| Hubris: Iraq may be broken, but it is our political class that is bankrupted!

Iraq may be broken, but it is our political class that is bankrupted ~ GEORGE GALLOWAYThe Independent.

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Virtually nothing has been learned, and now history is repeating itself.

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The finest of all journalists in the English-speaking world, Claud Cockburn, said:

“Believe nothing until it has been officially denied.” This basic rubric of the trade was all but abandoned a decade ago in the run-up to the war on Iraq, when every official claim was assumed to be true and those who denied it were treated as bad, or even mad. One honourable exception was Cockburn’s son, Patrick, in The Independent, an exception continued in his magisterial look back in anger in this newspaper over the past week. If journalism is history’s first draft, then Patrick Cockburn’s work on Iraq will prove to be close to the finished article.

I mention this not just because I remain bitter at the role of the fourth estate in helping to bring about such slaughter and, a decade later, such ongoing misery in Iraq. But because virtually nothing has been learned, and history is repeating itself over and over again – in Libya, Mali, Syria.

Bob Dylan said in “Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again” that “you have to pay to get out of, going through all this twice…”. For the most part, the bill continues to be paid by others, and elsewhere. For now.

Even for someone with my experience, such militarised mendacity can still take the breath away. How many times did you read and listen in the past few days to pontificating pundits tell you that Hugo Chavez had “wrecked” the Venezuelan economy, without a whiff of self-consciousness about the state of our own and that of the United States? That Chavez’s Venezuela was a “divided” society; as if Bush, Obama, Cameron, and Osborne led governments of national unity?

To briefly recap; a huge right-wing conspiracy was mounted 10 years ago to manufacture a case to wage aggressive war (pace Nuremberg, the “ultimate crime”) upon Iraq. It involved government ministers (some still swilling around profitably in the detritus they created); intelligence agencies and the spin doctors controlling them; craven parliamentarians scarcely worthy of the name; and a veritable army of scribblers, autocue readers, laptop bombardiers and think-tankers.

Add a sprinkling of useful idiots calling themselves “liberals”, and the blue touchpaper was lit. A million died, thousands of them British and American. Millions spread as refugees around the world. A country was dismembered, never to be reassembled. Extremism cascaded around the world, blowing itself up even aboard London buses.

The whole “humanitarian” show is best remembered in the pictures from Abu Ghraib. A female American soldier, cigarette dangling from her curling lip, leading a hooded naked Iraqi prisoner like a dog on a chain. Piling naked helpless Iraqi prisoners on top of each other and forcing them to commit indecent acts, videoing it all for the entertainment of the barracks later. Those tempted to imagine this was American exceptionalism should read the proceedings of the London court this week where, inter alia, we learned of the Iraqi corpse who may or may not have walked into British custody alive, but who surely was handed back to his family minus his penis. It doesn’t get much uglier than this, especially when it’s all dressed up in the livery of liberal “intervention”.

Millions of us knew that it would end this way, even before it became clear that the entire conspiracy was built on the tower – bigger than Babel – of lies around “weapons of mass destruction”. There were none. But the weapons of mass deception deployed by the conspirators remain in fine fettle. And none of them has even been properly inspected yet. No one has been held to account; not a single head has rolled. Except those of a million Iraqis.

When the Chilcot Inquiry was announced, I denounced it in Parliament as a parade of establishment duffers, two of whom at least had been among the intellectual authors of the disaster, one of whom had described Bush and Blair as the Roosevelt and Churchill de nos jours. I pointed out that there was not a single legal personality on the Inquiry, or a soldier. And not a Douglas Hurd or a Menzies Campbell among them either. That no one could be summoned, nor their papers either. That no one would be testifying under oath. That must have been three years ago now. Little did I know that the Chilcot report would be as slow in coming as the judgement day.

Iraq is broken now, and as Cockburn’s recent reports show, Iraqi hearts haven’t mended either. It was a disaster, the greatest British policy failure since the First World War.

But for as long as its lessons are not learned, the Iraqis will not be the last such victims. The Iraq war bankrupted the British and American political class. They no longer speak for the people they claim to represent. Few believe any longer anything they say. Long before Leveson summed up the venality of much of the media – the echo chamber of that class – the people were abandoning that media in droves. Like our other institutions – the banks and the police, to name but two – their credibility stands in ruins. Devastated even more starkly than were Fallujah, Amariyah and Baghdad.

Saddam’s presidential palaces turned out to be bare, but not as bereft as the democratic political leaders who propelled him to the gallows. The trap door has opened for them. And they are still falling.

George Galloway is the Respect MP for Bradford West

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| Obfuscation and chicanery: Weasel words that politicians use to obscure terrible Truths!

World View: Beware ‘robust’, ‘remnants’ and ‘anecdotal’ – just three of the terms deployed to hide or mislead!

“Never believe anything until it is officially denied,” is a useful saying, advising scepticism towards whatever the government claims to be doing. This is the right mental attitude for any journalist or observer of the political scene. But for sniffing out official or journalistic mendacity, evasion and ignorance, a good guide is the use of tired and misleading words or phrases, their real purpose being not to illuminate but to conceal.

Suspicion of an attempt to deceive should be aroused by any sighting of the word “community”, as in “international community” or “Islamic community”: the phrases suggest solidarity and consensus of opinion where it does not exist. More toxic are policies pretending that there is something called “the community” that can look after people hitherto cared for by the state. When care in the community was introduced in Britain, it meant that people living in mental hospitals which were being sold by the government were kicked out to be looked after by a community that either feared or ignored them.

Certain words should set alarm bells ringing. Description of anything as “robust” is usually bad news because it implies effective measures are going to be taken, when this is unlikely. For instance, Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Minister, seeking to defuse the scandal over the West Coast railway, promised a “robust investigation”. On the other hand, robust, when applied to state security, means something unpleasant, so “robust interrogation” has become synonymous with torture.

“Remnants” in certain contexts has had a bad smell ever since US spokesmen started employing it after the invasion of Iraq in 2003: in phrases such as “remnants of Saddam Hussein‘s regime” or “remnants of al-Qa’ida”. It was useful in trying to explain away how enemies that the US army claimed to have eliminated were still very much in business, blowing up American troops and generally creating mayhem. After a brief disappearance, the word was once again pressed into service by US officials this summer to explain why anti-Gaddafi rebels, previously much praised by the Western media, had burnt down the US consulate and killed the ambassador in Benghazi.

My brother Alexander, who died in July, used to write a section at the end of his column in Counterpunch newsletter denouncing words with the power “to debase and coarsen common speech by repeated and thoughtless use”. Now republished as a booklet – Guillotined, being a Summary Broadside against the Corruption of the English language – it is a pitiless identification and indictment by Alexander and Counterpunch readers of offending words and phrases. I used to contribute occasionally, and it was comforting to find that words that had been annoying me for years had been enraging so many others. Counterpunch readers have unerring judgement in identifying ghastly phrases; most of the following examples were contributed by them.

The offensiveness of words might spring from them being sloppy, boring, tired or having lost whatever edge they originally possessed. One example is “tsunami” that began to be used after the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. Across the world there were headlines about “tsunamis of fraud” or other crimes that invariably turned out to be less exciting and catastrophic than claimed.

Users of clichés frequently have more sinister intentions beyond laziness and conventional thinking. Relabelling events often entails subtle changes of meaning. War produces many euphemisms, downplaying or giving verbal respectability to savagery and slaughter. Alexander rightly targets “blood and treasure” as a deceptive phrase “used with great solemnity to describe the cost, often the supposedly worthy sacrifice, attached to America’s wars”.

I have always found the phrase “in harm’s way” peculiarly loathsome, but it has become a common way of describing the danger facing US soldiers sent to places where people may try to kill them. By steering clear of words such as “very dangerous”, politicians prevent too vivid a picture forming in the public mind of young American soldiers having their heads or limbs blown off.

My brother favoured the swift elimination of such words, suggesting that they be hurried off for immediate execution, like so many French aristocrats dispatched to the guillotine. Not for nothing was this section of his column called Tumbril Time! –recalling the dung carts used to transport prisoners to their death. Revolutionary justice was severe towards phrases drained of meaning, such as “sustainable development”, a cliché beloved of fundraisers and grant-givers. This term should have been knocked on the head long ago, but it still maintains a zombie-like existence, as do “iconic”, “stakeholder” and “game-changer”.

There is much more at stake here than merely cleaning up a nation’s prose style. Certain phrases seek to reshape perception, a good example being the contemptuous downgrading of eyewitness accounts as “anecdotal evidence”. This phrase is used by official bodies covering up their failure to avert a disaster about which they had been repeatedly forewarned. It can be effectively deployed to suggest that first-hand testimony is as tainted as second-hand information, while “anecdotal” implies a lack of seriousness, as with a story told at a party or in a pub.

Take the scandal unmasked by French investigators in 2010 revealing that a manufacturer of breast implants had fraudulently made them out of mattress gel using industrial-grade silicon. Some 47,000 women in Britain had these potentially dangerous implants, despite British surgeons warning as long ago as 2006 that they were prone to rupture. Two surgeons had experience of “catastrophic disintegration” of the implants. Why had the MHRA, the British medical devices watchdog, not responded to these warnings? An official report said the MHRA claimed that the evidence was anecdotal, although it came from surgeons with personal knowledge of the devices, and, therefore, the agency discounted it.

Re-labelling does not always work. In Iraq, the US army faced the IED – Improvised Explosive Device – which was not so different from the old-fashioned mine that had been around since the 16th century. The new name was devised by the British Army in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, but in Iraq and Afghanistan its hi-tech connotations helped avert accusations that the US army should have used part of its gigantic budget to counter them.

Perhaps it is not entirely in the public interest that these annoying or misleading phrases should all be eliminated. Their persistent use by public figures and opinion-formers sends up useful smoke signals about where dead bodies are buried. The Blair government’s use of a buzzword such as “conversation” – to be conducted with the British people about some issue of policy – was geared to suggest chattiness and fake intimacy. In practice, it reinforced people’s sense that they were about to be diddled again by a phoney sense of participation and that the real decisions had already been taken.

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| Patrick Cockburn: Galloway won for some very good reasons!

Patrick Cockburn: Galloway won for some very good reasons ~ the Independent.

World View: Commentators who portray him as a self-serving demagogue are only showing their own biases!

PATRICK COCKBURN | SUNDAY 08 APRIL 2012.
The ferocity of the attacks on George Galloway by the British commentariat is one of the most revealing outcomes of his victory in the Bradford West by-election. News presenters saw no problem in conducting interviews with the newly elected MP that were largely a shower of insulting and unproven accusations. Columnists wrote thousands of shrill words warning readers that he and his victory were atypical and had no broader significance for the country. And, if his success did have any relevance, it was the ominous one of illustrating deepening racial division in Britain, despite the fact that Mr Galloway continually explained that he had won in non-Muslim as well as Muslim majority wards.

There is an amusing half-hour to be spent watching YouTube clips of television interviews with Mr Galloway in the days after he was elected. With a few honourable exceptions – Sky was more even-handed here than the BBC or ITN – most of the interviewers appeared in the role of prosecuting attorneys. They had the air of men and women who knew they were not going to be reprimanded by their employers, however rude they were to the successful candidate. They were convulsed with rage because Mr Galloway said complimentary things to Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad when he met them. Of course he had, as had every other visitor from Donald Rumsfeld to Tony Blair who had been to see these autocrats when they were in power. Other criticism was of astonishing naivety. For instance, had not Mr Galloway played ethnic politics by cultivating Muslim voters? Of course he had since they were numerous in the constituency, but then so had Labour to a far greater extent by selecting a Pakistani Muslim as its candidate.

These interviews, analyses and commentaries told one more about the cast of mind of inner circles of the British political class than it did about Mr Galloway or the people of Bradford. Since few reporters appear to have gone to the city before or after the election, and commentators were quick to say the result did not matter, it was difficult even to establish basic facts about the poll, such as why people voted the way they did. It is an old American journalistic nostrum that “comment is free and facts are expensive”, but US op-ed writers and their television counterparts at least make more effort than in Britain to pretend to first-hand knowledge of whatever they are commenting about.

Probably there is a case against Mr Galloway, but if so it was never made. The underlying theme for his critics is that he is a demagogue appealing to irrational passions, but to make this charge stick it is necessary to take a peculiar view of recent world politics as it affects Britain. At the centre of Mr Galloway’s campaigns for the past two decades has been opposition to four policies supported by American and British governments: the sanctions against Iraq between 1990 and 2003; the American and British occupation of Iraq; foreign intervention in Afghanistan; and the blockade of Gaza.

All these are important issues, but even raising them invites allegations of demagoguery. For instance, The Economist, after recording that Mr Galloway is “a hate figure for the British establishment”, claims he won his seat “mostly by touting his opposition to the war in Afghanistan.” (Note the use of the loaded word “touting”.) But what should be more relevant to current British politics than the Afghan war where 407 British soldiers have been killed and a small British army of 9,500 is still fighting? It is a conflict in which men and women have died and are dying in vain: their intervention has achieved nothing; the Taliban are not being defeated and this should long have been self-evident.

Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, the former British ambassador in Kabul and the Foreign Secretary’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, says in his excellent memoir Cables from Kabul that failure is not more openly admitted by journalists because of “the media’s need for copy, both visual and written, which can be obtained only by embedding with a military machine”. As for the average British politician, worried about “leaks to the press suggesting he was not backing our boys”, he ends up taking the advice of the generals, however self-serving and disastrous this has proved in the past. On a small scale the atmosphere is closer to the First World War than the Second World War, with critics of official policy being caricatured as unpatriotic. As a result, politicians and generals responsible for failures hold their jobs, ready to fail again.

Already British commentators often treat the Iraq War as if it were as distant as the Boer War. When Mr Galloway so much as mentions it he is treated either as an eccentric, raising dead issues, or as a rogue, exploiting ancient feuds. His focus on 13 years of UN sanctions against Iraq is portrayed as even more outré, but I was often in Iraq for many of those years and I watched the collapse of a whole society into poverty. I remember stopping in Diyala province and being mobbed by farmers holding X-rays of their sick children, hoping against hope that I might be a doctor. Hundreds of thousands died unnecessarily. Mr Galloway was one of the few politicians who tried to make an issue of this man-made catastrophe which did nothing to bring down Saddam Hussein and inflicted terrible injuries on the Iraqi people, but unfortunately he failed.

The invasion of Iraq turned into an even greater disaster. Many Iraqis wanted to get rid of Saddam, but very few wanted their country to be occupied by foreign powers. Given the tens of thousands of Iraqi dead, and Iraq torn apart by one of the most savage sectarian conflicts in history, was it really so wrong for Mr Galloway to oppose this war?

Few statements by the new member for Bradford West seem to have enraged pundits so much as his comparison between his own electoral victory and the Arab Spring. One interviewer, her voice rippling with distaste, asked how he could compare his success with a movement in which thousands had died. But Britain does sometimes feel like Egypt, a country in which disasters occur but somehow nobody running the country is ever held responsible and where power circulates within a narrow clique. Decisions on war and peace have been delegated to the US. Wars are fought supposedly to defend Britain against terrorism, when all the evidence is that they provoke it. It says something about the comatose nature of British politics that an effective critic of these failed wars like Mr Galloway, who beats an established party, should be instantly savaged as a self-serving demagogue.

 

| How Israel is using sanctions and terror bombing to provoke Iran into war!

How Israel is using sanctions and terror bombing to provoke Iran into war!

Like Iraq, sanctions are likely to intensify the crisis, impoverish ordinary Iranians and psychologically prepare the ground for war because of the demonisation of Iran.

~ Patrick Cockburn

The way in which the growing confrontation with Iran is being sold by the US, Israel and West European leaders is deeply dishonest.The manipulation of the media and public opinion through systematic threat exaggeration is similar to the drum beat of propaganda and disinformation about Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction that preceded the invasion in 2003.

The supposed aim of imposing sanctions on Iran’s oil exports and central bank, measures officially joined by the EU, is to force Iran to abandon its nuclear programme before it reaches the point where it could theoretically build a nuclear bomb. Even Israel now agrees that Iran has not yet decided to do so, but the Iranian nuclear programme is still being presented as a danger to Israel and the rest of the world.

There are two other menacing parallels between the run-up to the Iraq war and what is happening now. The purported issue is the future of the Iranian nuclear programme, but, for part of the coalition mustering against Iran, the real purpose is the overthrow of the Iranian government.

The origin of the present crisis was the moves last November and December by the neoconservatives in the US, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party and the Israel lobby in Washington to impose sanctions on Iranian oil exports and Iran’s central bank. These are very much the same people who targeted Iraq in the 1990s. They have been able to force the White House to adopt their programme and it is now, in turn, being implemented by a European Union that naively sees sanctions as an alternative to military conflict.

In reality, sanctions are likely to intensify the crisis, impoverish ordinary Iranians and psychologically prepare the ground for war because of the demonisation of Iran. The problem is that Israel and its right-wing American allies are more interested in regime change than Tehran’s nuclear programme.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz succinctly stated the differences between the Israeli government and Washington. It said that “while the Americans are actively seeking a way to start a dialogue, Israel is preaching confrontation and the toppling of the government in Tehran”.

It is this latter policy that has triumphed. Israel, its congressional allies and the neoconservatives have successfully bamboozled the Obama administration into a set of policies that make sense only if the aim is overthrow of the regime in Tehran. The Iranian government has been given no diplomatic way to climb down without humiliation. Its nuclear programme has been turned into a symbol of resistance to foreign diktats. This makes it impossible for anybody in the fractious Iranian leadership to compromise without being denounced as a traitor by political opponents.

Whatever the intentions of Barack Obama when he was elected, the covert offensive initiated by President Bush against Iran has continued. He signed a secret “presidential finding” in 2008 under which $400m was allocated to fund Iranian government opponents.

The US’s new allies included unsavoury groups such as the Sunni sectarian killers of Jundullah operating in Iranian Baluchistan. The US may have intended to limit the degree of co-operation but, according to Foreign Policy magazine, Mossad agents simply posed as CIA members in dealing with Jundullah. What was the point of these pinprick attacks? A few bombs in Iranian Baluchistan are not going to pose much of a threat to the Iranian leadership in Tehran. The motive was most probably to provoke the Iranians into retaliation against the US which would bring a US-Iranian military conflict closer.

The same may well be true of the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists. A little-noticed aspect of these is that the scientists were easy to kill because they were driving themselves around Tehran in their own cars. But any country that has evidence its top scientists are at risk provides them with security.

The lack of the simplest security measures argues that these scientists were never at the centre of Iran’s nuclear programme. A more likely explanation for the attacks, assuming that Israel was behind them, was to provoke Iran into a retaliation against the US or Israel that would be a casus belli.

It is difficult not to admire the skill with which Mr Netanyahu has manoeuvred the White House and European leaders into the very confrontation with Iran they wanted to avoid. He has been helped by the Iranian President’s anti-Semitic outbursts and the apparent fixing of the 2009 presidential election.

But Mr Netanyahu’s most effective weapon has been the threat that Israel would unilaterally launch air strikes unless the White House did something. This has always been less likely than it looked. Israel has seldom gone to war without a “green light” from the US.

A more rational explanation of Israeli threats to act alone is that they were wholly designed to scare the White House and its European allies. The Israeli Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, made blood-curdling speeches about the imminence of the Iranian threat leaving Israel with no option but to launch a pre-emptive strike (until he quite recently said the opposite). The former head of Mossad gave credibility to unilateral Israeli action by warning that it would be a self-inflicted disaster for his country.

These manoeuvres succeeded. Serious sanctions are being imposed. Iran will have difficulty selling its oil. Its status as a regional power in the Middle East is weakening as the long-term survival of Bashar al-Assad, its most important ally, looks dubious.

Here again there is an uncomfortable parallel with Iraq. Sanctions against Iraq from 1990 to 2003 impoverished Iraqis and criminalised much of its administration. Unicef said half a million children died because of sanctions. To the White House and European leaders, sanctions may appear preferable to armed conflict. Unfortunately, history shows that long embargoes kill more people than brief wars.

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday February 4

A look at this map shows which country is surrounding Iran with military. These are the U.S. military bases we know about which surround Iran.  Who is the aggressor in the Middle East?

An Appeal to United States and Israeli Air, Missile and Drone Crews to Stand Down from Orders to Attack Iran

Call to Protest If the U.S. Attacks Iran or Syria

IRAN: Who is the real threat?
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Day of Mass Action to Stop a U.S. War on Iran

 

NO war! NO sanctions! NO intervention! NO assassinations!

Endorsers include (list is growing):

World Can’t Wait * United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC) * International Action Center (IAC) * SI! Solidarity with Iran * Refugee Apostolic Catholic Church * Workers World Party * CODEPINK Women for Peace * American Iranian Friendship Committee * ANSWER Coalition * Antiwar.com * Peace of the Action * ComeHomeAmerica.us * St. Pete for Peace * WAMM, Women Against Military Madness * Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality-Virginia * WESPAC Foundation * Minnesota Peace Action Coalition * Twin Cities Peace Campaign * Bail Out The People Movement (BOPM) * We Won’t Fly * Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS) * Granny Peace Brigade * Veterans for Peace – NYC Chapter 034 * Waco Friends of Peace * Malcolm X Center for Self Determination * David Swanson, Author of When the World Outlawed War * Phil Wilayto, Author of In Defense of Iran:  Notes from a U.S. Peace Delegation’s Journey through the Islamic Republic * Ramsey Clark, Former US Attorney General, awarded UN Human Rights Award * Cindy Sheehan, National Co-ordinator of Peace of the Action * Ray McGovern, Veterans for Peace * Karla Hansen, Producer/Director “Silent Screams” * George Phillies, Editor for Liberty for America * Larry Everest, correspondent for Revolution Newspaper, author of Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the US Global Agenda

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