Friday, September 23, 2011

Why Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' application for UN membership and forming a coalition with Hamas is the right move

Why the Palestinian bid for UN membership is the right move even though it will fail today

Today Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is applying to the UN for a Palestinian state. It’s a membership application which the UN is over 60 years late in granting due to repeated US vetoes (and almost certainly another today, though the General Assembly will vote in favour along with the majority of the Security Council). The same UN resolution that established a Jewish state in the former British Mandate (effectively colony) of Britain in Palestine also established a Palestinian state, but it has long since been entirely annexed by Israel (with the exception of Gaza, which is under blockade and constant attack). The West Bank, given to Palestinians by Jordan after Israel occupied it, has much of it (and the vast majority of it’s vital water supplies and farmland) taken by Israeli troops and settlers.

Abbas is well aware that the US will veto Palestinian membership at the UN. He knows that Israeli government funded lobbying, political donations and media propaganda from AIPAC (the American-Israeli Public Accounts Committee) and others means the US congress is bought up and US Presidents fear losing votes at home by opposing Israel. His move is still the right one though. It has got Israel-Palestine on the UN and the international media agenda. It's brought attention to the fact that Israeli governments, whether led by the Labor or Likud parties, are not willing to make any concessions in bilateral negotiations with Palestinians - and that no agreement that doesn't include Hamas can hold, any more than an international agreement negotiated with a US President but not approved by an elected Republican controlled congress could

That's why Obama and David Cameron's claims that this is the "wrong way" to try and get UN membership and a real Palestinian state is nonsense, largely motivated by fear of Israeli propaganda groups in their own country and funding for their parties from these groups. Palestinians have been trying to get concessions in bilateral negotiations for decades and haven't got anything because Israel is militarily far stronger and the most powerful foreign governments, instead of putting pressure on Israel to give the weaker side something, have made the scales even more imbalanced by wieghing in on the Israeli side

A majority of governments in the UN and the majority of world public opinion is overwhelmingly in favour of giving Palestinians a full, sovereign state on roughly the 1967 borders. So the UN and bringing international pressure on Israel to make concessions is the way forward.

Israeli government propaganda on how Palestinians supposedly rejected generous peace offers

There’s a story that claims Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Palestinians 95% of the West Bank in the Taba negotiations in January 2001. In fact Barak offered 76% in three parts surrounded by Israeli troops and settlements (1). Barak’s negotiator , Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, said the offer was “bullshit… not aimed to reach an agreement” but to “convince Israeli Arabs to vote” for Barak in imminent elections (2).

Some people claim Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “said he will accept a Palestinian state”. In fact he’s said Israel would keep settlements and troops inside and on the borders of the Palestinian “state”, which would have no military (3) - (4). It’s Oslo and Taba again – an offer of poor inner city apartheid style ‘homelands’ surrounded by Israeli troops and settlements.

Violence – Far More Palestinian civilians killed by Israeli forces than Israelis killed by terrorism

This is not to mention the fact that Israeli military artillery attacks, raids, bombing, kidnappings of Palestinian MPs and "targeted assassinations" (often by air strike on family homes) in Gaza have never ended. Nor have Israeli military shootings of unarmed Palestinians and children and teenagers for throwing stones in the West Bank ended. Nor have settlements or bulldozing of Palestinian houses. This is part of a long pattern of Israeli military indiscriminate fire combined with some clearly deliberate targeting of civilians - including Palestinian children shot in the head by snipers in the street, in school or in their homes, which is as much terrorism as anything Hamas or Islamic Jihad's armed wings do.

In December 2008 to January 2009 after Palestinian rockets killed one Israeli, Israeli air strikes, artillery shelling and ground forces in Gaza killed 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians with no involvement in the rocket fire - 300 of them children in war crimes reported by Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and the Israeli human rights group B'T selem (5) - (6).

This, like Israeli military operations in Lebanon has been excused on the grounds that Hamas and Hezbollah supposedly caused all the civilian deaths by hiding among civilians. However Human Rights Watch reports based on research on the ground by former members of the US military found that in fact Israeli forces have repeatedly both deliberately targeted civilians in some cases and failed to make any attempt to avoid killing them in others (e.g by bombing houses with 1,000 pound bombs, shelling built up areas with heavy artillery). (See the blog post on this link (the section sub-titled 'Lie Three - Israeli Forces Don't Target Civilians' and sources 21 to 45 listed in it

B'Tselem also found that Israeli forces used Palestinian civilians as human shields forced to walk ahead of them at gunpoint, just as they had in Jenin and Nablus in 2002 (7).

Human Rights Watch investigators found Israeli forces shot and killed unarmed Palestinians including women and children who were waving white flags in multiple incidents during the Gaza war and found no evidence to substantiate Israeli military claims that Hamas fighters hid behind civilians (8).

The stated reason for the offensive (which began shortly before elections while the incumbent Labor government were behind the Likud opposition in the polls) was to prevent Palestinian terrorist groups' rocket fire out of Gaza. However the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs website shows that in the six months before the Israel 'Operation Cast Lead' offensive (or 'Gaza war') only one Israeli civilian was killed by rocket fire from Gaza. Predictably the Israeli offensive led to a massive increase in rocket attacks in response, with three Israeli civilians killed by rocket fire from Gaza in the first three weeks of the offensive according to the same Israeli MFA website - an 2,400% increase in the rate Israeli civilians were being killed from 1 every 24 weeks to 1 every week - clearly a massive failure and counter-productive even before considering Palestinian civilian deaths.(9) Electorally it was a short-lived success though- Labor pulled ahead in the polls by looking supposedly 'tough on terrorism', but went on to lose to Likud in the elections anyway.

Israeli experts, including former Shin Bet and Mossad intelligence heads say accept Hamas offers of negotiations without preconditions

Israeli governments - whether led by the Labor, Kadima or Likud parties - have refused to recognise the result of the 2006 Palestinian democratic parliamentary elections which Hamas won, refusing repeated offers of negotiation from Hamas on the basis of the 1967 borders, imposing sanctions on the entire Palestinian Authority and collaborating with Mubarak and Bush to arm Fatah to produce a Palestinian civil war. Former heads of Israel’s Mossad and Shin Bet military intelligence are among those Israelis with the full facts who say negotiations with Hamas should begin without preconditions.

Even the former head of Israel's Shin Bet military intelligence, Shlomo Gazit, has called the pre-conditions the Israeli government has placed on negotiations "ridiculous, or an excuse not to negotiate" (quoted in the Jewish newspaper 'Forward') (10).

Efraim Halevy, former head of Mossad, says Israel should negotiate with Hamas who have shown they will keep peace agreements in the past (11).

Israeli historian and IDF veteran Avi Shlaim has written that "The only way for Israel to achieve security is…through talks with Hamas, which has repeatedly declared its readiness to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with [Israel] within its pre-1967 borders for 20, 30, or even 50 years." and that "In March 2007, Hamas and Fatah formed a national unity government that was ready to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with Israel. Israel, however, refused to negotiate with a government that included Hamas. ….It continued to play the old game of divide and rule between rival Palestinian factions." (12)

Israeli professor Yossi Alpher has pointed out that Israel did not demand full recognition before negotiations even began when negotiating peace with Egypt or Jordan - and that if it ihad there would probably never been peace.(13)

Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami is among many Israelis saying full recognition should be the end point of negotiations, it can't be a precondition for them.(14)

No agreement that excludes Hamas, who won the last Palestinian parliamentary elections, can hold. It’s like demanding a US Democrat President make an international agreement that excludes any input from a Republican controlled congress - unrealistic and undemocratic.

Israel elects war criminals, Palestinians elect terrorists – time for war criminals and terrorists to sit down and end the killing with a peace that provides Palestinians with a real state on roughly the 1967 borders

Meir Dagan, who was sacked as head of Mossad in June this year by Netanyahu, says Netanyau and his Defence Minister Ehud Barak are "irresponsible" in their refusal to make serious concessions for peace with the Palestinians and "reckless" in pushing for war with Iran (15).

Dagan was appointed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (and never sacked by him) so he's not exactly a liberal or dove. Sharon was a serial war criminal (which is as usual for Israeli Prime Ministers as for Palestinian leaders to be on the political wing of groups with armed terrorist wings). What was unusual was that he committed probably more war crimes (including personally targeting and killing civilians) than any other Israeli Prime Minister. These ranged from involvement in terrorism by Zionist militias against Arabs and the British before 1948, through to massacres during the 1948 war, massacres of villagers like that at Qibya in the West Bank in 1953 ( a massacre which Sharon personally took part in as an officer) and the killing of Egyptian prisoners of war and Sudanese migrant workers during the 1956 Suez war with Egypt (16) - (19). Most notoriously he was the architect of the Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon when he broke a ceasefire agreement under which PLO forces left by allowing Phalangist (fascist Christian Lebanese) militias to enter the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps to massacre civilians. Even an Israeli government inquiry found him personally responsible for the massacre (20). He continued ordering war crimes as Israeli Prime Minister from 2001 to 2006, including bulldozing Palestinian houses with people inside them and having Palestinian civilians, wounded fighters and ambulance crews shot in Jenin and Nablus in April 2002.

Yet Sharon was treated by US Presidents as an “ally against terrorism” and never seemed to see the hypocrisy when he condemned Palestinian terrorist attacks targeting civilians.

Nor did anyone place sanctions on Israel or refuse to negotiate with Israel until Sharon was no longer Prime Minister. Given this how can Israel and the US have a veto on who Palestinians elect. There is no side with clean hands in this conflict. All of them have blood on them. Negotiations without pre-conditions are the only way to end it.

There’s no excuse for targeting civilians, but Israel’s military has killed more civilians than all Palestinian terrorist groups combined.

Many Israeli politicians were terrorists to get their own state in the 1940s

In the late 1930s and 1940s when Zionist terrorists were killing British and Arab soldiers and civilians to get their own state, one Zionist newspaper (that of the 'Lehi' Jewish underground in Palestine) claimed “terrorism is …part of the political battle…against the occupier”. Future Israeli Prime Minister Yitzakh Shamir (he was Israeli Prime Minister twice), who ordered the assassination of UN envoy Bernadotte Folke in 1948, said that killing British soldiers by terrorism or killing civilians in “professional warfare” was “the same from a moral point of view”. So much for the differences between the Israeli government and Palestinian terrorist groups. When they had no state they did the same (21) - (23).


(1) = Professors Mearsheimer, John J. & Walt. Stephen (2007) ‘The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy’,Chapter 3, page 104 of hardback edition

(2) = Clayton E. Swisher (2004) ‘The Truth about Camp David’ Nation Books, New York, 2004,  Chapter 14 / Epilogue – The Politics of Blame,  page 403 (read this page online at )

(3) = Globe & Mail (Canada) 24 May 20011 ‘Transcript of Prime Minister Netanyahu's address to U.S. Congress’, , “In any real peace agreement, in any peace agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel's borders. Now the precise delineation of those borders must be negotiated. We'll be generous about the size of the future Palestinian state. But as President Obama said, the border will be different than the one that existed on June 4th, 1967…. Israel will not return to the indefensible boundaries of 1967....Jerusalem must remain the united capital of Israel….But Israel under 1967 lines would be only nine miles wide. So much for strategic depth. So it's therefore vital -- absolutely vital -- that a Palestinian state be fully demilitarized, and it's vital -- absolutely vital -- that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River.

(4) = Haaretz 14 Jun 2009 ‘Full text of Netanyahu's foreign policy speech at Bar Ilan’, , ‘I spoke tonight about the first principle - recognition. Palestinians must truly recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. The second principle is demilitarization. Any area in Palestinian hands has to be demilitarization, with solid security measures.’

(5) = Amnesty International 02 July 2009 ‘Impunity for war crimes in Gaza and southern Israel a recipe for further civilian suffering’,

(6) = Amnesty International 02 Jul 2009 ‘Israel/Gaza: Operation "Cast Lead": 22 days of death and destruction’,

(7) = B'T selem 2009 'B'Tselem's investigation of fatalities in Operation Cast Lead',

(8) = HRW 13 Aug 2009 'Israel: Investigate ‘White Flag' Shootings of Gaza Civilians',

(9) = Israel Foreign Ministry ‘Victims of Palestinian Violence and Terrorism since September 2000’,

(10) = Forward 09 Feb 2007 ‘Experts Question Wisdom of Boycotting Hamas’,

(11) = Interview with Efraim Halevy in Mother Jones Magazine 10 Feb 2008 ‘Israel's Mossad, Out of the Shadows’,

(12) = Guardian 07 Jan 2009 ‘How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe’, by Professor Avi Shlaim ‘Like other radical movements, Hamas began to moderate its political programme following its rise to power. From the ideological rejectionism of its charter, it began to move towards pragmatic accommodation of a two-state solution. In March 2007, Hamas and Fatah formed a national unity government that was ready to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with Israel. Israel, however, refused to negotiate with a government that included Hamas. ….It continued to play the old game of divide and rule between rival Palestinian factions.’

(13) = Forward 20 Oct 2006 ‘Preconditions for a Problematic Partner’,

(14) = Times 26 Feb 2009 ‘Peace will be achieved only by talking to Hamas’,

(15) = 03 Jan 2011 'Israel government 'reckless and irresponsible' says ex-Mossad chief',

(16) = Ilan Pappe (2006)'The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine', One World, Oxford, 2006 - on the massacres of Palestinians by Zionist militias (many of whom would become the Israeli military and politicians) during the 1948 war)

(17) = Finkelstein, Norman (2003) 'Image and Reality of the Palestinian Conflict' (2nd edition), Verso, London and New York, 2003, Chapter 3 (massacres by Zionist/Israeli forces during the 1948 war and the 'Plan D' behind them to drive out as many Arabs as possible)

(18) = LA Times 16 Aug 1995 'Israel to Probe Deaths of Egyptian POWs in '56 : Sinai: At Cairo's request, defense officials will investigate general's claim that scores were shot.'

(19) = Shlaim, Avi (2000) 'The Iron Wall - Israel and the Arab World', Penguin paperback, London, 2001,Ch2, pages 90 -93 (on the 1953 Qibya massacre by an Israeli unit led by Sharon in the West Bank, then part of Jordan)

(20) = Shlaim, Avi (2000) 'The Iron Wall - Israel and the Arab World', Penguin paperback, London, 2001, Ch10, p416 - 417 (on Sharon and Sabra and Shatila massacres)

(21) = (bombing of the King David Hotel by Zionist militias) ; also see (truck bombing of British police station in Palestine by the Lehi Zionist militia in 1947)

(22) = Heller, Joseph (1995) ‘The Stern Gang – Ideology, Politics and Terror 1940 – 1949’ Frank Cass paperback edition, p115 (on Lehi militia’s newspaper article - full quote can be read online on this link - )

(23) = Bethell, Nicholas (1979) , The Palestine Triangle: The Struggle between British, Jews, and the Arabs, 1935–48, Deutsch, 1979 page 278 (Shamir quote - full quote can be read online on this link - )

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Blair’s still wrong - wars have increased terrorism and Iran’s government isn't suicidal enough to start a nuclear war - nor was Saddam

Tony Blair’s repetition of claims that the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan have been necessary to prevent terrorism and effective in reducing the threat from it is not supported by the facts. His claims that war on Iraq was necessary to stop a WMD threat is equally empty, whether or not Iraq had any WMDs, as are his claims that ‘military action’ against Iran to produce ‘regime change’ would reduce extremism and prevent a nuclear threat.

Saddam proved in 1991, when he did have WMD, that he wouldn’t risk nuclear retaliation by using them. American generals and Israeli military historians are among those who say the Iranian government’s past behaviour shows it’s no more likely than Saddam was to invite it’s own nuclear annihilation by starting a nuclear war.

Why the war in Afghanistan is not the way to prevent terrorist attacks

The 9-11 hijackers all trained in Germany and then at flight schools in the US. Many different people and organisations from FBI agents and flight school trainers to a member of the Taliban all the information necessary to prevent the attacks.  This information included who the hijackers were, where in the US they were training, that they were planning to hijack civilian airliners to use as ‘flying bombs’ to crash into buildings and that likely targets were the World Trade Center (already hit by a truck bombing in 1993) and public buildings in New York, the White House, CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia ; and the Pentagon and that by August 2001 an attack was imminent within weeks at most.

Those sources of information included US intelligence briefing documents given to President Bush, a Library of Congress report to the US National Intelligence Council, some CIA agents, several different FBI agents in multiple warnings, a US military intelligence unit and an American flight school trainer, the Egyptian government, German intelligence and even the then Taliban foreign minister who (correctly) feared that if Al Qa’ida carried out it’s attacks it would bring the US military down on the heads of the Taliban.

In almost every case superiors ignored the warnings and ordered those involved to take no further action; in many cases they also instructed those involved not to inform other US government agencies.

Federal authorities knew even in 1998 (i.e even under Clinton) that Al Qaeda recruits were training in US flight schools.

On September 11th two of those four sets of buildings named as likely targets by these multiple reports– the World Trade Center and the Pentagon - were hit in exactly the predicted way – with hijacked civilian aircraft. FBI agents who had identified some of the flight school trainees as Bin Laden’s people in August 2001 and asked for arrest warrants had their requests refused and their reports were not passed on by their superiors.

So when the Bush administration boasted that there had been no successful attacks since 9-11, their bluster was designed to hide the fact that if they had been at all competent in pooling and acting on the intelligence they had, September 11th could probably have been prevented. It also ignored the fact that the Iraq war led to two terrorist attacks on it’s allies – the Madrid and London bombings – again showing that these wars made no-one any safer.

At no point in a decade of war in Afghanistan and Pakistan have NATO or the Afghan government controlled the whole territory of either country. So if the aim is to prevent terrorist groups being able to train in either of them it can’t be achieved through military force.

After 9-11, overthrowing the Taliban may have been necessary, but bombing the whole of Afghanistan, killing over 3,000 civilians in the first 6 months alone, was not , never mind systematic torture and killing of prisoners, many of whom were not involved in any violence and had no involvement with Al Qa’ida or the Taliban.

Civilian deaths are increasing year due to both Taliban suicide bombings and targeting of civilians and US air strikes and night raids.

Saddam had shown he wasn’t willing to risk a nuclear counter-strike by using WMDs

Whether Iraq had WMDs or not was always an irrelevant question as after the 1991 Gulf War, in which Saddam had dozens of chemical warheads for his scud missiles but only used conventional warheads, it was clear he was deterred from using WMDs on nuclear armed states or their allies for fear of nuclear retaliation.

This fact was recorded by Professor Joseph Nye (the head of the US Political Science association) and Professor Robert Keohane, in their book ‘After the Storm’, though they claim that why Saddam didn’t use these weapons is a ‘mystery’ (1).

I’d have thought two Professors of political science with a background in international relations might, between them, be able to figure out that governments don’t use WMDs if the response might be their own nuclear annihilation, but it seems not.

As Condoleezza Rice put it in an article written during the 2000 US Presidential election ‘if they ["rogue states"]do acquire WMD, their weapons will be unusable because any attempt to use them will bring national obliteration’ (2).

The one argument that invading Iraq was effective is that it brought Al Qa’ida to focus on killing Americans and Iraqis in Iraq, where they were easier targets than in a now more alert US – and where Al Qa’ida could blend in more easily in appearance and dress. The cost in lives and suffering was so vast though, that improving security and intelligence sharing in the US would surely have been more effective and saved far more lives.

 Invading Afghanistan and Iraq not only failed to address the actual problem, but gave Bin Laden exactly what he wanted. The USSR’s military suffered it’s Vietnam in Afghanistan. Bin Laden’s aim was to do the same to the US as the Mujahedin had to the Soviets. While Bin Laden is now dead, Al Qa’ida could have been defeated far more easily without three full scale wars – in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq – and without the huge numbers of deaths caused.

The US National Security Strategy of 2002 stated that “The events of September 11, 2001…opened vast, new opportunities.” (see page 28)

The Bush administration saw September 11th as a huge opportunity to achieve the policy aims successive US governments had always had – securing an export pipeline for the oil reserves of former Soviet republics that avoided Iranian and Russian influence or control; and securing US control of Iraq’s oil reserves, which it had lost after the 1991 Gulf War (an aim of  Bush and his political allies well before 9/11), plus those of Iran, which it lost control of with the overthrow of the Shah’s dictatorship in 1979 (3).

The Evidence that Iran’s rulers don’t want national martyrdom through nuclear war either

- directly or by proxy

There will be no  ‘threat’ posed by Iran developing nuclear weapons, if it does so, either, for the same reason – it won’t use them.

In 1988 during the Iran-Iraq war in which the US and most of the rest of the world was arming and funding Saddam against Khomeini’s Islamic government in Iran, a US warship – the USS Vincennes – entered Iranian waters and began exchanging fire with Iranian ships. This was as part of Reagan’s policy of protecting Iraqi oil tankers, while claiming that Iraqi attacks on Iranian oil tankers were “legitimate”. The Vincennes mistakenly shot down an Iranian airliner, leading to the death of hundreds of civilians. Khomeini vowed revenge, but the Iranian government and military interpreted the shooting as a sign that US military forces were joining the war on the Iraqi side. This was an opportunity for national martyrdom if they wanted it. Instead the Ayatollahs and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards persuaded Khomeini to make peace (4) – (8).

This was one of the actions which has persuaded people like former US General John Abizaid (a George W Bush appointee) and Israeli military historian Martin Van Creveld that we can live with a nuclear Iran, which would want nuclear weapons for the same reason our governments have – as a deterrent against attack (9) – (10).

The only use of nuclear weapons by one government on another was at the end of World War Two when the US was the only government to possess any.

There has been no example of a nuclear armed state using nuclear weapons on another nuclear armed state – not even by Pakistan’s military governments, which have had a strong Islamic ideology since General Zia’s dictatorship in the 1980s ; and which has feared Indian military attack on many occasions.

Israel has between dozens and hundreds of nuclear warheads. It’s ally America has thousands.

There are plenty of examples of states getting nuclear weapons as deterrents though.

The US developed and proposed the use of new ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons under the Bush administration, with Iran the favourite target. The Obama administration has not ruled it out. Israel also has plans for nuclear strikes on Iran (ostensibly to “take out” Iran’s nuclear programme) (11) – (13).

Van Creveld wrote in 2004 that  Iran’s government would be crazy not to want a nuclear deterrent given repeated Israeli and US threats of ‘military action’ and the US invasion of both it’s neighbours – Afghanistan and Iraq . He also pointed out that there had been repeated claims that Iran would have developed nuclear weapons in a few months or years for at least 15 years at that point – and all had proven false (14).

Israeli military historian Martin Van Creveld

The US government claimed Iran would have a nuclear weapon within 12 months in August 2010. This is one of an endless series of claims that Iran will have nuclear weapons by a certain date, delivered over decades, none of which has ever come true. So far it seems to be yet another example of calling ‘wolf’ – when the wolf doesn’t exist and would be used to deter an attack rather than carry one out even if it did exist.

It’s not even certain whether Iran will develop nuclear weapons given religious rulings banning their stockpiling and use as un-Islamic and immoral by Iran’s ‘Leader’ Ayatollah Khameini, Khomeini’s successor (15).

The Ahamadinejad “wipe Israel off the map” quote was a wilful mistranslation in which he actually said he hoped "the regime that rules over Jerusalem will be eliminated from the pages of history" and clarified that he meant "Israel will be wiped out soon the way the Soviet Union was" (i.e by its own population overthrowing its government). This can hardly be interpreted as a threat of nuclear war, especially since a similar possibility was raised more recently by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when he said that if a two state peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians could not be negotiated an Apartheid style struggle ending in a binational state with Jews a minority would probably result (16) – (18).

The phrase Ahmadinejad used has also been used every year on ‘Al Quds’ day by Iranian politicians since the 1979 revolution. Using it is more a tradition and an attempt by politicians to associate themselves with Khomeini (who first said it) as the Islamic regime’s founder than anything else (19).

 That's apart from the fact that Iranian Presidents, unlike American Presidents, are not the Commander in Chief of their country's military in theory or in practice and would never have a finger on the nuclear trigger even if Iran did develop nuclear weapons and even if he did want to use them on Israel (20) – (21).

Iranian missile tests are constantly reported as if they are unprovoked threats. In fact they are usually an attempt to deter threats of attack, as when Iran launched long-range missile tests in 2008 after Israel carried out military exercises with hundreds of aircraft openly saying they were preparations for possible attacks on Iran.

The serious threat of nuclear attack is from the US and Israel against Iran if Iran doesn’t develop nuclear weapons and if American and world public opinion falls for the hype.

No government has ever armed terrorist groups with WMDs or nuclear weapons either because that would be risking committing national suicide by proxy – and even that terrorist groups they can’t control might turn those weapons on them.

The idea that Hezbollah or Hamas, each of which have been elected to government and been willing to form coalitions with other parties, are some ‘end of the world’ cults that would happily bring nuclear destruction down on their own heads and those of their people to destroy Israel is also ridiculous (22) – (23).

The Risks of Action – chaos caused by war makes it easier for terrorists to operate and get WMD materials

The Blairites and the neo-cons argue that we have to make sure though – that, as Cheney put it, if there’s a one per cent chance of something so terrible happening we have to treat it like a 100% certainty. This sounds like it’s a ‘safety first’ policy. In fact it’s the most dangerous and irrational course of action, because going to war carries it’s own risks and they are serious and could result in creating the problems they are meant to prevent – including that in the chaos following ‘regime change’ weapons and even WMDs or nuclear materials could fall into the hands of terrorist groups or people who might sell them to them (as explosives, nuclear materials and chemical weapons components did in Iraq); that they are able to operate far more easily in that chaos; and that they may get converts across the world as a result of civilian deaths and torture of Muslims in the wars involved (24) – (27).

In 2005 Iraq's deputy minister of Industry Sami al Araji reported that “equipment capable of making parts for missiles as well as chemical, biological and nuclear arms was missing from 8 or 10 sites that were the heart of Iraq's dormant program on unconventional weapons”(28)

Some may suggest a proxy war, as in Libya, using a few special forces on the ground along with Iranian rebels and NATO air power. Libya is at great risk of becoming another Somalia already though.

Iran already has armed Kurdish, Arab and extremist Sunni rebel groups along with the Mujahedin E Kalq. Any overthrow of the regime by force would not only cause heavy civilian casualties and risk civil war, but if Iraq is any guide might well involve a new government running it’s own US trained torture and death squads no better than those of the Ayatollahs.

In Libya, where supposedly we had “learned the lessons” of Iraq and “avoided mistakes” made there some weapons stores were not secured any more than they had been in Iraq – and as in Iraq – no-one knows who now has many of these weapons. Reports from UN agencies based on unidentified sources say chemical and nuclear stockpiles have been secured in Libya. Let’s hope so. The previous “confirmation” by the International Criminal Court that Saif Gaddafi was under arrest and on his way to the Hague turned out to be false (29)  - (30).

These are all the dangers that war is supposedly meant to avert – but going to war is far more likely to create them than to prevent them, while the much derided option of “doing nothing” about them carries far less risks in reality.

(1) = Nye , Joseph S. & Smith , Robert K. (1992), ‘After the Storm' , Madison Books , London , 1992 , - pages 211-216

(2) = Rice, Condoleeza (2000) in Foreign Affairs January/February 2000‘ - 'Campaign 2000: Promoting the National Interest' - cited in Chomsky, Noam (2003) 'Hegemony or Survival' , Penguin Books , London & NY 2004, pages 34 & 260 citing Mearsheimer, John & Walt, Stephen (2003) in Foreign Policy Jan/Feb 2003

(3) = CNN 10 Jan 2004 ‘O'Neill: Bush planned Iraq invasion before 9/11’,

(4) = Takeyh, Ray (2006), ‘Hidden Iran - Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic, Times Books, New York, 2006 - pages 170-174

(5) = Pollack, Kenneth M.(2004), ‘The Persian Puzzle', Random House, New York, 2005 paperback edition - pages 231-233

(6) = Freedman, Lawrence (2008) ‘A Choice of Enemies : America Confronts the Middle East’, Orion, London, 2008, chapter 10, Pages 194-206 of hardback edition

(7) = Newsweek 13 Jul 1992 ‘Sea of Lies : Sea Of Lies : The Inside Story Of How An American Naval Vessel Blundered Into An Attack On Iran Air Flight 655 At The Height Of Tensions During The Iran-Iraq War-And How The Pentagon Tried To Cover Its Tracks After 290 Innocent Civilians Died’,

(8) = NYT 15 Jul 1988 ‘Iran Falls Short in Drive at U.N. To Condemn U.S. in Airbus Case’,

(9) = Forward – The Jewish Daily – 24 Sep 2007 ‘The World Can Live With a Nuclear Iran ’,

(10) = CNN 18 Sep 2007 ‘Retired general: U.S. can live with a nuclear Iran’,

(11) = Independent 02 Oct 2007 ‘US plan for air strikes on Iran 'backed by Brown'’,

(12) = 06 Apr 2010 ‘Barack Obama's radical review on nuclear weapons reverses Bush policies’,

(13) = Sunday Times 07 Jan 2007 ‘Revealed: Israel plans nuclear strike on Iran’,

(14) = NYT 21 Aug 2004 ‘Sharon on the warpath : Is Israel planning to attack Iran?’,

(15) = CNN 10 Aug 2005 ‘Iran breaks seals at nuclear plant’,

(16) = Guardian Comment Is Free14 Jun 2006, ‘Lost in Translation’,

(17) = Iranian Television Broadcasts President Ahmadinezhad's Interview With French TV "Exclusive interview" with Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad by David Pujadas of French TV's TF2 Channel on 22 March 2007 – recorded Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran Network 1 Sunday, March 25, 2007 (reproduced as second item below article on Professor Juan Cole’s website at

“(Ahmadinezad) Let me ask you this question: where is the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics now? Was it not wiped off (the map)? How was it wiped off? We have a totally humanitarian solution for Palestine. We have said that all the Palestinians should take part in a free referendum so as to end the 60 year old war. The outcome is clear from now. It is because of the same outcome that America and Britain are refusing to yield.

(David Pujadas) Let us clarify everything. Do you really wish to wipe Israel off the face of the earth? Do you have a plan for this job or are you in fact making such a prediction?

(Ahmadinezhad) Look, I told you the solution. I think the people of Palestine also have the right to determine their own fate. Let them choose for themselves, the Christians, the Jews and the Muslims. That is, all the Palestinians who belong to that land can participate in the referendum. I think the outcome of such a referendum is already clear. We saw what happened in last year's elections (when they voted for HAMAS).”

(18) = Guardian 30 Nov 2007, 'Israel risks apartheid-like struggle if two-state solution fails, says Olmert',,,2219485,00.html

(19) = Takeyh, Ray (2006), ‘Hidden Iran - Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic, Times Books, New York, 2006, (hardback edition)

(20)= Hauser Global Law School Program (New York University School of Law) Mar 2006, 'A Guide to the Legal System of the Islamic Republic of Iran' by Omar Sial' ,

(21) = Time magazine 20 Apr 2006‘Iran President's Bark May Be Worse than His Bite',,8599,1185293,00.html

(22) =  Harik, Judith Palmer (2005), ‘Hezbollah : The Changing Face of Terrorism, I.B. Tauris, London & New York, 2005 paperback edition

(23) = Hroub, Khaled (2006), ‘Hamas : A Beginner's Guide, Pluto Press, London, 2006 paperback edition

(24) = Times 28 Oct 2004 ‘350 tonnes of high explosive looted in Iraq’,

(25) = AP 31 Oct 2004 ‘2nd Site With U.N.-Sealed Arms Was Looted, Inspectors Report’,

(26) = Washington Post 11 May 2003 ‘Iraq nuclear sites reportedly looted’,

(27) = AP Worldstream 31 Oct 2004 ‘Iraq Looted Chemical Site’,

(28) = NYT 13 Mar 2005 'Looting at Weapons Plants Was Systematic, Iraqi Says',

(29) =  02 Sep 2011 ‘Libya warned smugglers are looting Gaddafi's guns - West fears heatseeking surface-to-air missiles will fall into terrorists' hands’,

(30) = AP foreign 07 Sep 2011 ‘UN watchdog says Libyan chemical weapons secure’,

Monday, September 12, 2011

It's not extreme ideology that creates most Afghan or Iraqi insurgents or Al Qa'ida men, it’s killing members of their family, country or religion

Tony Blair is still pointing to Islamic “extreme ideologies” as “the threat” and the cause of all opposition to the US led “liberations” of Iraq and Afghanistan. Blair adds that it’s not about anything “we” do to “them” (1) – (2).

Yet one British reporter in Libya for Al Jazeera English the day the rebels took Tripoli recounted how Iraqis had come up to him in Baghdad the day Saddam was overthrown and told him they loved Americans, who were the greatest people in the world. A week later, one of the same people told him American troops had killed two members of his family – and that he would now kill as many Americans as he could.

This was not an unusual case. A CIA intelligence assessment in 2005 found the typical Iraqi insurgent was “motivated to fight because the United States is occupying his country” and “a family grievance, someone was hurt by coalition forces”, though adding that “There is also [in this Iraqi insurgent] religion and nationalism that results in a view he must fight on to get non-Muslims out of Muslim territory.” (3)

‘Hurt’ here is a nice vague word that papers over family members jailed without trial, tortured by Coalition forces or by US trained Iraqi government ‘police commandos’ or ‘counter-terrorist’ units using the same torture methods as under Saddam, or raped or killed by them. Blair’s claim that only insurgents and Al Qa’ida kill civilians in Iraq, with British , American and Iraqi government forces not responsible for killing any, is demonstrably and very false (4) – (8).

American journalist Thomas Ricks even found American forces often ‘arrested’ the wives and children of suspected insurgents – and often even if the suspect did give themselves up, US forces had ‘lost’ their families in the horrific prison torture network of which Abu Ghraib was the tip of the iceberg (9).

While Blair is probably right that terrorist attacks killed more civilians than Coalition forces did, due to truck, car and suicide bombings, even US military statistics showed that over 75% of insurgent and/or terrorist attacks targeted Coalition or Iraqi government armed forces (10).

So the insurgents’ motives include not just the religious ones that Blair sees as the only issue, but anger at foreign troops having killed, tortured or raped a member of their family; and opposition to foreign troops occupying their country. These are not examples of an alien ideology distorting reality, but reactions anyone can understand and empathise with.

Our enemies’ motives also include opposition to a new government that uses the same death and torture squad techniques on it’s people as the military government of El Salvador in the 80s, or Saddam Hussein himself (11).

Similarly, when many Iraqi insurgents turned from being allied to Al Qa’ida to accepting American money to fight it, the reason was not their ideology changing to one more similar to the British or American governments’, but disgust at Al Qa’ida killing Iraqi civilians (12) – (14).

Afghanistan : it’s mostly not about extreme Islamic ideology either

In Afghanistan the extremism of the Taliban is notorious. Yet US intelligence analysts found that 90% of the people NATO are fighting in Afghanistan are neither Taliban nor even “religiously motivated”, but fighting out of a cultural tradition of attacking foreign troops who are occupying their lands (which in Afghanistan may include for instance non-Pashtuns occupying Pashtun areas, or even soldiers from a tribe from another valley) (15) – (16).

A study by the US National Bureau of Economic Research also found that the number of attacks on NATO forces in each area of Afghanistan correlated closely with incidents in which NATO troops killed civilians in that area, with, on average, six extra attacks taking place each time civilians were killed (17).

There is also a fair amount of evidence of the ‘El Salvador option’ of US trained and led native ‘counter terrorist’ and ‘militia’ death squads being employed by the US in Afghanistan in summary executions in night raids (often of teenagers who turn out to be innocent). As in Iraq this allows the US military massive influence while denying any direct involvement – US officials for instance confirming that a raid had had US forces present but with the ‘trigger pullers’ being Afghan (18) – (20).

As with Al Qa’ida in Iraq most of the opposition to the Taliban among Afghans is due to Taliban killing civilians.

(US, UN and Afghan government sources show that Taliban and other opponents of NATO and the Karzai government have been responsible for the majority of civilian deaths for several years including 2011 so far. Given the Karzai government and the UN giving slightly higher figures for civilian casualties than NATO this can’t be discounted entirely as biased reporting of numbers.  However the total number of civilians killed has also been rising each year. (21) – (25).

NATO forces are also the body with the most security resources to collect enough statistics to make even a rough estimate of the total for each year across the whole country (21) – (26).

NATO figures for civilian casualties caused by their forces are also much lower than those of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission’s  figures in the minority of cases in which the AIHRC conducts it’s own investigation, though the UN may increase it’s figures in such cases. The AIHRC are all appointed by President Karzai and it’s head, Sima Samar, has had death threats from the Taliban and has said she’s in favour of NATO forces staying on to defeat the Taliban. This suggests NATO and UNAMA figures may understate the number of civilians killed by NATO and Afghan government forces. (26).

Even Al Qa’ida gets many recruits who want to protect Muslim civilians from being killed

Photo : The aftermath of the Madrid bombing

Al Qaeda was always a tiny minority of the people fighting the US and it’s allies and most Muslims want nothing to do with them, largely because they have often deliberately targeted civilians, which is not justified either morally or by anything in the Quran, but they have also repeatedly said they are killing our civilians because we are killing their (Muslim) civilians.

After 9-11 Bin Laden said “Every time they kill us, we kill them” (27). The Madrid bombers asked “Is it OK for you to kill our children, women, old people and youth in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine..? And is it forbidden to us to kill yours.” (28). Al Qa’ida in Europe said the July 7th bombings were revenge for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (29). In 2004 Bin Laden offered a truce to European countries if they withdrew their troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, saying “stop spilling our blood so we can stop spilling yours” (30).

This does not mean their murder of civilians was justified. Two wrongs cannot make a right. It is never justified to target civilians or take revenge on people not responsible for the acts you are taking revenge for. Taking revenge is usually pointless and counter-productive.

Al Qa'ida have also lost support among Muslims for targeting Muslim civilians as supposedly not 'true' Muslims.However these statements are more evidence that Al Qa’ida, like other Iraqi and Afghan insurgents, have motivations which are based at least partly on reality and which we can understand.

Only someone blinded by ideology could claim that the US and its allies have done nothing to turn any Afghans, Iraqis or Muslims against them

It’s hard to believe that Tony Blair can genuinely fail to see that if you kill members of the families of many thousands of people, or torture people by the thousand, many of them will hold it against you and some will seek revenge.

The fact that some Muslims, seeing themselves as part of a global community of Muslims, may also think they have a duty to fight to protect other Muslims in other countries, should not be surprising either. It’s not so different from Tony Blair, a British Prime Minister, deciding that we had a moral duty to stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with Americans due to ‘shared values’ after September 11th.

No doubt Blair is right that a minority of Muslims would be extreme in their views no matter what the US government and military and it’s allies did or didn’t do. Bin Laden for instance once claimed that “the crusaders” had allied with the Serbs against the Muslims in the former Yugoslavia.

To claim that nothing the US led alliance has done in terms of military action, torture, or supporting the dictatorships and occupations of others over mostly Muslim populations has turned anyone against us, or that anyone opposed to the US led alliance is only opposed due to ideology, is just him believing what he would like to believe though, blindly refusing to see the facts. That is deluded. You might even say that he clings so blindly to an ideology in which the US and it’s allies can do no wrong - and that this ideological belief is distorting his perception of reality.

Many converts to Islamic extremism may well be more symptoms of how some people react to having family members killed by foreign forces than a cause of them, just as the number of votes the BNP gets in the UK rises with the unemployment rate and rose after the London bombings. Blair and Bush and the neo-conservatives like to pretend that history began on September 11th – that it was what the Khmer Rouge called Year Zero, but in fact Israeli killings of Palestinian civilians and occupation of the West Bank and Gaza has been a motivating factor for Islamic extremist groups for decades, as have American and European support for torturing dictatorships in Muslim countries, along with civilians killed in wars on Muslim countries.

(1) = Independent 10 Sep 2011 War on terror 'not over' says Tony Blair, ; ‘Mr Blair warned the threat would only end when "we defeat the ideology". …"I think it will take a generation, but the way to defeat this ideology ultimately is by a better idea, and we have it, which is a way of life based on openness, democracy, freedom and the rule of law."’…my view is that actually this is a spectrum of which the terrorists are at one end but actually that spectrum of radical Islamism goes far, far deeper than we think…."It is profound, it is an ideology, it is a movement and it is still there, still with us.

(2) = BBC News 10 Sep 2011 ‘Tony Blair denies military action 'radicalised' Muslims’, ; ‘The reason why these people are radicalised is not because of something we're doing to them. …There is this view, which I'm afraid I believe is deeply naive in the West, that somehow these people, you know, misunderstand our motives, that we've confused them, that that's why they've become radicalised. …And until we stop accepting that somehow we, by our actions, are provoking these people to be as they are, we will carry on with this problem….Mr Blair said that military force should be considered to stop Iran developing a military nuclear programme. "I don't think it would include invasion but I think you cannot rule out the use of military force against Iran if they continue to develop nuclear weapons in breach of the international community's obligations on them."’

 (3) = Washington Post 06 Feb 2005 ‘CIA Studies Provide Glimpse of Insurgents in Iraq’,

(4) = NYT magazine 01 May 2005 ‘The Way of the Commandos’,

(5) = New York Times Magazine 01 May 2005 ‘The Way of the Commandos’,

(6) = Nation 06 Jun 2009 ‘Iraq’s new death squad’,

(7) = Amnesty International World Report 2010 (covering 2009) – Country Report Iraq, ;(once pdf loads, scroll down to page 125 (by PDF page number) or 178 (number marked on page)

(8) = On US and British forces in Iraq killing civilians see this link and sources listed on it and also this one

(9) = Thomas E. Ricks (2006) ‘FIASCO – the American military adventure in Iraq’, Penguin, London, Chapter 11 - pages 236-238 of paperback edition & chapter 12, pages 283-284 of paperback edition

(10) = Brookings Institution (July 2008) – Iraq Index, Page 8 – Enemy-Initiated Attacks against the Coalition and it’s partners, source MNF (multinational forces) Iraq, see Page 8,

(11) = See the part of the blog post on this link with the sub-heading ‘Killing and torturing Iraqis - supposedly to save them from Saddam doing it’ and the sources for it

(12) = NPR 31 Mar 2005 ‘Profile of an Iraqi Insurgent’,, He says he grew disillusioned with the insurgency, which he says has been "hijacked by foreigners" and directs its attacks against Iraqis, not Americans.

(13) = Christian Science Monitor 06 Feb 2006 ‘Sunni tribes turn against jihadis’, ; ‘Sheikh Osama al-Jadaan, head of the influential Karabila tribe… He's also turned away from supporting Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi and other foreign fighters in Iraq. "We realized that these foreign terrorists…claim to be striking at the US occupation, but the reality is they are killing innocent Iraqis in the markets, in mosques, in churches, and in our schools."

(14) = Time 31 Jan 2011 ‘The Insurgent's Tale: Rolling Stone's 2005 Profile of a Soldier Reconsidering Jihad’, ; ‘At thirty-two, Khalid was beginning to have serious reservations about the course of the insurgency in Iraq. They are over-killing there. Fighting foreign soldiers was one thing — he had been doing it all of his adult life. But did his faith really sanction killing civilians in their own country? The blood of people is too cheap.’

(15) = Boston Globe 09 Oct 2009 ‘Taliban not main Afghan enemy - Few militants driven by religion, reports say’,

(16) = Washington Post 27 Oct 2009  ‘U.S. official resigns over Afghan war’,

(17) = AP 02 Aug 2010 ‘Study ties civilian deaths to attacks on U.S. forces’, ; for full report see Luke N. Condra, Joseph H. Felter, Radha K. Iyengar, Jacob N. Shapiro (2010) ‘The Effect of Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq’  , National Bureau of Economic Research, NBER Working Paper No. 16152, July 2010, ; The fact that no correlation was found in Iraq may well be due to a greater degree of nationalism in Iraq, with most Iraqis seeing themselves as Iraqi first, compared to what one American officer called ‘valleyism’ in Afghanistan, with community loyalties often limited to one valley (see (16) above)

(18) = Guardian 22 Nov 2009 'US pours millions into anti-Taliban militias in Afghanistan',

(19) = On the ‘El Salvador option’ of US trained and/or led native death squads from El Salvador to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq to Colombia see the blog post on this link and sources for it

(20) = On summary executions of people who are often later found to be innocent and teenage boys see the blog post on this link – scroll down to the sub-heading ‘Night Raids and the El Salvador Option moving from Iraq to Afghanistan’ or to see sources for it to ‘Sources for Night raids etc’. Some links may have changed but you should be able to find the original articles by googling the newspaper name and the headline

(21) = Afghanistan Conflict Monitor ( of simon Fraser University, Canada) – Facts and Figures – Civilian Casualties (tables using UN statistics for 2007-2010 showing civilian casualties and whether they were caused by NATO or Afghan government forces or their allies (PGF =Pro-Government Forces) or their enemies (AGF = Anti-Government Forces)

(22) = Casualty Monitor – Civilian Casualties: Afghanistan – more tables showing the same things and again based on UNAMA figures,

(23) = Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission AIHRC (2010) ‘Afghanistan Annual Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict’,

(24) = 19 Jul 2010 ‘Afghanistan civilian death toll has risen sharply, says United Nations’,

(25) = USA Today 22 Jun 2011 ‘Taliban behind most Afghan civilian casualties’,

(26) = On problems with and likely biases in Afghan civilian casualty statistics in general; and on US civilian casualty counts on NATO airstrikes being far lower than AIHRC counts see the blog post on this link and sources for it

(27) = Guardian 12 Nov 2001 , ‘Bin Laden denies anthrax attacks’,

(28) = Guardian 12 Mar 2004, ‘The clues that point towards al-Qaida’,

(29) = Guardian Unlimited 17th July 2005 , 2.15p.m update ‘Al-Qaida in Europe claims responsibility for blasts’

(30) = Reuters / 15 Apr 2004 ‘Excerpts from 'Bin Laden' tape’,