Robert Parry is one my favorite investigative reporters and is one who exposed much of the Iran-Contra affair. His website, https://consortiumnews.com/, is one of my favorites as he is another who grew tired and frustrated by the narrow scoped and handcuffed mainstream media. In this column he details and chronicles some history behind the Iran/Israel/U.S triangle. It is well worth the read if you have ever wondered why things are the way they are with regard to this complex relationship. His column:
The US-Israel-Iran Triangle’s Tangled History
By Robert Parry
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to accuse Iran’s Islamic State of seeking Israel’s destruction – and U.S. neocons talk openly about bombing Iran – the history of Israel’s cooperative dealings with Iran, including after the ouster of the Shah and the rise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979, seems to have been forgotten.
Yet, this background is important when evaluating some of Iran’s current political players and their attitudes regarding a possible deal with world powers to limit Iran’s nuclear program to peaceful purposes only. In the United States and Israel – for their own politically sensitive reasons – much of this history remains “lost” or little known.
The division inside Iran between leading figures who collaborated with the U.S. and Israel behind the scenes and those who resisted those secret dealings took shape in the early 1980s but remains in place, to some degree, to this day.
For instance, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s current Supreme Leader, was more the ideological purist in 1980, apparently opposing any unorthodox strategy involving Israeli and Republican emissaries that went behind President Jimmy Carter’s back to gain promises of weapons from Israel and the future Reagan administration.
Khamenei appears to have favored a more straightforward arrangement with the Carter administration for settling the dispute over the 52 American hostages who were seized from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979, by Iranian radicals.
However, other key political figures – including Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mehdi Karoubi – participated in the secret contacts with the Republicans and Israel to get the military supplies needed to fight the war with Iraq, which began in September 1980. They were later joined by Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi.
In 1980, these internal Iranian differences played out against a dramatic backdrop. Iranian radicals still held the 52 hostages; President Carter had imposed an arms embargo while negotiating for the hostages’ release; and he was struggling to fend off a strong campaign challenge from Republican Ronald Reagan.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Likud Prime Minister Menachem Begin was furious at Carter for pushing him into the Camp David peace deal with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat that required Israel returning the Sinai to Egypt in exchange for normalized relations.
Begin also was upset at Carter’s perceived failure to protect the Shah of Iran, who had been an Israeli strategic ally. Begin was worried, too, about the growing influence of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as it massed troops along the Iranian border.
At that time, Saudi Arabia was encouraging Sunni-ruled Iraq to attack Shiite-ruled Iran in a revival of the Sunni-Shiite conflict which dated back to the Seventh Century succession struggle after the death of the Prophet Mohammad. The Saudi prince-playboys were worried about the possible spread of the ascetic revolutionary movement pushed by Iran’s new ruler, Ayatollah Khomeini.
Determined to help Iran counter Iraq – and hopeful about rebuilding at least covert ties to Tehran – Begin’s government cleared the first small shipments of U.S. military supplies to Iran in spring 1980, including 300 tires for Iran’s U.S.-manufactured jet fighters. Soon, Carter learned about the covert shipments and lodged an angry complaint.
“There had been a rather tense discussion between President Carter and Prime Minister Begin in the spring of 1980 in which the President made clear that the Israelis had to stop that, and that we knew that they were doing it, and that we would not allow it to continue, at least not allow it to continue privately and without the knowledge of the American people,” Carter’s press secretary Jody Powell told me in an interview for a PBS documentary.
“And it stopped,” Powell said — at least, it stopped temporarily.
Questioned by congressional investigators a dozen years later, Carter said he felt that by April 1980, “Israel cast their lot with Reagan,” according to notes I found among the unpublished documents in the files of a congressional investigation conducted in 1992. Carter traced the Israeli opposition to his possible reelection in 1980 to a “lingering concern [among] Jewish leaders that I was too friendly with Arabs.”
Carter’s National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski also recognized the Israeli hostility. Brzezinski said the Carter White House was well aware that the Begin government had “an obvious preference for a Reagan victory.”
Begin’s alarm about a possible Carter second term was described, too, by Israeli intelligence and foreign affairs official David Kimche in his 1991 book, The Last Option. Kimche wrote that Begin’s government believed that Carter was overly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and was conspiring with Arabs to force Israel to withdraw from the West Bank.
“Begin was being set up for diplomatic slaughter by the master butchers in Washington,” Kimche wrote. “They had, moreover, the apparent blessing of the two presidents, Carter and [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat, for this bizarre and clumsy attempt at collusion designed to force Israel to abandon her refusal to withdraw from territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, and to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
Extensive evidence now exists that Begin’s preference for a Reagan victory led Israelis to join in a covert operation with Republicans to contact Iranian leaders behind Carter’s back and delay release of the 52 American hostages until after Reagan defeated Carter in November 1980.
That controversy, known as the “October Surprise” case, and its sequel, the Iran-Contra scandal in the mid-1980s, involved clandestine ties between leading figures in Iran and U.S. and Israeli officials who supplied Iran with missiles and other weaponry for its war with Iraq. The Iran-Iraq conflict began simmering in spring 1980 and broke into full-scale war in September.
Khamenei, who was then an influential aide to Ayatollah Khomeini, appears to have been part of a contingent exploring ways to resolve the hostage dispute with Carter.
According to Army Col. Charles Wesley Scott, who was one of the 52 hostages, Khamenei visited him on May 1, 1980, at the old U.S. consulate in Tabriz to ask whether milder demands from Iran to the Carter administration might lead to a resolution of the hostage impasse and allow the resumption of U.S. military supplies, former National Security Council aide Gary Sick reported in his book October Surprise.
“You’re asking the wrong man,” Scott replied, noting that he had been out of touch with his government during his five months of captivity before adding that he doubted the Carter administration would be eager to resume military shipments quickly.
“Frankly, my guess is that it will be a long time before you’ll get any cooperation on spare parts from America, after what you’ve done and continue to do to us,” Scott said he told Khamenei.
But Khamenei’s outreach to a captive U.S. military officer – outlining terms that then became the basis of a near settlement of the crisis with the Carter administration in September 1980 – suggests that Khamenei favored a more traditional approach toward resolving the hostage crisis rather than the parallel channel that soon involved the Israelis and the Republicans.
In that narrow sense, Khamenei was allied with Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, the sitting Iranian president in 1980 who also has said he opposed dealing with Israel and the Republicans behind President Carter’s back. In a little-noticed letter to the U.S. Congress, dated Dec. 17, 1992, Bani-Sadr said he first learned of the Republican hostage initiative in July 1980.
Bani-Sadr said a nephew of Ayatollah Khomeini returned from a meeting with an Iranian banker, Cyrus Hashemi, who had led the Carter administration to believe he was helping broker a hostage release but who had close ties to Reagan’s campaign chief William Casey and to Casey’s business associate, John Shaheen.
Bani-Sadr said the message from the Khomeini emissary was clear: the Reagan campaign was in league with some of the Central Intelligence Agency’s pro-Republican elements in an effort to undermine Carter and wanted Iran’s help. Bani-Sadr said the emissary “told me that if I do not accept this proposal they [the Republicans] would make the same offer to my rivals.”
The emissary added that the Republicans “have enormous influence in the CIA,” Bani-Sadr wrote. “Lastly, he told me my refusal of their offer would result in my elimination.”
Bani-Sadr said he resisted the GOP scheme, but the plan ultimately was accepted by Ayatollah Khomeini, who appears to have made up his mind around the time of Iraq’s invasion in mid-September 1980.
Clearing the Way
Khomeini’s approval meant the end of the initiative that Khamenei had outlined to Col. Scott, which was being pursued with Carter’s representatives in West Germany before Iraq launched its attack. Khomeini’s blessing allowed Rafsanjani, Karoubi and later Mousavi to proceed with secret contacts that involved emissaries from the Reagan camp and the Israeli government.
The Republican-Israeli-Iranian agreement appears to have been sealed through a series of meetings that culminated in discussions in Paris arranged by the right-wing chief of French intelligence Alexandre deMarenches and allegedly involving Casey, vice presidential nominee (and former CIA Director) George H.W. Bush, CIA officer Robert Gates and other U.S. and Israeli representatives on one side and cleric Mehdi Karoubi and a team of Iranian representatives on the other.
Bush, Gates and Karoubi all have denied participating in the meeting (Karoubi did so in an interview with me in Tehran in 1990). But deMarenches admitted arranging the Paris conclave to his biographer, former New York Times correspondent David Andelman.
Andelman said deMarenches ordered that the secret meeting be kept out of his memoir because the story could otherwise damage the reputation of his friends, William Casey and George H.W. Bush. At the time of Andelman’s work on the memoir in 1991, Bush was running for re-election as President of the United States.
Andelman’s sworn testimony in December 1992 to a House task force assigned to examine the October Surprise controversy buttressed longstanding claims from international intelligence operatives about a Paris meeting involving Casey and Bush.
Besides the testimony from intelligence operatives, including Israeli military intelligence officer Ari Ben-Menashe, there was contemporaneous knowledge of the alleged Bush-to-Paris trip by Chicago Tribune reporter John Maclean, son of author Norman Maclean who wrote A River Runs Through It.
Maclean said a well-placed Republican source told him in mid-October 1980 about Bush’s secret trip to Paris to meet with Iranians on the U.S. hostage issue. Maclean passed on that information to State Department official David Henderson, who recalled the date as Oct. 18, 1980.
Since Maclean had never written a story about the leak and Henderson didn’t mentioned it until Congress started its cursory October Surprise investigation in 1991, the Maclean-Henderson conversation had been locked in a kind of time capsule.
One could not accuse Maclean of concocting the Bush-to-Paris allegation for some ulterior motive, since he hadn’t used it in 1980, nor had he volunteered it a decade later. He only confirmed it, grudgingly, when approached by a researcher working with me on a PBS Frontline documentary and in a subsequent videotaped interview with me.
Also, alibis that were later concocted for Casey and Bush – supposedly to prove they could not have traveled to the alleged overseas meetings – either collapsed under close scrutiny or had serious holes. [For details on the October Surprise case, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege and America’s Stolen Narrative.]
Though the precise details of the October Surprise case remain murky, it is a historic fact that Carter failed to resolve the hostage crisis before losing in a surprising landslide to Reagan and that the hostages were not released until Reagan and Bush were sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981.
It also is clear that U.S. military supplies were soon moving to Iran via Israeli middlemen with the approval of the new Reagan administration.
In a PBS interview, Nicholas Veliotes, Reagan’s assistant secretary of state for the Middle East, said he first discovered the secret arms pipeline to Iran when an Israeli weapons flight was shot down over the Soviet Union on July 18, 1981, after straying off course on its third mission to deliver U.S. military supplies from Israel to Iran via Larnaca, Cyprus.
“It was clear to me after my conversations with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment,” Veliotes said.
In checking out the Israeli flight, Veliotes came to believe that the Reagan-Bush camp’s dealings with Iran dated back to before the 1980 election.
“It seems to have started in earnest in the period probably prior to the election of 1980, as the Israelis had identified who would become the new players in the national security area in the Reagan administration,” Veliotes said. “And I understand some contacts were made at that time.”
In the early 1980s, the players in Iran also experienced a shakeup. Bani-Sadr was ousted in 1981 and fled for his life; he was replaced as president by Khamenei; Mousavi was named prime minister; Rafsanjani consolidated his financial and political power as speaker of the Majlis; and Karoubi became a powerful figure in Iran’s military-and-foreign-policy establishment.
Besides tapping into stockpiles of U.S.-made weaponry, the Israelis arranged shipments from third countries, including Poland, according to Israeli intelligence officer Ben-Menashe, who described his work on the arms pipeline in his 1992 book, Profits of War.
Since representatives of Likud had initiated the arms-middleman role for Iran, the profits flowed into coffers that the right-wing party controlled, a situation that allowed Likud to invest in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and created envy inside the rival Labor Party especially after it gained a share of power in the 1984 elections, said Ben-Menashe, who worked with Likud.
The Iran-Contra Case
According to this analysis, Labor’s desire to open its own arms channel to Iran laid the groundwork for the Iran-Contra scandal, as the government of Prime Minister Shimon Peres tapped into the emerging neoconservative network inside the Reagan administration on one hand and began making his own contacts to Iran’s leadership on the other.
Reagan’s National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, who had close ties to the Israeli leadership, collaborated with Peres’s aide Amiram Nir and with neocon intellectual (and National Security Council consultant) Michael Ledeen in spring 1985 to make contact with the Iranians.
Ledeen’s chief intermediary to Iran was a businessman named Manucher Ghorbanifar, who was held in disdain by the CIA as a fabricator but claimed he represented high-ranking Iranians who favored improved relations with the United States and were eager for American weapons.
Ghorbanifar’s chief contact, as identified in official Iran-Contra records, was Mohsen Kangarlu, who worked as an aide to Prime Minister Mousavi, according to Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman in his 2008 book, The Secret War with Iran.
However, Ghorbanifar’s real backer inside Iran appears to have been Mousavi himself. According to a Time magazine article from January 1987, Ghorbanifar “became a trusted friend and kitchen adviser to Mir Hussein Mousavi, Prime Minister in the Khomeini government.”
In November 1985, at a key moment in the Iran-Contra scandal as one of the early missile shipments via Israel went awry, Ghorbanifar conveyed Mousavi’s anger to the White House.
“On or about November 25, 1985, Ledeen received a frantic phone call from Ghorbanifar, asking him to relay a message from the prime minister of Iran to President Reagan regarding the shipment of the wrong type of HAWKs,” according to Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh’s Final Report.
“Ledeen said the message essentially was ‘we’ve been holding up our part of the bargain, and here you people are now cheating us and tricking us and deceiving us and you had better correct this situation right away.’”
Earlier in the process, Ghorbanifar had dangled the possibility of McFarlane meeting with high-level Iranian officials, including Mousavi and Rafsanjani. Another one of Ghorbanifar’s Iranian contacts was Hassan Karoubi, the brother of Mehdi Karoubi. Hassan Karoubi met with Ghorbanifar and Ledeen in Geneva in late October 1985 regarding missile shipments in exchange for Iranian help in getting a group of U.S. hostages freed in Lebanon, according to Walsh’s report.
A Split Leadership
As Ben-Menashe describes the maneuvering in Tehran, the basic split in the Iranian leadership put then-President Khamenei on the ideologically purist side of rejecting U.S.-Israeli military help and Rafsanjani, Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi in favor of exploiting those openings in a pragmatic way to better fight the war with Iraq.
The key decider during this period – as in the October Surprise phase – was Ayatollah Khomeini, who agreed with the pragmatists on the need to get as much materiel from the Americans and the Israelis as possible, Ben-Menashe told me in a 2009 interview from his home in Canada.
Ben-Menashe said Rafsanjani and most other senior Iranian officials were satisfied dealing with the original (Likud) Israeli channel and were offended by the Reagan administration’s double game of tilting toward Iraq with military and intelligence support while also offering weapons deals to Iran via the second (Labor) channel.
The ex-Israeli intelligence officer said the Iranians were especially thankful in 1985-86 when the Likud channel secured SCUD missiles from Poland so Iran could respond to SCUD attacks that Iraq had launched against Iranian cities.
“After that (transaction), I got access to the highest authorities” in Iran, Ben-Menashe said, including a personal meeting with Mousavi at which Ben-Menashe said he learned that Mousavi knew the history of the Israeli-arranged shipments in the October Surprise deal of 1980.
Ben-Menashe quoted Mousavi as saying, “we did everything you guys wanted. We got rid of the Democrats. We did everything we could, but the Americans aren’t delivering [and] they are dealing with the Iraqis.”
In that account, the Iranian leadership in 1980 viewed its agreement to delay the release of the U.S. Embassy hostages not primarily as a favor to the Republicans, but to the Israelis who were considered the key for Iran to get the necessary military supplies for its war with Iraq.
Israeli attitudes toward Iran soured when the lucrative arms pipelines of the Iran-Iraq War dried up after the conflict finally ended in 1988. Iran’s treasury was depleted as was the treasury of Iraq, where Saddam Hussein lashed out at one of his oil-rich creditors, the Kuwaiti royal family, in 1990, invading the country and setting the stage for a U.S.-led Persian Gulf War that drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait.
With Iraq burdened by post-war sanctions and its military might restricted by weapons inspectors, Israel began to view Iran as its principal regional threat, a view shared by the wealthy Saudis. That common viewpoint gradually created the basis for a de facto Israeli-Saudi alliance which has begun to come out of the shadows in recent years. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Deciphering the Mideast Chaos.”]
Meanwhile, in Iran, this half-hidden history of double-dealing and back-stabbing remains part of the narrative of distrust that continues to afflict U.S.-Iranian relations. Even 35 years later, some of the same Iranian players are still around.
Though Mousavi and Karoubi fell out of favor when they were associated with the Western-backed Green Movement in 2009, Rafsanjani has remained an influential political figure and Khameini replaced the late Ayatollah Khomeini as Iran’s Supreme Leader. That makes him the most important figure in Iran regarding whether to accept a U.S.-brokered deal limiting Iran’s nuclear program — or not.
The toxic remnants of Bush falling on Obama…an excellent article by Juan Cole:
Bush Trifecta lands on Obama: Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan Imploding
By Juan Cole
President Barack Obama of Hawaii had fondly dreamed of bidding turbulent and unrewarding West Asia farewell and turning the attentions of American diplomacy to East and South East Asia. From his point of view, the Bush administration had unwisely entangled the US too deeply in the Middle East, where no good deed goes unpunished. He had opposed the Iraq War, and thought the latter diverted attention from Afghanistan and the hunt for Bin Laden. He was willing to do a bit of Israel-Palestine diplomacy but not to really put his presidential prestige on the line the way Jimmy Carter had. And after all, Carter got almost no credit for averting decades more of Israel-Egypt wars.
The Bush administration’s activities in West Asia undermined stability there so badly, however, that the region has gone on haunting Obama and threatening to draw him into quagmires.
In January 2006, the Palestine Authority held elections in Gaza and the West Bank for the first time since 1996, when President Mahmoud Abbas had been elected along with a parliament dominated by the Palestine Liberation Organization. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did not want Hamas (the Movement for Change) to be allowed to run, since the far-right Muslim fundamentalist organization had never accepted the Oslo Peace Process. Although back in the 1980s the Israelis had backed Hamas against its secular, nationalist rival, the PLO, by 2006 the two had fallen out.
The Bush administration was pushing its “Democracy Promotion” policy in “the Greater Middle East,” at the time, however, and insisted that Hamas must be allowed to run. Washington did not in any case think it could win.
But Hamas took more seats than the PLO in the Palestine National Council and formed a government, with Ismail Haniya as prime minister.
This outcome was unacceptable to the Israelis, who colluded with the PLO to stage a coup in the West Bank, which was turned over to Mahmoud Abbas (whose term had come to an end but who remained president in the absence of new presidential elections).
The attempted coup in the Gaza Strip, however, failed. Hamas remained in control of its desperately poor million and a half population, having come to power through the ballot box. The Israeli government was disturbed, and in 2007 it placed the Gaza Strip under a severe blockade, intended to keep Palestinians there on the edge of hunger. The Palestinians were prevented from exporting most of what they produced, plunging them into severe unemployment. Israel hoped that the blockade would make Hamas unpopular and that the Gaza population would unseat it. They didn’t. Elements of the Israeli blockade on a non-combatant civilian population that is 50% children continue to this day. This is a violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention on the treatment of occupied populations by the military occupier.
I thought at the time that Hamas should not have been allowed to run because they are a paramilitary that has not committed to the rules of democracy. The Bush insistence that they be allowed to contest seats, followed by a fickle Bush complicity in the West Bank coup against them, created the current impasse. Hamas has stocked up on rockets with which to menace Israel psychologically (though don’t manage to hit much with the rockets). Israel wants to finish the job of the failed 2007 coup against Hamas, or short of that, to inflict attrition on their military capabilities.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s current military campaign in Gaza seeks to destroy or much reduce Hamas’s rockets stockpile. Netanyahu may hope that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who hates political Islam, will effectively prevent Hamas from rearming once its stockpiles of the more sophisticated missiles have been reduced or eliminated. Hamas was fickle, abandoning its patrons, Iran and Syria, for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood When the latter was overthrown last year this time, Hamas was left high and dry and vulnerable. Many Gaza youth are against it and formed a Rebellion movement on the Egyptian model. But It is Israel’s horrid treatment of the Palestinians of Gaza, sort of like Maynard keeps the Gimp in Pulp Fiction, that produces radical movements like Hamas or Islamic Jihad, and even if Netanyahu could polish them off, other similar ones would take their place. The problem is structural. You can’t kick people out of their homes and put them in a large open air concentration camp and expect to have peace with them.
In Afghanistan, the Bush administration should have used the Northern Alliance to overthrow the Taliban and then just left. Anand Gopal has argued convincingly that US troops left in Afghanistan got drawn into tribal feuds and destabilized the south and east of the country, whereas in the north, NATO forces that were less kinetic managed to keep calm. Bush’d decision to leave tens of thousands of US soldiers in Pushtun areas, engaging in the same sort of search and destroy tactics as had turned the South Vietnamese against the US military in the late 1960s, led to a neo-Taliban resurgence.
Bush’s “Democracy Promotion” in Afghanistan led to corrupt politics and ballot fraud that went on and got worse after Bush left office. Now, the presidential elections have produced a nail-biting finale in which it seems Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai has nudged out Abdullah Abdullah, with 56% of the vote; but that strangely doubles his tally in the April first round, raising Abdullah Abdullah’s suspicions of fraud.
This is a disaster because very close elections often seem to people illegitimate. Abdullah Abdullah, whose constituency is the Dari Persian-speaking Tajiks and Shiite Hazaras, is refusing to concede the election to Ahmadzai, for whom many Pushtuns voted. As I write, Afghanistan could be on the brink of violence of an ethnic sort over the contested election results. All this doesn’t even take into account the Taliban resurgence. US troop strength is scheduled to go down to 10,000 by the end of this year and to almost nothing by Jan. 1, 2017. But as with Iraq, substantial instability could bring the US right back in.
Having illegally invaded and occupied Iraq, the Bush administration originally wanted phony ‘caucus-based’ elections in Iraq, wherein hand-picked elite Iraqis would elect corrupt financier and inveterate prevaricator Ahmad Chalabi as prime minister. Some say Chalabi was a double agent, working for Iran. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the spiritual head of Iraq’s majority Shiite population, over-ruled Bush and insisted on one-person one vote parliamentary elections. Being the majority, the Shiites won in January 2005, but not just any Shiites. It was the pro-Iran fundamentalist Shiites that Bush inadvertently brought to power. Ooops. They went on deeply to alienate the formerly dominant Sunni minority, leading to the present Sunni rebellion in northern and western Iraq, in alliance with an al-Qaeda offshoot None of this would be happening if Bush hadn’t invaded on false pretenses.
In all three cases, an oddly uninformed and narrow vision of democratic transition guaranteed that “democracy promotion” would fail. No attention was given to training a new judiciary in the rule of law. The US presence itself was destabilizing in Iraq and Afhanistan, both because of the corruption it fostered and because of way US military personnel took sides in tribal feuds that had almost nothing to do with terrorism. That process in turn inflamed ethnic divisions.
All this has broken on Obama’s head in the past 30 days. Unfortunately for him, he can’t just go off and initial contracts in Shanghai. He has to try to make coherent policy in service of calming things down. But in the medium term, Iraq’s political elite needs to stop fiddling while Rome burns. It also needs a new and better constitution that doesn’t consistently produce hung parliaments. Afghanistan needs a Pushtun reconciliation process between former Taliban and the Northern Alliance.
As for Israeli actions in Gaza & the West Bank, the US could end them quickly and surely by simply ceasing to wield the UNSC veto in Israel’s regard.
The following is an excerpt from TomDispatch discussing America’s never-ending war and the propaganda used to keep the citizens complacent. When can we end this??
Consider one more definition of war: not as politics or even as commerce, but as societal catastrophe. Thinking this way, we can apply Naomi Klein’s concepts of the “shock doctrine” and “disaster capitalism” to it. When such disasters occur, there are always those who seek to turn a profit.
Most Americans are, however, discouraged from thinking about war this way thanks to the power of what we call “patriotism” or, at an extreme, “superpatriotism” when it applies to us, and the significantly more negative “nationalism” or “ultra-nationalism” when it appears in other countries. During wars, we’re told to “support our troops,” to wave the flag, to put country first, to respect the patriotic ideal of selfless service and redemptive sacrifice (even if all but 1% of us are never expected to serve or sacrifice).
We’re discouraged from reflecting on the uncomfortable fact that, as “our” troops sacrifice and suffer, others in society are profiting big time. Such thoughts are considered unseemly and unpatriotic. Pay no attention to the war profiteers, who pass as perfectly respectable companies. After all, any price is worth paying (or profits worth offering up) to contain the enemy—not so long ago, the red menace, but in the twenty-first century, the murderous terrorist.
Forever war is forever profitable. Think of the Lockheed Martins of the world. In their commerce with the Pentagon, as well as the militaries of other nations, they ultimately seek cash payment for their weapons and a world in which such weaponry will be eternally needed. In the pursuit of security or victory, political leaders willingly pay their price. Full article on Truthdig –> here.
I’ve had a hard time keeping up with my blogging as this time of year does not lend itself to my desire to write. I have, however, stayed tuned in and awake. I have often been very discouraged with the state of affairs of the world and sometimes it makes you want to throw in the towel.
We have things like the government shutdown and the last minute aversion of the debt ceiling crisis caused by a small minority of an elected government that no longer represents the people. We have the continuous diminishing reputation of the United States in the eyes of everyone living outside of the U.S.. We have a sickeningly high rate of poverty for such a wealthy nation and the division of income continues to widen between the one percent and the rest of us. Throw in U.S. foreign policy and America’s Perpetual War Machine and one may start losing hope. The underfunding of education and the cold, callous attitude toward a decent healthcare system are difficult pills to swallow. Finally, from an environmental standpoint, we are truly obliterating our planet for the sake of the almighty dollar. Yes…it is a sad state of affairs.
I find myself reading a lot about different things and how people are dealing with the state of the world. I recently read the book “The Man Who Quit Money”, by Mark Sundeen. His book tells the story of Daniel Suelo who has mostly turned his back on the capitalist society in which we live. He looks at the world through a different and refreshing lens. For those that haven’t read it, I encourage you to give it a go and while you may not agree with everything he says, he may just make you look at the world a little bit differently.
Currently I am reading “Thank You For Your Service” by David Finkel. He was imbedded with the men of the 2-I6 infantry battalion and has followed the same group home and writes about the struggles of the soldiers and their families with PTSD and the life-changing events of war. It is gripping, sad and it makes you very angry when you realize that these men and women are casualties of a war fought by the poor for the benefit of the rich.
Another book I read in the past few months was “Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield”, by Jeremy Scahill. He sheds considerable light onto the events that led the U.S. into Afghanistan and Iraq (and it isn’t all about 9/11). Dick Cheney (who is rightfully vilified in the book) and Donald Rumsfeld led the U.S. down a dark path into a morally bankrupt, corrupt, and perverted global war on “terror”. I very highly recommend this book as Scahill tracks the war all across the globe.
Okay so I have likely ranted enough for one sitting, but I have one more thing to add and it made me want to take the blue pill from Morpheus. I finally got around to watching the documentary “Gasland”…and it made me very sad and angry. What kind of world are we leaving for future generations? Fracking may the worst of all of the horrible environmental disasters man is creating in the world. It is the worst because it affects the one major staple of life: water. When people are lighting their taps, something is very wrong. How can we sit by and let this happen?
I still hold out hope that people will change. Most people are good at heart but simply do not know what is happening in the world around them. We must diligently make them aware and wake them because at this point in the game the stakes are too high not to.
Lawrence Davidson, a contributing writer for Consortiumnews.com recently wrote an article pertaining to Israeli indifference to the Palestinian plight. As many people have read works from Elie Wiesel, I found this article interesting because of the very idea that Wiesel has attempted to point out – “The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.” Davidson calls out Wiesel on his own double standard and questions the indifference of most Israelis as well as Americans. A good read…
Ignoring the Palestinian Plight
Holocaust expert Elie Wiesel has urged audiences around the world to reject apathy and to resist injustice. But Wiesel and many other Zionists fall silent when the victims of oppression are the Palestinians, as Lawrence Davidson writes.
By Lawrence Davidson
Elie Wiesel is a worldwide personality who – through his powerful descriptive writing about the Nazi concentration camps – has come to personify the suffering of the Holocaust. Among his many insights is the famous observation, “The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.”
Wiesel has repeatedly put forth this idea. In a 2011 commencement address at Washington University in St. Louis, he told his listeners, “The greatest commandment — to me — in the Bible . . . is ‘Thou shalt not stand idly by.’ Which means when you witness an injustice, don’t stand idly by.”
After a Boston lecture in 2012, Wiesel told Boston University students “I think that is the greatest danger, ignorance, which leads to indifference and therefore to detachment. . . . If somebody suffers and I don’t do anything to diminish his or her suffering, something is wrong with me.”
Unfortunately, Wiesel has identified himself with Zionism and by doing so has inevitably been caught up in contradictions and dilemmas that challenge his reputation as a moral icon. For instance, in May 2010, he made a public appeal to President Barack Obama not to put any pressure on the Israeli government over the issue of Jerusalem even as the Israelis evicted Palestinian residents.
In doing so he revealed his own indifference to the real nature of Israeli objectives and behavior. As a result a hundred Israeli intellectuals and activists wrote him a public reply expressing “frustration” and “outrage” at his attitude and actions.
Nonetheless, his comments about indifference and insensitivity are important and insightful and can be used as a standard to judge some of his fellow Zionists, many of whom have been “standing idly by” for decades and thus are examples of Wiesel’s dictum, “if somebody suffers and I don’t do anything to diminish his or her suffering, something is wrong with me.”
Recently there have been several articles calling attention to the fact that, as Uri Avnery puts it, “We [Israelis] have become so accustomed to this situation [an occupation ‘going on only a few minutes drive from our homes’] that we see it as normal.”
Ethan Bronner, the New York Times’ former Jerusalem bureau chief, confirmed this pervasive indifference to the suffering that Israeli policies and discriminatory practices cause. “Few [Israelis] even talk about the Palestinians,” he wrote. “Instead of focusing on what has long been seen as their central challenge — how to share this land with another nation — Israelis are largely ignoring it.”
More specifically they are ignoring such revelations as the fact that since September 2000, when the second Intifada broke out, Israeli forces have killed over 1,500 Palestinian children. According to the Middle East Monitor, that means “one child killed by Israel every 3 days for almost 13 years.”
In the same time the number of children injured has reached 6,000 and the number under the age of 18 arrested is about 9,000. The suffering of Palestinians, documented by the United Nations as well as private NGOs such as Human Rights Watch, is ongoing yet apparently unnoticed by the average Israeli.
Nor is any improvement in the situation likely. While Israelis display indifference to Palestinian suffering, the Israeli government has indicated its intention to keep the regime of suffering going indefinitely.
According to Israeli trade minister Naftali Bennett, “a rising star in the Israeli cabinet,” the idea of a Palestinian state is “dead” and Israel should annex large portions of the West Bank. Danny Danon, the deputy defense minister, agrees. “We are a nationalist government, not a government that will establish a Palestinian government in the 1967 lines.”
Meanwhile, a significant number of Israelis, whether they think about it or not, are profiting from the expanding and illegal occupation of Palestinian land.
The Role of Ignorance
Thus we can ask, using Wiesel’s words, what is wrong with the Israelis that they care little or nothing for the Palestinians’ 65 years of suffering? Wiesel himself has part of the answer when he observes “ignorance . . . leads to indifference and therefore to detachment.”
Ignorance? Is the average Israeli really ignorant in this matter? At first this assertion appears ridiculous. After all, as Avnery notes, the suffering of the Palestinians is never more than “minutes” from most Israeli backyards, and it now and then violently boomerangs back on Israeli Jews.
Nonetheless, a kind of contrived, willful ignorance does come into play. One can be raised in ignorance and educated to a view of history that eliminates others’ suffering as well as one’s role in causing it. Entire populations can be psychologically shaped this way, with those doing the shaping being the truest of the true believers. Such conditioned ignorance lays the foundation for indifference to the fate of others. The Israelis have made an art of this process.
Yet, this scenario is not original with the Israelis and Zionists. In fact, many Zionists learned how to see the world this way from Americans. Some years back I published a book, America’s Palestine, in which this legacy is explored.
As it turns out, one of the Zionist themes of the 1920s was that the native Palestinians were the Arab equivalent of hostile American Indians, violently resisting the forces of civilization and modernization. What was the average American’s attitude to the fate of these Indians, to their brutal dispossession and ethic cleansing? It was indifference which has grown greater with time until most Americans do not give the Indians or their fate much thought at all.
Several years ago, at a debate held at the University of Pennsylvania, I tried to explain this connection to an Israeli vice consul from the Philadelphia consulate and his coterie of Zionist students. I suggested to them that the long-term Zionist strategy was to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians and then count on the world to, over time, get used to and then forget this crime.
In 100 or 150 years, who would cry over the Palestinians? About the same number as bemoan the Apache or Cheyenne today? However, I also told them that in our post-imperialist world, this historical scenario was unlikely to repeat itself. The reception to all of this from the consul and his hangers-on was negative. They walked out.
The indifference, leading to detachment, that Wiesel so fears can quickly become a habitual part of our lives. After all, so much of our lives are just “a stream of habitual actions” that can be either “rationally useful or irrationally unfit for a given situation.”
It is in the latter case that we get into trouble. When Israelis ignore Palestinian suffering they act in a way “irrationally unfit for their given situation” and that means, in Wiesel’s terms, “there is something wrong” with them.
As Americans, we should recognize the symptoms, for we too have repeatedly behaved in this fashion. Having modeled this insensitivity for the Zionists, it now stands as a mark of our “special relationship” with the land of Israel.
I still haven’t figured out how somebody can truly be “undecided” in this election. This cartoon sums it up well…
War. It is one of the most marketed and sold ideas in the history of the world. World leaders can think up any number of reasons to go to war and sell it (quite well, in fact) to the public and to the military. The U.S. has excelled at this very art. G.W. Bush sold America on invading Iraq on the coattails of 9/11. Was Iraq really a threat to us? Was Afghanistan? Is Iran? The U.S. has, by far, the largest military arsenal in the world. Is any country really going to attack or invade the United States? It is all a lie, an illusion, a play that only pads the pockets of the elite while soldiers lose their lives fighting in a war that has no meaning. Why do we allow this to happen? Our government keeps the citizens in a state of fear and paints the life of a soldier as one of adventure and heroism. They tell the soldiers that they are patriots, arm them, and put them in harm’s way. The realities of what the soldiers face is quite different. In his book “War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning”, Chris Hedges writes,
The myth of war rarely endures for those who experience combat. War is messy, confusing, sullied by raw brutality and an elephantine fear that grabs us like a massive bouncer who comes up from behind. Soldiers in the moments before real battles weep, vomit, and write last letters home, although these are done more as a precaution than from belief. All are nearly paralyzed with fright. There is a morbid silence that grips a battlefield in the final moments before the shooting starts, one that sets the back of my own head pounding in pain, wipes away all appetite, and makes my fingers tremble as I ready myself to go forward against logic. You do not think of home or family, for to do so is to be overcome by a wave of nostalgia and emotion that can impair your ability to survive. One thinks, so far as it is possible, of cleaning weapons, of readying for the business of killing. No one ever charges into battle for God and country.
“Just remember,” a Marine Corps lieutenant colonel told me as he strapped his pistol belt under his arm before we crossed into Kuwait, “that none of these boys is fighting for home, for the flag, for all that crap the politicians feed the public. They are fighting for each other, just for each other.”
The betrayal of the American soldier is a travesty. Human lives, pawns, in a game of global economic chess are manipulated, used, and ultimately destroyed by war. Families are destroyed as children are orphaned and spouses are widowed. This cost of war is taking it’s toll on America. This cost goes far beyond that economic tax burden of the citizens. This is a human cost that can’t be returned or refunded. How long do we have to play this game to realize that war is a no-win option? When is it time to say enough is enough and simply say “no” to war? So please, support the troops as they are the pawns in this sick game of global warfare, but question the cause of their being put in harm’s way. Question the reasoning for another invasion or bombing. Take a moment and ask yourself this question…”Who benefits from this war?”