Might As Well Get To Know It
Now that our president has embedded us in the Middle East for an indefinite future, you might as well start trying to educate yourself about the area and its conflicts. As one can say about so many problems in this world, it all began with the British Empire.
When you look at a map of the Middle East, you are looking at a map drawn by two Europeans by the names of Sykes and Picot. This map represents the betrayal of the Arabs and the Kurds. Before this map was drawn, the area had been part of the Ottoman Empire. (That's Turkey, for those of you who hate history and geography.)
The British, with their usual perfidy, had promised everything to everybody. Help us overthrow the Turks, they said to the Arabs, and you can have an independent Arab nation afterward. Help us overthrow the Turks, they said to the Kurds, and you will get an independent Kurdistan. And for some reason historians still argue about, they also promised European Zionists that they (the Brits) would establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine. They betrayed them, too, because what they did was establish the Palestine mandate — or, in plain language, British occupation of Palestine.
Britain and France divided the Middle East between themselves, and this basic fact set off the conflicts we are still dealing with. The problem with establishing a Jewish state was that Arabs already occupied the area chosen. While they initially had no quarrel with Jews who wanted to immigrate to Palestine (the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has nothing to do with religion and never has), as soon as they figured out that European Jews were not coming to be Palestinians but to take their land away from them, the Arabs revolted. The British crushed this.
It wasn't too long, however, before Jews became impatient with British occupation and so, to drive out the British, did what Palestinians are doing today — used terror. Two of the premier Jewish terrorists — Menachem Begin, who led the Irgun, and Yitzhak Shamir, who led the Stern Gang — would later become prime ministers of Israel. It is the political parties these terrorists started that rule Israel today. Begin is famous for blowing up the King David Hotel, Shamir for reputedly ordering the assassination of Swedish diplomat Count Folke Bernadotte, who had been sent on a peace mission by the United Nations. Both of their groups joined forces to commit one of the most infamous massacres in history at the little village of Deir Yassin, where more than 200 men, women and children were slaughtered. Much of modern terrorist methods were pioneered by Begin. You should read his book "The Revolt."
Sometime in 1947, the British had had enough of Palestine and announced they were going to end the mandate the following year and dump the problem in the lap of the United Nations. The Zionists fiercely lobbied both Harry Truman and Joe Stalin. The deal was to get a vote to partition Palestine. The Jews would immediately proclaim the state of Israel, and, as preplanned, the United States and the Soviet Union would instantly recognize it. This was the first instance of the United States using a combination of threats and bribery to round up votes at the United Nations.
Jews and Palestinians were already fighting, and in the course of that fighting, the better-organized Zionists decided to expand beyond the boundaries set by the partition resolution and to do a little ethnic cleansing, since Arabs still outnumbered Jewish residents 2-1. Despite some volunteers coming in from other Arab countries, the Zionists had accomplished both goals by the cease-fire in 1948. In a 1967 war, the Zionists took the rest of Palestine, and Palestinians, who stubbornly insist on self-determination (once, but no longer, an American value), are fighting them the best way they can.
With the United States loading the Israelis down with both modern arms and billions of dollars, however, the Palestinians are having a hard time. This issue has made the United States hated in the region and the king of hypocrites because we have vetoed 35 U.N. resolutions to prevent the international community from giving any justice or help to the Palestinians.
Now, our president has included Palestinian organizations that are not international terrorists (Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah) on our list of enemies. Originally, they were just aiming their attacks at Israel, but I suppose this might change since George Bush has become the puppet of the Israeli government.
Hang on to your hats, folks. You're in for a violent next 50 years or so.
Diplomacy by Assassination
June 2001: The Bush administration was engaged in one of its sporadic efforts to end the fighting between Israelis and Palestinians. On June 28 Secretary of State Colin Powell announced in Jerusalem that the government of Ariel Sharon and the Palestinian Authority had agreed on a timeline for restarting the peace process, beginning with a complete halt to violence.
Just three days later, Israeli helicopters launched eight missiles at a car in the West Bank, killing a commander of Islamic Jihad. The cease-fire never began. On July 31 another helicopter attack killed two senior political leaders of the Hamas movement. Days later Hamas staged one of its most horrendous suicide attacks, slaughtering children in a Sbarro pizza parlor in Jerusalem. Instead of ending, the war escalated.
December 2002: Under heavy pressure from the United States, Yasser Arafat finally declared a cease-fire. For three weeks in December and early January there was no violence, though the Israeli capture of a ship bearing Iranian arms for the Palestinians nullified any political benefit. Then Hamas staged an attack against an Israeli army outpost. Several days later Israel assassinated Raed Karmi, a senior figure in Arafat's Fatah movement. The cease-fire was immediately called off, and in the following two weeks Israel suffered the worst wave of suicide bombings in its history. In March its troops reoccupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank. They are still there.
That brings us to June 2003. Another U.S.-brokered peace initiative has been followed by a Hamas attack on an Israeli military post, then a spectacular Israeli assassination strike against a Hamas political leader, then a horrendous suicide bombing in Jerusalem, and then a new wave of Israeli military raids. A couple of patterns spring out from this history. One is the bid by Hamas, a sworn enemy of a Palestinian settlement with Israel, to disrupt any attempt to start a peace process. The other is Sharon's more paradoxical habit of following up his acceptance of U.S. peace initiatives with spectacular assassination raids -- raids that without exception have been followed by the retaliatory slaughter of Israeli civilians and major escalations of the conflict.
Sharon's spokesmen protest that Israel can't stop defending itself against terrorists just because peace talks are underway. In parts of the Bush administration, the critical-but-sympathetic analysis goes that, while the veteran Israeli warrior may have been unwise to take Hamas's bait, he still looks ready to deal with more moderate Palestinian leaders -- and anyway Israel can hardly be blamed for fighting a war against terrorism.
Yet such assessments underestimate Sharon. Surely by now the old general knows what the assassination of a senior Palestinian political figure will lead to. And just as surely, now as before, Sharon has serious reservations about where U.S. diplomacy is taking him.
In June and December of 2001, Sharon publicly assented to cease-fires with Yasser Arafat, but in reality he saw them as senseless and even dangerous. As he has since made clear, the Israeli leader believed the only way to stop the fighting was to destroy Arafat's Palestinian Authority and replace it with a more moderate administration.
The current situation is similar. While Sharon says he supports President Bush's new peace initiative, in fact he and his hard-line military commanders have been alarmed by the course it has taken. As Sharon understood it, the U.S.-backed "road map" should have required the new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen), to begin by forcibly disarming Hamas and arresting its leaders. If Abbas really fought that Palestinian civil war, the Israelis figured, their problems with suicide bombings would be over. If not, Israel wouldn't be obliged to carry out the freeze on Jewish settlements that Sharon finds so painful to contemplate.
But at the summit in Aqaba, Jordan, more than a week ago, Bush reset the terms. He accepted Abu Mazen's plan to negotiate a cease-fire with Hamas rather than forcibly disband it -- a half-measure that Israeli military commanders view as providing the enemy with an opportunity to rest and rearm. He insisted that Sharon begin taking action against settlement outposts even before the Palestinians acted. According to the respected Israeli journalist Akiva Eldar, Bush even rebuked Sharon a couple of times, rejecting an Israeli claim that the army could do nothing to help the Palestinians and insisting that Sharon release impounded Palestinian funds.
Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the Hamas leader Sharon ordered assassinated, is a media personality who lives a highly public life. Had it chosen to, Israel could have targeted him at any time in the past year, when no peace process was underway. So why did the helicopters strike six days after the Aqaba summit? The most logical explanation is that the violent and entirely predictable consequences were exactly what Israel's prime minister wanted.
American soldiers have been involved in heavy fighting against Saddam Hussein loyalists killing up to 100 Iraqis, according to US military officials.
They say 27 Iraqis were killed after an American tank was fired on with rocket-propelled grenades in Balad, 60km (35 miles) north of Baghdad.
And at least 70 Iraqis were killed during a prolonged assault on what the US calls a "terrorist" camp 150 km (90 miles) north-west of the capital, a US army spokesman told Reuters news agency.
As the US stepped up operations to stamp out resistance, the London-based Quds Press news agency carried what it said was a handwritten message from the former Iraqi leader.
The message - also carrying Saddam's "personal signature" - pledged "a relentless war" against the coalition forces until they were evicted from Iraq.
More than 40 US troops have been killed since 1 May, when President George W Bush declared the war in Iraq effectively over.
The US military, for its part, said this week's operations were part of "the continued effort to eradicate Baath Party loyalists, paramilitary groups and other subversive elements".
US commanders say they are facing a backlash from small groups organising on a local basis, and not a co-ordinated national movement.
In the operation at Balad, 4,000 US troops have been searching the town and an area along the Tigris river.
A US tank came under attack on Friday, and four Iraqis were killed when the Americans returned fire.
Armoured vehicles supported by helicopter gunships chased the remaining attackers, killing another 23 people.
Referring to the attack on the camp north-west of Baghdad, US Air Force General Richard Myers said: "It was a tough fight. They were well-trained or well-equipped, and clearly well prepared for this."
One American was wounded, and fighting was reportedly continuing.
General Myers said US intelligence services were evaluating evidence that foreign fighters might have been at the camp.
On Thursday, two US aircraft came down over Iraq.
An Apache helicopter gunship was shot down by Iraqis on the ground - the first time a US aircraft had been shot down for two months.
It is not clear whether it was actively involved in the fighting.
And an F-16 fighter-bomber crashed in a separate incident - the cause is still being investigated. In both cases the crews were unharmed.
A key pipeline from northern Iraqi oilfields to Turkey has meanwhile been set ablaze 225km (140 miles) north of Baghdad, near Baiji - but the cause is unclear.
Turkey says the oil pipeline blast was 'sabotage'
Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul also said the fire on the pipeline, which runs to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, had been sabotaged.
But US military sources said the fire was the result of a gas leak.
"I heard no reports on sabotage," said a US spokesman quoted by the Reuters news agency.
US military and Iraqi engineers are working to repair the vital link.
At least 5,000 civilians may have been killed during the invasion of Iraq, an independent research group has claimed. As more evidence is collated, it says, the figure could reach 10,000.
Iraq Body Count (IBC), a volunteer group of British and US academics and researchers, compiled statistics on civilian casualties from media reports and estimated that between 5,000 and 7,000 civilians died in the conflict.
Its latest report compares those figures with 14 other counts, most of them taken in Iraq, which, it says, bear out its findings.
Researchers from several groups have visited hospitals and mortuaries in Iraq and interviewed relatives of the dead; some are conducting surveys in the main cities.
Three completed studies suggest that between 1,700 and 2,356 civilians died in the battle for Baghdad alone.
John Sloboda, professor of psychology at Keele University and an IBC report author, said the studies in Iraq backed up his group's figures. "One of the things we have been criticised for is quoting journalists who are quoting other people. But what we are now finding is that whenever the teams go into Iraq and do a detailed check of the data we had through the press, not only is our data accurate but [it is] often on the low side.
"The totality is now producing an unassailable sense that there were a hell of a lot of civilian deaths in Iraq."
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said he had not seen anything to substantiate the report's figures. "During the conflict we took great pains to minimise casualties among civilians. We targeted [the] military. So it is very difficult for us to give any guidance or credence to a set of figures that suggest there was x number of civilian casualties."
IBC's total includes a figure of at least 3,240 civilian deaths published this week by the Associated Press news agency, which was based on a survey of 60 Iraqi hospitals from March 20 to April 20, when the fighting was declining. But many other bodies were either buried quickly in line with Islamic custom or lost under rubble.
Prof Sloboda said there was nothing in principle to stop a total count being made using forensic science methods similar to those used to calculate the death toll from the September 11 attack: it was a question of political will and resources.
He said even an incomplete record of civilian deaths was worth compiling, to assist in paying reparations and in assessing the claim before the war that there would be few civilian casualties.
Lieutenant Colonel James Cassella, a US defence department spokesman, said the Pentagon had not counted civilian deaths because its efforts had been focused on defeating enemy forces rather than aiming at civilians.
He said that under international law the US was not liable to pay compensation for "injuries or damage occurring during lawful combat operations".
The Iraqi authorities estimated that 2,278 civilians died in the 1991 Gulf war.
John Pilger on a piratical war that brough terrorism and death to Iraq
They have blown off the limbs of women and the scalps of children. Their victims overwhelm the morgues and flood into hospitals that lack even aspirin. John Pilger on a piratical war that brought terrorism and death to Iraq
A BBC television producer, moments before he was wounded by an American fighter aircraft that killed 18 people with "friendly fire", spoke to his mother on a satellite phone. Holding the phone over his head so that she could hear the sound of the American planes overhead, he said: "Listen, that's the sound of freedom."
Did I read this scene in Catch-22? Surely, the BBC man was being ferociously ironic. I doubt it, just as I doubt that whoever designed the Observer's page three last Sunday had Joseph Heller in mind when he wrote the weasel headline: "The moment young Omar discovered the price of war". These cowardly words accompanied a photograph of an American marine reaching out to comfort 15-year-old Omar, having just participated in the mass murder of his father, mother, two sisters and brother during the unprovoked invasion of their homeland, in breach of the most basic law of civilised peoples.
No true epitaph for them in Britain's famous liberal newspaper; no honest headline, such as: "This American marine murdered this boy's family". No photograph of Omar's father, mother, sisters and brother dismembered and blood-soaked by automatic fire. Versions of the Observer's propaganda picture have been appearing in the Anglo-American press since the invasion began: tender cameos of American troops reaching out, kneeling, ministering to their "liberated" victims.
And where were the pictures from the village of Furat, where 80 men, women and children were rocketed to death? Apart from the Mirror, where were the pictures, and footage, of small children holding up their hands in terror while Bush's thugs forced their families to kneel in the street? Imagine that in a British high street. It is a glimpse of fascism, and we have a right to see it.
"To initiate a war of aggression," said the judges in the Nuremberg trial of the Nazi leadership, "is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." In stating this guiding principle of international law, the judges specifically rejected German arguments of the "necessity" for pre-emptive attacks against other countries.
Nothing Bush and Blair, their cluster-bombing boys and their media court do now will change the truth of their great crime in Iraq. It is a matter of record, understood by the majority of humanity, if not by those who claim to speak for "us". As Denis Halliday said of the Anglo-American embargo against Iraq, it will "slaughter them in the history books". It was Halliday who, as assistant secretary general of the United Nations, set up the "oil for food" programme in Iraq in 1996 and quickly realised that the UN had become an instrument of "a genocidal attack on a whole society". He resigned in protest, as did his successor, Hans von Sponeck, who described "the wanton and shaming punishment of a nation".
I have mentioned these two men often in these pages, partly because their names and their witness have been airbrushed from most of the media. I well remember Jeremy Paxman bellowing at Halliday on Newsnight shortly after his resignation: "So are you an apologist for Saddam Hussein?" That helped set the tone for the travesty of journalism that now daily, almost gleefully, treats criminal war as sport. In a leaked e-mail, a BBC executive described the BBC's war coverage as "extraordinary - it almost feels like World Cup football when you go from Um Qasr to another theatre of war somewhere else and you're switching between battles".
He is talking about murder. That is what the Americans do, and no one will say so, even when they are murdering journalists. They bring to this one-sided attack on a weak and mostly defenceless people the same racist, homicidal intent I witnessed in Vietnam, where they had a whole programme of murder called Operation Phoenix. This runs through all their foreign wars, as it does through their own divided society. Take your pick of the current onslaught. Last weekend, a column of their tanks swept heroically into Baghdad and out again. They murdered people along the way. They blew off the limbs of women and the scalps of children. Hear their voices on the unedited and unbroadcast videotape: "We shot the shit out of it." Their victims overwhelm the morgues and hospitals - hospitals already denuded of drugs and painkillers by America's deliberate withholding of $5.4bn in humanitarian goods, approved by the Security Council and paid for by Iraq. The screams of children undergoing amputation with minimal anaesthetic qualify as the BBC man's "sound of freedom".
Heller would appreciate the sideshows. Take the British helicopter pilot who came to blows with an American who had almost shot him down. "Don't you know the Iraqis don't have a fucking air force?" he shouted. Did this pilot reflect on the truth he had uttered, on the whole craven enterprise against a stricken third world country and his own part in this crime? I doubt it. The British have been the most skilled at delusion and lying. By any standard, the Iraqi resistance to the high-tech Anglo-American machine was heroic. With ancient tanks and mortars, small arms and desperate ambushes, they panicked the Americans and reduced the British military class to one of its specialities - mendacious condescension.
The Iraqis who fight are "terrorists", "hoodlums", "pockets of Ba'ath Party loyalists", "kamikaze" and "feds" (fedayeen). They are not real people: cultured and cultivated people. They are Arabs. This vocabulary of dishonour has been faithfully parroted by those enjoying it all from the broadcasting box. "What do you make of Basra?" asked the Today programme's presenter of a former general embedded in the studio. "It's hugely encouraging, isn't it?" he replied. Their mutual excitement, like their plummy voices, are their bond.
On the same day, in a Guardian letter, Tim Llewellyn, a former BBC Middle East correspondent, pointed us to evidence of this "hugely encouraging" truth - fleeting pictures on Sky News of British soldiers smashing their way into a family home in Basra, pointing their guns at a woman and manhandling, hooding and manacling young men, one of whom was shown quivering with terror. "Is Britain 'liberating' Basra by taking political prisoners and, if so, based on what sort of intelligence, given Britain's long unfamiliarity with this territory and its inhabitants . . . The least this ugly display will do is remind Arabs and Muslims everywhere of our Anglo-Saxon double standards - we can show your prisoners in . . . degrading positions, but don't you dare show ours.".
The BBC executive says the suffering of Um Qasr is "like World Cup football". There are 40,000 people in Um Qasr; desperate refugees are streaming in and the hospitals are overflowing. All this misery is due entirely to the "coalition" invasion and the British siege, which forced the United Nations to withdraw its humanitarian aid staff. Cafod, the Catholic relief agency, which has sent a team to Um Qasr, says the standard humanitarian quota for water in emergency situations is 20 litres per person per day. Cafod reports hospitals entirely without water and people drinking from contaminated wells. According to the World Health Organisation, 1.5 million people across southern Iraq are without water, and epidemics are inevitable. And what are "our boys" doing to alleviate this, apart from staging childish, theatrical occupations of presidential palaces, having fired shoulder-held missiles into a civilian city and dropped cluster bombs?
A British colonel laments to his "embedded" flock that "it is difficult to deliver aid in an area that is still an active battle zone". The logic of his own words mocks him. If Iraq was not a battle zone, if the British and the Americans were not defying international law, there would be no difficulty in delivering aid.
There is something especially disgusting about the lurid propaganda coming from these PR-trained British officers, who have not a clue about Iraq and its people. They describe the liberation they are bringing from "the world's worst tyranny", as if anything, including death by cluster bomb or dysentery, is better than "life under Saddam". The inconvenient truth is that, according to Unicef, the Ba'athists built the most modern health service in the Middle East. No one disputes the grim, totalitarian nature of the regime; but Saddam Hussein was careful to use the oil wealth to create a modern secular society and a large and prosperous middle class. Iraq was the only Arab country with a 90 per cent clean water supply and with free
education. All this was smashed by the Anglo-American embargo. When the embargo was imposed in 1990, the Iraqi civil service organised a food distribution system that the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation described as "a model of efficiency . . . undoubtedly saving Iraq from famine". That, too, was smashed when the invasion was launched.
Why are the British yet to explain why their troops have to put on protective suits to recover dead and wounded in vehicles hit by American "friendly fire"? The reason is that the Americans are using solid uranium coated on missiles and tank shells. When I was in southern Iraq, doctors estimated a sevenfold increase in cancers in areas where depleted uranium was used by the Americans and British in the 1991 war. Under the subsequent embargo, Iraq, unlike Kuwait, has been denied equipment with which to clean up its contaminated battlefields. The hospitals in Basra have wards overflowing with children with cancers of a variety not seen before 1991. They have no painkillers; they are fortunate if they have aspirin.
With honourable exceptions (Robert Fisk; al-Jazeera), little of this has been reported. Instead, the media have performed their preordained role as imperial America's "soft power": rarely identifying "our" crime, or misrepresenting it as a struggle between good intentions and evil incarnate. This abject professional and moral failure now beckons the unseen dangers of such an epic, false victory, inviting its repetition in Iran, Korea, Syria, Cuba, China.
George Bush has said: "It will be no defence to say: 'I was just following orders.'" He is correct. The Nuremberg judges left in no doubt the right of ordinary soldiers to follow their conscience in an illegal war of aggression. Two British soldiers have had the courage to seek status as conscientious objectors. They face court martial and imprisonment; yet virtually no questions have been asked about them in the media. George Galloway has been pilloried for asking the same question as Bush, and he and Tam Dalyell, Father of the House of Commons, are being threatened with withdrawal of the Labour whip.
Dalyell, 41 years a member of the Commons, has said the Prime Minister is a war criminal who should be sent to The Hague. This is not gratuitous; on the prima facie evidence, Blair is a war criminal, and all those who have been, in one form or another, accessories should be reported to the International Criminal Court. Not only did they promote a charade of pretexts few now take seriously, they brought terrorism and death to Iraq. A growing body of legal opinion around the world agrees that the new court has a duty, as Eric Herring of Bristol University wrote, to investigate "not only the regime, but also the UN bombing and sanctions which violated the human rights of Iraqis on a vast scale". Add the present piratical war, whose spectre is the uniting of Arab nationalism with militant Islam. The whirlwind sown by Blair and Bush is just beginning. Such is the magnitude of their crime.
UNITED NATIONS June 12 —
U.N. Gives One-Year Exemption to U.S. Peacekeepers From Prosecution by War Crimes Tribunal
The U.N. Security Council on Thursday approved another one-year exemption for American peacekeepers from prosecution by the new international war crimes tribunal, but it faced opposition from France, Germany and Syria.
France, Germany and Syria abstained, despite a U.S. appeal not to further strain the bitter trans-Atlantic division over the war against Iraq. The three argued that a special U.S. exemption was not necessary and only weakens the International Criminal Court.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke out strongly against any attempt to try to make the exemption permanent which the United States initially sought. He warned that this would not only undermine the court but the authority of the U.N. Security Council "and the legitimacy of United Nations peacekeeping."
The resolution adopted by a vote of 12-0 with the three abstentions, authorizes a yearlong exemption from arrest or trial for peacekeepers from the United States and other countries that have not ratified the Rome treaty establishing the court.
France and Germany, both members of the European Union, were in the forefront of opposition to the U.S.-led war against Iraq. Last week, the United States warned the EU that its criticism over the exemption request was putting more strains on trans-Atlantic relations.
France's deputy U.N. ambassador Michel Duclos said agreeing to the renewal "risks in effect giving credence to the perception of permanent exceptions which can only weaken the court and impair its authority."
During an open Security Council debate before the vote, Greece's U.N. ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis, speaking on behalf of the 15-nation bloc, put the United States on notice that "automatic renewal would be undermining to the letter and the spirit of the Rome Treaty and its fundamental purpose."
All 15 EU nations are among the 90 countries that are party to the court, which will prosecute cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed after July 1, 2002. The court will step in only when countries are unwilling or unable to dispense justice themselves.
The court got a boost Wednesday when China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Yingfan said his country was "positively considering" ratifying the Rome Treaty. Beijing was one of seven countries that voted against the Rome statute but in the last four years has taken a more positive attitude.
"China's change reflects a growing support worldwide for the ICC and international justice," said William Pace, who heads the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, which represents more than 1,000 organizations supporting the tribunal.
Then President Bill Clinton's administration signed the 1988 Rome treaty setting up the court, but the Bush administration has rescinded the U.S. signature.
President Bush contends that Americans could be subject to the court's jurisdiction even if it is not a party to the pact. Washington argues that the court could be used for frivolous or politically motivated prosecutions of American troops. In addition to the exemption, it also has signed bilateral agreements with 37 countries not to prosecute American officials and is seeking more.
During Thursday's debate, Canada's U.N. Ambassador Paul Heinbecker appealed to the council to keep the exemption from becoming permanent and emphasized that "the ICC is not a court for frivolous prosecutions." He noted safeguards put in the treaty at U.S. request to ensure that such prosecutions will be screened out.
Last July, the council unanimously approved a one-year exemption after a diplomatic battle in which the United States threatened to end far-flung peacekeeping operations from Afghanistan to Sierra Leone.
Washington had asked for a quick vote on its resolution. But non-council nations asked for and got an open council meeting before the vote.
The final deal dented the court's underlying principle that no one should be exempt from punishment for war crimes, and it angered court supporters and human rights groups.
U.S. deputy ambassador James Cunningham called the Rome Treaty "fatally flawed" and said the resolution represented a compromise that should be respected by all nations. He denied that it violated the treaty.
by Robert Higgs
I’ll concede that having a permanent war might seem an odd thing to want, but let’s put aside the “why” question for the time being, accepting that you wouldn’t want it unless you stood to gain something important from it. If, however, for reasons you found adequate, you did want to have a permanent war, what would you need in order to make such a policy viable in a democratic society such as the United States?
First, you would need that society to have a dominant ideology--a widely shared belief system about social and political relations--within which having a permanent war seems to be a desirable policy, given the ideology‘s own content and the pertinent facts accepted by its adherents. Something like American jingo-patriotism cum anti-communism might turn the trick. It worked pretty well during the nearly half century of the Cold War. The beauty of anti-communism as a covering ideology was that it could serve to justify a wide variety of politically expedient actions both here and abroad. The Commies, you’ll recall, were everywhere: not just in Moscow and Sevastopol, but maybe in Minneapolis and San Francisco. We had to stay alert; we could never let down our guard, anywhere.
Second, you would need periodic crises, because without them the public becomes complaisant, unafraid, and hence unwilling to bear the heavy burdens that they must bear if the government is to carry on a permanent war. As Senator Arthur Vandenberg told Harry Truman in 1947 at the outset of the Cold War, gaining public support for a perpetual global campaign requires that the government “scare hell out of the American people.” Each crisis piques the people’s insecurities and renders them once again disposed to pay the designated price, whether it takes the form of their treasure, their liberties, or their young men’s blood. Something like the (alleged) missile gap, the (alleged) Gulf of Tonkin attacks on U.S. naval vessels, or the (actual!) hostage-taking at the U.S. embassy in Tehran will do nicely, at least for a while. Crises by their very nature eventually recede, and new ones must come along--or be made to come along--to serve the current need.
Third, you would need some politically powerful groups whose members stand to gain substantially from a permanent war in terms of achieving their urgent personal and group objectives. Call me crass, but I’ve noticed that few people will stay engaged for long unless there‘s “something in it for them.”
During the Cold War, the conglomeration of personally interested parties consisted of those who form the military-industrial-congressional complex (MICC). The generals and admirals thrived by commanding a large armed force sustained by a lavish budget. The big defense contractors enjoyed ample returns at minimal risk (because they could expect that should they screw up too royally, a bailout would be forthcoming). Members of Congress who belonged to the military oversight and appropriations committees could parlay their positions into campaign contributions and various sorts of income in kind. Presiding over the entire complex, of course, the president, his National Security Council, and their many subordinates, advisers, consultants, and hangers-on enjoyed the political advantages associated with control of a great nation’s diplomatic and military affairs--not to speak of the sheer joy that certain people get from wielding or influencing great power. No conspiracy here, of course, just a lot of people fitting into their niches, doing well while proclaiming that they were doing good (recall the ideology and the crisis elements). All seeking only to serve the common public interest. Absolutely.
The foregoing observations have been widely accepted by several generations of students of the Cold War. Yet, now, you may protest, the Cold War is over, the USSR nonexistent, the menace of communism kaput. Under post-Cold War conditions, how can we have a permanent war? Well, all we need to do is to replace the missing piece.
If the ideology of anti-communism can no longer serve to justify a permanent war, let us put in its place the overarching rationale of a “war on terrorism.” In fact, this substitution of what President George W. Bush repeatedly calls “a new kind of war” amounts to an improvement for the leading actors, because whereas the Cold War could not be sustained once the USSR had imploded and international communism had toppled into the dust bin of history, a war on terrorism, with all its associated benefits, can go on forever. After all, so long as the president says that he has intelligence information to the effect that “they” are still out there conspiring to kill us all, who are we to dispute that the threat exists and must be met? The smoke had scarcely cleared at Ground Zero when vice-president Dick Cheney declared on October 19, 2001, that the war on terrorism “may never end. It’s the new normalcy.”
Just as during the Cold War hardly any American ever laid eyes on an honest-to-God Commie, although nearly everybody believed that the Commies were lurking far and wide, so now we may all suppose that anyone, anywhere might be a lethal terrorist in possession of a suitcase nuke or a jug of anthrax spores. Indeed, current airport-security measures are premised on precisely such a belief--otherwise it makes no sense to strip-search grandma at Dulles International.
Potential terrorists are “out there,” no doubt, in the wonderful world of Islam, an arc that stretches from Morocco across North Africa, the Middle East, and Southwest Asia to Malaysia, and on through Indonesia to Mindanao, not to mention London, Amsterdam, and Hamburg. And that‘s good, because it means that U.S. leaders must bring the entire outside world into compliance with their stipulated rules of engagement for the war on terrorism. It‘s a fine thing to dominate the world, an even finer thing to do so righteously.
Better yet, the potential omnipresence of the terrorists justifies U.S. leaders in their efforts to supercharge the surveillance-and-police state here at home, with the USA PATRIOT Act, the revival of the FBI’s COINTELPRO activities, and all the rest. Adios Bill of Rights. The merest babe understands that these new powers will be turned to other political purposes that have nothing whatever to do with terrorism. Indeed, they have been already. As the New York Times reported on May 5, 2003, “the Justice Department has begun using its expanded counterterrorism powers to seize millions of dollars from foreign banks that do business in the United States” and “most of the seizures have involved fraud and money-laundering investigations unrelated to terrorism.”
The war-on-terrorism rationale has proved congenial to the American public, who have swallowed bogus government assurances that the so-called war is making them more secure. Much of this acceptance springs, no doubt, from the shock that many Americans experienced when the terrorist attacks of September 11 proved so devastating. Ever alert, the president’s national security adviser Condoleeza Rice asked the National Security Council immediately afterward “to think seriously about ‘how do you capitalize on these opportunities’ to fundamentally change American doctrine and the shape of the world in the wake of September 11.” The president’s most powerful and influential subordinates--Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and their coterie--then set in motion a series of actions (and a flood of disinformation) to seize the day, measures that culminated in the military invasion and conquest first of Afghanistan and then of Iraq, among many other things. Public opinion polls continue to show exceptionally high approval ratings for “the job the president is doing,” so at the White House everyone is merry indeed.
Likewise, the military component of the MICC has entered into fat city. During the fiscal year 2000, before George Bush had taken office, Department of Defense outlays amounted to $281 billion. Just four years later, assuming that Congress gives the president what he has requested for fiscal year 2004, the department’s budget will be at least $399 billion--an increase of 42 percent. No wonder the generals and admirals are dancing in the corridors at the Pentagon: all this loot and wartime citations and promotions to boot!
The flush times for the officer corps have spilled over handsomely onto the big arms contractors, whose share prices have been bucking the trend of the continuing stock-market meltdown nicely during the past couple years. With only a single exception, all the major weapons systems have survived funding threats, and their manufacturers can look forward to decades of well-paid repose as they supply models B, C, D, and so forth, as well as all the remunerative maintenance and repairs, operational training, software upgrades, and related goods and services for their Cold War-type weaponry in search of an suitable enemy. In the immortal words of Boeing vice-president Harry Stonecipher, “the purse is now open.” As the Wall Street Journal reported, “The antiterror campaign is making for some remarkably flush times for the military, and the need for hard choices on weapons systems has all but evaporated.”
Congress savors this situation, too. In the current circumstances, the members can more easily use spending on guns to grease their own reelection skids. “In a bipartisan voice,” reported the New York Times, “lawmakers on Capitol Hill are telling the Pentagon that they want to increase spending on conventional big-ticket weapons programs, particularly warships and planes.” Moreover, many members continue to maneuver to stop or delay base closures that might save the Pentagon billions of dollars in expenses that even the generals regard as pointless.
Amid the all-around rejoicing, however, the power elite appreciate that nearly two years have elapsed since September 11, 2001, and the public’s panic has begun to subside. That won’t do. Accordingly, on June 9 the government released a report that there is a “high probability” of an al-Qaida attack with a weapon of mass destruction in the next two years. If no such attach should eventuate, of course, then the authorities will have to release another such terrifying report at the appropriate time. Got to keep people on their toes--“vigilant,” as the Homeland Security czar likes to say.
So there you have it: the war on terrorism--the new permanent war--is a winner. The president loves it. The military brass loves it. The bigwigs at Boeing and Lockheed love it. Members of Congress love it. The public loves it. We all love it.
Except, perhaps, that odd citizen who wonders whether, all things considered, having a permanent war is truly a good idea for the beleaguered U.S. economy and for the liberties of the American people.
*Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at The Independent Institute and its Center on Peace & Liberty and editor of its scholarly quarterly journal, The Independent Review. He is also the author of Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government and the editor of Arms, Politics and the Economy: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives. For further articles and studies, see the War on Terrorism.