proceedings and threatened surviving defense counsel with their own arrests.[Link
left i's blog post on the matter is here, dated January 20th. He has additional citations from the article on his site.



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