INTELLIGENCE, INCOMPETENCE AND IRAQ
Or, time to talk of democracy, demography and Israel
Combat casualties among U.S. servicemen in Iraq crossed the psychological threshold of one thousand early-September. The day this grim milestone was reached, U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, shorn of the verbal fluency that he used to cast a spell in the days before the war, delivered a rather gloomy assessment. "It is a tough, difficult business", he said at a news conference. Violence would escalate in the months ahead, though ultimate triumph was assured, since "the offence (was) being waged effectively".[i]
Rumsfeld then did something no U.S. official had since the war began: he put out an estimate of Iraqi dead. The disproportion was amazing, as also the inattention to numerical precision: the number of Iraqis killed in August alone, he said, numbered between 1,500 and 2,500.[ii] But if Rumsfeld's intent was to underline the point that victory was inevitable, the outcome of his digression into morbidity statistics was the precise opposite. Cynicism was only heightened by his unwitting admission that the U.S. project in Iraq, with no clear basis in law and no objectives in sight, would achieve little other than the decimation of a civilian population and the obliteration of a country's life-sustaining infrastructure.
While the U.S. was coming to terms with the psychological impact of a thousand war dead, its military headquarters in Iraq was announcing that "one hundred militants" had been killed in air strikes in the restive city of Fallujah, quite apart from the 33 who perished in the Sadr city neighbourhood of Baghdad. A junior minister in the Iraqi regime installed by the U.S. was offering the grim prognosis that the Iraqi people were being "eradicated" in a steady "haemorrhage".[iii]
The U.S. has of course been notoriously indifferent about civilian or military casualties in countries it designates as enemies. In 1992, a demographer with the U.S. Commerce Department's Census Bureau of Foreign Countries, was almost cashiered over her estimate of the Iraqi death toll from the 1991 Gulf War.[iv] Just a few weeks after the ongoing war was prematurely declared closed by U.S. President George Bush,[v] the Associated Press published an estimate of 3,240 civilians killed between March 20 and April 20 last year -- the month of most intensive combat. Since it was based on a survey of just half of Iraq's hospitals and excluded a number of ambiguous cases, the survey pointed to a much higher number of casualties among civilians.
In December 2003, the U.S. occupation regime ordered the Iraqi ministry of health to stop collecting statistics on the war dead and to suspend any plans to release data already compiled.[vi] But that has not stopped independent initiatives to lay bare the depth of the agony being inflicted on Iraqi civilian life. A recent agency report points out that one clinic in Baghdad has registered 10,363 violent deaths in the city and its environs since the war began.[vii] The civilian death toll in Iraq as a whole is put at between 10,000 and 30,000 in this time span. Those making the estimate are of course doing the best they can under virtually impossible circumstances. But in the context of the U.S. war project, the 20,000 human lives that fall in the gap between the upper and lower bounds of the best available estimate, are evidently, inconsequential.
Yet for all the brutality of the assault on Iraq, the invading forces are rapidly losing control. Just over two months since the U.S. ostensibly handed over power to Iraq, much of the country, aside from the capital city, was in the hands of insurgents.[viii] And the capital city itself was a vast ocean of lawlessness, where random bombings, murder and abduction were the norm.
Reviving a brief flicker of his pre-war machismo, Rumsfeld vowed that the U.S. and its proxies would regain territory and legitimacy before long.[ix] But the U.S. was entering an election season with the Iraq war as backdrop, and President George Bush was in no frame of mind to undertake the kind of military operations that would endanger the lives of U.S. servicemen.[x] Massive applications of airpower and siege warfare were the preferred tactical choices in the circumstances.
Among the manoeuvres used to regain control was the siege of a northeastern Iraqi city, Tal Afar, which was according to U.S. intelligence, a "hub for militants smuggling fighters and arms from Syria".[xi] In a few days of the siege, the U.S. claimed, it had killed 67 insurgents.
Again, the human trophies that the U.S. invaders had to display, exacted a serious political cost. The government in neighbouring Turkey reacted in anger to the attack on a city predominantly inhabited by Iraq's Turkoman minority. "We have asked the U.S. authorities to stop the offensive in Tal Afar as soon as possible and avoid indiscriminate use of force", said a spokesman for Turkey's foreign ministry. Indications were strong that the U.S., with its rather unintelligent reading of the ethnic complexities of Iraq, had strayed into a contentious battleground between Kurds and Turks.[xii] Both were designated allies of the U.S. project in Iraq, but one has by deliberate design or otherwise, become an enemy within two months of the supposed transfer of sovereignty.
When fighting erupted on an unprecedented scale across the country, including the capital city, on September 12, the U.S. response, all other attributes apart, spoke of an utter contempt for Iraqi life. A helicopter gunship was sent in for a lethal missile strike on a crowd gathered around a crippled armoured car in central Baghdad. The mission, which had the stated intent of destroying the vehicle, ended up killing 13 civilian bystanders, including a journalist reporting the event for an Arabic news channel.[xiii] In all, 59 Iraqis were reported killed on that day of violence, more than half of them in Baghdad.[xiv] The following day, an insurgent attack on police recruiting centre in Baghdad killed close to 50.[xv]
Air-power has a long history as a didactic device, a technique of imposing order and instilling civilisational virtues in an unruly Arab rabble.[xvi] But in more recent days, the helicopter gunship firing lethal missiles into a crowd of people has become a common image for world audiences, from a location not far from the carnage in Iraq.
On September 7, the precise date that the U.S. was grappling with the troublesome but remote statistic of a thousand dead, a suicide bombing in the city of Beersheba in Israel, killed 16 and injured several others. The world media united in condemning the attack and Israeli promises of swift retribution were prominently featured. Unthinkingly, the media took up the refrain that a five-month lull in violence had ended with the attack. Few chose to portray what the supposed lull really meant for the Palestinians. As a Palestinian campaign website put it: in the five months that Israel had enjoyed a break in the violence, "almost 400 Palestinians (had) been killed, 71 in extra-judicial assassination attacks… At least 23 of the 71 killed in assassinations were not … associated with any of the groups resisting the illegal occupation (of Palestinian land). They were women and children, innocent bystanders". Their deaths, for some reason, did not share the weight of the Beersheba dead in the international media.[xvii] And in the grim calculus of death, the destruction of countless Palestinian dwellings and the unending victimisation of a people made refugees several times over, hardly merited a mention.
Two parallel military occupations; a striking symmetry in military tactics; a similar inattention to the plight of the victims; and an excessive solicitude towards the misfortunes of the aggressors. The U.S. occupation of Iraq and Israel's continuing subjugation of the Palestinians have much in common. But then the two countries share an intimate strategic relationship going back so long, that it would be unusual if they did not learn and benefit from, and even emulate, each other. Indeed, it would only be worth remarking if an element of disharmony were to emerge in the feast of concord. And perhaps the greatest curiosity of the war project in Iraq today, which has descended into a chaotic bloodbath for the people whose liberation was its object, is that precisely such signals of discord are emerging from the heart of the U.S. establishment.
On August 27, the U.S. television network CBS News reported that a senior official in the Defence Department was under investigation for allegedly passing on sensitive intelligence material to Israel. The prominent advocacy group for Israel's interests, the American Israeli Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC), had allegedly been the conduit for this highly irregular transaction. Unlike other stories of Israeli crimes and misdemeanours, this one showed a stubborn persistence in the media. It was soon learnt that the individual at the centre of the investigation was a long-time employee and a confidant of the second and third-ranking officials in the department: Deputy Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, and Under Secretary for Policy, Douglas Feith.[xviii] He was also known to have worked closely with the Office of Special Plans (OSP), an ad hoc group created within the Defence Department to prepare the case for the war against Iraq.
As the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported in May last year, the OSP was born out of impatience in the Bush administration, at the failure of official intelligence agencies to bring up evidence of what it believed was true. Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, and their various confederates in other branches of the administration, were convinced "that (Iraqi president) Saddam Hussein had close ties to (the Islamic militant group) Al Qaeda, and that Iraq had an enormous arsenal of chemical, biological, and possibly even nuclear weapons that threatened the region and, potentially, the United States".[xix] Burdened by professional scruples, the official intelligence agencies had been singularly unsuccessful in concocting the evidence that would prove the point.
The OSP though was to prove more than successful in this respect. With a flood of disinformation, it managed to discredit and drown out the more sober and cautious assessments by the official agencies. The rise in the fortunes of the OSP, says Hersh, was accompanied by the declining influence of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA). More remarkably, the OSP managed, in the recriminations that followed the failure of the U.S. to find the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that were the ostensible reason for the war, to evade blame almost entirely. Indeed, the Intelligence Committee of the U.S. Senate after roundly criticising the CIA and other members of what it calls the "intelligence community", resolved to defer its consideration of the role played by OSP for later.[xx] The political sensitivities involved in this issue are so delicate that they cannot possibly be ruffled in an election year.
As allegations of Israeli espionage continued to attract media attention, the Israeli foreign minister denounced the reportage as unfounded verbiage. Israel and the U.S. were close allies and often shared intelligence, he said. And even if contacts had taken place between Israeli embassy personnel and the individuals at the centre of the controversy, these were entirely "according to procedures".[xxi]
Commentators with a more critical perspective were rather puzzled that the investigation, ostensibly underway for over two years, was made public at the particular juncture that it was.[xxii] There were others who wondered why Israel should worry at all about spying on the U.S. establishment, which it had learnt to read like an open book. But as the reports continued to swirl around, some of Israel's most ardent champions within the U.S. turned on the Bush administration with unaccustomed fury. Bush and his top officials, they alleged, were doing little to restrain the wild play of rumour and innuendo, which had begun to acquire ugly overtones of anti-Semitism.[xxiii]
It has been called the oldest social prejudice known to humanity. But “anti-Semitism” is now perhaps the most jaded political insult in circulation. Serious political debate is easily knocked off course by conjuring up this phantom. Any criticism of Israeli policy -- and of U.S. acquiescence in its brutalities -- is the next worst thing to being an accomplice in the Nazi death camps of World War II. But the dissonances within the Washington political establishment point to growing turbulence within. There is deepening disquiet over the chaos in Iraq and rising resentment over the efforts -- so far successful -- of the cabal that took the U.S. to war on false pretexts, to evade scrutiny.
The burden of blame and public obloquy for the mess in Iraq is now borne by the intelligence community. But there are clear hints that the mandated agencies of intelligence gathering are striking back at the informal processes of decision-making -- typified by the OSP -- that were a significant determinant of the war plans in Iraq. Following these through is to comprehend the real reasons for the war in Iraq and the ultimate aims of U.S. geopolitical mastery over the West Asian region. And the power of the "anti-Semitism" jibe apart, there is no way that Israel can be isolated from this picture.
THE CIA AS SCAPEGOAT
Hydra-headed and infinitely malevolent, the CIA was once the address to which the left-wing political imagination traced every ill of the world. That tendency has been in low ebb over the last decade-and-a-half -- the era of globalisation -- when the CIA’s global designs were internalised within elite worldviews in the Third World.
The spell in relative obscurity was obviously not greatly enjoyed within the CIA. It has now regained its position in public notoriety, though in an ironically twisted fashion. Ideological gurus have turned antagonists. Once the preserve of the left-wing, CIA-baiting has now become the favoured pastime of the far-right, or the so-called neo-conservatives in the U.S., who find their global designs going seriously askew. And quite naturally, the obsequious British, committed to serve the senior partner in imperialism through thick and thin, have joined in with appropriate enthusiasm.
The U.S. Senate Committee inquiring into the pre-war intelligence assessments on Iraq, turned in its report on July 8. U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair’s imitative effort to assess the intelligence inputs he received before signing up for the war effort -- the Lord Butler commission – submitted its report on July 14. The striking symmetries between the two reports were entirely foretold by the circumstances in which they were commissioned.
The U.S. Senate Committee concluded that “most of the major key judgments” in the "Intelligence Community’s” report of October 2002, titled Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction, were “either overstated.. (or) not supported by the underlying intelligence reporting”.[xxiv]
The facts as reported by primary intelligence sources, in other words, were embellished to make out a menacing picture of Iraqi intransigence and a determined pursuit of the most lethal weapons. Yet, the key question: whether professional intelligence assessments were corrupted by political interference, will not be considered till the U.S. elections are concluded in November.
Tony Blair had a more compliant commission, prepared to go to bizarre extremities. The Butler inquiry held the newly appointed chief of the U.K.’s principal spy agency, the MI6, responsible for many of the excesses of intelligence on Iraq. But it held that these misdeeds, committed in the official’s earlier station as chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, should not invite any punitive sanction. He should supposedly be spared the burden of such accountability on account of his sterling services to British intelligence.
Blair joined in the excoriation of professional intelligence agencies, but managed to evade serious scrutiny of his own actions. The pretence of an inquiry into intelligence failures prior to the war in Iraq, has yielded the bland finding that the political establishment in the U.K. shared no part of the culpability for the spy agencies’ incompetence.
Lord Butler is a former Cabinet Secretary in the U.K. government. The best that can be said for him is that he put out a far more credible report than Lord Hutton – the senior judge who inquired into the tragic suicide by David Kelly, one of Britain’s principal weapons experts.[xxv] Clearly though, both commissioners as stalwart members of the British establishment, were averse to closely question the Government in a matter as consequential as going to war as a loyal subaltern of the U.S.
For all its blandness, the Butler report has for the more attentive reader, provided definitive evidence of deceit from the highest political office in Britain. A group of parliamentarians is now firmly convinced that Blair has forfeited all right remain in office. Relying heavily on Butler's findings, they have drafted a paper provisionally titled “A Case to Answer: A Report on the Possibility of the Impeachment of the British Prime Minister Tony Blair for High Crimes and Misdemeanours in relation to the Invasion of Iraq”. Soon after it was published late-August, the paper began attracting wide attention.[xxvi] As Adam Price, the Welsh Nationalist MP who has initiated the impeachment process explained: “The evidence of Blair’s duplicity is overwhelming”. The impeachment process is a last resort for parliament to check executive abuse of power, and built-in procedures and convention are likely to limit it in Blair’s case to pure symbolism.[xxvii] But his public image is taking a severe battering and his political future is rapidly diminishing with each political and military reverse suffered on the Iraqi battlefield.
STANDARDS OF TRUTH: IRAQ VS THE “ALLIES”
Early in December 2002, just before a scheduled declaration to the U.N. on the scope and magnitude of its proscribed weapons programs, Iraq’s President, Saddam Hussein, made his first public remarks on the crisis. Denouncing the U.S. for its “unjust, arrogant and debased tyranny”, he urged the Iraqi people to cooperate with the U.N. weapons inspectors, since that was the only way they could stay “out of harm’s way”. And for all the efforts being made by the U.N. inspectors, he asserted, they would find no banned weapons in the country.[xxviii] It was a point that he was to underline once again, in a Christmas Day address to the Iraqi people.[xxix] In an interview with the veteran British left-wing politician Tony Benn broadcast early-February 2003, Saddam Hussein was more explicit: “There is only one truth and therefore I tell you as I have said on many occasions before that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction whatsoever. We challenge anyone who claims that we have to bring forward any evidence and present it to public opinion”.[xxx]
Concurrent statements from the office of the U.S. president provide a convenient point of reference. “The president of the United States and the secretary of defence”, said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer on December 4, 2002, “would not assert as plainly and bluntly as they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true, and if they did not have a solid basis for saying it”.[xxxi] And even though the weapons inspectors had reported nothing but cooperation from the Iraqi side, U.S. President George Bush was quoted at the same time saying that the signs were not “encouraging”.
The economist and columnist Paul Krugman in June 2003 arrived at the long overdue conclusion, which should have occurred to any reasonable person well before the war was launched, that there no longer was “any serious doubt that Bush administration officials deceived (the U.S.) into war”. The key question in his words then, was why “so many influential people (were) in denial, unwilling to admit the obvious”.[xxxii]
That indeed, is a question worth seriously pursuing. In July 2003, the respected advocacy group from Washington DC, the Arms Control Association (ACA), held a media conference on the intelligence assessments that paved the way to war. Greg Thielmann, a former official in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research in the U.S. State Department, summed up the state of knowledge then: “I believe the Bush administration did not provide an accurate picture to the American people of the military threat posed by Iraq. Some of the fault lies with the performance of the intelligence community, but most of it lies with the way senior officials misused the information they were provided”.[xxxiii] It was not intelligence failure that was to blame, but “misrepresentation on the part of the administration”.
Joseph Cirincione, director of the Non-Proliferation Project of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, saw two processes at work since September 11, 2001, when concern over Iraq spiked upwards within the Bush administration. First, the intelligence assessments pointing to diverse possibilities and suggesting certain among them as the more probable, were all scrubbed up to give them a definitive sound. Qualifying terms like “could be”, “may have” and “possibly” were dropped in favour of “is”, “has” and “definitely”. Concurrently, the primary assessments themselves were transformed to suit the political compulsions of the moment.
Weapons inspectors were withdrawn from Iraq in 1998 after creating sufficient provocation to justify an intensive four-day bombing campaign by the U.S. and U.K. Between then and 2001, as Cirincione reads it, the consensus of the intelligence community was “that most of Iraq’s chemical, biological, nuclear and long-range missile capability had been destroyed by, and during, the 1991 Gulf War, and that U.N. inspections and subsequent military actions destroyed the rest”. There were concerns about renewed production and the rebuilding of facilities that had been destroyed or dismantled, but these had not reached anything like a critical pitch. The intelligence agencies were convinced that the matter could be resolved, if needed, through renewed inspections.
This consensus, says Cirincione, changed dramatically in 2002, though “not because of new evidence”. Bush administration officials “repeatedly gave the impression, and in fact said, that they had new evidence”. What essentially happened was that “lacking any hard evidence of Iraqi programs, government officials…. developed an outline of a threat picture and then accumulated bits and pieces of information that filled in that picture”.[xxxiv]
ACA has put out a partial listing of misleading statements on Iraq by Bush administration officials.[xxxv] Its account suggests that the President and the four top officials involved in decisions of war and peace – Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice -- made at least 20 statements between September 2002 and March 2003, which were, quite evidently not the case.
This compilation renders the Bush cabal a considerable measure of generosity. A more exhaustive effort at documentation by Henry Waxman, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from California, brings to attention figures that are absolutely compelling.[xxxvi] Between March 2002 and the beginning of the invasion a year later, he has found that Bush and the top four in his administration, made a total of 237 misleading statements on the threat posed by Iraq – in a period of just over a year, this amounts to an average of almost 20 lies every month.
The temporal distribution of the figures tell an eloquent tale. Beginning September 2002, the dissimulation rapidly escalates. “During the 30 days between September 8, 2002 and October 8, 2002”, we are told, “the five officials made 64 misleading statements in 16 public appearances. This was the highest number of misleading statements for any 30 day period”.[xxxvii] The underlying purpose of the torrent of falsehood was evidently to secure authorisation for war from the U.S. Congress, which was scheduled to debate the matter on October 10.
Following the passage of U.N. Security Council resolution 1441 in November 2002, the number of misleading statements tends to subside, before spiking upwards again in January 2003. The following two months, when final preparations for war at both military-logistical and propaganda levels were underway, there was some moderation in the flow of lies. This could partly be because the results of the U.N. weapons inspections, begun in December, had begun to come in by then, suggesting that the Bush administration was, when not being economical with the truth, engaged in an active war against it.[xxxviii]
COOKING THE BOOKS ON INTELLIGENCE
Where does this litany of falsehoods begin? The Waxman paper has made a four-way classification of all the misleading statements uttered by the Bush administration. There is the one category that deals with the generic character of the threat posed by Iraq, in which perhaps 11 of the 237 lies could be grouped. Another 81 could be put in a second category, on Iraq’s nuclear activities. Statements on Iraq’s biological and chemical weapons programs numbered 84; and in the fourth category, Iraq’s supposed links with the Al Qaeda terrorist network, make up the remainder.
The generic statements were often difficult to penetrate. That is in character for utterances so lacking in specific reference points that they cannot be tested for veracity against concrete evidence. Suggestions about Iraq’s secret and sinister links with Osama bin Laden’s subterranean network of Islamic militants, fall in the same category, since there was little known then about Iraqi government functions. Western intelligence agencies had penetrated the Iraqi government through the 1990s under the cloak provided by the U.N. weapons inspection process.[xxxix] But they put out little authentic information. And as far as Al Qaeda is concerned, the U.S. government when it knew, chose not to tell, and when it did not know, chose to dissimulate.
These were circumstances working in favour of the war lobby. But they faced a sceptical world and felt compelled to venture every so often into specifics. The drums of war were formally set rolling by U.S. Vice-President Cheney on August 26, 2002, in an address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars at Nashville, Tennessee. As the pitch ascended, Bush summoned Blair for a council of war, signalling a clear intent to begin military operations, while raising the chorus of falsehood still higher. There was however, an unfortunate detour into specifics on the part of the two leaders, which was rather rudely rebuffed.
Appearing with Bush at the Camp David presidential retreat on September 7, Blair cited a “newly released photograph of Iraq”, which he claimed, identified several new structures coming up at sites known to be part of Iraq’s nuclear infrastructure. He referred also to a 1998 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which ostensibly said that the Saddam Hussein regime could be six months away from developing a nuclear weapon. Bush then provided the grand summing up: “I don’t know what more evidence we need. We owe it to future generations to deal with this problem”.[xl]
Vigilant journalists who made the effort to check out these assertions with IAEA in Vienna, soon found that the report in question made none of the assertions ascribed to it. Rather, it only said that Iraq had been, at the time of the 1991 Gulf War, six months to four years from building a nuclear weapon. And even if the buildings destroyed in the 1998 air raids had been reconstructed, there was no evidence that they housed any banned item or activity.[xli]
In December 2002, in a conspicuous breach of the U.N.’s official code of neutrality, the head of the team searching for chemical and biological weapons in Iraq vented his exasperation at the constant efforts by the U.S. to second-guess him. The U.S. was possessed by an irresistible bellicosity, and keen that the U.N. inspectors turn in the evidence that would justify the rush to war. Bush administration officials were also prepared with dire imprecations of incompetence or worse, if the U.N. teams failed to meet its needs. Evidently tired at the constant political sniping, Demetrius Perricos, a Greek national, challenged the U.S. to share its intelligence. The message was clear: the U.S. should either back up its allegations with evidence or leave the U.N. inspectors to do their job as they thought best. “What we are getting and what President Bush may be getting”, he said, “are very different, to put it mildly”.[xlii]
The best, indeed the only, construction that could have been put on the curious reticence of the U.S. to share its intelligence prior to the war, was that it was waiting for Iraq’s formal declaration to be in.[xliii] Hans Blix, the Swedish diplomat heading the disarmament commission in Iraq, made out an anodyne preliminary report to the U.N. Security Council in December 2002. With well-disguised irony, he commended the supportive attitude of the U.S., but urged it to share its special insights and wisdom with the international community, which was just as keen on the mission of Iraq’s disarmament.
Resolution 1441 passed in November 2002, made Iraq culpable for any identifiable falsehood in its weapons declaration. The smallest omission, under the terms written principally by the U.S., would have been construed as a material breach of U.N. resolutions, providing a trigger for war. The U.S. in this reckoning, was waiting for the Iraqi declaration to be filed by the stipulated deadline of December 10, before producing its own intelligence to clinch the issue. It was setting up a moment of blinding revelation for the world community. The principal suspect in a crime was given his final opportunity to account for all his activities, listing all the alibis he may have. No sooner does he finish, than he is confronted with irrefutable evidence that his testimony does not stand up to scrutiny, that indeed, the prosecution knows more about him than he is willing to admit. The verdict: guilty as charged.
It was a telling admission of the quality of evidence, that the unilateralist urge remained strong all through the months of preparation. Rumsfeld for one, explicitly rejected the call for evidence on Iraq’s weapons program. What was underway, he said, was not a trial or an effort to “punish somebody for doing something wrong”. Rather, it was simply a question of “self-defence”.[xliv]
While it looked remotely possible that the U.N. may fall in line, the multilateral urge represented by Powell held the field, though very tenuously. The pretence of multilateralism though, was to bring the Bush administration nothing but grief. A number of stories of Iraqi deceit had been spun by the top Bush officials in the weeks between the passage of the U.N. resolution and the beginning of the war. Of these, two in particular deserve attention: the first relating to a supposed attempt by Iraq to buy uranium from Niger; and the second, on the potential uses of a consignment of aluminium tubes it had imported.
The first of the fictions originated in a British intelligence dossier in October 2002. It was picked up and affirmed as a fact justifying military action by Rice in a New York Times article on January 23, 2003. Bush himself gave the allegation the stamp of his authority, on no less an occasion than his State of the Union Address to the U.S. Congress on January 28. And Rumsfeld repeated it the following day as an incontrovertible truth.[xlv]
Curiously, at the decisive moment in the multilateral gambit, the Bush administration suffered a failure of nerve. Powell discretely omitted this particular accusation when he addressed the U.N. Security Council on February 5. This was curious, since the advance billing for Powell’s day at the U.N. suggested that it was going to be the decisive juncture in the war preparations, the moment that would end all doubts about Iraq’s guilt.
Powell had good reason for caution. On March 7, Mohammad El Baradei, the Director-General of the IAEA made out an authoritative report on the status of Iraq’s nuclear weapons program to the Security Council. With little fuss and ceremony, he told the gathering, which included a stony-faced Powell, that a thorough review of the documentation relating to the “alleged procurement” of uranium from Niger, had revealed that it was, “not authentic”.[xlvi] A key intelligence input of the Bush administration in short, was a crass piece of forgery.
Where the second fiction is concerned, the paper prepared at the request of U.S. Congressman Henry Waxman, estimates that Bush, Cheney, Powell and Rice, made ten misleading statements on nine occasions, about the significance of Iraq’s import of aluminium tubes.[xlvii] In responding to the Iraqi arms declaration, Powell at a press conference on December 18, 2002, cited the aluminium tubes as a conspicuous breach of the full disclosure covenant imposed on Iraq. By February 5 though, he was sufficiently unsettled by the conflicting pressures, to seek a hedging strategy. “There is controversy about what these tubes are for”, he said, “but most U.S. experts think they are intended to serve as rotors in centrifuges used to enrich uranium”.[xlviii]
Once again, Powell bravely walked the tight-rope between his marginal role in the Bush administration, and his responsibility to rationalise its excesses before world audiences. His reckoning with reality came on March 7, when El Baradei faced the Security Council. Since his last briefing in the chamber, El Baradei said, “the primary technical focus” of IAEA investigations had been “the possible resumption of efforts by Iraq to enrich uranium through the use of centrifuges”. Aware of the importance of the case, the IAEA had “assembled a specially qualified team of international centrifuge-manufacturing experts”. And their investigations and analyses, had “failed to uncover any evidence that Iraq intended” to use the aluminium tubes for anything other than the purpose they had declared – which was “reverse engineering” artillery rockets of a range well within the limits stipulated by U.N. resolutions.
In unveiling all the evidence of Iraq's putative guilt, Powell had held out an assurance to the Security Council: “every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence”.[xlix] Curiously though, he failed to back up many of his own earlier statements, and subtly sought to distance himself from several utterances of his own President and Vice President. For the most part, Powell’s presentation was an effort to shift the discourse, from documentary evidence to more abstruse and technical intelligence like satellite imagery and voice intercepts. Much of this was summed up by Hans Blix in the course of his February 14 presentation to the Security Council, as unconvincing. Indeed, said Blix, there was nothing in these inputs to suggest anything other than routine exercises at sites of military significance.[l]
Though Powell’s strategy before the Security Council took some time unraveling, there was one detail in which he was caught out almost immediately. Rounding up a discussion on Iraq’s supposed deceptions, Powell warned the Security Council that Iraq was “using its considerable intelligence capabilities to hide its illicit activities”. U.N. inspectors, he darkly suggested, were constantly under surveillance and Iraq was “relentlessly attempting to tap all of their communications, both voice and electronic”. And then he put his neck right on the block: “I would call my colleagues’ attention to the fine paper that the United Kingdom has distributed yesterday, which describes in exquisite detail Iraqi deception activities”.[li]
The fiction survived precisely two days. A quick scrutiny of the “fine paper” by Glen Rangwala, a Cambridge University academic with long experience in tracking the arms inspections process in Iraq, revealed it to be an outright plagiarism. Blair had in unveiling the document, told the House of Commons, that it demonstrated “a huge infrastructure of deception and concealment in Iraq”. Caught in the act, his office quickly admitted to an error in not acknowledging the sources from which the report had been drawn. It continued to insist though, that the report was “solid” in its content and provided “up-to-date details” of Iraq’s security organisations. This was a rather implausible assertion, since the academic dissertation that was the source for the plagiarism, pertained in the main, to the activities of Iraqi intelligence in the years 1990 and 1991, i.e., just prior to and during the occupation of Kuwait.[lii] It was almost as if the Gulf War of 1991, the comprehensive economic sanctions since, and the intrusive arms inspections, had not taken place. Obviously, it was not Saddam Hussein’s “infrastructure of deception” that was at issue here, but Blair’s.
In the following days, a facility that Powell had described as a “terrorist chemicals and poisons factory” in northern Iraq was shown up to be “a dilapidated collection of concrete outbuildings at the foot of a grassy sloping hill”. The descent from satellite imagery to ocular inspection was a transition from fantasy to reality. It revealed the truth for what it was, succinctly recorded by a journalist from The Observer: “Behind the barbed wire, and a courtyard strewn with broken rocket parts, are a few empty concrete houses. There is a bakery. There is no sign of chemical weapons anywhere – only the smell of paraffin and vegetable ghee used for cooking”.[liii]
Iraq in those tense weeks before the war was making an extraordinary effort at transparency and full disclosure. It was the first occasion in over a decade of manipulating the sanctions regime to keep the country on its knees, that the U.S. had come out with specific and public accusations, putting its own credibility on the line, rather than using compliant weapons inspection chiefs, of whom the conniving Australian, Richard Butler, was perhaps the most infamous. The more specific Washington got, the easier the job of refutation became. Just two days after the Powell presentation, media personnel were taken on a tour of two sites he had mentioned as facilities for proscribed missile activities. According to a Reuters news report datelined Baghdad, one of the facilities, at Fallujah, had been visited “several times” by U.N. weapons inspectors, the last such occasion being the day before Powell’s presentation. The other, the Al Moatessem factory south of Baghdad, had also been inspected ten times since the U.N. team was readmitted to Iraq. None of these visits had revealed grounds for suspecting any banned activity.
A few days later, Iraq trundled out the “unmanned aircraft” which Powell had said, “should be of concern to everybody”. A staff writer for The Christian Science Monitor described what he saw: “The primitive craft – its wings held together with tin foil and duct tape, and two wooden propellers bolted to engines far smaller than those of a lawn mower – looked more like a high-school science project than the ‘smoking gun’ that could spark a war”.[liv] U.N. teams had inspected the aircraft and not found anything exceptional to report, inviting furious accusations from the U.S. of a conspiracy to conceal. Iraqi military personnel in charge of the craft explained that it was designed for “reconnaissance, jamming and aerial photography”, and could fly for no more than 3 kilometres. And U.N. sources clarified that if there had been any WMD dimension to the craft, they would have been promptly reported to the appropriate quarters.
As the revelations piled up and public scepticism grew, pressure on the U.S. to yield up some parts of its intelligence findings intensified. The IAEA for instance, had been pleading for the documents on the Niger uranium purchase for months since it was first mentioned in the U.K. dossier of October 2002. According to the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, they were finally turned over, perhaps in February 2003, and determined to be fake within “a few hours”.[lv] According to a senior IAEA official Hersh spoke to, the “documents were so bad” that he could not “imagine that they came from a serious intelligence agency”.
On February 20, Mark Phillips of the U.S. television network, CBS News, reported that U.N. arms inspectors were “privately complaining about the quality of U.S. intelligence and accusing the United States of sending them on wild goose chases”. Specific evidence that the U.S. had provided on new nuclear research buildings, Saddam Hussein’s presidential palaces, and the aluminium tubes consignment, had yielded “nothing”. One source that the CBS News correspondent contacted, described the intelligence the U.N. had been getting from the U.S. as “garbage after garbage after garbage”.[lvi]
A more authoritative account of the quality of intelligence came from Hans Blix a few days after the U.S. had declared the liberation of Iraq an accomplished fact. Just prior to his last briefing to the Security Council, Blix told the BBC that he had been rather “hurt” and “displeased” by the U.S. effort to discredit his agency’s efforts in Iraq. The accusation that he had withheld information about an unmanned aircraft or “drone” was clearly an attempt to “sway the votes” in the Security Council and win support for military action. He also described as “very, very disturbing” the incident of the forged documents on the Niger uranium deal. Delicacy prevented him from identifying the source of the forgery, even less blaming it on the U.S.: “Not quite that far. They might have got this fake contract from somewhere. The CIA say they got a copy of the document from the U.K. I certainly do not suggest that the U.K. intelligence service would have fabricated (it). I wouldn’t dream of that. But there may be others around.”[lvii]
In trying to be subtle and enigmatic, Blix the veteran Swedish bureaucrat perhaps became rather too explicit. It was not as if the world did not know that the intelligence was being cooked well before the war started. The accumulated evidence, despite an inattentive or perhaps acquiescent media, was overwhelming.[lviii] And neither were the abuses of the Bush cabal committed in moments of absent-mindedness or error. Congressman Waxman’s compilation directs us to the serious reservations that had been entered by mandated U.S. intelligence agencies on both the uranium import issue and the application of the aluminium tubes that Iraq had purchased.
As early as October 2002, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) was laying out its doubts. “The activities we have detected”, it recorded in the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that was the primary source for Bush’s war preparations, “do not .. add up to a compelling case that Iraq is currently pursuing what INR would consider to be an integrated and comprehensive approach to acquire nuclear weapons”. The INR was joined by the Department of Energy, the nodal agency for nuclear weapons related expertise, in the further assessment that the aluminium tubes found in Iraq were not intended for uranium enrichment.[lix] The CIA had sought to get to the bottom of the “uranium from Niger” claim by commissioning a visit to all the sites indicated by Joseph Wilson, a diplomat with extensive knowledge of Africa. Based on his inputs and its own assessments, the agency sent two memos to the White House, urging that the accusation not be included in Bush’s state of the union address. The INR also put on record its belief that the claim was “highly dubious”.[lx]
The facts of plagiarism and forgery were known well before the invasion of Iraq. The consistent inflation of intelligence findings by Bush and Blair, has also been public knowledge. Since July 2003 at the latest, when the NIE for 2002 was declassified under public pressure, there has been little room for ambiguity here. For the U.S. Senate Committee and the Butler Inquiry to now feign a sense of surprise that abuses of an immense scale took place, and to then evade the task of assigning blame, must rank among the most reluctant exercises in enforcing accountability in any democracy, particularly when the matter is literally one of life and death for thousands.
This reticence is not surprising, considering that the political establishments in both countries witnessed no organised dissension against the war plans. To a limited degree, anti-war voices were raised within Blair’s Labour Party, but the official opposition was committed far more ardently to the war enterprise. And in the U.S., with no more than a handful of exceptions, the Democratic Party joined the ruling Republicans in voting for the resolution authorising Bush’s war. It is easier today for the opposition politicians on both sides of the Atlantic to feign a sense of outrage at being misled, than to admit that they were willing dupes. Enforcing accountability on the government that misled them, involves admitting their own acquiescence in the deception.
Unravelling the full dimensions of the disinformation that led to war, would also place upon the political establishments in the U.S. and the U.K., the onus of determining the true reasons for the invasion of Iraq. That is not a task that either country is prepared to address, since the invasion reeks of the crassest motives of colonial conquest. It also reveals an anxiety in the Anglo-American imperial cabal to attend to an unfinished colonial agenda in the Arab world. Cracks in the façade though are becoming increasingly common as public disquiet over the imperial pickle mounts. Questions being raised from the heart of the American political establishment, have unsettled prevailing conspiracies of silence. And old tactics of suppressing these voices are proving increasingly ineffective.
IRAQ AND ISRAEL: WHEN A PERMITTED RHETORICAL LINKAGE BECOMES ANTI-SEMITISM
On May 6, Ernest Hollings, a senior U.S. Senator due to retire in 2005, wrote in his hometown newspaper in South Carolina, that it was amply clear what was “not the cause” of the war in Iraq. If there were any WMD in Iraq, he continued, Israel would know and Israel “would long since have” directed the U.S. to the appropriate places. Why then was the war launched, with no conceivable threat lurking in that quarter? The answer for Hollings was crystal clear: “President Bush’s policy to secure Israel”. Bush had entered office, he charged, with little else than the single thought of re-election in mind. By handing out huge tax cuts, he hoped to “hold his crowd together”, and by invading Iraq and securing Israel, he hoped to “take the Jewish vote from the Democrats”.[lxi]
There were howls of outrage all around. Two weeks later, Hollings took to the floor in the Senate and fiercely defended his remarks, demanding an apology from AIPAC for the predictable slur of “anti-Semitism”, which had been hurled at him.[lxii]
As an 82-year old veteran with no further political ambitions, Hollings could afford some blunt talk. But Anthony Zinni, the Marine Corps officer who retired as a four-star general, was different. When India and Pakistan fought a bitter and costly war in the heights of Kargil, Zinni, as incumbent chief of U.S. Central Command, was deputed by President Bill Clinton to intercede, and impress upon the Pakistani army brass that it had to call off its military adventure. After retirement from military service, Zinni was appointed the Bush administration’s special envoy for West Asia. Though a man with bipartisan approval and a political future, he chose recently to speak his mind in a manner certain to alienate him from both parties in the U.S.
In words that would bring joy to the Democrats, Zinni damned the Bush administration’s war policy in a recent book. “In the lead up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw at a minimum, true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility; at worst, lying, incompetence and corruption”, he wrote.[lxiii] But no politician with ambitions on either side of the U.S.’s single party democracy, could have felt comfortable with his further inference, that the purposes of the war were the unstated ones of “stabilising U.S. interests in the region and strengthening Israel”.
Speaking on a widely-viewed programme, Zinni said in reference to a group of top policy advisors instrumental in devising the war plans: “I think it is the worst kept secret in Washington. That everybody – everybody I talk to in Washington has known and fully knows what their agenda was and what they were trying to do”. Zinni took no names on the programme, but he had on an earlier occasion named Wolfowitz and Feith from the Defence Department, and three other influential officials from the White House and the Vice President’s office, as the principal instigators of the war. It happened to be the case that all the five he named were Jewish. As he later observed with some outrage, he was soon enough at the receiving end of the “anti-Semitism” barb, though he was neither aware nor interested in the “ethnic religious background” of the individuals named.[lxiv]
Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and vigilant overseer of Israeli interests in the U.S., was soon in the fray, with a demand that these comments be renounced. “To hear such crudeness, such ugliness, such classical anti-Semitism, it is sad”, he said. And in a letter to Hollings, he wrote that his suggestions were “reminiscent of age-old, anti-Semitic canards about a Jewish conspiracy to control and manipulate government”.[lxv] Foxman also drew a connection between the voices that were speaking up, blaming Israel, and the old tendency to cast the Jews as the scapegoat for every social ill: “We knew that if things went wrong, they would look for someone to blame”.[lxvi]
At the same time, sections of the Israeli press were taking note of a tendency, which they identified from their point of view, as most disturbing. The U.S.’s problems in administering Iraq at least in part, were being seen to be derivative of its wholehearted backing of Israel’s policies towards the occupied Palestinian territories. Nicholas Kristof, a columnist in the New York Times, had for instance commented that the U.S. “embrace of (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon hobbles (it) in Iraq even more than those photos (of prisoner abuse) from Abu Ghraib”. Iraqis, said Kristof, “genuinely sympathise with the Palestinians”. And the U.S. in Iraq was unlikely to enjoy very much credibility as long as it continued patronising Sharon’s “bloodstained obduracy”.[lxvii]
The links between Israel and Iraq were being drawn in another direction too. Anthony Cordesman, a respected commentator on strategic affairs in the region, weighed in around the same time with counsel very similar to Kristof’s: that the U.S. should exert itself more sincerely and even-handedly to resolve the dispute between Israel and Palestine, as a vital element of its effort to regain credibility in the Arab world.[lxviii] Taking note of this new strain in thinking, Israel’s director of Military Intelligence warned late-May, that the U.S.’s “troubles in Iraq are liable to lead it to pay in the coin of pressure on Israel to counter the charge that it is one-sided”.[lxix]
The surge of resentment over the linkage being drawn now between the Iraq war and the interests of Israel must seem rather mystifying to anybody who recalls the official rhetoric of the U.S. in the buildup to the invasion. There was scarcely a flutter for instance, when Philip Zelikow, the well-connected establishment figure who then served on the U.S. President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, said in September 2002 that the true purpose of the war on Iraq was to neutralise “the threat against Israel”. Speaking to a university audience, Zelikow volunteered his belief that “this was a threat that dare not speak its name, because the Europeans don’t care deeply about (it)”. And it was not something that the U.S. government wanted “to lean too hard on .. rhetorically”, since it was “not a popular sell”.[lxx]
These remarks, pregnant with significance, occasioned no interest and indeed, soon sank into an ill-deserved obscurity from where they were retrieved only very recently. The lesson obviously, is that making the linkage between Israel and Iraq is permissible if you are on the right side of the ideological spectrum. To speak of it disparagingly, as is natural when the context shifts from the confident expectation of victory to the bitter realisation of defeat, is simply unacceptable.
By May 2003, the expectation of swift triumph seemed fulfilled. Iraq had capitulated and the Saddam Hussein regime had vaporised, but the reek of deception had begun to hang heavy in the air. The promised harvest of WMD stocks had failed to materialise, indeed, barely a seed had been found. Bush and Blair had begun to shift the discourse from active WMD inventories to the intent to produce, or a remote interest in the subject. U.S. Deputy Defence Secretary Wolfowitz then chose to reprise the Zelikow themes, though not in quite as unsubtle a fashion. Iraqi WMD stocks and ambitions were merely one among many reasons for the war, he said, and by no means the principal one. For bureaucratic reasons, WMD was what the Bush administration settled on as “the one issue that everyone could agree on”.[lxxi]
As an unabashed partisan of Israel, Wolfowitz’s remarks were read in various circles as an admission that the secret agenda of the war was the security of the Jewish state.[lxxii] In a book due to be published in October 2004, Anne Norton, a political theorist at the University of Pennsylvania, puts the point with unaccustomed force. Wolfowitz's world view after the September 11 attacks in the U.S., she says, were "built conceptually and geographically around the centrality of Israel". In this perception, U.S. interests and security were only advanced if they were seen as "identical to the interests and security of the state of Israel".[lxxiii]
In fairness, such an inference may seem far-fetched merely on the basis of what Wolfowitz said on record. All he suggested in fact, was that regime change in Iraq would establish more favourable circumstances for dealing with issues of concern to the wider region. In his precise words: “.. while it undoubtedly was true that if we could make progress on the Israeli-Palestine issue we would provide a better set of circumstances to deal with Saddam Hussein, … it was equally true the other way around, that if we could deal with Saddam Hussein it would provide a better set of circumstances for dealing with the Arab-Israeli issue”.
IRAQ IN THE WIDER CONTEXT OF REGIONAL GEOPOLITICS
This locution merits some attention. What Wolfowitz is suggesting is that the U.S. essentially had two options. It could take the course of seeking a resolution to the Israeli-Palestine issue and then turn its attention to Saddam Hussein, or it could do the reverse. And for reasons that he does not care to explain, the U.S. chose the latter course. Vice President Cheney, in an August 2002 speech that is credited with beginning the formal countdown to war, similarly hinted without elaboration, at a linkage between Iraq and Palestine. Among the advantages that could accrue from regime change in Iraq, he enumerated the following: “Extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of jihad. Moderates throughout the region would take heart. And our ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be enhanced, just as it was following the liberation of Kuwait in 1991”.[lxxiv]
Curiously, with the debate in the U.S. only incipient, Ehud Barak, Prime Minister of Israel between 1999 and 2001, felt emboldened to intervene. Writing in The New York Times, the soldier who made the customary -- and seamless -- Israeli transition, from swaggering feats of daring against unarmed Palestinians to political preeminence, commended the “extraordinary standard of strategic and moral clarity” that the U.S. had set by stating quite unequivocally that it intended to topple Saddam Hussein. While celebrating the democratic spirit of the “public debate”, he also hoped fervently that it would not “dilute” this moral clarity. The main benefit of removing Saddam lay in its demonstration value, since the Iraqi dictator had set an “example of defiance” that “other Arab leaders cannot and should not emulate”. A new generation of leaders was emerging in the Arab states, and an “Arab world without Saddam Hussein would enable many from this generation to embrace the gradual democratic opening that some of the Persian Gulf States and Jordan have begun to enjoy”. The removal of Saddam Hussein would also “create an opening for forward movement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”. It was, after all, the defeat of Iraq in 1991, that impelled Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to go to Madrid for the West Asia peace conference and subsequently conclude the Oslo accords with Israel.[lxxv]
Nestling within the Cheney and Barak postures is an interesting cyclical view of history. The struggle of the Palestinians, they suggest, goes through periodic upturns in intensity. Yet in every juncture of adversity, the conflict can be rendered manageable by attacking Iraq. It happened in 1991 and it is destined to happen again in 2003. By way of context, it may be noted that in 1991, the Palestinian uprising, expected to die out soon after it erupted in 1987, was raging with a passion never seen before. The war on Iraq essentially quietened things, and in the ambience of defeat that then enveloped the Arab world, it was easy to coax the Palestinians to the negotiating table and get them to accede to a so-called peace agreement drafted almost exclusively by the U.S. and Israel.[lxxvi]**
The two public interventions by Cheney and Barak, which occurred within the space of a mere ten days, are significantly different in one respect. Cheney spoke at length about the menace of Iraq's possession of WMD. Curbing this threat was an integral part of his design of the war. For Barak though, the purpose of the war was moral and didactic – to inflict another crushing defeat on the Arabs that would persuade them, finally, to change their ways.
The Israeli government was not sitting quiet all this while. According to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had sent messages to the U.S. administration in late-August, urging it not to delay the attack on Iraq. Any postponement, he said, would “not create a more convenient environment for action in the future”. Earlier, speaking to a committee of the Israeli Knesset, Sharon described Iraq as the “greatest danger facing Israel”. Asked specifically about the role that Israel could play, especially if Iraq were to react to a U.S. attack by launching a missile at Israel, Sharon was vague: “We do not know for certain if the U.S. will attack Iraq. … We are not intervening in U.S. decisions”. He did assure the Knesset committee though, that “strategic coordination between Israel and the U.S. has reached unprecedented dimensions”.
Israel’s Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, sent his own advisory through a media interview. “The problem today is not if, but when”, he said. He added that while attacking Iraq immediately would be “quite dangerous”, any delay would prove more so, as Saddam Hussein "will have more weapons”.[lxxvii]
AN ISRAELI MILITARY PROFESSIONAL LOOKS AT THE IRAQ THREAT
Curiously, the professional military assessment at the time, from General Moshe Ya’alon, chief of staff of the Israel Defence Force (IDF), was strikingly different. In an interview published on September 2, 2002, he was little short of disdainful about the supposed threat, describing Iraq’s capabilities as “shallow compared to what they were in the Gulf War (of 1991)”. He for one, was not suffering “sleepless nights” worrying about Iraq. There were possibilities, of course, that Iraq could launch a “missile or a plane” in the direction of Israel. “But we have good answers to that threat, and the threat itself is limited”, he said: “It might be unpleasant, but not terrible”.[lxxviii]
Ya’alon is a figure cast very much in the Israeli tradition of highly politicised military commanders. But his professional assessment of the threat posed by Iraq’s alleged WMD stocks, is entirely consistent with post-war findings. If Iraq needed to be tackled as a threat to Israel, then the danger was clearly not embodied in its WMD stocks or capabilities.
It is a striking feature of Israel's rather perverse civil-military equation that Ya'alon could afford to speak in this dismissive vein about Iraq, just days after his Prime Minister -- and commander-in-chief under the Israeli constitution -- had gone on record with his judgment on Iraq being the "greatest threat facing Israel". He could indeed, without so much as mentioning his Prime Minister's statement before the Israeli parliament, dismiss the threat from Iraq as inconsequential. A recent book by James Bamford, an expert in the U.S. intelligence and national security agencies, digs up a memo written in November 2003 by General Shlomo Brom, former head of the Strategic Planning Division of the Israeli General Staff. The document records that Israel "had not received any information regarding weapons of mass destruction and surface-to-surface missiles (in Iraq) for nearly eight years". Despite this, Bamford suggests, "the Israeli government, along with the media, deliberately hyped the dangers of Iraq before the war". Among those who have been identified as being responsible for the campaign of dissimulation are the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, and one of Prime Minister Sharon's principal advisors, Ranaan Gissin.[lxxix]
Why did Israel think it necessary to grossly exaggerate the threat from Iraq, and perhaps even falsify its intelligence findings to establish the point? A hint is conveyed in the IDF chief's broader reading of the security threats facing Israel. Though Iraq in itself was inconsequential as a threat, Moshe Ya'alon was not inclined towards complacency on the existential crisis facing Israel. Indeed, he was convinced that Israel at that juncture needed to respond to with maximum force and resolve to the challenge. With little to say on Iraq, Ya’alon was very clear that the Palestinians, and all they represented, were an existential threat to Israel. Warming to the theme and shedding all discretion, he described the threat as “invisible, like cancer”. “When you are attacked externally, you see the attack, you are wounded”, but cancer “on the other hand, is something internal”. Accurate diagnosis was crucial in this respect: “If the diagnosis is wrong and people say it’s not cancer but a headache, then the response is irrelevant. But I maintain that it is cancer. My professional diagnosis is that there is a phenomenon here that constitutes an existential threat”.
Ya'alon was categorical about the nature of the disease, and he was also convinced that all treatment options in needed to be kept open: “There are all kinds of solutions to cancerous manifestations. Some will say it is necessary to amputate organs. But at the moment, I am applying chemotherapy”.
Israel in March 2002 had begun the reconquest of territory yielded grudgingly to Palestinian self-rule under the Oslo accord. Tanks and heavy artillery, helicopter gunships and fighter aircraft, were all being pressed into service in the task of quelling the uprising that began in September 2000. As Ya’alon spoke metaphorically of “chemotherapy” to deal with the cancer afflicting Israeli society, and hinted at certain more radical cures he was holding in reserve, the IDF was playing out a grim and horrific scenario of destruction in Palestinian territories.[lxxx]
“Operation Defensive Shield”, launched in the Palestinian cities in March 2002, had been less than the cakewalk the IDF had expected, leading to a rapid escalation in the use of force, and a rampage of indiscriminate violence. Observers from the U.N. and the International Committee of the Red Cross, who were allowed to inspect the site of the worst violence in Jenin, were assailed with a sense of horror at the scale of destruction and loss of life.[lxxxi] There had been little abatement in the violence since. Notable Israeli milestones since in the use of force to bring civilisational virtues to the Palestinians, included a “targeted assassination” in September 2003, using a one-tonne bomb in a crowded residential quarter of Gaza City, which killed 15, including nine children.
As the IDF chief celebrated his moderation in applying "chemotherapy" rather than the more radical solutions that seemed warranted, a home demolition operation, unprecedented even by the IDF’s ferocious standards, was in progress in both the West Bank and Gaza. Relatives of suspected militants in the West Bank were being ejected from their homes and transferred to the Gaza strip. Mid-August, the Israeli High Court shredded all residual democratic pretence by denying the right of judicial review to those whose homes had been designated for demolition. A few days later, it refused to intervene in a case involving the expulsion of several Palestinian families.[lxxxii]
Ya’alon’s odious choice of metaphors drew some protests from liberal circles in Israel. But Sharon was quick to defend his outspoken military chief for his sober and accurate “assessment of reality”. That should have occasioned some puzzlement, since Ya’alon’s reading of the threat from Iraq -- the resonant motif in the din of war being raised then by the Bush administration -- was totally contrary to the orthodoxy. To reconcile these two seemingly opposed readings, it is necessary to attend to the hidden sub-texts of Sharon’s remarks, and to understand his reference to the “threat from Iraq” in a deeply metaphorical sense. A politician active on the world stage has to adopt certain restraints on speech. But a military professional speaking to a domestic audience can afford a more brutal idiom without putting in jeopardy the trust of the political establishment.
Ya’alon’s remarks reflect a deeply internalised worldview – one that he shares with the Israeli political establishment. All talk of a Palestinian struggle against “occupation” is inaccurate in his estimation, since Israel had offered generous territorial concessions in July 2000 to enable the Palestinians to take charge of their destiny. In rejecting these peace overtures, the Palestinians made starkly evident their disinterest in a mutually beneficial territorial settlement, and underlined their ultimate goal of destroying the state of Israel.
The visible manifestations of a Palestinian society being bloodied and brutalised by indiscriminate military force were for Ya’alon, deceptive. The Palestinians in fact, came into their confrontation with Israel with two kinds of asymmetrical advantages. First, though Israel had no intention to “annihilate them”, the Palestinians were unwilling to recognise the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. And the second was the ironclad Palestinian belief that “time was on their side” -- that with the “backing of a quarter-of-a-billion Arabs”, they could defeat Israel through a combination of “terrorism and demography”.[lxxxiii]
THE QUESTION OF DEMOGRAPHY
The significance of Ya’alon’s comments was immediately apparent to 187 scholars and intellectuals, who signed a letter of “urgent warning” on September 29, 2002. Their basic concern of this group, which described itself as "members and friends of Israeli academe", was stated quite bluntly in the title: “The Israeli government may be contemplating crimes against humanity”. Describing their horror at the "U.S. buildup of aggression towards Iraq and the Israeli political leadership’s enthusiastic support for it”, the signatories spoke of their deep worry that in the distraction afforded by the “fog of war”, the Israeli government could “commit further crimes against the Palestinian people, up to full-fledged ethnic cleansing”.
The theme was taken up in a letter issued by 800 American academics in December that year, calling for “vigilance” as events “unfold(ed) in Israel and the Occupied Territories”. With the U.S. handing out an average of “$ 10 million every day” as aid in various guises to Israel, U.S. citizens could not “remain silent as crimes as abhorrent as ethnic cleansing are being openly advocated”. The group of 800 urged the U.S. government to “communicate clearly to the government of Israel that the expulsion of people according to race, religion or nationality would constitute crimes against humanity and (would) not be tolerated”.[lxxxiv]
The Israeli military chief’s dark references to “demography” -- which in the Israeli political discourse, is a euphemism for the proportion between the Jewish and Palestinian people -- lay bare an almost pathological fixation in Israel.[lxxxv] An authoritative study of the semi-official Israeli policy of “population transfers” has laid out the life-cycle of this pathology from 1949 on.[lxxxvi] As the Zionist state has acquired durability without achieving maturity, this pathology has shown little signs of moderation, indeed, only of greater virulence. Pro-natal policies for Israeli women were introduced in 1949, to encourage higher reproduction. In the following years this concern tended to be relatively muted, because waves of Jewish immigration had begun tilting the demographic balance. Within a decade of Israel's declaring itself a reality in global geopolitics, the pioneering Zionist error in allowing a smattering of Arab families to cling on to their habitations through the ethnic cleansing of 1948, became evident.[lxxxvii] As Jewish immigration tapered off, the Arab population surged towards 15 per cent of the total within the land administered by Israel.
With the conquest of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, demography became an obsession in Israel. Till 1966, official commissions could turn in reports urging that a “transfer” of the Arab population – of course, always prefixed with the proviso that it would be “voluntary” – could be considered a viable solution. With the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, this line of advocacy became enmeshed with the unappeased territorial ambitions of the Jewish state, and reignited the most virulent strains of ethnic revanchism in Israeli politics. The ethnic cleansing of 1948 had secured strategically secure borders and a tenuous Jewish identity for the state of Israel. The 1967 war added territory and enhanced chauvinist pride, but brought in its train a demographic problem that worked against Israel's professed identity. Israel's supposedly unalterable destiny as the world's only Jewish state in turn, undermined its pretensions of being a democracy.
Israel did not lack options. The international community demanded that the occupation be vacated. The U.S. contrived in the drafting of the two relevant U.N. resolutions, to make this a conditional outcome of a durable peace in the region. In the process, the Israeli establishment acquired the space to work out a response that addressed the lowest elements of its political life. “Demography” from then on, became an element in the competitive extremism of left and right in Israel. The left retained a conviction that partition was inevitable in historic Palestine, since the annexation of all the occupied territories would involve either a fatal dilution of Israel’s ethnic identity, or population transfers on a scale beyond political feasibility.[lxxxviii] The right, in contrast, believed that all of historic Palestine belonged to Israel, but was never able to build a convincing case about how Israel's instincts for territorial aggrandisement could be appeased, while retaining its character as a Jewish state. Both left and right agreed, that reengineering the demography of Palestine was necessary. Their differences in this respect, were merely in degree.[lxxxix]
This is the template against which the trajectory of the “peace process” begun under the Oslo accords is best viewed. It is indeed, key to understanding the many areas of ambiguity that were built into the Oslo accord by its authors, in particular, the silence on the internationally recognised rights of the Palestinian refugees and the future of Israeli settlements.
Tanya Reinhart, the Israeli linguistics scholar and peace activist has recently laid out the entire course of the peace process, foreordained for doom, with surpassing courage and honesty.[xc] The story is of the Israeli government, irrespective of partisan stripe, tailoring its policies to the most extreme demands, and ignoring the constituency for peace. It is of successive Prime Ministers manoeuvring the Palestinians into a cul de sac, forcing them to make one of two choices: a complete capitulation or a final break. Israel was prepared to capitalise on both outcomes. Capitulation would make sections of the Palestinians accomplices in their own subjugation, relieving Israel of the onerous burden of policing its occupation. The final rejection of the peace plan would enable the Israeli political establishment to paint the Palestinians as obdurate and unreasonable, intent on little less than the destruction of Israel. The domestic constituency for peace, already isolated, would be completely snuffed out and a solid consensus established on a strategy of military repression.
As Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak supposedly offered the Palestinians a deal of unprecedented generosity at the Camp David talks brokered by U.S. President Bill Clinton in July 2000. The details of this offer remain obscure to this day. Reinhart has assembled all the available evidence and found that the Israeli offer was in fact, derisory, almost contemptuous. The territorial concessions were niggardly, but the Palestinians could conceivably have accepted them if they had been part of a graduated path towards expanding autonomy. But Israel offered nothing here, insisting instead on inserting an “end of conflict” clause into the deal.[xci] This would essentially have meant that all future possibilities of dialogue would be extinguished, that the Palestinians would essentially be compelled to surrender all internationally acknowledged rights to restitution, and that all relevant U.N. mandates – including resolution 194, which demanded the return of the refugees, and resolutions 242 and 338 which instituted the principle of land for peace – would be inoperative.
Having successfully painted the Palestinians into a corner and provoked a breakdown of the peace negotiations, Barak then contrived to have Sharon undertake his infamous swagger through the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem in September 2000, fanning aflame the long-festering resentments of an occupied people.[xcii] In just seven years, the tacky promise of the Oslo accords had been engulfed in the fury of the Al-Aqsa intifada. In the bargain, as though by deliberate design, Barak handed over the leadership of Israel’s deeply militarised society, dangerously steeped in racist arrogance and contempt, to Ariel Sharon, whose credentials as a war criminal make his own look pale.[xciii]
In January 2001, when a new administration was taking office in the U.S., Israeli politics was in the throes of an election campaign. Barak brought to the campaign a proposal to revive the peace talks with the Palestinians on the basis of an informal framework agreement reached at the Egyptian resort town of Taba that month. He offered little beyond his Camp David proposals, but through his envoys, held out a threat that was implicitly backed up by the U.S. The Palestinians had no choice but to accept. As the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv reported, U.S. President Clinton allegedly told the Palestinian leadership that if they did not answer affirmatively, it would be proof that they were not interested in peace. “In such a situation”, warned Clinton, Barak would declare war on the Palestinians, and the U.S. would support him.[xciv]
This was Barak at his most generous. But he was also prepared with a fallback option. In October 2000, with the intifada into its fourth week and Palestinian casualties in excess of 100, Ephraim Sneh, Deputy Defence Minister in the Barak cabinet, unveiled his plan for a “unilateral separation”, involving the erection of barriers to mark Israel’s borders, and the corralling of the Palestinians into dispersed -- and to the extent possible, non-contiguous -- pockets of territory, where they would be granted just sufficient autonomy to maintain the peace and ensure Israel’s security. Barak and other senior aides had hinted at the plan for some time prior, but Sneh’s exposition on Israeli radio was the first time it was formally aired in the public domain. The idea of separation, said Sneh, was that “if we don’t have agreement with the Palestinians, we would try to shape the reality here in the closest possible way to what we would like to achieve through agreement”.[xcv]
Ariel Sharon, then gearing up for a challenge to Barak, had evidently been shown the bare essentials of the separation plan, though he was convinced it was a mistake. Israel could not afford to give up “historic and strategic assets” without an assurance that it would lead to the “end of the conflict”.[xcvi] Barak’s intention in taking Sharon into confidence had been to win his support and shore up his crumbling parliamentary majority. But Sharon was not taking the bait. He was more interested in forcing a contest for prime ministership. It was a prize he had pursued in vain for decades, often finding that his brutal past and utter contempt for the Palestinians, were excessive even by Israel’s permissive standards. In the circumstances that prevailed in February 2001, he not merely won, but did so by a margin unprecedented in Israel’s history.
Ideologically driven to claim a “Greater Israel” all through his years in politics, Sharon began to display a glimmer of pragmatism after his ascent to the prime ministership. By August 2001, it was widely reported that he had thrown his weight behind “unilateral separation”. According to Ha’aretz, an initiative had been made by “several politicians from Labour and Likud” to “set up a movement backing unilateral separation from the Palestinians”. The ideological guru of the movement was Arnon Sofer, a demographer from Haifa University, best known for his dire prediction that “in the year 2020 the Jews will constitute a minority in the geographical expanse between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea”.[xcvii]
Sofer’s demography was always imbued with deep undertones of racist contempt. He was closely connected to the Israeli ruling establishment, and was involved in the “Judaization of Galilee” project. In 1991, he wrote that the “demographic problem constitutes the paramount problem to the foundations of the Jewish-Zionist state”, which demanded “bold and difficult decisions .. before it (became) too late”. In 1995, he stated publicly that the “wombs” of the Arab women were the most serious threat that Israel faced. The public outcry from Israel’s Arab citizens went largely unremarked, and the government brushed off the demand for an apology with the plea that university personnel were immune to government stricture.[xcviii]
Sofer has perhaps been Israel’s most persistent propagandist on the demographic threat, but he has wavered in his preferred choice of solutions. He has in the past, favoured a withdrawal from most of the West Bank and Gaza to avoid the danger of a dilution in the Jewish identity of Israel. The core of the problem in his estimation, is within the pre-1967 borders of Israel. He has given expert opinions to the Israeli government in the past on the “technical feasibility” of population transfer, but disfavoured it on grounds of the global odium it would attract.[xcix] In more recent works, Sofer has rung alarm bells on the growth of the Arab minority within the pre-1967 borders of Israel. The “deterministic processes” of demography and reproduction in his view, were “destroying Israel”. And the Jewish state was not going to “succeed with democracy and pretty words”. The problem in Galilee and Negev (the northern and southern extremities of Israel’s pre-1967 borders) was acquiring crisis proportions. And unless it was dealt with under “an emergency regime”, it would take a “dictator” to accomplish the task in another three to five years.[c]
A few months into his prime ministership, Sharon reportedly had requested Sofer’s statistics and been briefed on the “separation map” he had prepared. Benjamin Ben-Eliezer of the Labour Party, then the Defence Minister, had also received all the relevant material.[ci] The stage was set for the great ideological convergence between left and right in Israeli politics. And it was symbolised in the separation fence – more accurately called the “apartheid wall” – that was begun along most of the “Green Line” demarcating the West Bank from Israel’s pre-1967 border.[cii] True to form, the Israeli government was not unduly discomfited by international outrage over the wall. But in Israel’s bitterly divided political milieu, the historic compromise of left and right elicited vigorous protests. The far-right element denounced the betrayal of the vision of "Eretz Israel", the greater Jewish nation that recognised no other identity between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean. The separation fence would unavoidably be taken to represent a final border, they protested, and the Jewish settlements in many parts of the West Bank would be effectively abandoned.
The architects of the wall had to walk a tenuous line between the pragmatic requirements of national security and the right-wing Zionist ideology that many of them were nurtured on. The Israeli government’s decision making on the wall has always been a closely guarded, highly secretive process. The International Court of Justice, which heard a reference from the U.N. General Assembly on the legality of the wall, was told through informal channels that “the routes and timetable” of the wall were “subject to modification”. There was no effort to explain the criteria in accordance with which the routes would be modified, if needed.
Clearly, the pattern of decision making as pieced together by the ICJ, indicates the overarching compulsion to accommodate the most extreme instincts of the Jewish settlers’ movement. The works currently underway, the ICJ observed in a judgment delivered early in July, “deviate more than 7.5 kilometres from the Green Line in certain places to encompass settlements, while encircling Palestinian population areas”.[ciii] Certain sections of the wall on which a degree of clarity is available, have already caused serious disruption of Palestinian communities. Phase A of the wall, which extends for a distance of 150 kilometres, was declared completed on July 31, 2003. “It is reported”, observed the ICJ, “that 56,000 Palestinians would be encompassed in enclaves”, as a consequence of this wall. Phase B of the wall according to information made available to the court, may not be built. But Phase C, involving the construction of two barriers, when completed, would create “two enclaves… encompassing 72,000 Palestinians in 24 communities”.[civ]
The historic convergence of left and right on the idea of unilateral separation represents a meeting of minds – of sorts – on the nature of the self-governing arrangement that the Palestinians would be permitted. The differences between the two sides have been partly about nomenclature. Labour was willing to concede the Palestinians at least the appellation of a “State”, which Likud was always dead-set against. Sharon’s famous description of 1999 was that a Palestinian state would mean “national suicide” for Israel. Once settled into prime ministerial office, Sharon seemed inclined to move towards a more accommodating concept.[cv] And this was a realisation he was driven to by the compulsions of demography. The immigration of world Jewry into Israel was in Sharon’s perspective the “most important thing” facing the Israeli nation, perhaps next only to the importance of winning the war on terrorism. Immigration was important from the “demographic perspective”, he said, though the fear of losing the “Jewish majority” struck him “as a bit strange”. Disparaging the anxieties that had been voiced by Labour leader Shimon Peres, then a coalition partner, Sharon concluded: “We never offered Arab residents of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) to become citizens of Israel. Even those who will stay in the areas we retain after settlement will be Palestinian citizens not Israeli citizens. This is clear”.[cvi]
Citizens of a state without a territory – that was the curious destiny that Sharon was fashioning for the Palestinian people. There was as yet not the slightest hint that Israel was willing to dismantle its settlements or even contain their expansion – only that the Palestinians corralled into tiny, unsustainable enclaves by Israel’s ambitions, would be assured of citizenship in a state whose territorial jurisdiction lay elsewhere. Even this illusory concession required a profound conversion on Sharon's part and was achieved only against serious political odds. In March 2003, just around the time the U.S. was promising to release the long-delayed "road map" to peace -- linking it by temporal coincidence, with the war plans in Iraq -- Sharon was still demanding amendments. In particular, he demanded that all references to a Palestinian state should be deleted or qualified with the proviso that the political entity representing the Palestinians would enjoy "certain attributes of sovereignty".[cvii] In December 2002, Sharon addressed a conference on Israel’s security at Herzliya, just outside Tel Aviv, and spelt out the terms under which he would permit a limited degree of Palestinian self-government.[cviii]
Yet, with even these rather mean-spirited concessions, Sharon was going against the grain of all that his right-wing Likud party stood for. In May 2002, in a move inspired as much by factional jealousies as ideology, Sharon’s main rival for party leadership, Binyamin Netanyahu, spearheaded a vote by the Likud central committee to rule out any Palestinian state for all time. Following his December 2002 declaration, Sharon was similarly pilloried by his party colleagues and urged to quit the Likud if he could not keep faith with its basic creed.[cix]
Sharon’s ultimate apostasy came in December 2003, on the one-year anniversary of his declaration of the conditions under which a Palestinian state would be permitted. Once again using the annual Herzliya conference on security for a major policy announcement, he effectively embraced unilateral separation as official policy. “If there is no progress toward peace in a matter of months, then Israel will initiate the unilateral security steps to disengage from the Palestinians”, he announced.[cx] The disengagement would involve the closure of some Israeli settlements in the Gaza and the West Bank, but the strengthening of certain others. Palestine would in effect, become a shriveled up territorial entity, broken up into fragments, dotted with heavily protected Jewish settlements and traversed by roads that would remain off bounds for Palestinians.
The Bush administration was effusive in its response, professing itself “very pleased” with the overall tenor of the speech, before insisting rather implausibly, that it favoured a negotiated outcome rather than unilateral disengagement. The Palestinian Authority was convinced that the Sharon disengagement had been discussed with Washington well before its announcement.[cxi] And the chief Palestinian delegate to the peace talks, Saeb Erekat, said that the unilateral plan might conceivably help Sharon make peace with the Israelis, though not with the Palestinians.[cxii]
Erekat’s assessment though, seemed to grossly misread the level of consensus within the Israeli political establishment. In April 2004, Sharon formally submitted his disengagement plan to the U.S. government. He was, he said, “firmly” of the belief that it would be approved by both his cabinet and the Knesset. In his reply to Sharon's communication, Bush effectively snuffed out the two central demands of the Palestinians. The “new realities on the ground” -- or in other words, the Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land -- said Bush, made a “full and complete returns to the armistice lines of 1949” unrealistic. And the solution to the refugee issue would need to be found within the boundaries of the truncated Palestinian state that could come into existence following Israel’s formal annexation of all the occupied territory it deemed necessary.[cxiii]
What to the U.S. seemed just the right ingredients for a durable peace, were in common perceptions all around the rest of the world, a multiplication of the gross injustice that the Palestinians have long suffered. But to the Israeli political establishment, it was simply too generous. Shortly after Sharon returned in triumph with Washington’s endorsement for his disengagement plan, the membership of his Likud party rejected it, by an overwhelming 60 per cent vote.[cxiv] He proceeded to strong-arm his cabinet into endorsing the plans in the following weeks, including by dismissing some of the more recalcitrant ministers. The ultra-right parties that had joined him in coalition, left in anger, forcing Sharon once again to fall back on the political sustenance of the Labour party. But in yet another rebuff, the Likud central committee voted overwhelmingly to block the Labour party from joining any national unity government. And elements of the Labour party turned up the heat on its leadership, demanding an end to coalition talks and preparations for early elections.[cxv] Consensus within the Israeli polity was an elusive prospect, and in a further gesture defiance, settlers in the West Bank had begun a legal challenge to the government over the route it had chosen for the separation wall. The judicial ruling which ordered the fence moved “to avoid harming Palestinian rights”, they argued, ended up “infringing their rights instead”.[cxvi]
If withdrawal from the Gaza was ever on Sharon’s mind, his actions immediately after obtaining the Bush administration’s endorsement certainly did not suggest it. And neither did he have any problems summoning up a broad domestic political consensus in support of an armed incursion into Gaza in May 2004, that in sheer brutality, surpassed anything seen in Israel's three-and-a-half year long campaign to stamp out the Palestinian resistance. Again, the same cycle of indiscriminate violence and collective punishment was played out to a well-rehearsed script. The initial incursion into the Gaza town of Rafah at enormous cost of human life was followed by the announcement that Israel intended to demolish a large number of homes. The Israeli judiciary refused to render any justice, on the pretext that its jurisdiction could not be invoked in a situation of war. The Palestinian Authority appealed in vain for international sanctions and intervention to restrain Israel. Addressing an economic conference in neighbouring Jordan, Colin Powell gently rebuked the Israeli government, and with absolute lack of irony, Bush in distant Washington, told the annual conference of the AIPAC, that the “trouble” in Gaza only underlined the need for peace talks.[cxvii]
The brutal statistics of Israel’s ghoulishly misnamed “Operation Rainbow” in the Gaza Strip, are perhaps irrelevant for a people who have suffered over a half-century of dispossession. The number of people, including women and children, who have been killed, and the homes that have been demolished have become empty statistics that a world paralysed into inaction would rather not consider. A recent report from Amnesty International puts the case with as much numerical precision as is possible with a land and a people abandoned by the world: "More than 3,000 homes, hundreds of public buildings and private commercial properties, and vast areas of agricultural land have been destroyed by the Israeli army and security forces in Israel and the occupied territories in the past three and a half years. Tens of thousands of men, women and children have been forcibly evicted from their homes and made homeless or have lost their source of livelihood. Thousands of other houses and properties have been damaged, many beyond repair. In addition, tens of thousands of other homes are under threat of demolition, their occupants living in fear of forced eviction and homelessness".[cxviii]
If these actions do not measure up to the description of ethnic cleansing, then it is unclear what would. Indeed, the only question that seemingly needs to be addressed today is whether Israel’s actions rise to the definitions of the international convention on the prevention of genocide. That they amount to a systematic effort to destroy an entire nationality’s claim to exist on its land, is clear. And it is also clear that this was the intended end-game of the charade of the peace process that Israel played out over seven years. The pretence of territorial compromises to secure peace was only a diversion, designed to win the time to build up a domestic consensus for a final solution to the problem of the Palestinians.
WINNING TIME FOR A REARRANGEMENT OF THE POLITICAL GEOGRAPHY
For the U.S. in Iraq, May 2004 was the one-year anniversary of President George Bush’s famous declaration from the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, that “major combat operations” in Iraq had been concluded. With Iraq then in a state of full-fledged insurrection, he could certainly have hoped for a more propitious anniversary. Known enemies in the so-called “Sunni triangle” joined putative U.S. allies like the Shia in the south of the country, in a rebellion that had occupation troops stretched to breaking point. Using tactics remarkably similar to Israel's, U.S. military forces in May and June went into the restive town of Falluja and the shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala seemingly determined to raze down everything that they could not control.
The U.S.’s increasingly futile efforts to build up a body of Iraqi proxies who will police the occupation for it, also call to mind Israel’s single priority through the years of pretended peace negotiations. These symmetries provide the context for recalling how the U.S. has, since the Al Aqsa intifada began in September 2000, made every effort to provide the cushion for Israel to put into effect its expansionary plans, unencumbered by global scrutiny. It provides the background against which Iraq can be understood as the pivot around which the U.S.-Israeli strategy for the entire region revolves. The story of how the U.S. managed to stretch out the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians since the intifada erupted, always willing to play along with every pretext advanced by Israel for not fulfilling its part of any bargain, shows that the ground was being prepared for a decisive intervention which would turn the balance of advantage in Israel’s favour.
Ten days before he assumed office, George Bush met the top U.S. military strategists and commanders for a briefing on global trouble spots, where American interests could potentially be under threat. It was reported, on the basis of high-level leaks, that over half the 75-minute meeting was devoted to a discussion of Iraq. Just days prior, Colin Powell had reserved some of his toughest words for Iraq at his first interaction with the media since being nominated Secretary of State: “Saddam Hussein is sitting on a failed regime that is not going to be around in a few year’s time.” Eager to offset any impression of a policy failure under his watch, the outgoing Defence Secretary William Cohen made the case for moderation on Iraq: “Saddam Hussein’s forces are in a state where he cannot pose a threat to his neighbours at this point”.[cxix]
Two insider accounts of the Bush administration, by former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and one-time counter-terrorism advisor Richard Clarke, have since confirmed that Iraq was the consuming passion of its early days.[cxx] O’Neill was shown the door in December 2002, along with the Laurence Lindsey, the chair of the President’s council of economic advisors. It was assumed, with some justice, that the economic policy team had failed to credibly address the prolonged U.S. economic recession. More informed observers however, thought that Bush had just found the two most convenient scapegoats for a recession that he had recklessly aggravated with his tax cuts for the rich. But Lindsey had also attracted the war lobby’s ire by putting out an estimate that the proposed war in Iraq would cost between a hundred and two hundred billion dollars.[cxxi] It was a completely sober and realistic estimate, but not one calculated to broaden popular support for the war.
Lindsey’s story still awaits its narrator, and O’Neill does not say very much that an attentive newspaper reader would not know. By far the most compelling public testimony has come from Richard Clarke, former counter-terrorism expert in the U.S. President’s National Security Council. On September 11, 2001, Clarke found himself at the forefront of efforts to manage the situation arising from the most devastating attacks ever on U.S. mainland territory. The following day, he reported to his station in the expectation that he would be required to pinpoint “what the next attacks could be, what our vulnerabilities were, (and) what we could do about them in the short term”. Instead he records, he walked “into a series of discussions about Iraq”.
Clarke was aghast. And then he realised, “with almost a sharp physical pain that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were going to try to take advantage of this national tragedy to promote their agenda about Iraq”.[cxxii] As a committed bureaucrat with a long memory, Clarke at once thought back to an earlier meeting with Wolfowitz. His urgent proposals that action be initiated against the Al Qaeda terrorist network had been brusquely set aside, he recalls, since Wolfowitz was absolutely certain that “the focus on Al Qaeda was wrong”. Rejecting Clarke’s assertion – as also the CIA’s – that “there had been no Iraqi-sponsored terrorism against the United States since 1993”, Wolfowitz urged that the U.S. needed to “go after Iraqi-sponsored terrorism”.[cxxiii]
These seemingly contra-logical and paranoid political reactions need to be placed in context. The second Bush took office in January 2001, when the second Palestinian intifada was into its fourth month. The comprehensive economic sanctions against Iraq that the U.S. and the U.K. had, in complete isolation from world opinion, insisted on sustaining for a decade since the occupation of Kuwait was vacated, had run into a serious crisis of international legitimacy.[cxxiv] Arms inspections in Iraq were at an impasse, and in the perception of the international community, the blame for this situation was almost entirely to be borne by the aggressive and intrusive tactics adopted by the U.N. Special Commission under Richard Butler.[cxxv] For the first time since the war of destruction in 1991, it seemed that global opinion was mobilising to administer the U.S. and its few allies, the long overdue rebuff on Iraq policy.[cxxvi] A number of independent citizens' initiatives from countries as diverse as France, Russia, India and Jordan, had flown specially chartered aircraft into Baghdad to deliver humanitarian supplies in defiance of the embargo. The U.S. was itself under pressure to justify its continuing policy of punishing Iraq through comprehensive economic sanctions. And sympathy was building for Iraq all through the Arab world, which was by now thoroughly disillusioned by the U.S. failure to bring Israel around to a settlement with the Palestinians.
Certain elements in the new Bush administration, with what might seem prescience, had for some time, been warning that U.S. policy on Iraq was headed for failure. In January 1998, Paul Wolfowitz, then enjoying an academic break in Johns Hopkins University, joined Donald Rumsfeld and 16 others in addressing an open letter to President Bill Clinton. They began with a dire warning: “We are writing to you because we are convinced that current American policy toward Iraq is not succeeding, and that we may soon face a threat in the Middle East more serious than any we have known since the end of the Cold War”. Urging the U.S. President to use his upcoming “State of the Union Address” to lay out a “new strategy that would secure the interests of the U.S. and (its) friends and allies around the world”, the signatories urged him to turn his attention “to implementing a strategy for removing Saddam’s regime from power”. This strategy, they said, would “require a full complement of diplomatic, political and military efforts”.[cxxvii]
Just two months before, Wolfowitz had joined Zilmay Khalilzad, a U.S. national of Afghan origin, in urging much the same policy course.[cxxviii] Khalilzad was then engaged, on behalf of a major U.S. oil company, in complex negotiations with the Taliban regime for pipeline transit rights through Afghanistan.[cxxix] In the context of Iraq, he and Wolfowitz seemed principally concerned about the crumbling of the sanctions regime, with a spate of oil industry contracts being signed between the Iraqi government and Russian, French and Chinese companies in the preceding months. This overtly expressed anxiety, coupled with the involvement of a prominent industry lobbyist in the advocacy effort, may suggest that U.S. oil interests, with their voracious appetite for tapping new sources of supply, were instrumental in pushing the case for regime change in Iraq. This would undoubtedly be an accurate inference, though only to a limited degree. The broader geopolitics of the plan in Iraq and the interest groups behind it, go far beyond this rudimentary colonialist urge to seize the natural resources of other countries.
The deeper purposes of the war in Iraq, in fact, were outlined with remarkably clarity by a cabal of right-wing zealots in the U.S. -- all of them ardent champions of Israel's interests -- as far back as 1996. The strategic blueprint authored by a individuals who were later to assume several influential positions within the Bush administration, was primarily intended as a policy advisory for incoming Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Douglas Feith was among the signatories, though Wolfowitz was not. On board however, were two of Wolfowitz's colleagues from Johns Hopkins University -- Charles Fairbanks and Meyrav Wurmser. Leading the group was Richard Perle, then working with the right-wing advocacy group, the American Enterprise Institute. Perle was later to be appointed chairman of the Defence Policy Board in the Bush administration, before quitting under a cloud of financial malfeasance.
Released under the banner of the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies in July 1996 and titled A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, the document laid out certain well-rehearsed lines for publicly articulating the new policy directions.[cxxx] Thus, Netanyahu was advised to repudiate the peace process with the Palestinians and stake his claim to all of the land of Palestine in the following words: "Our claim to the land… is legitimate and noble. It is not within our own power, no matter how much we concede, to make peace unilaterally. Only the unconditional acceptance by Arabs of our rights, especially in their territorial dimension, …. is a solid basis for the future".
For the authors of A Clean Break, Israel was suffering a crisis of national resolve. "Notable Arab intellectuals", they said, "have written extensively on their perception of Israel's floundering and loss of national identity. This perception has invited attack, blocked Israel from achieving true peace and offered hope for those who would destroy Israel…. Israel's new agenda can signal a clean break by abandoning a policy which assumed exhaustion and allowed strategic retreat by re-establishing the principle of pre-emption, rather than retaliation alone".
There are rather suggestive and anticipatory hints here of the U.S. doctrine of "pre-emptive war", seen in all its tragic dimensions in Iraq. But more important is the manner in which Israel is advised to rearrange the political geography of West Asia. A pivotal role in the strategy is assigned to the Hashemite dynasty of Jordan, which till the revolution of 1958 presided fitfully and rather erratically over Iraq. Though there were phases of discord, the Hashemites in Iraq succeeded on balance, in sustaining a fairly friendly attitude towards Israel and the west. It is a period of Arab docility and subservience that the neoconservative ideologues in the U.S. today have reason to feel nostalgic about.
A Clean Break advises Israel to "shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing and even rolling back Syria". But in the complex chessboard of regional geopolitics, this is an endeavour that needs to follow a rather tortuous route. "This effort", say the authors of A Clean Break, "can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq - an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right - as a means of foiling Syria's regional ambitions". Circumstances were just right then for all other elements in the geostrategic plan to fall in place: "Jordan has challenged Syria's regional ambitions recently by suggesting the restoration of the Hashemites in Iraq. This has triggered a Jordanian-Syrian rivalry to which (then Syrian President Hafez) Assad has responded by stepping up efforts to destabilise the Hashemite Kingdom, including using infiltrations. Syria recently signalled that it and Iran might prefer a weak, but barely surviving Saddam, if only to undermine and humiliate Jordan in its efforts to remove Saddam".
Clearly, Syria is the main target. But rather than commence a frontal assault, Israel was advised to adopt a flanking manoeuvre through Iraq, since a "natural axis" with "Israel on one side, central Iraq and Turkey on the other, and Jordan, in the centre" would squeeze and detach Syria from the Saudi peninsula. This in turn would threaten the territorial integrity of Syria. The fundamentals of the approach to Iraq were outlined with remarkable clarity: "Since Iraq's future could affect the strategic balance in the Middle East (West Asia) profoundly, it would be understandable that Israel has an interest in supporting the Hashemites (of Jordan) in their efforts to redefine Iraq."
When A Clean Break was written in 1996, the U.S. was committed to extensive covert operations in Iraq, some of these under the cover of the United Nations Special Commission tasked with supervision of the disarmament process. An uprising in Iraq's northern region failed spectacularly in 1995. And the following year, a coup attempt launched by a group of Iraqi exiles in the Jordanian capital of Amman, was uncovered and crushed by Iraqi intelligence.[cxxxi]
THE HASHEMITE PLAN
In January 1999, David Wurmser of the American Enterprise Institute in Washington -- whose wife Meyrav was one of the signatories of A Clean Break -- published perhaps the most complete manifesto till date on the future of Iraq as ordained by the American right-wing.[cxxxii] In an extended ideological tract that breaches all rules of rigorous argumentation in the passion of its advocacy and in the intoxication of power, Wurmser argues effectively, that the U.S., which had twice in the twentieth century, "vanquished the dark European politics from which pan-Arabic nationalism sprang" had missed its great opportunity to repeat its feat in the Arab world. The U.S., in its role as the liberator from destructive political dogma, had achieved successive victories, "complemented in the regional context by Israel", that had "so weakened pan-Arabic nationalism by 1991 that a vacuum was left in the Arab world and the Middle East stood poised at an ideological crossroads". But sadly, the U.S. managed to defeat itself "by proferring victories to both pan-Arabic nationalism and fundamentalism, and by embracing the ideas we discredited in the cold war".[cxxxiii]
The "Middle East", Wurmser darkly warned, was "rapidly becoming a battlefield that disgraces and undermines our victory in the cold war".[cxxxiv] But all was not lost, since the "lethality" in evidence in the Arab world came not from "traditional aspects" of its culture, "but rather from the influence of radical European trends – totalitarianism striving to transform society".[cxxxv] It was neither the "robust U.S. policy" in the region "nor a continued presence" that was the cause of "anti-American hostility". The animus rather, emerged from the "internal character of totalitarian regimes". And Wurmser finds in defiance of all historical evidence, that "the traditional leadership of the Middle East rebelled against the Ottoman Empire but welcomed and cooperated with the British and even the Zionists, whom they viewed as a brotherly national movement". Only the radical, western-educated members of the Arab community, who, Wurmser adds parenthetically, had either "lived in Paris" or attended "Western-run local schools", rebelled against the benign Zionist intrusion.
Wurmser had a plan arising from this theoretical understanding of the state of Arab politics. The instrument of the plan was the Hashemite dynasty and its basic essence was the reassertion of the dynasty’s claim over Iraq. The geopolitical contest in the region, said Wurmser, "operates on a number of levels". One of these was to confront a crucial choice: to either persist with the "arrogant politics of modernity or to return to the tempered politics of tradition and evolutionary change".[cxxxvi] With such stakes to play for, U.S. policy should not be geared towards "assuming control of Iraq" though if the Hashemite King Hussen of Jordan and the Iraqi National Congress were not "resolutely supported", the U.S. could well "eventually be forced to revert to war, to end Saddam’s regime and occupy Baghdad".[cxxxvii]
As he wrote, Wurmser clearly believed that this extreme course would not be called for. Alternative instrumentalities existed in the Jordanian dynasty and the Iraqi National Congress, the body of exiles from Saddam’s regime that had begun to enjoy the active patronage of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency since 1992. A potentially fruitful phase of cooperation between the two had in fact begun in mid-1995, he pointed out. This was when King Hussein "moved to bring down Saddam Hussein", inspired by a particular kind of vision. The good king of Jordan "preferred to work with the Iraqi National Congress and to pursue a plan of politically organizing Iraq in a fundamentally different way.[cxxxviii] Though bruised by the failure of its uprising in northern Iraq in March 1995, the INC leader Ahmad Chalabi met King Hussein later that month in Washington D.C., records Wurmser. "The two agreed that they shared a common objective: to rid Iraq of Saddam and to do so with an insurgency crafted around the INC, rather than with a coup or with Ba’athist support".[cxxxix]
King Hussein overtly moved against the Iraqi regime on August 23, 1995, with a speech in which he claimed that the Iraqi people have always had a “special status in the hearts of Jordanians”. The Hashemites, he said, had a profound attachment to the ancient land of the Tigris and the Euphrates, since the “tombs of (the family’s) martyrs are studding the land of Iraq”.[cxl] Significantly, the shift occurred shortly after Hussein had signed a peace treaty with Israel, making Jordan the second Arab state after Egypt to do so. This was the time when Hussein was receiving two defecting sons-in-law of the Iraqi President and shifting from an openly professed attitude of sympathy. After long having sailed close to the winds of public opinion, Hussein publicly broke with Iraq by advocating a rearrangement of its polity. Dispensing with central rule from Baghdad, he suggested that Iraq should adopt a federal arrangement that would unite the Kurdish north, the Sunni centre and Shia south in a loose alliance.[cxli]
Hussein however, lost much of his sheen following the collapse of the pretended "peace process" with Netanyahu's assumption of power. And shortly before his death, his disinheritance of a brother and anointment of a son as heir, further split the Hashemite dynasty. A Clean Break was written as a guide to Israeli strategy until 2000. By the time the Palestinian intifada began in September 2000, it was evident that neither covert action nor regional proxies could quite transform the political geography of the region as required.
When Bush won the U.S. Presidency he brought three of the eight authors of A Clean Break into senior positions in the administration - quite apart from several others in the same ideological fraternity who found their way in through diverse routes. Though the principal author of the unfolding human tragedy of Iraq, the U.S. had found its efforts till then, frustratingly inconclusive. It had prolonged the sanctions against Iraq far beyond all legal and ethical justification, but not managed to foment a situation of mass unrest that would unseat the Saddam regime. It had pursued the option of decapitating the Iraqi leadership using covert intelligence gathered by weapons inspectors. And it had sought the option of sponsoring a mass insurrection to topple the regime. To add to the catalogue of failures, Israel's colonial mastery over the Palestinians was being frontally challenged by a popular uprising.
Bush's assumption of the presidency brought the diaspora of Israel fanatics in the U.S. -- who had sought temporary refuge in academia and private life during the pretence of a peace process with the Palestinians -- back to their natural habitat in the upper tiers in government. By January 2001, it was clearly time to shed all restraint and reenter the Iraq theatre with the full arsenal of coercion and destruction. The difference between the Democratic Clinton administration and the Republican Bush was at best, superficial. Clinton was willing to give the Palestinians an opportunity to participate in their own extinction and to keep Iraq under the jackboot of economic sanctions for as long as it took. Endowed with less patience and tolerance than the Clinton administration, and considerably more arrogant and unintelligent in its attitude towards other cultures, the Bush gang sought to simply drown out all questions through a massive display of military power. The destruction of Iraq was foretold in the 1991 war and the subsequent pretence of a peace process in Palestine. All that remained was the choice of occasion.
While the larger strategic response was being fashioned, the Bush presidency's priority was obviously to sustain Israel's military offensive against the Palestinians and its holding operation against growing international outrage. Sharon faced his first major international challenge a few weeks into his prime ministership. A committee appointed after the Sharm al-Sheikh peace summit in October 2000, (the Sharm al-Sheikh Fact Finding Committee, better known as the George Mitchell Committee after the former U.S. Senator who was its chair), came up with a number of recommendations to restore peace. Aside from the mandatory exhortations on the Palestinian Authority to crack down on terrorism and resume security cooperation with Israel, the committee urged the Israeli government to “freeze all settlement activity” in occupied territories. This applied to “natural growth”, which was the anodyne term employed to disguise the systematic colonisation of Palestinian land. The Mitchell committee was convinced that the kind of “security cooperation” that Israel demanded from the Palestinian Authority could not “for long coexist with settlement activity”.[cxlii]
True to form, Sharon responded by masking a rejection in the phraseology of acceptance. On May 22, 2001, he ordered the IDF to halt all preemptive actions against the Palestinians, but insisted that nothing would stop him from “providing for the settlements’ ongoing needs”. The settlements already had enough land and Israel did not need to expropriate any further to sustain them, he said. And if bypass roads needed to be “paved” for security reasons, they would be. In response to a specific question, he said: “We are not talking about a freeze” on Jewish settlements.[cxliii] This rather contrary set of remarks had been preemptively endorsed by the U.S., with Powell announcing the previous day – in a patent denial of a central point in the Mitchell report – that there was “no link” between a ceasefire and a settlement freeze.[cxliv]
By August 2001, Israel’s most vociferous lobbyists in the U.S. had begun pressing the case for a final solution to the Palestinian problem in strikingly explicit terms, suggesting an ethnic cleansing intent.[cxlv] All these champions of Israel were to become in quick time, full-throated advocates of a war against Iraq. The opportunity for this transition was provided by September 11.
In June 2002, Bush declared in obvious preparation for the Iraq war and with obvious intent to appease at least partly the expected outburst of Arab resentment, that his long-term vision of peace in Palestine, involved the creation of a Palestinian state within a three-year time-table. A “roadmap” to peace, embodying this vision, and endorsed by a global power syndicate comprising the U.S., the U.N., the Russian Republic and the European Union, he announced, would soon be drawn up and presented to the principals in the conflict.
Over the months that followed, the “road map” was a recurrent promise that U.S. diplomacy held out to the Arab world, though it was never unveiled for a full public dissection. In December 2002, with war preparations at fever pitch – and with U.S. intelligence agencies working at a frenetic pace to concoct appropriate grounds for military action – the road map was ostensibly presented in its bare outlines to both Israel and Palestine. Sharon declared his conditional endorsement. He would not explicitly commit himself to a three-year time-table for setting up a Palestinian state, preferring instead to lay down a number of performance-based tests that the Palestinians had to fulfil. “Israel will allow the establishment of a Palestinian state with temporary borders”, he declared. Without specifying any territorial jurisdiction, he merely affirmed that concessions made under the Oslo accords were “not retractable”. This essentially suggested a Palestinian state on about 42 per cent of the West Bank and 70 per cent of the Gaza, with its borders and airspace under Israeli military supervision. Palestine was to be a “demilitarised” state which would be permitted “police with light weapons”.[cxlvi]
In February 2003, virtually into the home-stretch of his war plans, Bush spoke for the first time since the previous June, on the conflict in Palestine. A successful conclusion to the war in Iraq, he said, would provide the basis for a final resolution of the problem in Palestine. The road map, he said, would shortly be unveiled for the world community to witness, endorse and support.[cxlvii]
With all these preliminaries, the road map was actually unveiled only in May 2003. In the brief flush of its supposed victory in Iraq, it seemed that the U.S. had won the exemption from international scrutiny that would allow it to push through a plan tilted unabashedly in favour of Israel’s expansionary ambitions. And Israel proceeded with little reserve to amend every term of the road map to suit its objectives. In December 2003, when Sharon announced his plans for unilateral separation, he still earned the applause of the U.S. and the U.K. for his scrupulous adherence to the road map.
[i] "U.S. Troops' Death Rate Rising in Iraq", The Washington Post, September 9, 2004, page A01.
[ii] Joseph L. Galloway, "The Numbers Game: Another Iraq Distraction", The Knight Ridder newspapers, August 9, 2004.
[iii] Patrick Cockburn, "Despair in Iraq Over the Forgotten Victims of U.S. Invasion", The Independent, September 9, 2004.
[iv] The demographer, Beth Osborne Daponte, directly challenged then Defence Secretary Dick Cheney's public claim that no precise estimates could be made of Iraq's war dead. Her exercise, following well-established demographic techniques, arrived at estimates that were a model of numerical precision: 13,000 civilians killed as a direct consequence of U.S. and allied attacks; 70,000 civilians killed as a consequence of war-related damage to basic services and infrastructure; and 40,000 soldiers killed by aerial assaults and the "turkey shoot" that accompanied the Iraqi army's tumultuous retreat from Kuwait. Peer review within the academic community upheld Daponte's findings. Subsequent revisions put the figure somewhat higher, at 205,000. (See Business Week online, February 6, 2003; downloaded from: www.businessweek.com:/print/bwdaily/dnflash/feb2003/nf2003026_0167_db052.htm?db.) The study itself was posted on the website of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and was found at: www.ippnw.org/MGS/PSRQV3N2Daponte.html. It is not clear that either of these links is good at the time of this writing, though a Google search may yield adequate results.
[v] On May 1, 2003, Bush declared from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, that major combat operations in Iraq were over. He spoke against a background blazoned with the slogan: "Mission Accomplished". The words he spoke did not linger long in public memory, but the slogan did. Identifying the author of that slogan has become a part of the toxic blame-game that has been unleashed in the U.S. political establishment by the near certainty now that the war in Iraq is hurtling towards failure.
[vi] Niko Price, Associated Press writer, Dateline: Baghdad, December 10, 2003.
[vii] Bassem Mroue writing for the Associated Press on September 8, 2004.
[viii] Dexter Filkins, "One by One, Iraqi Cities Become No-Go Zones", The New York Times, September 5, 2004. The writer quotes an irate American general telling an assembly of tribal chiefs from the city of Samarra, north of Baghdad, that "not a dime of American taxpayers' money will come into (their) city unless (they) help (the U.S.) to drive out the terrorists". No commitments were made by the tribal leaders, who seemed to share the growing consensus that the best route to securing the peace was to keep the U.S. troops out. The writer then observes that the U.S. seems by implication, to have conceded the case, "since the cost to prove otherwise would be too high". "Even in once-friendly Shiite areas", he continues, "the Americans are giving way to local demands that they stay away".
[ix] Robert Burns for the Associated Press, "Rumsfeld Says Iraqis Will Retake Cities", in The Guardian, September 7, 2004.
[x] "Coalition holds off efforts to take rebel-run cities", Christian Science Monitor, September 13, 2004, available at: www.csmonitor.com/2004/0913/p01s04-woiq.html.
[xi] The Associated Press, "U.S. Troops Lay Siege to Iraqi City", in The New York Times, September 10, 2004.
[xii] Patrick Cockburn, "Turkey reacts with fury to massive U.S. assault on northern Iraqi city", The Independent, September 12, 2004.
[xiii] Initial news reports from BBC World Service spoke of this incident in all its graphic details. The rationale though was subtly changed after the magnitude of the fiasco became evident. The New York Times on September 13, subtly changed the purpose of the mission to self-defence. The helicopter, it suggested, had come under small-arms fire from a gathering on the ground and had only retaliated.
[xiv] Sabrina Tavernise, "Scores Are Dead After Violence Spreads in Iraq", The New York Times, September 13, 2004.
[xv] The report of this incident in The Scotsman of September 15 quotes Ahman Mohammad, who suffered serious injuries in the attack and could barely speak from the trauma of seeing bodies mutilated at the scene of the attack. He blamed the U.S. for the tragedy in a "modest lower-middle-class neighbourhood where everyone cared about everyone". There was little to suggest that the U.S. occupation forces were involved in the attack. But what Bush and his cronies designated as the "liberation force" in Iraq had clearly become in popular perception, the fount of all ills.
[xvi] A brief examination of the evolution of airpower doctrine in Iraq is available in this author's article (written under the name S.M. Menon), "Terror Bombing, Mechanical Force…", Economic and Political Weekly, January 2-9, 1999
[xvii] The figures are available at the time of this writing at http://www.palestinemonitor.org/new_web/What_lull_palestine_israel.htm. This is the 25th in a sequence of information dossiers issued by the Palestine Monitor website under the title "In Focus".
[xviii] "Report on Iran Key to Spying Inquiry", The Los Angeles Times, August 29, 2004.
[xix] "Selective Intelligence", Annals of National Security, The New Yorker, issue dated May 12, 2003.
[xx] As the senior Democratic senator on the committee put it, they would "pursue a better understanding" of the role played by OSP and other bodies in pre-war intelligence. (The Boston Globe, op.cit.)
[xxi] "Shalom: Mole affair is exaggerated 'media nonsense'", Ha'aretz, August 31, 2004.
[xxii] "Leak Probe More Than 2 Years Old", The Washington Post, September 2, 2004.
[xxiii] The Jewish campaign magazine, Forward, reported on September 10, that leading pro-Israel foreign policy analysts in Washigton DC, had drafted a memorandum criticising the Bush administration for "not refuting press reports that the FBI's investigation (pointed) to wrongdoing on the part of Jewish officials at the Defence Department". ("Neocons Blast Bush's Inaction on 'Spy' Affair", at http://www.forward.com/main/article.php?ref=perelman20040909327.). Another report in the same forum spoke of legislators and Jewish organisational leaders "questioning the motivation for the investigation and its two-year course". They stressed that no indictments had emerged, "only leaks from administration officials familiar with the FBI probe". ("White House Draws Fire from Congress, Officials Over Leak of FBI Probe", Forward, September 10, 2004, at: www.forward.com/main/article.php?ref=nir20040909324).
[xxiv] Summary findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Pre-War Assessments of Iraq, page one.
[xxv] Kelly committed suicide shortly after appearing before a parliamentary committee inquiring into the provenance of a BBC broadcast that claimed Blair and his senior aides had “sexed up”, or embellished, professional intelligence inputs on Iraq’s weapons program. As a senior scientist in the weapons establishment who had been involved in the U.N. inspections process in Iraq, Kelly was reportedly identified as the source of the story by the Prime Minister’s office. Unable to cope with the limelight and the loss of professional status, Kelly took his own life. Lord Hutton was appointed commissioner of inquiry shortly afterwards. And his report, submitted in January 2004, led to the resignation of the BBC Director-General Greg Dyke, and chairman Gavin Davies. The public credibility of the report though was something else. Scott Ritter, the former U.S. marine who had worked for years on Iraqi weapons inspections commented in The Guardian of January 20, 2004, that the report had “an almost Alice in Wonderland aura”. By focusing on a single news story broadcast by the BBC, he said, Hutton had “created a political smokescreen behind which Blair is seeking to distract the British public from the harsh reality that his government went to war based on unsustained allegations that have yet to be backed up with a single piece of substantive fact”. Editorially, The Guardian commented the same day: “For the government, the sweet taste of Hutton has soon turned to dust. Two polls, taken in the immediate aftermath of the inquiry, show the public to be considerably unimpressed with the balance of the learned judge’s findings. Most people considered Lord Hutton to have been unfair on the BBC. Many more people prefer to place their trust in the BBC than the government. And more people believe Tony Blair should have resigned than the BBC director-general, Greg Dyke”.
In memoirs that were serialised in sections of the British press late-August 2004, Dyke hit back strongly. He made the perfectly reasonable -- and for the public, entirely credible -- accusation, that Blair had either been deceitful or incompetent in making his case for war. Lord Hutton, who headed the inquiry into the Kelly suicide, was in Dyke’s assessment “not on the same planet”. And Blair’s principal aide then, director of communications Alastair Campbell, was described as “deranged and vindictive”. (See “Dyke: Blair’s world of ‘lies and bullying’”, The Observer, August 29, 2004; and “No 10 unmoved by Dyke attack”, The Guardian, August 30, 2004.)
[xxvi] Peter Oborne, “High Crimes and Misdemeanours”, (Cover Story), The Spectator, August 28, 2004.
[xxvii] As Price puts it: “One MP is all it takes to make the accusation of high crimes and misdemeanours against a public official for an impeachment process to begin. Once an MP has presented his or her evidence or misconduct to the Commons in a debate, and if a majority of elected members agree there is a case to answer, a committee of MPs is established to draw up articles of impeachment, which will list each charge individually. The case (then) goes before the Lords”. (“Now for the politics of last resort – impeach Tony Blair”, The Guardian, August 26, 2004.)
[xxviii] “Hussein Says He Welcomes U.N. Inspections, Decries U.S.”, The Washington Post, December 5, 2002. Also, the interviews with Tony Benn, veteran British Labour politician, and Dan Rather, principal news anchor of the U.S. television network CBS News.
[xxix] A Reuters reported datelined Baghdad, December 25, 2002, carried in Gulf News, December 26, 2002.
[xxx] “The Saddam Hussein interview”, broadcast on Channel 4 (U.K.), February 4, 2003, and posted on the website on February 5: www.chanel4.com/news/home/z/stories/20030204/saddam_benn.html.
[xxxi] The Washington Post, op. cit.
[xxxii] “Denial and Deception”, The New York Times, June 24, 2003.
[xxxiii] Arms Control Association, July 9, 2003.
[xxxv] Arms Control Association, find the issue of ACT.
[xxxvi] This report, entitled “Iraq on the Record: The Bush Administration’s Public Statements on Iraq”, is available at www.house.gov/reform/min/pdfs_108_2/pdfs_inves/pdf_admin_iraq_on_the_record_rep.pdf, at the time of this writing. It will be referred to henceforth as the “Waxman paper”.
[xxxvii] Page 4
[xxxviii] On the other hand of course, it could be because with war inevitable, there was less need on the part of the Bush cabal to talk about it.
[xxxix] Find the references: Dilip Hiro; Washington Post; etc. On July 29, 2002, Rolf Ekeus, the Swedish diplomat who headed the U.N. Special Commission overseeing Iraq’s disarmament between 1991 and 1997, gave an interview to a Swedish radio station, in which he stated that the U.S. often used the weapons inspection process to further its own intelligence agenda. “There were some, especially the U.S., who were interested in getting hold of information about other forms of capacity (than WMD)”, he said: “For example, how was Iraq’s security forces organised; what was the conventional military capacity”. There were also efforts he said, “to gather information about .. the location of president Saddam Hussein, which could be of interest if one were to target him personally”. The U.S.-based campaign to end the sanctions on Iraq, Voices in the Wilderness, translated the interview which was in Swedish into English, and posted it on their website. The original in Swedish was posted at www.sr.se/pl/godmorgonvarlden/sounds/Godmorgonvarlden2.ram shortly after broadcast.
[xl] Agency reports dated September 7, 2002.
[xli] “Doubt cast on PM’s ‘nuclear threat’ claim”, The Guardian, September 9, 2002; also an Associated Press report datelined September 10 from New York, quoted the head of the U.N. commission on Iraq’s disarmament Hans Blix, as saying that the satellite photos in question proved nothing about the existence of banned weapons.
[xlii] “Inspectors angered by U.S. claims over Iraqi weapons”, The Times, London, December 6, 2002.
[xliii] “Weapons Inspector Asks U.S. to Share Secret Iraq Data”, The New York Times, December 7, 2002.
[xliv] “Rumsfeld rejects calls for more Iraq proof”, The Financial Times, September 9, 2002.
[xlv] The Waxman paper, page 13.
[xlvi] “El Baradei’s statement to Security Council”, The New York Times, March 8, 2003. Also, the Waxman paper, page 13.
[xlvii] Page 11.
[xlviii] Powell’s statement to the U.N. Security Council – find the reference. Also, Waxman paper, page 12.
[xlix] The full text was published by both The Guardian and The New York Times.
[l] Blix’s February 14 testimony to the U.N. Security Council was published in The New York Times of February 15. “The presentation of intelligence information by the U.S. Secretary of State suggested that Iraq had prepared for inspections by cleaning up sites and removing evidence of proscribed weapons programs”, he said, before pointing out: “The report of movement of munitions at the site could just as easily have been a routine activity as a movement of proscribed munitions in anticipation of imminent inspection”.
[li] As in 22.
[lii] “First Casualties in the propaganda firefight”, The Observer, February 9,2003; “Fiasco over the Saddam dossier”, The Telegraph, (London), February 8, 2003; “The dossier that shamed Britain, Deception can only corrode public trust”, The Observer, Leader, February 9, 2003.
[liii] Luke Harding, “Revealed: truth behind U.S. ‘poison factory’ claim”, The Guardian, February 9, 2003.
[liv] “The Case of the ‘Deadly’ Drone”, The Christian Science Monitor, March 13, 2003.
[lv] Seymour Hersh, “Who Lied to Whom? Why did the Administration endorse a forgery about Iraq’s nuclear program?” The New Yorker, March 31, 2003. Hersh does not place a precise date on the handover of the documentation to the IAEA, but it is a reasonable inference that it happened at some point between Powell’s appearance before the Security Council on February 5 and El Baradei’s on March 7.
[lvi] The story “Inspectors call U.S. Tips ‘Garbage’”, was posted on the website http://www.cbsnews.com/ shortly after broadcast.
[lvii] “Blix attacks U.S. war intelligence”, The Guardian, April 22, 2003.
[lviii] Michael Massing and the CJR studies.
[lix] The Waxman paper, pp 8-11.
[lx] Ibid, pp 13-4. Wilson himself gave a first-person account of his mission in The New York Times, of July 6, 2003, titled “What I did not find in Africa”. He recorded that when he made the trip to Niger in “late February 2002”, he was told by the serving U.S. ambassador there, that she “knew about the allegations of uranium sale to Iraq – and that she felt she had already debunked them in her reports to Washington”.
[lxi] Ernest F. Hollings, “Bush’s failed Mideast policy is creating more terrorism”, Charleston Post and Courier, May 6, 2004.
[lxii] The Jewish Global News, “U.S. Senator Blames Israel for Iraq Invasion”, posted May 16, 2004 on http://www.jta.org/.
[lxiii] Anthony Zinni with Tom Clancy, Battle Ready, (find the reference)
[lxiv] The story was featured under the caption “General Zinni: ‘They’ve Screwed up’”, on May 21, 2004, on the CBS website, http://www.cbsnews.com/.
[lxv] “Hollings defends his statements on Israel: Column alleging Bush invaded Iraq to please Jews draws accusations of anti-Semitism”, posted May 10, 2004 on http://www.thestate.com/.
[lxvi] “Prominent U.S. Jews, Israel blamed for start of Iraq war”, Ha’aretz, May 31, 2004.
[lxvii] “The Bush and Kerry Tilt”, The New York Times, May 26, 2004.
[lxviii] “Prominent U.S. Jews, Israel blamed for start of Iraq war”, Ha’aretz, May 31, 2004.
[lxix] “The international image of Israel”, Ha’aretz editorial, June 2, 2004.
[lxx] Emad Mekay, “Iraq War Launched to Protect Israel – Bush Adviser”, Inter-Press Service, dateline Washington, March 29, 2004. Zelikow was since appointed Executive Director of the presidential commission inquiring into the September 11 terrorist attack on the U.S., and the intelligence community's level of preparedness for it. He is clearly a figure very highly regarded by the ruling establishment and should be expected to convey at least in part, a flavour of how it thinks.
[lxxi] The remarks were made in the course of an interview with the New York magazine, Vanity Fair, published in its issue of July 2003. The U.S. Defence Department however, disputed the transcript that had been published and posted its own version on its official website. The full text is still available at www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2003/tr20030509-depsedef/0223.html.
[lxxii] See for instance, Tony Judt in The New York Review of Books.
[lxxiii] Cited in the review article by James Schlesinger Jr., "The Making of a Mess", The New York Review of Books, September 23, 2004.
[lxxiv] The speech made at Nashville, Tennessee to a congress of the Veterans of Foreign Wars merits a prominent place in the history of the war against Iraq. It is available at the official website of the U.S. presidency: www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/08/20020826.html. Just three days prior, Anthony Zinni was talking about an attack on Iraq that would “cause a lot of problems”. His recent criticism of the war is obviously not based on retrospective wisdom, nor is it an opportunistic change of heart after finding things go awry. As far back as September 2002, he was saying that the debate then taking place was very “healthy”, though it tended to pit the men who had worn the uniform of high U.S. military rank – Brent Scowcroft, Colin Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf and himself – against several who had not. “It might be interesting to wonder why all the generals see it the same way, and all those who have never fired a shot in anger and are really hell-bent to go to war, see it a different way”, he said, before ironically remarking to general applause from his audience, that, “that’s usually the way it is in history”. In remarks before the Florida Economic Club on August 23, 2002, Zinni enumerated the priorities that the U.S. had to deal with in the West Asian region. And needless to say, and quite contrary to Wolfowitz’s assessment, “regime change” in Iraq was not among the top priorities: “The Middle East peace process, in my mind, has to be a higher priority. Winning the war on terrorism has to be a higher priority. More directly, the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Central Asia need to be resolved, making sure Al Qaeda can’t rise again from the ashes that are destroyed. Taliban cannot come back. That the warlords can’t regain power over Kabul … and destroy everything that has happened so far”. The transcript of Zinni’s speech was posted by the National Public Radio on its website shortly after it was made (www.npr.org/prgrams/morning/zinni.html). It is not clear that it is still available at this address, but a Google search might uncover it.
[lxxv] Ehud Barak, “Taking Apart Iraq’s Nuclear Threat”, The New York Times, September 4, 2002. The following day, the same newspaper carried a comment by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, which restored some semblance of balance. “Fundamental changes are taking place in the historical policies of the United States with regard to human rights, our role in the community of nations and the Middle East peace process – largely without definitive debates”, said Carter. And after deprecating the U.S. for its unilateral abrogation of international obligations in domains as diverse as the environment, arms control and criminal justice, Carter aptly characterised the U.S. policy towards the Israel-Palestinian conflict as one of “abandoning any sponsorship of substantive negotiations”: “Our apparent policy is to support almost every Israeli action in the occupied territories and to condemn and isolate the Palestinians as blanket targets of our war on terrorism, while Israeli settlements expand and Palestinian enclaves shrink”. (“The Troubling New Face of America”, The New York Times, September 5, 2002, page A31.
[lxxvi] Edward Said portrays the helpless, isolated state in which the Palestinians confronted the tough negotiators and canny legal draftsmen from the U.S. and Israel during the Oslo negotiations.
[lxxvii] “PM urging U.S. not to delay strike against Iraq”, Ha’aretz, August 16, 2002.
[lxxviii] “The Enemy Within”, interview with Lt-Gen Moshe Ya’alon, Ha’aretz, September 2, 2002. All the following quotes are from the same interview.
[lxxix] James Bamford, A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies, Doubleday, 2004. This book is yet to reach Indian shores, but its essential points are dealt with in the review article by Arthur Schlesinger Jr, quoted above (footnote 73).
[lxxx] By September 22, 2002, it will be recalled, Israeli forces had laid siege to the Ramallah compound where Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat and his establishment were quartered. This led to most unusual U.N. Security Council resolution criticising the Israel operations, and demanding that “Israel immediately cease measures in and around Ramallah, including the destruction of Palestinian civilian and security infrastructure”. The U.S. threatened to veto an earlier resolution that condemned the violation of Palestinian rights, but took the milder course of abstention when the language was suitably toned down. Even so, it was an exceptional event and drew a reaction of purported disappointment from Israel. (Associated Press report datelined New York, September 24). An AFP report datelined Ramallah, September 22 says: “Israeli troops threatened to blow up Yasser Arafat’s besieged headquarters, telling the 250 people trapped inside to leave it before they dynamite the Palestinian leader’s offices…” In the event, Israel was compelled by U.S. pressure, to call off its siege by the end of September. Ha’aretz reported on September 30, that U.S. administration pressure “to end the siege had been greater than Israel had anticipated”, and in turn was occasioned by fears of a “disruption of (U.S.) war plans for Iraq”.
[lxxxi] The BBC reported on April 15, 2002, that an ICRC observer after surveying the Jenin scene, described it as “horrendous”. On April 18, it reported that the U.N. envoy, Terje Roed-Larsen, described the aftermath of the Jenin encounter as “horrific beyond belief” and denounced Israel for its “morally repugnant” action in denying access to emergency aid teams for 11 days after the massacre. Expectedly, Larsen was denounced as anti-Semitic by the Israeli government and all further cooperation denied him, leading in time, to his withdrawal from his station in the region. Bush on April 19, described Sharon as a “man of peace”, but the following day, responding to global public outrage, authorised his spokesman to call for an international inquiry into the Jenin incidents.
[lxxxii] Mainstream media reporting on the systematic Israeli policy of home demolitions and expulsions has been rather sporadic. Valuable documentation has been assembled by the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, the B’Tselem, and is available on its website, www.btselem.org/English. On “Operation Defensive Shield” launched by the Israeli defence force in March 2002 and “Operation Determined Path”, which followed, see the September 2002 report: www.btselem.org/Download/Defensive_Shield_Eng.pdf. Among the points made: “Most of the issues described here are not unique to Operation Defensive Shield. For example, restrictions on freedom of movement have prevented Palestinians from living a normal life for the past 20 months. However, the human rights violations perpetrated during the operation are the most extensive and severe since Israel occupied the territories in 1967. Acts that were previously rare, such as looting and using civilians as human shields, became routine”.
A typical IDF operation is described in Ha’aretz, on October 7, 2002: “At least 13 Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded when IDF tanks backed by helicopters raided a Palestinian neighbourhood in the Gaza Strip early Monday morning, witnesses and hospital officials said. Several hours later, IDF troops fired assault rifles and machine guns into Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunus, where hundreds of people had gathered to learn about the fate of relatives, witnesses said.”
Evidence that not merely the IDF, but the militant settler movement patronized by successive Israeli governments were also playing their part, comes from a report in The Observer, October 27, 2002, “Armed settlers force out villagers”. The case documented is illustrative: “When the Six Day War (of 1967) raged around him and Israel expelled the Jordanian army from the West Bank in 1967, Yusuf Sobeih refused to leave his home. Last week, after five years of harassment from Israeli settlers, the 85-year old finally fled, along with everyone else from his village, Yanoun. His son Abdelatif Sobeih, the mayor, said he and other villagers had been beaten up repeatedly, their amenities vandalized and their crops destroyed and stolen”.
[lxxxiii] The argument of "rejectionism" -- Noam Chomsky asks who is rejectionist. The PNC etc etc.
[lxxxiv] This letter, as also the preceding one from Israeli academia were reproduced on the website of the Electronic Intifada, a non-profit project “focused on media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”. The website (http://www.electronicintifada.net/) does not retain the full text of the letter any more, but it can be found on other locations, such as IndyMedia.
[lxxxv] It would be recalled that among the first policy decisions taken by Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority after it gained nominal sovereignty was to announce a census of the Palestinian population. The exercise began in East Jerusalem but was immediately crushed by Israel. According to the Washington Post, December 11, 1997: “The Palestinian Authority sought to take a census of Palestinians living in East Jerusalem today (December 10), prompting the Israeli government to rush through a broadly worded ban on Palestinian activities in the disputed part of the city. …. Israeli police fanned out in East Jerusalem to stop census takers, who were to go from house to house with questionnaires”. (“Israel Quickly Passes Law to Stop Palestinian Census”, page A 33.)
[lxxxvi] Nur Masalha, A Land Without a People: Israel, Transfer and the Palestinians, 1949-96, Faber and Faber, London, 1997, especially pages 144-76.
[lxxxvii] The Egyptian journal Al Ahram, ran a series of articles in 1998 in observance of a half-century of Palestinian dispossession. The objective was to keep alive the cause of a people who had been air-brushed out of history, who had suffered enormous atrocities, and continued to be a people without a land or an identity. It is a history that is hardly spoken of in the west. Within Israel, the historian Benny Morris has been one of the few to have faced up to this evidence unflinchingly. But he has been representative of the prevalent mood in Israel in regretting that the crimes of dispossession and genocide that brought the Jewish state into existence, were not quite carried out with the required efficiency. In a recent interview in Ha’aretz (Survival of the Fittest, January 8, 2004, republished in the New Left Review, 26, March-April 2004, pp 35-51), he revisited his finding that ethnic cleansing was not an unintended byproduct of the war for Israel’s creation, but a clear part of the intent of the Zionist project. There was a moral justification for these atrocities in the terrible wounds that the Jewish people had suffered over 2,000 years of their existence. But the job remained half-done, and Israel today is paying the price for it. Morris’ gloomy conclusion: that until the long term healing process of establishing a Palestinian state could be attended to, there was a need for “containing” them, so that they do not succeed in murdering Israelis. “Something like a cage has to be built for them”, he says: “I know that sounds terrible. It is really cruel. But there is no choice. There is a wild animal there that has to be locked up in one way or another”. The historical injustices suffered by the Palestinians did not constitute a mitigating circumstance, said Morris. Though a large part of the responsibility for the hatred of the Palestinians rests with Israel, there was no alternative to the harshest measures in dealing with them. “When one has to deal with a serial killer, it is not so important to discover why he became a serial killer. What is important is to imprison the murderer or to execute him”. (The citations are from New Left Review 26, pages 48 and 47.)
[lxxxviii] Ibid. Yitzhak Rabin who became Prime Minister in 1992 and signed the Oslo accords is quoted in an earlier incarnation as an unequivocal advocate of population transfer to Jordan, Syria and Iraq (p 176-7). All Labour governments, Masalha observes, have been guided by the plan drafted by former Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon, which involves the annexation of 40 per cent of the West Bank and was made operational in 1970. The entire pattern of settlements constructions since has been guided by these principles. Masalha observes: “The basic thinking behind the Allon Plan of assuring the maximum land and the minimum number of Arabs – or an overwhelmingly Jewish state from the demographic point of view – remains essentially the fundamental position of the Labour Party” (page 17).
[lxxxix] As Masalha (op cit, pp 182 to 198) records, the Likud has had a more aggressive program of settlements construction in the occupied territories than Labour. It has also followed a more overt strategy of creating “economic distress and economic discrimination against the Arab population of the occupied territories” to induce them to “voluntarily” emigrate. Ariel Sharon, then Minister of Defence declared in 1981: “The seizure of Arab lands does not increase friction with the Arab population – it will prevent such friction in the future” (p 185). Although no firm figures are available, reputed academic institutions and media organizations have estimated that between 1967 and 1990, perhaps 300,000 Palestinians emigrated from the occupied territories, or over 18 per cent of the total population. Sharon, as an unabashed advocate of transfer, sought avidly to coopt the Labour Party into the policy idiom. He was responsible in 1987 for bringing out for the public record, the thinking of Israel’s founding Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and the army commander during the 1948 war, Moshe Dayan (later to be defence minister), on the transfer issue. Though both belonged ostensibly to the left, Sharon found little to distinguish his own approach from that of Ben-Gurion, or that followed by Moshe Dayan as Defence Minister, between 1967 and 1970 (ibid, p 187).
[xc] Tanya Reinhart, Israel/Palestine: How to end the war of 1948, LeftWord Books, Delhi, 2003, (first published by Seven Stories Press, USA, 2002).
[xci] Specific details of the Barak peace proposal at Camp David are naturally enough, rather rare. Le Monde Diplomatique in its December 2000 edition, published the version released by Orient House, which represented Palestinian interests in Jerusalem until Sharon shut it down in 2001. The “Palestinian state” that Barak had to offer was essentially the West Bank (of the Jordan River) “divided into three and further subdivided by roads reserved for Jewish settlers plus the Gaza strip”. Reinhart (op cit) has a much more detailed analysis. (pp 16 onwards).
[xcii] See “Sharon Touches a Nerve, and Jerusalem Explodes”, The New York Times, September 29, 2000. Barak offered the alibi that he was not inclined to intervene in Sharon’s plan to visit the Al Aqsa shrine, since he read it as an element in the factional rivalry between Sharon and Binyamin Netanyahu, for leadership of the Likud party. (See Deborah Sontag, “Suddenly at Arms Again”, The New York Times, October 3, 2000.) But Tanya Reinhart (op. cit., page 93) has little doubt that the “provocation was coordinated between Barak and Sharon”.
[xciii] Sharon is remembered for the Qibya massacre of 1953, Shabra and Shattilla in 1982 and Jenin in 2002 – the first as leader of a commando platoon, the second as Defence Minister, and the third as Prime Minister. As the youngest major-general in the country, Barak was director of operations in the Israel Defence Force during the invasion of Lebanon in 1982. He was according to an authoritative account, involved in a clandestine plan with Sharon to override any possible political directive from Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and launch a full-fledged offensive against Syria. That he should have conspired with Sharon to seek to out-manoeuvre Begin, shows that Barak the politician was an anomaly – an intrusion into the peace camp in Israel, whose true loyalties lay in the ethnic cleansing camp. See Tanya Reinhart, Israel/Palestine: How to end the war of 1948, LeftWord Books, Delhi, 2003, pp 78-97 (first published by Seven Stories Press, USA, 2002).
[xciv] Reinhart, op cit, p 212. The only significant concession that the Palestinians managed to obtain at Taba, in Reinhart’s account, was in Israel agreeing to withdraw the “end of conflict” clause that was a part of the Camp David draft proposals. If the Palestinians had assented to this clause, it would effectively have meant that all the U.N. resolutions applying to the conflict, including resolution 194 on the return of the Palestinian refugees and resolutions 242 and 338 on the principle of “land for peace”, would have become inoperative.
[xcv] An Associated Press report datelined October 18, 2000 by Mark Lavie has the basic details. Deborah Sontag, “Israeli Weighs Contingency Plan to Create Borders if Talks Fail, in The New York Times, October 23, 2000, reported that Sneh had cautioned the Israeli public against any undue enthusiasm for the idea of separation. The process he said, was “incredibly complex”. The Palestinians for their part, suffered from few delusions about separation, with Yasser Abed Rabo, information minister in the Arafat cabinet, denouncing it as “an apartheid plan” and a “declaration of war”.
[xcvi] Ibid. “End of conflict” evidently, as an internationally accepted phrase, was the basic requirement of the Israeli political establishment. That would have extinguished all rights that the Palestinians enjoyed under international law, enabling the Israeli state to deal with them as it chose fit.
[xcvii] Peter Hirschberg, “Unilateral separation dominates political agenda, as despairing public warms to the idea”, Ha’aretz, August 19, 2001.
[xcviii] Nur Masalha, op. cit., pp 148-9.
[xcix] Ibid, p 167.
[c] “Demographer: Save Negev and Galilee now”, Ha’aretz, February 26, 2003.
[ci] Peter Hirschberg, op. cit.
[cii] The origins of the wall as actuality, rather than idea, are shrouded in obscurity. It began during Ehud Barak’s premiership as a proposal to put in place permanent barriers to the movement of motor vehicles at certain points along the Green Line. In July 2001, under Sharon’s premiership, the scope of the project was expanded to block all routes of pedestrian ingress at a number of strategic points. In April 2002, a decision was made by the Israeli cabinet to begin immediate construction of the barrier at three points along the Green Line. A few days later, according to a position paper prepared by B’Tselem, the IDF took over “Palestinian-owned land in a number of areas in the north of the West Bank, and began to uproot trees and level the earth in preparation for construction of the fence”. (B’Tselem, Jerusalem, “The Separation Barrier: Position Paper September 2002, available at www.btselem.org.)
[ciii] International Court of Justice, “Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”, 9 July, 2004, para 83 (available at the website of the court: http://www.icj-cij.org/).
[civ] Ibid, para 81.
[cv] Some part of this transformation of the Israeli prime minister is sketched out in the interview-based article by Peter Beaumont, “Sharon: I’ll solve the Palestinian problem in four years”, The Observer, July 13, 2003.
[cvi] “Sharon: No military solution to the war with the Palestinians”, The Jerusalem Post, September 26, 2002.
[cvii] "No independent Palestine, Sharon insists", The Guardian, March 17, 2003.
[cviii] Chris McGreal, “Sharon’s deal for Palestine: no extra land, no army, no Arafat”, The Guardian, December 6, 2002.
[cix] “Sharon plan attacked from Right and Left”, The Jerusalem Post, December 5, 2002.
[cx] “Sharon: Act now or we go it alone”, The Guardian, December 19, 2003.
[cxi] “Arafat: Sharon coordinated disengagement plan with U.S.”, Ha’aretz, December 21, 2003.
[cxii] The Guardian, op. cit.
[cxiii] The Sharon-Bush correspondence which preceded a visit by the Israeli PM to Washington, is reproduced in Ha’aretz, April 19, 2004.
[cxiv] “Sharon Suffers a Party Setback on His Gaza Plan”, The Guardian, May 3, 2004
[cxv] “PM aides say Sharon to soldier on despite Likud drubbing”, Ha’aretz, August 19, 2004.
[cxvi] Ha’aretz, August 26, 2004.
[cxvii] The following reports from Ha’aretz, May 18, 2004, convey the essential features of the story: “At least 15 Palestinians killed in major IDF operation in Rafat”, “PA asks for international intervention over IDF’s Rafah raid”; “High Court rejects petition against Rafah home demolitions”; “Bush to AIPAC: Gaza violence underlines need for peace talks”. Also see, The New York Times, May 17: “Israel Says It Will Proceed With Demolition of Homes”.
[cxviii] Amnesty International, Israel and the Occupied Territories, Under the rubble: House demolition and destruction of land and property, AI INDEX: MDE 15/033/2004, available at web.amnesty.org/library/print/ENGMDE150332004.
[cxix] “Iraq is Focal Point as Bush Meets With Joint Chiefs”, The New York Times, January 11, 2001. The national security briefings for the president-elect and Powell’s remarks were widely reported in the mainstream U.S. press at the time. They have been dealt with in an article by this author written around the same time. See “A decade of attrition”, Frontline, Volume 18, Issue 03, February 03-16, 2001. (The full article is available on the web at: www.flonnet.com/fl1803/18030630.htm.)
[cxx] Ron Suskind, The Price of Loyalty: George W. Bush, the White House, and the Education of Paul O’Neill, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2003; and Richard Clarke, Against all Enemies, Free Press, New York, 2004. Suskind’s book is one among three reviewed by Paul Krugman, “The Wars of the Texas Succession”, The New York Review of Books, Volume 51, Number 3, February 26, 2004. Clarke’s work has been reviewed by John Kampfner, “The President’s Nemesis”, The Observer, March 28, 2004; and very illustrative excerpts have ben published in The New York Times of the same day. In testimony before the commission investigating the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., Clarke stated explicitly that “by invading Iraq, the president of the United States (had) greatly undermined the war on terrorism”. (Agency reports dated March 24, 2004, from Washington D.C.)
[cxxi] William Hartung, “Iraq and the Costs of War”, Foreign Policy in Focus, Policy Papers, March 2004, available at www.fpif.org/papers/2004c0st_body.html. Hartung’s comment: “Roughly a year and a half after Lindsey made his prediction and less than a year into the war in Iraq, his rough guess is beginning to look like a gross underestimate of the cost of intervening in Iraq. To date, U.S. taxpayers have committed roughly $ 180 billion to the buildup to war, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime, and the ongoing occupation and rebuilding effort in Iraq. That doesn’t count the costs of `buying allies’ through special aid and trade deals, or any projections forward of how long we may have `boots on the ground’ in Iraq”.
[cxxii] Excerpt from Clarke, op. cit., published in The New York Times, March 28, 2004.
[cxxiii] Ibid; Clarke refers to 1993 as the last year that there was Iraqi-sponsored terrorism against the U.S. It is not clear why he does so. It is known that among Bill Clinton’s first actions since taking office as U.S. president in January 1993 was to direct a missile attack against Iraq for allegedly plotting to kill Bush the first when he was on a private visit to Kuwait. If Clarke is taking that as the benchmark for assessing the career of Iraq’s terrorism sponsorship, then he is obviously on a rather sticky wicket. Seymour Hersh, …. How the supposed assassination plot against Bush the first was a rather poor concoction by the Kuwaiti intelligence agencies …
[cxxiv] Quote your own article: a decade of attrition. Also: the New York Times, “Were Sanctions Right?”
[cxxv] Richard Butler, Saddam Defiant,
[cxxvi] "A decade of attrition", Frontline,
[cxxvii] The open letter was published in January 1998 edition of The Weekly Standard, a journal financed by Rupert Murdoch that began publishing in 1997, and rapidly became one of the principal platforms for the right-wing strategic establishment in the U.S. Virtually the full text is available in the recent book by Prem Shankar Jha, The End of Saddam Hussein, History through the eyes of the victims, Rupa and Co., Delhi, 2004, pp 75-6.
[cxxviii] Khalilzad and Wolfowitz, “We Must Lead the Way in Deposing Saddam”, The Washington Post, November 9, 1997, page C09.
[cxxix] On Khalilzad’s background and involvement with the oil company Unocal’s negotiations with the Taliban, see Ahmed Rashid, Taliban, Islam, oil and the New Great Game in Central Asia, I.B. Taurus, London, 2002, pp 170-4.
[cxxx] The document was available at the time of this writing, at the website of the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies:
[cxxxi] The essential details are available in Dilip Hiro, Iraq: A Report from the Inside, Granta Books, 2003, chapter V.
[cxxxii] David Wurmser, Tyranny’s Ally, America’s Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein, The AEI Press, Washington D.C., 1999.
[cxxxiii] Ibid, page 138.
[cxxxiv] Ibid, page 139.
[cxxxv] Ibid, page 132.
[cxxxvi] Ibid, page 129.
[cxxxvii] Ibid, page 137.
[cxxxviii] Ibid, page 22.
[cxxxix] Ibid, page 80. Wurmser’s account of the March uprising is rather inflated, obviously influenced by his rose-tinted vision of the INC as a fighting force. Anthony Zinni, the four-star general of the U.S. Marine Corps who was then commander-in-chief of the U.S. Central Command, had a much more disparaging account of the INC and its leadership, once dismissing them as “a silk-suited Rolex-wearing bunch” whose efforts in the Gulf region would quite conceivably end up as a “bay of goats” for the U.S. In more sober terms, Zinni had told a Senate committee shortly after failure of the INC uprising, dismissed all prospects of an Iraqi opposition group serving the ends of U.S. policy: “I don’t see an opposition group that has the viability to overthrow Saddam….Even if we had Saddam gone, we would end up with fifteen, twenty, or ninety groups competing for power”. (Seymour Hersh, “The Iraq Hawks: Can their war plan work?”, The New Yorker,, December 24, 2001.) Fairly accurate accounts of the March 1995 uprising, which are needless to say, less flattering than Wurmser’s, can be found in Dilip Hiro, op. cit., and Andrew and Patrick Cockburn, Out of the Ashes, The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein, HarperPerennial, New York, 1999.
[cxl] Wurmser, op cit.
[cxli] Dilip Hiro, op cit., page 81.
[cxlii] The full text of the Mitchell Committee report was published in the Ha’aretz edition of May 6, 2001.
[cxliii] “Sharon halts preemptive IDF strikes against PA”, Ha’aretz, May 23, 2001.
[cxliv] “An American peace proposal, kind of”, Ha’aretz, May 22, 2001.
[cxlv] On August 18, 2001, Arjan El Fassed wrote in The Washington Post (“Israel’s Version of ‘Ethnic Cleansing’”, page A21), on the growing clamour for ethnic cleansing among Israel’s champions in the U.S. “This week on the Post’s op-ed page”, he wrote, “Michael Kelly, Charles Krauthammer and George F. Will advocated what amounts to ‘ethnic cleansing’ in the Mideast. Using such words as ‘strike and expel’ and ‘destroy, kill, capture and expel,’, they seemed to be advocating a sort of ‘final solution’ to the Palestinian problem. …. Columnists such as these simply make explicit what has long been clear to us in this region. They put into plain words Israel’s cruel and discriminatory policy, practised against Palestinians for the past 50 years”.
[cxlvi] Chris McGreal, “Sharon’s deal for Palestine: no extra land, no army, no Arafat”, The Guardian, December 6, 2002.
[cxlvii] “Bush Says Ousting Hussein Can Bring Peace to Mideast”, The New York Times, February 27, 2003.